Author Topic: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation  (Read 5507 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2012, 02:42:42 AM »
Does Revelation teach that government is evil, or that evil forces may use government to evil purposes?


Does that distinction matter to citizens suffering under the evil of the government?


What God promises to bring down in the magnificat are the powerful from their thrones, who are also described as arrogant and proud. Whether we call it evil forces or just self-serving, when a government does that, they are not fulfilling God's purpose for those in positions of authority.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2012, 02:51:49 AM »

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."

LW 40, p. 281-2

I would and have denied that anyone would dispute with your Luther quote which started this thread based upon the importance of government to preserve peace and punish the guilty.

If you could give a single example of a credible politician who would argue against the government preserving the peace and punishing the guilty, then perhaps I could see the value of this thread.

Now, regarding your expanded view, I see that you are backing away from a position that at least implicitly claimed that some were against preserving peace and punishing wrongdoers, and this is good.  No one would argue against your original quotation.

And, of course, I am sure that during the Bush administration you were duly aware of your duties in praising that government as well.

Or, just perhaps, the reason for this thread was rather a partisan view of government thinly masked as an ode to Luther's view of the value of government?
I think you read something far more partisan into my citation that was intended or can reasonably be inferred. 
In my previous post, I highlighted (in green) three statements.  Two from Pres. Ronald Reagan, one from Grover Norquist.  Once again, my focus is not on the wisdom of any particular policies or programs, but on the attitude toward government underlying them. 
Are these statements
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"

"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
complimentary or compatable with our obligation to teach that God  "desires us to honor government as a servant of his and to show gratitude to it because through it God gives us such great benefits."
I would also observe that Luther clearly thought that, in addtion to the functions of law and order, social welfare (care of the needy and sick, providing for education, etc.) was part of the proper work of government and part of "great benefits" for which we ought give thanks.
BTW. for those who haven't looked the Instructions recently, the sections I've quoted are presumed composed by Melanchthon, but anyone familar with the Large Catechism can see it closely follows Luther's explanation of the Commandments.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 02:54:15 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

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Mel Harris

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2012, 03:13:40 AM »

  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")


       One place we do these things is in the Prayers of the Church in the Divine Service.  (See the Lutheran Book of Worship pages 52 & 53.)  If the Prayers of the Church in any given Sunday Service do not include praying for our government, or for those who govern us, it is because the one leading the Prayers chose not to, or neglected to do so.  Another place we do these things is in confirmation instruction.

       Mel Harris
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 03:51:03 AM by Mel Harris »

Jim_Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2012, 03:14:57 AM »
Does Revelation teach that government is evil, or that evil forces may use government to evil purposes?


Does that distinction matter to citizens suffering under the evil of the government?


What God promises to bring down in the magnificat are the powerful from their thrones, who are also described as arrogant and proud. Whether we call it evil forces or just self-serving, when a government does that, they are not fulfilling God's purpose for those in positions of authority.
I think it does matter.  As uncomfortable and untidy as it works out:  both kingdoms are God's.  This is also addressed in the instructions:
      Some ask, how can government be from God, since so many have come to power by evil use of force? Julian is an example. And Scriptures call Nimrod a hunter, because he had grasped for so much (Gen. 10[:9]).
     This is the answer. When in Rom. 13[:1] Paul says that the government is of God, this is not to be understood in the sense that government is an affliction in the way that murder or any other crime is inflicted by God, but in the sense that government is a special ordinance and function of God, just as the sun is a creature of God or marriage is established by God. An evil man who takes a wife with evil intent can abuse the ordinance of marriage. So also a tyrant can abuse the ordinance of God, as Julian or Nero did. The ordinance, by which peace and justice is maintained, remains a divine creation even if the person who abuses the ordinance does wrong.
LW 40, p. 283-284 [emphasis added]

The Magnificat does not suggest that God will abolish government but rather humble the proud and cast the mighty from their thrones.  The throne is not done away with but another, more worthy ruler is promised.
Jim Krauser

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2012, 03:26:25 AM »

  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")


       One place we do these things is in the Prayers of the Church in the Divine Service.  (See the Lutheran Book of Worship pages 52 & 53.)  If the Prayers of the Church in any given Sunday Service do not include praying for our government, or for those who govern us, it is because the one leading the Prayers chose not to do so.  Another place we do these things is in confirmation instruction.

