After the Election: A Pastor’s Concern

By Bob Hiller

Like you all, I’ve been sort of reeling in the wake of Tuesday’s election results. If I am being completely honest with you (and why would I have reason to be anything else), I truly don’t know how to feel about the president-elect. But like many of you, my blood pressure has risen and fallen at remarkable rates as I’ve scrolled through my social media feeds. I have a lot of personal and political concerns about our country and would have had them regardless of who got elected. In today’s blog, I don’t think I can contribute much to the conversation by way of political analysis or social criticism. Anything that I have to say on that front has likely been said already by people far more capable and intelligent than myself. However, as I read through my feed and reflect on my own personal actions and attitudes this past week, I do have a pastoral concern that is weighing on me.

Let’s start with a little theology here. I am convinced that St. Paul is right in Romans 10:17 when he says that faith comes through hearing. You and I are creatures addressed by a Creator. He speaks us into existence and then speaks Gospel into our ears. This produces faith in our hearts. The good news of the incarnate God dying and rising for you is spoken to you and it saves you. Your trust comes from hearing that. Since this faith that trusts Christ is never without works, but is incessantly busy, its works are going to be formed and shaped by that Word. So, the Word of Law will expose me as a sinner and produce the work of repentance. The Word of Gospel will forgive my sins and create the gift of faith. Love flows form here. The daily dying and rising, repentance and belief of the Christian is the result of hearing the word of Christ.

In other words, you are what you hear. Subsequently, what you listen to shapes your living. OK, why am I waxing theological on this? Because, my dear Jagged Mafia, as a pastor who spends a bit too much time on social media, I am afraid of what many Christians are listening to. I worry that our ears are being filled with hopes and fears that do not come directly from the Word of God. Instead, our ears are being filled and our hearts are being formed by political pundits and bi-partisan rhetoric.

With cocktail in hand, my bride and I joined most Americans by sitting in front of CNN and watching their pundits either despair over the election of Trump or boast about their side’s victory. There was anger, accusation, name calling, and fear on one side, with boasting, pride, defensiveness, and a sense of superiority on the other. It was very entertaining. It should have been the news. But I digress…

This response has not surprised or bothered me. It’s the media. It’s what they do. What did raise my heart-rate were the responses from my brothers and sisters in Christ, including my own. Our responses were an almost mirror reflection of what I saw on TV. From my good friends who lean left, there was despair. From my good friends who lean right, there was pride. There was no sense of repentance. There was no love for the perceived “enemy.” There was very little congratulating the opposition. And, there was almost no weeping with those who were in morning.

church and state

Now, I get it. It’s politics. It isn’t the Church, as such, so the rules are different. And of course, I know that there is the sin factor that means we won’t ever respond perfectly. But don’t you think it is significant that the reaction from many Christians was more of a reflection of which news station they watched than it was the result of the Lord’s gracious promises to sinners? Isn’t there a problem when the mercy shone to us is nowhere to be found on the lips of the Baptized? Yeah, I get this is left-hand realm stuff and the rules are a little different. But they aren’t all entirely different. And woe to us if we are using theology as an excuse to not love, even in the political realm.

If the Church is going to be shaped by the Word, then I think the response to this election should be neither despair nor pride. I am not saying it is wrong to be upset by the results, nor is wrong to rejoice in them. I am saying there is no room for despair or pride if you believe the crucified and risen Christ is truly seated at God’s right hand for us. And He is. There is no room for despair, as Christians have always confessed that this world has always been corrupted and, regardless of the president, it will remain so. But Christ calls us to a greater kingdom for here we have no lasting city. However wrong it is now, the Lord will make it right. The resurrection promises that! Yours is to simply love and await His return.

But there is no room for pride, either. It is hard to see how the new president (regardless of who had won) is going to do much to change the moral or spiritual trajectory of our nation. We must not confuse conservative ideals with the Christian confession. The Church must never put its hopes in any political ideology, no matter how moral. If we expect all good things from this administration, and if we run to them in our time of need, Luther reminds us in the Large Catechism, then we’ve just made it an idol. Yours is not to trust in horses or chariots, but in the name of the Lord your God. Yours, too, is to love and await His return.

I fear for the church whose ears are more tuned into Fox or CNN than into the blood-soaked Word of Christ. Such a church will be lead only to despair or pride. What are you listening to, dear brothers and sisters? Whatever it is, I pray the noise is drowned out so your heart can once again be captivated by the promise that the Lord of creation has bled and died for you. He has risen for you and for this creation. He, and He alone, will return to make all things right. Jesus speaks nothing of despair or pride. He only speaks of hope. So listen up!