Kohut: Political Pulpit Should Sound Alarm Bells

Jeff Kohut
Jeff Kohut

Do pastor politicians leverage the pulpit for community good or personal self-interest? City ministers including leadership with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport are influential players in city politics. Former mayoral candidate Jeff Kohut wonders if–for some–it’s all about them or their people.

Judge Carmen Lopez makes an essential point about the problematic phenomenon known as “Bridgeport Politics.” She is absolutely correct in asserting that it probably isn’t a socially or politically healthy situation to have the “political” so strongly identified and inextricably dependent upon the sectarian/religious in Bridgeport (or anywhere). But in agreeing with, and keeping with this theme, we must remember that in places that were largely abandoned–urban centers of eroding wherewithal, cut loose to free-float by a suburban elitist-dominated state government and the extremely elitist federal representation that emerged from the reconstituted power structure of post county government/suburb dominated Connecticut state government, engineered by elitist suburbanites six decades ago–were left largely disorganized, with deteriorating neighborhoods representing political vacuums where the viable social capital capable of eliciting government and grassroots action was, and is, definable largely in terms of religious institutions.

When this is the case, there is going to be an inevitable politicization of religious life in the community, with some religious leaders, being human, succumbing to the “perks” and ambitions going with this territory (as they are eagerly recruited for support by the political power structure). With the degree of dependence on religious institutions in cities such as Bridgeport as the interface of the community and government, as well as being the conduit for many essential services and as organizers of social action at the neighborhood and city levels, this situation is becoming the norm as a substitute for direct government contact/service to the people. This situation has invited the clergy to assume roles as political powerbrokers/political operatives, and even as elected officials with dual bully pulpits. This medieval situation is exactly contrary to what the Founding Fathers intended for the political reality of this country. But as long as socioeconomic distress serves the political economy advantages of an elitist-engineered society, the ultimately unholy marriage of church and state and its expanding role in American political life–especially urban political life–will continue to increase in power and influence.

When churches provide a moral compass and serve as the moral canaries-in-the-coal-mine for society and government–without foisting doctrine directly on government legislation and policy–they are operating in the benign and useful realm allotted to them by the US Constitution. When churches become bases for political operatives and channels of political collusion, we’re entering the danger zone that stimulated and directed the genius of our Founding Fathers to proscribe religious influence/interaction with government. The former situation has stealthily found its way back into US government, especially in poor cities, and has been deftly exploited by the various levels of ruling oligarchs of our society, including opportunistic clergy and their political co-conspirators.

So Carmen Lopez is correct in her alarm at the increasing, direct influence of the clergy and churches on the political climate and political reality of Bridgeport, and places of similar description. When we see the extensive co-mingling of religion and politics at any level of government, it’s time to sound the alarm bells. It is a signal that both areas can become synergistic, social battle zones to the extent where our society will become destructively antagonistic and rivalrous, when it needs most to provide harmonious sanctuary where society can retreat and find protection from such antagonism and rivalry.

Perhaps Bridgeport is there now, and religious persons and clergy of goodwill need to rally for disengagement from direct, political activity at the parish and clergy level and get back to ministering to only the spiritual and perhaps the most basic of human needs of the congregations and community. This could–and should–involve things such as youth mentoring and providing sanctuary for at-risk youth via wholesome diversions/activities, but perhaps it shouldn’t involve such measures as politicized, headline-grabbing mass meetings and rallies, which tend to obfuscate the original messages and derail the intended action-creating aspects that might have been intended. When things become politicized, they tend to stray away from clear thinking and real action creation. We see that as a theme in the thread of Bridgeport church/community action meetings/initiatives that have led down mostly blind alleys over the past 20 years and have perhaps led us farther away from action than just leaving the ineffectual, disengaged politicians who tend to hide behind such “action meetings” exposed, unexcused, sans bs platforms, and rightfully hung out to dry.

It is probably time [for Bridgeport] to look toward secular, non-sectarian, objective, community-minded, grassroots leaders and politicians to start reaching out directly to the community for the purpose of addressing social issues, and especially for the purpose of pursuing elective office, rather than enlisting/resonating with the religious/sectarian aspect of the community and its codes and doctrines that are not necessarily designed to enlist action that can be embraced or executed at pragmatic, or even lawful (per electoral statute) levels.

In essence; it is right and good for churches and institutions of worship to feed, clothe and minister to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of the community, but probably not to waste resources on the vanity of the construction and maintenance of the political machinery of that community.



