Steadfast on Campus — The Spirituality of the Dross

temptation-in-the-desertIf you’re looking for the opposite of what Gene Veith describes as The Spirituality of the Cross, here it is!  Since dross rhymes with cross and, in as much as dross is waste matter, I think “The Spirituality of the Dross” is a fitting title for what our students are being taught.

One of our students thought he would attend the spiritual wellness seminar offered on campus.  He returned to my study with high delight and placed into my hands a worksheet for “Developing Spiritual Wellness”1 (You may find a pdf copy here).  I read it.  I laughed.  He knew I would.  He’s a well-catechized Lutheran.  What’s not so funny is that this is what is seriously being taught and believed on the secular campus.

According to the worksheet, here’s how you “develop spiritual wellness”:

 “To develop spiritual wellness, it is important to take time out to think about what gives meaning and purpose to your life and what actions you can take to support the spiritual dimension of your life.”   

What might the first action be you ask?  The worksheet provides the answer with the bold heading:

“Look Inward”

Look inward?  Oh, you mean to do a candid self-examination using the 10 Commandments as a mirror?

No. The worksheet suggests the following:

 “This week, spend some quiet time alone with your thoughts and feelings.”

Did that just say, “alone with your thoughts and feelings”?

Yes, I dare say, it did!

 “Slow the pace of your day, remove your watch, turn your phone or pager off, and focus on your immediate experience.”

Umm.  Okay.  I feel really warm.  I hear birds chirping.  The cloud in the sky reminds me of a heart.  Now I have tingles…

The following activities are suggested:

“Spend time in nature.  Experience continuity with the natural world by spending solitary time in a natural setting…Experience art, architecture, or music…Express your creativity: Set aside time for a favorite activity… Strive for feelings of joy and exhilaration. Engage in a personal spiritual practice: Pray, meditate, do yoga, chant… Tune out the outside world and turn your attention inward, focusing on the experience.”

“Experience…. Experience… experience.”  Yes, we get the point!  We see where the focus is!

 “In the space below, describe the personal spiritual activity you tried and how it made you feel – both during the activity and after.”

Because, according to postmodern orthodoxy, how you feel determines what is true for you… and your truth is true and my truth is true, but just don’t tell me that there is only One Truth because that just can’t be true!

The second major heading is “Reach Out” and prescribes the following “spiritual activities”:

  • Share writings that inspire you
  • Practice kindness
  • Perform community service

Funny.  Sounds like the secular version of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together!  Of course, the Witness, Mercy, and Life Together is all about Jesus and His work, whereas the three bullet points above are intended to be entirely about you apart from Jesus.

Upon doing one of the above “spiritual activities,” the worksheet again asks you to describe the activity and how it made you feel.

Get the idea?  Spiritual wellness, according the wisdom on campus, comes from within you and is all about your feelings and experience (The Spirituality of the Dross).

Contrast this with The Spirituality of the Cross, as Gene Veith aptly calls it, where the life of a Christian is one of receiving all spiritual (and temporal) good from outside of himself—namely from the Crucified-Christ in preaching, baptism, absolution and the Supper.

John Kleinig sums it up well, “If we have problems in living the life of faith, if we have challenges in the practice of prayer, the solution is not to be found in what we do, our self-appraisal, or our performance.  The solution to our problems is found in what we receive from God Himself, in His appraisal of us, and in His gifts to us… Our piety is all a matter of receiving grace upon grace from the fullness of God the Father” (Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today)


[1] Insel/Roth, Core Concepts in Health, Tenth Edition © 2006 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Chapter 3.








