December 15, 2017

Gathering Sparks

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Yesterday, I officiated a wedding. The couple wanted to make sure we honored the traditions of their families, and the groom was from a Jewish background. Indeed, one family member present was a Holocaust survivor. So, in the ceremony, I included readings and emphases from the Tanakh and we ended on a celebratory note with the groom breaking a glass, stomping on it while the crowd shouted, “Mazel Tov!” to congratulate the couple.

Here is what I said before the glass-breaking ritual:

In the Jewish tradition, the wedding ceremony ends, as we will today, with the breaking of a glass. This has come to symbolize many things over the years.

First, breaking the glass reminds us that all of our relationships are fragile and must be protected. In this ceremony, we pray in our hearts, “As this glass shatters, so may your marriage never break.”

Second, in the Jewish tradition, breaking the glass serves as a reminder of the sufferings of the Jewish people. Even in this moment of great joy, we are asked to remember that pain and suffering still fills this world and that we have a responsibility to help relieve some of that suffering. ______ and ______, may your marriage be one means of making this world a better place.

Finally, it symbolizes the breaking down of all barriers between us. After the glass is shattered, we invite all of you to lift your voices in unity and shout, “Mazel Tov!” which is a cry of celebration and good wishes for ______ and ______.

After the service, one of the Jewish relatives came up to me and thanked me for what I had said, commenting on how meaningful and important she found the second point especially to be. “Tikkun olam,” she said. “This is a central pillar of my faith. Every day I pray the Aleinu and this is why I believe we are here.”

We ended up sitting with her and other members of her family at the table during the reception and enjoyed a wonderful conversation about our lives and work.

One is a doctor who has devoted his life to caring for women and helping them bring new life into the world. Another is a nurse, who also assists new mothers in an inner city hospital. Yet another is an epidemiologist who travels all over the world giving consultation on public health matters. As for us, my wife is also a nurse as well as a licensed mental health counselor, and I work with hospice and have been in pastoral ministry for decades.

In many ways, we were a table of strangers, coming from different places, with different religious commitments and having some very different life experiences. In another sense, we came to see that our hearts are one. We are people walking in the same direction. All of us have been led to place a high value on service to others and we find not only personal satisfaction but hope for the world in God blessing our works.

We each believe that the fabric of the world is torn, but that through God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love we have been handed needle and thread and invited to participate in mending some of its rent places.

This is Tikkun olam, an idea that many contemporary Jews have embraced in their vision of the religious life. It means “to repair the world.” The roots of this concept run deep in Judaism and, as my friend said, may be seen the ancient Aleinu prayer. Like the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, the Aleinu asks that God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. One translation puts a portion of it like this:

Therefore we put our hope in You, Adonai our God,
to soon see the glory of Your strength,
to remove all idols from the Earth,
and to completely cut off all false gods;
to repair the world, Your holy empire.

This idea of “repairing the world” was developed in a great myth which became infused into Jewish tradition in the 16th-century by the renowned Jewish mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, known as the Ari. He proposed that the Jewish people are God’s partners in repairing the world, and to teach this he constructed a cosmic myth from biblical stories, beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the Messianic Era. Here is a summary of that myth:

ari_640x360At the beginning of time, God’s presence filled the universe. When God decided to bring the world into being, to make room for creation, He contracted Himself by drawing in His breath, forming a dark mass. Then God said, Let there be light (Gen. 1:3) and ten holy vessels came forth, each filled with primordial light.

God sent forth the ten vessels like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of light. But the vessels—too fragile to contain such powerful Divine light—broke open, scattering the holy sparks everywhere.

Had these vessels arrived intact, the world would have been perfect. Instead, God created people to seek out and gather the hidden sparks, wherever we can find them. Once this task is completed, the broken vessels will be restored and the world will be repaired.

Source: Tikkun Olam, the Backstory

Many Jews in the Ari’s day had been exiled from their homes and homelands. The Ari gave them a renewed sense of meaning and purpose when he explained that, wherever they found themselves, they could gather up sparks when they studied Torah or fulfilled one of God’s commandments. This emphasis went beyond the notion of obeying God’s commands strictly for the sake of obedience or even to honor the Lawgiver. It helped these dislocated people view their exile with a new sense of mission. Now they could be God’s partners in gathering up the sparks of light from all corners of the earth.

