Monday, October 27, 2008

MONDAY MUSINGS: Reformation Day Thoughts

Yesterday, in the Lutheran church we attend, the congregation celebrated Reformation Sunday. With one strong voice we sang:
Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing

Were not the right Man on our side

The Man of God's own choosing

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He!

Lord Sabaoth His name

From age to age the same

And He must win the battle!

(Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress")
This matchless hymn, and a song the choir sang, "God Is Our Refuge and Strength," are both based on Psalm 46, which begins,
"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea..."
Therefore, we will not fear. These words express the strong sense of confidence and assurance by which believers face the troubles and upheavals of the world around us. It is a given that such convulsions and even cataclysms will occur in this fallen world. However, the believer has a refuge. The believer has a God with him who presses strength into the depths of his being. The believer has an Advocate who is present and active to help in time of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.

How disturbing it was then to hear about the most recent appeal to fear published by Focus on the Family Action. It is called, "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," and it paints a frightening apocalyptic scenario that the organization says will likely occur should Barack Obama be elected president in the upcoming election—everything from terrorist attacks to the end of homeschooling to energy blackouts and rampant inner city crime because of gun restrictions. For a Christian organization to distribute fear-mongering propaganda like this is utterly counter to the great message of Reformation faith.

Please don't interpret these musings as support for Barack Obama. That is not my point. As a Christ-follower and pastor, I just cannot understand when professing Christian people completely jettison Biblical perspective in order to achieve political gain. The sole purpose of this letter is to scare good people silly so that they will vote for the candidate Focus on the Family Action believes is best for America. That is not acceptable behavior for people of faith.

Should we rewrite the words of Luther's great hymn and make them, "A mighty fortress is McCain"? Is he the real "right Man on our side"? Where is our trust? Do we really believe that one election that doesn't go our way can overturn the sovereign purposes of almighty God? Will the sky really fall? Where is the Biblical perspective? Where is the confident assurance that, no matter what happens, our God reigns and his purposes will be accomplished? From the strong foundation of faith, why can't we participate positively in the political process, giving hearty, confident affirmation to the candidates and positions we approve of, while maintaining a spirit of civility and respect toward those with whom we disagree? Are Christians really called to play "hardball" like this?

Such tactics betray the feebleness and wrong-headed nature of so much conservative evangelical American Christianity. The "culture war" mentality of fear and fear-mongering does not represent the Biblical perspective that says, "Therefore, we will not fear." I wish Focus on the Family Action would hear what God says to the world in Psalm 46.10—"Be still, and know that I am God." This command is not the soothing devotional invitation that many imagine. The real point of God's words here are more like—"Hey, you people that are stirring up so much trouble in my world, shut up and sit down and remember who is in charge around here!" We could use a whole lot more Reformation Day thinking and acting in this election season.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2Timothy 1.7)

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