Tax Exempt Status for Political Churches?

   Today an executive order was signed which will allow churches to more freely endorse political candidates. Opponents say this chips away at the separation of Church and State, and something does seem fishy about what has occurred. In discussing this, I will tell a story, as well as argue, as I have to the Christians up the street, that the Christians are deceived by Donald Trump. Jesus does not support Tyrants, nor does Pope Francis- as the fake news story tried to have it- support Donald Trump, nor should American Christianity allow itself to be enlisted in the emerging anti-Muslim “nationalism,” elsewhere and more truly termed fascism. Who is your neighbor?

   I was pleased to find a church and preacher I quite liked, just up the street, as I could walk there, and had stopped going to both a Catholic and Baptist Church, each for different reasons. On my first visit there, the pastor commented that he was forbid to speak politics from the altar, and the whole congregation seemed quite paranoid about me, as if I were some liberal come to spy out their tax exempt status. They stopped raising their hands in prayer, for example, though the second time I was there, when they prayed for me as I had asked, they raised their hands, and some even spoke in tongues, which was quite a powerful experience. I told them I needed help, that I needed work and a lawyer, and was in some difficulty at home there up the street, but they would only give me their first names, and, as said, seemed quite suspicious. Apparently there had been a robbery on the property recently, and of course one never knows.

   After my second visit, I decided to write to the pastor about some things I had learned from his preaching on John, about the tax exempt status question, and about how the Christians are quite deceived about Donald Trump. When I was a teacher at the community college, of American Government, I would tell the kids that they of course were allowed almost limitless free expression of religion, but for me to preach Jesus from the lectern would violate the establishment clause, though I would comment on the Bible as a part of the unwritten constitution of the Americans, as George Anastaplo discusses this in his book on the constitution.* I thought maybe similarly the parishioners have a right to express politics, but not the preacher from the pulpit, and this is close, but not quite it. I said this as much to demonstrate how the Establishment and free expression clauses fit together as to communicate silently that I would like to teach about Jesus but cannot- and this was not my job. I told Tom, the Pastor, that similarly he was limited from certain things about politics, though that it not quite it. I too would refrain from any partisan politics in class, and, I told him, I was concerned that Christians be free to teach the ethics of the Bible, including the teachings that homosexuality is not good for the soul, from Moses and Paul, and even that abortion is wrong, though this is a Greek Hippocratic, and not a Mosaic teaching. Leviticus distinguishes between killing a born child and causing a miscarriage as by striking a pregnant woman, and the latter is not murder, though it is a crime. Jesus never got around to teaching against homosexuality, as though it were not so much a priority, though Paul does, in Romans 1. I wrote too that Paul in Romans 2 implies that violence against gays is the result of repressed homosexuality (“you yourselves are doing the same things”), as this is a more serious or higher level of sin. And what, I asked Tom, if it is true that homosexuality is bad for the soul and also true that our use of pesticides and suburban lawn chemicals is interfering with the hormones of our youth? Plus, people are not required to be Christian in order to be American, and this is extremely important. As I have a braided ponytail, since I have not been able to afford haircuts for two years, kind of like it, and used to grow my hair long when I was in High School and College, I think they thought I might be gay. Rather, I think of Lancelot when he comes out of the woods for the final battle in the movie Ex-Calibre.

   So I wrote him a two page letter discussing these things, since he did not have much time on Sundays for discussion. I also gave him my website and Twitter numbers, as I like to promote myself and was surely not worried about revealing my true self to him. I wrote that it seemed unconstitutional to forbid him to say just about anything as a preacher, except to incite crimes, as when a speech becomes an action, in slander, libel, false advertising, perjury, fake news and such, fraud and other ways of harming people, and this of course, like all our constitutional questions, can become extremely difficult. We forbid religious expression even of students when, as when the Texas High school prayed as a group in the end zone after each touchdown, though, unlike Germany, we try to allow hate speech, though this too can cross the line to become an action, violating rights that it is the purpose of government to secure.

   I wrote to Tom that Trump was not a Christian (though I might be wrong), that he hardly believes that murder is wrong, let alone that abortion is murder, that he does not care about any sexual morality, let alone transgender issues, that the Miss Universe Pageant (held in Russia at the building owned by Tillerson) demonstrates a disregard for adultery as an ethical crime, or promotes adultery as well as the regard for sex over love, that his defrauding of the elderly through Trump University demonstrates a willingness to lie and steal, and his willingness to use the law to hurt people, such as the blacks and the liberals and the Mexican immigrants is characteristic of a tyrant, and that the Christian’s opposition to Hillary was far from sufficient reason to invite Russian and KKK influence into U. S. politics. Fascism is quite opposed to the message of the Gospel, I argued, and the Christians quite snowed by Donald Trump, who is a salesman and will say and use anything for his own advantage or self interest. I think I am stating the matter a bit more clearly today than I did in the letter to him, but you get the gist of what was said in the letter.

