Faith & Politics

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“What’s it like being a pastor so close to the Capitol?” This is a question I’m often asked when people visit Lutheran Church of the Reformation for the first time or learn about where we are in DC. Located behind the Supreme Court and a block from the United States Capitol building, Reformation DC is the closest congregation of any faith community to these institutions. I get it and it’s a fair question, but when someone asked me recently ”What’s it like to do ministry in the shadow of the Capitol? I bet it’s hard not to be political!”, I responded, “I wonder what it’s like governing in the light of the church?”

As Christians, we follow a man who was political. The Good News that he proclaimed empowers us to be political. The Jesus I know and the Gospel I read are inherently political. Neither are partisan but it’s right there in the Greek, politikos: of, for, or relating to citizens. So while “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, we can insist that religious values be used to govern. And much deeper values than the #ThoughtsAndPrayers that are too often tweeted out. 

What, then, does the embodiment of thoughts and prayers look like? Action.
Hollow statements and shallow prayers mean nothing without actions behind them for government leaders and for us. Lifting up our voices is prayer embodied. Organizing is prayer in action. Marching and resisting and holding elected leaders accountable is what we know, as Lutherans, what we are freed in Christ to do. Living out our faith is placing a sure trust in the grace of God and in that confidence, we are called to act.

In his 1980 lecture The Relationship of the Christian Faith to Political Praxis, theologian James Cone asserts that “praxis for the purposes of societal change is what distinguishes liberation theologies” (Black, Feminist, Womanist) from others. As queer folx, we too “share the conviction that truth is found in the active transformation of unjust societal structures.” We continue to work for this active transformation both in the Church and in the world.

Soon, eligible voters have the privilege and opportunity to embody our prayers at the ballot box, either by filling out our ballots in our homes or at a polling place. Soon, we will take our thoughts and our prayers with us to vote, I hope, with Christian values.
Christian values that prioritize Creation and stewarding the abundance God has blessed us with.
Christian values that cry out for the release of those imprisoned and the freedom of the oppressed.
Christian values that demand #BlackTransLivesMatter in all aspects of life and ministry.
Christian values that welcome and take care of the sick and the stranger.
Christian values that insist that the powerful be brought down from their thrones and the lowly lifted up. 
Christian values that advocate that the hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty.
Christian values that care for the wellbeing and health of our neighbors here and abroad. 

I have yet to do my ministry in the shadow of the Capitol because the Light of the World shines too brightly. I can only think and pray and act with the love that Jesus brings and the justice that Jesus insists upon. I am so grateful that all aspects of my life are influenced and informed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including my politics.

Rev. Ben Hogue was blessed to bring the words of his saint-mentor Joel Workin into the halls of Congress, opening the House of Representatives in prayer on the day of his installation at Lutheran Church of the Reformation. Ben lives next to Reformation with his fiancé Marshall, and their Beltway boys, Bogart (cat) and Bosco (dog). He is very excited that candy corn is back on store shelves.

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