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Welcome.

(note:  This is the welcome and info article and it does not change.  Scroll on down for the most recent article addition.)

I believe in the power of truth.  I also believe in the power of freedom.  I am neverendingly impressed at how truth sets us free, and how freedom opens us up to the truth.  Though I have some posts that are personal to me, this is my ministry site.  I post articles about all kinds of things that are of interest to me… and I also find great joy in answering, or at trying to answer, or at least discussing, questions.  Feel free to ask them here.

I am still working on these sites, but the best way to navigate this material is either the tabs at the top of the page – these take you to totally different pages with targeted information.  If you are researching me as a personal therapist, click the Counseling/Therapy tab… if you are a man looking for encouragement, ideas and support in life, click on Phalanx… if you are considering me as a speaker, teacher, pastor, or consultant, that information should be available there.

Most of my work hours are spent serving at South Spring Baptist Church. Check out the amazing ministry there.

I am also the lead therapist at the Alethia Counseling Center in Tyler, Texas… and I love the team of Counselors we have here, so…

I want to introduce you to our team of counselors at the offices:

 

You can meet them HERE.at Alethia’s website.

If you are interested in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today!

…If you are more interested in browsing my articles, then your best bet might be the catagories list to the right.  If you are interested in me writing an article on a given topic, you can request it in any comments section… I will try to get to it as soon as I can!

I will continue to post all new articles here as well as on the targeted site, so either option should still give you the chance to find what you are looking for.

Typically, my series, sermons and seminars will be found at:  Talks

Thanks for stopping in… God Bless you and Keep you.

Chris

More Information on my specific Counseling

My style of therapy is generally called “eclectic” which really just means I make use of many different styles and techniques of counseling.  I believe that every human life has intrinsic value, including yours.  No amount of pain, guilt, shame, regret, resentment, anger, depression, depravity, or brokenness can change that.  Every person has a story that is worth hearing, no matter how much hurt, love, purpose, abandonment or normality that life includes or lacks.

A big part of why I believe what I just said is that I am a proclaimed follower of Jesus, The Christ, into Life, death, and Life again.  I think life can often feel a lot like a series of life and death patterns.  I believe it is hopeful to know that those are a parable of the larger Epic story.  I believe in a Creator, and I therefore rationally think the most foundational thing in life is to have a right relationship with our Creator.

It seems reasonable to me that it would be impossible to over-estimate philosophically how important it would be for a created thing to know its creator.  After doing decades of research, of the major views on this problem, only Christianity has been able to offer what I consider the most reasonable answers. So, with that understanding, I am a Christian therapist.

However, as a “style” I am not exclusively what is called a “biblical counselor” nor do I offer counseling only for other Christians. Far from it. I agree with the way I was taught: I expose my faith, but am careful not to impose my faith on my clients. It isn’t always an easy integration, but that is my goal. The main way that my faith and philosophy impact my counseling is in regards to truth. I believe in the power of truth to set us free (John 8:31). I think it is vitally important for everyone to be able to acknowledge the truth about their lives – this point is also made in Orwell’s “1984” when it is noted that true freedom begins with the freedom to speak the truth.

Until we can say what we know is true, we are still bound. I make use of reality therapy techniques, Gestalt work, psychotherapy, Jungian archetypes, personality theory, paradoxical work, REBT, transactional analysis, and virtually anything else I come across that works and fits within what I believe is true.

I believe that each human being is so complex and unique that no one therapeutic theory covers everyone. Generally, I talk to people for about 50 minutes in the session, but the real work comes in the hours of integration in-between sessions. I encourage people to deal with the past and not ignore it – to speak the truth about their past. This is not about living in the past. Understanding, speaking and accepting the truth about our past is a work of the present.

I also encourage people to face the present and future honestly. Reality therapy becomes vital when dealing with the present. I think that many more people could really benefit from counseling than get it. It takes a certain level of emotional health to be able to risk coming in. Coming to counseling the first time can be pretty tough, so I applaud anyone strong enough to do it, especially those who are able to come in before they are in stage 4 sickness… Counseling isn’t meant to last forever, so come in with some specific goals and you and I will work together to identify and deal with those and any others that arise.

