For decades Black churches have been used for political ends. The Montgomery bus boycott was supported by black pastors. The Civil Rights Movement was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King. Here are some of King’s comments where he mixes religion and politics:
- “I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.”1
- We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.2
- Seems that I can hear God saying that it’s time to rise up now and make it clear that the evils of the universe must be removed. And that God isn’t going to do all of it by himself. The church that overlooks this is a dangerously irrelevant church.”3
- If one is truly devoted to the religion of Jesus he will seek to rid the earth of social evils. The gospel is social as well as personal.”4
- As Christians we owe our ultimate allegiance to God and His will, rather than to man and his folkways.5
- Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.6
- The church must also become increasingly active in social action outside its doors. . . . It must exert its influence in the area of economic justice. As guardian of the moral and spiritual life of a community the church cannot look with indifference upon these glaring evils.7
Put these same words in the mouth of a conservative pastor and you can hear the screams: “intolerance,” “keep religion out of politics,” “you can’t impose your morality on others,” “separation of church and state,” and it’s against the law according to IRS regulations.
Liberals don’t oppose the impact of morality on social issues as long as they agree with the issue. They only oppose the relationship between morality and social issues when such an alliance threatens their very liberal social agenda. If they opposed mixing religion and morality with politics, then they would have to disavow the boost the civil rights movement received from the church and its insistence that civil rights legislation is a moral issue.
Consider Rev. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Martin Luther King Jr. pastored:
Continuing in the footsteps of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who served as pastors of the church founded in 1886, Warnock actively works to get minorities registered to vote in what he sees as a complex mix of spiritual and civic obligation.
And who does Pastor Warnock “get minorities registered to vote” for? Democrats. He does this because he believes (wrongly) that the interests of the Democrat Party are the interests of Blacks, and he does this as a minister and uses his pulpit as a place of partisan advocacy.
If these supposed watchdog groups were consistent, they would have chastised Bill Clinton when he appealed to the members of the Full Gospel AME Zion Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, to help him pass a crime bill in 1994: “I ask you this whole week to pray for me and pray for the members of Congress. Ask us to not turn away from our ministry.”8
Our ministry? Does this not clothe politics in religious garb? Clinton’s appeal was no different from the political efforts of conservative Christian leaders who take a stand on particular issues.
Also in 1994, Bill Clinton returned to the pulpit to stump for the former Democrat governor of New York, Mario Cuomo. “Rocking to resounding gospel strains, President Clinton went to a black church in the heart of Harlem today to rouse a vital constituency to turn out its vote for Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.”9
Clinton went to the Bible in his appeal to the members of Bethel AME Church in an effort to reelect the then embattled Democratic Governor. Clinton told the congregation: “Do not lose heart. Show up, talk to the people in your neighborhood, tell them to show up. Scripture says we’re supposed to be good citizens, too. Mario Cuomo is the heart that you must not lose.”10
An Associated Press report called the President’s comments “Bible-thumping politics.”11 Clinton’s message was decidedly religious and partisan, as was Governor’s Cuomo’s remarks as he “also cited religious themes and maxims.”12
Why didn’t the press, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation that was formed in 1978 cry foul?13
Weren’t the President and the former Governor of New York, along with other Democratic attendees, engaged in mixing religion and politics? Where were the trumpeting cries of “separation of church and state” and the citation of IRS regulations? For example, why didn’t Michael Gartner, who wrote a column for USA Today on why religion and politics do not mix, criticize Bill Clinton for mixing religion and politics?14
A perceptive letter writer noted the oversight: “Where is the outrage from the national media and the American Civil Liberties Union? Gartner’s omission was just the latest example of the conspiracy of silence.”15
- From a sermon preached in November 1956. Quoted by William J. Bennett, from the Foreword to Ralph Reed’s Politically Incorrect: The Emerging “Faith Factor” in American Politics (Dallas, TX: Word, 1994), xiii. [↩]
- Quoted in Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954B63 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 743. [↩]
- Quoted in Branch, Parting the Waters, 696. [↩]
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 117. [↩]
- King, Stride Toward Freedom, 117. [↩]
- King, Stride Toward Freedom, 91. [↩]
- King, Stride Toward Freedom, 208. [↩]
- Quoted in Bill Nichols, “White House regroups, comes out swinging,” USA Today (August 15, 1994), 4A. [↩]
- Todd S. Purdum, “At Harlem Church, Clinton Tells Cuomo to Keep Going,” New York Times (September 26, 1994). [↩]
- Purdum, “At Harlem Church, Clinton Tells Cuomo to Keep Going.” [↩]
- Barry Schweid, “Clinton defends U.S. mission in Haiti,” Marietta Daily Journal (September 26, 1994), 2A. [↩]
- Purdum, “At Harlem Church, Clinton Tells Cuomo to Keep Going.” [↩]
- Compare this with the IRS ruling that revoked the tax-exempt status of the Church at Pierce Creek in Conklin, New York, for taking what it considered a partisan stance in a presidential election. See Tony Mauro, “Politicking costs church its tax-exempt standing,” USA Today (April 18, 1995), 3A. [↩]
- Michael Gartner, “Religion and politics just don’t mix,” USA Today (October 4, 1994), 11A. [↩]
- John K. Brubaker, “Clinton breaches religion wall,” USA Today October 7, 1994), 10A. [↩]