Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's good to laugh at myself

I don't think too many people in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are actually laughing much these days. I think most ELCA Lutherans are indifferent, angry, agitated, or at least fearful. Therefore I am thankful that one ELCA person actually decided to look at our current place in the world with some humor. I think this piece has a lot of humor, but this humor is somewhat muted because it's full of insider talk and jokes. I believe it's hilarious. To each their own.

When it comes to the life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it's really the only church I have ever known. I don't have a tie to the old predecessor bodies like the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) or the American Lutheran Church (ALC). Though I am an ordained pastor, trained in the Lutheran Confessions, I tend to balk at claims made by people who say they represent some sort of true Lutheranism. I see these claims as woven with culture as much as they are about theology.

My cultural awareness and understanding is not rooted in my Lutheran Christian faith. My family attended ALC congregations during a small portion of my youth, but I only started being aware of the Lutheran spectrum of traditions and fellowships after the merger in the late 1980's. I truly became a Lutheran Christian not on the day of my Affirmation of Baptism, but when I attended college and was exposed to the marketplace of ideas, religion and faith. It was then I embraced justification by grace through faith in my active thinking, not merely as something taught. ELCA people have embraced me, taught me about faith in Christ, provided community and investment my family and in my vocation, and believed in my gifts. I am abundantly thankful. But I don't believe my culture has been torn apart because of certain decisions the ELCA has made. I know others look at it differently.

The video highlighted has been timely to me because it makes me laugh at some of the language we commonly use in the ELCA and how silly it must sound to the rest of the world at times (assuming they're paying attention) and how we tie in culture to our claims about the faith with little critical reflection. I have been reminded not to take myself too seriously and be aware of the proclamations I make. Some especially poignantly satirical points for me:

1. I LOVE the "Book of Faith Prius." This is brilliant humor, even for such a narrow audience.
2. We are a "name dropping people." Guilty. I think my recent blogpost regarding stewardship contained four name drops in one sentence. There's a fine line between giving credit for ideas and name dropping. I like to dance on that line frequently, and sometimes I regret doing it.
3. The commentary juxtaposing Lutheran theology and jello represents what I have been thinking for years, but haven't articulated well. This point by the producer shows why The Simpsons has remained the best accessible political commentary into its third decade. I wouldn't be surprised if this producer was influenced by The Simpsons in some way. The Book of Faith Prius pulls this off as well.

I am not interested for the people ELCA to "just get along." In the wake of the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly and this video, what I see is that I and my fellow ELCA Lutherans have failed to look at (my) ourselves critically. I'm at least hoping to see a new posture. I don't know if that is possible. At least I got a laugh while I realized how foolish I can be. Lord, have mercy.

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