13 June 2006

The Culture that Promotes What is Right

A Lutheran pastor does not have the luxury of doing what is right. This is not because he may lack the guts to do the right thing, but because even when he does what is right he does not have a “culture” that supports the right thing—that is, a “culture” which cannot imagine anything but doing what is right.

Several years ago I wrote a piece on fasting that hinted at this phenomenon. Relating the “right thing” to fasting, I said, “The Lenten fast was [once] practiced by all without any compulsion because it was part of the annual rhythm.” I suggested that it was part of that rhythm because it was part of the Christian culture; that is, fasting had woven itself into the fabric of ethnic identify and the rhythm of life so that the nominal as well as the devout partook of the Lenten and Friday fasts.

The Lutheran culture, however, has shifted so dramatically that we—those who truly want to live the catholic religion—still consider and practice as optional many things (like fasting) that simply are not optional. This notion of what is optional fosters an individualism which, in turn, does not give a Lutheran pastor the luxury of doing what is right—at least, as “right” pertains to the communal congregational context.

NOTE: The example of fasting is only one instance of doing the "right thing." Also included under this rubric would be closed communion, the use of truly Lutheran hymnody, conducting marriages only when both persons are baptized, granting Christian burial only to Christians, celebrating Mass every Sunday, the distribution of the Sacrament only by the ordained, and any other number of doctrines and practices which otherwise confessional Lutheran pastors feel constrained to compromise upon or consign to the heap called "adiaphora."

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