Lutheran Anglicans

I met an Anglican priest the other day who, it turns out, was a big fan of Spirituality of the Cross and my other “Lutheran” books.  As I talked with him, I was astonished at how much he was into Lutheranism.  He explained that there is currently a strain in Anglicanism that is seeking to recover its Lutheran roots.

He said Anglicanism generally has had four theological strains:  (1) The mainline Protestantism of the Episcopal Church in America; (2) Anglo-Catholicism; (3) low church evangelicalism, which is often distinctly Reformed; (4) the charismatic movement.

But now, he says, a number of  Anglicans, especially young theologians, are rediscovering Luther, who was a major influence on the founders of Anglicanism, especially Thomas Cranmer.   They are finding that it is possible to be both sacramental and evangelical, liturgical and Biblical.  Above all, they are discovering that the Gospel as Luther understood it–radical, liberating–speaks powerfully to our own times and to the specific struggles of both Christians and non-Christians today.

The main force in this movement of Lutheran Anglicans or Anglican Lutherans is the Mockingbird Ministry, run by David Zahl and friends, whose main presence is the blog known as Mockingbird.  (Read the FAQ for why it’s called that.)  I have been reading and linking to it without realizing its role in a movement.  It’s a brilliant website, in both design and content.  Much of it is taken up with commentary on music, film, literature, and the culture as a whole.  But it’s also full of discussions of the distinction between Law & Gospel and the Theology of the Cross vs. the Theology of Glory.

It draws on ELCA theologians who are still Lutheran, such as Stephen Paulson and Gerhard Forde (who inspires a regular feature called “Forde Friday”), but also Missouri Synod stalwarts such as C. F. W. Walther and Rod Rosenbladt (who is called “our hero” and a formative influence).

And the design and tone are very cool and cutting-edged, not stodgy but young, sophisticated, even avant garde.

I’m not saying it’s all completely on target or could in every instance pass Missouri Synod doctrinal review–a recent post quotes Rudolph Bultmann, though one in which the liberal theologian sounds Lutheran–but it’s a good site to visit.

And it’s a challenge to us Lutheran Lutherans to remind us that, even as some of our own churches play it down, outsiders are finding our theology compelling.


The actual crisis in America

Peggy Noonan cuts to the heart:

People in politics talk about the right track/wrong track numbers as an indicator of public mood. This week Gallup had a poll showing only 24% of Americans feel we’re on the right track as a nation. That’s a historic low. Political professionals tend, understandably, to think it’s all about the economy—unemployment, foreclosures, we’re going in the wrong direction. I’ve long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it’s also about our culture, or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture.

Now I’d go a step beyond that. I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.

Every story that has broken through the past few weeks has been about who we are as a people. And they are all disturbing.

She then runs down the list:  The GSA scandal, the Secret Service scandal, the soldiers posing with body parts scandal, the YouTubes of the tourist getting beaten in Baltimore while passersby laugh and the woman crying as she’s being felt up by the TSA.

In isolation, these stories may sound like the usual sins and scandals, but in the aggregate they seem like something more disturbing, more laden with implication, don’t they? And again, these are only from the past week.

The leveling or deterioration of public behavior has got to be worrying people who have enough years on them to judge with some perspective.

Something seems to be going terribly wrong.

via America’s Crisis of Character –

Could it be cultural breakdown, a state in which there is no longer a sense of community that exerts any kind of social pressure to do what is right?

What do you think?  And is there any way to restore a sense of civilization and character?  (Politics will clearly not do that, since it provides so many more examples of this crisis of character.)

HT:  Doug Reynolds

Springsteen on Hank Williams

David Browder quotes from a keynote speech Bruce Springsteen made at the SXSW shindig in Austin in which he gives his reflections on the great Hank Williams and the music of his tradition:

I remember sitting in my little apartment, listening to Hank Williams Greatest Hits over and over. And I was trying to crack his code because at first it just didn’t sound good to me. It just sounded cranky and old-fashioned…with that hard country voice. With that austere instrumentation. But slowly, slowly my ears became accustomed to its beautiful simplicity and its darkness and depth. And Hank Williams went from archival to alive for me before my, before my very eyes. And I lived, I lived on that for awhile in the late ’70s.