Final words for this section: beware of coming in for counseling when it is storming and the roof is leaking, and then quitting when the rain quits rather than when the roof is repaired.

any questions?

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“Who touched me?”

(Technically, “who touched my garment?” but since anything she touches becomes unclean to the next person who touches it, I cannot see how that matters.)

The disciples are clueless, as usual.  They try to explain that the crowds were all touching Him, but He ignores them.  He is searching through the nearby crowds.  His eyes are looking, looking…

Is she scrambling back?  Is she trying to hide?  What will happen if the crowd and the synagogue official (!) realize what has happened?  But it is hard to hide or escape when you are down on your hands and knees in a crowd. 

And He spots her.  She couldn’t have been far away.

He moves towards her as the crowd parts.  Did a gasp go up when people began to see?  What happened in Jairus’ heart?

Afraid, trembling, she comes to Him.  The whole story floods out while everyone stands and gawks.  She cannot tell it fast enough.  Is she kneeling? Back on her hands and knees?  I think so.  Maybe she never left them.  Maybe she crawled to Him.

When she finally lets it all spill out, I think she finally met His eyes.

And Jesus speaks two words first.  This really matters.  Years later, these words stood out to Peter, who I believe later told this account and Mark wrote it down.

Most people think Jesus’ first words were “you faith has made you whole.”

But that isn’t correct.

His first words are “My daughter.”

Go ahead and stop for a second.  Pause and breath in those words.

 

Before anything else, He claims her.

This is the only person Jesus calls “daughter” in all four gospels.  When she has nothing to offer Him, He claims her as His.

In some sense, this is almost a challenge to the crowd – and Jairus perhaps?  Before the official can begin to be angry or quote Leviticus, Jesus makes it clear that He claims her.

Did she follow Him from this point?  It hardly matters.  I don’t think this means Jesus legally adopted her or that she now vacationed with Jesus.  So far as we know, she isn’t mentioned again.  Jesus encourages her to “go” in her newfound freedom.  Even if they never saw each other again, she knew she was meant to be.   God incarnate had let her know that she was His daughter.

Then He adds “your faith has made you well (whole); go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

In other words, when we bring uncleanness to Jesus, we do not stain Him; He purifies us.  There is no one unwanted.  Not really.

Incidentally men, there is an almost mirrored passage for us in Mark 2 about a paralyzed man.  Is there anything worse than being helpless – a burden – powerless – for us?  But he is the one whom Jesus calls “My son.”

And by the way, as this woman is reeling from being made whole in her soul and her body, a messenger comes to tell Jesus and Jairus that the “little daughter” had died.  Jesus tells the father not to fear.

They continue to the house. Jesus kicks out all of the mockers (many think these are professional mourners – who else would laugh?), takes His disciples, the mother and the father and offers His hand to the little girl.  He bids her “Little girl, get up.”

And she does and began to walk around.  Jesus had them feed her

Is it significant that she was 12 years old?  Born the same year that the other woman’s life had essentially ended?    I don’t know.  However, she is yet more evidence that you cannot bring anything to Him that impresses Him.

Alone, isolated, sick, abandoned, unwanted, unloved, filthy, unclean, impure… dead?  None of these stain Him.  He purifies them.

Welcome one and all, to the family of this Christ.

However, this beautiful system sometimes broke down.  It had broken in the case of this particular woman.

We cannot know, but let’s suppose that she had started her first period as a girl.  Celebrating her welcome into the world of women, now able to marry before long, able to visit the tent, all would have been amazing, despite the inconveniences that come along with the period.

But after seven days, she was still bleeding.

After 14, 21, 28 days… months, a year… 12 years.

Doctors were unable to help.

Her family isn’t mentioned in the passage.  Where was her father?  Why wasn’t he out seeking the Healer for his daughter?  Had they abandoner her?

She has no more money.

The Bible says she had “suffered much” at the hands of the doctors.  We might cringe to even guess at what first century doctors might have considered treatment for this; who knows?

Twelve years later, she is supposed to be married and have a few kids already; instead she has never held hands with a boy.

Possibly children called out “unclean” when she walked by to avoid inadvertent touches that would make other unclean as well.

