Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comforable Illusions

I watch the news, and I am impressed by the number of notions that we seem to share as a society that are not true.

That this nation is a free country:  We have a history of freedom, but our liberties are being taken from us daily by laws regulating behavior which is rightly of no concern to others, and by taxes that seek to impose the values of another on the populace, and by a news media which fails in its duty so abysmally and deliberately.

That 'We, the people' exercise significant political power.  That power exists, but it it is muted by politicians who disregard the will of their constituents once they are elected (with the willing complicity of the Media), by politically owned machines that disable the election process - as in Minnesota this year, or Washington state a few years back, and by a double standard of justice which makes what is a scandal for a Republican into a political virtue for a democrat, and always expects morality and decency from one party and excuses the bald lack of it from the other.

That you can depend of the news Media for anything resembling truth or honesty.

That "good people" tend to think alike.  The fact is that when most Americans are confronted by the truth, they choose to believe something else - and don't want to know, for fear that it will upset them.

It makes life a challenge.  We need to deal with reality as it is, not with myths which put us to sleep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It is amusing, in a sad and somewhat frightening sort of way, to watch the media fawn over Obama. The Philadelphia Enquirer had posted on-line (but has since corrected) a poll asking which president Obama reminds people of. The choices were JFK, FDR, Lincoln, or Bobby Kennedy! Set aside the fact that Obama isn't President yet, Bobby Kennedy never got there!

Personally, I would have voted for Herbert Hoover.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Man Without a Country

Rarely does anything as expected as the Obama election cause so much distress in me as this event has. I am profoundly dispirited by the meaning of the election, as I understand it.

The reality is, as yet, to be revealed. Obama promised a lot of things in his long campaign. His personal history promises many things as well. Nothing he has said clears up the mystery of what he will do, nor reduces the potential misfortune his election presages. The reality awaits. I suspect that it may take a generation of two to fully develop and for the consequences of this election to be fully appreciated - although appreciated is hardly the right connotation to apply.

First, let it be clear that the one factor everyone pretends was a non-factor, and yet is his chief claim to fame (at this point in time) – race – has no part in my reaction to the election. I quit counting race as significant in evaluating a person long ago. In fact, it seems to me that we have fallen far short of Martin Luther King’s dream of the day when we judged a person by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. The most celebrated fact in the news coverage of this election result is that we have elected a black man to the highest office of the land - FINALLY.

The content of his character, however, has been deliberately hidden, covered, and ignored. His personal history, sparse as he has allowed the record to be, is troubling. His philosophical mentor is Saul Alinsky, a communist agitator. His personal hero is Frank Marshal Davis, a communist. His one mistake in the campaign, echoing the Marxist credo with the now famous “redistribution” comments to Joe the Plumber. Programs mentioned during the primary campaign - which largely disappeared from his conversation during the major campaign were frightening: withdrawing our troops immediately from the conflict in Iraq and subsequently in Afghanistan, funding a poverty program for the other nations of the world through the UN, unilaterally disarming our nation, negotiating with those around the world who would like to destroy us simply because we are not Moslem without preconditions, and to the aim of making them more content with us, bankrupting the coal industry, ending the use of oil in this nation within a decade, and declining to increase our use of nuclear fuel - effectively reducing our economy to third-world status.

It comes to mind that Hugo Chavez was elected by popular vote in Venezuela. Adoph Hitler was elected by popular vote in times of severe economic distress in the 1930's in Germany. Given the agenda - murky though it is - which has emanated from the One who has been waiting for himself, the possibilities are troubling. Obama has already thrown newspapers off his campaign plane for failing to endorse him. He does not treasure free speech for those who do not kowtow to his ideas. He has signaled his agreement with eliminating the free expression on the radio by returning to the policies of the “fairness doctrine”. He has given too little information to give any thinking person confidence in what he would not do, and too much for comfort when one ponders what he might attempt.

