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Too Liberal? Well, So Be It.

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I’m one who isn’t pleased to hear those old church stories about women sitting separately from men on Sunday morning.  I also wasn’t too pleased when I found that the church mailboxes at a small-town, rural parish were labeled with the men’s names only, especially since their wives carried the load at the church (carrying the male, I suppose).

I’m not too pleased when I hear that things are done “because we’ve always done it that way,” and that is given as a justifiable reason for continuing the behavior.

When I find myself singing stuffy, old music that most folks can’t sing, but it’s picked because it’s what a small group wants to sing so that only they can be pleased, I am not a happy camper.

I can be made physically nauseous by someone who wraps the Christian faith in a particular national flag, no matter whose national flag it is.

I am aware that the Lutheran church’s greatest sin, historically speaking, has been the sin of quietism in response to critical moments in history.  Actually, there is one sin that is worse:

That’s what can happen when the church decides to shake hands with the state, and here’s the Lutheran poster boy for such bad behavior, Ludwig Mueller, shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.

Oh, dear, what a radical example!!!  My, my, my….

I do believe the church should engage in political discussions with an overall emphasis on how God’s coming rule of love (reign of God, kingdom of heaven–these are our main churchy, Biblical terms for this) does or does not factor into issues and events.

My main concern is that the church become a healthy home for people of many social viewpoints–liberal, conservative, libertarian, or other.     The church’s main task, in my estimation, is to provide a model for what it means to live together faithfully and respectfully, despite our many differences.  This is an important model to have in a society scarred by toxic hectoring from all sides.

But here’s the problem:  the church can’t be such a model if it is being so quickly abandoned by liberals and moderates who are described in one recent CNN religion article as “modernists.”   Here’s the crux of the issue:

Mainline Protestant churches, which tended to be more moderate and inclusive, have been losing membership for decades. The churches that have shown the greatest growth have been the large-scale megachurches, where eight in 10 are traditionalist.

During the same period, Catholics have become more likely to choose parishes on the basis of something other than geography, and 72 percent said that “the traditional or conservative nature of the church” was an important or very important reason for choosing their parish.

In the meantime, modernists, who are less comfortable with churches dominated by traditionalists, have become less likely to attend church at all. During the ’90s, the number of Americans reporting “no religion” doubled, and sociologists believe the shift reflected the desire of many Americans to distance themselves from the increasingly close association between organized religion and conservative politics.

Someone within the ELCA churchwide hierarchy recently suggested that I was “too liberal” to serve a church.  Given the church’s social shift as outlined above, that may be an accurate assessment.

However, based on the historical contributions made by liberals in the progression of worship and music–and I am talking about liturgical worship, for the most part–along with historic liberal concerns for human rights and for equal justice, I can’t find much to regret.

I wonder sometimes how “conservative” this guy and his actions were:

And given the following description of what it means to be liberal, I just can’t find much about my outlook that I’d be willing to set aside:

Have a blessed Memorial Day weekend.


Hey, you knew it was coming.  I’m just too liberal……….


3 responses »

  1. Nice to find your blog. I’ll follow on my RSS reader.

    I’m a bit liberal myself, and I flaunt it–I call my blog “Spirit of a Liberal”. I’m ELCA Lutheran too but not clergy–amateur theologian and historian with a recently released novel called “A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle”, and I’m sure many would suggest it is filled with liberal heresy. Probably true.

  2. Your “crux” of the issue sums up well the main issue for mainline churches. It would be interesting to find more answers as to why liberals are more apt not to attend church. It seems that nothing gets butts in the seats more then the fear of damnation, which is fairly central to traditionalists and not much of an issue for liberals. But, I’m sure its more complicated then that.

    I doubt many conservatives would want Lady Liberty (read “liberal”) erected in New York harbor today. Instead, she is replaced with walls in Arizona. Here again, fear seems to be the common denominator between those who favor citizenship and those favoring deportation. It seems compassion is a “liberal” quality.

  3. I have contended for some time that the all-important global struggle we’re needing to win is not so much the War on Terror as it is the War on Tolerance.

    Fear appears to be the motivator for the intolerant, compassion the motivator for the tolerant. When I think of compassion and toleration, I can’t find a better symbol than the symbol of Lady Liberty rising above New York harbor; except for the enduring symbol of the Crucified.

    As for the reasons liberals–or even the wider demographic described as “modernists”– aren’t attending church, these would be the prime issues needing the church’s attention, more so than even answering that nagging question, “why can’t we keep our kids after confirmation?” I suspect they’re related, though.

    Thanks, Robert. I appreciate your comment.

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