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Is God a Liberal Democrat? By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 14, 2008

Officials of the declining 4.9 million Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have revealed what God’s priorities are in the U.S. presidential campaign.  And remarkably, the divine priorities was very akin to the Democratic Party’s priorities, if not further to the left.

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, with three other ELCA officials generously wrote both presidential candidates a public letter with the divine guidance.  Although famed Protestant Reformer Martin Luther championed the Bible as God’s exclusive revelation, modern ELCA activists have located more useful counsel in the secular welfare state and environmental agenda.   

“The Scriptures are clear about God's concern for and solidarity with people living in poverty and on the margins of society,” the Lutherans portentously intoned in the letter.  “They are equally clear that God calls us to be stewards of creation. We bring into the public square a commitment to service for the well-being of all of God's children and a faith conviction that government is an important catalyst in God's work of restoring peace, achieving economic justice and protecting the environment.”

Observe that the Lutherans cite government as “an important catalyst in God’s work.”  In fact, their agenda implies that government is virtually God’s only instrument.  The Lutherans want government to abolish poverty, prohibit war, cleanse the environment, engineer egalitarian justice globally, and seemingly usher in The Millennium through additional regulation and taxation.  If government can achieve so much, who needs God, much less the church?

Traditionally, Christians have seen the universal church as God’s primary instrument for revealing Himself in the world.  Christians have also traditionally attached great importance to marriage, the family, private charity, and a vast array of mediating institutions that sustain human relations and mitigate against injustice and despair.  The New Testament describes the state as primarily God’s instrument for temporally punishing or deterring criminality and aggression.   But the Religious Left, including the Lutheran prelates, attach messianic importance and powers to the state.  Perhaps Caesar is Lord after all?

Just as revealingly, the ELCA officials, duty bound at least briefly to reference the Bible, claim the Scriptures are “clear” about how to reduce poverty and protect the environment.  In fact, the Scriptures offer broad principles, not specific political prescriptions.   On issues about which the Scriptures are genuinely “clear,” such as marriage and human life, the left-wing Lutherans prefer to be silent.  They are more comfortable in identifying Divine Providence with the endless expansion of state power.

The persistent poverty in America is a moral scandal and an affront to our nation,” the Lutherans bewail.  They grimly paint a bleak tableau of scarcity and struggle in America, “ claiming “historically high degrees of economic inequality between the rich and poor,” while “upward economic mobility is a reality for only one-third of Americans.” Indeed, poverty is “far higher than in many other developed countries.”  Working against all this misery requires “sustained commitment from our political leaders.” 

How likely would the Apostles, or Luther,  have viewed modern America’s lower income people, most of whom are armed with air conditioned homes, automobiles, cable television and high tech gadgetry, along with modern health care, record life spans and food stuffs from a global market, as desperately poor? Poverty is often a relative term. And by the standards of history, or most of today’s world, few in America are genuinely impoverished.  Many of America’s lower income people are indeed trapped in a cycle of relative subsistence, thanks partly to government programs that punish initiative, and social pathologies that inhibit advance.  Avoiding poverty in America mostly entails finishing high school, shunning drug and alcohol addictions, not having illegitimate children, and avoiding divorce.  But the Religious Left, contrary to its own religious traditions, is not interested in shaping personal choices.  It prefers the compulsion of state regulation and taxation.

Predictably, the Lutherans want the U.S. government to guarantee a 50 percent reduction in U.S. poverty in 10 years, provide “comprehensive health care,” i.e. socialized medicine, and create more federally subsidized low income housing.  In essence, God’s plan for America is simply expanding the Great Society programs of the 1960’s, despite their 40 year track record of locking in rather than reducing poverty. 

And naturally, the Lutherans discern that “global warming presents a terrible and growing threat to the future of God's creation.”  They want an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  The Lutherans prefer not to address how shutting down industry and restricting economic growth will affect the poor.  The Lutherans also want to redirect “valuable research dollars” away from clean coal technology towards the more mythically appealing wind, sun and water energy sources.  In other words, the less plausible an energy source, the more funding it deserves.

The God of the Lutherans wants liberalized immigration policies to accommodate all the millions who, unaware of how impoverished and unjust America actually is, still desire to immigrate here.  And the divine plan also demands that the U.S. government expend at least $140 billion a year in foreign aid, cancel all foreign debt, increase funding for the United Nations, and advocate “fair trade” rather than free trade.  Coercively redistributing old wealth, rather than encouraging creation of new wealth, is always a supreme moral imperative for unimaginative left-wing clergy.

As to war, the Lutherans confirm that “marginalization and desperation, often perpetuated by poverty and hunger,” are at the root of most conflicts.  If only the U.S. Government would mail more checks to all the world’s aggrieved parties, global peace might be achieved.   The ELCA prelates want more U.S. “diplomatic pressure” on the Iraqi government, increased “robust diplomacy” to create a “viable contiguous Palestinian state,” and “urgent diplomatic efforts” to establish peace in Sudan.   Again, U.S. dollars are the key to success.  The Lutherans do not offer specific concern about human rights or even religious liberty.

“Loving and serving our neighbors -- Lutherans make a difference,” the ELCA officials modestly conclude in their letter to John McCain and Barak Obama.  Cain.  But their manifesto implies that the only “love” that Lutherans are exhibiting is lobbying for expanded state powers, taxation and spending, with confidence that dollars are the solution to all the world’s ills.  Ostensibly, Christians traditionally understand that Mammon ultimately can solve few of mankind’s miseries, most of which are spiritual rather than material.

But officials of the shrinking ELCA, in their demands to the presidential candidates, imply they have less confidence in the Gospel than they do in the healing, wonder-working powers of Big Government.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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