Monday, May 11, 2009

Pope Versus Hope

I have one of those MSNBC news-ticker things on my PC gadget bar (a sentence, by the way, that none of us would have been able to decipher a decade ago), and this headline caught my eye: Archbishop: Obama Advances Anti-Life Agenda. The story continues:

WASHINGTON - A powerful Catholic leader on Friday accused President Barack Obama of pushing an anti-life, anti-family agenda and called Notre Dame's invitation for him to speak scandalous.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court, said Catholic universities should not give a platform, let alone honor, "those who teach and act publicly against the moral law."
Now, under a one-kingdom framework I can totally see how hopelessly at-a-loss the American Christian must be when it comes to navigating these this-worldly waters. After all, there’s no question that Archbishop Burke’s charge is correct—President Obama is unapologetically pro-choice, espousing a position on the abortion issue that is inescapably at odds with the Christian religion. What’s a believing American to do?

Well, distinguishing heaven from earth is a good place to start.

You see, there’s nothing particularly new about this dilemma we find ourselves in. Paul urged the Romans to submit to the civil magistrate, even calling the secular rulers of his own day “servants of God” ordained to bear the sword (13:1ff, and that was when Nero was in power, someone who makes Obama look like Tinkerbell). Moreover, Peter instructs his readers to “submit yourselves to every human institution,” even mentioning the “emperor as supreme” (I Pet. 2:13). Like it or not, Barack Obama is the leader that God has chosen to govern the United States, for he exalts and demotes whomever he sees fit, and none of us are allowed to question his wisdom on such matters (Dan. 4:35).

Given what is said above, we must be willing to differentiate between the civil and spiritual kingdoms if we ever hope to live as God’s faithful servants in this present age. President Obama’s job is not to inaugurate Christ’s kingdom or further its interests, that job falls to the ministers of Jesus’ Church. And likewise, it is not my job as a minister of the Word and Sacraments to meddle in civil affairs.

Of course, the abortion issue is not merely a political matter, but a moral one, too, and there is certainly no rule that prohibits concerned citizens (even believing ones) from making sure their voice is heard. In fact, I would argue that engaging in civil and secular matters is a logical outcome of a strong two-kingdoms theology (if, of course, one is prone to such things, but I also wouldn’t want to begrudge anyone his political cynicism and resultant sloth, either).

But saying that we oughtn’t even honor our president because he is anti-life on the abortion question? That seems to be taking matters too far, especially for a Reformation Christian.