   After missing Church the day that I delivered the letter, I appears for my third sermon, the fourth week since I began to walk up the street on Sundays to his church. He met me on the steps on the way in, said things that indicated he had misunderstood me to be pro-abortion and pro-gay- a misunderstanding, as I am quite the centrist, with rather unique positions on all the issues, due to thinking a lot about both sides, and trying to teach. Tom had said two things that had indicated the sort of news stations he was listening to- that the report of Trump calling up 100,000 national guardsmen was fake news (Trump changed his mind), and that Obama had christened many new intelligence officers just before he left office. It was also clear that he did not have time, as do I, for a detailed and vigorous study of the news. Teachers of American Government sometimes have a natural tendency to become centrists, though not always. My philosophic studies of the roots of both left and right wing extremes, in communism and fascism, and seeing how the extremes of both the right and left political characters leads people into twentieth century totalitarianism either way- this also impels me to my unique centrism.  I had argued that when we vote for a president, we vote for a man capable of the executive office more than for a party platform, one able to be president, for the good of our nation, and that both the Republicans and the Christians were simply snowed by Donald Trump. I do not much appreciate Jesus being used for political self interest, and so do not mind stepping up, even to talk to a preacher. I was told that I would not be happy at their church, and it was clear that I was being asked to leave. But I knew he misunderstood me and sincerely wanted to hear the sermon. A woman coming up the stairs backed my saying that Trump was cozy with the White Supremacists, as Steve Bannon had been chosen Chief of Staff. In his previous sermons he had added great points to my understanding of the famous scene where Jesus, resurrected, asks Peter, Do You love me? He said that God wants our fellowship, and Jesus indeed our friendship, profound teachings, and he had showed me that Peter just goes back to fishing, back to money-making, when he returns to Galilee after the crucifixion. A Catholic had showed me that cool thing about the two scenes with the charcoal fire, and I was seeing confirmation about my learning that it is John and not Peter who is the guy, even as the Eastern Orthodox Church might show us Catholics. And Tom showed me something about the calling to be a preacher, I thought, about agape and two kinds of philo, feed my lambs, shepherd my sheep,” and “feed my sheep,” thee different things in answer to the two or three different questions, do you love me, then he prophesied Pete’s death and he said “follow me.” And what is it to Peter if indeed John did remain until He came to visit him on Potmos, or even if John remained, as he did throughout the crucifixion, more faithful to the last day?

   These are the sort of things I was seeing, and though I was quiet throughout the sermons, and tried to be helpful and friendly to everyone- discussing the six kinds of machines with the son of one man who is a member, etc, Tom made it clear that it was not their choice that I return. I had said on the steps going in, “Do you mean to say that I am not welcome in you church unless I am a Trump supporter,”? and he could not say yes for fear of the law about the tax exempt status. I was attacked in speech on the way out as I tried to explain, accused of disrespecting our President and government contrary to Romans !3 1-7, and I asked what they thought Paul did when, some ten years after writing this, he was ordered by Nero to give up the names of his fellow Christians? Did he obey his government? No, that is surely not what he means by obedience, and if the Christians were ordered by the Nazis to answer, “Do you have any Jews,” we would be obligated to lie- that is my teaching, anyway, or that that is not what John means by liars. Rather, the “liars” might be those who tell the truth to save themselves, as perhaps Peter did around the first of the charcoal fires.

   I was also accused for raising my voice to the preacher, in the back of the church on the way out, though I said I thought Tom had the Holy spirit in his preaching, and “wise” I called him to one I tried to proselytize to come that Sunday but not his political theory. “I am a PhD in politics,” I pleaded. Accused of disrespecting the House, said to a woman, Who’s house is this? And to their surprise- for they did not seem to know the saying, I quoted: “Fist remove the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” I backed out the door saying loudly, “This is the word of the Lord,” to my own surprise, and wandered home wondering about the ironic joke on me that I had clearly failed to remove the splinter from my brothers eye and keep myself in the class I was enjoying.

   I had put one dollar in the collection in an envelope which asked for my address. A few days later I received a letter with no return address, with a checklist of similarities between Hillary o the Democratic platform and the Nazi’s, things I too complain about when government becomes like Big Mother,” making me spend 1/2 hour plus a day for the last seven years rolling my own cigarettes ’cause they tried to tax us out of smoking, o indeed ending my teaching career because Politics and Philosophy had been White male dominated departments prior to affirmative action, and the liberal arts could be used in a way that medicine, for example could not to promote the feminist superiority teaching or the understanding that equality means numerical equality rather than equal opportunity regardless of prejudice, as if we would require a proportional number of short Asian women in pro baseball or the NBA.

   So, is Tom a religious or a political organization? And what would happen if the law compelled him to let me stay, so long as I was not disruptive? And just as I did not claim the benefits of common law marriage, because my fiance never would officially marry me, so I toil for free in the work of my nation and my faith indistinguishable. Perhaps if the Trumpsters are going to use Jesus to snow the Christians, they ought at lest pay their taxes.

 

Note *The Constitution of 1787 by George Anastaplo opens with a discussion of some of the comprehensive influences on the American Constitution. Examples of Biblical influences that can be discussed in a political science course are Genesis 9:6, which presents the reason that murder is wrong, and Deuteronomy 25:3, forbidding the return of escaped slaves. The difference between the scientific, Judicial and religious use of scripture is quite interesting in elation to the First Amendment and Establishment from the lectern. Deuteronomy 25:3, though it is not law for us, is yet why I could not, as a Michiganian, swear allegiance to the pre-Civil War Constitution. Up here, we knew that it was, as Montesquieu explains, a violation of political liberty to compel one to do what is wrong (or prevent one from doing what is right (Spirit of the Laws, XI). The contradiction could have been corrected by appealing to the Article IV requirement that each state be guaranteed a republican form of government, avoiding the civil war. But Jackson’s man Taney could have prevented the 265,000 American deaths in the civil War had he but decided that Dred Scott was a man. Sometimes there is silence in an awful moment which could and should have gone another way, and many lives and much suffering are at stake. This topic came up when we were discussing the engenius basis of Supreme Court case # 16-907, which argued that the election was unconstitutional because the national government is required to protect the states from foreign invasion, as occurred by the Russians through the internet.

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