I am Lutheran. Lutheran in both senses. Dad was Lutheran because his mother was Lutheran and she was Lutheran because her grandparents were Lutheran when they got off the boat in Philadelphia. But that’s not the end of my Lutheran background–my ancestry hits Baron Jost Hans Hite (Heydt) at least twice.
But I’m not a Lutheran just because my forefathers were Lutheran. I left the church, and at 22 found myself at another church that I sensed was teaching things that were wrong, but I wasn’t sure why. So I read the Bible cover to cover trying to find out why. And in the end, I realized the Lutheran explanation of all this stuff made more sense than anyone else’s.
So here’s my take on the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s much publicized convention.The semi-underground Christian News reported the following: “MAJORITY IN THE LCMS VOTES THAT LUTHERANISM IS NOT WHAT THEY WANT IN A CHURCH – KIESCHNICK IS RE-ELECTED; OKLAHOMA D.P. DIEKELMAN ELECTED AS 1ST V.P.”
I define “Lutheranism” as a discipline that teaches people to read and interpret the Bible and not necessarily take the clergy’s word for it because the clergy can be wrong and needs those checks and balances. That’s my Lutheranism.
In my Lutheranism, God chooses us, not the other way around.
In my Lutheranism, we believe that faith without works is dead, but we teach that it’s God who does those works through us. It’s by grace that we’re saved, not those works. Works are a symptom of that disease called faith. We don’t do it ourselves! That’s what Jesus came here for, because we spent 4,000 years proving that all we could do was mess it up! In my Lutheranism, we don’t compare works and beat each other up trying to prove who’s the better Christian.
In my Lutheranism, “grace” is a simple concept: God’s riches at Christ’s expense. And that’s Lutheranism’s greatest treasure.
I may have ruffled a few feathers by not saying anything about tradition. Funny thing about tradition. It explains things that were never officially written down, and that can be a good thing. But tradition can get in the way too. The Pharisees had tradition. In spades. Jesus had some problems with them.
And I wonder sometimes too if we Lutherans might be a bit too smug. The Lutheran stereotype is someone with a whole lot of education and a whole lot of money. We’re successful, and that makes us not too eager to try out something we never thought of before, because, well, look where my way has gotten us!
There’s room for tradition and excellence in my Lutheranism. But when tradition and excellence get in the way of that last thing Jesus said before the ascension (“Go to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”), then they become a problem.
When publications like the New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch call you “The Taliban of American Christianity,” I think we have a problem.
Now, I know I don’t have as much education as some people, but when I look at the election results, I don’t see it as a majority of delegates rejecting Lutheranism. I see it as a majority of delegates rejecting the power plays and the infighting that happened after an LCMS pastor offered up a prayer in mixed company at Yankee Stadium after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
Some believed that wasn’t a very Lutheran thing to do. And some believed it wasn’t a very Lutheran thing for our president to do, approving this despicable act of praying in mixed company. Now I’m not saying that this was the motivation, but what happened next appeared to be an attempt by the president’s political opponents to bring him up on charges so they could take the presidency, since the next person in line for the presidency was one of the president’s political opponents.
It left a bitter taste in some people’s mouths.
And I think that’s why Dr. Gerald Kieschnick won re-election by a reasonably comfortable margin on the first ballot this year, and why another person much like him won the #2 slot, and other like-minded people took three of the remaining four slots.
I have one question for those of you who are Lutheran like me.
If–without changing any of your fundamental beliefs, but simply losing a label–if giving up that “Lutheran” label would cause one–just one–person to be in heaven who otherwise wouldn’t, would you do it?
No one’s asking you to do that. I’m just trying to get you to decide where your priorities sit.