One thing it rarely was…it was rarely politically angry, it was rarely politically critical. And I realized that fatalism had a toxic element. If rock ‘n roll was a seven-day weekend, country was Saturday night hell-raising, followed by heavy Sunday coming down. Guilt, guilt, guilt. I [fracked] up, oh my God. But, as the song says, would you take another chance on me? That was country. Country seemed not to question why, it seemed like it was about doing then dying, screwing then crying, boozing then trying. And as Jerry Lee Lewis, the living, breathing personification of both rock and country, said, “I’ve fallen to the bottom and I’m working my way down.”

via Who Put That Hole in My Bucket? The Difference Between Bruce Springsteen and Hank Williams | Mockingbird.

Yes!  Exactly!  Bruce didn’t quite understand it, but Browder does, going on to name what it is about Hank Williams that is so compelling:  The backdrop of Christianity and the agonizing struggle between sin and grace.


Should churches push contraceptives to their singles?

An evangelical conclave has recommended that churches encourage their single members to take contraceptives as a way to cut down on Christians getting abortions:

Two weeks ago, younger evangelical leaders gathered in Washington D.C. to reflect about the shape Christianity should take in the world. Q, the conference hosted by Gabe Lyons, is one of the more interesting spots in the evangelical landscape. Self-conscious in its cultural (which is to say, not political) orientation, conference attendees are an interesting cross-section of the evangelical world. Some might be emergent, others might be Reformed, but no one talks much about all that. It’s concern about social issues, rather than distinctive theological ones, that attendees seem to gather around.

In a breathtaking moment of unity, however, conference attendees affirmed that churches should advocate for contraceptives for the single people in their midst. After a panel discussion on the best ways to reduce abortions in the church (tacit answer: contraception), an instant poll put the question to attendees: “Do you believe churches should advocate contraception for their single twentysomethings?” The question is ambiguously worded (Advocate how? From the pulpit? Which twentysomethings? All of them?). But even so, 70 percent of respondents understood enough to say “yes.”

via Why Churches Shouldn’t Push Contraceptives to Their Singles | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

So if churches can’t influence their members enough to teach them to not have sex or, failing that, to not have abortions, why do they think they can influence them to use contraceptives?  That is for starters.  How else is this problematic?

“The war on terror is over”

Michael Hirsh, writing in the National Journal, in the course of a discussion of the Obama administration’s new Middle East policy quotes an unnamed State Department official as declaring that “the war on terror is over.”

The Obama administration is taking a new view of Islamist radicalism. The president realizes he has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively “moderate” Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. The Muslim Brotherhood officially renounced violence decades ago, leading then-dissident radicals such as Ayman al-Zawahiri to join al Qaida.

It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists. “The war on terror is over,” one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. “Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” In a Tuesday night update to this post, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor clarified that while the “war on terror” concept has been dropped, “we absolutely have never said our war against al Qaida is over. We are prosecuting that war at an unprecedented pace.”

The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama’s savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.

Some of the smarter hardliners on the Right, like Reuel Marc Gerecht, are coming to realize that the Arab world may find another route to democracy–through Islamism. The question is, how will this play politically at a time when Obama’s GOP rival, Mitt Romney, is painting the president as a weak accommodationist?

via Can Obama Safely Embrace Islamists? – 2012 Decoded.

Thus, the end of the war on terrorism does not mean that we can have a big celebration in Times Square, much less that we can stop getting strip searched at airports.  It means that the administration wants to cozy up to at least some jihadists, without considering them our enemies.

Wise or unwise?


Levon Helm

Levon Helm, the lead singer and drummer of the group so iconic that they just went by the name “The Band,” has died.  They were first known as Bob Dylan’s backup band, but they went off on their own and virtually invented the genre of Americana.  Their Music from Big Pink was one of my favorite albums back in the day.

Here is a fine tribute from an excellent website (the home of, shall we say, Lutheran Anglicans):  Catch a Cannonball (to Take Me on Down the Line): In Memory of Levon Helm | Mockingbird.

And here is Levon Helms singing a cut from Big Pink from 1969: