Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mr. Harrison Goes To Washington

The left branded the panel misogynistic. The right branded the panel supporters in the war against Obama. Neither was true. And neither side was really aware of the issue. As I've said before, and I must say again, this is not a blog for politics. Never has been. Never will be. When it comes to talking about politics on this blog...I must echo the words of Pastor Harrison as he testified before the oversight committee, "I'd rather not be here." But every once in a while, the state steps into the church, or in this case the conscience. And we must speak in defense of religious liberty. Simply put, this is the issue: If there is no freedom of religion and no first amendment of the constitution, there is no Democrat or Republican. In fact, there is no more republic.

Many in the media have called this collection of men a panel of pawns. But pawns are not allowed to declare or confess anything, they are simply moved and played according to the game-maker. While all the chess-players in the room (on both sides of the aisle) were busy making their moves, Pastor Harrison and the others on the panel played the real game with brilliant moves and words of wisdom.

So move over Jimmy Stewart. This is why the Lutherans came to Washington on February 16th, 2012. It wasn't about politics. It wasn't chiefly even about contraceptives. Thankfully, President Pastor Matthew Harrison understood the issue clearly, spoke the truth in love without sacrificing either. He would have made his doppelganger (Teddy Roosevelt) proud. Much has been written on the blogosphere and in the media these past few days. And more will be written in the days and years to come. As I turn my attention towards preparing a bible study for our congregation on the Two Kingdoms doctrine, I rejoice in Pastor Harrison's clear exposition and confession of many things, this important Biblical doctrine included.

You can read the entire transcript of the testimony here. Or you can watch it here along with a few other press releases as of late, from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. So here's a few highlights of Pastor Harrison's testimony, including a few quotations to summarize my thoughts on this issue.
  • "We don't distribute voters' lists. We don't have a Washington office. We are seriously non-partisan, so much so that we're often criticized for being quietistic." Thank you, Pastor Harrison for addressing one of the biggest red herrings in Lutheran circles, namely, that we are quietistic. The list he cites later on in the transcript about the tip of the charitable ice berg proves that this moniker is fallacious. Pastor Harrison's testimony and presence before the House Oversight Committee also debunks this long-standing myth. This leads to the second point
  • The Two Realms: also known as the Two Kingdoms, or two estates (although Luther had three, but the point is the same).  "We confess that there are two realms, the Church and the state. They shouldn't be mixed - the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution." In other words, the church is not out to Christianize the state and the state should not be out to bureaucratize the church. This was not only a brilliant exposition on Christian freedom in a secular country (albeit one founded on judeo-christian principles) but was also an excellent confession of the two realms. We are citizens in both. But both have their unique, God-given vocation.
  • He quoted the Prophets, Isaiah to be specific: "The bed is too narrow, the sheets too short." A quotation from Isaiah 28:20. If you read the rest of the context of this passage in Isaiah and compare it to the context of Pastor Harrison's testimony, I think you'll find it quite revealing and insightful.
  • And lastly, the freedom of religion:
    “Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because of overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our fore bearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88 year old father-in-law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

    We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short [Isaiah 28:20]. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.”
Thank you Pastor Harrison, for taking the time to speak the truth in love, to speak boldly on behalf of the LCMS, for carrying your well-worn Greek New Testament (and the truth it declares) with you to the Capitol. Many have said it, let it be said again. It was - and still is - a  good day to be a Lutheran.

I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed. - Psalm 119:46

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