The ex-Lutheran Republican primary

Newt Gingrich grew up Lutheran!  So did Ron Paul.  So did Michele Bachmann.  And Jon Huntsman, though a Mormon, went to a Lutheran school in Los Angeles.

That Paul and Bachmann used to be Lutherans is common knowledge, but I did not know about Gingrich.  (The article, below, says that he grew up in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, which has three ELCA congregations, not that that body existed back then.  Paul also was raised in a non-LCMS congregation, as I recall, but perhaps someone else knows the details.  Bachmann was a lifelong member of the Wisconsin Synod until very recently, when she left that church body because her opponents were making much of its teaching that the pope is the antichrist.  Paul is now a Baptist.  Gingrich left Lutheranism in college to become a Baptist and recently converted to Roman Catholicism.  Huntsman, of course, was never a Lutheran, but in any Lutheran elementary school he would have studied the Small Catechism.)

I thank my friend Aaron Lewis for alerting me to these facts and for going to the trouble to find sources for the information (below).

So what are we to make of the fact that four of the seven Republican candidates for the presidential nomination have some sort of Lutheran backgrounds?

Aaron finds a common theme:  “It could be that their proclivity for constitutionalism could go back to the ad fontes mood of the Small Catechism.”

Maybe.  On the other hand, I’m dismayed at the prospect of voting for anyone who can not be trusted to keep his or her confirmation vows!  (“Do you as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, intend to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”  That confession, by the way, is earlier defined in the rite as holding to the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and as agreeing with the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as taught in the Small Catechism as being drawn from those Scriptures.)

Probably the ELCA doesn’t use that kind of vow anymore.  I don’t know what the different churches that merged to form that body in 1988 did in the old days.  Does WELS have that confirmation promise?  We Missouri Synod Lutherans do, as does the ELS.  We don’t need to discuss again whether requiring such a life-long promise is a good practice.  But surely if someone makes that commitment, it is a commitment!  To say it is “just a ritual” or “just something we make kids do” is to beg the question:  A promise is a promise, and it is wrong to take it lightly.)

Anyway, what do you make of all of this Lutheran background of the candidates?  (To me, this is not Lutheran triumphalism but rather the opposite!)

Do you see any trace of a Lutheran influence  in any of the candidates?  Are they testimonies of the need for better catechesis than they perhaps received?  Or does this just show that Lutheranism more or less lets people have whatever politics they want?

Newt Gingrich – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

New Gingrich’s Faith Journey

Jon Huntsman–Wikipedia

Whose job is it to keep Christ in Christmas–and in sermons?

Issues, Etc. host Todd Wilkens has posted a provocative point on his Facebook page on the perennial “keep Christ in Christmas” controversies.  Since I’m one of the ten or eleven Americans not on Facebook, I’m indebted to my friend Michael O’Connor for showing it to me and for asking Todd for permission to post it here:

I don’t expect the culture to keep Christ in Christmas; that’s the church’s responsibility.

Besides, the “Christ” of culture bears no resemblance to the Christ we find in scripture. So it’s probably best that the culture leave Christ out of the holiday.

What does disturb me is that many of the Christians worried about keeping Christ in Christmas have little problem with Christ being left out of the preaching they hear the rest of the year.

“And with your spirit”

The Roman Catholic Church has changed the liturgical response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you” back to “And with your spirit.” This is a change from the more modern liturgies that had switched to the more colloquial “And also with you.”

The more modern Lutheran liturgies of the 1980s made the same change, though users of the older services–as well as Divine Service 3 of the new Lutheran Service Book–continued to say “And with your spirit.”

My question is, What exactly does that mean?

The new Catholic explanations I’ve read say that the “spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit. The greeting thus recognizes the priest as bringing the Holy Spirit with him.

But that doesn’t seem to make linguistic sense. The Lord be with the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit IS the Lord.

I think what’s happening is that the congregation is praying for the pastor–specifically, praying for his spirit, for his soul–as he, mortal that he is, becomes an instrument through whom God will act by means of His Word and sacraments.