  1. Did you attend the Emancipation Declaration service at the East End Baptist church this year? Historic date in 1863? Certainly, but the follow through was not what was understood or anticipated, was it? So it was historic, once again in 2015, when Joe Ganim told his story and requested a “second chance” of those in attendance. Four years later, perhaps three whites in attendance, another candidacy among those present is raised, and an historical reference is made to a previous mayoral campaign where more than two candidates ran, the vote was split, and Bridgeport still awaits a person of color to lead the State’s largest population city. Who is running? What do they say are the needs of the people? Who has been addressing those needs recently? And what does the Democratic Town Committee have to say about the 2019 campaign at this time (or at any time)? Time will tell.

  2. Jeff when you say:
    “Let get back to ministering to only the spiritual and perhaps the most basic of human needs of the congregations and community. This could — and should — involve things such as youth mentoring and providing sanctuary for at-risk youth via wholesome diversions/activities, but perhaps it shouldn’t involve such measures as politicized, headline-grabbing mass-meetings and rallies, which tend to obfuscate the original messages and derail the intended action-creating aspects that might have been intended. ” Is this not what the Reverend is doing in his congregation. Name one church around here sending more than 36 kids to college a year? Name one? So you are saying that gun violence is not a political issue? How can it not be? I have two daugheters and two bi-racial sons, and I’ll be damned if I would attend a church and the pastor is quite about the shootings happening in the city. I have visited pastor Bennet’s church and he talks a lot about social justice. he is a part of connect. is that not political? Like give me a break. Your post shows a lack of comprehension about the history of the black church. Just hush and go back to your castle to worship the golden calf.

  3. Stephanie: Of course the clergy should address the violence in our city — and provide “shelter” from it, in all meaningful ways… The latter probably wouldn’t include a lot of time-wasting, headline-grabbing, bs meetings and rallies that leave people feeling like progress has been made, when, in fact, nothing “real” has been done to address the problem. Providing church-sponsored, diversionary activities and safe-haven for youth are among the “real” things that churches can do to address gun violence in our city… (Indeed, helping to direct youth into, and sponsoring higher education for youth, fits that description!)
    Per example of the Church serving social needs without becoming “political”: St. Charles Parish (McGivney Center) has been doing that (youth diversion activities) pretty effectively in their neighborhood for many years. Who is their pastor, and what
    city job/position does he have? When is the last time he hosted a mass-meeting on a political issue or garnered political headlines?…

  4. I can see Rev. Chuck as Mayor of this fair City.
    I can also envision (New Haven’s) Rev. Boise Kimber as Chief of Staff.
    I can see Rev. Carl McCluster (of Shelton/ Bridgeport) as Bridgeport Finance Director.
    Rev. Tony Bennett as Bridgeport’s Rhetorican and singer of the American Song Book.
    Then I can see myself, coming out of this nightmare and taking my Meds at the proper time!

    1. Jim Fox,
      You think you are funny. Are you intending to be humors and making mockery of black people? I am not surprised with a last name FOX. I cannot expect much from FOX news.

      1. No, I’m not making fun of the black people I,m making fun of the black clergy who happens to hold the most powerful machine in Bridgeport, the Black Vote!
        More powerful then the DTC or any other political organization, but they keep voting Ganim and the Black Clergy keeps handing him the Pulpit. That’s what’s funny!

  5. Jeff,
    I hear what you are saying but I don’t think you understand me. I am saying that the black church and the white church as institutions are two separate things. They are not the same. The black church exists because of the racism experienced in the white church by black clergy and members. The black church and the black pastor have always been involved in politics. The first black politician in America was a preacher go do your research. Dr. King was just as political white churches used to tell him to be quite and to stop meddling in politics. Guess what he did anyway. What you don’t know is that black preachers used their churches to host press conferences, where you do you think the NAACP and SCLC meet? They met and held conferences in the church. Also, Dr King when he gave his speeches they were public and helped to put him and other preachers in the lime light. I am a King’s scholar and I went to school at Spelman, next to Morehouse, where King went, so I know the history of the movement. People who don’t know about the black church need to shut up. The lady was wrong for attacking the black church and she ought to repent. Black robes white justice. that is a good book to read. Also, James Cone the Cross and the Lynching Tree will help give you some more insight into black culture.

  6. “… This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”


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