The President-elect announced in his victory proclamation that now we would begin to change this nation. That agenda tells me that the nation I grew up in, served in the military as my duty, during the Vietnam thing, and have always loved, is soon to be no longer. Something else is to take its place - a changed nation. No longer my America - now just something called the United States, but not the United States of the past.

At the same time, I must admit that my church body has changed too. Once famous for its rock-solid commitment to sound doctrine, our President is now famous for telling us that this is not our grandfather’s church, and he has instituted a program which leads the church body away from its historical practices and commitments. I feel that my church body is no longer the Lutheran Church I grew up in and in which I spoke my vows of ordination.

My country is committed to becoming something else, and my church is committed to becoming something other than it has historically been. I feel like a man without a county!

But I do take comfort in this, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Tension Is Almost Unbearable!

Tomorrow we vote!

Are the polls rights?

What will this nation look like in a year, or three?

Tonight is a time for prayer.

Among the things we can give thanks for is that this endless election cycle is coming to an end . . . just in time for the 2012 presidential election campaign to start!

May God have mercy on us!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Now This Is Funny!

Scientists in Europe constructed this 17 mile long supercollider to re-enact the Big Bang.  It took more than two decades to build and cost over ten BILLION dollars.  They started it up last week, and it ran for about 36 hours before it broke down.  It will now require a couple of months to repair.

What a remarkable use of resources!  How well built and cleverly designed!  It is reminiscent of the Hubble Telescope which was put into orbit with faulty mirrors and opticals and needed to be repaired in outer space before it was useful.  Don't you just love the care and precision of modern science!  This is just hilarious!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


What would you do if you had the ability to shape the perspective on the world of huge numbers of your fellow citizens?

That is the question the denizens of the so-called "Main Stream Media" have been busy trying to answer. The MSM, as it is widely known, holds the marvelous ability to shape how people see the world by both what it reports (and chooses not to report) and how it deigns to color that report. In some cases, details, like party affiliation, are highlighted, and in others, they are completely ignored. Recountings of history can include events, and assign them a significance they did not originally possess, or significant events can be ignored entirely! The power of the MSM is eeriely like that of Big Brother in the Orwell book, 1984.

So what is the MSM doing with that frightening power? They are using it to reveal, not disguise, their prejudices and errant presuppositions. Rather than quietly and craftily guide and shape public opinion, as they had for so many years, the MSM seems to have adopted the program of wildy flailing about in obvious and ridiculous ways to call attention to the complete lack of objectivity they possess, and to emphasize their utter lack of interest in anything but their own desire to deceive.

This makes for great theater! If you agree with the perspective on society and politics clearly embraced by the MSM, it is pleasing - or it should be - to see one's own prejudices so energetically endorsed. For those who hopes and dreams (or, merely their intellect) lead them to view society from a different political and social paradigm, the display undresses the naked biases and goals of the media that they once sought to hide beneath the disguise of objectivity and the stated desire to merely report (not shape) the news of the day. Those who agree can find joy in such overt endorsement, and those who disagree may find cheer in the transparency of the activism of the reportage.

Oddly, the clarity of their advocacy of a specific partisan agenda seems to have been working against the effectiveness of their effort. Even partisans on the MSM's side of the issues find themselves blushing for shame at the naked ambition and the complete disregard for fact coming from the media claiming the mantle of "truth-speakers".

Take the case of Governor Sarah Palin. She is a demonstrably respectable woman. She is bright, and her value system shines forth from her personal acts and decisions. She takes on political corruption for the benefit of the populace. Her home-grown naivete is reflected in the quaint notion that government should serve the people, and not the other way around. She carries a Downs Syndrome child full term, living out her stated convictions about the sanctity of life, and her opposition to abortion. Like the elephant in the tale by Dr. Seuss, which so many of us grew up hearing, she means what she says, and she says what she means -- or so it would appear. A decent human being, one of apparent conviction and action, Mrs. Palin has natural appeal. She seems like someone it would be nice to know personally.

But the MSM responds to her viscerally and violently. If they don't like her stand on the issues, and it seems clear that they don't, they could debate her, or simply dismiss her stance as they have so many others for so many years. But they attack her ad hominem, that is, against her person and not her opinions or her issues. The depravity of the attack is breath-taking!