Likely her malady now had been interpreted as a sign of God’s dissatisfaction with her and/or punishment.

Alone, abused, unwanted, unclean, unloved, and untouchable… she was a ghost in her own community. She was severely judged, found insufficient and flawed.  Are there any worse feelings for a woman?

And she heard that the famous Healer was coming by.

But she had a problem.

It was in the way He healed people.

He usually touched them.

Obviously, we cannot know what all went through her mind, heart and soul, but I think that when she considered this, she was not selfish or foolish enough to ask Him to heal her.

If He touched her, she would make Him unclean.  Then He couldn’t heal anyone else for a while.  Plus, there was no way that He would allow it or be willing.  She had to assume this!

So, she decided on a desperate strategy of sneaking up, or laying in ambush and when Jesus came by and the prayer tassels of His garment – probably the one-piece garment that Jewish men wear – she would reach out and just touch the tips.

Would this make Him unclean? Maybe it should, but no one would even know.  Would she be healed?  Surely she assumed that it would fail.  People who are chronically ill for years only continue to try to solutions in desperation – not belief that they will actually be effective.

So she does it.

Jesus, walking with a Synagogue official – well versed in the details of the law, and almost swallowed up by the crowd, walked past.

How could she know that He was on His way to touch someone’s little girl… someone’s daughter?  I don’t think she did or maybe she would have not followed through.

But she does.

And immediately, the bleeding stopped.  She knew it. But before she could celebrate this truth, she hears the words she has learned to fear for so long.

“Who touched me?” 

Woman with the Issue of Blood

Reference Matthew 9:18-22, Mark 5:22-34, Leviticus 15:19-33

One day Jesus was walking by Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee, with an official of the synagogue who had stopped Him and begged for His help with his very sick daughter.  As was typically the case, Jesus, now famous in this region for His miracles, was thronged by the crowds who followed Him everywhere.  Like any celebrity, they pressed in, longing to get a closer look, to hear His words or to touch Him.

The passage is clear that this is his “little daughter” – this is not his adult child.  This is not a woman.  She is a child.  His little daughter who hasn’t even had a chance to be a woman yet.

He specifically asks Jesus to “lay hands on her” – to touch his little girl and make her well so she can live.  Jesus follows the man toward the little dying child.

Here, we have presented to us one of the most pathetic characters of the gospels.  She is introduced as “a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years.”

Almost certainly, this means that at some point, she had started her menstrual cycle, but it had never stopped.  In our day, that would be terribly inconvenient.  In her day, it meant much more.

The Levitical laws prescribed that a woman was ceremonially unclean during the bleeding period of her cycle for seven days. During this time, anyone who touched her or any surface she sat or lied on was also unclean.

Keep in mind that the original intent of “unclean” did not connect to sin or morally impurity – far from it.   There is a lot that could be talked about here, but ceremonial uncleanness was a way of setting something apart from other things. In the Jewish world, blood was considered the very element of life.  Life was in the blood.  To bleed would normally mean something bad, so bleeding was treated with a serious attitude.

This would mean that this woman was not only facing the consequences of losing this blood, but the restrictions with being ceremonially unclean.  To make matters worse, in the time of Jesus, Rabbinical and Pharisaical teaching had added other restrictions and a much worse attitude onto women in this phase of their cycle.

Likely she could not handle money, tools, food or anything else that was not also unclean.

Now, consider the application.  For most women in child-bearing years, this mean that for seven days each month, they were unable to prepare food, handle money, touch tools or surfaces in the home… so essentially this became a one week vacation from normal responsibilities each month!

Further consideration – these people generally lived in relatively small communities within communities.  Often, women in the same community begin to experience their period at similar times!  So, beyond even a vacation – leaving fathers and grandparents with the responsibilities of the home and older children – it was a time when women of childbearing years would gather.

Some say that many Jewish communities would have had a special tent just outside of the village where these women stayed for these seven days.  Imagine the teaching, gossip, comfort and friendships lived out as most of the woman from the ages of early teens to menopause gathered together in an overlapping seven days.  This was a brilliant move on God’s part to offer rest, training and fellowship for these women and to create a system in which husbands and other family members would appreciate what the woman brought to the family.

