Politics and Peeing on New Hay – Rerun

This is not deja vu. You might have read this in May of 2008; you could have read it in 1998. Think of this as my Carthago delenda est. I am republishing because both at the district and synodical level the political machinations begin, and I find myself asking myself for the umpteenth time: if the “wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20), can the politics of men? Greater minds than mine have believed and said, “Yes.” Well, Cato’s call wasn’t heeded till after he died.

 This being a mid-term election year politics is amped in the secular news.  This being a convention year for the districts and only one year away from the Big Kahuna synodical convention means in LCMS-ville politics are now ramping up.

Abraham Lincoln, so the story goes, once won a court case by saying in his summation to the jury nothing more than, “The prosecution has the facts of the case 100 % correct, but they have come to the wrong conclusion.”  The jury went out chuckling and came back a short time later with a verdict of not guilty.  According to Lincoln-lore, during the lunch recess Lincoln had privately told the jury this anecdote:  A farmer’s young son came rushing up to him sputtering, “Pa, Pa, I just seen the hired man and sis up in the hayloft.  He was unzipping his pants and she was a lifting her skirt.  Pa, Pa, come quick, they’re about to pee on the new hay!”  “Son,” the farmer replied, “You have the facts 100 % correct, but you’ve come to the wrong conclusion.”

And so have some who know my position on church politics. Sometimes it’s called “sanctified politics.”  This is the brother of “sanctified common sense.”  The CTCR pushed the latter in it’s response to dissent document.  The twin brothers Sanctified Common Sense and Sanctified Politics are offspring of Dame Reason. In any event my eschewing (How often do you get to use that word?) politics doesn’t indicate I am aloof from such things.  It’s not that these things are too far beneath me; it’s not that I am more pious or have more faith.  It’s not that I am peeing on the new hay; rather I am trying not to “kiss the Devil’s behind.”

“Kiss the Devil’s behind” is not my expression but Luther’s.  He said in a sermon on Easter Wednesday, which dealt with worthy communion, “The Lord in His kindness desires this of us [that we think on His sacrifice and death] ; it is for us and the whole of Christendom a dire necessity not to be estranged from our dear Lord and Bishop and end up kissing the Devil’s behind.”  Every time I’ve been involved, or even paid attention to politics, I’ve ended up (no pun intended) planting a big wet one on the Devil’s posterior.

In every discussion of politics inside the church, the “curse of electablity” bewitches the minds of men. Good, faithful candidates for office are mentioned, but then it starts; the curse of electability drops one after another.  It’s not that the men would not be faithful and capable; it’s not that they wouldn’t serve the church well.  No, they just aren’t electable, and everybody knows the sin of sins among people who believe in the democratic way is to “waste a vote.”  We shudder at the thought, don’t we?

This talk of “electablity” seems abominable inside the church.  Before elections, prayers ascend to the Lord of the Church both corporately and individually that He would bless this process and provide us with a faithful servant.  “But Lord, it can’t be David the 8th son of Jesse; he’s just a shepherd-boy; he’s not electable.  He’s nothing compared to Saul who is a good head taller than all the rest.  Now there’s an electable man!”  And he was.  David is the king after God’s own heart; Saul is the king after the people’s.  Saul didn’t need seven years to establish his kingdom; David did.  David didn’t have a picture-perfect home life, one wife, three fine sons, and two daughters; Saul did.  Of course, Saul preceded David.  The people had to be taught that if they in their sinfulness and unbelief wanted a leader after their own heart God would give them one.  And we too must be taught.  We, conservatives and liberals, have chosen Saul after Saul in so many different elections because Sauls are electable.  Only the Lord can provide us with a David.

But how are Davids recognized?  I’m not sure, but I know they’re not recognized when men do not vote their conscience.  When men choose the one who is electable rather than the one they believe to be best for the church, they may be wise politically but they are unfaithful spiritually.  Many, if not most pastors, have served a vacancy.  I don’t believe any have done what we regularly do in District conventions all across Synod.  Not one interim pastors told a congregation about to elect as pastor, “Don’t vote your conscience.  Vote who you think the majority of other people are most likely to vote for!”  Don’t you see? This is worse than politics by polls because we don’t even take polls to measure opinions.  We just think we know who is electable and who is not.

Our synod has gone the way of the country in which our Lord in His grace and mercy planted her over 170 years ago.  America is not a pure democracy; she is a republic.  France was founded as a pure democracy hence the slogan of the French Revolution, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”  America was a republic.  The people elected were not to go to Washington to vote the way the majority of people back home wanted them as in the case of a pure democracy.  We were to elect people who had a sound, moral conscience who would go to Washington and vote that conscience.  Political action committees, greed, and the desire to win have changed all that.  It is politics informed by polls not conscience.  People who aren’t electable won’t be elected by men who hold their conscience in check.

I realize that Synod’s constitution specifically says that delegates to conventions are not to be instructed how to vote as they would be in a pure democracy.  But in practice what happens is the fear of “wasting” a vote and the reasonableness of electability are in fact instructing us.  This must be repented of.  When we act or vote in order to go along with whom we perceive or whom others tell us the majority is, we are in reality acting like a mob.  Mobs have no conscience.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t work on mobs but on the conscience of the individual.

By Word and Sacraments may He work on mine and yours so that we come to correct conclusions and kiss the Son (Psalm 2) as opposed to the Devil’s behind.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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