Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Doctrine of a Calling for Politicians in a Time of War

This is in response to a piece in the LCMS Reporter (9/06 edition, cover), "In Times of War: The need to heed the calling," by Uwe Siemon-Netto, found here .

"Uwe Siemon-Netto invokes the Lutheran doctrine of calling when discussing politics. Those in political offices are there by God’s calling. But perhaps Mr. Siemon-Netto doesn’t go far enough with questions about callings.

The president is not particularly powerful. He is the administrator (hence, we speak of “the Clinton administration”) of the executive branch. And while the presidency may be better known, he’s merely the head of one of three equal branches of the federal government. Senators and Representatives (in the legislative) and judges (in the judicial branch) share governing power and authority.

Sharing power helps to undercut possible tyranny in America. It’s the job of, say, senators, to be a counter-balance to presidential claims. When senators do this, it’s part of their calling: not somehow an illegitimate violation of Romans 13. I don’t know, for example, Sen. Clinton’s reasons for questioning George Bush, but as much as I dislike her, she’s doing her job. Sen. Lieberman’s support of this administration does not give him a free pass. The electorate is doing their job if they wish to remove him.

Those who appreciate the doctrine of calling should remember that governmental leaders in other countries also have a calling. This includes Saddam Hussein, who was the legitimate president of Iraq, whether we were happy with that or not. For the US-led armies to invade and occupy Iraq -- an act for which there is no constitutional command or precedent, and a country which had neither attacked the US nor shown itself to be an imminent threat to the US -- and overthrow a legitimate head of government sets a very bad precedent indeed. There were, of course, no “weapons of mass destruction,” and Iraq was -- at the time of the invasion -- and is now -- well-known to have had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 events.

A government leader’s calling holds whether the person is a bad leader or not. God through St. Paul commanded obedience to Caesar when Nero was persecuting Christians. Any allegations of atrocities against President Saddam Hussein did not give the US government the biblical or Constitutional right to remove the Iraqi president from office.

Politics is a complicated and hard business. It requires difficult, non-emotional analysis of the relevant biblical and theological texts, the relevant Constitutional texts, and the history and current events of our world. Whether American occupation forces should be withdrawn from Iraq is a complicated question that must be carefully analyzed to seek both to do the right thing, and to prevent further damage to the Iraqi nation. But criticism of George Bush or differences in opinion among other political leaders rightfully exercising their callings is both legitimate and right, and Lutheran Christians must defend the free exercise of the callings of all political leaders: those we agree with, and those we don’t."

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