       Mel Harris
Yes, indeed.  But part of the reason for my post was born of a kind of mea culpa, that my public prayers have tended more to be prayers for wisdom and guidance (important) but not the kind of fulsom thanksgiving for government witnessed in the Instructions.  It made me think that we do not pay enough attention to appreciating government and do not object when others run it down or speak disrespectfully or disparagingly of government itself (not meaning specific policies or programs). 
We regularly pray for those who serve in the military.  This year there were no names given in for remembrance for Memorial Day weekend.  We offer prayer for wisdom for the electorate before election day, and for those elected the week following.
I have a number of times scheduled special morning prayer services for Independence Day, but few have felt the desire to interrupt their day to come and give thanks before the parade or picnic.
Jim Krauser

Pastor-Grace Evang. Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, NY

Charles_Austin

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2012, 04:02:37 AM »
How many times, even in this supposedly "Lutheran" forum, is "government" denounced as corrupt, evil, or something to be mocked and derided? How many times are there mocking comments about politicians, lumping them all into a foul-smelling ooze?
I live in New Jersey, so I know some corrupt public officials, some of them under indictment or serving time. But I also know dedicated citizens who make great personal sacrifices to serve the public good.
I think Pastor Krauser is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 08:30:48 AM by Charles_Austin »

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2012, 05:50:30 AM »

...

I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.


I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to....  I think you mean Pastor Krauser; I haven't entered this discussion.
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

LutherMan

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2012, 06:14:10 AM »

...

I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to what some politicians want to do (virtually abandon all government action), but he cites the disrespect and even hatred hurled toward our elected officials and our governing institutions.


I think Pastor Hannah is not referring to....  I think you mean Pastor Krauser; I haven't entered this discussion.
Pr. Austin seems to be in his dotage lately

Jeremy Loesch

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2012, 07:32:03 AM »
LutherMan...So Charles made a mistake in getting a name wrong.  He's allowed.  As we all are.

Pastor Krauser, I'm going to make an assumption that in your congregation there are a multitude of varying opinions regarding our government.  There are in mine.  Tea partiers, conservatives, classic libs, modern libs, libertarians.  I think I might even classify one as a Green party supporter.  The ten minutes before Sunday Bible class are fun as people are talking about various things while getting their coffee.  The conversation is usually political in nature as retired teachers talk about various issues regarding public education.  The ten people seem to have 13 different opinions on things.

I probably wouldn't share those paragraphs in the initial post because the way that people interpret the terms "government" and "taxes" is widely varied.  And I think there have been a few posts that make the claim that no one is debating whether or not there should be taxes.  It is the way those taxes are then spent that gets the bulk of the attention. 

Sharing those paragraphs might lead members to think, "Right on!  Pastor's on my side!  See, right there we have taxes and government being extolled and know people will know that this candidate is supported by Luther."  Or it could be the opposite, "Pastor's such a jerk.  Doesn't he know that he's falling for XYZ's side and its fallacious arguments?  He should just stick to reading that Bible and visiting the moochers on Social Security and be grateful that he gets ABC tax break."  These paragraphs might cause unneeded division in the congregation.

Perhaps they could be printed out with some explanation about the thanks we ought to give for government and how that thankfulness is expressed in different ways?

Just some thoughts.

Jeremy   
A Lutheran pastor growing into all sorts of things.

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2012, 08:29:49 AM »

Do you see somebody arguing that we shouldn't have police or otherwise restrain the wicked?  That we shouldn't have secure homes? That we aren't interested in peace in the United States, justice or punishment of the wicked?

Are these really in debate?
I'm not talking merely about the functions of government, but our attitudes toward government itself.  An appreciation of and thankfulness for government (not to be confused with "I love my country" patriotism) seems on the wane.   
Is there among Lutheran Christians a love of government (as opposed to love of country)? 
Where is the positive affirmation of government in our church life, personal life, political life?

