Church and Politics

In my recent article I encouraged Minnesotans to vote “yes,” November 6, 2012, on the “Marriage Protection Amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution,” for the sake of children. This Amendment would codify marriage in our State’s Constitution as being between a man and a woman. In response some Christians politely asked if I was getting too involved in politics.

Marriage is not simply a political issue. It is also a moral issue and in addition to the public square there is no better place to talk about these than in church. No less than the wife of the President, Michelle Obama has said, “And to anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better—no place better. Because ultimately, these are not just political issues—they are moral issues.” [First Lady Michelle Obama at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s General Conference June 28, 2012. >><<]

Pastors and churches certainly are free to say whatever they want. However, should they desire to keep their tax exempt status they need to abide by I.R.S. rules which prohibit pastors and churches from endorsing candidates or a specific political party. I find such rules to be quite reasonable. However, in its wisdom I.R.S law permits pastors and churches to encourage congregants from the pulpit and in Bible Study how they should vote when it comes to moral issues realizing that for many God in his Word has bound the conscience. Perhaps these Christians were desirous that churches keep the main thing the main thing. And to this I most wholeheartedly agree that evangelism is the main thing; but not to the detriment of good works.

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaimed, “ … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). Through the ages Christians have been involved in good works in the political arena for the betterment of their neighbor and the glory of their heavenly Father.

Good works through the political arena bore fruit in 374 AD through the efforts of St. Basil of Caesarea which led Emperor Valentinian to outlaw infanticide, abortion, and child abandonment. Through the good works of St. Telemachus gladiatorial fights were outlawed in the East under Emperor Theodosius (378-395) and in the West in 404 AD. Through the political efforts of William Wilberforce British Parliament abolished the slave trade in her Empire with the “Slave Trade Act” of 1807, and finally, freed all slaves in the British Empire with the “Slavery Abolition Act” of 1833.

When the British arrived in India they encountered the practice of “suttee” (or “sati”) which was part of India’s Hindu-oriented culture. When the husband died the widow was expected to voluntarily mount the funeral pyre and be burned alive alongside her dead husband. If the voluntary nature was not forthcoming male relatives and family members forcibly bound and placed the surviving wife upon the funeral pyre, alive! Motivated by a Christian world-view which proclaims the inestimable worth of women, the British outlawed this gruesome practice in 1829. Within China Christianity’s influence in the political process led the Chinese government to outlaw the dehumanizing practice of female foot-binding in 1912.

By some estimates, roughly two-thirds of abolitionists in the United States in the 1830s and 1840s were Christian pastors who entered the political process with vigor. In the 1960s a black Baptist preacher working through the political process and engaging in peaceful protest raised the consciousness of Americans pursing equality for all. This is but a short list of the many good works Christians have been involved in, in the political process for the benefit of their neighbor.

Thomas Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation between church and state” is not in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. First penned in 1803 in a private letter to Baptists in Danbury, CT, Jefferson assured them there was a wall that separated, or, prevented the Government from erecting a “State Religion” such as found in India with Hinduism, Catholicism in Italy, or Lutheranism in Germany. The First Amendment of the US Constitution says; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… .” This “wall of separation” protects houses of worship from the Government and others who would “prohibit the free exercise” of religion in this great nation.

One of the many blessings found in this great country is a freedom of—not from— religion as expressed in our founding documents. And so in the voting booth we seek to vote in a manner that best serves our neighbor, in this case, children. And, the First Amendment protects the rights of religious people to respectfully enter into the market place of political ideas as we seek peacefully in the ballot box to influence our neighbor, for the good of the neighbor, and for the sake of the children. Therefore, I urge you to vote “yes,” on November 6, 2012.

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.


Church and Politics — 102 Comments

  1. @Johan Bergfest #47
    I have made a list. The difference is not who makes a list or not, the difference, as has been pointed out repeatedly, is repentance. Repeated, intentional sinning vs. a repentant heart.
    You have said repeatedly that gay marriage is a matter of civil rights and therefore it would be unfair to deny it as law.
    You refuse to answer my question from numerous posts ago. We deny “civil rights” all the time to people. I cannot marry my sister, my cousin, or multiple wives at the same time. Since God himself denies homosexual unions within the very order of creation itself are you saying that God is violating civil rights?

    Answer the question: What benefit is there in passing laws that encourage and allow people to sin?

  2. Ted Crandall :
    @Rev. Mathew Andersen #12
    Mat, I disagree. There are times when only the Gospel is appropriate (the Law has already done its work) and other situations that call for the Law alone (when the Gospel is being rejected). If you believe that “we are to speak with both law and Gospel at all times,” then where is the Gospel in your response?
    “What we need to do is start being pastors and stop being jerks.”
    (worth repeating)

    Johan Bergest :I just refuse to jump straight to the Law apart from the Gospel

    Now we’re getting to the heart of your false teaching.

