More breaking news from 1537!

Yesterday morning in Bible class, my pastor actually made us read Joshua Green’s piece on Michele Bachmann’s former church body and the shocking revelation that the Lutheran church body is … Lutheran. We read every word and folks young and old were snickering at some of the more egregious errors and incendiary language.

It was an informative Bible class, as they always are, and definitely the first I’ve ever been to that was solely devoted to the topic of our views on the papacy. Our pastor joked that if any of us planned to run for office, we should leave so we could still claim we’d never heard about our teaching.

One of the things that folks thought hilarious was the idea that our Lutheran views were “controversial.”

Sure, we’re totally willing to concede that our views on the papacy may have been controversial 500 years ago. Controversy, a word overused by journalists, including myself, means a prolonged public dispute. The idea that they are controversial is not born out in our day-to-day experience — except when, you know, reporters are going on the attack against a woman they loathe who used to be Lutheran. You could say we’re not buying into the manufactured outrage.

Anywho, into this mix I have to tell you may favorite headline. From the Los Angeles Times:

Michele Bachmann leaves church accused of anti-Catholic bias

I mean, we are known for not being Roman Catholic. Haven’t been since we were formally kicked out of the church ages ago, to be honest. But I am not sure what is meant by “bias.” The word means “a particular tendency or inclination, especially one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question.” But the church in question is in trouble precisely because of its doctrinal confessions — written with much consideration 500 years ago. I don’t think “bias” is the word they’re looking for.

Basically much of the media coverage is attempting to make it sound like the burden of being Lutheran was just too much for Bachmann to handle and so she fled the church Barack Obama-style. For instance, again from the Times:

Taking a page from President Obama’s political playbook, Michele Bachmann has formally left a church in Minnesota accused of holding anti-Catholic views.

Totally Obama-like. You’ll recall, I’m sure, Bachmann’s famous “Here I Stand” speech where she claimed she could no more disown the Lutheran Confessions than she could her marriage vows? You don’t? Oh, that’s because she never said it. In fact, she’d stopped going to her church years ago and only formally left after her former pastor asked what was up.

The Washington Post had that detail:

The conservative church that Michele Bachmann officially left days before launching her presidential campaign said Friday that the Minnesota congresswoman’s decision came at their request.

“The impetus came from the church,” said Joel Hochmuth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the denominational organization that includes the church. “For the pastor’s sake, he wanted to know where he stood with the family.”

Bachmann (R) had stopped attending Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church two years ago but did not formally end her membership until June 21, a date first reported by CNN. The timing raised questions because it came shortly before she formally kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, and because the church has taken controversial stands on Catholicism and homosexuality.

Boldfaces mine. First off, the word “conservative” should be used in religious situations only carefully. What does it mean? In context it might work, but this is literally the second word of the story.

Also, you’re kidding me that Lutheran views on the papacy are controversial. Again, there is no doubt that they were controversial back when Pope Leo X was in power. Where’s the controversy now? Except in the pages of papers that are normally working overtime against Catholicism and its views on abortion, euthanasia, the priesthood, marriage and social norms? And traditional Christian views on homosexuality are now “controversial,” too. How come that never works the other way? You know what word wasn’t used once in that 5500-word hagiography of Dan Savage and his support for consensual adultery that the New York Times Sunday magazine frontpaged two weeks ago? “Controversial.”

(Yes, the same Savage who just this weekend made nationally televised comments about how he wanted all Republicans “f**king dead” and had sex rage fantasies of angrily “f**king the sh*t” out of Rick Santorum and “whipping up” a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter by sodomizing him. This came after another comedian said of Michele Bachman that he’d thought about “f**king her angrily.” These things are not controversial. Not in the least.)

But the WELS is controversial. Got that? I want everyone to remember that confessional Lutherans are the new dangerous, edgy people. I have so wanted this reputation for so long and I don’t want this opportunity to be missed. We’ve been tarnished as the people of casseroles and you-betcha for too long.

