Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Johnson Amendment and Churches

Image result for lyndon johnsonFirst, a little history lesson on the Johnson Amendment. In 1954 Lyndon Johnson was running for re-election to the  U.S. Senate. Some local Texas ministers were preaching against him from their pulpits. He saw this as being detrimental to his chance of winning. So he connived a plan. He went to congress and proposed an amendment to the tax code which would threaten churches with loss of their tax-exempt status if they preached against specific candidates, which of course includes parties. Ever since then, churches have bowed to this intimidation.

Tax-exempt status means that churches as institutions do not have to pay any federal (and consequently state) income taxes on their net profits, nor property taxes. Net profits include all tithes and donations, and all businesses, properties, and holdings such as real estate, malls, stores, products, books, restaurants, TV stations, newspapers, web sites, etc. Neither do they pay property taxes on all their lands and buildings. So we could be talking a lot of money here, say millions and millions of dollars per year.

It appears that churches love their money. But money may not have been the only issue. If a church was already annoyed with some internal rifts over political parties/candidates, the Johnson amendment smoothed out its job. It had a governmental excuse not to address political concerns. Politics became off limits. But churches took it farther than keeping mum about political candidates. Eventually many churches used the attitude/perception of the Johnson amendment as an excuse to turn themselves into neutral zones concerning the most immoral and wicked and depraved practices that mankind has ever known-- because they have become politically-charged. That these moral issues have been politicized is not surprising in our Godless world.

This is when we start hearing people defend their churches. No, no! Our church is conservative! It still upholds family values and the scriptures and God's laws! You think so? When was the last time you heard anybody in your church, from pulpits or otherwise, talk against the popular practice of abortion, even when Planned Parenthood was caught selling baby parts? Do you see an increase in warnings against pornography and its many dangers? Or do you see a softening toward it, as in it's an unfortunate addiction and users are victims? Does your church say anything much against lust and sodomy? Or is this just "who people are?" How about child sex abuse? How about child sex slavery? How about the torturing and mass murdering of Christians in the Middle East? What about Americans being sued and punished for exercising their constitutionally protected right of religious freedom? These are huge current events. When was the last time your church, local or world-wide, used its resources or got involved in combating any of this issues, and stuck with it, even increased its vigilance?

Back to the Johnson Amendment. Wonder of wonders, this week this travesty was lifted, at least temporarily, by an executive order from President Trump. The Washington Post reported,

“For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs,” Trump said, later telling those gathered for the event that “you’re now in a position to say what you want to say . . . No one should be censoring sermons or targeting ­pastors.” 

The plan of this administration is to have this amendment officially repealed as part of their tax reform plan. It's about religious freedom, and all churches should be overjoyed. No longer do churches have to fear standing before the world for truth and righteousness and teaching their congregants what is right and what is wrong ---morally, politically, and spiritually. These inspired leaders can even tell their members what party to belong to and who to vote for! Every faithful church-goer and ecclesiastical leader should be so happy. 

No longer need churches be afraid of financial entitlements being taken away for anything they teach. Now leaders of America's churches can feel completely free to unite their members in the most important and essential issues of the day and keep their churches true to the faith. On essentials we must have unity, said St. Augustine. A house divided will fall, said Lincoln. If ye are not one ye are not mine, said Jesus. Failing to stop evil leads to more evil, said Richard Giannone.

Check and see what your church said about this great gesture toward religious freedom. There's a problem if it insists on maintaining its neutrality. Are churches supposed to be neutral on anything important? What does the Lord say about being lukewarm? Indeed, it appears that churches have been exploiting the Johnson amendment so as to not have to referee their congregants over politics, take pressure from the various sides within the church, discipline members who took positions opposite the church, or spend resources fighting battles against the world. When churches take a stand they sometimes get embarrassed or come under fire. Sad to say, if they can't take the heat, they decide to stay out of the kitchen.

What responsibility do churches have to stand for truth and righteousness? Actually, it is their primary purpose. Otherwise they are not churches. They are whited sepulchers, shams full of hypocrites who are all about protecting their own worldly interests while pretending to be about loving God and saving souls. The scriptures call such a church the whore of all the earth. It is called this because it sells its virtue, its truth, its God, like a prostitute, for money or other gain. The scriptures also call it priestcraft.

And how is church neutrality working out? It's no good trusting the government. Upstanding American citizens are getting thrown in jail, sued, ruled against, fined, and put out of business for exercising their moral and religious convictions. This is the kind of government we have now, and the kind of judges: anti-Christ---and every good church knows it.

Let's remember that churches are one of the very last protections against despotism, tyranny, bondage. Dictators hate religion because it may encourage people to think for themselves and put their trust in a higher power than the dictator. Churches that espouse neutrality on important moral issues (and almost every hot-button issue today has moral implications), they forfeit any vestige of their own freedom, not to mention their congregants' freedoms, open the gates to totalitarianism, and sign their own death warrant. History shows this time and again. In communist countries, for example, church buildings and cathedrals quickly become off-limits or are boarded up and left to crumble.

Churches are supposed to uphold their doctrines, in every policy, every decision, every word, come what may. How can they expect their members to stand for truth and righteousness if they don't?

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