Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from Luke 17:1-4.
American Lutheranism and the Founding Fathers - Lutherans in twenty-first century America can learn a lot from our Lutheran forebearers. See https://bit.ly/2kvr8va for more
Some corporations are requiring all employees to sign “equality pledges,” affirming their agreement with the LGBT agenda. But this violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, just as it prohibits other kinds of discrimination. Title VII is a powerful safeguard of religious liberty. So says David French, who, though known for his association with a controversy among conservatives, is an attorney who has successfully litigated many such cases.
Welcome to “Word from the Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections from His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s reading is from Luke 14:7-11 which says,
If you don’t know the story, you should check it out. It begins in Genesis chapter 6. Our Lord looked down upon the earth and saw that the wickedness was great, so much so that our Lord regretted that Ge had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart. And He added, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of heaven, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen. 6:6-7).
Kevin D. Williamson points to two tactics that have become part of our political culture, introducing two words that Americans today need to know: ochlocracy (mob rule, indirect as well as direct) and streitbare Demokratie (“militant democracy,” the notion that maintaining liberalism may require illiberal means). From Crowder Isn’t a Threat to Public Safety: Ochlocracy is an ancient concept that denotes, approximately, “mob rule.” But “mob rule” does not mean only riots and lynchings and other acts of extralegal violence. More commonly, ochlocracy functions through the legitimate organs of the state or through other entities, such as businesses and professional associations. In these cases, the threat of mob violence, or the simple fact of a mob demand, is sufficient to get those with power to act as the mob wishes, to do the mob’s dirty work for it and thereby relieve the rabble of the exertion of a riot. As Edward Gibbon tells the story, the mob need not murder its enemy — not if it can get the state to act on its behalf. See story here. Be Informed It is imperative that we pray for our country, now more than ever. Join us in praying for our authorities, communities, churches and families. Be Equipped How can you as a Lutheran Christian be involved in the world in a winsome, faithful way? Dr. Seltz gives you a crash course in Christian Engagement 101. Be Encouraged O Merciful Father in heaven, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth. Grant that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command. Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding, that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness and unity. Protect and prolong their lives that we with them may show forth the praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Religious liberty in the United States military is a constant topic of discussion as well as actual legal battles about this issue. There are groups who are aggressively trying to restrict and eliminate religious liberty from our Armed Forces. (For some most recent legal cases and challenges, please visit the First Liberty website.) There are several cases outlined that have serious ramification for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Christians who have served and those who are currently serving in the United States military. Without a doubt America’s military continues to remain a force that places a high value on the role of religion in life. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, there exists a robust historical framework for religion and religious expression within the United States military. With that comes the constant battle from those who wish to restrict the free exercise of religion for our chaplains as well as all members of the military. The LCMS has endorsed chaplains to serve in the military since the Civil War, when C. F. W. Walther endorsed Pastor Friedrich Richmann to serve as a chaplain to the Ohio Regiment in 1862. The LCMS continues to send forth pastors to serve as chaplains in the military to ensure our LCMS men and women are able to receive Word and Sacrament ministry while they are selflessly serving our nation. American service members voluntarily surrender many freedoms and liberties when they join the military. However, religious freedom is not one of them. Religion and faith have played integral roles in America’s military since before our founding. Today, service members continue to enjoy broad, robust First Amendment rights. Service members are free to engage in religious expression in a manner consistent with their faith. The authority and discretion of military officials to curb such expression has to meet some requirements. And those who find themselves the victims of First Amendment violations may allege constitutional claims against those responsible. Religious liberty is a right protected by U.S. law. This also applies to our LCMS chaplains and all who serve in our military. Our LCMS chaplains have the constitutional right as well as policy and doctrine protections from the Department of Defense and Congress to conduct religious services, worship, teaching, fellowship, counseling, and ecclesiastical or sacramental functions in accordance with our LCMS doctrine and practice. Our chaplains provide for the religious and moral needs of service members and are able freely to exercise and appropriately express their own faith, and ensure service members are free to do the same, without substantial government burden, except when that burden furthers a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. All have a right to be free from discrimination based on their religious beliefs and also be free from censorship based on others’ objections to their appropriately expressed religious and moral beliefs. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod continues to stay engaged and work to protect religious liberty in the military through its Ministry to the Armed Forces and through the work of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. We also work to protect religious liberty for our LCMS pastors who are serving as military chaplains and for our LCMS members who selflessly volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces. Chaplain Craig G. Muehler is director of the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces. Be Informed Should states be able to“oust parents and children from neutral benefit programs because they choose a religious private school”? Learn more about a new Supreme Court case taking up this important issue. Be Equipped Rev. Dr. Greg Seltz, executive director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, and Congressman John Shimkus, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 15th congressional district, joined Kip Allen of KFUO to talk about religious liberty and how Lutherans interact with politics in American society. Have a listen! Be Encouraged “Dear Lord Jesus, you are the Great Physician. You know every one of our hairs on our head and number them. You know when a sparrow falls out of the sky. Look with favor upon all Your dear Christians the world over, in every dark and difficult prison, in every torturous situation, in every situation of mental fatigue and anguish and attack by states and other powers and false religions. We pray that You would grant justice and liberty in the world so all peoples may have the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience. And we pray that You may open doors even through the blood of Your martyrs for the witness so that more and more may believe in You until the Last Day. We plead it for Your sake. Amen.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Share this:
Today’s reading is from Luke 12:49-51, where Jesus says, 49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
Four Ways Lutherans Can Engage in the Public Square
By Timothy S. Goeglein
In Washington DC, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of America, there is a small park near Connecticut Avenue in the northwest part of the city. Tall trees provide a kind of natural canopy above, and in the near-center of that vest-pocket park is a bust of one of America’s most illustrious Lutherans who is now largely forgotten.
He was John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (1746-1807), a general in the Revolutionary War, but first and foremost, a Lutheran pastor born in Pennsylvania. In 1928, the United States Congress authorized this monument to him because, among many other achievements in his remarkable life, he was a member of Congress, representing the 4th District of Pennsylvania.
Muhlenberg had also been a vice president of Pennsylvania when Benjamin Franklin was the president of that state. Clearly, public service was in the Muhlenberg family DNA: John’s brother Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg was our nation’s first Speaker of the House of Representatives — a distinguished Lutheran lineage indeed.
Dramatically, Pastor Muhlenberg finished that sermon in his Woodstock, Virginia, parish on a Sunday morning with a flourish, removed his clerical robes to reveal to his congregation a militia uniform below, and set out to battle the British.
Tellingly, in that final sermon, he said: “In the language of Holy Writ there is a time for all things … there is a time to pray and a time to fight … and that time has now come.”
More than 300 fellow parishioners joined him in battle, a drummer keeping beat as recruits came forward to join their pastor in the quest for American independence.
The Muhlenberg name remains an illustrious one: John’s father Henry Melchior helped found the first Lutheran presence in North America; Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College is named for their family; and General/Pastor Muhlenberg went on to a famous friendship with George Washington, closing his military legacy as a brigadier general and later serving in the House and Senate.
I share this story because it remains a misnomer among some Lutheran Christians that we engage in the public square at our own peril. That it remains perhaps wiser and more prudent to hang back, disengage, and defer to others to do ‘the dirty work’ of politics. But there is nothing in our Lutheran legacy – beginning with Luther himself – to suggest that we somehow compromise our Christian witness or testimony if we also actively seek and work toward the common good.
There are four steps we might consider, rooted in our faith, to engage in the public square in a manner consistent with our belief that the realm of the church and the realm of the state are in fact never to be confused or conflated with one another. This distinction remains a central and immutable part of our Lutheran theology.
First, we need to build relationships with the men and women who represent us – on the city or council; in state government; and at the federal level. It doesn’t mean we are honor-bound to convert them; it means we are to cultivate strong ties, with grace and diplomacy, so that as the men and women who represent us make major and minor decisions about how public policy will be shaped, they will take into account what we have shared from our Lutheran-based worldview. This is Christian citizenship at is finest.
Second, we need to educate the rising generation of young Lutheran Christians about the important distinction between the realm of faith/revelation and the realm of government/state. Too often, this important distinction is difficult to discern and reason in an often confusing cultural moment likes ours. It is more important than ever that we emphasize that the church is strongest and best when it is the church, but that we as Christians have obligations in the government and state borne of service and goodwill – it is a way of serving and loving our neighbors without confusing the role of our churches with the role of those who govern us.
Third, we have to better define what vocation means. Some men are called to the pastorate; some women are called to be deaconesses. That is right and fitting and proper. But there are ample other Christians whose vocation is serving in government; working for the state; seeking to impact and influence public policy; and to produce, write, edit, and assimilate information as news that allows a constitutional republic to function well according to the principles of self-government rooted in the United States Constitution.
Fourth, we need to be bold and steadfast about speaking up and speaking out – both when we strongly agree with a public policy consistent with our faith, and when we strongly disagree with another policy that negates the natural law that is a gift to us. For instance, Congress is in the midst of gathering congressional names for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. That is a marvelous pro-life, pro-dignity policy. It is worthy, and we should make our voices known. Diplomacy whose genesis is faith is a gift to our nation.