But who thinks that we’re so edgy? Hard to tell. Here’s how the Post puts it:

It has been criticized in part because it holds that the Catholic pope is the Antichrist.

By whom? By noted theologianreporter Joshua Green? By 16th Century Catholics? The passive voice is really inappropriate considering how much this article is built around the claim of a controversy that presumably extends beyond the Washington Post newsroom or liberal blogs that never would have supported Bachmann in any case. I mean, I doubt that lapsed or collapsed Catholics give much of a hoot about it and I’m pretty sure that all of the more regular Mass-going Catholics I know would pick the media over the Lutherans when deciding who’s involved in a coordinated, if not vicious, campaign against their church.

But it doesn’t matter. The same outlets that celebrate consensual adultery, homosexuality and abortion are deeply suspicious of people who don’t. And they will cut you if you don’t share their doctrinal views. But don’t worry, they won’t cite 2 Thessalonians while doing it. So it’s all good.

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  • Harold

    On the US Lutheran spectrum, WELS is the most conservative. I’m not sure why saying that is controversial. Add that to Bachmann’s professional crusade against gay rights and her husbands possible ex-gay therapy, there is a controversy here. While the Catholic stuff is overblown, the press is trying to dig down into Bachmann’s religious life (which could be described as calculated) and find some answers.

  • Stephen A.

    The fact that the church’s stand on homosexuality is deemed “controversial” by the reporter speaks volumes about the reporter’s bias. That he believes being in an anti-Catholic church is controversial shows his ignorance of history, as Mollie notes.

    On the other hand (and for reporters, there should always be another hand, or more) her ownership, with her husband, of a clinic that believes that they can change a gay person into a straight one would justify that label, and that’s despite the fact that, Lady Gaga notwithstanding, there’s no evidence that one is “born that way” nor evidence that homosexuality results solely from influences of the environment. (That also is not ever fully and properly addressed by reporters. For perhaps obvious reasons.) Again as Mollie notes so well, the issue is still very much an active controversy.

    The fact that she’s been to a church that is not Catholic is not controversial, either. But the use TODAY of language used in the heat of the Reformation would indeed be seen as insensitive and controversial. Though there’s zero evidence being presented here or elsewhere that she or her pastor ever used the term “Anti-Christ” to describe the Pope or the Vatican.

  • Mollie


    Is their doctrine of ministry more conservative? (no) Is their understanding of communion more conservative? (no) Is their worship style more conservative? (no)

    What’s more conservative? This was a point my pastor made yesterday and I think it’s wise. And if some things are more conservative while other things are less conservative than US Lutherans, how do we decide whether to call them conservative or not?

    Or is it on the chief doctrines of the US media where the church is conservative? Why should we hold those as more important than what Lutherans or Christians themselves hold?

    But yes, the media definitely share the view that she is an Antichrist.

  • Elijah

    Has this turned into a Lutheran blog?

  • Dave G.

    The fact that the church’s stand on homosexuality is deemed “controversial” by the reporter speaks volumes about the reporter’s bias.

    Not always, but sometimes how a reporter uses the word ‘controversial’ in any way speaks volumes about that reporter’s bias.

  • Largebill


    It is very interesting what the fools in the media consider controversial as well as to which people/positions they don’t attach that adjective. It has reached the point where what controversial means is holding different opinion than the average journalism student.

    Separately, speaking as a Catholic, we don’t have problems with Lutherans. I have heard fellow Catholics make the argument that we owe a debt of gratitude to Martin Luther for helping the mother church reform. Obvious those reforms did not happen fast enough for Luther, but he clearly was the impetus for change.

  • Mollie

    I wish!

    Stephen A.,
    Even on that point, I have some questions. Is a clinic that helps people change their sex controversial in the media? Hardly. So why would a clinic that helps people deal with unwanted same-sex attraction be controversial? I see an inconsistency here.

