Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Faith and Politics, again

What is the proper role of the Church? What is the State's business and what is the Church's? On which topics does the Church have a "Thus says the Lord" to say to the State?

Sometimes I think this is clear: Thou shalt not kill. That's Natural Law. It applies to all. The Church has a prophetic role to play in telling all men just what that statement means. I'm very comfortable, therefore, with the Church sending letters to Senators and Congressmen telling them to outlaw murder of young human beings.

Sometimes, things are less clear. The LCMS and other Lutherans are currently lobbying in DC to get the US Government to fork over cash to fight malaria in Africa. The path from "Thus says the Lord" to this advocacy is a long and winding road when compared to the line from "Thou shalt not kill" to lobbying for the outlawing of abortion. Today we are exhorted to "Please pray for all the Lutheran leaders from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), . . . who are meeting with members of Congress today to . . .  commit that fighting malaria will be a foreign policy priority." 

Fighting malaria is a worthy humanitarian goal. But is it a Biblical doctrine that the United States Government would be sinning if it were not to have this as a "foreign policy priority"? If so, please show your work below your answer. If not, then are we not cheapening the currency of our advocacy by advocating for policies that are adiaphora rather than Thus Says the Lord?

After all, one must make choices when it comes to "foreign policy priorities." You can't spend other people's money, that is tax dollars, on everything. So what is the Thus Says the Lord that malaria is a higher priority than fighting TB or polio or land mines or prostitution? And is there a Thus Says the Lord that the US Government should spend X dollars over there fighting problem Y instead of Z dollars right here in the US fighting problem A?

I, for one, think the Church's public advocacy should stick to Thus Says the Lord. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have vastly diminished their voice by pronouncing on every topic under the sun from immigration policy to welfare spending. When they finally had a real religious issue (the HHS mandate for them to break their consciences by buying birth control for folks), I wonder how many folks just shrugged and said it was the Catholics being political again? I don't want to see Lutherans going down the same road.

My two cents: Fighting malaria is great. It's so great that you should use your money today to do something about it directly instead of using Grandma Schickelgrueber's mission dollars to pay for plane tickets and meals for folks to try to convince Congress to spend other peoples' money on it tomorrow.



  1. I think you are right Heath. Good post.

  2. Our country is broke.

    The Church should not be advocating tax dollars, which will be borrowed from the ChiComs, or extracted by threat of imprisonment, to be sent anywhere.

  3. I once had a law professor say he was going to draw something on the chalkboard that we would never forget. He drew two circles that partially overlapped with each other. In the first circle he wrote "Law," and in the second circle he wrote "Sin." He said, "These two circles will never be entirely coincident."

    So how do we know where to draw the line? Rev. Curtis says breaking the 5th commandment should be illegal. What about the 6th? Should cheating on one's spouse (or any relations outside of marriage for that matter) also be illegal?

    1. Lutherans used to know the answers to these questions: it's about natural law.

      But to answer your question: shouldn't the breaking of any state sanctioned contract be illegal?


  4. Fighting malaria is a worthy humanitarian goal. But is it a Biblical doctrine that the United States Government would be sinning if it were not to have this as a "foreign policy priority"?

    One is hesitant to conclude such. There is little evidence, for example, that the Kingdom of Israel saw fighting leprosy as a "foreign policy priority" ... unless, of course, it stealthily employed a "special ops" maid, to entice Aram's General Naaman into skinny-dipping the Jordan.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor


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