Again, I find no one debating the issues you raise here.  That we should have a government that protects us is nowhere in debate.
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   
Don't the priciples encouraged upon the preachers by the visitors suggest that the church in some way needs to challenge the above attitudes and instead promote an attitude of thankfulness to government for its role in helping and supporting its citizens and our neighbors in their need?
Another reference from the Instructions:
"The preachers, accordingly, should faithfully remind the authorities to maintain peace, justice, and security for their subjects, to defend the poor, the widow, and the orphaned...." LW 40, p. 284
Again I'm not saying we debate the idea the role of governement in provding security.  I'm asking how and when do we positively affirm it, celebrate it and give thanks for it in the church.  When and where do we teach an attitude of honor, respect, and obedience for government?  When and where do we teach an obligation to pray for or bless the government?  (And not like the "proper blessing for the Tsar" from Fiddler on the Roof  "May God bless and keep the Tsar---far away from us!")  Do we teach (along with our stewardship campaigns for church offerings) the duty of paying taxes?  All of this should come up in Catechism instruction regarding the Fourth Commandment.  But is it part of the piety, life of faith that we inculcate?  If we asked the average person in the pew to say what does the church teach about government?  How would they respond?  Would it resemble this?
"...that we obey the government.  In Romans 13 Paul enumerates three points concerning government. 
    "First, the payment of taxes, namely that each shall give the authroities such money and labor as is required of him [Rom. 13:6f].
    "Second, respect, that is, that we have sincere respect for government. ...
    "The third duty we owe government is honor.  For how can we imagine that we have paid the government something when we have given it tax or tithe or served it with physical labor?  God requires of us a much higher service toward the government, namely, honor...."

LW 40, p. 281-2

Jim,

We live in AMerica where part of the founding story is revolt against unjust and unfair taxes. Unjust because they were arbitrarily set by a distant authority, a king, who by virtue of being "king" has the right to be arbitrary and even vindictive in his levying of taxes. Unfair because there were no benefits attached to the taxes levied. If you read Luther some more, I believe his address to the German Nobility would be a good place to start, you would find Luther condemn the same things as the early American story.

One can and should question a few things. Are Luther's words applicable in their raw form to this country? We are a republic. We get to chose government, its scope and its character. If that is true, then critique, even harsh critique of government action and inaction is probably not precluded. To see it another way: If government is not feudal but elected and its content, staff, and form therefore malleable, then must not a Christian speak out against what he sees the government do wrong? Might that mean that she has to say: "I see no good done by the government at all right now?" Lutheran have been there before in the 1940's.  Whether disapproval should go all the way to "revolt" is questionable but questionable in  a Bonnhoeffer way if you know what I mean. A government gone insane has to be restrained would it not? In our case that would it not mean be restrained by its people?

And what is respect? Does it mean agree with all things the government does? If so, what are elections for?

And what is honor? GOvernment is supposed to be a given entity that is filled with a changing cast of players. For some reason, we have fallen into the habit to have those players retain their title even after they have returned to non government life. Do we really need to honor these women and men after they are no longer guiding affairs?  We might thank them for a job well done but are they worthy of honor greater than a CHristian owes any other neighbor? What exactly is honoring government? Obeying its laws? Even if we do not agree and even think that a law is evil? Lutherans have been there as well in the 1940's. Is honoring government done by hoping to see GOd's provident hand in all that government does even if all of it is bad news? Should honor go that far in an Elert sort of way?

A final thought: Luther certainly knew of cities that were governed not by prices but by city fathers. As democratic as that may sound to American ears, democracy as we know it it was not. When he spoke of government he basically meant the feudal system prevalent in his time and place. WHat was remarkable about him was that he insisted that nobility was not about privilege or entitlement but about responsibility. Maybe that responsibility is now transferred to all of us along with a call to shun privilege and entitlement? If so, then the debate, even the heated debate, might just be an external manifestation of the internal moral struggles of a 16th century prince.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 09:29:39 AM by Dadoo »
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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #25 on: October 12, 2012, 08:32:41 AM »
I made a mistake. It happens. Sorry. All the Noo Yawk guys look alike; but they don't all post alike, so I made a mistake.

George Erdner

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #26 on: October 12, 2012, 08:41:19 AM »
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   

Such rhetoric describes badly run government. It specifically describes government doing things that are either (1) not the things government should be doing or (2) things that the government is doing badly. Soundbites taken out of context, some of which are over three decades old, do not prove that anyone opposes government doing what governments should be doing.
 
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself. I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
 
But that has nothing to do with your straw man attack on an imaginary opponent that pretends those who disagree with you are anarchists advocating chaos. Those of us who disagree with you about your well-documented desire to see the central Federal government take over micromanaging even more aspects of our lives are not saying there should be no government, no Kingdom of the Left. What we're saying was well stated by Pastor Speckhard when he noted that government was, "what we are coerced into doing together." 