    But yes, as I mentioned in the post, yesterday was the first time we ever discussed papacy (not “pope” by the way) as Antichrist and I’m sure it’s similar to Catholics not learning about the Trent canons each week either. There’s general knowledge about our disagreements, even if it’s not couched in the Reformation language that neither Lutherans nor Catholics have renounced.

  • Harold

    If she were ELCA, would you bristle if journalists called it liberal? I appreciate your pastor’s concern, but I’m not really sure his argument is convincing vis-a-vis the WELS. As a “confessional” pastor in the LCMS, it is porbably even controversial inside your own divided demonination about what is conservative.

  • Mollie


    Yeah, we generally oppose the use of political terms to describe religious distinctions or divisions. It is a long-standing discussion here.

  • SDG

    But yes, as I mentioned in the post, yesterday was the first time we ever discussed papacy (not “pope” by the way) as Antichrist and I’m sure it’s similar to Catholics not learning about the Trent canons each week either.

    This is not really parallel as the Tridentine anathemas do not apply to Lutherans today, whereas WELS’s position on the papacy applies to the office held today by Benedict XVI and adhered to by Catholics today. Sans the anathemas, the Tridentine canons are merely doctrinal statements about rejected teachings. (It may also bear noting that anathemas are not understood as consigning anyone to perdition.)

  • http://!)! Passing By

    A quick search on all this rape fantasy turned up no mainstream reports. Is it not “controversial” that comedians want to rape Republican women candidates, or, in Dan Savages’ case, a male candidate. Perhaps the media powers-that-be know that if the electorate knew about this garbage, it would rebound against them.

    BTW, I’ve rather enjoyed the stories on the other threads of Catholic/Lutheran relationships. In Texas, I’m not sure I know any Lutherans, except of the ECLA type. Certainly no WELS.

  • Chris Atwood

    It’s important not to take any of this at face value.

    The “anti-Catholic bias” charge is a piece of “religio-political sleaze” (William Safire’s term). The appropriate headline would be something like “Democratic operatives try new wedge-issue strategy to discredit Republican hopefuls” and would focus solely on questions of Joshua Green’s possible links to Democratic opposition research and whether or not this transparently political effort will actually gull Catholic voters into thinking Michelle Bachmann doesn’t like them.

  • Chris Atwood

    Oh and by the way, I can’t wait to see this headline, “Controversial head of Santorum’s church claims Protestant churches are not really churches, defends child molesters, and opposes gay marriage.”

    Oops, Catholics live in areas that generally vote Democratic.

    So this particular piece of religio-political sleaze, while just as sleazy as the other, has no relevance to any Democratic opposition research strategy and therefore will never see the light of day.

  • tmatt


    “On the US Lutheran spectrum, WELS is the most conservative.”

    Now THAT is a statement that I would affirm in a news report and I think MZ would, as well.

    And in that context I would say “liberal” works for ELCA.

    Once again, the point is accurate information ABOUT RELIGION when discussing religious groups as opposed to political groups.

    So yes to your wording. No on the vague meaningless language of the Post sentence.

  • Mollie


    I think the argument could be made that the WELS is not the most conservative when it comes to the conserving the Lutheran confessions in understanding or practice. LCMS (and other confessional groups) certainly think we’ve done better on that point than they have (or else we wouldn’t be in our given group). Making the ELCA the most liberal in that context would likely not bother either the ELCA or its critics, however.

  • Mollie

    I guess I should admit that I used the “conservative” descriptor for the WELS myself last week and was criticized for it by various Lutherans both within my synod and outside it.

  • Elijah

    Well, Mollie, if you start a blog, you can always call it “Get Luther!” and you will never lack for commenters!

    I think some of the distinctions here are important, a few are subtleties, but most are inside baseball, lost on the public and probably on a substantial percentage of the faithful. ELCA is liberal, LCMS conservative, WELS far-right, and nobody understands those whack-jobs known as the Apostolic Lutherans (which, ironically, are thriving around my parts).

