When Caesar Picks the Sermon Topic - Word&Way

When Caesar Picks the Sermon Topic

Pastors trying to discern what to preach could look to a variety of sources. They could put together a sermon series with a clever title to cover an issue their congregants need to hear. They could pick a book of the Bible to walk through over a number of Sundays. They could turn to the lectionary to see what passages numerous pastors across the country and beyond will preach about for that day. Or in Texas, they could just ask their governor.

On Tuesday (Sept. 19), Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would call lawmakers back for a special session next month to address legislation on “school choice.” Now that the impeachment trial of state Attorney General Ken Paxton is over (with most Senate Republicans voting to keep the scandal-plagued Republican in the state’s top law enforcement position), Abbott is ready to push what’s long been a main legislative priority for him. But first he’s turning to pastors.

“Go to the pulpit,” Abbott told pastors on a teleconference Tuesday as he announced his plans for a special session. “You can move the dial dramatically.”

So to kick off his push for legislation to redirect public education money to private schools, Abbott declared Oct. 15 as “School Choice Sunday.” He’s encouraging pastors to use services that day “to voice their support for parent empowerment and expanding education freedom for all Texas students.” He’s already practicing what he hopes they preach, couching his legislative goals in sectarian terms.

“Speak from the pulpit to your congregation and let them know how important this is to the moral fabric of the future of Texas,” he told the clergy on the call. “The fundamental principle that God created for us is to have family units — not state bureaucrats — make decisions for families.”

“Speak to your congregations about the issue of parental rights, parental involvement, and school choice,” Abbott added. “There are some schools in the state of Texas that try to indoctrinate our children with this woke agenda. We need to step up and correct this wrong and we have the ability to do it.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, with his wife Cecilia, attends a reelection campaign event on March 1, 2022, in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Abbott is calling a special session and promising to campaign to defeat any Republican who doesn’t back his legislation. But his effort to direct what pastors say from the pulpit — and making it part of his launch of a political campaign both for specific bills and in upcoming elections — was quickly endorsed by many conservative ministers on the call. So this issue of A Public Witness attends the initial conversation about Abbott’s School Choice Sunday before offering a short homily about the politics of preaching.


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