Interesting article on the secret life of witches among us. If a few neighborhood cats mysteriously go missing, well, you may know why. A friend who pointed the story out to me observed: "Interesting, this Wiccan can have an altar in her home, but many Christians don’t. Now, I know that sounds moralistic, but it does offer some sad commentary on the current state of affairs of American religion." The photo here is of the Wiccan’s home altar.
As large, mainline, Western churches continue to decline, as they lose their identity and passion for their unique identity, the Christian churches of the global south press on and are growing. Here is a must read column by Michael Gerson, brought to my attention by Lutheran blogger Dr. Gene Edward Veith.
Perhaps some of you have heard that the president of the Evangelical Theology Society, Frank Beckwith, has returned to the Roman church of which he was a part earlier in his life. It’s always sad to hear about a person turning his back on the pure and sweet Gospel to exchange it for the clouded and distorted version one finds in Rome, with whom we Lutherans have so much in common and yet, precisely to the extent we do, find our differences over the heart of the Gospel so serious and so painful. Dr. Gene Edward Veith has an excellent reflection on Beckwith’s departure.
Fellow Lutheran blogger, Josh S., offers an interesting perspective on the Virgilicious video incident. What do you think? Is this incident a case of older people not understanding younger people and hence not "getting" pop culture enough to see the humor here? Here is a key point in his post that deserves further scrutiny, commentary and criticism:
Without commenting on the video, which I have not seen, all I have to say to some of the people getting really bent out of shape is: LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT POP CULTURE. I’m
reading all these comments on Paul McCain’s blog where many of the
clueless Boomers commenting clearly have no concept of what a parody
is. They don’t have a satirical bone in their bodies. And because they
know nothing about pop culture, not only do they not understand satire,
but they can’t even begin to understand it because they don’t actually know what
is being satired. For example, "Baby got Book" is just a stupid rap
song by some evangelicals trying to be hip with the kids and cheapening
the Bible…unless you’ve seen "Baby got Back" (which no Pietist has
ever seen), and then it becomes rather hilarious and something of a
self-parody. Or let’s consider the case of Eminem. He uses
cuss-language. He says some pretty violent-sounding stuff. And if you
don’t know anything about pop culture, you just think he’s an
abhorrent, gutter-scraping sensationalist. He makes you angry.
But when you know something about rap culture, about ghetto culture,
corporate music culture, and a little bit of his biography, you realize
that a lot of his stuff has these ridiculously deep layers of irony,
satire, and candid appraisal of reality. That’s why he’s had such
staying power. Sure, some of his stuff is just gross. But someone who
doesn’t know the culture can’t see that. All he can see are bad words
and violence and obscenity.
I don’t know where I’m going with
this. I guess I just think that if someone says or does something you
find really offensive, you should try to figure out what they’re trying
to say and why. And if there’s really something wrong about it, you
won’t be able to correct them in a proper way if you don’t take the
time to understand them.
Some of his readers agree with Josh S., you can read some of the comments his readers made in the extended entry.
Good news for Cyberbrethren readers in Britain, Scandinavia and Europe. I’m pleased to report that Amazon.com in the United Kingdom is now selling the Concordia edition. I assume it will be considerably less expensive for you to order it from England than from the United States. So, for all of those asking me when, or if, they would be able to buy a copy "over there" — well, here you go. Cheerio!
I’m very pleased to share with you a statement just pointed out to me by officials from Concordia University, Mequon. Praise God for this excellent statement, one that stands in stark contrast to the kind of response to which we have grown accustomed in our circles in recent years. Here is the statement: Download YouTubeVideoStatement.pdf
I posted a link to a YouTube video, called "Virgilicious," created by students at Concordia University in Mequon. It features students dancing and prancing around, in the campus church in the chancel, at, and in front of, an altar, etc. to a rap song being sung by a guy dressed in vestments, wearing a crucifix, and engaged in various liturgical acts, such as making the sign of the cross and kissing an icon, and praying at the altar, and standing in the pulpit, even engaging in suggestive behavior with a young woman. The young people in the video were shown writhing on the floor around him, and at the communion rail while he used incense. It was, I’m told, supposed to be funny, a spoof, not intended to be shown to anyone else, a private joke, so I’m told. I saw no humor in it, only disrespect, irreverence and sacrilege.
University officials have sent me an "official statement" about the video. I’ve posted it following these comments. Based on what the university official communicated to me, I am fully confident that pastoral care of the students will result in genuine repentance and healing forgiveness for this kind of sinful behavior.
I would also hope the university might be led to say something just a bit more than that they are "saddened" and "disappointed" about "poor judgment exhibited" by the video. One would hope that a Lutheran university will speak clear words of rejection and condemnation of this kind of sacrilegious behavior. One can hope that another, more meaningful, statement will be forthcoming soon.
