Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Those were the days

"Boy, the way Glenn Miller played,
songs that made, 'The Hit Parade;'
guys like us, we had it made.
Those were the days."

So began the 1970's television sitcom, "All in the Family." Archie and Edith set the theme of the show each and every week by pining after a simpler time when, "girls were girls and men were men." Living in the changing world of the 1970's, they longed for the familiar - the comfortable. That simple structure set up all the conflict - and thereby the comedy - in the program. Archie's worldview against the modern worldview.

When I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry 11 years ago, it did not take long before things became very turbulent in our Synod. The cause of confessional Lutheranism was under attack, at least that is the way I saw it. The Rev. Dr. Alvin Barry died two years after I was ordained. I attended his funeral. I then attended the 2001 Synodical Convention where the Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnik was elected President. Then 9-11 and the "Prayer for America" happened. I became active in fighting for "the cause," whatever the cause was - fighting for God - to defend Him against something or someone - His enemies as I perceived them.

I attended all the Symposiums at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne at the time. I attended the ACL Conferences. I attended the inaugural meeting of "Consensus" and became an original member. I signed "That They May Be One" as an original signatory. I went to a few secret meetings and dinners to make secret plans about what we were going to do about "them." I was never an upper level player in any of this - just a low level functionary. I should say that I do not regret those things.

Dr. Kieschnik was elected twice more - I was present for both of his re-elections. I continued to fight for "the cause." And the thing about it was that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the "us against them." I enjoyed the camaraderie of it all. It was comfortable. It was pleasurable. It made me feel like I was a part of something. I was part of something. It was the confessional worldview against the Synodical worldview. That simple structure set up all the conflict - and sometimes the comedy - of "the cause." My worldview against their worldview.

But as the years went on I grew somewhat weary of it. I did not agree with the direction that Dr. Kieschnik was taking the Synod, but I just could not get excited about the "us versus them" anymore. I began to realize that I did not have to defend God against something or someone - against "them." God did not me to defend Him, I needed God to defend me. And I slowly dropped away from most of those old activities.

The irony of Archie and Edith's song is that it is meant to show that the time after which they were pining really wasn't that great. It was a time of horrible poverty for many, war and suffering, diseases that ravaged people, and an almost complete lack of any social structure for the disabled, elderly and homeless. They had simply romanticized it into something it never really was.

I don't think that I romanticize my beginning years of ministry. I do, however, miss those days now and then. Perhaps I do romanticize them a little bit. Like Archie Bunker missed the 1940's, because he remembered it as something better than it actually was, so I sometimes miss the "us versus them," perhaps remembering it was something better than it actually was. It was who I was, to some extent. But not anymore. Archie could not stay in the 1940's. He had to move into the modern world - like it or not. And I could no longer justify staying in the "us versus them" world which I inhabited. I had to move on - like it or not.

There are still things that go on in the Synod and in sister congregations that I find very disagreeable. But I will strive not to be disagreeable even when I disagree. I will try not to characterize those with whom I disagree as the enemy. I certainly might go back to the Symposia, but I won't be going back to those days. I couldn't now even if I wanted to. In the Body of Christ, where we are all members of Him, called into being by water and the Word and fed and forgiven by His Body and Blood, there can never be "us versus them," there can only be "us."

"Didn't need no 'Welfare State,'
everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, my old LaSalle ran great!
Those were the days." 

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