Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Guerilla Warfare. . .
Lest we think Francis is alone in this, it is the customary way things are done everywhere from the halls of power in Washington, DC, to other churches without popes and even in congregations. Is there a pastor alive who has not been pulled aside and warned that people are not happy or people do not like the way he does this or that or even that there are people who will leave if the pastor does not stop doing this or start doing that???? None of these people are ever named. If they do exist, they insist upon the cover of anonymity and never directly question or attack. You name the denomination or the region of the country and you will find the same modus operandi at work. People are unhappy, Pastor, no, not me but others and this is what they are saying. . .
It happens on the larger scale as well. Instead of directly confronting the issues, too much happens with little skirmishes over smaller issues -- even though we all know that this is not about the little thing but the little thing is a substitute for the big one. People find it easier to whisper behind closed doors than to publicly address big topics that often need to be addressed. Conventions pass the same boiler plate resolutions that pass by large margins reaffirming what we have believed, taught, confessed, and practiced in the past but all the while things are being challenged and changed. Not through the front door but in the back yards across the nation.
Straw men are erected to battle, positions are characterized in ways that people do not even recognize themselves or their stances, and weasel words are used -- the kind that say one thing but can mean whatever you choose them to mean. Yes, we do have Alice in Wonderlands who insist that words mean only what we say they mean, nothing more or less. Social media has only amplified this problem. We see it in tweets from presidents and their critics. We also see it from those who claim to be above that kind of thing. I am sure people will accuse me of doing the same thing.
The point is this. There are things we should be talking about but we don't. There should be frank and blunt conversations going on when we have differing opinions or hold different positions. Real disagreement is never a problem when we face it head on, when people of good will sit down to hammer out their disagreements or admit that they no longer believe or teach or hold the same. When we sit down and talk about these things openly, unity is not damaged but potentially strengthened. When we don't, conflict flourishes and division increases. It is the poisoned fruit of guerilla warfare. Maybe other places we can get away with it. Not in the Church. Not in congregations. What enters by the back door almost always is impossible to confront -- until it is too late and the damage is done. What we face up front can even strengthen us as people and as the Church.
No, I am not facing a serious issue in my parish. No, I do not think the good ship Missouri is floundering. But we all have a lot of rough water ahead unless we figure out how to sit down and own up to what we say and what we mean and to be accountable by Scripture and our Confessions. Of course, that does not quite work in Rome. . . but then, again, that is not my problem. Missouri is. Lutheranism is. 500 years and passing or not. Luther begged for a Council, even an honest conversation that was more than one word (revoco). When the Lutherans sat down to say what they did believe, teach, and confess, we produced an admirable and clear document, the Augsburg Confession. I would like to think that if we sat down and conversed openly and honestly again, things might just have the same result. But then again, I am a hopeless romantic who always wants to see a happy ending.