I have a lot on my mind this morning. Maybe you do, too.
We’re teetering at the edge of disaster here in Michigan. I don’t know any other way to say it. Don’t get me wrong. I think the good guys can and will win in the upcoming election. Still, it won’t be easy. In two days, countless Michiganders will make their way to the appointed polling locations to cast their ballots. I know the media can be deceptive, but a relatively reliable source is predicting a 50% turnout of eligible voters, which equates to a total of about 4 million votes, both absentee and in-person combined. Our less-than-desirable Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, predicts a much higher turnout. I’m not necessarily a political pundit, so I can’t speculate either way. If it’s lower, after what happened in 2020, my guess is it’ll be because poll challengers were on high alert protecting us from zombies. In other words, fewer dead people were let through the doors to vote.
But we’ll see. Jocelyn Benson is strangely disinterested in election integrity. Proposal 2 is proof.
Beyond that, and unfortunately, other polls suggest that another proposal—Proposal 3—will pass. In other words, pollsters are confident that those who want to enshrine in our state’s constitution a woman’s right to an abortion up to and after birth will enjoy the majority turnout. The ones who want to criminalize religious objection to assisting are projected as being in the lead. The candidates who want to make sure a second grader is allowed to discern and begin his or her “transition journey” to a different sex without parental consent are being touted as the inevitable victors.
Personally, I think the conservatives are being undersampled in these polls. But again, we’ll see.
David Barton stopped in last month for a visit here at Our Savior. He was touring alongside Chad Connelly, the founder and president of “Faith Wins.” I’ve known David for a long time. There are vast theological differences between us, yet we’re on the same page regarding the topic of Church and State. David is a friend. I trust and appreciate him.
Both in public and private, David shared disheartening (but also familiar) news relative to the Church. He anticipates 25% of conservative, Bible-believing Christians will show up at the polls nationwide. This statistic has remained relatively constant for several years, and my blood begins simmering every time I hear it. I say this because the margin in most elections is usually very thin. If that 25% went up by the tiniest fraction, initiatives like Proposal 3 would lose in a proverbial landslide.
A few days before David visited us, I was handed a letter written by a fellow LCMS pastor. He’d written it to the people of his congregation. In it, he encouraged them to vote “no” on Proposal 3 and explained to them from the Scriptures why they should. I was glad for his words. But, the pastor also imposed a barrier on the Church’s advising on anything beyond Proposal 3. In other words, he said that the only reason he could write and send the letter was because Proposal 3 was a moral issue. However, everything else on the ballot—the other two proposals, the executive, legislative, and judicial candidates, millages, and the like—were to be considered political issues and the Church had no right to insert herself into the discussion.
Relative to his letter, I write the following.
Firstly, go to https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/PublicBallot/Index. You’ll be able to see the ballot relative to your precinct.
Secondly, vote no on all three proposals. They’re ungodly efforts intent on giving evil a permanent foothold in Michigan’s Constitution.
Thirdly, I encourage you to vote for candidates who’ve pledged to push back against the wokeness of cancel culture; who’ve vowed to protect the unborn, the divinely established rights of parents, and ultimately, religious liberty. Choose the ones who’ve promised to fight to protect the Church from policies that would criminalize her for faithfulness to God’s Word. Who are these candidates? For starters, Tudor Dixon for Governor, and Shane Hernandez for Lt. Governor. Also, choose Kristina Karamo for Secretary of State and Matt DePerno for Attorney General. If Tom Barrett is a choice for congress on your ballot, choose him. I know him well. He’s a good man. His opponent, Elissa Slotkin, is a dreadful pestilence to natural law and would shut down every church if she could. If you can vote for Paul Junge, do so. His opponent, Dan Kildee, is Elissa Slotkin’s ideological twin. If you can vote for any of the following congressional candidates, do so: John Gibbs, John James, Mark Ambrose, and Bill Huizenga. And because our educational institutions are incredibly critical, be sure to choose Tamara D. Carlone for the Michigan Board of Education. Mike Balow and Travis Menge would help clean up U of M as trustees. Lena Epstein and Sevag Vartanian would do the same at MSU. On the non-partisan portion of the ballot, I implore you to choose Paul Hudson and Brian Zahra for the Michigan Supreme Court. If you want to keep men out of women’s sports in Michigan, we need them on the highest bench. If you want Michigan’s 1976 civil rights legislation—the Elliot-Larsen Act—to maintain the definition of “sex” as meaning biological gender, vote for these men.
Lastly, if you have questions about others on your ballot, please reach out. I might be able to help.
Do you see what I’ve done here? I advised you regarding far more than Proposal 3. Pastors can and should do this.
Now, I’d ask my fellow pastors as it relates to the presupposed ban on the Church’s engagement: What’s the point of encouraging Christians to vote no on the moral issue posed by Proposal 3 if at the same time the Church forbids shepherding those same Christians toward candidates who are in alignment with the One in whom they’ve placed their faith? Let’s just say Proposal 3 fails. Amens and alleluias will be the order of the day. However, even as it dies, if we re-elect the candidates who fought to put it on the ballot in the first place, history proves it’ll rise from the dead like the 3% of Michigan voters who voted for Biden in 2020. Get rid of these people or they’ll haunt our ballots with ungodliness every election cycle.
