A Pastoral Letter on Religion and Politics

There seems to be a lot of division and disagreement in American political discourse, but I think we can all agree on at least one thing. There have been very strong reactions to the presidential election this year. As Lutherans, with one foot in the spiritual realm of God, and another in the temporal realm we call America, how are we called to respond? Do Christians need to agree on political policy? No. Do we need to avoid the topic altogether, assuming that is a separate issue from Church? I don’t think that’s true either.

Since its inception, the Church has had a lot to say about government, particularly when it comes to rising up against injustice. In fact, our most basic confession that Jesus Christ is our Lord is a subversive statement that throughout the ages has stood to oppose government authority where it perpetuates injustice, be it Caesar, Rome, or the president.

Lutherans also affirm that the government is God’s instrument for caring for the people. Christ is Lord of our eternal, spiritual kingdom, yes. However, God is also at work in the world around us today, through all of us and our elected leaders to work towards the good of our neighbor.

And yet we know that human sinfulness sows injustice in any political system. Although disagreement and debate about social and government policies on how to best work to the good of society is healthy, we must acknowledge injustice in the system, name it, and affirm that as Christians we stand against it.

Regardless of how we align ourselves politically, we must acknowledge that this election cycle has shed light on injustice in our society. We are seeing incidents of racial hatred escalate. We are seeing hate speech against the LGBTQ community and religious minorities. However we vote, we must recognize and publicly affirm that this is not OK.

As people of faith, who recognize God’s role in our government, we must always pray for our leaders. We must also stand in solidarity with those people who are oppressed and marginalized. We must speak up and act for the good of creation. We must affirm the God-given value of every human life – right now particularly black lives and the lives of other minorities who are in danger. And we must encourage our government and each other to do the same.

At Saint Mark, we will continue to proclaim the redeeming love of Jesus Christ to the world. We will continue to serve the community around us, particularly those in need, and work to sow the seeds of God’s kingdom here on Earth. And as we enter the Advent season together, we share in the hope of Christ coming into this world to bring light.

 

Come, Lord Jesus. And let the church say Amen.

 

Peace be with you.

Pastor Ian

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