Saturday, January 28, 2012

Libertarians. . . and the Liturgy

I have thought for a while about the words Ron Paul spoke after his second place finish in New Hampshire.  The more I think about them, the more I see his appeal.  He has tapped the libertarian strain of Republicanism and that accounts for part of his success so far but he has also addressed the larger group of libertarians who resent government intrusion and even existence except where absolutely essential.  These are a combination of the old style freedom lovers and the youth who believe that they should all be free do what what they want so long as they do not hurt anybody else.  Freedom is the ultimate, even the only just case in their eyes.  Whether you agree with him or not, he is passionate to the point of challenging almost every mainstream political opinion.  Some evangelicals are drawn to him but they must certainly recognize that he will not advance the cause of a Christian America which some seek so desperately. 

Although you would hardly know it from their European roots, some, perhaps many, Lutherans are drawn to libertarianism.  They believe that any "church" beyond the congregation should be as small, as weak, and  as powerless as possible.  They want a Synodical structure which advises but only with the consent and approval of the advised.  They abhor rules (except the ones that might enshrine their own cause).  They instinctively resist the idea that St. Louis might have anything worthwhile to offer and they resent the money that goes there, sure that most of it must be wasted or squandered in some way.  As Garrison Keillor says, "downsizing" is the best option for church in general and structures above the congregation in particular.

They are especially libertarian about liturgical matters.  They would like it if we would all agree on our own to worship with just enough liturgy and ceremony to satisfy Lutheran identity but resist instinctively the idea that any Pastor or any congregation might be asked or told to do something this way or that.  So even when they agree in principle with rubrics, they disagree with the general idea of a rule that must or should always be followed.

It is my opinion that this libertarianism is about as strong as confessionalism -- and may exists side by side in the same individuals.  For this reason, it is doubtful that Missouri will ever resolve her liturgical diversity with rules or rubrics.  Because of this, it is doubtful that Missouri will ever find any hint of liturgical uniformity or unity -- given that all the arguments for such are and have been fairly consistently made over the last half century for sure, perhaps since the Great Reformation itself.

First of all I am NOT saying that a boat trip to Rome or Constantinople is the logical resolution of this dilemma.  I have nothing of the sort in mind and would discourage those who might see a ferry ride as a panacea to solve the problems they have found in Lutheranism.  But I am saying that the battle will rage without relenting for as long as Lutherans exists, for as long as Lutherans are inflicted with self-doubt about who they are or what the liturgical form of our confessional identity is or should be, and for as long as Synodical structures like Missouri's remain the norm (rules without teeth and teeth without rules or legitimacy to bite). 

So, we have and we will make progress but only through catechesis and training.  Any incremental change will come generationally and not by act of convention or red letter in the hymnal.  The pace of real change will be slow and the temptations and technology is face paced.  I will not see much positive change in Lutheran liturgical identity and practice in my lifetime.  Maybe you will.  If you accept this, then it takes some of the great frustration about the pace and progress of liturgical renewal among Lutherans (that is, renewal in the sense of recovery and not evolutionary change).  If you think I am wrong, I would love to know (it has never stopped you before) and if you think I am right, are you prepared to hang in there for the long haul?


Pastor Harvey S. Mozolak said...

Pastor Peters,
After 27 years in one parish, yes. One small instance-- many folks who have seen me reverence, show reverence and sign myself, now do so without ever being asked or even taught to do so liturgically. It is a small thing, but emulation is one of the best teachers. And when folks talk about the their next pastor and they are interviewing presently, the liturgical bent, care and reverence of potential pastors is something talked about quite openly in their consideratios and evaluations. There is open fear of unsacred sloppiness and contemporary casualness. Harvey Mozolak

Anonymous said...

I think you're right in regards to the pace of change in a confessional Lutheran liturgical direction. However, we see in our own lifetimes, how fast the pace of change is in the other direction. In just one generation many Lutheran congregations have lost much of the liturigical/hymnic heritage which they inherited. There are various reasons for the loss, but certainly libertarianism plays a large role, under the guise, too often, of a pseudo idea of Christian freedom.

Pastor Thomas Rank
Scarville, Iowa

Anonymous said...

The correct term is adiaphora, when
parishes make decisions on liturgical
matters that are neither commanded
or forbidden in Holy Scripture.

The confessional element in the LCMS
often overplays their hand in
trying to make a liturgical state-
ment. With the freedom of the Gospel
we can avoid the legalistic whims
of the high church enthusiasts.

Anonymous said...

Why is it when one wishes to use the historic liturgy and ceremonies that one is charged with trying to make a "statement" and following "legalistic whims" and following "high church enthusiasts", but when when one throws out the liturgy and apes the heterodox practices of various American Evangelical and megachurches, this is simply Christian freedom and the freedom of the Gospel?
--Bill H.

Anonymous said...

Just teach it, do it, and don't track the progress, whether it is slow or fast. Lead by example. Remain faithful. Don't sweat it. And, above all, don't sway, weave, or bob in the wind, but always follow God's Word and our Lutheran Confessions, as practiced in our service books. Thank God for faithful pastors who are true leaders of the flock, not liturgical wimps.

Anonymous said...

Because that's how liberalism operates: Divide and conquer by labeling and villifying one's opponents, while maintaining an equally rigid and unyielding mindset to one's own liberal agenda.

Anonymous said...

Leiturgia Divina adiaphora non est.

Terry Maher said...

The problem isn't that it's adiaphora, the problem is that nobody knows what in the hell an adiaphoron is.

"adiaphora" is a concept borrowed from Stoic philosophy. It is not Greek for "whatever" or "do what you like" or "it doesn't matter". Not even in Stoic philosophy. Not to mention, "Christian freedom" doesn't mean that either.

Michael G said...

For many of us political libertarians (even market anarchists), it is not about individualism. It is about the rule of law. Once the Constitution was adopted, we expect everyone will follow it. If you don't follow the Constitution, you should either be corrected, or be punished for your willful neglect or crimes.

As for the liturgy, it follows the rule of faith: what you believe, you pray. It, again, has nothing to do with individualism, or adiaphora. If you don't follow the rule of faith (worship as a Lutheran), you should be corrected.

Does this make sense?

Anonymous said...

Are you familiar w/ Father Hollywood or Pastor Heath Curtis, both LCMS pastors? I'm concerned that you confuse libertarianism w/ egalitarianism. Both aforementioned pastors could easily answer your questions concerning libertarianism.

Anonymous said...

The little rural parish in Minnesota
that uses the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal
and worships from their heart without
the smells and bells is still
Lutheran. Their pastor wears the
Geneva gown but preaches a dynamic
sermon of Law and Gospel is still

Terry Maher said...

I wonder if I could get to that little parish in MN from Omaha for Sunday worship. Sounds great!