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The Cutting Edge: Blog of Ed Knudson
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Members of Trump's Religious Advisory Council Have Not Resigned  8/25/2017  (771)

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Public Trust: Post-truth is Pre-fascim  3/8/2017  (1024)

Martin Marty Center Publishes Column in Support of Disgraced White Nationalist, Milo Yiannopoulos  2/28/2017  (1212)

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Protestants Need a Pope  9/30/2015  (1473)

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A Reformation Pope  10/2/2013  (2317)

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Iowa Lutherans: Don't Vote for Joni Ernst

I have been watching the Senate race in Iowa with particular interest because the Republican candidate this year is a Lutheran, Joni Ernst. She is the one who engaged in uncharacteristic talk, for a Lutheran, and gained national attention about how much experience she has castrating hogs so she can go to Washington D.C. and castrate the hogs there. She wants to cut and slash the federal budget. But castration, you know, makes the future impossible for the offspring of the castrated animal. And that is what would happen to the country if more people like Joni Ernst are elected.

It is loose talk about taxes and the "bloated federal government" (a phrase she used in a debate a few days ago) that gets politicians like Ernst elected. Unfortunately, those taxes pay for programs that, if taken away, would hurt very large numbers of people in Iowa and around the country. Conservatives like Ernst don't tell people that their views will result in huge cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid programs so that older people and poor people will be suffering and dying much more than they are now.

Many older folks may vote for Ernst and then when their Medicare program goes away they will wonder what happened. Well, they voted for the wrong person. If you take away the federal money that goes into west Iowa, where Ernst is from, the whole area would wither and collapse. Just think of the federal farm subsidies; massive amounts of money goes to farmers like the Ernst family. But Joni Ernst isn't telling you about that. She wants to cut taxes but won't admit how much good federal programs do for all farmers, the middle-class, and small town folks across the country.

This is a kind of lying, of course, public lying. Joni Ernst doesn't tell the truth about taxes and budgets. I listened to her debate her opponent and whenever she was asked a question getting to more specifics she became flustered and floundered. She is a politician who has internalized the Tea Party rhetoric, but when asked to give examples of what she really means she can't do it. It is fine to be opposed to the federal government, but then you should also be very clear about what would be lost in local services.

Take the Post Office. You can oppose the federal government for high taxes, but then when the Post Office then closes down expensive small rural mail services you can't really complain. But this is what conservatives are doing all the time. They talk generally about how bad government is. But they won't admit what is totally obvious: government also does a whole lot of good in local communities.

A reporter followed Ernst around as she traveled through Iowa and tells the story here. If you read this, notice how there is almost nothing there in the whole story about any specific programs Ernst is for or against. She speaks only in generalities.

One story about the "Iowa way" describes how people help one another when something bad happens; Ernst broke down and cried in telling this. Now, this woman is running to become a United States senator. But apparently she wants to return to the pioneer days when one farmer helped another. And this is, of course, what we are all called to do, to love the neighbor. But to tell this story, and use it as a way to claim that there should be no federal programs to provide support for folks in a now complex technological society is to close one's eyes to the reality of life today. Ernst has adopted the Tea Party rhetoric, but that rhetoric has almost nothing to do with reality. No one wants high taxes but leaders have some responsibility to try to understand the facts about complex modern urban societies.

In her debate Joni Ernst said she has taught Sunday School and Confirmation in her church, a local Lutheran church. There are lots of Lutherans in Iowa. In fact, in materials I have read she likes to say religion is an important factor in her decision to become involved in politics. She refers to her faith, however, as if it is the same as the religious right, Southern Baptists and Pentecostals, which provides so much active support for the Republican Party. But Ernst's Lutheran faith (she is a member of a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my own denomination, Mamrelund Lutheran Church (ELCA) of Stanton, Iowa) is not at all like the religious right. Ernst supported a bill in the Iowa legislature, for example, which defined an embryo as a "person" which would have outlawed all abortion and most contraceptive methods. But that is not the official view of the ELCA in its statement on abortion. So Ernst is not following her own church's teaching on this question.

In fact, on a whole host of issues, from economic justice to role of government, climate change and care of creation, health care and support services for the poor, Ernst is not representing the views of her church as expressed in official statements and teachings. For Martin Luther government was very important. He believed strongly that government should curtail bad business practices, for example. Just read the Large Catechism on the commandment not to steal from others.

So Joni Ernst is not being entirely honest when she talks about the importance of her religion. She pretends to be an advocate of the religious right when her own church opposes the extremes of those religious zealots.

If any Iowa Lutherans ask my opinion about who to vote for in the Senate race this year I would say, for sure, do not vote for Joni Ernst.

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