No wonder that, when combined with the Jewish yearning to have children, a girl’s first period was likely celebrated!

However, this beautiful system sometimes broke down.  It had broken in the case of this particular woman.

Examining the article recently published about Men preferring Debt free virgins without tattoos –

To summarize:  in an article that makes the claims she makes, I see no research and no scripture that defends the actual claims.!  This is purely an opinion piece.  It doesn’t represent anyone at all except herself (and the original writer perhaps).

I can honestly respect her opinion and as a student, I can filter out the good to keep and toss out the bad.

To wrap up, there are actually two “bads” that I want to comment on here.  These are serious.  We must be very careful to never misattribute God’s values.

Firstly,

this article may bring to attention some moral and wisdom decision making issues that are worth referencing (see links above about tattoos, premarital sex and debt)

but I believe this was the wrong way to handle these topics.

It may represent this woman’s opinion and may match the opinion of the handful of people that she cites in her response… but

It doesn’t tell the story of God and value.

Nothing in this article can mean that a woman (or man) who isn’t a virgin is less precious or even less pure.  Purity comes from God.  Purity doesn’t proceed from human effort.  We don’t start with purity and we don’t grunt out purity with our behavior or non-behavior.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  I John 1:8-10

He cleanses us.  Not us.  He purifies us.  Not us. As pure people, we have the freedom to live in that purity(Titus 2:7, I Peter 3:2, I Tim 5:1-2, etc.)but we also have the choice to live as slaves to sin still (Rom 6). 

If you follow Jesus and accept His payment for you on the Cross, you are pure.  His blood makes us pure.  As the old Hymn would say “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  Nothing.

And, in that freedom, we get to live as free people. What do we do with that freedom?

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”  I Peter 2:16

 

Secondly.

this article, if you aren’t careful in your reading of it, will communicate that women who are not virgins, in debt or have tattoos cannot get the best men – godly men – high quality men.

Not true.

You are not “damaged goods” (or at least not any more damaged that the rest of us) or something less lovely or less pure (see above).

Good men, godly men, understand God’s value of treasure.   And we make decisions based on His measurements rather than our own.

There are men who submit their “preferences” to God’s perspective.

Any woman who follows Christ is part of a royal family – a royal priesthood!   She is a princess of The King.  He has purchased her a treasure with a great price – and with great joy!  (Matt 13:44).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  I Peter 2:9

Of course, men and women should be wise about making big decisions like college and marriage, but our wisdom is not always trustworthy… so we first submit our understandings to God.

Here is an understanding that I think Jesus Himself would be very passionate about.   Men, women, as you consider the person who are thinking about being married to, focus on their character.

Jesus takes the devaluing of His own very seriously.  Generally, devaluing a daughter is not something that a Father takes lightly.

As you consider the past decisions of a person you are considering marrying – even considering their mistakes, please meditate on the passionate words of Jesus Christ in a vision to The Apostle Peter:

“Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”  (NLT Acts 10:15)

But instead a stance taken against girls going to college.

Here is the “logic” of the article.

  1. Men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos.
  2. College is where debt, sex and tattoos happen.
  3. Therefore girls shouldn’t go to college.

This logic is obviously filled with error.  Even if some men prefer these traits, and even if a woman wants to attract a man like that…

Don’t debt, tattoos and sex happen outside of college campuses?

Are less-well educated woman LESS likely to have sex or get a tattoo or to have a payday loan at 200% interest?  I happen to know, firsthand, that there are, and have been, debt free virgins who went to college (some for a LOOOONG time) and who didn’t even get a tattoo (and I am not just talking about myself – see photo)

I would love to see some research on this, or on what percentage of men (even “godly” men) prefer in regard to these traits, or on how many other traits (kindness, friendliness, able to maintain a deep conversation, beauty, leadership skill, adventurousness, and education level and GODLINESS) are MORE important to men (even godly men) than these other three traits.

Naturally, no such research is involved in this article. I am dubious it would support her claims, especially in relation to other traits.

So, I think the seeming purpose of the article can be negated, no matter what it really was.

