The 1964 Presidential election was between President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Democrat) and Senator Barry Goldwater (Republican). Senator Goldwater is considered as one of the founders of the conservatism that we know in our day. This TV ad was devastating against the Republicans. It also showed the power of television. I was age 9 at the time and remember it well:
The ad makes out Senator Goldwater as a war monger, that if he were elected, would bring about nuclear Armageddon without the ad ever saying so! If I could vote at age 9, I would have voted for President Johnson. Watching this ad again I was struck by the voice over by President Johnson:
“These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.”
Without an explicit statement, those two sentences, with the preceding contrasting images conjure up for me these even starker contrasts: Republicans=war/Democrats=peace; Republicans=darkness/Democrats=light; Republicans=hatred/Democrats=love.
At age 9, it was clear to me: President Johnson and the democrats were for “love” and light. Who would be against that?
Jumping ahead…I had left The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS/conservative) after college and I was a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA/liberal). Many ELCA pastors, your scribe included, were fighting against the progressivist push in the ELCA, especially in regards to inclusive language. “Inclusive language” was the opening salvo to the rewriting of God’s Word regarding the doctrine and practice of marriage between man and woman; but by God’s Word and faithful fellow pastors and Christians, I woke up to the deadly realities of which I was complicit.
An old friend and colleague was visiting us. ‘Brad’ likewise had left the LCMS and he was also a pastor in the ELCA. I mentioned my growing notion of returning to the LCMS. ‘Brad’ responded, without blinking an eye, “Yeah, the LCMS stands for truth, which is great, but the ELCA stands for love.” I was taken aback. It is the same dividing of love and truth just as President Johnson had suggested in that commercial forty plus years ago. I had no response to my friend. I do now.
First: I think this division would offend a liberal/progressivist as well because they also believe in truth.
Second: Where did this come from? I think it is still with us in the realm of both politics and religion. I am not suggesting that President Johnson started it, but there is the German word “zeitgeist” that may help to explain this fracture of love and truth. “Zeitgeist” means “spirit of the age” and not all the “spirits” are from God. There is something downright devilish in this division because in this sundering, truth takes the backseat to ‘love’.
And this leads to number 3: if we depart from the truth, especially the truth of God’s Word for love alone then we have no backbone. The Bible makes no sundering of truth and love as we love God’s truth and ever pray as His baptized, to love truthfully. I think this division is also based upon the departure from “sound doctrine”, the sound doctrine of Law and Promise, only for our ‘loving actions’. This has resulted in secular Pharisaism. Liberal/progressivist churches are legalistic to the core as they try by their ‘love’, under the guise of “social justice”, resulting in political correctness, ‘to save the world’. Love without truth is opened to the fleshly freedom to as one wants, as long as it is politically correct. You do not need God to save, only God who gives us examples say, of “inclusivism” as long as those Bible narratives are not considered “patriarchal” and “sexist” or “homophobic”. And on the end: Truth without love can result in using truth to bludgeon an opponent.
“We must love each other or we must die” said LBJ. Yes, that is true according to God’s Law. But we have not loved our neighbor as we ought. This the President would not, even could not, say. In his statement the implication is if we want to ‘love each other’ then we need to vote for him and not the conservative! No government on earth can teach us to love! Why? They do not have saving truth! A government can instruct in facts, but not truth. They are not called so to teach. One of the reasons there is tax exemption for religion because early on, our constitutional government realized what they could NOT do: teach morals, churches and synagogues can. Sadly, so many churches have given up that role. Government can only “insure the domestic tranquility” by protecting its citizens from all enemies. foreign and domestic (see Romans 13) and getting out of the way of churches (and yes, synagogues, mosques, ashrams, parents) to teach morals. President Johnson was beginning to assume the role of Moralist in Chief. He/she can not enforce ‘love’ and if so, the greatest tyranny is yet to be loosed upon the earth, the anti-Christ:
2 Thessalonians 2:”… and the man of lawlessness is revealed,the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Proclaiming “himself to be God” by teaching us his version of love! And no one will be exempt from a love turned dictatorial. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, When the Church is expelled from the public square, then the state will become the church, that is, anti-Christ.
There is hope! The Word became flesh (St. John 1). He is the Word of saving truth for sinners: see St. John 8: 31-32 and John 14:6. He is the love of God incarnate as well: see John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8. There is hope but it is not of the world and it’s kingdoms but in Christ Jesus alone. Evil is perverted goodness bent in upon one’s own self, not according to the truth of God’s truth in the Scripture. When Gandalf was offered the ring of power by Bilbo for Gandalf, he said no in no uncertain terms:
It is the allure of using goodness according to the flesh. The allure of the anti-Christ is today love apart from truth, again a fleshly freedom which is actually the old slavery of sin. It looks good and remember what is written about such men:
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)
In these times, we must stand fast in God’s Word alone!
Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from your Son
And bring to nought all he has done.
Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word
By: Martin Luther