Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lutheran Clergy, Politics, and Blogging

I would like to have a discussion on the appropriateness of Lutheran Clergy making political comments/observations in the form of a blog. I have been thinking about this for some time, as it is the convergence of three topics I find very interesting personally.

To the current time, I have chosen NOT to make political comments (I mean national, secular politics, etc..) in the context of my blog. I understand that as a private citizen I am free to participate in the left hand kingdom. But as a pastor, functioning in the right hand kingdom, I think it would be inappropriate for me to speak of politics in a public fashion. (Just to be clear, I do think that moral issues are fair game - even those that overlap into the realm of politics - like abortion, euthanasia, etc...)

I know some Christian clergy have no qualms about political endorsements and electioneering, even inviting candidates to take the pulpit. I expect that most Lutheran clergy, especially of the LCMS and more conservative stripes, would not do something like this.

But how one expresses political leanings "privately" is another matter. Is a bumper sticker acceptable? A lawn sign?

I wouldn't use a bumper sticker, but I did use a lawn sign. Actually, my wife said it was "on her half of the lawn" if anyone asked. I also attended a rally by a politician, but I didn't see this as an public endorsement as much as "going to see a famous person".

When it comes to blogging, I think it is inappropriate for a Lutheran clergyperson to make endorsements. To me, blogging is a public endeavor. If I were to blog about my political thoughts I think it could cause problems in my calling and work as a pastor, but more importantly it seems a confusion of the 2 kingdoms.

Now, I am particularly interested in hearing from clergy on this. I don't have a problem with Lutheran laity expressing such thoughts on a blog, as they don't have the "entanglements" of the office.

Bob Waters, if you are reading this, in particular. I would like to hear from you on this, as you will be re-entering the ranks of "called and ordained..." shortly. How do you see the role of the blog in the RH/LH kingdom distinction of Lutheran clergy?


Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

I have thought about the same thing quite a bit myself, for the same reasons you expressed.

I don't use my pulpit or my blog to endorse specific candidates. I generally try to avoid politics, though as you indicated, there is often overlap between theology, moral teaching and politics. The Bible has something to say about the role and purpose of goverment, the vocation of ruler and the vocation of citizen. In that respect, I speak freely.

HOWEVER, I do talk about a lot of things on my blog that I would never bring up in sermons or bible classes. In fact, that is the main reason I started a blog. Because I wanted to express my views on things that would not be appropriate in other venues. Ideas about culture and current events. I often pause to consider if what I post would be, in any way, an unnecessary obstacle for the gospel ministry and thus mere self-indulgence on my part. And I hope I haven't crossed that line too often.

It would be immoral and irresponsible for a pastor not to preach about issues such as abortion and euthanasia just because some people would consider it political. As you rightly pointed out, that is theology whether people want to recognize it as such or not.

We should consider Martin Luther. He wrote tracts and treatises on a wide range of subjects, including politics, the military and Islam. Those were his blog.

He addressed political rulers and advised them to take arms or to do this or that. He did that because he saw it as his pastoral duty to remind the Christian lords and rulers of their God-given responsibilities and vocation. Was that getting into politics? Yes and no. It's not always an easy line to walk along.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Even as Christian laity, I believe a lot of us go too far and wind up supporting people and power rather than the Word. A lot of principles are swept aside in a big-tent politics no matter what the stripe. We expect certain results due to the "party" we vote for, only to be surprised when the person we voted for does not behave in a particular manner.

I appreciate the high standard set by pastors who do not endorse a particular political action. If a church or pastor backs a political action, and that action fails, it can easily be seen as "well, their God failed them." Or, if it passes, it may give the "God-backed" party license to do something contrary to the Lord's will. Kind of like wanting God to back one's football team; who does God back when Valparaiso takes on Notre Dame? :)

Thank you for maintaining your concern in this area.

The Homebrewing Lutheran Pastor said...

I agree with Rev. Stiegemeyer. The potential of the blog as a place where the pastor can speak, or write, a little more freely about most anything is what caused me to go into blogging in the first place.

This is a great question. I'm sure my people would say that I've treaded pretty close in the past to that line Rev. Stiegemeyer mentioned. I don't think I have crossed it. I know last November I stressed the freedom we have as Christians to vote for whomever we wish and usually kept recommendations in the form of jokes or lighthearted banter. I think my congregation knows I voted for Bush, but how I voted was not pressure on them to vote the same way.

There are ways in which we pastors can and should bring the events of the day into the pulpit, and doing so should not necessarily be considered some sort of political statement.

A further question that we might wish to ask is: Do we Lutheran pastors avoid politics because we wish to maintain a clear distinction between kingdoms or because we are afraid of the one person who will misconstrue any comments we make?

disgruntled world citizen said...

I take my cue from my father. He was a Lutheran pastor for 40 years and he made it a point to stay out of politics. He stayed current with the news of the day, but he always made sure to keep his political views close to his vest. He even went so far as to register independent. I get very nervous when I say pastors and so called "pastors" get up and start to make political statements. I absolutely can't stand the phrase "the religious right." As a pastor I always felt my father was worried that if he said anything about politics he might disenfranchise one half of his congregation. Politics is an ugly business.