In keeping with the official teachings of the Lutheran church, Shimkus believes God has a great plan and has placed people in positions — including positions of power — to see that his will is done. As an elected official, Shimkus said he feels a strong sense of obligation to his constituents, as well as to God.
The daily devotionals he tweets help to keep his public life in perspective, he says. They remind him every day to follow the scriptures and stay close to his faith.
“It helps remind me that there are people watching,” he says.
Not everyone watching approves.
Last year, a columnist for the State Journal-Register in Springfield wrote that the use of Shimkus’ official Twitter account for biblical verses made him uneasy. The official blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued there is “no reason” for Shimkus to “use an official platform to push his religious beliefs on others.”
Shimkus argues he is not trying to convert others to his faith. He’s also not too threatened by the complaints. As a conservative in a heavily Republican district, he notes that he can speak freely about his faith.
“If you are ideologically in line [with your constituents],” he says, “it is pretty liberating.”
The Rev. Richard Shields, president of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary, says separation of church and state is a fundamental tenet of Lutheran teachings, but that does not mean religion has no role.
“Any political decisions you make should be congruent with your faith,” he said.
Shimkus’ favorite Bible verse (Ephesians 2:8-9) explains a lot about the lawmaker’s relationship with God. The verse is, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Sitting in his office, Shimkus launched into a long discussion of the theological implications of the verse, which boiled down to this: He believes people cannot be saved by good works, but only through their faith. Good works, he said, come later, as those who have been saved already feel compelled to do them.
“We want to do good work for Christ,” Shimkus says — not to earn a place in the hereafter.
Shields, too, is a fan of the verse.
“If that’s his verse, I commend him for it,” he said. “It is one of the central passages in the Bible for all Christians. If that is his favorite, I would say he understands quite a bit about it.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.