What is fascinating is how this time it appears to be flashing back upon the MSM. It puts one in mind of the child's response to school-yard verbal bullying, "I'm rubber, you're glue. Everything bounces off of me and sticks on you." How very appropriate! It is about time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Meaning of Words

Rush Limbaugh is always saying "words mean things". During the non-stop coverage of Hurricane Gustav, we became quite familiar with the phrase "Breaking News!" Judging by its continual use to introduce non-news, it appear that the phrase has been forcibly modified to mean, "Here is something we haven't mentioned in the last quarter hour or so." And, by the way, the reporters don't have to look and sound so disappointed that we did not have another disaster with Gustav the way we did with Katrina. It was an almost out-of-body sort of experience to hear the so-called "news" media repeating lies and distortions about Katrina which have since been proven to be false. Oh, for the good old days of hype and excess, eh, Shep?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I must be getting old

I just read the Lutheran Witness for August 2008. I remember a time when it was a theological magazine. Today it is something else. Actually, it has been for sometime now.

In the present issue is an article of personal recollection with no apparent point, except to vent the author's memories. Of course, there was also the cutesy use of the nickname, "Shabby".

The article on marriage was nice, but it almost seemed like a set-up for the reprinting of a widely reported statement by President Kieschnick on the issue of same-sex marriage. The statement is fine, except for the unfortunate use of the term "Judeo-Christian", and the omission of the stance of the Missouri Synod that homosexual inclinations are also not according to the will of God.

The next article dealt with Mormon plural marriage. It makes no point, except to inform in a general sort of way.

Then there is an article by the CEO of the Lutheran Social Service of the South. Judging by the accompanying picture (and the first paragraph) , it takes off from the point of plural marriage to make a heart-felt appeal for dealing in a socially responsible (and culturally mandated) way with abuse of children. It is really about following society's values and doing what our laws instruct us to do.

The high point seemed as though it would be the article on Music. It highlighted a note that organists were becoming harder to find, especially in smaller parishes, but then offered no hope and no ideas workable in my situation, or other situations I am familiar with. Seemed to me that it would have been the right place to talk about the need for standard MIDI music for the parish, but no such luck.

Next was a fine advertisement for the LCMS Foundation, disguised as an article. Give more money was the message. It was followed by a full-page ad entitled, "Have You Discovered the Joy of Giving?", for the Foundation.

Then we have a heartwarming article about people who raise miniature donkeys, and apparently use the coloration of the fur on the animal's shoulders as an evangelism tool.

Then we have a discussion of suicide from the statistical and psychological points of view. No theology here, either.

I confess there was a Bible Study. I tried to read through it, but it was . . ., well, dull. But that is my problem.

And the magazine wraps up with a paean to "Fan into Flame", the fund-raising portion of the "Ablaze " program. More money. Another appeal to give.

Reading the "Official publication of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod" is depressing. There was nothing uplifting in it. Like I said, I must be getting old. I expected more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I received word the other day that one of the congregations I served in my first parish is closing its doors after a final service on August 17th. Zion Lutheran Church of Hoskins, Nebraska. The locals call it "Zion East".

I have mixed feelings about it. I loved that church and most every single member. Clem and Lorena Weich, who were the perennial youth group leaders, Herman Koepke (and his bride, Dorothy, and their children), The Andersons, and, well, too many people to name, and too long ago to be sure that I would not misspell their names or forget someone who is, in memory, precious to me. I have personal stories about most of them, and they delight me when I think about them.

I only served as pastor there for two years. These were the people who had the first shot at teaching me how to be a pastor, and they did it with great patience and love.

I don't feel badly that the congregation must close. Every congregation has a life - it is born, it lives for a time, and it "dies". When I was there almost thirty years ago, I told them that if they could not support their congregation, they should close. At that time, they stepped it up a notch, and the congregation continued. As a small farm congregation, many of whose members drove past several other Lutheran congregations to get to "their" church, slow death by attrition was almost inevitable.

