Vote Your Christian Values

04 Sept. 16

“Vote Your Christian Values”

Vote your Christian values. I hope that’s a non-controversial, non-partisan, and obvious thing to say. Vote your Christian values.

Lutheran pastors don’t often get overtly political in their preaching, and I’m not going to do that today. There are some pastors in other traditions who are not shy about telling their congregants for whom to vote. The socially conservative wing of the Christian Church used to stand aloof from American society, lest they be corrupted by others. But since the 1960s these groups have become more and more politically active and now play a major role in one wing of Republican politics. Among them, quite a number have said that if you’re a Christian you have to vote for this candidate.

And African-American churches have a long history of being politically active in local affairs. If you want to run for mayor in my home town, you’ve got to appear before one or two African-American congregations on Sunday morning. The pastors of those congregations will often publicly endorse one candidate or another.

I’m not going to do that. For one thing, I’m not the Pope and therefore not infallible. For another I’d be wasting my time. Lutherans are less like sheep and more like cats; it’s pretty hard to herd them. We are not united by our political beliefs but by our belonging to Christ Jesus. Which is a good thing, because in every congregation I have served, whether in a red state or blue state, there have been both liberal lefties and right wing conservatives. Mostly, they’ve gotten along.

They’ve gotten along because they know that it is possible to listen to Scripture and try to live out your Christian faith in everything you do and be a social conservative. And it is also possible to listen to Scripture and try to live out your Christian faith in everything you do and be a social liberal. God is not a Republican; Jesus is not a Democrat.

But I will tell you this: Vote your Christian values. In this election. In every election. To do that, you have to know what your Christian values are. For that, look to the life and teachings of Christ Jesus. How did he deal with the rich, the poor, the sick, the well, those with position, those counted worthless. And what did he teach? The two things Jesus talked about most in his ministry were money and the Kingdom of God.

So I once asked a church council to read through the Gospel of Matthew and come up with what they found to be the values of the Kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed it. They found these Kingdom of God values: being repentant and bearing fruit; choosing Kingdom of God values over other, competing values; not worrying because we trust that God will take care of us; avoiding self-deception and self-righteousness; living with wonder and innocence; mercy begets mercy; mercy is so important it trumps even justice; and forgiveness is required.

Let your vote reflect these Kingdom of God values.

Another way to vote your values would be to let your vote be guided by the fruits of the Spirit. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are our Biblical Christian values. Translating those values into policy is tricky at best. God is not a Republican; Jesus is not a Democrat. That’s why Lutheran congregations are not united in political beliefs. It’s often hard to know which policy will really work out best.

Still, in every race from President to dog catcher, ask yourself which candidate better embodies those Biblical, Christian values in person and positions. OK, sometimes, there’s really not much of a choice, and it doesn’t look like any candidate embodies those values. But ask the question. Put your faith to practice in the real world. Because in the United States of America you have the privilege of voting your Christian values.


Absolute Truth

So, on the Theology for Today board at LInkedIn, there’s been this long-running back and forth on the question, “Is there such a thing as Absolute Truth, and if so, how do you define it?”

Lots of comments on this one. Many quite good; a few head scratchers. Here’s my contribution:

If we define truth as a proposition or statement, then we get something like the above discussion. But if we define truth the way Jesus did (I am the way, the truth, and the life) then we get something rather different. We get a person and a relationship and a much clearer idea of what are God’s purposes.

Discovering (or re-discovering) God’s Purpose for You

So here’s your sermon challenge for week two on your journey of discovering God’s purpose for us in this moment of your life:
Choose a Gospel. You’ve got four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Choose one.
Read through it this week. And ask yourself,
What is Jesus’ mission in the world?
What is he trying to accomplish?
What does he do? What does he say?
What does he ask other people to do?
What upsets him?
What makes him happy?
In other words, Who is this guy who is the Son of God come to do God’s mission in the world?

Now, a warning, reading a whole Gospel can be dangerous. A lot of it will be familiar. Some of it will seem kind of strange, coming as it does from a world and a worldview very different from our own. And–here’s the dangerous part–some of it will be quite challenging. Don’t panic! And don’t worry. Abraham bargained with God. Moses argued with God. You can, too. If you’d like, you can email me your reflections, your questions, your Aha! moments, and your disagreements. I’d love to hear them.

So, at our Wednesday night men’s group one of the participants asked if the Christian faith was all about getting ready for the next life or if it was also about this life and how to live it. My immediate response was that it is about both. I didn’t even have to think about it. Read the sermon on the mount. It’s about how to live well by living a worry-free life. Or read Genesis one. God’s Creation, this life given to us by God is good. Or just listen to Garrison Keillor, good Lutheran that he has become.

Onward Christian Soldiers?

I get what the hymn is after. 

It’s not really about destroying; it’s about persevering in a time of difficulty. Hence, “Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane, But the Church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘against the Church prevail, We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.”

And I get where the hymn comes from. We’re reading it in worship this week. “11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-17)

But have you noticed that almost all of the military stuff in Ephesians 6 is defensive in nature? And that this military language is not about defeating any people but rather about battling the forces that would drag us down, lead us astray, suck us in?

So, maybe the military metaphors aren’t the most helpful. I mean, if we are out to convert the world to God’s ways, God’s love, God’s justice, then killing is not exactly one of the options. What if instead of seeing enemies all around us, we saw people to be converted to God’s ways? The question then becomes, “How do we go about accomplishing this mission?” Perhaps those same defensive (and one offensive) implements (truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Spirit) might just be the right tools.

Religious Freedom?

Religious Freedom?
I haven’t seen anything from our church bodies with regard to dispute between the Obama administration and the RC Church over the provision requiring that health insurance include birth control. I’m not interested in debating the health care law. I am interested in what y’all think about where that religious freedom line should be drawn. And the specifics of this case are a good entry into thinking about this issue.

My opinion? Allowing individuals to opt in or out as their individual conscience dictates would lead to chaos. But institutions should be allowed hold to their officially stated beliefs.

The Internet Church Has Arrived

This is just fascinating to me. Here’s a link to an internet church site:

On the one hand, such a thing might be seen by a clergy person (such as myself) as threatening.

On the other hand, this is great because many of us are hungry, are searching and are willing to engage in spiritual dialogue and reflection. And many of us are much more comfortable doing it on our own terms with people from whom we can pretty much remain anonymous.

On the other hand (uh, that would be the first hand) much of what happens in a flesh and blood church on Sunday morning cannot be replicated outside of a person to person, face to face, gathered community setting. This does not necessarily require a big, expensive church building, paid staff, etc. It does require gathering around Word and Sacrament in a community of people who are committed to loving one another as the body of Christ.

Love isn’t really love until it has skin on it.

Hello world!

The great thing about blogs is that they allow people from all over to converse with and learn from one another at a leisurely pace.

What I want this blog to be is a place for people

  • to explore their spirituality
  • learn from people who might be from a different generation or point of understanding
  • grow in their relationship with God.

I welcome your comments and your postings; all points of view are welcome.

  • If you’re crude, rude, or lewd, your comments won’t be posted; otherwise, it will.
  • If find or write something interesting and want to post it here, go ahead.
  • And if you do post something, be patient! The first time you post, I’ll have to approve your submission, and I’ll probably check my email for this only about once a day.

So who am I? (A vice-presidential candidate once famously said. And no, I am not making this up.). I am a Lutheran Christian guy who has been a pastor for 30 years. The world’s changed; I want to engage it.