Saturday, September 29, 2018

Theology or Idealogy?

Growing up it was common to say that the Episcopal Church was the Republican Party at prayer.   It was also common to say that the Roman Catholic Church was the Democratic Party at prayer.  That is no longer the case as any idiot can say.  Then it was common for people to say the same thing about the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  I am not sure that even the Republicans know who they are now so I would be highly presumptuous in suggesting that the LCMS could resolve that question for them and lead them in prayer.  As far as the Democrats go, I am not sure if they pray or what they pray for (at least the ones who insist they are still Catholic or Christian).  In effect, mainline Protestantism has become a pale echo of whatever liberal (some choose to call them progressive) political and social causes have captured the social media as well as the regular media.  Still in all, it was usually assumed that if political and social causes were a cause for disunity, the clergy and the folks in the pews were at least united in what they believe, confess, and teach about God.  Notice I said was assumed.

I read this from an English commentator:  There is greater unanimity among the bishops of the Church of England over Brexit than over the doctrine of the Eucharist.  In other words, the tide has shifted and where once churches were at least united in faith about God, they are now more likely to be of one mind about social and political causes but of many minds when it comes to God.  The United Methodists made a recent slogan of open minds as if to suggest you did not have to believe anything and could believe whatever you wanted and they would welcome you with open doors and open arms.  As we have seen, however, those open minds stop being open when it comes to questioning basic social positions and political causes like rights for gays and lesbians, same sex marriage, support for gender identity choices, abortion rights, and feminism.  Believe what you want about God, just don't say you oppose these sacred truths.

What happens to a church when agreement in faith is replaced by more or less agreement in social justice movements, individual rights to define identity and gender, the sacred choice to kill the child in the womb, the holy cause of deciding for yourself when life is no longer worth living, and the over all gender superiority of women over men?  Well, look around you.  You see what were once the giants of the American religious scene now a shadow of their former selves.  Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and ELCA Lutherans have lost more members than most churches ever had in their heyday.  Worship attendance is in major decline in these churches.  Sunday mornings will often find little talk about God from the pulpit -- except to sanction the prevailing social or political opinion of the day.  The graying of these churches is obvious.  [Once my family and I visited an ELCA congregation on a Sunday morning (no Missouri was close) and we were instantly the youngest folks there!]

Now I am certainly not saying things are hunky dory in Missouri or Wisconsin or any of the miniature alphabet soup synods of Lutheranism or even in the ACNA or Episcopal break offs or the splinter groups from other denominations.  They are not.  But I venture to say that the folks in the pews there are much more united in their confession of God and in the doctrine from His Word than they are the politics or social justice cause parading as either Gospel or morality today.  And that is how is should be.  Unity of faith is our only real cause -- unity of doctrine and practice to present to the world a solid witness of this we believe.  We may and will have different opinions and cast different votes in the ballot box but this we believe in common.  We may even have people who disagree with sacred causes (such as the pro-life cause) and yet, as a church, it is clear where we stand, captive to the Word of God.  But our social causes and our politics are not shaped by poll or trend but by the Word of God.  For good or for ill, this is how it should be.  The Christian witness has been crippled by our failure to stand together upon the creedal confession of the Triune God and it cannot be rescued by the substitution of either social or political cause.


Anonymous said...

This article sheds some general insights into Luther's ideological legacy in Germany:

Anonymous said...

When churches get into politics, they cease to be religious gatherings. Rather, they become simply political action organizations.

The only place I see for comments on political events and politicians in church is as examples of the falleness of mankind. These are some of the most glaring examples, and everyone in the pew knows about them and understands the examples immediately. When I need an example of false witness, stealing, envy, hardheartedness, etc., I use various politicians by name freely.

Continuing Anglican Priest

Anonymous said...

As an aside, my devout and extremely loyal Roman Catholic sister-in-law quietly told me she quit church due to the ongoing unresolved priest sex scandals and Rome's support for illegal immigrants to the USA...... She may go to mass "once in a blue moon," but she will not give her denomination another penny.

One can only hope that the mass exodus of people from the liberal denominations will translate into membership growth of the denominations that remain faithful to God. I realize that a lot of people will simply quit church in response (as my sister-in-law has done), but I can dream, can't I?