“I Hate Everything

“He said, ‘I hate this bar and I hate to drink.

But on second thought, tonight I think

I hate everything.'”

So sings George Strait in the song appropriately titled “I Hate Everything.”  Recently while attending a Lutheran conference in which I found things that annoyed and dismayed me, I confessed to a brother pastor, “Sometimes at conferences like these I come away feeling like George Strait sings, ‘I hate everything.'”  He responded with the actions of yet another country song.  He “Set ‘em up Joe” and played ‘Walkin’ the Floor.'”  While this was very good pastoral practice, my fear has returned.

It returned when I got a flyer in the mail from Dr. Joel D. Heck of Concordia, Austin University.  In big bold letters it says “Are Finances On Your Mind?”  It goes on to invite me and my congregation to “Financial Peace University a 13 week life-changing program taught by Dave Ramsey, financial expert and comedian” (Emphasis all mine; comedy all his.).  It’s to be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS).  Who it’s for is “All who want to dump debt or build wealth.”  The why is “To make wiser financial decisions and handle money God’s way.”

This strikes me as a program another Joel with the last name Osteen would be proud of.  I don’t hate him or this Joel or even the comedian/ financial expert Dave Ramsey, but I came away from this notice feeling, “I hate everything.”  If only the Rich Fool had this program.  He could have built those bigger and better barns he yearned for.  “Financial Peace University” is what the man who wanted Jesus to tell his brother to divide their estate was looking for.  The widow with the two mites wasn’t looking for this. One can hardly dump debt or build wealth with two mites.  About all one can do is give them to Jesus.

You see; I hate everything.  People really do have a hard time managing their money.  Credit Card debt is enslaving millions of Americans, and most Baby-boomers aren’t saving enough for retirement.  I must hate all of them because I don’t preach, teach, or even direct them to “Financial Peace University.”

My hatred didn’t stop here.  It welled up in me again when the latest issue of Concordia Journal from Concordia Seminary arrived.  The issue is devoted to ekklnsia (church).  Hateful me couldn’t get past the Editor’s Note by Rev. Travis J Scholl, Managing Editor of Theological Publications.  He correctly points out that American religious life has been mired in the Enlightenment notion that religious communities are “voluntary associations,” i.e. they are creations of men with a common interest.  But this is not before he enlightens us with the concept of ubuntu, “the traditional African concept that personhood is most deeply realized in community….It is expressed in the simple maxim: ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’  It seems to me that ubuntu provides a powerful philosophical analogy to ekklesia, to why God would gather his children as one into the body we (sic) call church.  It is why individual find themselves (in more ways than one) in a congregation.  It is why a congregation finds itself in a synod.  It is why a synod finds itself in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

If we follow the pronouns, Scholl’s ubuntu is worse than Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” (which is also an old African proverb).  In Scholl’s mind ubuntu is the reason the village or church exists.  Ubuntu, any other philosophy, or anything else men might think may be why individuals find themselves in a congregation (if this understood as merely a human group) or a synod, but why men find themselves in the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is because of God’s grace in Christ via the Means of Grace. 

Moreover, we don’t “find ourselves” in the LCMS as Scholl claims he finds himself.  We have purposely joined it because we are convinced its confession is that of the holy, catholic, apostolic church.  I “find myself” in a traffic jam or in a village after making a wrong turn.  I join a church, a synod.  But all I am because of whom we all are is a poor, miserable sinner.  The sum total of all of us together is less than zero; it’s a negative.  Christ Jesus has saved us from the hell of who I am individually and who we are collectively.  Thanks be to God.

Finally, lest I be accused of hating all African proverbs, I love “in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight,” but I feel like I hate everything else.  So set ‘em up Joe and play “Walkin’ the Floor.”

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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One Response to “I Hate Everything

  1. Bart Goddard says:

    You made me think of an episode of the Twilight Zone when the hero discovered that the book “How to Serve Man” was a cookbook. (Twilight Zone is _at least_ as high culture as country music.) We’re reliably informed that we can’t serve both God and Mammon. But I never realized before that there are two ways to serve Mammon. The “other” way is to load it up on a plate and force feed it to the sheep. Here’s another African proverb: “A cow must graze where she is tied.”

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