On November 2 we will be facing what many are calling “the most important election of our lifetime.” Every person who cares about this nation has the right and obligation to pray, vote, and get others to vote. Even churches have the responsibility to encourage the people to “let their voice be heard.” Sadly, churches have been brow beaten to think that politics is off-limits. Let’s not forget that our nation’s history began in a church. Back in the summer our family visited the historic St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. This was the place where the Second Virginia Convention met in 1775. In the pews sat George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee and many others. A plaque near the pulpit marks the very spot where Patrick Henry gave his famous speech: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.” I wonder what Jefferson would think about the gross misuse of his phrase “separation of church and state.”

It’s a shame that those who oppose our freedom and our values have intimidated us for so long. Pastors and churches should understand the permissible boundaries about politics in the pulpit. Although, churches cannot endorse or oppose political candidates, there is much that they can do. In his book “Eternal Vigilance: Knowing and Protecting Your Religious Freedom,” Mathew Staver lists a few: “voter registration and ‘get out the vote’ drives, distribution of objective voter guides, candidate forums and debates, and most importantly, addressing social and political issues.” Pastors can even express their opinions about the candidates, as long as they do it as citizens. It’s time we stopped giving in to what Jerry Falwell called the “fright tactic.”

In his book, “When a Nation Forgets God,” Erwin Lutzer relates the chilling account of a person who lived during the Nazi Holocaust in Germany:  “I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars! Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.”

While I believe that it is the gospel alone that transforms the hearts of people, I also believe that it is our vote that guarantees that we can still preach that gospel. Our vote determines the future of our children and our grandchildren. Our churches have sung loudly for some time. Only a few have dared to walk outside and hear the cries. There is a time to sing and then there is a time to vote.

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