Q: In view of our times, is it more appropriate for a Christian to be an active participant in a certain major political party as opposed to the other?”
A: A great heritage for us as Lutheran Christians is the principle of distinguishing between the responsibilities of the church and those responsibilities assigned to the state. Our synod would be overstepping its authority if it made a proclamation urging its members to align themselves either with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or an independent political organization. What party to join, if any, is a decision to be left only to each individual Christian. Christ called his followers “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), indicating how he expects us to spread our influence as Christians in every walk of life. But in the sphere of politics each person has to use the God-given conscience to determine how best to sprinkle the “salt” within an established form of government.
In our Lutheran Confessions we find this statement: “Christ’s kingdom is spiritual; it is the knowledge of God in the heart. . . At the same time it lets us make outward use of the legitimate political ordinances of the nation in which we live, just as it lets us make use of medicine or architecture, food or drink or air” (Ap AC, XVI). In our country joining or not joining a particular political party is part of the “legitimate political ordinances” of our nation’s form of government. So Christians of our land need to exercise their freedom in this respect.
Whenever we speak of “freedom” here, however, this would not include speaking or acting against what God’ says in his Word on the issues of morality. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). In choosing a political party to join, one will want to ask, “Is this party advocating policies contrary to my Christian beliefs? If in some cases it is, can my ‘voice’ be better used by working for change within a specific party system or by getting out of the party altogether?” The question may not be so easily answered when convention platforms are prone to change, and when qualifications of individual candidates for office have a wide variance. Martin Luther said, “To be qualified to rule, it is not enough to be pious. . . One may find a pious person who can hardly count to five. He who is to rule dare not lack reason, prudence, wit, and wisdom if he does not want to work great harm in his government.”