Wednesday, June 29, 2011
My Dad Was a Lutheran
With so many dads, moms, uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces and nephews Lutheran, you might think there would be more of us Lutherans. But the emphasis is on WAS Lutheran. From the comments I have received over the nearly 20 years in the South, I estimate that 60% of the people in this community have a close family member who WAS Lutheran.
But no more.
It seems that the Lutherans gravitated to Methodist churches more than any other denomination (from my own non-scientific sample). Perhaps the Lutheran penchant for moderation left them in search of a more strict method. Perhaps they had sung a gospel song that made their eyes tear up and they left in search of a place where they might hear more of them. Perhaps they were offended by the Word of God and the Pastor's insistence upon preaching the whole counsel of God's Word (a sword that cuts both ways and incites family against family if you read last Sunday's Gospel). Perhaps they got tired of going to Communion so often (or, in reality, got tired of acting so darn Catholic). Whatever the reason, there are a ton of former Lutherans out there -- even in Baptist country.
It seems that nearly as many Lutherans found refuge in a Baptist congregation (again, this is non-scientific hypothesis). Perhaps they always had issues with infant baptism and the unrealistic stress upon grace alone. Perhaps they got tired of explaining to the gazillion Baptist neighbors what a Lutheran was/is and decided to go with the flow (at least in the South). Perhaps they got bored with the same liturgy week after week and the hymns did little to perk up the pace and they sought out a place which puts on a better show (complete with Britney Spears microphones and great cd back up band). Perhaps they had aspirations for political office or were climbing the economic ladder and figured that Lutherans have no juice in the South so your dreams might require a change of religious address. Whatever the reason, there are a ton of former Lutherans out there who are fine upstanding Baptists in congregations with names like First, Hilldale, Spring Creek, Little Hope, etc...
A number of Lutherans changed because of marriage. I had never understood St. Peter and his talk of the weaker vessel until now. Lutherans, it appears, are the weaker vessel. We change to conform to our spouses religious preference (confirmation vows notwithstanding). Till death us do part comes into conflict when you pit the vows of marriage with the vows of a youth confirmed in his/her baptismal faith. A few even became Roman Catholic (but they are generally pretty quiet about that fact -- both that they were once Lutheran and that they are now Roman Catholic -- you know the South).
In the end it seems that many, perhaps most Lutherans left for no place at all. They belong to St. Mattress of the Home Church and their religious needs are met by pop gospel Christian music radio and the occasional tune in for Joel Osteen --- ohhhhhh, don't forget their half read copy of The Purpose Driven Life! As long as you can squeeze the Pledge of Allegiance in there, stand for the National Anthem, and substitute stadium ceremony for religious ritual, you can get by without much churchy stuff (if you were a Lutheran).
It seems that Lutherans have a weak grasp on what they believe so they migrate to other denominations with little trouble... OR they get tired of being the only Lutheran in the room and crave some fellowship with predominate religious groups of the region... OR they gave up and went to church with the husband/wife and let it go at that... OR they took their toys and played at home either because they did not like the people in the playground, the rules of the playground or the playground monitor (Pastor) at the Lutheran congregation... You can fill in the blank or answer the question "why," I am stuck wondering why we Lutherans have so much trouble keeping our folks. Perhaps we might tackle this one before we fill the pews with new Lutherans to replace the old -- only to follow them in the drift toward other venues... Just a thought...