  • Eric Shafer

    Mollie -

    You assert that the WELS “understanding” of Holy Communion is not more conservative than other Lutherans. Perhaps “understanding” is the key word. As an ELCA Lutheran I have been welcomed at the communion table (as a participant and/or presider) in ELCA and LCMS congregations but refused communion in WELS congregations. So, their Holy Communion practice is certainly the most restrictive (closed or close communion) of the major US Lutheran groups.

  • Grumpy

    Of Bachmann’s church, most stories state that “The denomination says on its website: “We identify the Antichrist as the papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture.”

    A salient point, I think. Why put this statement on your website unless you want to make a point of it? How many other Lutheran churches put this up on their site? Does your local United Methodist church state on its website: “We believe all non-Christians will burn in hell for eternity, based on scripture”? If they did, might it not also be thought “controversial”?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sorry to say this anti-Bachmann manufactured outrage has been picked up from the MSM and its poison spread by a number of Catholic sources, including at least two internet sites run by Catholic deacons.
    In fairness, now all Catholic candidates should be quizzed and interrogated on their attitude toward the 500 year old Spanish Inquisition and any anti-Semitic comments made by a few medieval saints.
    I am disgusted that some purportedly educated Catholics would fall for Atlantic Magazine’s clear and obvious hatchet job–especially since our Church is supposed to be pro-life and it is pro-life women politicians who have “walked the walk” in their personal lives who are habitually the MUST defeat targets for the MSM. And to dredge in the swamp of 5 centuries old nasty polemics between churches to put a candidate on the spot has got to be a new low.

  • Mollie


    Some churches don’t put any of their beliefs on their web site, or maybe a brief mission statement and a few paragraph explanation. At the other end of the spectrum are confessional Lutheran web sites that put ALL of their beliefs on their web site, no matter how big or small. Seriously, you could spend a lifetime perusing the WELS web site and never finish.

    To say that this distinction is hidden by the media reports of the WELS position is a vast understatement.

  • Martha

    “Oh and by the way, I can’t wait to see this headline, “Controversial head of Santorum’s church claims Protestant churches are not really churches, defends child molesters, and opposes gay marriage.””

    Chris, I’m pretty certain there have been headlines to that effect in many newspapers. Do you really want me to do a Google trawl for back-up?

    Mollie – does your pastor denounce the Pope from the pulpit every Sunday, and if not, why not? ;-)

    Leo X was more concerned with his pet elephant and with trying to get a political alliance to deal with the threat of the Ottoman Empire which was beginning to encroach on eastern Europe (and was feared would move west) than with Luther (he is alleged to have said “Brother Martin is a man of a very fine genius, and this outbreak the mere squabble of envious monks;” and “It is a drunken German who has written the theses; he will think differently about them when sober”), which just goes to show that the real problems lie in areas other than the ones you think are most dangerous.

    Perhaps something to think about for the media – instead of getting into a flap about how Michelle Bachmann is a forerunner of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the real Republican threat/candidate is some obscure politico that no-one is currently paying much heed to?

  • Bram

    If former Democrat Rick Perry runs for President, the headline should be:

    Rick Perry leaves political party accused of anti-Republican bias.

  • Bram

    Perhaps Bachmann’s “defense” should be this:

    “I was a WELS Lutheran for twenty years, but I never heard my Pastor scream ‘Goddamn the Pope!’ like a rabid hyena, spraying spittle on the first few rows.”

    Something analogous worked for the current President and could perhaps work for Presidents to come.

  • Ann Rodgers

    Seems to me that these publications might have to go after the Episcopal Church for anti-Catholic bias. The 39 Articles are still in the back of the prayer book, and there’s no love lost for Rome in them.

  • Grumpy

    I guess my point was that most all denominations look wacky if you examine their creeds with rational eyes. Which is why so few put them up on websites. It also makes one wonder why WELS is so up front with theirs. Unless, of course, they really, really, mean every word, and want everyone to know it.

