Resenting Christian compassion

Ross Douthat has a rather brilliant essay in which he considers whether the church is facing a new pagan society, as in the first century.  He thinks not, but he notices that some of the hostility against Christianity is very similar to the resentment against the faith expressed by pagan Romans.  He cites a recent rant in Slate complaining that so many of the doctors battling Ebola are Christians and missionaries, and calling for a separation of religion and health care.  Douthat said  this is like Julian the Apostate’s frustration that “all men see that our people lack aid” from pagan sources, even as “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well.” [Read more...]

Lutherans in exile

Carl Trueman argues that Christianity is going into a kind of cultural exile, and he tries to make the case that the church tradition best equipped to endure what awaits us is Reformed theology.  Rod Dreher counters by making the case for why his own Eastern Orthodoxy is best equipped to carry Christianity through the exile.  Roman Catholics are arguing that Roman Catholicism is.

But Mr. Dreher also called for people of other persuasions to make the case for their theological tradition.  So, naturally, we Lutherans need to step up.

What about Lutheranism makes it best equipped to preserve historic Christianity through a time of cultural exile?  After the jump, Mr. Dreher’s rules for the conversation, and my first stab at it. [Read more...]

Post-Christian vs. non-Christian

“Post-Christian” does not mean the same as “non-Christian,” observes John O’Sullivan.  A “post-Christian” society is one that seeks to maintain the cultural legacy of Christianity–such as human rights, benevolence, the institution of the family–after the religious beliefs that created and supported this legacy have been abandoned.  In their place, post-Christian societies try to substitute laws, regulations, bureaucracies, and secular ideologies, all of which fall short.

The British journalist develops these ideas in an address to the Transatlantic Christian Council in Brussels, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more...]

Secular prayer

Most legislative bodies in this country begin with a prayer, whether by an official chaplain as in the United States Congress or by visiting clergy, who are allowed to pray according to their traditions.  But in Maryland, the House of Representatives has the politicians themselves saying the prayers, according to strict guidelines that require the prayers to be inclusive and not addressed to any particular deity.  In the word of one representative, they are “secular prayers.” [Read more...]

What consenting adults do in private

“Jesus Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex did her mother.”  So said Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters in the short story “The Displaced Person.”  Sex, though, today is out in the open.  But religion, to be socially and politically acceptable, must be closeted.

The great sociologist Peter Berger (a Lutheran) surveys the array of lawsuits in the United States and Europe against open displays of Christianity.  Here is what he concludes:

In all these cases the authorities accused of violating the plaintiffs’ rights operate with a definition of religion as a private matter to be kept out of public space. . . .There is a very ideological view of the place of religion in society. In other words, religion is to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults in private. [Read more...]

Lance Armstrong in Oprah’s confessional

We Lutherans believe in confession and absolution.  That happens in every Divine Service, and, when someone is particularly troubled with a sin, the individual confesses to a pastor, who brings Christ’s forgiveness.  This is an evangelical version of what Roman Catholics do (instead of requiring acts of penance, our pastors forgive sins in terms of the Gospel).  (See John 20:21-23.)  Anglicans and Orthodox also have something similar.

In our culture, though, Oprah Winfrey is our priest, or rather priestess.  She is the one who took charge of all of our religions to organize our national worship service in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She has her index of books that we are to read. She teaches us our morality. And now she serves as confessor for one of our heroes who has fallen from grace, with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing his sin of doping on her show. [Read more...]


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