Not the Same

EXCERPT: In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court, its allied judges, and its like-minded politicians are engendering the American republican-democratic state into establishing or into becoming the state Church of Neopaganism in the USA with the Supreme Court Justices in majority ruling as its self-ordained high priests.

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No Compromise for the Baptized Faithful

—Ryan J. Ogrodowicz

Late last June the Supreme Court handed down the ruling that legally recognized same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits. Thought the ruling fell short of declaring same-sex marriage constitutional-so states still have the right to define marriage-it is hardly a victory for proponents of traditional marriage. Instead, it has created jubilation amongst SS (same-sex) advocates and rightly so: the high court's decision is now serving as the impetus for judges to challenge state laws on this issue.

While the ruling does not exactly compare to the wide-sweeping 1973 Roe vs. Wade, which declared abortion a constitutional right virtually unrestricted by state law, it has created plenty of momentum indicating under present circumstances it's a matter of time before the constitution is invoked to establish same-sex marriage as a fundamental right.

Some churches are beginning to brace themselves for what seems inevitable. The Associated Press recently reported churches are changing their bylaws to explicitly state their position against SS marriage and performing SS wedding ceremonies.

The reason is precautionary. A written position could benefit a church if taken to court for denying service to practicing homosexuals. Not everyone is convinced this is necessary, including Justin Lee, the executor director of the Gay Christian Network, who says "they seem to be under the impression that there is this huge moment with the goal of forcing them to perform ceremonies that violate their freedom of religion . . . if anyone tried to force a church to perform a ceremony against their will, I would be the first person to stand up in that church's defense."

Justin will have the opportunity to back up his words, for little indicates the SS lobby will stop outside church walls. Already Christian consciences are being violated. Recently, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against Elaine Hugenin, a photographer who had denied services to a lesbian couple. The couple then initially filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission with the accusation Elaine Hugenin was practicing discrimination based on sexual orientation. All five of the justices supported the ruling that she had no choice but to provide services for homosexual couples; denying them was a violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA).

In his concurring opinion, Justice Bosson wrote: "At its heart . . . this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others." The compromise expected is that people are to act in a manner socially tolerant even if it means violating their religious beliefs. For Mrs. Hugenin, it will take the Supreme Court to overturn the state's verdict, which seems unlikely.

RedState.com editor Erick Erickson posted an intriguing, insightful, and likely prophetic blog the day following the DOMA ruling. "You will be made to care about gay marriage. You may think it does not affect you or will not affect you or you can support it and leave well enough alone, but you cannot. The secular left and aggressive gay rights activists will not allow you to."

The blog ends with this: "There is one bright spot for Christians in America, though it will not appear so. Christianity has become soft. Persecution of the faithful will strengthen it as it has done for centuries. It will happen. We best prepare. You will be made to care."

Erickson's warning is hard to ignore.

So what does all this mean for the Christian?

Lost on Justice Bosson and others is that separating belief from conduct is an unbiblical concept. Christians are neither called to behave in a way contrary to their confession nor can they compromise even one letter of Jesus' teaching. Good trees bear good fruit, the city on the hill cannot be hidden, and burning lamps are not to be hidden under baskets. Being a baptized believer means confessing the same faith of Peter and the apostles, who before the Sanhedrin confessed: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). A similar incident occurs in Acts 5:29 where they respond: "We must obey God rather than men." When it comes to faith and salvation, there can be no compromise, for a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). Discipleship never excludes persecution and death, a teaching that deserves contemplation by everyone bearing the name of Christ, who says "You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

God never promised our earthly lives would be a bed of roses. We will contend against the enemies of God, and the fight will require endurance until the end. But during the fight God promises many things. Salvation belongs to the baptized faithful. And as we endure, we have as our advocate Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith. He will not permit the righteous to fall, and during persecution we can rejoice knowing the outcome-eternal life and glory secured for us by Jesus, our Lord and our God who knows all about ridicule and persecution, mockery and death.

Let us pray God gives us the endurance to persevere in this world of trouble, always looking forward to what lies ahead while clinging to his words, "Take heart, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

 

The Rev. Ryan Ogrodowicz serves as pastor of Victory in Christ Lutheran Church in Newark, Texas.

 

As an extension of LOGIA, BLOGIA understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed on Blogia are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA's editorial board or the Luther Academy.