Charles_Austin

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #27 on: October 12, 2012, 08:51:54 AM »
Mr. Erdner writes:
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself.
I comment:
I might reserve some of that disdain for unprofessional politicians, namely those ideologues and know-it-alls blustering their way into office with no knowledge of how civil government works. The good thing is, most of them fail. If they do not learn the art of compromise, nothing they want to do (often in the name of their god) will get done. If they do learn that government is negotiation and compromise, the mono-minded folks who elected them will turn on them.

Mr. Erdner writes:
 I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
I comment:
Mr. Erdner's use of the CYA "most" won't play here. I ask in all seriousness: how many of these people do you know? How many times have you sat in their offices, talked with them about their jobs, look at the performance reviews which most government agencies apply? These, Mr. Erdner and others, are our fellow citizens and church members; there may be incompetents among them, as there are in any profession, whether the pastorate or acting in television commercials; but it is most unfair to level this broadside against them.
Mr. Erdner will attempt to take refuge in his use of the word, "most," but I'm not buying it.
BTW, there was indeed a horde of "unelected bureaucrats" in Luther's day; 'cause no one was elected, not even the Electors. And there was the machinery of government which included such "bureaucrats" as Tetzel, Cajetan, a chancel-full of cardinals and their sycophants.

Team Hesse

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #28 on: October 12, 2012, 08:52:31 AM »
I probably have as low an opinion on the current direction of our government as any in this forum, but there is no way I believe that we can do without government. When government action is seen as the solution to societal problems, we have become idolatrous in turning to someone other than the Lord. This turn is not a good thing and cannot stand long-term. Nations which are moving toward less intrusive government, that see government action as curbing and providing stable boundaries for citizens to live out their vocational responsibilities without the government detailing the precise shape of those responsibilities, are the nations which are making progress and improving the lives of their citizens. Nations which insist on running all of societies actions through the ringer of government regulation are, and slowly will, grind to a dead stop.


It has been absolutely amazing to me the turn around that has occurred in agriculture in Russia since the collapse of the over-arching notions of the Soviet state. What was the world's leading grain importing nation under the previous regime has become a major exporter and projections are, within a few years, will become once again the world's leading exporter of wheat. Russia was the world leader in grain exports prior to the Russian revolution. This is only one example, but to me it is the clearest example, of the problem of the government becoming more than it is called to be. Governments rule best when they rule least. A need for more government is a mark of a decaying society. The people are no longer self-regulating but need to be regulated.


Lou

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Re: A Lutheran View of Government and Taxation
« Reply #29 on: October 12, 2012, 11:16:23 AM »
Would you deny that there is a great deal of cynicism and disdain for government (as not just politicians)?     
Over the last 30 years, sound bites such as 
"government isn't the solution, government is the problem,"
"I want to shrink government so small that you can drown it in a bathtub,"
"the most frightening words in the English language:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help"
have become rallying cries for some and resonate with large segments of our society.   

Such rhetoric describes badly run government. It specifically describes government doing things that are either (1) not the things government should be doing or (2) things that the government is doing badly. Soundbites taken out of context, some of which are over three decades old, do not prove that anyone opposes government doing what governments should be doing.
 
I have a great deal of disdain for most professional politicians. That has to do with the caliber of the individuals, not the job itself. I have even more disdain for most bueaucrats, those un-elected public "servants" who general tend to display attitudes and abilities that wouldn't be tolerated or accepted in private sector employment. At the time Luther wrote what he wrote, there was no monster-sized horde of unelected bureaucrats mismanaging most aspects of everything that they touch.
 
But that has nothing to do with your straw man attack on an imaginary opponent that pretends those who disagree with you are anarchists advocating chaos. Those of us who disagree with you about your well-documented desire to see the central Federal government take over micromanaging even more aspects of our lives are not saying there should be no government, no Kingdom of the Left. What we're saying was well stated by Pastor Speckhard when he noted that government was, "what we are coerced into doing together."
Even accepting what you say, the statements I referenced improperly indict government itself when they mean to critique the management of specific governors.  They are careless and irresponsible and engender suspicion (at best) and loathing (at worst) of what God has ordained.  We may look at performance to assess whether this or that person is/should be called to govern.  But I think we must guard against rhetoric that is disrespectful of government.  And even of the governors, while we may disagree with their notions and may be dubious about their competence, they too are still entitled, under God, to respect.
I reject the notion that I have any particular agenda here.  I came across this passage as I was reading through Volume 40 of Luther's Works.  The passage struck me as remarkable and timely and worthy of attention in our day.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 11:28:29 AM by Jim_Krauser »
Jim Krauser

Pastor-Grace Evang. Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, NY