Here’s an article I wrote for The Lutheran Witness in 2014. I wrote it while under the influence of John Lukacs, an incurable condition for which I seek no remedy. If my deliberately provocative title sets you on edge, please understand: I was deliberating while intoxicated (DWI), and I am mostly a nice person. I do hate cats and “contemporary worship,” but mostly the latter, e’en though I used to lead it. I also used to own cats, and may do so again. Cats are supercilious creatures, but they are also a natural rodenticide.
Do you engage the culture? Are you culturally relevant? If not, then how can you say that you believe in sharing the Gospel? Or didn’t you know that “lost people matter to God”?
I hear this a great deal, in the broader evangelical world, and now more than ever it is making an appearance among Lutherans. It’s a point of view that’s nothing to trifle with, because at its core is a bold accusation of sin. And such an accusation brings with it a burden of guilt for faithful pastors and congregations who, by the standards of some unhelpful voices in the Church today, are less than culturally relevant.
Spoiler alert: I’m neither ordained nor called to the preaching ministry, but I do have the canonical authority to absolve sins that aren’t real.
You’ve heard the old maxim that “he who frames the question wins the debate.” Well, what we’re dealing with here is the wrong set of questions. Yet we keep asking them because, I think, there is great confusion as to what exactly we mean by “culture.” This confusion is nothing new, but as with all things that burble out of our dying civilization, it inevitably crept into the Church, disguised as an undeniable truth that we dare not contradict.