Alright. Fine. Silly me thinking I could take a break.
This will not be a lectionary walkthrough. This is a response to how politicians are abusing the Bible, Christian theology, and history.
Please remeber, they started it.
Quickly, let me say that if you are one who thinks that religion shouldn’t be political, you had better also hold your politicians accountable for not being religious. While a political sermon or statement from your pastor or priest or imam or rabbi might upset you, politicians using religion to manipulate their supporters causes measurable, demonstrable pain and misery for millions of people. And you don’t have to believe me on that.
What German Lutherans Learned
As a pastor in the Lutheran tradition and someone who is half German, let me remind you of a small number of things that history has taught us about how politicians use religion.
- Mass Genocide and Murder
- General oppression of the other, whoever that may be
- The National Socialist German Workers’ Party
And there’s much more, of course, like polygamy, slavery, McCarthyism, chauvinism, toxic masculinity, but the last bullet above really gets to the point. Germans have learned the hard way what happens when politics becomes religious. German Lutherans especially have learned the problem with the church downplaying or even supporting political use of religion.
As a Lutheran pastor and half German I must clearly state that any use of the Bible by politicians to insist that the law be blindly followed leads entire nations into idolatry, hatred, and oppression of others.
No governmental official, elected or appointed, should be telling the American public what the Bible, or any sacred text, says. Especially if the Bible is being used to support human laws.
Two Kingdoms, Two Laws
The other issue is the conflation of God’s law with human law.
For Lutherans, there are two kingdoms—the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth. These two kingdoms have two different laws. The kingdom of heaven is ruled by the law of love and grace, loving God with all your being and serving your neighbor in need. The kingdom of humans is ruled by the law of good order and death, showing us that we need some societal structure and that the same structure will kill us.
Yes, as a Lutheran I believe that government is a gift from God. But as with all of God’s good gifts, we humans misuse it and corrupt it. So there is no government that is good simply because it is government, no law or statute that should be followed simply because it is a law or statute.
Yes, as a Lutheran I believe that we are called to obey all just human laws that do not oppose the proclamation of the gospel. But as a Christian, the law I seek to follow is of love and grace. The bar for what is just is quite high.
It is up to politicians to provide the explanation for why a law should be followed, and if the best reason they have is, “Because its the law,” then they are failing us. Legislative attempts at deterrence have been proven to fail. So deterrence arguments are unjust.
Just Stop It
If you ever use the Bible as a way to treat someone else as less than human, less than a beloved child of God, just stop it.
If you think it’s okay for people to use religion when it supports them and mock religion when it refutes them, just stop it.
If you’re not a biblical scholar but you want to tell other people what the Bible says, just stop it.
If you use your station in life to cause pain and suffering, just stop it.
Repent! The kingdom of heaven is near! You have been forgiven so that you might help your neighbor in need.
If you’re in the United States, use your voice to speak for those who have no voice or who are being silenced.
Lord God, we thank you for the gift of government. Where it is corrupt, purify it. Where it stands in the way of justice, tear it down. Where it destroys the lowly, overturn it. Let our government serve according to you will and not against it.
Find your elected officials and write them.