Friday, January 27, 2023

But he might have said it. . .

The current pope has a track record of speaking off the cuff to questions that deserve reasoned and nuanced answers.  We have all heard the reports of his use of vulgarity, of his waffling about same sex marriage and homosexual attraction, of his disdain for nearly anything and everything that went before him, and now there is more.  Now there are reports that the pope does not consider masturbation a big deal.  Of course, it is satire and not yet fact but that is the point -- we all imagine that he could say it, that he might have said it, and that he probably will say it.  Such is the danger of loose lips.  The problem is not merely of what was said but what we all might imagine him saying.

Last I checked we Lutherans did not have a pope nor do we countenance much of what this pope says.  It is not a problem for us in particular but, given the nature of the pope's visibility and access to the media, it is a problem for us and all orthodox Christians in general.  No one knows what he might have said and no one is quite ready to put limits on what he will say.  Lacking the wisdom to know when to shut up and when to speak, this pope has set the stage for our imagination to go wild on just what he might have said or probably coulda, woulda, shoulda said.

As much as we might like to snicker, we Lutherans have our own problems in this regard.  We do not know what some of our number might say, have said, or will eventually say.  We cannot cringe at anything but, like those in Rome, can imagined those among us to say just about anything anymore.  On the one hand, this is true of simple vulgarity.  I have sat with a call committee in which a report about a name on a call list was accompanied by a parental warning -- he has a potty mouth.  Of course, in our age this is deemed to be edgy and can be a mark of someone who has their fingers on the pulse of the ages.  How sad are the lengths we go to keep us from saying that something is either inappropriate or wrong!  I myself have turned off a podcast when the f-bombs exploded the conversation of a pastor being edgy.  It is a true but pathetic wisdom that when you don't have anything to say, you shout.  There is no better way to shout than to use words the past deemed inappropriate for polite company.

Some of the edgy ones are big names -- Nadia Bolz-Weber is known for her, well, edginess.  It is hardly a virtue but some think it fits within the bounds of propriety.  I do not.  If you cannot resort to words without an expletive deleted thrown in, you don't know much about words.  If that is true for actors and folks on social media, it is even more truth for those who claim to be serving the Word made flesh.  It is not edgy to use profanity or to be vulgar -- it is just plain sinful.  It is high time that Christians call out their brothers and sisters for thinking that it is edgy to be crude and contemporary to speak like a gutter.  Once pastors earn a reputation for being edgy, it is hard not to imagine what might or could or eventually will come out of his mouth.  How sad.

It is less a reflection on the times than it is an indictment for the casual way we wear His name, the words that grace our lips, and our desire more for acceptance from those who reject the Gospel than from the Gospel Lord Himself.  By the way, congregations looking for pastors peruse those podcasts and survey the social media and scour the surface for what a candidate might have, did, or will say.  Most of the time it does not end well for the candidate.  While that is true, it is a shame we cannot agree that being vulgar and profane is unseemly for a pastor of the Church. 

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