We have examined reasons why the church fails to engage in the political process: a theological reason—that’s what liberal churches do, a legal reason—the Johnson Amendment, and a moral reason—politics tend to be dirty.
Michael Brown just published an article in The Stream asserting that many pastors avoid political issues for fear of causing problems in their congregations. No doubt this constitutes a major deterrent. Pastors encounter enough trouble without creating it.
Having been a pastor I know how this goes. Preach on homosexuality and in the next elder meeting you are informed that the Petersons have a homosexual son who now refuses to come to church. The Petersons, major givers, are looking for a more accepting church home. The elders want you to fix the problem.
However, the more foundational issue resides in evangelical culture. Addressing political issues is viewed as inappropriate. Therefore, when pastors do, everyone knows that they have crossed a cultural line, thus extending to anyone the right to be offended, and leaving the pastor vulnerable to censure. This cultural tenet makes it difficult for pastors to explain biblical perspectives on political issues without harming the church. Therefore, the deterrent is not cowardice, as Michael Brown suggests, but unwillingness of pastors to destroy their congregations.
Pastors can only be freed to address political issues when the evangelical community commits itself to a culture change. Evangelicals must write articles and books highlighting the responsibility and necessity of pastors to address political issues. Elders must encourage their pastor to carefully and tactfully delve into these areas, and must commit themselves to protect him when he does. These and similar initiatives will transform the evangelical culture, liberating pastors to approach political issues from a biblical perspective.