Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Uninformed is not the same as unintelligent...
If we publish the Apocrypha, we must be careful to plaster "NOT THE BIBLE" on every page and set up the pages to look radically different than, say, The Lutheran Study Bible OR the laity will be confused and mistake words for The Word. If we use the word "catholic" in the creed, the lay folk will be confused and think ROMAN Catholic since they cannot make a finer distinction such as the small "c" and big "C" and what it means. I could go on and post some things from the comments section of this blog. You get the point.
Many have made the same point about people outside the church and how we must not confuse them with ritual or liturgy and the like. Everything in worship must be absolutely clear and drawn from the secular world in which these people live or we will turn them off simply by virtue of a different vocabulary, musical style, liturgical culture, etc.
I am offended by such thinking. Far from being protective of the laity and having their best interests at heart, I believe it is demeaning and disrespectful. The folks in the pew are not stupid, just untaught. They are not unintelligent, just uniformed. The point is not to reduce everything in church to its simplest form or words but to engage and teach the lay folks to hear and discern the Word of God, the Gospel, the music and culture of the Church.
People may sometimes be lazy but that is because we treat them like children. The Church has become like the helicopter parent who does the kid's homework, fights all the kid's battles for them, and makes every decision for them (lest they make a mistake). I require those being confirmed to visit a non-Lutheran church for worship and to complete a survey form about what they can discern of that congregation's faith and practice. One family informed me that on a visit to a local contemporary worship Baptist congregation, the kids complained that the minister and worship leaders "did everything for us" and that there "was nothing left for us to do" but watch and listen. In other words, they "got" it; they missed the liturgy and the hymns. They felt cheated because either they were not smart enough or good enough to really participate.
Our people (and our children) are not stupid. They interact with all sorts of technology all day long. They manage households and budgets. They work in all sorts of intensive environments (from saving lives to building houses to manufacturing goods to repairing our broken technology to high finance). They tune into cable news 24/7. They write blogs and order things on line. They make countless decisions every day. They can handle getting into the Bible if we teach them... They can handle their part of the liturgy if we teach them... They don't need to be spoon fed; they need to be taught the faith. We need to equip them to fulfill their baptismal calling of worship, witness, prayer, mercy, and service. We do not need to dummy down Bible study or the Divine Service. We need to teach, catechize, equip, and expect them to learn, grow, and become discerning of the things of God, the voice of His Word, and the work of the Kingdom.
Part of the reason our church body is in such a fine mess is that we have dulled the senses of our people by failing to teach them or by implying they will not understand or get it. Without instruction in the liturgy, they accept pale imitations for the real thing... without instruction in God's Word, they cannot distinguish the voice of the wolves from the Shepherd... without instruction in the catechism, they do not know what we believe, teach, and confess as Lutheran Christians nor are they able to differentiate what we claim is the proper understanding of God's Word from one that is not faithful to Scripture...
Sometimes those within the Church's leadership act like the politicians in Washington who tell us what we say to them in polls because they believe we are either too stupid or too distracted to handle the nuances and depths of the real problems facing our nation. That has got to stop. On this blog I try NOT to do that but to engage people on the depth of the meaning and understanding of what it means to be faithful Lutheran Christian. We do not need a religion for dummies which turns God's Word into Scripture Lite or the Divine Service into worship lite. We need the real thing. Period. I have every confidence in our people in the pew as long as we engage them faithfully in the depth of God's Word and our Lutheran Confessions. Only then will they be equipped to fulfill their important role of discernment as hearers of the Word and their rightful place as doers of that Word.