Is that right? Or are there other meanings?

Christian groups aren’t allowed to require Christianity

Vanderbilt’s ruling that campus Christian groups may not require their leaders to be Christians would seem to violate every canon of reason, let alone the freedom of religion.   This happened awhile ago, but I noticed something about the story.  Consider this account:

Is Vanderbilt University flirting with the suppression of religion? Yes, according to Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School.

Specifically, Swain is referring to four Christian student groups being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. Carried to its full extent, it means an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group, a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.

If they remain in non-compliance, the student organizations risk being shut down.

So what’s behind this? Flashback to last fall. An openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt complained he was kicked out of a Christian fraternity. The university wouldn’t identify the fraternity, but campus newspaper the “Hustler” reported it was Beta Upsilon Chi. As a result, the school took a look at the constitutions of some 300 student groups and found about a dozen, including five religious groups to be in non-compliance with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy. All were placed on provisional status.

Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society. It ran afoul with this language from its constitution. “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.” CLS President Justin Gunter told me, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”

To that, Rev. Gretchen Person – interim director of the Office of Religious Life at Vanderbilt – responded “Vanderbilt policies do not allow this expectation/qualification for officers.” Gunter has been negotiating with the university and has taken some language out of the CLS constitution – including the requirement that Student Coordinators “should strive to exemplify Christ-like qualities.” But he says he has to draw the line at the requirement regarding Bible studies, prayer and worship.

He told me, “At the point where they’re saying we can’t have Bible studies and prayer meetings as part of our constitution – if we go beyond that – we’re compromising the very identity of who we are as Christians and the very thing we believe as religious individuals.”

Vanderbilt officials refused to be interviewed, and instead released a statement saying in part “We are committed to making our campus a welcoming environment for all of our students.” In regard to the offending student organizations, officials said they “continue to work with them to achieve compliance.”

via Professor Says Vanderbilt Suppressing Christian Student Groups Amid Shutdown Threats | Fox News.

So is Vanderbilt opposed to religion?  Not really.  It’s a Methodist-related school.   It has an Office of Religious Life.  And the person laying down the hammer on these Christian organizations is the director of that office, a minister, the Rev. Gretchen Person.  In other words, this  suppression of religion in the name of tolerance is being perpetrated not by atheists but by liberal Protestants!

Did St. Nicholas slap Arius?

Happy belated St. Nicholas Day yesterday.  A piece I wrote for WORLD a few years ago has been going around again, in which I take up the account of jolly old St. Nicholas slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea for denying Christ’s divinity.

Many historians dispute that this ever happened, and they may be right.  Still, legends have a meaning of their own, even if they leave history behind.   (Then again, it might have happened.  The alleged incident is better attested than the claim that the Bishop of Myra is currently living at the North Pole running a gift-manufacturing and delivery service.)

The point is, I have written a more thorough article on St. Nicholas for the latest Lutheran Witness, though it won’t show up online for a few months.  I discuss that article on Issues, Etc.

 

Anti-Tebow bigotry?

A lot of people just HATE Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.  And it’s because of his open Christianity.   Even other Christians sometimes squirm over his overt piety, putting John 3:16 on the patches under his eyes and kneeling down to pray after each of his numerous touchdowns.  And further confounding his critics is that, despite what would seem to be poor football technique and bad passing, he keeps leading his team to one miraculous come-from-behind last minute victory after another!

Many Christians are not that demonstrative about our faith, which is certainly legitimate.  But is there anything actually wrong with Tebow being so demonstrative about it?  And shouldn’t we cut him some slack about it?  Yes, we are to beware those who practice their piety before men, but Tebow certainly isn’t doing it to make himself look good–as might happen in another age–since it is only attracting scorn and contempt.  Shouldn’t we support him and maybe ourselves be more open about our faith than we are?

Displays of faith put Tebow in spotlight – USATODAY.com.


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