Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more...]

Standing with the Houston Five

Rev. Dr. Scott Murray is the 4th Vice President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston, a good guy whom I know personally.  You’ve got to read his statement on the mayor’s law firm that is subpoening the sermons of  five pastors who criticized a gay rights ordinance, thus threatening their church’s tax exempt status for allegedly meddling in politics.  Pastor Murray says he would gladly share his sermons with the mayor and her legal team.  And yet, in the Kingdom of Caesar, he stills stands with the Houston Five.  See what he says after the jump. [Read more...]

Preventing Christian groups from hiring only Christians

In what could be yet another attempt to secularize religious groups that work with the government, the Obama administration is getting lots of pressure to require that religious organizations that take federal funds not be allowed to discriminate according to religion when it comes to hiring.  That would mean Catholic or evangelical charities operating under a federal contract or grant would have to hire people who do not hold to the organization’s faith. [Read more...]

Prayer and Protest

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the civil rights protest that featured Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech.  The Washington Post printed a number of accounts from people who were there.

Raymond S. Blanks tells about meeting at his Baptist congregation and holding a prayer service before getting on the bus to Washington.  He describes marchers singing hymns and listening to sermons. “Before noon,” he recalls, “the Mall was transformed into a place of prayer, protest and pride.” [Read more...]

Making churches pay taxes

We should make churches pay taxes. So say two recent articles.  Matthew Yglesias of Slate says that tax breaks force citizens to, in effect, fund religions they disagree with. Also, tax breaks don’t improve church productivity, since upgrading the building and other things churches spend money on won’t necessarily save more souls.  Also, eliminating the non-profit tax break would allow churches to proclaim their moral convictions more forthrightly and to endorse political candidates, which he thinks is perfectly appropriate.

Then Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post, expressing agreement with Yglesias, counts just how much tax breaks for churches cost the government and, following the assumption that all money belongs to the government so that not taking someone else’s money is an government expense and a giveaway, he concludes that “You give religions more than $82.5 billion per year.”

After the jump:  The links and excerpts giving their arguments.  Can you answer them?  Or are they right? [Read more...]

Obama administration defends government-sponsored Christian prayers

The Supreme Court is hearing a case that will decide whether or not it is constitutional for a city council to begin with an explicitly Christian prayer.  Surprisingly to both sides, the Obama administration has filed a brief defending the city council being sued and arguing that the government should not determine the content of someone’s prayer. [Read more...]


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