Harrison Speaks Before House Committee: Video and Transcript

Harrison Speaks Before House Committee


Transcript of LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s Feb. 16 Testimony before House Committee on Government and Oversight

Article including transcript:
Missouri Synod President tells House Committee: LCMS ‘religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs’

ST. LOUIS—February 16, 2012—The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the St. Louis-based Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, was one of several witnesses to give testimony today during the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s hearing, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” Following are Harrison’s comments to the committee:

“Mr. Chairman, it’s a pleasure to be here. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a body of some 6,200 congregations and 2.3 million members across the U.S. We don’t distribute voters’ lists. We don’t have a Washington office. We are studiously non-partisan, so much so that we’re often criticized for being quietistic.

“I’d rather not be here, frankly. Our task is to proclaim, in the words of the blessed apostle St. John, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sin. And we care for the needy. We haven’t the slightest intent to Christianize the government. Martin Luther famously quipped one time, ‘I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me.’

“We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixed – the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution. We have 1,000 grade schools and high schools, 1,300 early childhood centers, 10 colleges and universities. We are a machine which produces good citizens for this country, and at tremendous personal cost.

“We have the nation’s only historic black Lutheran college in Concordia, Selma. Many of our people [who are alive today] walked with Dr. King 50 years ago on the march from Selma to Montgomery. We put up the first million dollars and have continued to provide finance for the Nehemiah Project in New York as it has continued over the years, to provide home ownership for thousands of families, many of them headed by single women. Our agency in New Orleans, Camp Restore, rebuilt over 4,000 homes after Katrina, through the blood, sweat and tears of our volunteers. Our Lutheran Malaria Initiative, barely begun, has touched the lives of 1.6 million people in East Africa, especially those affected by disease, women and children. And this is just the tip, the very tip, of the charitable iceberg.

“I’m here to express our deepest distress over the HHS provisions. We are religiously opposed to supporting abortion-causing drugs. That is, in part, why we maintain our own health plan. While we are grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the HHS policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard as this administration moves us all into a single-payer … system. Our direct experience in the Hosanna-Tabor case with one of our congregations gives us no comfort that this administration will be concerned to guard our free-exercise rights.

“We self-insure 50,000 people. We do it well. Our workers make an average of $43,000 a year, 17,000 teachers make much less, on average. Our health plan was preparing to take significant cost-saving measures, to be passed on to our workers, just as this health-care legislation was passed. We elected not to make those changes, incur great cost, lest we fall out of the narrow provisions required under the grandfather clause. While we are opposed in principle, not to all forms of birth control, but only abortion-causing drugs, we stand with our friends in the Catholic Church and all others, Christians and non-Christians, under the free exercise and conscience provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

“Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88-year-old father-in-law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

“We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.”

Harrison’s full transcript and video from today’s hearing, as well as a video message and previous statements to the church, can be found at www.lcms.org/hhsmandate.


Harrison Speaks Before House Committee: Video and Transcript — 5 Comments

  1. Kudos to Harrison. We are living in a time when civil disobedience is no longer an option for the Christian. When our country was established by Christian men and men impacted by Christian morality regardless of their personal faith we were building on solid ground. Today men like Obama show their contempt for our Constitution every day and like Herod too many “Christians” can be found sucking up to the depraved men in power rather than standing for Christ and His desire for good for all men. WE will continue to be tested and we will have to make serious choices. Thank God for His salty remnant.

  2. “Martin Luther famously quipped one time, ‘I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me.’”

    This probably would not have been included if one had read Gene Veith’s February 21, 2007, Cranach column, “The Wise Turk quote.”

    The “wise Turk” quote is simply an urban legend, an old wives’ tale, just like the claim that Luther threw an inkwell at the devil or that Billy Graham referred to Lutherans (or the Lutheran Church, or the Missouri Synod) as “a sleeping giant.”

    Not only did Martin Luther never state anything like the legendary quip erroneously attributed to him, but he actually stated quite the opposite!

    In “On War Against the Turk” Luther said:

    “I say this not because I would teach that worldly rulers ought not be Christians, or that a Christian cannot bear the sword and serve God in temporal government. Would God they were all Christians, or that no one could be a prince unless he were a Christian! Things would be better than they now are and the Turk would not be so powerful.”

    So Luther preferred rulers throughout the world be Christian. But should Christians consider having Turks as rulers? Luther speaks to that, too:

    “But as the pope is Antichrist, so the Turk is the very devil. The prayer of Christendom is against both. Both shall go down to hell, even though it may take the Last Day to send them there; and I hope it will not be long.”

    “Moreover, I hear it said that there are those in Germany who desire the coming of the Turk and his government, because they would rather be under the Turk than under the emperor or princes… For it is misery enough to be compelled to suffer the Turk as overlord and to endure his government; but willingly to put oneself under it, or to desire it, when one need not and is not compelled – the man who does that ought to be shown the sin he is committing and how terribly he is going on.”

    And what did Luther say about having a Christian who lacks wisdom as a ruler (the so-called “stupid Christian”)? For that one can look at Luther’s “Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed,” which Luther wrote in 1523 (before the Peasant War):

    “What, then, is a prince to do if he lacks the requisite wisdom and has to be guided by the jurists and the lawbooks? Answer: This is why I said that the princely estate is a perilous one. If he be not wise enough himself to master both his laws and his advisers, then the maxim of Solomon applies, “Woe to the land whose prince is a child” [Eccles. 10:16]. Solomon recognized this too. This is why he despaired of all law-even of that which Moses through God had prescribed for him-and of all his princes and counselors. He turned to God himself and besought him for an understanding heart to govern the people [I Kings 3:9]. A prince must follow this example and proceed in fear; he must depend neither upon the dead books nor living heads, but cling solely to God, and be at him constantly, praying for a right understanding, beyond that of all books and teachers, to rule his subjects wisely. For this reason I know of no law to prescribe for a prince; instead, I will simply instruct his heart and mind on what his attitude should be toward all laws, counsels, judgments, and actions. If he governs himself accordingly, God will surely grant him the ability to carry out all laws, counsels, and actions in a proper and godly way.”

  3. Yes John, that, too, is an urban legend.

    However, take heart. The first Christmas tree in an American church was put in Zion Lutheran German Church in 1851 by the Rev. Heinrich Christian Schwan. It was decorated with candles (a likelyfire code violation today), colored paper chains, and a few walnuts and apples. The Christmas tree remained in Rev. Schwan’s church for two SUndays.

    Although there were some complaints that “we’ve never done that before” and that a decorated Christmas tree has a pagan origin (which was not true), Rev. Schwan continued the practice and other churches followed suit. Rev. Schwan went on to become the President of the Missouri Synod and also wrote the Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, which is included in the book catechumens use today.

  4. @Carl Vehse #2

    I’m afraid the “smart Turk” and the “frog willing to be boiled” are indestructible, since so many otherwise intelligent men keep repeating them!

    But we can keep trying!

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