I just wanted to say, "Thank God for Zion East". It sheltered the saints of God for generations, and trained more than one pastor in how to be a pastor. I buried a number of the saints in their cemetery, and baptized a few children. It was my joy and honor to serve them, and serve the Lord among them. May God bless and keep the members who still live among us, and gather us in heaven, when the time is right, to sing that song of glory before the throne!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I observed many years ago that I went to the seminary to train for a job that didn't really exist in a church body that wasn't really there. I meant -- as I explained to anyone who asked -- that what I thought the parish ministry was, it wasn't. My mental picture of what a pastor was did not really resemble the reality. People did not deal with their pastors the way I did, and thought that everyone would. There was less respect. They tended to treat their pastors as oddities.

And the church I had grown up in had seemed so united and Christian, and about God and worship. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was not so. The church body (the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) was all about money. Go figure. They talked about being united, but they had been divided since before my birth on theological grounds. Half of the church body did not believe the Bible was the Word of God. Some did not believe much of what the Bible teaches about Jesus. And that was almost thirty years ago.

A decade (or more) ago, I had a friend describe to me the arrogant dismissal of doctrine by a member of the Synodical missions staff. He called concern about truth and sound doctrine a "seminary mindset", and one which my friend was cautioned to dispose of as quickly as possible.

Apparently the church, which our beloved Synod's president intoned "is not your grandfather's" wasn't really my grandfather's church even back a while ago.

So, we live in a church that says that it stands to promote sound doctrine, but actually opposes it. It says that it exists to protect congregations from renegade pastors, but refuses to do so. It says that it stand to protect pastors against rogue congregations, but rather chooses to assist rogue congregations in abusing faithful pastors.

We call this the church militant. We are at war. Sadly, it seems like we are at war with one another rather than with the enemy, you know, the old evil foe. This is the place where you are trained to stand up for the truth -- and if you stand up for it, it simply makes you a target.

I do not regret for a minute that I became a pastor. I have known so many wonderful people -- and roughly as many monsters who wear their sheep disguise badly. I am what God called me to be. I gladly stand and take the arrows. I love to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. I am simply not willing to pretend that the world - or the church - is anything other than what it is. And I wish that we could stop all the pretending and hypocrisy around us, at least in the church.

To that end, one must admire the fresh new openness of the Kieschnick Klan in St. Louis. They force faithful men out of their positions, fire confessional radio people, and can missionaries for the effrontery of actually doing mission work. Don't these people (the fired and abused) know that this all a con, and the synod is about money, not the Word of God? This not just not my grandfather's, it isn't really church, either. But dressed up in the disguise of religion, and the sense of "rightness" that accompanies so many in religion, they are confident that they are doing "God's work".

And He shall hold them accountable. May God have mercy on their souls.

Friday, May 23, 2008

An End to Freedom

We in America are facing the end of our liberties. We still retain the right to move around freely, if we can afford the fuel. We have a limited say in who our leaders are. But it is fast slipping away.

Choosing our leaders has become something decidedly other than the American people choosing them. It is true, of course, that we almost never have had the mythical power to choose who would be president. That was done for us in smoke-filled rooms. Today our candidates are chosen by primaries.

Republican candidates are chosen in Republican primaries where independents and Democrats cross over and vote for the least offensive candidate running, and slowly squeeze conservatives out of the race. It is amusing to hear the Democrats wringing their hands over Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" in which he encourages Republicans to do the same sort of thing to prolong the Democrats' pain in the primary process. This deeply flawed and deceptive process is aided and abetted by the Mainstream Media deliberately smearing some candidates - even with deliberate untruths - and hiding and refusing to report the failings and foibles of the preferred candidates. This year the result is that there are no Republicans on the ballot, just two potential Democrats for the DFL ticket and a Democrat doppelgänger (and wannabee) as the "presumptive" Republican Candidate.

The severely flawed system has produced remarkable results in the past, such as JFK being elected by fraudulent votes in Kansas and Illinois. This year we have candidates staking out positions on issues before the primaries, and as soon as their candidacy is secured, they boldly deny their positions.

