Some reflections on Quizro's Confession of Faith.
I don't subscribe to the e2christians usergroup anymore, because when I did I found myself wanting to argue with the conservatives all the time. (Or argue with SEF, who is not conservative but still irks me). With all due respect to Quizro, the E2 Champion of Jesus, he may be a moderate, but only because his own natural wit and intelligence allows him to rise above his upbringing. (Southern Baptist/Episcopalian = Moderate? Oh, please!) What follows is a confession of a Christian liberal.
I'm not born again. I was baptised before I was one month old and that's when I became a Christian. I've never had anything like a conversion experience. My feeling about "prayer in school" is that, as long as there are exams, there will be prayers in school. I think that if you are against abortion then you shouldn't have one. I think that if you are gay, that's ok. I don't think it's important to harp on other people's sins (unless those people are high-profile hypocrites: then I can't resist).
I was raised a Lutheran. (No, not like those Midwestern Lutherans Garrison Kiellor tells stories about: they're Scandanavians. No, I come from Pennsylvania: from beer-swilling German Lutherans.) Lutherans have a skeptical view of politics. (Can you name a Lutheran president?) We have an aversion to mixing religion and politics. Given that the Devil can quote Scripture when it serves his purposes (see Matt. 4:6) it is essential to have a skeptical or ironic view of all things religious. I was raised to believe that no story, no dogma, nor ritual and no saying is so perfect and divine that it cannot be corrupted to serve evil. We can't accept things at face value: we must ask, like Luther's Small Catechism taught us: "What does this mean?"
I have a theory as to how we got this way. My ancestors had first hand experience of this "ironic" status of religion when they somehow survived the Thirty Years' War. The Thirty Years' War killed off somewhere between a third and 40% of the population of greater Germany. The Baptists and the Quakers and the Methodists never had to deal with anything quite like that in England and Scotland. The German Lutherans of Pennsylvania only reluctantly joined in the American Revolution, but once committed, mustered a regiment and fought in the war. (Martin E. Marty, Pilgrims in Their Own Land, 121-122, 148 (Penguin, 1984)). In the last century, immigrants like my great-grandfather could get along without learning a word of English; but when the World Wars made Germans the enemy, they quickly assimilated and in one or two generations (my parents) didn't speak a word of German.
Every time I hear talk about prayer in school or legislating women's reproductive choices, an ancestral memory seems to waken in me, associating that sort of talk with pogroms and wars.
Lutherans in America don't confuse political or linguistic conventions with religion. The King James Version isn't the Word of God anymore than Luther's Heilige Schrift. Right-wing politics are not Christianity, and neither is socialism. I wasn't raised to be believe that social prejudices against drinking, dancing, smoking or card-playing were Christian virtues. (The Christian virtues are "faith" "hope" and "love", not chastity, temperance and thrift.) I don't believe it's really any of my business whether anyone else is a screwup or a sinner: my first duty as a Christian is to love; to build up, not to tear down.
I try to look for the real meaning, the divine inspiration, in all of the Bible and all of the ritual and tradition of the Church, because I'm convinced the Truth is in there somewhere. Tradition is tradition. I don't require that all dogma be verifiable empircally or by rigorous proof, though using Pascal's distinction between l'esprit geometrique and l'esprit de finesse (which I suppose could be translated "mathematical mind" and "holistic mind") it does seem to me that the doctrines of Christianity, particularly as explained to me by philosophers like Kant and Kierkegaard (Lutherans, of course), do make a kind of "holistic" sense.
I'm sure there are conservative Lutherans, but I'm not one of them.
I'm currently not a church-going sort of Christian because my favorite congregation was taken over by conservatives who hate children. They insisted that we sit in the back pews and keep our kids quiet. For years I sat up front in this church every Sunday. I was a prominent member, teacher, council member. I won't sit in the back. My wife takes my boys to a different church now (shh: Presbyterians. Don't tell my mother) but I can't go because I'm still angry about that other one. I think God understands and won't send me to Hell for not going to church for a few years. I suspect he has other plans for me.