Tikkun olam tells us that our good works do matter. Our neighbors need them. Our world needs them. And we hope that God will use them as a part of restoring the full light of righteousness and peace to a dark world.

Comments

  1. The Jewish concept of tikkun olam is identical with the Orthodox teaching on synergy. As the Russian pastor put it – ‘gut werks no sayff you. gut werks sayff yer neighbor, sayff worlt’

  2. We certainly should do all that we can to “repair this world”.

    Knowing full well that it is going to pass away. That it is being brought to an end by our Lord. “Heaven and earth will pass away…”

    And one Day, He will repair it the way it needs to be repaired. In ways which we are powerless to fully comprehend.

    • Steve, I find that an inadequate eschatology and an unfortunate diminishing of the role of human beings as the image of God in this world.

      • There is the attitude with some people that this present world is a sinking ship and God is going to destroy it all soon anyways, so it is seen as almost a sinful lack of faith to want to fix or even preserve anything in the here and now. This goes against the Christian idea of vocation and I can only imagine if a society accepts this mindset, that society will stagnate and become an economic and social basket case.

        I have heard people say they hope when they get “raptured” that God will give them a ringside seat in heaven where they can enjoy watching the carnage that will happen on earth during the “tribulation.” It is hard to imagine anything more depraved than that.

        • ISIS and boko haram, perhaps.
          Lord have mercy on us all.

          • Once a few years ago I was at a flea market and a couple of guys near me were having an animated conversation. I looked their way and one guy told his fellow, “Obama is the Antichrist [he named some chapter and verse], New York City is Babylon [he named a chapter and verse] and it will be destroyed in a nuclear explosion THIS YEAR!” You should have seen the guy, he was talking fast and loudly like he was excited and he had this weird smile. I turned quickly and sneaked away, hoping he didn’t notice me. I was probably staring at him with my mouth open in disbelief. I know this sounds like a story I made up as a straw man against dispensationalists, but I swear this is true. I am in part of the country where “Rapture” discussions probably aren’t that unusual, but that right there was probably the worst thing along those lines that I have heard.

          • This is why Nietzsche had such contempt for Christians: he saw that beneath the surface piety and words about loving one’s neighbor and forgiving, there was so often a religion of ressentiment, and a desire for good, old-fashioned revenge carried out by none other than God. “Give me that Old Time Religion!”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And after the Tribulation, they’ll keep those catered box seats to watch the damned burning in Hell for all eternity. It’s called “The Abominable Fancy”.

        • Steve – I want to be clear that my comment was not directed at you at all. It was just my frustration with how some people are so “other worldly” to the point where they think since their own salvation is all sewn up, they can be indifferent about what goes on in this world. I know that is not your mindset. You are right, any “fixing” we manage to do is imperfect and temporary.

          How do we avoid both extremes? I’m saved and the world is gonna’ burn soon vs. the idea we can “fix” things to perfection if only we get the right formula and try enough. How do we find a middle ground?

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          This is from Tertullian.

          • Do you have a specific writing from Tertullian you can recommend? It is work trying to plot a sensible course when my temptation is to just react against one extreme or the other.

          • Faulty is referring to Tertullian’s De Spectaculis.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Looks like we have a head-to-head conflict between Tikkun Olam and It’s All Gonna Burn.

        Thank you John Nelson Darby and fanboys.

      • To be fair to Steve, I don’t think he’s an “It’s All Gonna Burn” guy. What he’s saying is more like what Dana was posting in the comments a few weeks ago, with links to the Eastern Orthodox blog (Father Stephen?), “We are not going to make things better,” and which was being connected by several commenters, possibly including CM, with the idea of the Triduan shape of history, and its theology of Holy Saturday/the Cross.

        • I agree that what Steve is saying is not “It’s all gonna burn.” However, there is a diminishment of human participation in the Missio Dei in his words that is more Lutheran than Luther and more attuned to theological systems that emphasize man’s depravity and try to protect the glory of God from any human claims than to the ethos of the Hebrew Bible, in which humans are active participants in what God is doing in the world.

          I also think it’s important to say that this world is not going to “pass away.” I don’t believe that is what Jesus was saying. This “age” is going to pass away and heaven and earth “as we know it” is going to pass away — that is, heaven and earth in its broken condition under the “rulers of this age” — but somehow, I believe, the small patches we are mending on the world today are not just makeshift, temporary measures that make life tolerable until God finally arrives to act. Instead, they are actually part of what God is doing to fully repair the world and will be incorporated into the ultimate healing of its wounds.

