The Crucified Dogs and the Golden Goose

This was written in 2014 and somehow never posted. It is a fitting warning for us dogs who won’t bark.

Having concluded the third annual Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Churches conference, it’s fitting to bring up the matter of dogs that deserved to be crucified and a geese that didn’t.

A Gallic tribe attacked the Romans July 16, 390 B.C.. The Romans were defeated and retreated to the Capitoline Hill. The Gauls destroyed much of Rome during their several month-long occupation but couldn’t breach the Capitol. The story is that one night when the Celts were trying to attack, the watchdogs remained silent, but the geese started raising a ruckus, awakening all those who were needed for defense. In commemoration of this legendary event (Livy Ab urbe condita 5.47), every year on August 3, the Romans are said to have crucified a dog and paraded the sacred geese in honor (  Other sources say more than one dog was crucified in these processions (

Most think the story legendary. Dogs were crucified for other reasons and the geese was long held to be sacred. The point remains that a dog who fails to bark at trouble, danger, or peril is useless as a watchdog.

Many are critical of the ACELC saying we are divisive, pharisaical, and malcontents.  Really we’re just dogs doing our job. We’ve called for no one’s head; we haven’t used politics; we seek no office. We’re just yap, yap, yapping that something is wrong. The acceptance of open Communion as a difference in practice, participating in pagan worship services as a matter of civil service and evangelization, allowing for the election of women to offices that have authority over men, promoting truncated paths to the ordained ministry, and viewing disunity in worship as a desirable thing are changes in the Public Doctrine that we once confessed.

One dog I owned was an Akita Lab mix. Akitas are known for their protectiveness. He would bark at people blocks from the house. Even if you scolded him, whacked him with a newspaper, he would keep on barking. He couldn’t help himself. The pastors and congregations of the ACELC can’t help themselves. Not because we’re dogs but because of the One who was crucified for us.

The Romans were thankful for dogs like us even if those dogs were silly as a goose. Yap, yap or honk, honk, the question before you is not whether we are dogs are geese, but is there or is there not a real enemy at the gates? If you think there is, the second question to ask yourself is: what in the last 40 years of LCMS history leads you to believe that her existing way of doing things will provide a defense against her enemies?

You are invited to bark or squawk with us. Twenty plus pastors and congregations in a sea of thousands can be ignored. Hundreds can’t be. My fear is that our Lord has given us – note I say us – over to the judgment of Egypt. When the Lord killed the firstborn “not a dog growled against any of the people of Israel…that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Ex. 11:7). The judgment that fell upon Egypt was just; there was no reason for an Israelite’s dog to bark.

Do the dogs, the geese, the pastors, and churches of the LCMS see nothing to warn of?  Do they really believe things are in motion to address the shameful divisions that exist among us? If the dogs don’t bark, perhaps the geese will honk, but if the geese don’t honk, then what?  Sleeping in heavenly peace while the gates of hell prevail.

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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