Pretty much everyone has core convictions and beliefs they hold true more deeply than anything is true.
They live from them, build their lives on them, make decisions according to them, and are convinced they are good.
For theists, those convictions are associated with their belief in God and how God is revealed and to be understood. For Christian theists, those beliefs are associated with scripture as “the Word of God.”
For non-theists core convictions about what is good and true exist in an understanding of ultimate truths that are something other than divine.
This country holds a core conviction commonly called “the separation of church and state.” This is a good thing. I’m in favor of it. I’m grateful for it. In my professional calling, I’ve always understood it to mean I will not endorse a particular political candidate or party from the pulpit or in any forum when I am in my role as my congregation’s pastor.
I’ve also always understood it to mean that my country’s government will not officially endorse a particular denomination or faith or, for that matter, non-faith. Nor will it discriminate on that basis.
I can maintain the separation of church and state. But I cannot separate my faith and life. I don’t believe anyone can. That has political implications — moral and ethical ones too.
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In the polarized state of politics, these seem to be uniquely challenging times to be a preacher. In my 33 years of sermons, I’ve preached: “In a world wont to build walls, God wants to build bridges.” True statement, that.
Preaching those words in the context of this year, of course, the message will be understood by some as political.
The following are not political statements, they are Theist Christian Lutheran faith statements:
• God is Love, and that love is for all people — not just one nation or people.
• If there is such a thing as God showing a preference in who love is shown to, it is a preference for the poor.
• We are called by God to feed the hungry and care for the sick.
• We are called by God to respond compassionately to needs of refugees and immigrants.
• Life is God-given, and we are called to protect it, not take it. (This includes the lives of the unborn. This includes the lives of the uninsured born. It also, for that matter, includes lives on death row.)
• The blessed are called to be a blessing to others.
• God the Creator did not entrust the earth to us to be used as we please, but to be cared for as good stewards.
But here’s the thing: those statements are not political, but they have political implications. Theists are meant to take values we believe into our daily lives, relationships, political activism, voting booths, checkbooks and hearts.
We may not agree where that leads us. Some may think some decisions are primarily moral ones, not political ones. Some may think the best outcomes — or maybe the best vehicles to get there — are painted red, and others blue.
That’s OK. We can disagree. But let’s disagree kindly, shall we? And let’s disagree listening to each other. For the God I believe in does not paint unity among people with “sameness as each other,” but with love for each other.
• Rev. Roger Dykstra is senior pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Iowa City