Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Love Lutheranism -- It's Just Lutherans I Can't Stand

I love humanity -- it's just people I can't stand. -- Linus VanPelt

I don't know why I've suddenly fallen under a cloud of negativity -- I mean, people, in four days I will be in Florida, reaquainting my skin with sunlight, watching God's good gift of palm trees sway in the breeze and cavorting with princesses and giant mice -- but these days it seems I encounter a spiritual buzzkill everywhere I turn.

Including the latest issue of The Lutheran . There's the usual crabby letters-to-the-editor commentary, of course, and one chuckleheaded critique of incense in church as a "pagan" practice that made me laugh. But what really disturbed me was the reader feedback for this article , about the daughter of a synodical bishop who converted to Judaism and is now studying to become a Reform rabbi.

Now, I'd love to have a rabbi in my family; partly because I need all the help I can get, and partly because I frankly like the way that Jews do Torah and do questions of ethics. But I can't believe how many respondents to the Lutheran article think that the bishop's Jewish daughter is going to be drop-kicked into H-E-Double-Hockey-Stick, and that spotlighting this unique family in anything other than a negative manner is wrong.

I know that it is human to feel rejected when someone rejects something you love. I also know that denominational attrition is a sore subject in many Lutheran homes these days as younger generations "leave the reservation." And, more importantly, this story of one family's spiritual diversity begs the question, Why Christianity? But the seeming attitude of the negative respondents seems to be rooted in what amounts to Pascal's Wager -- that if Christianity is the One True Faith, then you'd better get with the program or else.

If that's the reason we follow the Christian path -- to keep the perceived divine gun to our heads from going off -- then we're a particularly pathetic tribe of human beings. And we'd better stop patting ourselves on the back for being the ones who know all about God's love and grace.


Thoughts From Jeff said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Rhe article was a very good article.

I know that some at my church (ELCA) are upset because we are taking them (stuents) to a non-lutheran camp.

However, I think overall Lutherans rock and they are very compassionate people.

Crimson Rambler said...

"the perceived divine gun to our heads" -- I love it. Thank you!

Diane M. Roth said...

seems as if some of us haven't gotten past the ole pascal's wager (even if they haven't heard of it). Our organist is Jewish. I think he was Baptist. He goes to a conservative synagogue near where I grew up.

sigh...still, I'm not surprised.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how surprised some folks are going to be when they get to Heaven and realise God's not a member of the NRA.

Scott Alan said...

He's not?



LoieJ said...

Oh my, there will be a lot of surprises in heaven. Our pastor had the very liberal, on this issue, quote from Billy Graham in her sermon on Sunday.

Here's where I'm at: who am I to say that MY WAY of reading the scriptures and believing is God's way????

My Lutheran hasn't arrived yet, but I always read the letters first. I'm not surprised to hear that there was negative reaction. What if the daughter had become AG or something??? We had a woman Lutheran pastor become a RC nun.

revcat said...

Thanks for the reminder that the discussion is going on over at the Lutheran website. I checked your blog, then went over there. I just posted entirely too long of a post, but this is a subject near and dear to my Lutheran/Jewish heart, and I think it is great that Heidi is participating directly.

Pastor Cathy in Queens

LutheranChik said...

My pastor is in an interfaith marriage, so this is a topic that's come up in our congregation as well. (We had a couple of families leave our congregation because they couldn't handle this.) I'm really disheartened at the downright meanness and judgmentalism of some of my coreligionists, and their underlying decision-theology mindset. I'm also disappointed that more pastors and Bible-study teachers don't directly tackle the "no one comes to the Father but through me" text in John, which is so not an exclusionary, "You're off the bus" statement.

Thoughts From Jeff said...


I am new to your blog, so I am not sure if you have done it or not. But, have you done a post on the passage ? I would love to read your thoughts on the versus.

LutheranChik said...

Well, they're not just my thoughts but those of many -- including the PCUSA, who came up with a statement on salvation that I think is much more consistent with Lutheran thinking than what's being expressed by folks on the Lutheran forums.

Anyway: Going to that text in, I think, John 14, what you DON'T see written there is "No one comes to the Father except by believing X, Y and Z things about me," "No one comes to the Father except by 'making a decision for' me," etc. If we believe that Jesus' salvific work is truly a cosmic event -- a cosmic reconciliation of God's relationship with us -- and not something that's merely a matter of individuals' private faith dramas -- it's certainly possible to say that Christ enables us to "come to the Father" without insisting that only Christians have that privilege. (If Verdugo or other people in the PCUSA know are reading this -- if you could share your denominational statement, it might be helpful to Jess.)

To argue otherwise is, to me, an argument for decision theology -- placing the onus of grace on human will rather than divine will. And that's not a particularly Lutheran way of thinking.

Diane M. Roth said...


Thoughts From Jeff said...


I agree with you.

I have heard numerous people say that , you will only get to god if you come through Jesus and coming through Jesus means you have to do (and make a list)

and I just shake my head

Cecilia said...

I love this post, and the comments as well. That "decision theology" amounts to making a work out of faith. Where's the grace in that? No where. It's plain old, bootstraps, salvation by my own efforts theology.

Re: "the divine gun to our heads": Both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Pax, C.

PS: Which Presbyterian statement are you referring to? Out of curiosity.

Heidi Hoover said...

I am the bishop's daughter from The Lutheran's article. My week guest-hosting the blog over there was challenging and interesting.

You and those who have commented represent the Lutheranism I grew up with much more than many of those who posted about the article -- thank you.

Heidi Hoover

Michael Rose said...

Hi LC:

Thanks for posting. I hope the subsequent posts on the Lutheran.org comment board helped restore your faith in humanity -- quite a few people (Pastor Cathy included) showed up to offer their support.

Heidi worked very hard to remain constructive and lost a lot of sleep over that thread last week; I know she appreciates the sentiment here.

--Mike (Heidi Hoover's husband)