Ripped from the Headlines

As slow-motion scenes are the death knell of B-movies, and time-travel is jumping the shark for science-fiction series, so “ripped from the headlines” is the swansong of the TV drama.  It might also be the prelude to the last gasp of a church trying to keep her head above the seas of this present age.

There are pastors who preach and teach the headlines and there are laymen who actively hunt for them in preaching and teaching. Now seminary and synod are doing it. The LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission and Concordia Theological Seminary sponsored a conference October 12-14, 2015 titled: “Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland: Whose Community is Next? Where is the Church?”

That’s funny; I was asking the same thing when I read their postcard. Evidently neither Synod nor seminary is acquainted with the 24-hour news cycle. They were about 3 months too late to catch the relevant bus. They met about yesterday’s news. The November Reporter, as always, had pictures of serious-faced men and women sitting around taking on this weighty problem and talking it to death. They no doubt went home encouraged, motivated, and challenged having wasted thousands of dollars.

The September 2015 Reporter jumped on the Pro-Life bandwagon. Hasn’t Synod always been Pro-Life? Prior 1980 or so, not so much (See Peter J. Scaer, Lutheran Support for the Pro-Life Movement, Concordia Theological Quarterly, 77, 3-4, July/October 2013, 229ff.). We are now. At least every January and when pastors mention it in a list of also-ran sins. But those Planned Barren-hood (not a typo) videos have made being anti-abortion (also not a typo) an “in” thing, so quick, get to the press with all the ways your Synod can help you be involved in what is going on in the world.

Headlines are not the only thing we rip. We rip words. It became “in” to call your church property “a campus,” so the chic, current, and the in-the-know started calling their church property “a campus.”  Preachers became “proclaimers” and leaders became “facilitators” in this same way.

I smile when I hear and see these nods to the spirit of the times, these – to borrow a phrase – “me too’s” of the theological world. I think the millennials see this for what it is; I know the secular world does. She recognizes when her children are repeating after her. She recognizes when the church is pushing which way she already has things leaning.

By the way, Luther said the Devil is the one who always pushes which way the wagon is leaning.

Oops, I’m pretty sure that last crack puts me in violation of that new resolution on dissent. Good thing it’s not the in thing to discipline anyone in our Synod except the most egregiously immoral or unfaithful.

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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