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Did your pastor read the First Epistle of James Madison to the Federalists yesterday?

According to a recent survey, 63% of Protestant pastors were planning to incorporate patriotic elements into yesterday's services.

53%, on the other hand, said that at times they fear that their congregations love America more than God.

We are indeed blessed to live in a country which, with all its often serious problems, permits and even enshrines the most basic human freedoms. We are entering a period in which freedom of religion is under ferocious attack by the courts and by the political Left, but we have good cause to be grateful that we have that freedom in the first place for us to fight for in this era of politically correct and thoroughly unconstitutional established paganism.

But politics becoming our god is aa real danger. In the ELCA, social justice often becomes an idol; in the LCMS, it's not so much conservative politics as radical, far-Right politics sometimes tinged by an idolatry of country. I well remember how difficult it was to convince Missouri Lutherans back during the Vietnam Era that Luther's embrace of the just war theory was a good thing, given their fervor to bless the B-52s and blast the Commies into oblivion come what may.

Theology sometimes seems to influence the politics of Missouri Synod Lutherans less than the quietistic, bless-the-cannons stereotype of traditional Lutheranism would suggest. That stereotype itself is problematic, of course; one thinks of the very Lutheran, we-ought-to-obey-God-rather-than-man passive resistance largely led by Lutheran pastors which brought down the regime in East Germany, for example. Hardly an example of quietism. One might expect from the stereotype that LCMS Lutherans would be politically conservative, and more often than not they are. But one would not expect the large percentage of them who would embrace un-conservative, extreme, and biblically dubious far-Right views on race,  on poverty, on Islam and on a host of other issues.

Racial prejudice ran high in the Missouri Synod of the '60's.  I still remember how only the firm stand of a courageous and faithful pastor prevented the congregation in which I grew up from banning a little girl from our parochial school because of the color of her skin. The bigotry has abated somewhat, but it's nowhere near gone. And the number of us who assert that Muslims who say they oppose terrorism must be lying because the Koran endorses it or speak contemptuously and in great ignorance about the poor is all too large. And I continue to be shocked and appalled when my fellow LCMS members quote Jesus's statement that "the poor you will always have with you" as an excuse for not trying to help them, or who become so obsessed with the idea that they should be helped exclusively by private charity that they are  unmoved by the fact that often it is only the government which has the resources to help. When I was in the parish (I was ELCA back then) I resisted mixing patriotic elements with the divine service because in this country America becomes an idol all too easily. But maybe Missourians could use a little more familiarity with some basic concepts not only from Luther and Chemnitz but from Madison and Jefferson.

They also might want to reflect that the first example of the public dole on record in the Western world was Martin Luther's institution of the Wittenberg Common Chest!

Meanwhile, I might as well observe that this is a strange Fourth of July when the political ideas of both of the presumptive presidential nominees are so radically alien to the values upon which the Republic was founded. Time for all of us, I think, to do some prayerful pondering of the question of how on earth we got ourselves into this mess, and how to avoid having it happen again.

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