    Sorry – haven’t been on in a long time.

    No, it is not appropriate to speak Law and Gospel “at all times.” If you are confronting a sinner who is unrepentant it is appropriate to confront with the Law. If you are speaking to a repentant sinner then it is necessary to proclaim only the Gospel.

    But public statements and debates on policy are aimed at a broad audience, not individuals. As such, there will be many in the audience who are unrepentant but there will also be many who are repentant. To withhold the Gospel while broadly disseminating the Law, therefore, is both unpastoral and, frankly, useless. It is, as I said, just being a jerk. Frankly, it is being something worse than a jerk – to proclaim the Law (whether as revealed by nature or by Scripture) without the Gospel in a setting in which it is likely to be heard or read by repentant sinners as well as unrepentant is to create despairing sinners and that is a damnable error.

    That being said, we don’t proclaim the Gospel in order to be “nice” or “gentle” with people. The Gospel is not the reduction of the Law.

    When Christ died on the cross He died only for perverts – for every breaking of the Law of God, whether as written the Bible or in nature, is a perversion. The man who engages in sexual intercourse, whether physically or in his mind with another male, is perverting God’s gift of sex. Just as surely, the man who stood before the altar of God and vowed to honor his wife with his body is a pervert when he sees his wife’s faults instead of viewing her as Christ viewed the Church, as perfect and without blemish and who then looks longingly at the airbrushed underwear model in an advertisement. We are all perverts, the homosexual no more than the greedy and the prideful no less than the homosexual.

    But, as surely as He bore the sign “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” over His head on the cross, Christ bore in his body the mark of the scourge and titles which should have been ours, “adulterer,” “queer,” “pedophile,” “murderer”………..

    We confess this with relief but NOT with anticipation of the freedom to sin yet more. For to intentionally live in sin is the very slavery from which Christ died to set us free. Forgiveness does not make us perfect. If anything, quite the opposite, for Satan will do all he can to tempt the Christian away from faith, to lead the Christian to believe that Christ’s blood can’t possibly forgive such a sinner as himself, to ruin his witness for Christ or to create resentment against Christ for forbidding what seems attractive.

    The life of the Christian, is, therefore, not a life of easy excuse to sin but a struggle and a battle in which we may very well often fall harder and further than an unbeliever.

    Yet it is a joyful battle for we confess “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” We have the victory over our own sin and death assured in the cross.

    I hope and pray that our nation does not legally endorse same sex marriage because I would prefer my children and grandchildren have as few temptations to sin and to approve of sin placed before them as possible. the struggles they face in the world already are legion and I pray no more than necessary will be added to that burden.

    Our concern is not for our society. Cultures, nations and societies are temporary and fleeting things. If disdain for marriage, glorification of sexual behavior, and other such things lead to the destruction of the nation or culture then we may mourn their passing but nothing has truly been lost that would not have been done away with at the resurrection anyway.

    Our concern is for the individuals. For human beings are eternal. Just as smoking is incompatible with good health, a vow to live in a sinful behavior, no matter how faithfully one may fulfill that vow, is incompatible with trust in God who has forbidden such behavior. Either we trust that God was a loving and all-knowing God who cares for us when he says sex outside of marriage is wrong and we repent when fall in to such sin and receive absolution from Christ. Or we trust that sexual attraction, romantic feelings and commitment absolve and exalt such behavior. But you can not trust both and maintain that trust forever. One or the other will become your god.

    No, it’s not fair. No it’s not easy. And sadly we in the Church have often added to the burden of those so tempted by being reluctant, slow and grudging with forgiveness. For this we humbly repent.

    But, in the end we stand against same sex marriage not because we hate homosexuals but because we believe in the cross. We believe that death of Christ means something. We believe that forgiveness means something and is worth holding on to. We believe that the new life Christ gives us in that cross, which we attempt to live out in such a stumbling manner this side of the grave, and in which we will rejoice fully in the resurrection truly means something and is worth striving after.

    We don’t stand against same sex marriage in order to force pagans to live like Christians should but in order that, by proclaiming God’s Law and offering His forgiveness, people might hear and know the hope and joy in Christ that is greater than any satisfaction the world may give.

    We have something so much better to offer than mere acceptance or toleration. We have the love of a Savior – the passionate, bleeding, mortally wounded and gloriously resurrected Savior. And, as pastors, we need to offer that when we speak of any issue, no matter how political it might be, in a public manner.

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