LCMS Liberals to LCMS Confessional Tea Party: Just Go Away, by Pr. Rossow

In the past year I have heard LCMS liberals/moderates/church-growthers essentially say “Just go away” to the LCMS confessional internet commotion. On three different occasions in three different settings and in three different ways I have heard them say “Why don’t you just stop all this internet stuff and just be a pastor to your flock.” There is some sage advice in this comment which I will discuss below but the fact that I am hearing this in many different ways from different folks in different contexts leads me to believe that it is more than sage advice; it is their futile way of trying to get rid of something they cannot control.

This is a common theme among the other side. They really do not know what to do with all these new avenues of confessional communication and so they just try to demonize it all by saying “Don’t you have more godly things you should be doing?” The confessional internet force is incapable of being controlled by their usual maneuvering and control of the LCMS political system. They are frustrated, just as liberals are frustrated with the tea party movement in American politics. It is a grass roots, sometimes underground, slippery-as-an-eel, but powerful as a bull in a china closet sort of thing that they just can’t get their arms around to squelch and control and so they say “Shouldn’t you just be taking care of your flock?”

There is of course more than a grain of truth in what they are saying. The internet can take pastors away from their god-given tasks of preaching, teaching and administering the sacraments. In my case, I try to keep a good balance. Even though I am the editor of this site and try to read all of the comments, there are some times when that is just not possible and I never have as much time as I would like to jump into the fray of the discussion strings. I also have other hobbies that I like to pursue and so there is not a lot of free time for internet chatting. Pastors, let’s make sure that we keep our internet time in perspective when it comes to balance with administering word and sacraments.

Maybe the liberal/moderate/church-growthers are confused because so much of their pastoral time is taken up with reading the latest leadership website, writing a new mission statement for their latest courageous adventure, attending the latest John Maxwell seminar or even reading the latest book that says that the liturgy is the up and coming new wave of excitement in the church. (I am hearing that interesting musing once again.) I guess they are just too busy with the most recent trend to be worried about defending the purity of the Gospel through internet discussion. Maybe they also don’t understand that for some pastors, discussing and defending the faith on internet forums is one of their chosen hobbies. That actually doesn’t seem like such a bad hobby.

Confessional pastors on the internet helped bring about tea-party like reforms to the LCMS in the last political go-around, all the while doing a bang-up job of catechizing their members and delivering the forgiveness of sins to them. Will we just go away and take care of our parishioners? Yes and no. We will keep delivering the forgiveness of sins to our parishioners and teach them the pure Gospel, but we will not go away.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

LCMS Liberals to LCMS Confessional Tea Party: Just Go Away, by Pr. Rossow — 164 Comments

  1. I haven’t read every comment to this post, so maybe I am repeating something here, but does one really have to be Tea Party advocate to be a confessional Lutheran? I will not attend (or work at) a church that does not use traditional liturgy; I don’t believe in women’s ordination; I don’t believe in open communion; but I do not agree with the majority of what the Tea Party advocates, and even if this is just an analogy, it is offensive. I am frankly quite appalled by this apparent “requirement” and quite isolated in my view as well. It is becoming more and more difficult to belong to an LCMS congregation. Either I have to experience a horrible lack of substance in the service, and accept many things that are not scriptural, and not healthy, or I have to sit and listen to members and even pastors making very bigoted, false statements about our president and about the poor in this country. Not everything the Tea Party advocates is supported by scripture; some of it is blatantly against what Scripture says. This is offensive and I know it puts off some potential “seekers.” In fact, I have had long and fruitful conversations with an agnostic woman who was very surprised that there were conservative Christians who were NOT Tea Party advocates. She would only talk to me about Christianity because of this, and was very put off by Christians who supported the Tea Party’s message of selfish individualism, lack of compassion, and name-calling (i.e., all Europeans are “communists”). This is a serious problem in our Synod. I have heard LCMS Tea Party members talking downright cruelly about single mothers, children of single mothers, the unemployed. What about the ill and disabled? There is a great deal of Social Darwinism in Tea Party politics; every liberal sees this. And we are then claiming to believe in the 6-day creation? The hypocrisy in this is hard to deny and is a real road-block to evangelism.

  2. @Dawn Sonntag #151

    I hear you. From what I have learned, and chatting with some who studdied history, it seems to me that there was a great political realignment back in the 60’s. But how things broke out politically does not cleanly transfer to how things are for orthodox Christianity. Because of certian issues the Democrats tookup, the orthodox ended up in the Republican party because they had no where else to go, not because they were won over. (I am sticking with my story…) So enter the Tea Party. Some aspects I like, some I don’t, and I find myself disliking its candidates more than the movement. And a last caveat, I have found that political affiliation trumps church membership when it comes to accurately describing people’s attitudes and opinions.

