Monday, February 22, 2010

Tastes Great...Less Filling?

I wasn't going to blog about this, because it's really not my business how other people work out their salvation with fear and trembling...but it's been bugging me for almost two months now; and the guy has a public blog, so he's got to expect that what he writes will generate opinion one way or another. Anyway...
Mark Herringshaw is a pastor at North Heights Church, fka North Heights Lutheran Church, a congregation with roots in the so-called charismatic renewal movement of the 70's and that, apparently, after a kind of mutually uncomfortable gadfly existence within what's now the ELCA, finally split to do its own thing under the umbrella of the socially conservative, charismatic Alliance of Renewal Churches. A visit to its website made me think of an Assembly of God megachurch, but with Sacraments. Something like that.

 Anyway, Herringshaw is also a blogger on Beliefnet. And last month, when people's minds were on New Year's resolutions, he began a series on his blog called The Eucharist Diet.

Okay. I'll lay out my cards. I don't particularly understand or enjoy charismatic Lutherans, based on my encounters with same. So I came to Herringshaw's blog with an established negative animus. But I tried to give him a hearing. Here's what he has to say, at the beginning of his project:

Jesus said that I should hunger and thirst for righteousness, and if I do I will be filled. He said that he had food, to another kind of food, that we know nothing about. He said that while the need bread, we don't live on bread alone, but on God's words. And Jesus himself is called the "Word." We live first and last by consuming Jesus himself... He is the Eucharist. When I feed on Jesus, the inner empty places are filled. I need be a glutton for nothing but Jesus!


So I am here beginning an adventure. For the next six months I will follow this discipline and write about it. Here are my five rules for The Eucharist Diet:

1. I eat anything I want... AFTER...
2. I ask God if it is right for me... AND...
3. I ask God to bless my food so that it feeds my body... AND...
4. I ask God to feed my soul with what food cannot fulfill... AND...
5. I eat the Lord's Supper with another follower of Jesus each day.
As I read this, I thought, "Well, so far so good; not as off-the-wall as I'd suspected." I even thought it would make a good Lenten discipline, at least for anyone who has access to daily Eucharist.

But as the weeks progressed and I kept reading Herringshaw's updates, my weirdness meter kept ticking up. Was this a spiritual exercise, or a diet plan? Was there an inherent suggestion, in the updates, that some sort of correlation exists between getting on the "Eucharist plan" and losing weight? Really? Seriously?  What's the difference between that attitude, on the part of a pastor, and some poorly catechized layperson saying, "This Lent I really need to lose about 10 pounds so I can fit into my summer clothes"?

I checked out Herringshaw's website and noticed that, among other things, he seems to have a similar faith in the magickal powers of prosperity thinking.  Hmmm.

Like I said, at the end of the day how Herringshaw chooses to walk his Christian walk is nonnamybeeswax. But for me trying to conflate the Sacrament of the Altar with a personal weight-loss plan would be like...well, like conflating Holy Baptism with a candlelight bubblebath. Call me ungracious or non-Spirit-filled or a blue meanie, but...I don't get it. Maybe the rest of you do.

10 comments:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I get the willies re: churches with auditoriums and personality-pastors. But maybe I'm judging this too much, as I see that two of their pastors are leaving and they are in the process of calling more pastors.

I only followed your links for this church because I know some people who used to attend this church. These people believe in Lutheran-type baptism, but attend the Baptist church. And they come across as some of the most other-judging people I've met.

I didn't know that this church has left the ELCA, but I guess I'm not surprised. Who kicked whom out of the tent? If a church/pastor isn't within a denomination, who can pull them off stage with a hook if they get out of line?

LutheranChik said...

I think they took the initiative to break away from the ELCA -- Teh Gayz were the final straw, but I think they have issues with female pastors as well. (I note a distinct lack of obvious female leadership, and ghettoization of women, on the website.)

I think what gave ME major willies about this place, apart from this pastor, was a transcript of some of the "prophetic utterance" being submitted for evaluation...it had that stagey, fake-Bible sound about it that reminds me of New Agey types channeling angels and Ascended Masters and whatnot. Luther's Schwaermerei certainly came to mind. Not my particular cup of tea.

Mrs. Treber said...

The diet thing: it sounds a lot like Gwen Shamblin's old 80's book called Weigh Down. It uses the same principals to lose weight. It sounds fine...at first. Then you look a little deeper and the gal turns out to be a bit, shall we say for propriety, different?

Crimson Rambler said...

like the church-based aerobics class called, "Firm Believers" ... gag...

Diane said...

hey. back in the late 70s, I used to attend North Heights occasionally back in my charismatic phase. to say that they have a problem with women leaders is an understatement. looking at their website, they have gotten weirder and weirder over the years. now it seems like there are a lot of paranoid right-wing ravings.

there are some kinda-charismatic Lutheran churches here that do not have a problem with women pastors.

and the diet: what can I say? seems like magical thinking to me.

Zach Thompson said...

@LutheranChik says, "I think they took the initiative to break away from the ELCA -- Teh Gayz were the final straw, but I think they have issues with female pastors as well."
This is false. North Heights left the ELCA back in 2003. It was much bigger than just a single issue or two. The attitudes I see on this blog leave me confused, I mean shouldn't we celebrate a church that does well and worships 1000s of people. Or should we only celebrate churches that fit into our particular little theological and political construct?

LutheranChik said...

Whoa there, young Skywalker. I said nothing about the year when North Heights left; I knew it was several years ago; and I gleaned from the articles I found concerning the split that it occurred back during one of the earlier iterations of the ELCA sexuality statements. If the church's attitude toward GLBT members/leaders or toward women in church leadership were not major chuch/social-policy sticking points in this congregation's relationshp with the ELCA, then kindly explain to me, in detail, what the social issues were. (I notice a similar fuzziness on the church's website, by the way. Which is interesting, because most angry Lutherans I've ever met have no problem articulating what's eating them about their particular congregation or church body.)

Secondly: In response to your comment, "Shouldn't we celebrate a church that does well and worships thousands of people?" Not if it promotes sexism and homophobia, the prosperity gospel, etc. That would be a little like someone telling me to be happy about the Michigan Militia people running around with guns in the nearby state forest because they're patriotic Americans who say the Pledge of Allegiance before their war games. And something, just something, tells me that you wouldn't be nearly as cheery about, say, the successes of my friends' MCC or UCC congregations. But thanks for playing. Don't go away mad.

Zach Thompson said...

"And something, just something, tells me that you wouldn't be nearly as cheery about, say, the successes of my friends' MCC or UCC congregations."
Heckuva assumption there! I might not groove on their (your pals) theological point of view...but I most certainly harbor no ill will or anger toward them. I'm all for anyone or any group that helps connect people to Jesus. How 'bout you? Or, maybe this whole tolerance thing is just a one way street to you?

LutheranChik said...

And I am exhibiting "intolerance," versus disagreement, in what way, exactly?

This conversation is getting rather boring and predictable,i'n't it.

mim said...

Seems to me I can sum it up in seven words I heard decades ago: that's not a fast, that's a diet.