The beam in our Missouri Synod eyes

Friends, you should read the comments on Chaplain Mike’s sacrament post at Internet monk, linked above.  It’s touching how some of his evangelical readers are responding to what he is saying.

I have to say, though, that I’m kind of ashamed that some of these potential Lutherans have come to THIS blog, which Chaplain Mike links to, and are marveling about how all we Missouri Synod Lutherans can say about his joy in discovering Lutheran theology  is to castigate him for joining the ELCA!  There are comments to the effect that, I’m staying away from those LCMS types, but I might investigate the ELCA.   Thus our polemics against the ELCA turn people away from us and make the ELCA more attractive!  That’s not very effective argumentation, to make people agree more with your opponent than with you!

But there is something else that we Missouri Synod Lutherans need to face up to.  Say you are a disaffected “post-evangelical” who hears about Lutheranism.  It sounds like the kind of Christianity you are yearning for.  You are especially fed up with what passes for worship where you are now, and the sacramental spirituality that you are reading about in Lutheranism is more than compelling.  So you visit the local Missouri Synod congregation.   Isn’t it true that it is extremely likely that you will walk into a contemporary worship service with a pastor that is trying to out-evangelical the evangelicals?  You will go into an LCMS congregation looking for Lutheranism, but it may well be that you won’t find it!

I don’t know how many times I have heard about this happening, including from people who read my book Spirituality of the Cross:  The Way of the First Evangelicals.  (In fact, I know that this happened with some of you regular readers and commenters on this blog.)  So if someone finds Lutheranism in another synod–WELS, ELS, even ELCA–do we have the standing to complain?

What percentage of LCMS congregations do you think follow the historical Lutheran liturgy?  Half?  Less than half?  In some areas of the country, far less than that?   I have been in lots of Lutheran services and heard lots of sermons, not all of which distinguished Law & Gospel or even preached the Gospel.  Some of them were as therapeutic and as “theology of glory” and as “power of positive thinking” oriented as Joel Osteen.

I know these congregations all pledge allegiance to the same doctrinal standards, to the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions.   But do they really hold them in actuality?  Perhaps someone could explain to me, humble layman that I am, why, if we demand doctrinal agreement for pulpit and altar fellowship, we can commune with a congregation that exhibits no visible Lutheranism in its public teaching but simply is on the same LCMS roster.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m as supportive of the LCMS and as critical of liberal theology as anyone can be.  But to say that Chaplain Mike, in joining the ELCA, is just joining mainline liberal Protestantism is manifestly not true.  What he is finding in his congregation that he is responding to so gladly is not leftwing politics or feminism or gay marriages.  Rather, as he says, he is finding the centrality of Christ, Law & Gospel, vocation, worship, the sacraments, and the other things he is discussing in his three posts.

Now the problem with the ELCA is that many of their congregations do not concentrate on those Lutheran teachings and that our hypothetical seeker-after-Lutheranism may well not find them there either.  I would go so far as to say that he or she would be more likely to find them in the LCMS, for all of our problems, or in WELS or ELS or another conservative synod.  The problem in American Lutheranism has always been the temptation to conform to some variety of American Protestantism–whether mainline liberal (the ELCA’s temptation) or generic evangelicalism (the LCMS’s temptation)–rather than just being Lutheran.   Chaplain Mike will doubtless find that out.  In the meantime, we Lutherans need to welcome him into our tradition.  We might also think how we might welcome more like him, rather than scaring them away.

 

 

And the winner is. . .

Interesting discussions about “Manliness” in that contest we started last weekend.  As was noted in the thread, many of the virtues that were put forward could also apply to women.  Perhaps they apply to men, though,  in a distinctive way, but that way is what we are trying to get at.   There were lots of thoughtful comments.  I appreciated especially things said by sg, SKPeterson, Kirk.  I liked Helen’s point that “man” is not only the opposite of “woman,” it is also the opposite of “boy.”   Many males just never grow up, which is part of our problem today. That was the point too of that great Kipling poem.

Helen also got off a line that deserves to become a classic, in responding to FWS’s interesting comments about Adam & Eve and the curses we suffer, while trying to mitigate them.  Helen said, of Adam and Eve, respectively:  “He got the weeds.  She got him.”

But here are the runners up and the winner:

4.  Tyler (#49), with his close reading of a line from Homer’s Odyssey, quoting Telemakhos on his father Odysseus.  Both classical and apt.

3.  JunkerGeorge (#77), me being a sucker for all of those literary references, which culminated in what Pilate said of Christ:   “Ecce Homo.”  Behold the Man.   So that when we want to see what a man is, we need to behold Christ.

2. Abby (#59), with her moving and perceptive tribute to her late husband.

AND THE WINNER of  The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood (a book that would probably be good for all of us to read, so many are the confusions about the issue, so you can click on the link to buy it here) IS:

1. Joe (#35):

Seriously, I think manliness is nothing more than attempting to faithfully fulfilling your vocation as son, husband, father, etc. God has given to all men many vocations but certain of them can only be fulfilled by a man – attempting to fulfill these vocations is manliness.