The temptation among Christians is to take the temperature of the chaotic and dysfunctional culture, and to imbue ourselves with a sense of despair and discouragement. But despair and discouragement, we know from Scripture, is a sin because it negates the hope of Jesus Christ. We are not seeking an earthly victory; as Christians, we know that the important victory of all of history has already been won by Our Lord and Savior.
The kingdom of the state and the kingdom of the church are, in the words of the late Chuck Colson, “kingdoms in conflict.” We Lutherans understand that organic tension. Colson famously observed: “Salvation will not arrive on Air Force One,” meaning that the state and government will never ‘save’ us. Our salvation is rooted in Jesus Christ alone.
There is much work and service to be done by Lutheran Christians in the public sphere in 21st century America. We must never allow it to become, in the words of the late Richard John Neuhaus, a “naked public square.”
As with Pastor Muhlenberg, we are blessed with a theology that distinguishes the church from the state, and while we are citizens of both – with obligations and duties in both – our final home is elsewhere, with Christ. While we are on this side of eternity, the chance to serve and love our country and our neighbor and our community is as depthless as the Lord’s love for us. Engaging is a good, right, and humbling call.
Timothy S. Goeglein is vice president of government and external relations at Focus on the Family in Washington DC.
Rev. Michael Schuermann, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Sherman, Ill., and his wife, Katie, talk about the Illinois Reproductive Health Act, what’s at stake with this legislation, what it means for women, and how Illinois residents can respond. Click here to listen!
If you think others’ views on marriage don’t impact you directly, check out this brief video about the decline in marriage in America and why it really does matter . . . to everyone.
“Where Jesus is, you will find true joy. Don’t take this for granted! One of the great strengths of Lutheran theology is that it’s built upon Christ and saturated with Him … which means that joy permeates all that we believe. This constant presence of Jesus in what we believe is one of the reasons why it makes perfect sense to be joyfully Lutheran.” – Rev. Tim Pauls, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Boise, Idaho
13 Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jeremiah 29 tells God’s people to do something that is key for any Christians involvement in the culture in which it lives. Ready? Even when living in a “hostile, or unfriendly environment,” 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:6-7). Translation… Do the basic things for a healthy community and then seek to be a blessing there with the wisdom from the God who created us for liberty and life, righteousness and peace.
There are ways to be a blessing for others that are bigger than the winner of the election or the passing of a law. It is living a public life for the sake of one’s neighbor. There’s an attitude that God’s people bring to a world that tends to politicize everything. In the ancient world, the motto was “Don’t do to others, what you don’t want done to you.” Jesus turned that all around when He said, “Do unto others and you would have the do unto you.” And, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s something to strive for even when the political winds don’t blow one’s way.
Christians often confuse their involvement in public issues on morality or policy by citing the phrase “What would Jesus do?” Unfortunately, that confuses the way the Bible talks about how God works in the world. In general, the church teaches that the Father is the creator of the world, the one who orders the world, and we can see that ordering throughout the cultures of the world and in the consciences of people in the world. The Bible also teaches that the Father sent His Son Jesus to redeem and restore the world through His cross and resurrection. So, what’s the point? Well, when it comes to how the church should seek to reach out to people, to share the Good news of the Gospel… That’s a “What would Jesus do?” type of question. That’s a turn the other cheek type of answer. That’s a “serve others as God in Christ serves you.” That’s how God orders His Right-Hand Kingdom work, the work of His church.
But that’s not how He orders governments and magistrates and law-enforcement etc. That’s a “What would God the Father do?” type of question. That’s an “if a person won’t work, neither shall he eat,” type of issue. That’s “let the punishment fit the crime,” type of issue. That’s a “Fathers… Love and respect your wife and children; Wives… Respect and love your husbands and love your children; Children respect your parents,” type of issue. “What would God the Father do?” is a question of how to order a safe, prosperous, and humane world with sinful, broken people at the helm. God the Father does that through the fundamental laws written in the hearts of people. The common dignity afforded to all people because they are created by God, that’s a foundation for a civil society. The challenge to encourage strong families, Fathers, Mothers, having and raising children in the context of love and respect, that can ward off many ills. Honoring the temporal liberties of freedom of religion and freedom of speech so that people can freely serve others, that’s a temporal life worth striving for. What would the “Father have us do?” I think that in the American Context it is that we are to “put our temporal liberties to work for the sake of the common good and for the sake of the proclamation of the eternal liberties that only
Today’s reading is from Galatians 6:9-10, where the Bible says, 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.