The incident raises for us any number of important questions and issues. Have we lost all sense of the holy and the sacred? We need, collectively, to ask ourselves why any of us would chuckle over watching a person use sacred space and objects of worship and devotion as "humor." To me it is indicative of just how far we have all been desensitized to the sacred by the constant secularism that bombards us. It seems to me that if we expect others to take seriously the historic liturgy of the Lutheran Church, then we need to take it seriously ourselves.
Of course the students involved should be forgiven, but rather than defend their actions and dismiss the profoundly offensive nature of what they did, and try to explain it away, let’s use this occasion as a chance to ask ourselves, "What’s wrong with us that we could even think of doing something like this?" It is not "pietistic" or "legalistic" to call this what it is: sinful and irreverent. Just because some right-wing Baptist minister with an axe to grind takes advantage of the situation, and just because a fourth year student "blew the whistle" on this situation in such a wholly inappropriate way, we must not allow the real issue to be covered over and dismissed.
But if, as some are attempting to claim, this video was as inconsequential a situation as the student paper on the campus is trying to portray it, then let the video be put back up on YouTube, and let us all view it and come to our own conclusions. The May 8 issue of the paper contains the editor’s assertion: "The video is intrinsically harmless. While it is not exactly the kind of thing we would show our donors and perspective students, the video is an illustration of how students who are serious about worship can have fun." I say let the video be posted for all to see, if in fact, it is as harmless and innocent.
My respectful and earnest suggestion is that people stop defending, excusing or trying to minimize it and just say, "It was terribly, terribly wrong. There is no excuse for it. We are sorry. We’ve learned a good lesson from this and nothing like this will ever happen again." That’s the better way to go here. And then maybe more conversations can be taken up about how or why anything like this happened to begin with.
University officials are saddened by the poor judgment exhibited by a number of students in the making of a video posted on YouTube. We are truly disappointed with, and disapprove of, the content of this video. An inquiry into the production and dissemination of this video has been set into motion by the President’s office in connection with the Department of Theology and the office of the Vice President of Student Life. Decisions regarding discipline, counseling, etc. are pending the outcome of this inquiry.
I received today this update on the situation in Finland. I pass it along to you as I received it:
Please find attached a letter written by my father, Dr. Anssi Simojoki, and Dr. Martti Vaahtoranta (who works as a missionary affiliated to SELK in Germany) to the cathedral chapter of the archdiocese of Turku (Finland), explaining why they cannot accept or obey the current directions to pastors concerning ordained women. It is preceded by a report on the background to the situation in Finland and current developments.
I would be very grateful if you would have the time to do some or all of the following:
· Read the document
· Pray for the people involved
· Distribute the report as widely as you can
· Have it published on a suitable forum, printed or electronic
· Write to the relevant bishops to express your concern. The archbishop of Turku: email@example.com; the bishop of Oulu: Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org
I am happy to answer further questions relating to the report and the letter and to the Finnish situation in general.
Yours in Christ,
Read the extended entry for the document sent to me.
See if you can identify all the errors in this statement made by a man gushing on about how well the Queen of England speaks English.
"This one just seemed to ring of more dignity, more pomp and
circumstance, I think because we’re receiving a royal," he said. "It
brings a different tone to it. Just to hear the queen talk — perfect
English, perfect enunciation — you just can’t help but go ‘Ohhh.’"
And while I’m on a roll here, here is one of my greatest personal pet peeves: misusing the first person personal pronoun, as in, "her/him and I." It makes my skin crawl to hear a pastor make such a fundamental error when speaking!
I’m pleased to inform you about the beginning of a new Lutheran organization: Doxology. They are just getting the organization off the ground, but from the information on their web site, this organization would appear to be one that will provide many good things. For too many years, I have watched Lutheran pastors struggle with their own personal problems, trapped behind walls of denial or self-deception, causing serious difficulties for colleagues and their congregations. Equally, I have been concerned by pastors who seem to think there is no place, at all, for what we can learn from the study of human psychology and hence are ill equipped to help people to whom they minister cope with legitimate mental illness and others facing the most intense of personal crises and concerns. I’m impressed by what this organization intends to do and extend to them the blessing of Almighty God, praying that He will bless their efforts and all whom they serve.
I am asking a question. And it is not rhetorical. I attended my son’s spring band concert at a huge local Evangelical Free Church. And by "huge," I mean, "huge." Their balconey can hold as many people as 98% of congregations in the Lutheran church hold, period. I’m talking grande. But what struck me most about their "auditorium" was how utterly stark it is. They had four banners up on the walls that were, relatively, small. A huge stage. Huge. And a giant stained glass window with nothing but a cross in it. But the place was sterile. I’ve been in a local LCMS church here that is nearly equally as sterile. It just has me wondering why it is that most of the people who attend these sorts of visually sterile places of worship live in homes that are, I would guess, richly decorated in comparison. Why is it that visual sterilization appears to be the standing order of the day among some Christians, in E-Free type congregations and in Lutheran congregations that seem intent on copying them? What are the reasons for this? I’m scratching my head trying to figure this out. I would like to know what you think.