          What is incomprehensible to me is how God will take these small, admittedly imperfect efforts, and make a new world out of them.

          • In my more hopeful moments, I agree with all you are saying, CM, about the fate of the world and the nature of the Eschaton.

            The thing that so often puts Steve at cross purposes with many commenters at iMonk, including myself, and with you, in this subject and others is his antinomianism, not any world-hatred. His understanding of Christian liberty leads him to an ethical quietism and passivity, and a strong antipathy to anything that smacks of discipline.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I agree that what Steve is saying is not “It’s all gonna burn.” However, there is a diminishment of human participation in the Missio Dei in his words that is more Lutheran than Luther…

            Similar to More Calvinist than Calvin, more Islamic than Mohammed, more Marxist than Marx, and more Objectivist than Rand…

            …and more attuned to theological systems that emphasize man’s depravity and try to protect the glory of God from any human claims than to the ethos of the Hebrew Bible, in which humans are active participants in what God is doing in the world.

            Make that Calvinism with a little seasoning of Islam.

            For who did more to emphasize man’s depravity than Calvin’s fanboys? And who protected God’s glory and Sovereignty and Omnipotence from human claims more than Mohammed, “leaving Him alone in the sky” like the ultimate Other?

          • In addition, Steve often says that any self-discipline or self-denial in living the Christian life inevitably leads to pride, which is the the denial of God’s grace; what he doesn’t seem to realize is that his own position also lead to pride and self-assertion.

            In fact, pride is unavoidable in living the Christian life; the only question is, will our pride be the result of constructive or destructive disciplines, and will they be open or not to being humbled.

            Now I’ll stop speaking about Steve instead of to him.

          • It is not the doing of works that leads to pride…but the errant thinking that we will somehow merit something where God is concerned, that leads wither to pride…or to despair. And so often a by product is phoniness.

            To set the record straight.

          • Sorry for speaking about you instead of to you, Steve. That’s rude. I do have some appreciation for your position, though I disagree at points.

      • Did you not read my first sentence?

        But humans can do nothing to put off the inevitability of God bringing this world to a close. BVut we ought do all we can, in the meantime.

        • Steve, I did read the first part, and I acknowledge that you say we should do good works. But the way you say it takes all the “spark” out of it, as though Christians just naturally do these things and don’t need to be encouraged to do so in any way. Luther himself was deeply disappointed in the failures of the churches and Christians who heard his teachings, lamenting that a Reformation in teaching and church practices did not seem to inspire believers to live differently. As was Paul, if I read the NT correctly. There is always a place, in my view to “stimulate one another to love and good works,” and it doesn’t always have to be qualified by warnings about works-righteousness.

          • Mike,

            If the Holy Spirit and the grace of God cannot inspire us to do good, then we might as well forget about it.

            Good works, prodded by the law, are like the cow who gives a good bucket of milk, and then kicks it over.

            Luther’s detractors said, “Well…if people are not pushed to do good works by the law, thern the floodgates of iniquity will be opened.”

            And Luther said in responses, “Let them open!” (Luther knew that they are already open)

            • Steve, that’s great in theory, but why then did Paul write things like, “As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1Thess 2:11-12)

              I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — we mustn’t let our theology trump how the Bible actually presents the gospel and Christian life.

              • Let me add that I think this is where the Law/Gospel distinction is too much of a broad brush. When law is broadly defined as anything we are called to do in contrast to what God alone does, then we fail to correctly understand the distinction the NT makes between the new obedience and obedience to the law. Paul and the other apostles exhorted believers to new obedience under the gospel. They were not prodding believers by the law. That is a false equivalence.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

            I actually think this is an excellent example of where the “law/gospel” hermeneutic breaks down. While there are delimiting factors in the conversation, we haven’t learned anything if we can’t move past those boundaries and into the conversation of what exactly we should be doing. It is like always talking music theory, and never playing a symphony.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > it doesn’t always have to be qualified by warnings about works-righteousness.

            +1,000 and all my other points.