To be frank, the Devil loves the Church’s confused complacency in this regard. He knows that the more he can steal from the Church and recategorize as political, the less Christians will be encouraged by their own spiritual overseers to hold the line on some fundamental issues crucial to the Church’s ability to proclaim Christ. They won’t act because they don’t think the Church holds any ownership in the issue, and they’ll do it thinking they’re being faithful. This foolishness is already happening in so many ways. We’ve certainly handed everything relative to natural law over to the lions. What’s more, the doctrine of justification has been mauled beyond recognition in many of our churches and Christian universities now embracing wokist ideologies like Critical Race Theory. Clearly, there’s confusion among us. And the lions are poised to steal more. Just give them time.
Meanwhile, if the pastors continue to stand idly by—and they teach their people to do the same—it won’t be long before the last atom of our sacred doctrine and traditions is completely outlawed, forcing the Church into the shadows.
This won’t change until the Church and her pastors begin seeing politics through a Christological lens. Almost everything in life, even politics, is in some way Christological. Almost everything put into place for maintaining human order intersects with the rule of faith and Christian conscience. No, we are not Dominionists. Christians are not called to establish a theocracy. But we are called to engage. We have a right to influence the public square just as much as we have a right to breathe air. To assume otherwise is lazy and foolish, no matter how erudite your congregational epistles might be.
I’m reminded of the Prophet Hosea’s words: “For with you is my contention, O priest… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me” (4:4,6).
I’m with Hosea on this one. If pastors do not engage in the public square, if they will not teach others to do the same, then God’s people will continue to be destroyed. They’ll do self-terminating things. They’ll elect candidates and embrace policies that seal their own dreadful fate and the fate of future generations of Christians. As they do, these same pastors must be willing to accept their fair share of the blame.
On the other hand, if pastors are engaging in these things—and shepherding their people to do the same—then well and good. Thank them. Love them. Support them. Help them. It’s not necessarily an easy thing for them to do. They’ll be hated. They’ll get nasty phone calls and letters. They’ll see relationships dissolve. They may even find themselves in court. This is the war zone, and these are the trenches. Hell’s bullets will always fly against the ones raising the banner of biblical truth. Still, the orders from our Captain must be carried out. Christ’s concern in the campaign must exceed our own. As a pastor, I walk a dangerous line of offense, not only with the outside world but with the radically individualized pew-sitters. I know the attacks will come. Still, I must go. God’s people must go.
I’ve often told my wife, Jennifer, that I live each minute of my life one sentence away from ticking someone off. That translates into something I’ve often told you: I cannot truly love you if I don’t love God more. This is to say, my allegiance to Christ must always outweigh my allegiance to people. When I love Christ, I can rightly love others, being found capable of helping them in the ways they actually need it.
I know I’ve already been somewhat long-winded, but Daylight Savings Time has granted me an extra hour. With that, I have one final thought.
For any pastors who may be reading this, if you have time, take a quick trip through the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Yes, yes, I know the purest exegizing of the story is that we are incapable of saving ourselves by keeping the Law—that ultimately, we need a Savior’s rescue. Still, note the characters in the Lord’s story. They’re clergy. That should mean something to you.
One character, a priest, sees a dying man, someone assumed by the listeners to be a fellow Jew. But the priest passes by without stopping to help a believing brother who’s experiencing a life-threatening issue. Keeping with the 8th Commandment, I’ll assume the priest’s intentions were good, that he didn’t help because medical care isn’t relative to his job. Another clergyman, a Levite, sees the dying man and does the same thing. In both instances, the clergy fail. Why? Because they didn’t understand what rests at the heart of their faith: love that engages and acts. The one who succeeded—the Samaritan—he reached into a moment when action was required, even someone who couldn’t have been further from his sphere of vocational responsibility.
Brothers, stop and help dying humanity. It’s struggling with life-threatening issues unjustly claimed and then imposed by politics. There will be time for writing your sermons and preparing your Bible studies. In the meantime, do something—anything—to help the unborn, the parents trying to protect their children from gender confusion in schools, the nurse who lost her job because she didn’t want to assist in an abortion, and so much more that’s happening in the marshy ditch beside the road. Help others to navigate and push back against the treacherous social and political waters that are, even now, surging up and over the road as a tsunami intent on drowning all who travel there. You are Christ’s undershepherds. You already have what it takes to do this. You can be a beacon of truth in and for the community, even the ones who oppose you. Equipped with God’s Word, you can be the one who draws attention to the Devil surfing atop the murderous tide rising from the ditch, thwacking the skulls of bobbing corpses all along his way.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge….”
Be the source of knowledge. Understand that engaging in the public square is to engage in life’s unavoidables, where Christian love cannot help but stop and labor because anything and everything converges at its intersection. The ones who are constantly redistricting the boundaries for this intersection—the government—who they are and what they stand for should matter to Christians. Love people enough to teach them concern for this. Love them enough to shepherd them toward safety and away from danger. Love them enough to remind them that, just as you would never think of sequestering your faith before visiting the ballot box, the people in your church shouldn’t either. Love them enough to conquer your fear of their disapproval when you do this. Love them with a courage that insists the Christian faith does not license believers to choose candidates who hallow abortion, desire “drag queens in every school,” or are complicit in so many other entangling devilries the civil powers seek to impose in contradiction to God’s will. Love your people enough to prove your resolve, even being willing, if necessary, to speak these same things before the princes of this world.
I suppose in closing, remember that any pious boundaries put in place that prevent pastors or their people from helping the dying man, while good-intentioned, might actually be veiled wickedness. Be careful. Discern and pray. But don’t stop there. Engage. I doubt we’d have ever heard of the Samaritan if good intentions were all he had. We know him because he was the Lord’s example of love blossoming into action for the neighbor beyond the boundaries of his vocational borders. He steered out of his lane and helped.
Now, go and do likewise.