Lutheranism as the emergent church?

Set aside the pastor being a woman.  Set aside the tattoos.   Set aside the social justice stuff.  Well, you’ll have to set aside quite a bit.  But what’s striking here is that the latest star of the “emergent church” (congregations trying to reach trendy postmodernists by being trendy and postmodernist) employs traditional Lutheran theology and liturgy:

Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a dichotomy wrapped in a paradox covered in tattoos.

Creation, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost — practically the entire liturgical year — unfurl in technicolor ink from her shoulder to her wrist.

That’s just her left arm. Mary Magdalene and Lazarus rising from the dead are on the long right arm of this 6-foot-1 Christian billboard.

The 42-year-old came to Jesus later in life but then pursued a vocation in Christ full throttle. In a state where Focus on the Family and other strands of evangelical Christianity have long grabbed most headlines, a progressive Lutheran is now stealing the marquee.

On the strength of her preaching, Bolz-Weber received the invitation to sermonize Sunday at Easter sunrise services for roughly 10,000 people at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

In the few years since ordination in late 2008, she has become famous within her denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and achieved international acclaim.

She has a wide audience for her sermons and blogs, touted by the likes of progressive Christianity torch-bearer Jim Wallis. Her blog is under the heading “Sarcastic Lutheran: The cranky spirituality of a postmodern Gal. Emerging church ala Luther.” . . .

Bolz-Weber sums up her own small mission church as “a group of folks figuring out how to be liturgical, Christo-centric, social-justice oriented, queer inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient-future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination.”

Bolz-Weber makes it seem reasonable and fun to be simultaneously traditional and innovative, ancient and postmodern, devout and irreverent, brash and humble, flip and profound, and so on. . . .

While she shatters all stereotypes of Lutheran pastors, [ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark] Hanson said, she is “absolutely grounded in the heart of Lutheran theology.”

Bolz-Weber herself bristles at the notion she is a “rogue Lutheran” or that her church is niche marketing.

“I’ve never asked myself what do young adults want on church,” she said. “I’ve never tried to fill a market niche by producing a particular religious product.”

She just wanted to start a church her friends didn’t have “to commute to spiritually and culturally” from the context of their normal lives. . . .

She tried out the Unitarian Universalist Church, where they have “a high opinion of humans” that didn’t fit with her experience. People are flawed, she said.”It’s dark in there,” she said tapping her chest over her heart. “We’re all simultaneously sinners and saints. We live in response to God’s grace. Nobody’s climbing the spiritual ladder.”

She chose the Lutheran denomination, she said, “because I met this really cute guy playing volleyball.”

He’s now her husband. Matthew Weber is also a Lutheran pastor, but of a more mainline stripe. Married in 1996, the couple have two children, 10 and 12.

Bolz-Weber also fell in love with the Lutheran liturgy, she said. “The Lutheran Church is the only place that gave me language true to what I’d experienced, true to my life,” she said. “I want to give people what I got out of that.”

James Wall, a self-described coat-and-tie Episcopalian who co-founded “The Wilderness,” an emerging church within the church at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, serves as contemplative-in-residence at House for All Sinners and Saints.

“She works within a mainstream denomination, yet her congregation is nearly all young people,” Wall said. “The liturgy is traditional and sacramental, with ancient chants and traditional hymns. This is not some rock-band-led, happy-clappy church in the suburbs. And yet young, radical Christians come every Sunday.”

via Pastor turns heads by blending tradition and irreverence – The Denver Post”.

I have been critical of the emergent church movement, with its doctrinal revisionism, while saluting some of its  criticisms of American Christianity.   Emergent Christians, to their credit, want to bring back “mystery” into their beliefs and ritual into their worship, but they by-and-large reject Christian orthodoxy, which reveals the true mysteries of the faith, and they ignore the historical liturgy in favor of made-up rituals, even though the former is so much better by any standard.  They seem to be groping for the sacramental, but they lack the theology and the doctrines for a genuine sacramental spirituality.  I have often thought that Lutheranism is the true emergent church, addressing its valid concerns without falling into its mistakes.  So maybe the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is onto something.  But are postmodernists so shallow that they need so much coolness and progressive trappings  in a pastor?  Why wouldn’t a regular congregation with traditional theology, liturgy, and sacraments do just as well?

HT: David Halbrook

The Royal Wedding

The future king of England, Prince William, is getting married to the future queen, presently the commoner Catherine Middleton.  This will happen really early in the morning, American time, on Friday in Westminster Abbey.

Now Republicans believe in a republic and Democrats believe in democracy.  But do any of you still feel the primal tug of monarchy?  If you are interested in this wedding, please tell us why.

The Royal Wedding.

