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Last Wednesday morning, Rep. John Shimkus took out a Lutheran devotional, read the day’s Bible passage and then tweeted it.
It’s a regular ritual for the Illinois Republican, who has posted biblical verses on his official Congressional Twitter and Facebook accounts for a year.
The tweets are short and to the point.
“Psalm 115:1 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake,” read Wednesday’s tweet.
Shimkus is not the first Member of Congress to talk openly about religion — lawmakers regularly quote the Bible and talk about God on the floors of the House and the Senate.
But Shimkus’ daily devotional tweets are something of a rarity in a medium better known for fiery political hyperbole or dry announcements of upcoming town hall meetings. (Not to mention the occasional scandalous photo.)
The eight-term Congressman is something of an amateur theologian. He teaches a Bible class every Sunday at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Collinsville, Ill., and closely reads the Lutheran quarterly periodical, “Portals of Prayer,” where he gets the verses for his tweets.
If he wasn’t a Congressman, he says he would probably be a teacher or clergyman.
Sitting on a brown couch in his office in Rayburn, Shimkus says he was somewhat skeptical when he began using social media last year. He had seen colleagues such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) make good use of it, but he also felt it too often chronicled relatively mundane activities, like what a Member had for lunch.
Over the past year, however, he saw social networking sites become another venue for politics, messaging and outreach.
For Shimkus, however, Twitter and Facebook are not simply ways to record his voting record and policy positions. The sites have provided the Congressman with new ways to share his faith.
Through Twitter and Facebook, he says he hopes to contribute to what he sees as a larger discussion of religion in American life and society.
It begins each morning with the devotional.
Every day, the editors of the “Portals of Prayer” highlight two passages from the Bible, typically from the Book of Psalms or the New Testament. These passages run about seven or eight verses long and are followed by a brief analysis, or meditation, on the scripture’s meaning.
Shimkus describes this daily meditation as his moment to focus on his “thought for the day” and help ground him before the hard work of legislating.
“I am a Christian by faith,” he said. “I believe in God’s role in our daily life.”