    So it is great to hear you speak TRUTH in love, with what the Holy Spirit leads you with in dealing with other people. Keep up the good fight. We could use more shining lights like you. I greatly appreciate your words.

  3. @Dawn Sonntag #151
    Well put.

    My worldly politics tend to be “center left” and althoughI haven’t heard it from the pulpit, some of the conversations in the fellowship hall are becoming more unchristian each Sunday. Frankly I believe many of us have our kingdoms backward as far as priority.

  4. Those of you who desire some information on “what Luther said” on revolution, resistance, and rebellion, can check out this book: http://lutheranpress.com/ccbs.htm

    What became more and more clear to me as I prepared the book and the commentary was that Luther, unlike Calvinist theologians, didn’t come up with a general theory of resistance. He, the longer the more, was very keen on studying the concrete legal framework of the Holy Roman Empire at the time and abiding by it.

    Hence any early Lutheran reference to the “lower magistrates,” is not a general one that we may apply to lower magistrates in GB, the US, or elsewhere. Rather, it needs to be understood within the framework provided by the way the German Empire was constituted at the time, with the seven electors and all.

    Today’s legal framework is different. Therefore, …

    BTW, if it’s any comfort to anyone, the early LCMS theologians, being familiar with the history of the late 18th- / early 19th-century from personal experience, not just via book learnin’, lumped democracy, capitalism, communism, socialism, etc. all into the same bin. The lable on that bin said: “Liberalism.”

    There you have it.

  5. @Jason #152
    The Democratic Party has certainly taken the wrong path when it comes to abortion and they deserve to lose, whatever other good things they accomplish, because of it. I am very saddened by this. There is a strong pro-life group called Democrats for Life (http://democratsforlife.org/), but the mainstream Democrats fight them and won’t give them a platform at conventions. The group has had a hard time gaining visibility in the Democratic party. These pro-life Democrats do not migrate to the Republican party because they view the Republicans as hypocrits who damage the pro-life cause by fighting against programs that provide health care and other support for women and children – in fact, for all parents. Democrats for Life were in part responsible for implementing the law that allows women to have information and an ultrasound before an abortion. Naturally, that program required funding for equipment, technicians, and doctors. George Bush’s administration cut funding for this program. Kristen Day, current chair of that organization said on an NPR interview that something like 85% of all women who saw the ultrasound changed their minds about the abortion.
    I don’t know how Obama has dealt with Democrats for Life, although I do know that a couple of important bills promoted by this group have been passed during Obama’s presidency. On the other hand, if the Republicans really support life, then they would not cut funding for the poorest in our country. And some things that some Republicans are suggesting – for example, that women who have miscarriages should be put on trial to assess whether they tried to self-induce the miscarriage – are just masogynistic. Should a woman who is two months pregnant really be allowed to bleed to death rather than have a D and C? This happened in previous centuries because the medical resources and knowledge were not available – one reason the life expectancy rates were so low. (Of course if abortions were figured into the statistics now, what would our life expectancy rate be?) What happens to poor uninsured women who have a miscarriage? I don’t buy the argument that “they shouldn’t have become pregnant if they couldn’t afford health insurance, so they just have to suffer the consequences,” as one allegedly Lutheran libertarian told me.
    I am surprised how many Christians accept everything Glen Beck, who is Mormon, says as evidence that all “believers” should vote Republican. This is probably because many Christians who are not Lutherans don’t understand the difference between Law and Gospel and accept non-Lutheran TV evangelists’ interpretations of historical and political events. I am glad that there are other Christians who believe in the 6-day Creation, but there are some important doctrinal issues on which we are not unifed. Also, there are many Tea Partiers who are not even Christian – they are simply Libertarians who would just as soon not have the government involved in morality issues. I understand that there may be different opinions regarding how our country’s leaders care for citizens’ well-being and rights. But any public promotion of a political party by a representative of the LCMS gives a false picture of orthodox Lutheran (i.e. Christian) beliefs.

  6. @Dawn Sonntag #151

    Dawn,

    I am pretty sure that Pr. Rossow isn’t suggesting that one has to be a Tea Party supporter to be a Confessional Lutheran. Although, I know many Confessional Lutherans who are Tea Party supporters.

    Regarding the Tea Party itself. I think it is important to keep in mind that the Tea Party isn’t a political party, at least not yet. Instead, it is a grass roots populist movement. There are several groups vying to be the “official voice” of the Tea Party, such as “Tea Party Patriots” and maybe “Tea Party Express.” Certainly two Republicans I can think of (Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin) seem to work hard at promoting themselves as the spokesperson for the Tea Party, but such a position is dubious given how loosely knit the movement is. The Tea Party movement is not monolithic, but certainly most identifying with the Tea Party are politically conservative.

