The old saying goes: “There comes a time in everyone’s life to set aside their principles and do what’s right!”
I was the pastor of a Lutheran church in western New York state from 1968-73. One day I received a call from a couple who were not members of the church requesting an appointment. It turned out they were Catholic and their child had married a Lutheran. The Catholic couple had grown up during the time when Catholics and Lutherans didn’t get along with each other. The Catholic couple’s relationship with the young married couple was strained. The young couple had had a child, the Catholic couple’s first grandchild, and the Catholic couple were just needing encouragement to set aside that outdated Catholic-Lutheran conflict and reestablish a good relationship with the young couple, and their first grandchild. I was happy to support their desire to set aside that outdated conflict “to do what was right” for their family.
Sometimes, doing what’s right involves updating one’s principles so they’re more current and useful rather than setting them aside.
In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) of which I am a retired pastor and hospital chaplain, followed the science that sexual orientation is determined from birth and voted to ordain gay persons. Clarence H. Woolston (1856-1927) penned the children’s hymn:
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
of the world.”
To adapt that children’s hymn:
“God loves the many people
All the people of the world
L, G, B
T and Q
They are precious in God’s view.
God loves the many people
of the world. ”
The ELCA realized that homosexual persons were as capable as heterosexual people to be spiritual guides and it was time to accept LGBTQ people’s abilities.
So, if gay people meet the educational and spiritual qualifications of the ELCA, they are eligible for ordination.
Setting aside one’s principles to do what’s right also has political implications.
In Israel, the new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, formed a coalition of eight parties, left, center and right. The coalition will need to set aside some of its principles in order to govern the country. Bennett, an observant Jew, even included a small Islamist faction in the coalition. It is making history as the first Arab party to be part of an Israeli coalition.
In the United States, after the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol by Trump supporters, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney on May 3, pushed back against former President Trump’s false statement that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
In doing so, Rep. Cheney set aside the principle of party allegiance in order “to do what’s right” for our country. She set the record straight that it was a fair and honest election that the former president lost by some 8 million votes and by only getting 232 Electoral College votes of the 270 needed to win. Biden received 306 electoral college votes. Additional proof of Trump’s loss was that the court cases he filed claiming fraud were all dismissed.
Setting aside or updating one’s principles “to do what’s right” has personal, religious and political implications.
P. Michael Carlson lives in Green Valley.