Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a Big Difference a Small Difference Makes

We were talking about Contemporary Worship - so-called - when it occurred to me what a difference a couple of letters can make.  Someone asked the question of why it was so important in this generation to bring culture, our modern culture, into the church.  No other generation had done it.

That, of course, was balderdash.  Every generation has done it to some extent.  We use the language of our culture, in one form or another.  We change our Scriptures to more modern translations from time to time.  But those intrusions of culture are relatively mild and, often, necessary so that the members of the congregation can participate in the service with understanding.  The intrusions of culture in what is called "Contemporary Worship" are far more significant, and are often done simply as a matter or taste (or the lack of it) and preference.

Contemporary Worship involves a theological shift as well.  The focus of the service becomes the individual worshiper's entertainment or sense of accomplishing something religious.  The worshiper is the one the service seeks to please.  Traditional Liturgical Worship was centered in the deity, and, for Lutherans, in receiving from God the gifts He came to bring in the Divine Service through Word and Sacrament.

The question, "Why is it all of a sudden so important to bring the culture into the church?", elicited the response from me that the churches that practice Contemporary Worship are different now than they once were.  Now they are apostate - unbelieving - worshiping the worshiper instead of the One who is worthy of all worship, the Lord.

The little difference that struck me is the difference from what was to what is:  from apostolic to apostate.  Just a couple of letters.  Such a small difference in language but such a huge difference in everything else.  Of course, the two words come from significantly different roots in Greek, but in English, they look and sound so close to each other.  Just three or four letters and you go from faithful and true to Contemptible - that is Contemporary - Worship

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Installation

It was good to see our new president installed, even though it had to be on-line.  Some of the pomp could lead one to wonder if we were installing a president or a pope, but that is the way it works in large organizations, I suppose.  I am puzzled that the Holy Supper is served in a crowd with so many of other faiths acknowledged to be present.  How does one regulate admission to the altar?

I guess this is why I am merely a humble parish pastor.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Surprise, Surprise!

The experts are reporting their surprise that terrorist are being radicalized here in America.  Given the high level of hostility on the political left to our nation, its prosperity, and its prominence, all soon to be former, the development of home-grown terrorists should be no surprise at all, particularly in the light of the eco-terrorists active for more than a decade with the full approval of lap-dog media.

But the most surprising thing is that none of the analysts seem willing to look at the source of the "radicalized" Muslims, Islam itself.  The religion teaches jihad, and commands jihad as part of the faithful Muslim's life.  It takes no more work to 'radicalize" your typical Muslim male than it does to encourage your average Protestant teen-ager to live out his or her Christian faith.  They begin with a well-stocked pond of adherents to the religion that demands and encourages and endorses and praises violent actions in what is believed to be the support of their religion and their deity.

The most moderate leaders of the Islamic religion will not condemn violent jihad.  There is no official element of the religion that opposes it.  So-called moderate Muslims were dancing and singing in the streets when Islam struck the twin towers on September 11, 2001, celebrating their victory against the "great Satan" of America, even inside the borders of this nation.  Islam is not merely a religion, but a political movement as well.  The very best Moslem has a split loyalty. 

How can our "experts" be surprised that the ardent followers of this religion can be induced to do terroristic things?  They are either deliberately looking away, which is dumb and irresponsible, or they are idiots.

A Failure to Communicate . . .

Some days, life seems to imitate art.

This is not one of those days, but the topic at hand put me in mind of the line from the film, Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."  I was enmeshed in a mini-controversy on one of those email discussion groups when it struck me that the problem we were having in the discussion is often the problem in most human communications on topics of interest.  People confuse opinion with fact and knowledge with uninformed prejudice.

It appears that the combination of fierce individualism and thorough-going egalitarianism have produced circumstances in which everyone believes that their passing opinion on any topic they deign to opine upon is absolute truth, or at least every bit as true as anything anyone else might say.  I blame this on the Psychologist Carl Rogers as much as anyone.  He pioneered the idea that everyone and everything was precious and wonderful just by virtue of being.  His approach to self-esteem has crippled a couple of generations of American children, and it is on the way to crippling discourse in our nation.

It is bad enough that everyone thinks they are right, but when they lose the ability to distinguish between a mere opinion and a clear fact, debate and even education may be at risk.  In the on-line discussion that prompted this entry, an individual asked a question, having admitted a lack of knowledge to form a decisive assessment of a situation.  When offered the information upon which he might form his opinion, the individual became argumentative.  He rejected and contradicted facts simply because they did not conform to his prior prejudices nor support his hastily formed and unfounded opinions.  He subsequently withdrew from the on-line forum altogether, convinced that the group was the sort that would not grant equality to his passing thoughts with the results of careful inquiry and scholarly investigation.

It was an unfortunate decision, but it highlighted the problem in modern communications.  Too many people think that just because they hold an idea, it outweighs facts and reality altogether.  It is fine if someone wishes to cling to their own ideas and prejudices, even in the face of truth and evidence to the contrary.  It is not productive, but they have that right.  It is not helpful, however, if they feel the need to dismiss and invalidate facts and reality in pursuit of their ill-informed ideas, and to hold those who treat facts as something other than a mere opinion as unjustly prejudiced and even arrogant.

If bigoted fantasy and hard, cold facts are believed to be on an equal footing, rational discourse will cease to be possible.  We will have a true failure to communicate.