Pastor As Pirate or, Better Than Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Pirates open up spaces closed off by power. Kester Brewin, in Mutiny, traces the history of pirates and piracy in Europe. He even includes modern Somali pirates in his examples. When access to goods and services become blockaded by power and privilege pirates emerge to open those channels back up for others. So goes the story from Brewin.

An interesting discovery in Mutiny is that those who became pirates often were once part of the system used to blockade the very goods and services they now work to open up. Put simply, once you discover you are part of the failed system that holds out hope and promise the pirate in you, or me, erupts to say, “Enough.” These very resources should be available to all, not just those who have the power to possess them.

Were pastors to embrace the pirate spirit, they might be less inclined to work for their own freedom to endorse a candidate of their choosing and instead work toward the freedom of the captive. Not one improvement comes as result of my endorsement of a political candidate for public office. Not one. I do however, sacrifice the prophetic position stationed at the edge of the inside.

Steven Colbert gets this. Just watch. (HT: Out of Ur Blog. Don’t be put off by Colbert’s reference to Garlow’s moxy.)

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pulpit Freedom Sunday – Jim Garlow
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One does not observe from Jesus as pastor that he looks for his rights. In fact, when the Apostle Paul radicalizes the message of Jesus’ call to serve others with, “in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” it is hard to think that a pastor would be working for his own rights. Sure it could be argued that Garlow and others are working for the rights of others, as in other churches. But, this would still beg the question, “Who should churches, and by communal expression Christians, be fighting for?” Maybe Isaiah helps,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow’s cause. (Is. 1:17)

Greg Boyd closes his reaction to Pulpit Freedom Sunday this way,

As a final thought, when a church accepts tax exempt status, it is premised on the promise that the church will not be used for partisan political purposes, for the church is now subsidized by all taxpayers. If a pastor is going to use the authority of the pulpit to weigh in on partisan politics, wouldn’t integrity demand that they first wave their tax exempt status? To use the authority of a pulpit to weigh in on partisan politics demonstrates a complete lack of integrity, which is yet one more way in which the activity of these leaders doesn’t resemble anything Jesus would do.

We need more pastors as pirates. Let’s lay down our lives, and privilege, for those whose needs really demand our attention and action. Not one candidate will win or lose because pastors endorse a candidate in public. But, I believe the pastor, the church, and the Way of Jesus loses when we spend our energies to protect our voices when others go muted and un-noticed, blockaded by the powerful systems and decisions that keep them in shackles. Sure seems like the story of Jesus.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.