            The constant bracketing deteriorates the messages; it is “Yes, but”. And any positive statement immediately followed by a “but” is a negative statement; especially when it is repeated over and over and over and over and over…. “and what were you saying??? Right, works are meaningless got it.”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > if we can’t move past those boundaries and into the conversation of
            > what exactly we should be doing

            If a particular theological concept is so incredibly fragile and difficult to reduce that is ultimately leads to ceaseless and pointless squabbling, agonizing hair-splitting, and sending well-intentioned people off to somewhere else – then maybe it just isn’t worth much, maybe it should just be left behind.

            “law vs. grace” as a meme brings scant illumination, but a lot of heat. I have personally watched it baffle the new congregant, and swung as an gabble by the would-be tyrant. I say close that book and put it somewhere high on the back shelves to be forgotten.

          • CM, I think you’re wrong there: Law/Gospel isn’t a broad brush, but a rather fine art, which is, as Walther explains, “taught by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.” When reduced to the simplistic argument that Steve made, it is of course a broad brush. But that is hardly a fair synopsis of the discipline at large, especially given the subtlety and nuance of Walther’s tome on the subject.

            Dr. F,

            It is like always talking music theory, and never playing a symphony.

            That is a horrible musical analogy. The theory is the foundation of every symphony. Apart from it, no symphony is ever written. Let’s not kid ourselves: The master composers were not idiot savants. They were incredibly diligent and disciplined at their craft, coupled of course with insane levels of natural ability. But they knew their theory frontwards and backwards, inside and out. There was no “let’s try these few notes. Hey that sounds good! Let’s work with it.” Even the ones who didn’t study formally still knew the theory by sound, because their great works demonstrate a strong enough knowledge of convention to know where breaking with it would be sensational.

            Law/Gospel is not a trumping of good works with grace, and anybody who presents it that way is simply doing it wrong. Always take those sorts of things in the context of Luther’s interpretation of the decalogue in the Small Catechism and the Table of Duties. Strong prescriptive statements there, all based on the New Testament. In the Law/Gospel hermeneutic, neither negates the other. We have the Law to its fullest 100%, and Grace to its fullest 100%, and we take great care to rightly distinguish one from the other. We are not to let one detract from the other so as to end up with an 80%/20% mix or something. It’s 200% or nothing.

            Lastly, I think Paul’s moral exhortations in the Epistles are textbook perfect examples of how to do Law/Gospel correctly. They are as good a textbook on the proper distinction as anything Walther wrote, except for that Paul is demonstrating what Walther explains a bit more systematically. Paul always leads with the Gospel, and flows from there into what its practical implications on our lives look like. I believe Walther calls this “using the admonitions of the Gospel to urge the regenerate to do good.” (Thesis XXIII)

            • I’m concerned with the presentation as it was given in this comment thread. I won’t speak to the history of the doctrine. Your point about Paul confirms what I said: there is a difference between exhorting those in Christ to new obedience under the gospel and preaching law. Walter as you quote him speaks of “admonitions of the gospel,” whereas the popular presentation of law/gospel identifies anything God tells me to do as law, and anything God does for me in Christ as gospel. Furthermore, it has been regularly stated here that good works inevitably flow naturally from our freedom in Christ and that we need not try to urge or persuade believers to practice good works. That is a misunderstanding of law/gospel, and for the life of me, I can’t see how anyone can read the NT and come away thinking that is what it teaches.

          • Adam,

            “law vs. grace” as a meme brings scant illumination, but a lot of heat.

            Agreed. The two do not war with each other. They work together to accomplish God’s purposes in us. Anybody who has a problem with the law (moral indicatives) might as well call God a legalist.

            “and what were you saying??? Right, works are meaningless got it.”

            It all depends on the context. Eternally, our merits will not avail our souls, and so in that sense they are. Temporally, our good deeds will avail our neighbor, so in that sense they are infinitely meaningful. It helps to clarify what we’re talking about when people begin to squabble over these kinds of things.

            If a particular theological concept is so incredibly fragile and difficult to reduce that is ultimately leads to ceaseless and pointless squabbling, agonizing hair-splitting, and sending well-intentioned people off to somewhere else – then maybe it just isn’t worth much

            True. The other possibility, of course, is that the “concept” is being completely misunderstood. Law/Gospel is a very simple observation: Some things God asks us to do, and these are GOOD works (law). Some things God gives to us freely, such as forgiveness, life, and salvation (gospel). Both are good, right, and salutary, and ought to be proclaimed to their fullest extent. The whole point is to embrace them both fully, but not confuse one with the other. Good news and good advice are both good, but still drastically different. The reason it is so important is that when we confuse the two, we often end up with good advice without good news. There’s no reason we can’t have our cake and eat it with this one. 🙂

          • CM, I see what you’re saying. Law/Gospel is not easy task, and though I sort of agree that what God asks us to do is generally Law, I don’t think this is a problem so long as the Gospel doesn’t negate it. But I’ll have to read more on how Walther distinguishes the “commands of the law” from the “Admonitions of the Gospel” in Thesis 23. Haven’t gotten that far yet.

            for the life of me, I can’t see how anyone can read the NT and come away thinking that is what it teaches.