  • Bill

    As an old ink-stained wretch of my acquaintance would growl about such pieces as Joshua Green’s, “That’s not reporting. It’s picking scabs and hoping for an infection.”

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: Leo X was more concerned with his pet elephant and with trying to get a political alliance to deal with the threat of the Ottoman Empire which was beginning to encroach on eastern Europe (and was feared would move west) than with Luther

    There are more Muslims then Lutherans, today, by a long shot. I’d say in the grand scheme of things Leo X was right.

    Re: The 39 Articles are still in the back of the prayer book, and there’s no love lost for Rome in them.

    They’re also in the section called ‘Historical Documents’, and they aren’t binding on anyone in the Episcopal Church today, laity or clergy. (I don’t know to what extent the WELS statements are binding on their members).

  • Bram

    Hector St. Clare,

    But there are more *Protestants* as opposed to Lutherans than there are Sunni Muslims of the Ottoman type — and (arguably) *half* as many Roman Catholics as there might otherwise have been had Rome been more diplomatic in 1054 and in 1517 and its aftermath.

    As for The 39 Articles, while they may not be “binding,” adherence to them is not *prohibited,* including the anti-Catholic parts.

    So The Episcopal Church would still be subject to the (bogus) charge of harboring, aiding, and abetting anti-Catholic “bigots,” in the very, very unlikely event that the MSM ever chose to launch one of its now-frequent religious witch-hunts against an Episcopalian candidate.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    I like the point you made that the news media are MUCH more critical of the Catholic Church and the Pope than Martin Luther ever was. For that matter, when a nominal Catholic like Nancy Pelosi utterly rejects her church’s teaching on abortion, isn’t SHE being anti-Catholic and anti-Papal? Where is the headline on that?

  • Jefferson

    @ Molly

    Trying to stick the purpose of this blog – critiquing press coverage of religion – let’s break down the passages you cite:

    “From the Los Angeles Times: Michele Bachmann leaves church accused of anti-Catholic bias”

    This headline is accurate. There is an accuser – Donohue – and he explicitly says (referring to the doctrine under question): “Clearly, that is anti-Catholic.” Pick your fight with Donohue on that one, not the LAT.

    “Taking a page from President Obama’s political playbook, Michele Bachmann has formally left a church in Minnesota accused of holding anti-Catholic views.”

    You’re right, she’s not like BHO yet: shortly after the President left his church he candidly explained his decision. We are still waiting for Bachmann to talk about her decision beyond asserting that a?n? ?u?n?d?i?s?c?l?o?s?e?d? ?l?o?c?a?t?i?o?n? Eagle Brook Church is closer to home.

    As for your gobsmacked disbelief that Lutheran (sic) views on the papacy are controversial I’m sorry you and others are having to find out through the M?S?M? LSM but, yes, it is. Since 1999 under the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification the ECLA and Rome have found “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.” For ECLA folks the Pope is just a bishop with whom to disagree and the Papacy is an unusually well-appointed office, not the unwitting proxy for evil in a greater cosmic war.

    Perhaps the real problem here is brand confusion? Outside of the upper Midwest when folks hear Lutheran their first point of reference is the ECLA and, in the south, LC-MS. So when folks hear “Lutheran” but get WELS they are expecting wine only to choke on water.

    As if the Bachmann problem wasn’t proof enough, I think WELS needs to hire a publicist. Molly, my vote doesn’t count but I nominate you!

  • Joe Perez

    Mollie –

    I’ve penned a rebuttal of your faux use of the word “controversial” at my blog (see URL and excerpt below).

    Best regards,



    [There] is the question of controversy: what makes something controversial, whether or not it is “manufactured outrage” or genuine, etc. Hemingway strikes me as way off base in blaming the media for “attacking a woman they loathe who used to be a Lutheran.” She how in one phrase she decries elitism and sexism and anti-religious bigotry all rolled into one!