As my students have learned (including those who worked on that book), whenever I ask them something that they don’t know the answer to (“What is this poem about?”  “What is the theme of this novel?”  “How can Christians influence the culture?”  “What’s the relation between faith and good works?” etc., etc.), a good guess that will be correct most of the time is “Vocation.”

But “seriously,” as Joe says, I think he nails it.  The two sentences are short, but unpack them and we’ll discover all kinds of things about manliness.  Indeed, this is basically the approach the book takes, with chapters about men at work, at the specialized calling of war, with women, with children, as citizen, with God.  Maybe my students had an influence on Mr. Bennett in the methodology of the book!  At any rate, please join me in congratulating Joe.

(If you want and if this didn’t make those of you who lost too angry, maybe we’ll have more contests like this!)

Manliness Contest update

We had lots of entries for the weekend contest for the best post on “Manliness”! And lots of different ideas on the subject, which underscores the need for the book and the prize The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood. We now  have to study the entries. Tune in tomorrow!

The Sacramone mystery solved

The Lutheran blogosphere has been in a state of disturbance since the disappearance of Anthony Sacramone.  When you go to his blog site, Strange Herring, a window comes up that says that it is available by invitation only.  Since no one has an invitation, that has provoked outrage and hurt feelings, with an inchoate fear that Mr. Sacramone has been murdered.  (Sorry, I’ve been reading Swedish mysteries.)  So it comes as something of a scoop for this blog that Mr. Sacramone in a comment came out of his self-imposed exile and explained himself.  In case you missed it, here is what he had to say:

Herr Veith:
The attention you have shown my online wares over the years is both undeserved…and much appreciated. As for Strange Herring, as you have noted, my enthusiasm waxes and wanes for it, as I question its value, even entertainment value, over the long haul. I have also mulled the possibility of re-jiggering it, making it more focused, perhaps strictly on film. In any event, I found myself inundated with some editing work and just didn’t want to think about it anymore, so I took it offline, which I now recognize was a mistake, as it seems to have offended some who thought I had made it for members only, when in fact not even I go on it (LARS! IT WAS NOTHING PERSONAL!). Also, I have been informed that FIRST THINGS is looking for a more “moderate tone,” and since I don’t do moderate, I have probably blogged my last over there. So, as soon as I can figure out how best to peddle my limited talents, I promise to reemerge.

So the message about the blog being by invitation only is just a quirk of the software, nothing personal!  So thank you, Mr. Sacramone, and we understand.  Take all the time you need, but just realize that you have lots of fans and you have an obligation to the public good.

Do what you please, of course, but I implore you in your new re-jiggering to BRING BACK LUTHER AT THE MOVIES, at least sometimes, at least as a special guest.  Your portrayal of him as if he came back to live today as a movie critic, as unlikely as that might seem, just nails the personality, the earthy spirituality, and the gusto of the great man.   That is a literary achievement of great note.

UPDATE:  Oh, man. Strange Herring is back, and Mr. Sacramone is on another roll.  He says some kind things about us here, so thanks for that, but there is much more good stuff.  I’m glad we shamed him so effectively.

North to Alaska

This weekend we head up to Alaska.  Anywhere to get away from this heat!  No, I have always loved sagas of the high seas, and had always wanted to go for a ride on a big ship.  My wife not so much, but she has always wanted to go to Alaska.  So she proposed that we celebrate our 40th anniversary (40!) on August 7 with an Alaska cruise!   How brilliant and thoughtful she is.  So we saved our pennies and made our plans, and now the time is here.  We leave Sunday and will be gone for around two weeks, with some time before and after the cruise to do a little exploring of Alaska and Canada on our own.

Don’t worry, though.  I expect to be able to keep up the blog.   The ship has Wi-Fi.   I don’t think it violates the point of a vacation to blog.  That’s not my job.  It’s my hobby.   But I reserve the right to miss a day or not post quite so much.

We go north, the rush is on.

Introducing the guest blogger, my brother

This blog is subtitled “the blog of Veith.”  It doesn’t say which Veith.  So I feel no qualms about letting my brother Jimmy do some guest blogging.  He has started reading this blog and you may recall some of his comments, some of which I have turned into regular posts.  So I think he will be a good blogger.

In many ways, we are polar opposites:   I am conservative; he is  liberal.  I am Lutheran; he is Baptist.  I am a professor; he is a lawyer.  I am a writer; he is a musician.  How much more different can anyone be?

And yet, we are also very similar:  We look exactly alike.  We have the same tastes.  We have identical senses of humor.  I would say we have the same sensibility.

So let’s see how he does.  Please welcome him.  You can argue with him, like I do, but don’t be insulting or snide or generally mean.  Part of the vocation of being a big brother is defending the little brother from people who pick on him.   The big brother can pick on him, but no one else can.  So I’ll zap comments that might hurt his feelings.  He is doing me a favor in these busy times, which I appreciate.   I hope you do too.


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