            I can. Seen it happen, many times. Antinomianism seems like such a safe heaven for recovering victims of very legalistic fundamentalism. Having come through something roughly similar, I can attest that this (incorrect) view seems initially very refreshing and relieving. It is always good to put the focus back on what Christ does for us rather than on what we ought to be doing, but not to the point that we are rendered morally impotent.

            The last Pastor I served in the SBC said from the pulpit, and I quote him verbatim, “Don’t ask me how to live the Christian life. I wouldn’t have a thing to say!” He’s recovering from his background in the General Association of Regular Baptists (hard-core conservative Calvinists with strong cultural isolationism), and thinks he’s found grace. It is anything but.

      • Drena (@DrenaBlanc) says:

        I must agree… reading N. T. Wright’s works give a different perspective on it: the world will be transformed, but still the same world.

      • I liked what I heard in a semi-sermon I heard today. The pastor suggested that Acts 26:16-18 is a sort of job description for Christians. This is Jesus talking to Paul (recounted by Paul):

        “…I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me…I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

        I think it fits with what you say, CM.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      i.e. “It’s All Gonna Burn(TM).”

  3. Christiane says:

    thank you for this beautiful post . . . I love the story behind the saying ‘tikkun olam’, and I had not heard it like that before, it’s very meaningful to me

    the part of the post about ‘good works don’t save you, they save your neighbor’ . . . reminds me about that story of the difference of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’:
    two identical banquets: one in heaven and one in hell, the table laden with delicious food in great abundance, the guests seated . . .
    in hell, there was problem: each person could not bend their elbows . . . so they could not bring the food to their mouths . . . they could not eat! they were starving, but they could not get the spoons and forks to their mouths . . .

    in heaven, there was the SAME problem: each person could not bend their elbows to reach their mouths, but everyone was enjoying the good food

    the difference: in heaven, the partakers would feeding one another

    I don’t know where this story came from and I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it illustrates so much the idea that we are part of one another in God’s creation and what we do matters, if it is done unselfishly, and out of compassion for those who need help . . . that it matters is a part of the gospel in my opinion . . . for me, a big part of the good news

    • The Orthodox claim it, of course, via St Theophan the Recluse, but it appears to be a Jewish story. St Theophan was a defender of the Jews in his diocese and perhaps he heard it from them.

    • Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21

      May the Lord by His grace increase His kingdom in us and among us and through us.

      • The kingdom of God is in our midst. What greater mystery could there be? What greater hope?

        Lord, gives us eyes to see your kingdom in our midst, and to help others to see it.

  4. cermak_rd says:

    Tikkun olam was definitely one of the prime concepts that attracted me to Judaism.

    For me, empathy is a supreme trait that humanity has been gifted with.

  5. ” When God decided to bring the world into being, to make room for creation, He contracted Himself by drawing in His breath, forming a dark mass.”

    Analogous to Christian theology of the Cross? Or Kenotic theology?

  6. Consider me an eschatological skeptic. I’m not so naive that I think that our own good works, by the power of the Holy Spirit of course, are going to usher in the Kingdom of God, given enough time. And I certainly don’t think the ultimate destiny of all creation is destruction, but renewal. The point of the “new heaven and new earth” isn’t that God destroys the old, but rather, that he finally and ultimately sets everything right again.

    These respectively optimistic and pessimistic views on the Biblical teachings of end times seem to me like looking at the same truth from different angles. To a certain extent, many eschatological views are exercises in self-justification. The “it’s gonna burn” camp takes their solace in the fact that they have a ticket for the last train to paradise before the cataclysm. The more socially progressive camp, while certainly far more beneficial to society, has far too much confidence in the goodness of human beings, the purity of our motives, and the strength of our resolve to fight and eventually vanquish both the evil within our own hearts and in the world around us. I am too well acquainted with my own depravity to put a ton of stock in that. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try, and try we must with all our might. But our every success will always be tainted with failure and hampered by the assaults of evil working in the opposite direction. Imago Dei or not, the evil trinity of sin, death, and the devil are bigger and stronger than we shall ever be. Science will prove me right on that second one.

