You read that correctly. It probably doesn't happen often, but I completely agree with the words spoken by First Lady Michelle Obama late last week where she implored church leaders at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tenn. to drive political action (see Dan Gilgoff at CNN.com's Belief Blog):
To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better. Because ultimately, these are not just political issues, they are moral issues.
As of today, I've seen no screaming press release from Mr. Barry Lynn of American's United for Separation of Church and State ridiculing the First Lady or demanding that the IRS investigate.
The fact is Mrs. Obama is absolutely correct on both counts. The church is the place to talk about the issues of the day, to ensure that people understand that their values have a place in the public square and that the church, the center of social change and political movements since before America began, has every legal right and a moral obligation to do so.
That is true because nearly every issue we are dealing with in America today — abortion, marriage, health care, poverty, ethics in government, etc. — are moral issues. To say that the church should not address what is clearly one of its fundamental obligations is not just silly, it's dangerous.
Unfortunately, too many church leaders and congregants have fallen for the "separation of church and state" myth, either from intimidation, ignorance or fear. Should the church be the center of partisan political activity? No, though frankly it is constitutionally protected to do so. Should politics be the primary activity of the church? Again, no. But addressing issues of the day, teaching people about their God-given civic responsibilities and providing information about candidates and elected officials are absolutely legal and important for congregations — and don't think Michelle Obama doesn't know that.
So, as we approach our celebration of Independence Day, the founding of our great republic — a moment in history driven by the clergy (see Joseph Loconte Houses of Worship column at the WSJ.com) — let's all take the First Lady's words to heart and make sure that our churches remain the centers of social and political change in America and in Virginia.