The equivalent of a bishop has been suspended by the Missouri Lutheran Synod for attending a meeting with "pagan clerics", a meeting of "pagan clerics" being an interfaith prayer service held after September 11th in New York's Yankee Stadium with Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus, this reported in this morning's Chronicle.
"To participate with pagans in an interfaith service and, additionally, to give the impression that there might be more than one God, is an extremely serious offense against the God of the Bible," (said Rev. Wallace Schulz, the Missouri Synod's national second vice president wrote in the suspension letter to the pastor involved.)
This skirts along the edge of one of life's little mysteries, the need to go down fighting when someone questions or seems to question personal belief. The Lutheran religion is a north country religion, the religion of my fathers and grandfathers on both sides of the family. My parents found it inconvenient to attend services and I was then and am now happy with their decision, although the Lutheran religion has therefor taken a more visible place in my passing. My understanding is it's one of those sterner "thou shalt not lest we hack your hand off - don't crack a joke or you're toast" sort of religions, but I've never had the interest or the energy to find out.
I think everyone has, if not a religious impulse, then a sensitivity to something beyond what we call day to day existence, something more than just being born into a family with a tradition in a particular named religion. Something like a call to the divine, a transcendence of the veil, a meeting with God or the angels of God or the Son of God or the Mother of the Son or the Sister or the Brother or the Guy With the Green Ears of God or the multiple Gods or the Good Ship Lollypop; everyone has a vision, bright and sharp or dim and lonely, but a vision, none the less, of something that is sacred. And that's good. I have one of my own and although it allows for more jocularity than many, it is still serious. Particularly at night, when the wind is blowing.
It's just, you know, inconvenient when you need to hit me over the head because I don't have any understanding or sympathy for the trappings of your particular set of beliefs, even when they're given to you under The Eternal Light by Someone Special. Given to you by The Hand Itself in a moment of indescribable transcendence. I'm much more interested in the hammer in your hand than the why thereof, the ultimate truth requiring an ultimate sacrifice (mine), although I suspect the only way to get you off your killing will be to learn this why and whereof in order to start a conversation. Being killed is kinda crappy, especially when you were really planning on curling up with a good book or watching television.
I don't have a problem with the church disciplining an official for attending an "interfaith" congregation. None of my business. I'm not against a church having rules and enforcing those rules, although I wonder about the damage done to some of their children, the stories you hear of the psychological damage done when the kids are too young to know the what's and the why's. But that's true of everything to do with the raising of children, it's the parents who dish out damage and condone the damage done by others: a church, an uncle, a military school in the name of discipline, I'm not sure religion is any more responsible than any of the others. That, by the way, coming from someone who has never had children: "blame it on the parents".
It's the part where the religion, its rules handed down by "God", makes that reason enough to bring you into their fold, through a hand full of grace or the touch of a club, you don't go for the one, you get the other. No harm in asking if you draw the line at asking.
The Lutherans disciplining their bishop? Nothing wrong with that. I will judge their sensibilites, of course, in reading the story, but there is no harm in a group disciplining its members. Doesn't make me want to rejoin the fold, of course. This may be fair and this may be unfair, but ultimately, a senior member of a church has the option, the upleasant option, but the option none the less of opting out altogether.
It's the boys with the guns and the knives in their hands and the God on their lips, the boys with the airplanes who fly into towers, the Attorney Generals who see the world through stained glass windows, the leader of a multi-cultural society who wields the sword with the hand of a Christian god in Old Testament trappings: a child's eye for a child's eye until there is but darkness. That makes me nervous. Curled up here within reach of a good book, writing a journal, in the city of Oakland.