Being an Informed Christian Citizen

From Pastor Schiebel:
As Christians, we owe our loyalty to both Christ and His Church as well as to our own country and its government.  We understand that government is indeed a gift of God to us, and that we are commanded to honor it and the leaders whom we have elected to govern and serve our nation (see the Fourth Commandment and the Table of Duties: Of Civil Government & Of Citizens in Luther’s Small Catechism).

Our nation’s Constitution in its First Amendment states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  This first statement in the Bill of Rights grants religious liberty to every citizen to practice their faith, whatever it might be, according to the dictates of their conscience.  The Government is not an arbiter of faith, and the Church is not a ruler within the civil realm.  As Lutherans, we know this as “The Two Kingdoms”–that God rules over us both through the Church and the authorities that have been placed over us.  We would agree with the constitutional idea of “Separation of Church and State” as being an expression of this “Two Kingdom” theology.

That being said, there are times when Christians, with consciences formed and shaped by God’s Word, cannot in good conscience agree or accept as right that which our government asks of us or what government may deem to be permissible.  Within this free society in which we live, we all, as Christians and as people of faith and of no faith, have the right to voice our opinions and to exercise our privileges and rights in the hopes that we may see laws change.  People of faith do this not seeking to impose our faith upon others or to in some way create a sort of theocracy.  Rather, we work towards gaining freedom–freedom already guaranteed to us that we may be people who are able both to be faithful to our God and His Word and to be loyal citizens of our land.

In our country, we understand that there is a good and proper separation of Church and State.  We understand that there is no “religious test” to hold public office.  We understand that we live in a pluralistic society in which there is to be no preference given to any one group over another.  Yet, this does not mean that as citizens we are then asked to check our beliefs and our consciences informed by those beliefs outside of either public discussion and discourse or even before we step into a voting booth.  People of faith and of no faith have informed consciences shaped by what they believe, and they will use those consciences in expressing themselves through the opinions they hold dear as true.  As citizens, we are guaranteed the right to hold and to express these opinions in words and also in our deeds, including our right to vote.

Our Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod takes no official view upon governmental policy.  Yet, our very existence in this country is because our founders came from their homes in Germany to this land in order to be able to exercise their faith freely and without governmental hindrance, and to do so in both word and in deeds.  We therefore stand in the belief of and seek the right for Religious Liberty, not only for ourselves but also for every citizen of our land.  We also realize that the membership of our Synod’s congregations is diverse–reflecting any number of differing political loyalties and outlooks on laws and policies.  We respect the rights we all have to share the views that each person holds as true.  We also ask for the same respect to be able to express our own views from our consciences informed by our faith.

Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms in 1521, asked by the leaders of the government of his day to recant his writings and teaching.  He refused, declaring that his “conscience is captive to the Word of God”.  As Christians in our own day, we have the right to say the same, and to let God’s Word and our faith allow us to make informed decisions, living both as citizens and as Christians.  We are indeed a free people in this land, and as Christians in this land we are also “Free to be Faithful”–as people who are able to be “true to our God, true to our native land” (LSB Hymn # 964, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, stanza 3).

Our Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and Lutheran Hour Ministries have both prepared websites which may be of use to you in helping to understand some of the issues facing our nation, especially the issue of religious freedom and liberty.  Feel free to look at these sites and their resources to help inform you of what we as Lutheran Christians believe, teach, and confess, and to see how our faith speaks to the issues we face.

From the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod:
Religious Liberty: Free to be Faithful
The LCMS launched an education and awareness campaign called “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful” in September 2012 in response to increasing intrusions by government into the realm of the church. The campaign’s main goal is to inspire LCMS rostered members and laity to take informed action to protect the freedom of religion.

From Lutheran Hour Ministries:
The Intersection of Church and State
Religious freedom in America has been an issue of paramount importance since the beginning of this great nation. As the nation has grown and changed, so has the relationship of the federal government and the many religions that comprise the community of faith throughout the land. Questions of the relationship between Church and State have never been more relevant than they are today!

Equipped with this information, please exercise the rights you have as a citizen and vote according to the dictates of your own conscience.  But above all, no matter how you vote or no matter of the political position you may side with, be a faithful Christian who daily prays to God that we may live in this land and have leaders who will allow all of us in our nation to “live peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:3).  God grant it.  Amen!

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