But what about the scriptural side of things – does the Bible (or God and therefore men who follow God) prefer these traits based on the Bible?

Of course, there are many passages in which “obedience” is required by God. So, as in the case of premarital sex, God would certainly “prefer” that we all obey his teaching to wait until a covenant marriage to embrace sex!  Beyond that, check out those links above.

The article itself is very short on scripture, though.

Mrs. Alexander references (in parenthesis in the midst of the other person’s thoughts) only 2 verses:

Ephesians 6:4 in reference to girls “not having read the Bible with their fathers:”

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And I Cor 14:35 in reference to their not having a husband to explain the Bible to them:

“If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (I know there is a lot to digest in that one verse and I am not going to attempt to examine it here, perhaps at another time, but suffice it to say, for now, that this was about propriety, not about a wife not being smart enough to understand the Bible).

But in fact, the only verse from the Bible directly cited at all in the original articles is I Peter 3:4

“… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

This entire thought in this passage is an admonition to women to find their beauty in their character rather than their appearance.  The passage says:

“3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

The follow-up article sports quite a few more verses (mostly in other people’s posts she cites) that take a hard-line literal interpretation and application attitude about the passages, no matter what section or book of the Bible, and yet the lovely woman covering her post is wearing gold jewelry.  Something specifically mentioned in the only passage she references in her original article.   I am not intending to be “snarky.”  I am pointing out that everyone interprets the Bible when they apply it (which they should properly)

Regardless, that First Peter passage is not applicable to virginity, debt nor tattoos.

Part 3 (and most important)

Response to Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos

A few days ago, an article by one Lori Alexander hit Facebook with a storm and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

  • I think the inflammatory title helped. I think this is the main effective tool for creating attention.
  • I think the attractive young woman as the cover photo helped.
  • It could be how simplistic and short the article is (I could learn from that) and therefore something of a straw-man and easy to stack with other ugly Christian stereotypes.
  • I think mostly, this is due to people who disagree with the tenets of the article (or at least those indicated in the title) sharing and commenting on it.

It is actually just a copied note from “One woman (who) wrote me some more reasons that she thought of why women shouldn’t go to college” with the author’s comments and not really an article at all.

However, in the follow up (and re-titling of to “Godly Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos”) the article, Alexander claims to have gotten more than 90,000 posts on her article.  In this follow up, she mostly reposts some of the positive comments she has gotten in the midst of the others most of which, as she admits “hate it.”

Responding to people

Sadly, many women (and men) have responded in a way that is the strange hypocrisy of modern liberal feminism… because they disagree with her message, they attack her as a woman under the control of men.

This is a thinking person, married 38 years, who runs her own website and just managed to get more hits and comments on one article than I have with all of mine combined over a decade.

I think it is foolish and wrong (and possible sexist) to dismiss her just because she is a woman with an opinion I don’t agree with.

I respect her ability to create and hold and verbalize an opinion in more than a meme and a post on Social Media – something many others do not seem capable of.

So, in an effort to treat her and her article with dignity, I will respond:

When reading the introduction, I assumed that this woman (she claims to be 60 years old) was seeking to impress upon young women the importance of what she thinks is making wise (debt and tattoos) and moral (sex before marriage) decisions.

I assumed that she was using the motivation that “men prefer” women who have made these decisions.

I am not going to comment on those actual decisions here.  I already have articles published about what I believe the biblical perspective is on Tattoos and premarital sex.

A friend has posted more than one article on debt that I think are good ones – check them out.

As one friend of mine posted in response to the article “But wouldn’t both men and women prefer to marry debt-free virgins?”(maybe not sure about tattoos) – at least not “bad tattoos”).   Given the complete lack of any kind of statistics or even a survey in the article, I don’t feel the need to approach the question of accuracy for a question like this.

Anytime we talk about preferences, there are always going to be some people who prefer almost any trait.  If the implication was to be that ALL men do, then clearly this is patently wrong.

In her response, Alexander says that she should have entitled it “Godly men…”

It felt to me that in her follow up  article, she is actually now making these preferences a test for whether or not a man is godly.  (eg. If he prefers a girl with a tattoo, he must NOT be godly.).