    Here the fact is that people on the street (and, by extension, people in the blogosphere and news media) are talking about whether WELS is mainstream or extremist, tolerant or intolerant, pro-Catholic or anti-Catholic. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is among those calling WELS anti-Catholic, so it seems altogether uncontroversial for news organizations to characterize WELS beliefs as controversial.

    A dictionary definition of “controversial” is “Giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement,” which certainly fits. Hemingway is determined to defend the social respectability of her church, so she claims that something must be a “longstanding public dispute” to be controversial. Hogwash. You’d have to be dense or have a hefty axe to grind to disagree, which doesn’t seem to have stopped GetReligion in this instance.

  • Mollie


    Even if Donohue hadn’t clarified his statement, he was called by a reporter to do exactly what he does any time a reporter calls him — express outrage.

    The sudden newfound respect for this function of Donohue is interesting, but a bit unconvincing.

  • Joe Perez

    Mollie –

    It’s not just Donohue. I think if you walk into any U.S. Catholic church and ask them if they understand that Lutherans don’t follow the pope, they would be nonplussed. But ask the same person if they know that a Lutheran sect believes the pope is the Antichrist and puts a statement to that effect on its website, a good number would be offended. Bachmann wouldn’t have left WELS if she didn’t understand that reality in the pews.


  • Jefferson

    @ Mollie

    (Sorry I misspelled your name and tried to use strikethrough HTML in my previous post)

    I can’t imagine it feels good to have your church held up for public scrutiny, nor can it feel good to have your most famous contemporary congregant run away from her church just when it needs kind words.

    But as Joe has just written on his blog and I’ve written in GetReligion elsewhere WELS folks need to get it that revulsion to this “papacy as anti-Christ” thing is genuine and it’s not just the project of a lazy liberal/secular/atheist media strangely in cahoots with Bill Donohue. It’s not just Catholics who take offense to this; frankly, other Lutherans who have worked hard on ecumenical issues don’t like having their congregations dragged back into 1500s Europe through the shameless resuscitation of sectarian zombie doctrines. Based upon this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel if Catholics are not more upset about this it’s because the Lutheran-Catholic dialog has helped the USCCB understand that this WELS doctrine is a fringe opinion within Lutheranism:

    “Spokesmen for the local Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered no immediate comments on the website posting or the recent controversy surrounding the anti-Christ rhetoric.

    But a Catholic theologian and Luther scholar long active in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue suggested the WELS position is outside the mainstream of contemporary Lutheran thought.

    “The Lutheran World Federation and its 140 churches have formally distanced themselves from that epithet .?.?. which plays no role in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue today,” said Father Jared Wicks, who is theologian in residence at John Carroll University near Cleveland.

    WELS, which represents 390,000 members in the United States and Canada, does not belong to the federation.

    The anti-Christ doctrine dates to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century when Martin Luther and others attempted to reform the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy they viewed as corrupt.

    The WELS statement said the papacy fulfills the Biblical definition of anti-Christ as one who is “in place of” Christ, by asserting an authority to speak for God on Earth – at times infallibly – and holding that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

    Wicks, the Catholic theologian, said WELS is misinterpreting both the doctrine of infallibility – which he says has been asserted only once in 140 years, in reference to the assumption of Mary into heaven – and the church’s teachings on salvation.

    “Popes since the 1850s have said that salvation goes far beyond the Catholic Church,” he said.”

  • Mollie


    As my last three points probably indicate, I’m loving the scrutiny, just not the theological illiteracy that comes with most reporting on the matter. And not only was Michele Bachmann not a member of my church, I’m long on record as questioning her Lutheran bona fides, so I’m actually fine with her departure (apart from my desire that everyone be Lutheran!).

    In any case, the snippets of the article you link to look pretty good. I hadn’t even thought about how ELCA Lutherans must feel about all this press.

    It’s like the flip side of how confessional Lutherans feel when the news reports that “Lutherans” are revising doctrine on abortion or sexual orientation or justification or what not. We get to field calls from relatives and neighbors where we explain that it’s a very different Lutheran group in the news.

