Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm Just Not Outraged

I have fond memories of my 3 months at University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. It's very easy for me to envision in my mind the sanctuary, the basement where there would be dinner and bible study, the side room where bible study would happen. It was a rich, full summer, and quite formative for me.

I bring this up to say that I am not distant from this whole fiasco - while I'm not an alum of ULC (I claim Trinity, Norman and OU), it was my home for a summer when I was a young 19 year old who had just decided to head to the Seminary.

But I'm just not outraged. I'm not incensed. I'm not ready to lambaste the folks who made this foolish decision - I can't declare them to be enemies of the Gospel or villains. I can't pound my fist in anger.

To be fair - I do feel frustration. I brought this up in our Psalms study when we came to Psalm 119:!4 - "In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches."

But the thing is - I just have a really hard time seeing the specific event, the specific place. I see something that is totally emblematic of what has been going on in our Church and our Country for the past 40 or 50 years.

It seems as though everyone in the LCMS has been trying to give our Synod and Districts more and more power. Why? Because we think that if we just win the vote (like we did in '69 or '7*) that then we can use our power to *fix* things.

Don't we realize that power will always be abused? Don't we realize that power will always drive after money?

How do I get incensed over this when I knew guys at the Sem who were missionaries overseas but had been called back for lack of funding, even as the bureaucracy spends more and more money? Or when I have seen small congregations ignored by districts because they don't give enough cash to matter? Or faithful men cast aside because of the threats of congregations dropping financial support to the district? Or men not receiving calls because of power plays, or blackballing (on both sides)? Or people forming their own mission societies (West Coast, East Coast, and Overseas) or youth programs because "funding" just isn't there even though there's enough to build office building after office building (new temples to the idol of self-importance)?

I can't be outraged by something that, while sad and tragic, is typical. It's like being outraged that someone who smokes gets lung cancer... it's terrible, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone... but can we be surprised? Can we be outraged?

I just don't have it in me to be outraged. And you know what - I'm sort of glad. Rage is rarely healthy. Rage rarely goes hand in hand with compassion.

And you know what - it's the poor saps who think that selling ULC is wise who actually *need* our compassion (God will tend to Pr. Kind and his flock, and probably in a way of wonder that we can't anticipate). Think about how vapid and poor and dour your life, your approach to the idea of "Church" where you'd think you need to trade a vital congregation for mere cash.

It's as though there is no more delighting in the testimonies, in the declarations of what God has done for His people. Selling ULC is the act of people who have no real hope - just desperation and vain efforts to try to keep their heads above water and maintain some modicum of control. And anyone drowning in that mire and muck, even if they hurt or wound us, needs our compassion.

God grant us all repentance, that we might once again delight in the mercies He shows us everyday in spite of and over and against our stupidity, our greed, our lust for power, and our hard-heartedness.


Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Good post, brother. But, now I'm not only outraged over this specific matter, but over the salient point you highlight, namely that things like this have become typical among us. God grant us repentance, indeed!

Phillip said...

I am outraged. Like you I'm not surprised, but I'm still outraged. Very little evil surprises me, I know "The World Is Very Evil." I'm still incensed, because I know precisely how hard it is to do campus ministry without a location on campus. I find your other complaints also very bad, but large quantities of injustices doesn't lessen how bad any of them are. This move will harm the ministry and this has been made clear to the BoD, yet they still did it. I find that plenty worthy of my anger. When people placed inside the Church to lead it willfully attack it, how else can I feel?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Well, remember - I don't trust anger. Anger makes the Christian do stupid, unrighteous things that he pretends are righteous. So, I try not to be outraged. Rage isn't a good thing. Anger, in a sinful man, is always twisted.

Our rage makes us forget one simple thing - the BOD isn't in a position of simply safeguarding one ministry - they think they have to justify and safeguard tons of things... and our rage makes us forget that.

Or put it another way - perhaps it is because of the way that you feel that you can only see this as an attack... can only see the BOD as enemies worthy of hate rather than people who made a foolish decision based out of misguided fears and misplaced goals.

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

Just because something is typical doesn't mean that it doesn't warrant outrage Eric. Take abortion, for instance. Does the fact that abortion is typical, that it is so widely accepted and practiced mean that it is not worthy of being outraged? Or are you just playing a semantics game? I am not only heart-broken for the saints at ULC and pastor Kind, as I'm sure you are, but I am incensed about it. I think that we have every right to be incensed about it, and I think that one of the reasons that stuff like this has been allowed to happen over the last forty years is that people have not gotten incensed enough about it. So, I would say to you--don't try to be so stoic when something like this happens, just because it is "typical."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Paul - I don't trust rage. I don't like rage, I don't like what my sinful flesh does.

I'm not "outraged" over abortion - I'm saddened by it. I am saddened that we live in a culture that encourages it and encourages behavior that would lead to it. But why should I be put out of sorts...

That is what it means to be "out"-raged... where the rage spills out from inside of you and dominates the way you act.

Same reason why I strive not to be "offended" - off-ended and thrown off balance or "upset" - which is to be overturned.

It's not simply a matter of "being stoic" or semantics -- the question is this. When something that is terrible, when something that is horrid - do we allow our emotions to get the better of us where we begin to think more on vengeance or showing love?

Which is Scriptural? Which is the proper attitude and approach for the Christian? Christ can go show forth righteous anger, for vengeance is Mine sayeth the Lord. But as for you and I - let not the sun go down on your anger.

*WE* become less, we become hateful - we become worse than the Priest and the Levite who stride on by the broken man... we become those who wish that we could beat and break people.

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

It is a semantic argument, as I suspected. What about compassion--are we allowed to spill our guts like Jesus did when we behold a pitiful sight?

Okay, so you are not out-raged; not incensed; not off-ended; you don't let your emotions get the better of you. Good for you! As for me, I'm human. Only robots and machines can be so stoic when there is clear injustice taking place.

I think it is different to be incensed and outraged by something than it is to be angry with your brother. I think you're comparing apples with oranges.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Yes - spill your guts. Be moved to acts of love and kindness.

But here is the thing -- while it is different to be incensed and outraged than it is to be angry with your brother... does rage, typically speaking, more often lead to love towards your brother who has sinned or towards anger?

And why minimize "semantics"? Do you not realize that words have meaning - that they instruct and inform and shape? Indeed, does not James warn us about how the tongue in the hardest member to tame -- isn't that speaking to how we use our words?

Just giving food for thought -- but again, when we focus on our outrage, we tend not to like thought... just in general.

Thomas Lemke said...

I think something that needs to be remembered here is that "lack-of-outrage" is not synonymous with "apathy". That is, it's possible to be very motivated to put an end to injustice (be it abortion, as was brought up, the ULC example in question, or others) without livid anger and outrage. Anger and the desire to right a wrong are not 1:1 the same thing.

Further, as Pastor Brown points out, we are inevitably more effective when we operate out of calm, measured thinking than when we jump the gun, as it were, in our haste to have justice (and let us not forget either that rage inevitably begets impatience). One thinks of Simeon and Levi's rage at the defiling of their sister and what transpired as a result - a sober warning against the potential outcomes of so-called "righteous" anger. Even when we think we have the best of intentions, not to mention the most justified of causes, anger does tend to cloud our judgement as to what the appropriate measures might be as we move forward.

Humanity is as humanity does, and I certainly do not begrudge the indignation felt by those passionate about this-or-that topic. But again, to say that feeling passionately about the rightness or wrongness of any given cause must of necessity produce anger; or, conversely, that if someone has no anger (or if they control it well and keep it at bay) then they are obviously a robot and have no concept of justice and injustice, good and evil... well, I don't think that follows.