We know that as leaders of the ELCA* we have many opportunities and many responsibilities. Especially as the United States prepares for elections next November, we want to speak words of hope and blessing in the context in which we find ourselves. We are sensitive to the excitement, the drama, and the anxiety which national elections produce. Knowing that thoughtful Christians differ in their political convictions, we still seek to be faithful in reminding ourselves and others of truths we believe to be essential.
We remember that many in this country are suffering from poverty, injustice, and from a deep sense of loss. Recent developments have left people asking whether they have any place in America, whether the future holds any promise, whether the powers that be care about them at all. People who feel this way, some black and some white, some old and many young, are the natural prey for demagogues. And their weariness saps the country’s strength. Jesus weeps over wasted and under-utilized lives. As pastors and shepherds we call for compassion from men and women seeking public office for all those who suffer.
We remember that God has called us as Christians to care for the strangers in our land. We remember as Lutherans that many of our own ancestors came to the United States as immigrants and refugees. We realize that wise and thoughtful people can differ on specific questions of national policy and national security. But we condemn misleading rhetoric that blames new arrivals to this country for all this country’s ills.
Most of all, we remember as Lutherans (many of us of German descent) that words have fearful consequences when they are used to inflame passions. We recall Fascist attacks on the Jews, and the evil they produced. And so we believe that it is not right and not responsible in our time to demonize our Muslim neighbors or the Muslim religion. No kind of expediency justifies language that encourages fear or hatred of someone else. Our catechism calls us rather to speak well of others and interpret their words and actions in the most favorable light.*
Enriching our thinking and action
Our church, joyfully Lutheran and also deeply rooted in the American experience, has produced a solid body of material that enriches our thinking and our action just now.** We commit ourselves to study this material and to share it with the people around us. We commit ourselves to share with each other the work we do that calls people to faithfulness and hopefulness at this moment.
Above all, we remember that the common good is the goal of all legitimate political activity. In a culture which seems to reward selfishness and greed, we insist that no one is exempt from concern for the neighbor. We rejoice in the knowledge that the freedom given us in Christ binds us to one another. We thank God for setting us in this country at this time, where so many blessings wait to be expanded and shared.
And as the elections approach, we remember that there is One to whom all earthly powers will eventually give way, Jesus Christ, to whom be all honor and glory now and forever.
* Bishop Graham was asked to put together reflections in this election year to serve as an unofficial discussion tool at the recent gathering of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. With revisions from Bishop H. Julian Gordy, Southeastern Synod, and Bishop Ann M. Svennungsen, Minneapolis Synod, the preceding piece was produced. Originally shared with our synod’s rostered leaders, we are also sharing these reflections via the “Forum” blog as we all reflect on national events.
*** A list of ELCA background material relevant to the election process compiled by Bishop Svennungsen is available from the “Extras” page on the synod website.