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By Martin Otto Zimmann Perspective Beware OF THE Clarence Darrow, arguably one of the most


famous attorneys in the 20th century, wrote an article for Esquire titled “How to pick a jury.” Here’s my favorite quote: “Beware of the Lutherans, especially the Scandinavians; they are almost always sure to convict. Either a Lutheran or a Scandinavian is unsafe, but if both in one, plead your client guilty and go down the docket.” Darrow also rants about people who are rich,


poor, Irish, English, German, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, Universalist, Congregationalist, Jewish, agnostic, prohibitionist, Christian Scientist, men who laugh and, finally, women (who at this point in history had only recently gained entrance to the jury box). His wit was rapier sharp and though the words


seem quaint and humorous today, his assessment regarding people of faith was withering and reductive then. In this election year, we’re in the jury box once


again, being asked as citizens to choose our next batch of public servants. As Lutherans, we rightly rail against the idea of the church hierarchy instructing us how to vote. It’s in poor taste and unconstitutional (and merits the loss of our tax- exempt status). As a pastor of seemingly good conscience, I find


myself in the position of bringing the gospel to bear on our discernment process without actually endorsing a candidate. I have a favorite, of course,


Photo: David Joel Lutherans:


but I would betray the covenant of my ordination if I were to share this opinion from the pulpit. Once in a great while, however, a candidate comes


along who manages to strike a nerve among people, using rhetoric that maligns others and categorizes people according to issues of race, nationality, religion and so forth. Our temptation is to dismiss or ridicule the candidate and his or her supporters, which lowers us to their reductionist standards. This year’s election process has such a candidate.


Like Darrow, he freely shares his opinions about others, painting them with a painfully broad brush, reducing them to the worst possible stereotypes. Years from now, history will probably paint him as a showman whose charisma and vapid policy points could whip crowds into a frenzy. His words will seem quaint, even humorous. Today, they are nothing short of incendiary. As a pastor it’s not for me to tell people how to


vote, but what about candidates who stir up hate and fear, directly contradicting the message of our Lord Jesus Christ? The church is called to refute those movements


that seek to harm others. Jesus shows us time after time that he stands in solidarity with the outcasts and the disenfranchised. Being the church is about being called to discern, witness and act appropriately when the rhetoric of fear threatens to stifle the good news of God’s reign, whether in the voting booth or in backyard conversations with our neighbor. Our


Called to prayer: For resources to help us heed our call to conversation and prayer around our role as U.S. residents and as people of faith in ensuring our election systems promote dignity and respect for all, visit elca.org/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/ELCAVotes.


26 MAY 2016


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