No, our Pluralism Summer speaker this week is not Martin Luther! But as a Lutheran pastor, I would be remiss in neglecting the contribution of Luther to the subject of religion and politics. While his Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms may not seem to be the sexiest topic for a summer interfaith series, in reality it was – and still – is a controversial subject. How many times have you heard (or said) that the church is no place to discuss politics? Well, Luther did draw a clear line between spiritual and secular authority and said that the two realms should never be confused.
The trouble is that his writings on the subject particularly in Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed have been interpreted in various ways. Critics claim that Luther paved the way, not only for the secularisation of society but also for what would become the ideology of National Socialism in 20th century Germany.That’s a hard pill for a good Lutheran to swallow. And coupled with Luther’s unfortunate anti-Semitic writings, a double dose of history to be reconciled.
Fortunately, other interpretations have prevailed. David Lose, for example, currently president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, in an article entitled “The Ambidextrous God: Luther on Faith and Politics,” asserts that “Luther expects that we ask, not whether God is at work in the political institutions of our world, but rather, and always, how.” No unmoveable line between the two realms there.
Having heard from other traditions on the subject of the intersection of religion and politics, it is certainly appropriate to hear from someone working in both realms. In fact, it is an intrafaith conversation, since we’ve heard from other Christian traditions, such as Mennonites and Quakers. There are differences.
So Mark Carlson, director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy-CA in Sacramento, part of the political advocacy ministry of the ELCA, will be at First United this Sunday to take on the job of telling us how he sees God at work in the political institutions of our world.
Or not – and what we can do about it.
Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers. We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.
We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”
A few words about our service:
Our 5:00 service is decidedly interspiritual. This means that, while we are rooted in the Christian tradition, we believe that spirituality is at the heart of all the world religions. This shared spiritual heritage enables us to go beyond the differences in our theological beliefs and traditions. In other words: all are welcome