As our nation moves through a mid-term election cycle, in an atmosphere of continued conflict and division, I thought it would be good to share a resource that I only just discovered myself. This helpful document was perhaps one of the many Covid “casualties”, as it was ratified by the Church Council of the ELCA on June 24, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic isolation.
The reflections in this document explicitly are offered in concern that “there is a spirit of broad dissatisfaction, mistrust, protest, and even contempt of government” in our country right now. Yet according to the Lutheran tradition, “government remains God’s gift because it is intended to do what churches, families, individuals, and businesses cannot do on their own: protect and coordinate the well-being of individuals, communities, and creation.”
It is abundantly clear that as citizens we have often fallen short of ensuring that our government embodies the values it professes to hold. Much in our national history cries out for repentance. And yet, “ELCA social teaching holds that all residents of the United States have a responsibility to make government function well—not to abandon our democracy but to engage it in a spirit of robust civic duty. For Lutherans, this responsibility is lived out as a calling from God, expressed in the discipleship described in our baptismal promises. It is based on our understanding of how God governs human society.” God continues to work through us “as agents of God’s purpose for the flourishing of human lives and communities”, as well as in our “prophetic calling to address the destructive consequences of evil in government.”
You are strongly encouraged to read through the entire document. It is not long- only 18 well-spaced, easy to read pages. You may pick up a copy in the narthex, or access it from the ELCA website at https://elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Messages/Government
I would be interested in hosting some discussion about how civic involvement in our political system is one of many ways we embody our Christian faith in the world. It is important that we understand that this perspective is quite distinct from current expressions of ‘Christian Nationalism’ which erroneously conflate our Christian faith and our citizenship in a secular political system, attempting to merge the two together. Our baptismal commitment to Christian discipleship should always inform our civic engagement, even as we recognize that we live in a pluralistic society with a variety of faiths, perspectives and often competing values and priorities. Here are some of the concluding words in the document:
“As members of the ELCA and as residents of this nation, we will have serious disagreements about specific policy choices regarding what government should do or not do. We recognize that our siblings in faith can, in good conscience, reach different conclusions as to how to best serve our neighbor in complex circumstances. …Although we may disagree about the best ways to achieve the public good, we do not disagree about our shared responsibility to seek it.”