Democrats and God

Democrats and God

There is simply too much God-talk in politics these days.

It may surprise you to hear a bishop of the church say that there is too much God-talk in politics, but it seems that God is being used as a political football, and this borders on idolatry. The prophets thoughts so as well.

This week there was much press around the fact that the Democrats had removed the words “God” and “Jerusalem” from their platform. Then, after a lot of bad press, they reversed their decision and amended their platform to add them back in. In a textbook example of botched parliamentary procedure, it became clear that the amendment adding the words back in did not get the required 2/3 vote. The chair, who clearly wanted it to pass, and obviously didn’t want to embarrass himself or his party, was flustered, and didn’t know what to do. So he called for the voice vote again. And then again. It was impossible to call, sounding closer to 50-50, or 60-40, so instead of calling for an inconvenient division of the house, he announced it had passed and got booed.

More troubling than the absence of God-talk from public discourse is co-opting God-language to promote ones agenda. It is possible to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God without bandying about God-talk. One of the books of the Bible, Esther, doesn’t even mention God. It’s also possible to use a lot of God-talk and completely disregard the biblical message.

Anyone sitting and listening to both the Republican and Democratic conventions will notice there has been no small amount of God-talk. Everyone wants to invoke God to support their plan. Some people will say whatever they have to say to keep their constituents happy and assure reelection. If God-talk satisfies the masses, we use it, whether we mean it or not. We live in an era when politics trumps policy.

The Commandments warn us never to use God’s name in vain. The prophets would say God-talk doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you aren’t establishing justice for the poor, for the orphan, widow and alien. The prophet Amos got sick of superficial God-talk. “Take away from me the noise of your songs… and instead let justice roll down like a mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” There are a lot of people using God talk who have never read Amos. And there a lot of people working for justice who don’t throw around God talk recklessly.
The real issue is not proof texting talks for politically correct language that pleases the guardians of religious orthodoxy. The real issue is establishing policies that uphold the biblical vision for justice and righteousness. I’m more concerned about our parties’ policies than their God-talk. Anyone can talk God-talk. Isaiah said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

I’m a Lutheran, so I subscribe to Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms: The kingdom on the left is this broken world in need of temporal authority to govern it. The kingdom on the right is the reign of God, a spiritual realm that requires spiritual leadership. They are not to be confused. Luther was not in favor of a theocracy. Neither were the founding fathers. The founding fathers believed in God, but they did not want a theocracy. They clearly rejected the wedding of church and state. Luther said he’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.

The New Testament letter of James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Let’s not word-search all our government platforms, speeches, supreme court decisions and legislation for God-talk. Let’s establish good government, with liberty and justice for all.

Michael Rinehart,

About michaelrinehart

Bishop of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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8 Responses to Democrats and God

  1. Carolynn Buenger says:

    I read your post on “Democrats and God” with great interest. Of course politicians resort to whatever form of speech that they think will reach the voter. The true measure for me is in the policies that the parties support. I look for workable, practical solutions that will actual get the desired result when real people are added to the equation. In addition, as a Christian and Lutheran, I look for ideas I can support based on the fundamental notion of brotherly love and putting God first. For example, I personally believe that the Republicans are wrong on immigration and that the Democrats are wrong on abortion. Having said that, I respect the right of other to disagree as long as they do not expect me to do things that my personal religion will not allow me to do. Isn’t that at the heart of religious freedom? I hope that my church will not become a place where political discusses abound – I come to my church to worship and to recenter myself around God

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I personally think it is impossible to avoid politics in faith. Faith deals with moral issues, which have political implications. If you are right about Dems, Reps, immigration and abortion, then we have some speaking out to do, and some actions to take. We don’t want conflict of course, but it seems Jesus got himself I to a heap of it. And I’ll add that the Bible is filled with political statements. Even the statement “Jesus is Lord,” was so strong a political statement it was considered sedition. Jesus is Lord’ means Caesar is not. Jesus is the Son of God meant all the Roman coins that said Augustus was the Son of God were wrong. Got him crucified.

  2. TLH says:

    Great post!

  3. Amanda Range says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you for speaking so well to many crossing issues here.

  4. Carolynn Buenger says:

    I agree that Christians need to stand up for what they believe is right; however, I still believe that campaign politics do not belong in the church. My point about the Reps and Dems both supporting problematic policies is one reason why party politics can be dangerous ground for a church. In addition, party politics tend to be divisive. The church could be a great place to talk out workable solutions for tough problems; however, party talking points and concerns about party “image” tend to shut discussions down and divide people into irreconcilable camps. If you want to solve problems (such as the lack of social services for homeless people in Brazoria County, Texas), you will never get there by dividing a congregation into political camps.

  5. Rev David R Froemming says:

    “Luther said he’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.” – thanks for that line from martin Luther, Mike! Government has a legitimate place, though broken. Speaking of prophets, thanks to colleagues, I found the work of Naomi Klein, whose historical work indicates that we are dealing with an ideological movement that has subjugated many governments around the world for their economic gain. This is why it is so difficult to create dialogue. We are in a struggle to maintain a government, and a desire for global corporate rule that has a history of removing governmental laws for human rights and the environment. Thanks for giving voice in this challenging moment of church and government!

  6. Linda Andrews says:

    Your comments are right on target, Bishop! I’ve noticed that, with the Democrats and Republicans, when it comes to Christianity, the Republicans talk the talk, but the Democrats walk the walk. You know the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” It seems, though, that it seems neither side has heard, or perhaps they’ve forgotten, the Biblical verse about God not showing partiality. In the Civil War it was the same way. Each side believed God was on their side. I personally believe politics should be kept out of church, and that our conscience should dictate our personal politics.

    • Thank you for your comments. Let me be perfectly clear about one thing. I believe that both Republicans and Democrats have co-opted God language for their own self-aggrandizment and validation of their agenda.

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