    The question I have for all these theories is: To where is it directing you to place your hope? “I got my fire insurance” and “we shall overcome” are both the wrong answers, even if both contain an important element of truth.

    • Two comments, Miguel. First of all, the line you are drawing is the line I am trying to walk. I don’t think my stated views here fall off to one side or the other of the two camps you’ve described.

      Second, one of the problems in this discussion is that people want to define “good works” in specific ways and always identify what counts for “success” or “progress.” I’m certain none of us are able to do that. While both of the camps you describe focus on visible, organized, and often publicized efforts to improve the world (one emphasizing their necessity, the other their futility), the doctrine of vocation reminds us that simply doing our daily work well, saying a good word to a family member, giving a cup of cold water, etc. are the kind of actions that plant seeds for new creation harvests. We simply live in Christ each day by faith in love, and rest in the hope that such living will sew patches on the world’s tears. This too is a matter of trust and hope, and as such, conjures no illusions that we will taste any more than a small portion of the fruit of our labors until the age to come.

      • I agree with your points. Faithfulness in our vocation is one of the implications of the Gospel, our “cross to bear,” as it were, and something the Church is always responsible for teaching as part of its doctrine. This is just another example why the distinction between Law and Gospel is so important. Our good works are indeed necessary, but they aren’t the source of our hope. We do them because of the hope we do have in Christ, and even as we do them, we remain unworthy servants. Any good works we are able to do, I believe, as the fruits of our faith, are also gifts from God, and to that sense, it is Him who is working to bring cold water to the thirsty. Kind of like the slogan “God’s work, our hands,” except that apart from faith even our good works are sin. This may sound pessimistic, until we consider that God is constantly doing many good works through us that we never even notice. The way in which faith leads us can seem a bit mysterious at times.

  7. I think its very observant that once upon a time, evangelicals were not necessarily right-wing. Then, along came the “religious”-“right”, and almost overnight right-wing politics defined evangelicals; those less than this definition of “right” were…well, wrong.

    The post last Thursday/Friday stated that those leaders or movements with which we disagree define us, i.e. “I’m not like them”. This is somewhat true, but in a negative way. If I’m not one of them, then I am nobody. The faith-prosperity movent of this same period, lead by Kenneth Haggin, Kenneth Copleland, Charles Capps, etc., made it clear that if you are sick then you are a sinner; if you are not rich, then you don’t have “faith”.

    Now, if one doesn’t agree with young earth creationism, then you do not believe in Jesus, the resurrection, nor anything in the Bible; in the case of Michael Gungor, you’re ostricized.

    The other movement to come out of the seventies and eighties is the youth-focus of the church. If your not young, can’t put up with the worship rock show, or can’t squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans, then you’re not wanted.

    I think this is a key factor in the on-coming evangelical disaster. When a faction can define the faith with a fringe (if not blatently heretical belief), if leaves the majority to either tow the line or move on. Those who attempt to identify with the new norm defined by the fringe group eventually burn out, experience abuse, or eventually can’t live the lie anymore and also move on. Allowing the fringe to define the faith by extreme or trivial issues is accelerating the attrition rate.

    For you all who define yourselves as Lutherans, I think you hold a key answer: adiaphora, or “indifferent things”. First, this teaching allows liberty with indifferent things – such as music styles; however, it prohibits indifferent things from being forced on a congregation as essential. Narrowing of the faith in the essential matters is important for the health and longevity of the faith; needlessly narrowing the faith and shutting out believers over non-essential matters is not love and (based on Jesus’ teaching), heretical.

    • “Growing up it all seems so one-sided
      Opinions all provided
      The future pre-decided
      Detached and subdivided
      In the mass production zone

      Nowhere is the dreamer
      Or the misfit so alone

      Subdivisions —
      In the high school halls
      In the shopping malls
      Conform or be cast out
      Subdivisions —
      In the basement bars
      In the backs of cars
      Be cool or be cast out
      Any escape might help to smooth
      The unattractive truth
      But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
      The restless dreams of youth”
      – Neil Peart