    I’m glad a reporter covered the situation from that perspective.

  • Elijah

    Mollie, I have to share a personal experience that I hope does not offend you. When I first attended university, like a lot of my peers I had sort of left my Lutheran congregation behind (we were an LCA church that later merged into the ELCA). At some point I felt I needed to get back to God, back with a church, so I walked the 5 miles down the road to the nearest Lutheran church (I won’t mention the synod). I wasn’t in the narthex more than 15 seconds before I was being quizzed by various members on my home congregation, personal theology, my intentions towards Communion, etc. It was like getting a theology exam before I was allowed to sit in a pew – very cold, very unwelcoming. In short, the members were “questioning [my] Lutheran bona fides”. It grated on me to such an extent that I left that church before the service and didn’t return to a Lutheran church for 7 years. And I have never gone to a Lutheran church of that synod again. Their hearts may have been in the right place, but that’s all. As members of the Body of Christ I think we need to be very careful about judging anyone’s bona fides -

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: But there are more *Protestants* as opposed to Lutherans than there are Sunni Muslims of the Ottoman type — and (arguably) *half* as many Roman Catholics as there might otherwise have been had Rome been more diplomatic in 1054 and in 1517 and its aftermath.

    I rather doubt it. Schisms and heresies (using those terms in their value-neutral sense) against the Catholic Church had been going on since the first century, and there was absolutely never a time when all Christians were united in fealty to the Bishop of Rome. All that was different in the case of 1054 and 1517 (and to some extent the Assyrian and Monophysite schisms in the fifth century) was that these two schisms _lasted_. And that probably had as much to do with demographic and geopolitical reasons as with anything else. (It’s also hard to say in advance, which religious movements will last: Manichaeanism, after all, lasted for twice as long as any Protestant movement has to date).

    The papacy might have been able to come to some sort of modus vivendi with Luther, but they certainly would never have been able to with Calvin: the only way to end Calvinism was to use military force, like they did against the Albigensians. Which they tried, and it failed.

  • Julia

    Some details of what Hector was saying – the issues that pre-occupied Pope Leo X during the era of Luther.

    Breaking news from 1529 – the Siege of Vienna:

    The Siege of Vienna in 1529 was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, to capture the city of Vienna, Austria. The siege signalled the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire’s power, the maximum extent of Ottoman expansion in central Europe, and was the result of a long-lasting rivalry with Europe. Thereafter, 150 years of bitter military tension and reciprocal attacks ensued, culminating in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, which marked the start of the Great Turkish War by European powers to remove the Ottoman presence.

    Breaking News from 1571 – the Battle of Lepanto

    The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire.
    The Victory of the Holy League prevented the Mediterranean Sea from becoming an uncontested highway for Muslim forces, protected Italy from a major Ottoman invasion, and prevented the Ottomans from advancing further into the southern flank of Europe.
    Lepanto was the last major naval battle fought almost entirely between oar-powered galleys, and has been assigned great symbolic importance since then.

    I don’t think the Protestant countries were involved in either of these epic events.

  • Julia

    Sorry – it was Martha not Hector who noted that Leo X was distracted with other matters at the time of Luther.

  • WhollyRoaminCatholic

    I wouldn’t respect any Protestant that isn’t anti-pope.

    I mean, think about it.

  • JB

    As an evangelical, I’d like to welcome you to the Legion of Controversy, Mollie. Yes, I know, I know. You Lutherans thought you were the very definition of “mainstream.” White bread, boring, humdrum, middle America. But you’ve got to understand: To large swaths of the American Ruling Class elites (those in the alliance of media, academia, the arts and politics) you are the greatest threat posed to the world today. Why? Well, because you actually BELIEVE the stuff you claim to believe. In particular, if you believe that God is real, that the Bible is what it purports to be, that humanity suffers from sin (and that the practice of homosexuality is, as the Bible declares, a sin), and is in need of a Savior, then YOU are a threat – not just to their agenda, but to the entirety of civilization. You are anti-science, a bigot, a homophobe, and likely, a racist, as well, so blinded by your “hate” that you don’t even realize how right “they” are. So as someone who has been on the receiving end of this attitude for years while many in the “mainstream” sat quietly by and said nothing, let me advise you that the game has shifted and you are no longer in the stands, but on the field, itself, as ready a target as anyone else of faith. Welcome to the circus.