Can You Vote for a Mormon?

—by Gifford Grobien

Luther is famously misquoted as saying that he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian, but this statement is utterly apocryphal. In fact, Luther deeply feared Turkish rule and wrote passionately that the empire should defend herself vigorously from Ottoman invasion. His fundamental concern was that Islamic rule would eliminate or hinder the freedom of the church to assemble and worship publicly, and that they would undermine faith in Christ by teaching falsely about Him.

What about a wise Mormon? Should a Christian embrace such rule or vote for it? Among the wider population, eighteen percent say they will not vote for a Mormon. To be sure, when such a question is asked in today’s context, most respondents are thinking of Mitt Romney, the Mormon Republican nominee for President. So some of this eighteen percent might really be saying they would not vote for Mitt Romney. Yet Gallup also suggests that the bias against Mormons is the only major bias to remain unchanged in the last forty-five years. The number of people who would not vote for a candidate because of a particular race or religion declined when considering Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and other groups. For Mormons, however, it remains effectively unchanged. Seventeen percent said they would not vote for a Mormon in 1967 (when Mitt Romney’s father was running for President), and eighteen percent said so in June of this year.

What is a faithful Christian to think of this? When considering whom to vote for, Lutherans typically appeal to the distinction between the two kingdoms. This distinction clarifies the authority for making such a decision. While God is the ultimate authority over all things, He exercises this authority in two ways: with law or with grace. Grace “rules” in the church. That is, by forgiving sins, God defeats sin and death and raises up believers to new life, a life that leads to resurrection.

In the secular, political realm, the law of God rules. Even the unbeliever has a limited awareness and understanding of God’s law via the natural law, the voice of reason that teaches human beings to pursue good and to avoid evil. So, when considering whom to vote for, one ought to vote for the candidate who will lead the country further toward good.

This question is obviously complicated by the numerous issues and laws that will be affected by the candidate. He may do good in some areas and evil in others. For example, some may judge that Mitt Romney will do a better job managing government finances, but are disturbed by his unwillingness to work actively toward the prohibition of abortion. Others may think that President Obama promotes an agenda that properly considers the poor, but has undermined the rule of law by his broad executive orders.

Although conventional wisdom speaks of an American separation of church and state, the practical reality is that Americans are deeply interested in a candidate’s faith. Faith is an indicator of values, and values indicate a person’s priorities, even in politics, where there are other strong influences, such as party platform, constituents, donors, and pragmatism. Indeed, this is what the two kingdoms distinction recognizes. The two kingdoms does not suggest that Christians check their consciences at the door, but that Christians participate lawfully in the secular political realm, obeying authority, but also using legal recourse to promote what is good (AC 16; Ap 16). Christians are to promote goodness in the law as they understand goodness through faith.

Perhaps faith is scrutinized heavily by some voters because they try to determine how a candidate’s faith stacks up in relation to other factors. Is a candidate’s faith strong enough to help keep him steadfast on an unpopular issue such as opposing abortion? Or is he only marginally religious, so that his espoused faith really would not play a great role in policymaking? To complicate matters further, his faith may interact differently between policy issues, so that, for example, his faith would play only a weak role in abortion policy, but a strong role in punishing criminals.

In theory, the question is simple: voters ought to vote for the candidate who will do more good, regardless of religion. In practice, however, determining who will do more good can be very difficult. Such a determination does consider a candidate’s faith and values, to what degree these will affect policy, and the relative importance of some issues over others. And such a determination requires a deep understanding of the doctrine’s taught according to the candidate’s faith, how faithful he is to these doctrines, and to what extent other factors may override his religious convictions.

Would you vote for a Mormon? The question is really better put: Would you vote for Mitt Romney? Or, would you vote for Barack Obama? Or would you vote for some other candidate? What is the faith of each of these candidates? What are the teachings of this faith? How loyal is the candidate to these teachings? What other values or loyalties does the candidate have, such as integrity to campaign promises, devotion to constituents, or allegiance to donors or party figures or policies?

As a faithful citizen you are called to participate in politics to the extent the law allows. As a dutiful citizen, these are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself and seek to answer as the election approaches. As a Christian, take part carefully yet joyfully and with thanksgiving in this process. Know that God works through means—and you are his means!—yet he directs events according to his will. He cares for his church and will not forsake her, even as the world faces great tribulation.

 

Gifford Grobien is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.