Monday, October 1, 2012

“Pastor, Who Should I Vote For?”

From Messiah Lutheran Church's October 2012 Newsletter

“Pastor, who should I vote for?”  When election time rolls around, I sometimes get this question. It’s not been my habit to preach much about politics, although much of what the Bible says on social and moral issues certainly has a bearing on which candidates will receive your vote.

What is a pastor’s responsibility when it comes to helping people make informed decisions during an election?  First and foremost (and this, I suppose, should be obvious), we are to direct our congregations to what the Bible says about the issues that are facing our nation, our state, and our community. Everyone is concerned about the economy, and there may be several equally valid solutions to renewing our nation’s economic vitality. Yet the Bible gives us no clear answers here. It is not a textbook on economics. The Bible does, however, have a clear word on matters of the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and the limits of human government in the area of religious freedom.

The Bible upholds the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb. Abortion is clearly against the Fifth Commandment. Likewise, the Bible defines marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman. Homosexual unions are not marriages in the sight of God.  The Bible also teaches each of us that we are to be good citizens, obeying the laws that our government has put in place, as long as those laws do not conflict with God’s revealed Word. If we find that this is the case with certain laws, then we are called to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This has become an issue recently in our country with the government’s mandate that church related insurers provide coverage for contraception for their employees even if the church’s teaching (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) is against contraception. Our synod does not have a position on contraception, but we are opposed to contraceptives that in essence are abortion-inducing drugs. This issue not only impinges on the religious freedom of our Roman Catholic neighbors. It is an unprecedented assault on the conscience of people of faith.  That’s why President Harrison, our synodical president, has been in the forefront criticizing the aforementioned governmental mandate.

A pastor should take care not to endorse a candidate from the pulpit and a congregation should not be seen as endorsing specific candidates. This could endanger a congregation’s non-profit status. A 1954 law prohibits religious organizations that receive tax-deductible donations from endorsing specific candidates. Therefore, you will not hear me endorsing a candidate in my office as pastor. That being said, I am also a private citizen and in that capacity I am able to offer my opinions on who I believe is the best candidate. Feel free to ask…just don’t expect me to do it while vested in the chancel.

What about your responsibility as a Christian citizen? First and foremost, a Christian citizen should pray that God will lead you and guide you as you seek to make an informed decision. Pray for your current leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Pray for the men and women running for office. Pray even for the one who’s not “your guy” or “your gal.” Pray that God would “grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance [God’s] people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness, and unity” (Collect #226 in Lutheran Service Book).

A Christian citizen will also be actively engaged in the political process. Take advantage of the freedoms that we still have in this country, unlike others around the world who live under totalitarian or fascist regimes.  Participate, vote, serve, communicate with your friends and neighbors (in spite of the fact that the old adage says that you’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics in polite company). Educate yourself, know what is in the party platforms of each candidate, and decide if your Christian confession is consistent with the candidate’s views and their party platform. Whichever candidate is closest to your morals and values … that is the one who should get your vote.

Is it always going to be a matter of “the lesser of two evils”? Not always. But when you consider that there is no perfect candidate … they’re all sinners like you and me … then I guess to a certain extent the whole political process is always a matter of choosing “the lesser of two evils.”

Above all else, remember who really is in charge. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). God has used good rulers and bad rulers to accomplish his purposes in human history. God used Jewish kings just as much as he used Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman rulers to accomplish his purposes in human history.  God used Christian kings and pagan kings to accomplish his purposes in human history. Since this is the case, then he can surely use a Christian or a Mormon president today to accomplish his purposes in the history of our nation.

Whatever happens in our election next month – whether “your guy” wins or loses – remember that the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords will always be ruling and reigning for the good of his Holy Church (Ps. 47:8; 96:10; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 6:15).

In Christ’s service and yours,
Pastor Onken

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