As I will make clear at the end of this article, a godly man could certainly prefer a woman with or without any or all of these three things!

This was clearly not the meaning in the first article, which turns out NOT to be what I thought it would be – an attempt to motivate young women to wise or moral behavior…

But instead a stance taken against girls going to college.  Part 2

Many on the other side of this case make the argument that the amendment limits their freedom of speech.  They say that it means that they cannot “speak their piece” in support of or in condemnation of a political candidate or party.

I would respond that of course they can, and legally.   At any point in their private or even public life they can, just not as the representative of the nonprofit’s opinion.

Or, if being able to speak openly in support of a candidate as the leader of their church, is extremely important to them, then they should just rescind their own non-profit status and talk openly about it!  Being a non-profit is not a right, but a privilege that appropriately comes with some restrictions and some accountability.

I would go so far as to say that if they believe God is calling them to speak openly in support of a candidate, or in opposition to one, as a non-profit entity, they are obligated to follow God’s leadership and do so!   Fortunately, our laws provide for a completely appropriate and legal way to do that – don’t be a 501(c)(3).

Also, the way the law is written makes it clear that we, as pastors, are still completely free to speak and teach what we believe the Bible teaches.

I looked and in the most recent elections, I could find no mention of Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump in the Bible.  However, I believe that the topics of abortion, divorce, infidelity, homosexuality, greed, paying taxes, loving enemies, hospitality, war, and the rejection of racism (along with almost every other aspect of life in America) are dealt with in scripture.

I see nothing in the law that restricts in any way my engaging with those topics openly from the pulpit.  More importantly, it clears my table to stay focused on “Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

I also feel confident that I do not want other religious leaders or “religious leaders” allowed to back a specific candidate by name under tax protection as a non-profit.  I think every pseudo-church that gives out licenses now will be accepting money then.

The good news that God loves us and has paid the price to adopt us is too important a message; we must be careful to not create the atmosphere of “Christianity and…” that CS Lewis warned us against.

I grant a point to those who are concerned about this law that it will become the restriction of biblical, moral, spiritual and life-topics, because they also happen to be political issues.

That eventuality, I would stand against to the death.  However, none of these are restricted in the current law.

On the other hand, I can imagine a day when what I see as protection is repealed.  I am approached by a generous person wishing to donate money to a valuable mission or project of the church, but also wants to make sure that I mention a certain candidate in an upcoming sermon.

This may sound nefarious, but this donor would know perfectly well that I support the platform of this politician, so why wouldn’t I?

At South Spring,we do not accept donations with strings attached in any way, so this would fall apart with us, but the pressure could be impressive.  Especially when the election seems close and the issues are life and death – which they are.

I prefer not to have to be regularly disappointing goodhearted people’s pleas for me to engage with politicians by name.  Passionate, well-intentioned people can get pretty desperate when they are afraid of what is happening to their country.  Further, even in the church, some people are present for poor motives or personal agendas.

I am convinced this is a small minority (and I am in this world every day), but that minority can be loud when they are on the warpath.  I prefer the world in which they have one less agenda issue to bring to me.

I do not think that pastors or churches should seek to be a-political, but I think the boundary of ALL non-profits being held to the standard of not supporting a specific candidate is reasonable.

Sadly, not all churches are as above board as mine about accepting donations.  Since churches do not file the complete paperwork for 501(c)(3) to the IRS that other non-profits do, some churches could support candidates financially as well, and it would be very hard to track.  I would hope that no “church” would do this, but I have to wonder if the temptation will be too strong for some to avoid.

I understand the complaint. There are times when being careful about this guideline seems restrictive – and is restrictive, but I see these restrictions and every bit as much a protection to speak freely as a limitation from doing so.

Perhaps some see this as an infringement on their rights, but as I understand it, so long as the enforcement isn’t ever abused (e.g., a pastor gets sued by the state for either voicing what they believe the Bible teaches about a topic that happens to also be a political one, or that they get sued by the state for voicing their opinion of a candidate in the church parking lot or foyer in a private conversation), then I see the amendment as allowing me to focus on the moral and eternal issues that it is my calling to focus on, without the distractions of people’s political agendas.