Monday, November 12, 2012

Diversity on the Local, Congregational Level

Yesterday at church, one woman asked the woman in the pew ahead of me how her medical issues were progressing.  When told that the doctors hadn't been helpful, the woman without the medical issues said, "Well, you've just got to step up your prayer life then.  Those doctors aren't the final word."  She pointed towards the ceiling.  "He's the ultimate doctor, and we know that he does answer our prayers."  On and on she went.

I bit my tongue, although I think her theology is crummy--and dangerous.  The woman without good news from the doctors--what happens when she steps up her prayer life, and her health doesn't improve?  Will she assume that she hasn't prayed with enough skill?  Will she wonder what would have happened if she could have added even more prayer to her days?

I wanted to lean forward and talk about free will, the laws of the universe, and how God may not be able to intervene.  And yet, I didn't want to take away this woman's hope.  I watched her face soften and fill with some radiance as she got the pep talk.  Who am I to swirl in with what would be perceived as negative energy?

Not for the first time have I wondered about the strange theological splits in my church, by which I mean my local church.  Some of us are traditional Lutherans--we would no more have that talk about stepping up one's prayer life than we'd talk about our sex lives in church.  Unkind people might call us "God's frozen chosen."

There are others who lift their hands when they sing or prayer.  There are some with blissed out looks.  There are some who say "Amen" with enthusiasm.  And I've had some theological discussions with some of those folks that trouble me deeply.

I know that some of them come from more evangelical denominations.  We have some who have come from a local Missouri Synod Lutheran church that went through some upheavals a few years ago.

But we have also had people moving through sex change operations, and some of those evangelical people have welcomed the gender disoriented people warmly (others have not, but we persevere).  We have people who are working their way through addiction and back to health.  We have lots of enthusiastic children.  It's an intriguing mix.  We have the most diverse congregation in terms of color, age, cultural backgrounds, and economic situations that I have ever seen.

As the political season meandered along, I know that many people who don't socialize much with people outside of their demographic population have despaired at the possibility of the nation ever getting along as we become more diverse. 

My church gives me hope that we will.  At least the shoddy theology isn't what's being preached from the pulpit.

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