Two kingdoms, one king

Just came across a Facebook page called "Lutheran Pundit."

Those two words side by side kind of set off a warning signal that I was about to encounter either an extreme left-wing, pro-liberation theology and anti-confessional ELCA blog or an extreme right-wing, virtually alt-right Muslim-hating Trumpist one written by somebody from the LCMS or ELS or WELS.

I don't know why moderates so seldom feature the word "Lutheran" so prominently in the titles of their largely political writings and blogs. However, I have a theory

Genuine Lutheranism goes to great lengths not to, in Luther's phrase, "brew the two kingdoms into each other." It distinguishes sharply between God as Lord of creation and God as Lord of the Church, between God the righteous lawgiver and God the forgiving Father, His righteous wrath propitiated by Christ. It isn't the job of the government to forgive, and it isn't the job of the Church to punish, beyond simple church discipline. Liberal and conservative political viewpoints each have elements which are both salutary and pernicious from a biblical point of view, and I still remember what my confirmation pastor- a confirmed conservative Republican- told us in that regard: that the ideal Christian congregation should contain Republicans, Democrats, and independents who do not confuse their personal political convictions with the Faith and whose identity as Christians (and, by extension, as Lutherans) transcends the legitimate and healthy political disagreements which will inevitably exist among them.

I obviously have nothing against other Lutherans expressing their political views, and even identifying themselves as Lutherans while doing so. This blog does that. I certainly see nothing wrong with the author of "Lutheran Pundit," whose far Right opinions are no less legitimate because I personally sometimes (not always) disagree with them, doing the same thing. But making Lutheranism an identifying element of a political soapbox (at least without acknowledging that the opinions expressed by it should not be confused with Lutheranism, or even identified with it other than as the idiosyncratic observations of a single Lutheran) kind of makes me nervous, especially in a polarized nation in which neither of the theological tendencies which publicly identify themselves as "Lutheran" exactly characterized by either political diversity or nuance.

Social justice is a matter of Law rather than Gospel, and as such cannot constitute the essence of the Faith from a Lutheran point of view. The same is true of personal ethics, or other values political conservatives hold dear. Maybe we'd all be better off not giving the words "Lutheran" and "Christian" such a prominent place on our blogs and web pages if they aren't primarily concerned with how Jesus atoned for the sins of the world and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe.

Maybe, too, we'd be better off- and I speak now not only of Lutherans, but of Americans generally- if our political herd instinct were a little less acute, and we were into making political distinctions as nuanced as our theological ones often are.


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