Freedom is gone when we cannot actually elect someone to do something that they say they will do and enforce their doing of it.

Most Americans, in any opinion poll, want our Immigration laws enforced. Our elected politicians stubbornly refuse to do it.

Our national security is daily eroded by elected leaders who will do and say anything, regardless of the long-term consequences. We desperately need a means of controlling their conduct -- but there is none available to us. They are not held to standards - not truth, not decency, not even the standard of the Law. Average Americans who did the things our politicians routinely get away with would be serving serious prison time.

It is facing the ugly realities that are arising in our modern society, and the sad truth of our impotence to make repairs to our system that make me so delighted I have faith in God who will make all things work out just right. Frankly, I can't imagine how to do it, even if I had the power to do so.

"Even so, Come Lord Jesus!"

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The new Lutheran Witness arrived the other day. I assume it is for the month of May. The President's page, which is now prominently featured in the front of the magazine, was all about the shortage of pastors in the Missouri Synod - how we will need more pastors each year in the next ten years than we have been producing in any year for the last 35. The arguments were true. The statistics were doubtless accurate. The appeal to action was as it has been for decades.

This week we also received notice that a number of men will graduate from the seminary and not be placed immediately because there are too few calls for graduates. I didn't write down the numbers, but it was something like 18 St. Louis Graduates and 13 from Fort Wayne that will wait for someone to need one of those hundreds of pastors that we will need each year (something like 280) badly enough to call them. Meanwhile, the roster of congregations designated as "vacant but being served" (and therefore NOT calling a pastor) continues to grow in almost every district.

Of course, we must also add to the list the four hundred (plus!) pastors still on the roster who have been removed from their calls by various mechanisms due to the unchristian actions of their congregations. Men are fired, their compensation reduced or eliminated in order to force them out without technically 'firing' them , they are harassed daily and endlessly until
they collapse physically, or emotionally, and finally resign for the sake of a) their health, b) their families, c) the well-being of the few Christians in their congregations, or d) simply to escape the pressure-cooker their office has become. All of this, of course, with the approval, and often the participation of their District Office. In one case in Missouri, a pastor was forced to resign with
a small severance package, or be terminated immediately with no severance package, and the district president announced to the Circuit Pastor's Conference that he had "never seen that sort of situation handled in such a Christian manner before". That begs the question, of course, "How can something so ungodly be done in a 'Christian manner'?".

This all follows the time tested principle that if you just keep saying the same old things, and act as though nothing is happening, nothing is changed, most people will never notice. Stories are told of Jews during World War Two who were moved from their homes to concentration camps, and did not actually understand what was happening to them until they were being herded
into the gas chambers themselves. They were told that things were fine, they were being resettled in a new place, that things were a little rough for a short while, but nothing was amiss. They didn't pay attention to much -- not that it would have helped them a great deal -- because they were constantly being reassured that things were just fine.

During the time of the Synod's greatest upheaval, the official line from the Synod was that we are united in confession and moving forward. Until the Seminex debacle in the 1970's, most everybody seemed to believe that line. Even conservatives deeply involved in the controversies considered their adversaries to be friends who had just gotten a little mis-guided. "Oh, yeah, Ott. He's always been a little like that!" And any attempt to hold one to their words or their actions that went against the official line of the Synod was labeled a violation of the Eighth Commandment, true or not! (Actually, that is still happening!)

So, this past week we heard about the sorry situation of men who trained for at least four years, sometimes eight, and found no call at the end of their training, and at the same time, and impassioned plea to encourage young men to consider training for the parish ministry because we are going to be so short-handed in the very near future. Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!

Lord, have mercy upon us!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Start

I am always intending to blog, but I never seem to stop to do it. I am trying something new - ScribeFire - an add-on to my Mozilla Firefox. Perhaps I can find time while I await the other things on my browser. Dial-up (which is all that is available at this address) is a pain in the sitting parts!

So, here we go with another start.