Swimming the Elbe

Those who convert to Catholicism are said to have “swum the Tiber,” referring to the river that runs through Rome.  Those who convert to Orthodoxy are said to have “swum the Bosphorus,” the strait in Turkey that separates Europe from Asia.  So what is a person swimming who converts to Lutheranism?  I have heard “Mississippi” for those who join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, based in St. Louis.  But Anthony Sacramone gives the definitive solution (whether he came up with it first or someone else did, I don’t know) when he refers to “paddling the Elbe.”

The Elbe river, I learned from Wikipedia, goes through Wittenberg and other important Lutheran sites, such as Torgau and Magdeburg (a Lutheran city whose whole population practically–25,000 men, women, and children–was massacred by the Catholics during the Thirty Year’s War).

Skirting the Tiber: When Catholics Convert to Evangelicalism | Strange Herring.

I suppose someone who converts to Anglicanism has swum the Thames.  A new Calvinist has swum Lake Geneva.  (Do people say these already?)  Up until recently, when the National Council of Churches lost its Manhattan headquarters, we could say that a theological liberal has swum the Hudson.  Is there a Baptist river?  A Pentecostal river?  A non-denominational river?

For other religions, we could say that a new Hindu has crossed the Ganges.  A new Mormon has swum Salt Lake.  Can you think of other swimming metaphors like this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    I suppose we could say that dispensationalists in particular (or Baptist-y Evangelicals in general) have “crossed the Trinity”, in reference to Dallas Theological Seminary (and maybe just a bit of word play).

    Pentecostals are said to “Moho lak deem a neenar zo mumba”*.

    Non-denominationals, of course, just swim in the local community creek, the one without an actual name.

    *Sorry if you don’t understand that, but it does confirm that I have an anointing.

  • Dan

    :-) Good ones tODD!

  • Matthew

    I think we can all agree that neo-Pagan pan-religionist “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual” types have swum the Styx.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    We could say of those who’ve gone over to the megachurches that they have “swum the puddle”, since the theology of those churches tends to be so shallow. (This might work also for the “spiritual but not religious” set, since they usually have so little that they actually believe.)

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    And how about “Swum the jacuzzi” for those stuck in “moralistic therapeutic deism”?

  • Tom Hering

    Atheists who were formerly Christians can be said to have swum the Wadi (empty riverbed).

  • Josh Hanson

    Going over the Rhine?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    There is a rather large church in Albuquerque (ok, it’s huge) where the state home school convention is being held this weekend. This morning I was looking at that church’s website and saw as one item in their statement of beliefs that “Man must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior to receive eternal life.”

    I’d say that people who start going to this or a similar church have swum the Fluvium Descisionem.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Its more like the new Mormon has “bobbed up and down in the Salt Lake”.
    One doesn’t really “swim” it, that crazy huge super salty lake. Its almost like it wants to spit you out again. I recently got to serve some dear folks who bobbed their whole family in the Salt Lake for a short time. Alleluia!

  • SKPeterson

    What about the swimming the Gulf of Bothnia or the Oresund for Lutherans who have departed from Lutheranism for left socialist policy priorities but still call themselves Lutheran a la the Church of Sweden (or the ELCA)?

  • http://jesusreigns.conservativeminds.org Matt C.

    First Things had an article about Roman Catholic converts who become Southern Baptists. They called it “Swimming the Cumberland,” since the Cumberland river is in Nashville, which is the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention.
    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/11/16/why-are-catholics-swimming-the-cumberland/

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I prefer the term “Knocking on Wittenberg’s Door” (in partial homage to Bob Dylan).

  • Joe

    Or in homage to Axel Rose (yeah, I just felt like picking a fight ;) ):

  • Carl Vehse

    I have heard “Mississippi” for those who join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, based in St. Louis.

    And those who leave the Missouri Synod are said to be swimming in the River des Peres.

  • Rose

    There’s a wonderful riverboat cruise of the Elbe on Grand Circle Tours: Essence of the Elbe.
    http://www.gct.com/Trips/2013/Essence-of-the-Elbe-Berlin-to-Prague-2013.aspx
    And I have the wonderful good fortune to take this trip this year.
    I hope it’s not as warm as Strasbourg, Dr. V.
    As for the non-denominational river, we all cross the Jordan.

  • http://www.thegiftoffaith.blogspot.com Miguel

    I was under the impression that Protestants didn’t swim: they walked. Anglicans walk the Canterbury trail, Lutherans walk the Wittenburg trail.

    Nobody “converts” to non-denominational generic evangelicalism, regardless of it’s level of Charismaticism: it is something people slowly and subtly drift along into, dragged along by the subtle tide of religious trends. Kind of like heresy. Find me the former Lutheran or Anglican who says, “I just read the Bible and studied church history more and discovered that there is no such thing as the means of grace!” Yeah, right. It’s more like, “look at all the cool stuff they do at the church over there! Fog machines! Their pastor is so inspirational! Every time I go there I receive emotional validation, so what they’re selling MUST be the truth!”

    But I’m not a bitter former Evangelical. :P


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