Religious leaders: Politics second to teaching the Gospel - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Religious leaders: Politics second to teaching the Gospel

Some religious leaders on the Coast applaud the executive order, but also say their main agenda is the teaching the Gospel, not politics. (Photo source: WLOX) Some religious leaders on the Coast applaud the executive order, but also say their main agenda is the teaching the Gospel, not politics. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

The National Day of Prayer took on a different meaning to some religious leaders with President Donald Trump’s latest executive order designed to protect religious expression when it comes to politics. But even with a new possible mandate, some leaders aren’t willing to totally erase the separation between church and state.

In Long Beach, city hall was filled with people and prayers. On this day, politics and religion mixed well. But some say they already have a mandate.

Ben Barlow, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Long Beach, wants to avoid political advice.

"I usually walk kind of a thin line, particularly because we have folks who are differing in views," he said. "Some are on the left, some are on the right. Ultimately our goal as a church is to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. ... The last thing we want to do as a church is to create division over things that are insignificant, according to scripture."

The order - in part - allows religious organizations greater freedom in political speech without fear of losing tax-exempt status.

Read more: Trump limits IRS action over church political activity

The significance of the executive order was not lost on those attending Thursday’s National Day of Prayer ceremonies. In fact, many religious leaders said that order made this a celebration of not just freedom of religion, but also freedom of speech.

In Pass Christian, the service was smaller but the celebration was just as passionate.

"I think any time we can have more religious freedom is a win, not just for churches, but really, just for people," said Jesse McBride of Relevant Ministry in Pass Christian. "It is awesome to know that I don't have to wonder, ‘Hey, am I going to get sued, am I going to get attacked, am I going to get whatever because of something I might say."

However, he agreed there is a limit.

"I think there always needs to be some type of separation between church and state, but I think ... we look at Jesus. He even weighed in sometimes on political matters. You know, give to Caesar what is Caesar's."

Kevin Beachy, lead pastor of Gulf Coast Church in Long Beach, said politics in religion should be part of a bigger lesson.

"We should care about our world. We should care about our nation. We should care about our local communities," he said. "And that involves getting involved in politics and supporting those things. But I think it can go too far to when it's all about a political candidate or an agenda."

Pass Christian Alderman Anthony Hall, who is heavily involved in his church, said church used to be where people learned about politics.

"I feel that religious leaders know their membership, their parishioners better than even the politicians do," he said. "So, I think that if it allows the religious leaders to put the information out there for their membership to make a good decision when they are voting on a candidate or in one, I think it's a great idea."

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