Thursday, April 19, 2012
Dealing with the Lapsed...
I have trouble understanding Lutherans who leave for doctrinal reasons. For goodness sake we have enough Lutheran denominations that you could surely find one of them that fits your own confessional identity. You do not need to drop out. You can embrace social justice, sexual freedom, doctrinal fuzziness, and liturgical variety in the ELCA. You can flirt with evangelicalism or the more catholic Lutheran identity both within the LCMS and send you kids (if you have them) to a first class preschool or parochial school. You can enjoy a semi-Amish isolation and a more low church Sunday morning identity while also flirting with fundamentalism in WELS. You can explore the ELCA minus gays and lesbians in the NALC or LCMC (the latter with a bit more of a congregational and independent streak). For the life of me I do not know why Lutherans leave Lutheranism for doctrinal reasons -- except, perhaps, those that would conflict with infant baptism, with a choice for decision theology, or those who swim the proverbial Tiber or Bosporus. We have it all. Poor Rome and Constantinople are rather monolithic and have little latitude here. We Lutherans (I am being sarcastic here folks) have it all -- be all you wannbe with the Lutherans!
Here again, I am mystified why Lutherans would leave Lutheranism for an arrogant Pastor or a cold congregation. We have enough congregations and enough versions of Lutheranism that surely you can find one that fits your taste for personal relationships. We have those parishes where they hunt you down until you sign on the dotted line and those who insist on having you remain anonymous even when you want to be known. We have ethnic and family parishes inbred and close knit and those where share nothing in common. We have pot luck Lutherans and some with food courts on the campus. We have coffee cup Lutherans and those who prefer a Starbucks Iced Vanilla Latte and those into green tea (hot or cold). We have Lutherans who extend a hand at the door by the welcome station with greeter tag in place and those who just stare at you when you enter and wonder why on earth you came to this church. We have it all. Again, I don't get those who leave Lutheranism for reasons of personal relationship -- we got choices of service times and styles of welcome to fit every need. Don't give up on Lutheranism, test out the choices and find a Lutheranism that welcomes or ignores you with or without beverage. Believe me, it is there!
Along with worship style, we have musical choices up the ying yang. Why would anyone leave Lutheranism because they did not like the music? We have the Gregorian Chant Lutherans who believe hymns are a distraction and who insist the purest form of liturgical music is the chant, devoid of polyphonic intrusion. Often they have the smoke to back up their choice and the medieval fiddlebacks to satisfy every dark age aficionado. We have Lutheran chorale singers who believe that the organ and hymns dating from the early 1500s to the mid 1600s constitutes the best of Lutheran identity. They sing loud and fast in competition with the ever increasing volume from the organ loft. They love Bach and always stay to hear the postlude. We have generic American hymns and spirituals to satisfy every home grown taste. We have Lutherans who believe that if he didn't Luther should have written Amazing Grace, Sweet Hour of Prayer, and In the Garden. They sway gently as the Hammond and piano blend their poignant tones to lead the people in the sacrament of sentimental song. We have praise bands of every form and style from the high school musician strumming a little guitar and playing a little keyboard to the full orchestras that make Majesty or Shine, Jesus, Shine more majestic and shiny than you could ever think possible. You can dance to the beat, the lyrics are easy to learn, and the music will change from year to year as we follow the pop gospel charts.
I think you know what I am going to say here. We Lutherans have got them all. We have polo and khaki Pastors, Hawaiian shirt (even clericals) Pastors, loud sports jackets and tie Pastors, tasteful GQ type Pastors, all black suit and shirt Pastors, even cassock Pastors -- all sans clericals or with clericals (rabat, full, tab, colored shirt, etc.). We have smiling Pastors and frowning ones. We have those who love people and those who loathe people. We have jokers and those with no sense of humor at all. We have nerds and jocks and geeks and ordinary folk styles of Pastors. We have those who pray and those who play, those who chant and those who should never be allowed to sing, those with hair and those without (not to mention the comb overs), those with facial hair of all kinds and styles and those without (except for the younguns and their permanent five o'clock shadows). We have counselors who listen and advisors who direct and others you would never tell a secret or confess or unload your burdens. We have them all. So why leave Lutheranism for a Pastoral issue. Find one that fits you. You can be Lutheran and have the Pastor you want -- just shop a bit.
So there you have it. There is no reason to give up being Lutheran. Your problem is just that you have not found the right version for you. Perhaps the folks in IT could tinker with the find a church or find a church worker buttons on the web site and add in the appropriate flavor issues (trans Lutheran of course) and then you could be Lutheran forever no matter if you preferences change or the circumstances require a shift. So there is the lament of Lutheranism turned into a strength -- even a solution -- for the problem of back door losses. Instead of leaving, shuffle the deck and see what comes up -- it may fit you better!