Some Questions about President Obama’s New Ad


In this video, President Obama calls for a “new economic patriotism” and outlines his 4-step plan “to get people back to work and make the middle class secure again.” Several questions: (1) Is it unpatriotic to oppose his plan? (2) Is thisa new plan or the same plan he’s been offering the last 4 years? (3) If a new plan, then isn’t Obama admitting that what he’s been doing the last 4 years didn’t work? (4) If the same plan, then isn’t he just “doubling down” on the same policies that haven’t worked to date? Inquiring minds want to know…

 

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Happy 238th Birthday, Johnny Appleseed!


Today marks the 238th anniversary of the birthday of Jonathan Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Like many people my age, I first became aware of Johnny Appleseed through the Disney film, which included this song:


The song is evidently a Swedenborgian hymn. Here are the complete lyrics:

Oh, the Lord’s been good to me.
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun, the rain and the appleseed;
Oh, the Lord’s been good to me.

Oh, and every seed I sow
Will grow into a tree.
And someday there’ll be apples there
For everyone in the world to share.
Oh, the Lord is good to me.

Oh, here I am ‘neath the blue, blue sky
Doing as I please.
Singing with my feathered friends
Humming with the bees.

I wake up every day,
As happy as can be,
Because I know that with His care
My apple trees, they will still be there.
The Lord’s been good to me.

I wake up every day
As happy as can be,
Beacuse I know the Lord is there
Watchin’ over all my friends and me
The Lord is good to me.

Against Pulpit Freedom Sunday*


Pulpit Freedom Sunday is October 7, 2012. On that day, the sermons of participating pastors will provide specific guidance about how to vote on issues and candidates. This is, of course, their First Amendment right. However, doing so may endanger the tax-exempt status of their churches and ministries. That’s precisely the point, of course: to initiate a legal challenge to limits on the political speech of the leaders of tax-exempt, non-profit institutions, including churches and ministries, with the hope of seeing those limits overturned.

Personally, I think Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a terrible idea, regardless of the merit of the legal ideas underlying it. First, preachers are ministers of the gospel, not experts on public policy. Pulpit Freedom Sunday tempts preachers to speak beyond their areas of competence. Second, while the gospel outlines clear moral standards, the application of those standards to public policy is not always straightforward. This means that Christians committed to the same moral standard may disagree about the best application of that standard in the public square. When pastors advocate one application through their sermons, they needlessly divide congregants on an issue where they should be free to disagree. Third, advocating specific legislation or candidates through the sermon may constitute a needless stumbling block to a person’s acceptance of the gospel. If I read the St. Paul correctly, the only stumbling block to the gospel should be the Cross of Christ. Fourth, while I recognize that there may be kairos moments where the gospel itself is at stake and the churches must take an explicit, prophetic stance against the State or for the Opposition, I don’t think we’re at that moment or anywhere near that moment in America.

One more thing: I sincerely doubt that the Supreme Court is going to overturn the so-called Johnson Amendment any time soon. The so-called Johnson Amendment is that part of the tax code which gives tax-exempt, non-profit institutions limited freedom to advocate on issues but no freedom to advocate for candidates. Pastors have a First Amendment right to advocate for issues and candidates, but they don’t have a First Amendment right to tax-exempt status.

For the reasons I outlined above, and because I believe that a church’s tax-exempt status is advantageous to its ministry, I encourage pastors and church’s to ignore Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Preach the gospel! Preach the Bible! But don’t confuse your public policy preferences or favored candidates with either!

For more on what tax law permits and prohibits tax-exempt churches from doing with regard to issues and candidates, see “Election Year Dos and Don’ts” by Richard Hammar.

*The view expressed in this blog post is the personal opinion of George P. Wood and does not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Enrichment journal or the views of the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center

9/11 and the Mission of the American Church


Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11. As America remembers the enormities of that day and reflects on the State’s response to acts of terrorism, it is appropriate American Christians to reflect on the mission Jesus Christ gave his Church to make disciples of all nations. America’s response to 9/11 and American Christians’ response to 9/11 may not be the same.

Dr. Mark Hausfeld, my professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, delivered a challenging message today on the Church’s mission. I encourage you to watch it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.