  • Grumpy

    “WELS holds to the historic Lutheran position that the Roman Catholic papacy fits the biblical characteristics of the Antichrist.”

    From the horse’s mouth, and proud of it.


  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Thanks, Mollie! Great article. Not sure the “lamestream press” will get the irony, but it is so richly administered.

  • MJBubba

    Regarding distinctions between “Evangelicals” and Lutherans, the word ‘evangelical’ is a problem for the press, as has been noted a few times at GetReligion. As a confessional Lutheran, sometimes I qualify as an Evangelical, and sometimes I don’t, depending on the circumstances of the usage in context. This is a nuance that goes completely over the heads of the no-religion reporters on the political beat.
    I agree with Mollie about Michelle Bachman. I first heard of her in the context of the 2010 campaigning, and noticed right away that she spoke to tea party rallies using language drawn from the Evangelical independent Bible-church experience. She never sounded Lutheran to me, so officially dropping off the Wisconsin Synod rolls is just a clarification for all of those media folk who were describing her as a Lutheran right up until last month.

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Headline you’ll never say:

    “Male gay activist says he wants to savagely rape Catholic Presidential candidate.”

    Calling the Pope “the antichrist” is controversial. Announcing to the world that you want to savagely rape a member of the Pope’s church, priceless. …

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Great title, Mollie :-)

  • Stephen A.

    Grumpy: Someone saying they want to rape someone is NEVER a “joke.” Is it? Why the pass for that particular person, and not another?

  • Grumpy


    “Someone saying they want to rape someone is NEVER a joke. Is it?” Of course it can be. One made in bad taste, but never the less, a joke (i.e. insincere). No one takes it as an actual threat.

    On the other hand, Sen. Santorum has stated on the record, and in all sincerity, support for laws criminalizing homosexuality and homosexuals like Mr. Savage.

    In any case, my reply to T.A.’s comment appears to have been deleted, so I guess that’s that. Odd.

  • John L Hoh Jr

    LC-MS also has a statement of the Antichrist on its web site. To be honest, it doesn’t come up often in Bible studies. I have never made mention of that in sermons. Often what is meant is the *office* of the papacy and what it become, *not* the person who is pope at any given time. If anything I focus as the Apostle John did in his forst epistle: “Beware of the spirit of antichrist”. That is anything that detracts from the full and complete atonement of Christ for all sin, from pope to pauper.

    WELS response from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • T. R. Halvorson

    It’s simple divide and conquer strategy. Politically, there is quite an overlap of views between confessional Roman Catholics and confessional Lutherans. On religion, not so much. But on politics, still quite a bit. Do the Leftists in journalism see a need to divide political allies if they can. I doubt confessional Roman Catholics or confessional Lutherans will fall for this.

  • MJBubba

    I discussed this with a Roman Catholic friend, and we agreed that we enjoy our arguments over interpretation of Scripture, and we both view the mass media as a common enemy. The MSM promote relativism and the “culture of death,” to such an extent that we constantly struggle to teach our values to our children because we are constantly undermined by the messages they get from the media. Our Catholic/Lutheran doctrinal disagreements are small compared to the large body of orthodox Christianity we agree on (we both answer the TMatt Trio with the same responses).

  • Grumpy

    “Our Catholic/Lutheran doctrinal disagreements are small compared to the large body of orthodox Christianity we agree on”

    Or as Bart Simpson said: “It’s all Christianity people! The stupid little differences are nothing compared to the big stupid similarities!”.