    You write about Republicans, “On the other hand, if the Republicans really support life, then they would not cut funding for the poorest in our country.” I think this generalization is simply wrong. Most of the Republicans I personally know are very concerned about the poor and actively support the community by giving to the poor. Yeah, they really support life. I think we have to be careful not to confuse the Republican party’s principles of fiscal conservatism with the idea that the party doesn’t support social justice. That simply is not true. It is obvious to me that how party Democrats and party Republicans (as opposed to the “ordinary Joe” who may identify with either party) talk about social justice looks like two alien races trying to communicate, but failing to do so. At many points they are worlds apart! Some hardline party Republicans will say they are against “social justice,” but what they mean by that is they are against government, forced, redistribution of wealth. These same people though are definitely for supporting the poor, but will more likely argue that support for the poor in our country should come at the community level starting with churches, synagogues, and other organizations.

    Pr. Rossow mentioned something in the OP about the Tea Party being a “slippery eel” and he is right. The unified voice of the Tea Party so-far has been “enough already!” The movement is “slippery” precisely because it drops the ideological talk of the political parties and presents itself as a folk movement which has simple solutions even “Joe the Plumber” can understand. A good number of them that I personally know (some of which identify as Democrats, btw) are united around hitting a “reset button” on Washington, D.C. because they, and I, are very tired of politics as usual and want to see our country going in the right direction.

  7. @Dawn Sonntag #1
    Dawn,

    I understand this is something like a year-old conversation; but I wanted to express my appreciation for randomly coming across your post. I am an aspiring colloquy candidate into the LCMS. My wife and I have been feeling increasingly isolated here with the prevalence of “tea party” attitudes. I don’t want to continue the debate, only to say that I am encouraged to see a socially moderate voice along side me.
    ~ Mel

  8. This is the forty-third mention of the phrase, “Tea Party,” in this thread with the previous forty-two providing no definition what it is or what it advocates, instead relying on unsubstantiated pejoratives or emotional euphemisms, or referring to the original Boston tea party.

  9. @Carl Vehse #8
    Just for reference: Properly it’s the TEA Party, standing for Taxed Enough Already. The TEA Party is a true grass-roots organization of conservative people who are greatly concerned with the continuing overreach and overgrowth of the federal government beyond the limits laid down in the U.S. Constitution. In particular, TEA members are concerned with the growth of Progressive philosophy and thought, the imposition of socialist and Marxist concepts on our economy and society, the rise of Keynesian economics, and the degradation of state and local government’s rights as per the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.

  10. @Carl Vehse #8
    BTW, the reference to the Boston Tea Party is deliberate, since the impetus for the latter was the illegal imposition of burdensome taxes by the King.

  11. @Mel #7
    What, precisely, do you mean by “Tea Party attitudes”? More or less by definition the LCMS is conservative, since we follow the traditional Lutheran practices and teachings.

  12. @Jim Pierce #6
    “I think we have to be careful not to confuse the Republican party’s principles of fiscal conservatism with the idea that the party doesn’t support social justice. ”

    The term “Social Justice” is a loaded one, deriving ultimately from Marxist teachings. It is not simply “being nice to poor people.” I refer you to the American Thinker article
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/05/what_exactly_is_social_justice.html
    and associated articles there.

  13. @Dawn Sonntag #5
    “And some things that some Republicans are suggesting – for example, that women who have miscarriages should be put on trial to assess whether they tried to self-induce the miscarriage – are just masogynistic. Should a woman who is two months pregnant really be allowed to bleed to death rather than have a D and C? This happened in previous centuries because the medical resources and knowledge were not available – one reason the life expectancy rates were so low.”

    This is simply slander. Nobody that I know of is suggesting this sort of thing. Typical liberal appeal to emotion.

  14. Wikipedia’s Tea Party movement article appears a reasonably accurate and up-to-date description of how the movement got started and the movement’s growth (with lots of source links). The article does mention the meaning of the acronym (“Taxed Enough Already”). There doesn’t appear to be one single Tea Party website.

    There are websites for the “National Tea Party Federation,” “Tea Party Express,” “Tea Party Patriots,” and “Contract from America” which appear to be organizational competitors for Tea Party supporters, as well as a number of state-based Tea Party groups.

    Disagreements among these various organizations have occurred in the past over how politically correct or militant Tea Party activities should be and whether Tea Party activities may promote other conservative or libertarian causes beside reducing government spending, debt, and taxpayer burdens. The large gatherings of the successful Tea Party protests always attract people, politicians, and media clymers with their own agendas to promote.

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