Just Call Me

About 6 months ago I was invited by a friend to attend a theology discussion group at a local Lutheran church. It isn’t the type of group or meeting that I would typically attend. In fact, I feel very much like a fish out of water. The positive thing about the group is that it is intellectually stimulating and the discussion is intense and vibrant.

I continue to attend because it has been challenging for me. It is challenging to be the outsider in an established group and to be reminded of what that feels like. It is challenging to be regularly exposed to a different perspective that I don’t intend to adopt. It is challenging to attempt to articulate my views and to determine when it is appropriate to present a different point of view in that context.

Theologically, the group is very Lutheran (not that there’s anything wrong with that), big on total depravity, election, and man’s inability to know or choose good or God. I know the basics of their doctrine, and while I don’t agree, I tend not to argue these points with them.

However, there are moments that I am in disbelief. For example, after the shooting of the abortion doctor, I was shocked to find that I was the only person in the room who didn’t believe that the shooting was the “christian” thing to do. We are currently discussing Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, so the discussions about pacifism have been interesting.

Last week, while discussing the meaning of church, the leader of the group explained that as a Lutheran, he could not fellowship with non-Lutherans, although he could associate with them. Whatever.

They are trying to decide the next book for discussion, and I recommended On the Incarnation by Athanasius. But now I am a little worried that they will pick it. I’m not sure that I want to watch it be picked apart and labeled unorthodox. I know that I’m probably not up to the task of defending it.

Anyway, last night there were only a few of us there, and I was questioned about my beliefs.

“So are you a universalist?”

“Well, I lean that way, but I think God is probably more of a universalist than I am.”

“And are you a pacifist?”

“Well, I lean that way too.”

“Where does your church stand on pacifism?”

“I don’t have a church.”

Dead silence. I think I’ll wear the t-shirt next week.

One of the guys did ask me to recommend a book about Christian pacifism though. I was thinking about The Politics of Jesus (Yoder) or maybe something by Greg Boyd.
Any suggestions?

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18 thoughts on “Just Call Me

  1. How about seriously studying just part of a book. I’m thinking a serious, prayerful, in-depth study of Matthew chapters 5-7. It’s all ‘red-letter’. No commentrary by theologians, just Jesus laying out the fundamental principles of His Kingdom. And, He even contrasts it with the theological views of His day (which aren’t so unlike the religious principles of our day).

    Having offered that, I will say this from my own experience – breaking a ‘bounded set’ paradigm that has been tempered through generations over centuries of time is an extremely difficult task to accomplish through abstract book discussions. I literally watched such paradigms crumble by bringing the ‘real world’ into that bounded set, and those who were stuck in the bounded set had to deal with it.

    Straw men are easy to attack. It’s when you discover that they are flesh and blood, with deep wounds in their life-stories, wounds that are often indirectly or even directly caused by religion … well, it causes you to step back and ask “How can I facilitate healing here?”

    If their hearts are open, they will crack.

  2. Ooo, oo – choose “The Powers that Be” by Walter Wink. Much more readable than Yoder, and an excellent discussion of the Christian pacifist point of view. It especially focuses on the life and teaching of Jesus in the context of Roman occupation.

    There are even a couple of great stories on pacifism in action (with intruders breaking into people’s homes, and other such situations) – so there is a real practical side to it as well.

  3. If you’re gonna wear the shirt, bring some firewood and starter with it :) Make sure someone has a video camera.

    On second thought, I kind of like your blog, so maybe you should stay home next week.

    I’m sort of a pacifist, if it convenient, but I remember reading “The Power of the Lamb” years ago. I think its edited by Toews and Nickel. Its a compilation of essays by the Mennonites and has some good perspectives without getting into complicated philosophy.

  4. What “brand” of Lutherans is this group? It sounds as though they may be Wisconsin or Missouri Synod as those of us in the “liberal” side of the denomination (ELCA) would disagree with many of their interpretations.

    I don’t necessary have a specific book suggestion except a revisit of the sermon on the mount, which is entirely based on pacifism. Good luck.

  5. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. That ought to knock their socks off. or Jesus For President.
    otherwise i agree with Ken. Matt 5-7 (or even just Luke 6)

  6. I concur with Sarah that “The Powers That Be” by Walter Wink is easily understood and relies greatly on scripture for its support. Not all of it will stand up to close scrutiny in my opinion but he does capture the idea very well.

  7. “Theologically, the group is very Lutheran , big on total depravity, election, and man’s inability to know or choose good or God.”

    What do these things mean (might be a language thing for me, English not my mother tongue)? And how would you define basics of Lutheran doctrine?

    Just interested to hear your view. Thanks if you have time&interest to respond Grace! Hope you do :)

  8. Grace, I personally loved Yoder’s ” The politics of Jesus “. It’s a bit of a trudge reading, but worth the work. Another writer you might want to look at is John Dear, fabulous works. He not only talks the talk…he walks it out.

  9. I’d go for Yoder over Wink…though I’ve not read Wink’s “Powers” series. I’m in the middle of Yoder’s Politics and I finished Wink’s Jesus and Nonviolence earlier this year. Wink, from what I’ve read, proposes a style of redeeming the Powers vs. rejecting their reality. Doesn’t go far enough, seems to me.

    I’d also recommend Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow! It’s got a lot of familiar themes, ones I’ve noticed mentioned around here several times. Resurrection…pacifism…eternity…love…community…religious and worldly belonging…etc.

  10. Stricken by God?
    Nonviolent Identification
    & the Victory of Christ
    Edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin

    Stricken by God combines twenty essays (over 500 pages) from such authors as N.T. Wright, Rowan Williams, Richard Rohr, Miroslav Volf and Marcus Borg. Other contributers include Tony Bartlett, J. Denny Weaver, Sharon Baker, James Alison and Mark Baker. Anglican, Catholic, Anabaptist, Evangelical and Orthodox writers come together to revisit the question of the atonement. Together, they share and develop perspectives of the cross with implications for restorative justice, nonviolence and redemptive suffering.

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