Atlas Shrugged, said, “whatever”

Christians sometimes sit around hoping that if we just had a hit movie that would communicate the Biblical worldview we would impact the culture and bring the secularists to Christ.  Ayn Rand fans, despite their atheism, apparently have the same fantasies.  The much-anticipated movie version of Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s novel on the virtue of selfishness, has come out.  Apparently, like other “message films,” including those about Christianity, it doesn’t really work.  So says conservative film critic Roger Simon, who then offers some specific critiques:

Regarding character, the two leads are less than paper thin. We know little of them other than their willfulness and their pro-business ideology. No much for the actors to play. This is fine for subsidiary characters but fatal in protagonists. Still, this might be okay if this were in the service of a compelling plot. But the plot of the film is worse than silly. It is politically wrong-headed. A movie about super trains in the American West in 2016? Unlike when the book was written, these days that is the very thing that Barack Obama is proposing – with government subsidies – and conservatives are currently opposing for good reason. Super trains don’t work in the Western states economically. We need better roads. But not in this movie, which seems stuck in those fifties while pretending to be 2016 (a weirdly non-technological 2016 I might add). As a business movie, it fails. The whole concept needed rethinking.

via Roger L. Simon » What Conservatives Can Learn from the Atlas Shrugged Film Fiasco.

Have any of you seen it?  Would you agree on its badness?

 

This ugly blog

Redeemed Rambling is hating on this blog, criticizing our graphic design!  This is what he says about Cranach:

Ugly. Mixed web 1.0 and 2.0 graphics give the site a weird feel. The posts and comments sometimes display wrong. Definitely a content-centric blog, but that doesn’t give it license look uglier than a newspaper.

via Redeemed Rambling: Christian Web Sites Worth Avoiding.

Mixed web 1.0 and 2.0 graphics?  (I don’t even know what that means, which is probably part of the problem.)  Weird feel?  (Maybe I’m just being emergent.)   Post and comments sometimes display wrong? (That I know, but I’ve been unable to remedy it.)  Content-centric?  (Well, yes.)  No license to look uglier than a newspaper?  (But I like the look of newspapers!)

Redeemed Rambling has white letters on a black background.  Isn’t that hard to read?  Isn’t black print on a white background better and making a statement about  being print-oriented?  And why does Redeemed Rambling have my picture in the side-bar?  That uglifies HIS site.  At least I have a great artist’s portrait here, rather than my own.  But I guess I owe it to Cranach’s memory to have a blog with some visual appeal.

At any rate, I don’t want to hurt your eyes or violate your aesthetic sensibility.  I’m sure it’s time for a complete Cranach make-over.  What do you think?  What would you suggest? 

 Help, tODD and Stewart!

A Lutheran church & school before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is taking up what some are describing as the most important religious liberty case in decades.  And it involves a Lutheran school whose church fired a called teacher.  From Notre Dame law school professor Richard Garnett:

In a nutshell, Hosanna-Tabor is a lawsuit brought by Cheryl Perich, a former teacher at a church-run Lutheran grade school who argues that the church violated a federal law against disability-based discrimination when it rescinded her “call” as a “commissioned minister” — and fired her as a third- and fourth-grade teacher, after a disability-related leave of absence.

A federal trial court in Michigan dismissed the teacher’s claim, insisting that the “ministerial” nature of her position and the religious dimensions of the church’s decision made it inappropriate to apply the anti-discrimination law. But the court of appeals disagreed and concluded that her “primary duties” — as a “commissioned minister” at a school that aims to provide a “Christ-centered education” from teachers who “integrate faith into all subjects” — were secular, and not religious.

The court gave little weight to the facts that the teacher led her students in prayer several times a day and taught religion classes four days a week, and instead simply compared the minutes she spent on religious formation with those she spent teaching “secular subjects.”

The Supreme Court should reverse this decision, and it is important to understand why.

For starters, it is well established that a “ministerial exception” to job-discrimination laws prevents secular courts from jumping into religious disputes that they lack the authority to address or the competence to solve. The question in the Hosanna-Tabor case is not so much whether the exception exists — it does, and it should — as how it should be understood and applied.

As the court of appeals recognized, this exception is “rooted in the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom.” Indeed, a religious-liberty promise that allowed governments to second-guess religious communities’ decisions about what should be their teachings or who should be their teachers would be a hollow one.

via Hosanna-Tabor case to test our church-state divide – USATODAY.com.

Frankly, I’m confused about this, both legally and theologically.  Is the church running roughshod over its own doctrine of the call, in effect demanding the religious liberty to ignore its own religious teaching?  Is the state doing what the church should be doing, in enforcing the binding nature of the call?  Would a legal win on the part of the church be a theological defeat?  Or does this legal challenge unmask the confusion between the teaching office and the pastoral ministry?  And should the state presume to define “church work” and “ministry,” denying the teacher that status because she teaches “secular” subjects?

Can anyone untangle these issues?  And does anyone know anything about the disability issues being raised?  Were there other factors in the congregation’s desire to dismiss this teacher?  (Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church is an LCMS congregation in Redford, Michigan.)  I mean, I can’t help but sympathize with the congregation being dragged before the court, but help me sort out not only the law but the theology and the church practice.

“Fairness” and “Common sense”

Two articles take apart the language of political rhetoric:

Arthur Brooks examines the way the Democrats invoke the concept of “fairness” and shows that there is more to justice than just taking from the rich: Obama says it’s only ‘fair’ to raise taxes on the rich. He’s wrong. – The Washington Post.

Then, from the other side, Sophia Rosenfeld critiques the way  Republicans are invoking the concept of “common sense”: Beware of Republicans bearing ‘common sense’

In a day when reason is widely rejected and political discourse has become reduced to manipulative rhetoric, is political debate just a matter of who gets control of the language?  Can you think of other examples of this sort of thing?


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