About Pastor John Wegener

Rev. John H. Wegener was born on September 22, 1974 in Ames IA a minute after the birth of his twin brother. He was baptized on October 6, 1974 at St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hubbard, IA where his father (The Rev. Thomas C. Wegener) served as pastor. He was confirmed in 1984 at Faith Lutheran Church of Waterloo, IA. He graduated from West High School in Waterloo and then attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA where he earned a B.A. in Graphic Design in 1997. In 2000, he began his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. He served as vicar at Emmaus Lutheran Church, in Fort Wayne from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003. He received his Master of Divinity from CTS in 2004. He was called to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Readlyn, IA and Immanuel Lutheran Church of Klinger, IA where he was ordained and installed on June 13, 2004. He served there until July, 2007 when he accepted the call to serve the campus ministry at College Hill Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa near the University of Northern Iowa. He was installed there on July 1st, 2007. John met Ms. Heidi M. Johnson while in college at the church where he now serves as pastor. They were married on August 8, 1998 at Grace Lutheran Church in Waterloo, IA. John and Heidi have four children: AJ, Aleah, Javan, and Michael.


Steadfast on Campus — The Spirituality of the Dross — 29 Comments

  1. “To develop spiritual wellness, it is important to take time out to think about what gives meaning and purpose to your life and what actions you can take to support the spiritual dimension of your life.”

    Sounds like Rick Warren’s religion as well.

  2. What’s really tragic is that this stuff is becoming more and more prevalent in evangelical universities. The Nazarene denomination is allowing this stuff to become synthesized with its Christianity in its higher learning facilities like Olivet and Point Loma, and nobody’s batting an eye about it.

  3. Pastor Wegener,

    Luckily, College Hill provides a safe Lutheran haven away from secular spirituality. I know I found my time there at college in Cedar Falls blessed by College Hill in the early 1980s. Blessings on the continued ministry there.

  4. @J. Dean #5

    Unless they go to a trade school or learn a trade somehow, they will have to go to college. If you give them sound instruction in Christian theology and the history of the Biblical text before they go, and teach them to be discerning, they should be safe even in a public college.

    For example, the public colleges are still pushing the JEPD nonsense, so your kids should know about that before they go.

  5. Many of our Concordia universities are just as bad as public universities, with the sole exception of being more expensive. I’m talking about the promotion of homosexuality. Search for Concordia Chicago and Concordia Portland on BJS. And here are some more examples:

  6. BJS covered how Concordia Chicago professors signed a petition in support of the Communist terrorist Bill Ayers, and how the college President defended it as a matter of “academic freedom.” Well, Concordia of New York has taken some of its students to hear a presentation done by Communist terrorist, racist, and murderer Angela Davis:

    Here is the run-down on Angela Davis:

    Are our young ones any safer in our Concordias than in the public colleges? Obviously, I believe that we should fight to take back our universities from the apostates, just like we took back our two seminaries.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the kind of pagan spirituality discussed in this blog post is also being promoted in our own Concordia University System. If homosexuality and communism are, why not paganism? It isn’t just the Wesleyans folks!

  7. In fact, any LCMS church that is seeker-driven (and thus gets its theology from Rick Warren, Willow Creek, Andy Stanley, etc.) is promoting the same kind of pagan spirituality described in this post, only with some out-of-context Bible verses slapped onto it!

  8. After reading some of these comments, this text came to mind:

    “Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:10-11

  9. @wineonthevines #11

    I hope you don’t mean that we shouldn’t fight to take back our Concordia universities. Martin Luther said: “We must have and maintain Christian Schools.”

    Where would the LCMS be today if we hadn’t taken back the seminaries and the denomination itself from the liberals? What’s taught in our seminaries and colleges will be preached from the pulpits.

  10. No, not saying that at all. We do need to fight, but from the perspective that the Lord is in control, even when things seem to be going down the drain.

  11. Oh, I’m sure there will be LCMS churches claiming they can “Lutheranize” paganism. It’s not like God warned His people that by following the traditions of men people will be tricked with meaningless words. Oh, wait a minute. Colossians 2:8

  12. That kind of spirituality training is great prep for the motivational training that comes with corporate life. Same thing, with a light dusting of materialism.

  13. Hymn to the Many Misty Paths
    Version 3.14159.02
    (Tune: “A Mighty Fortress”)

    A mighty power is our mind; our god we have created —
    A vaguely warm and fuzzy kind that makes us feel elated.
    Old doctrine does not hold. The truth is ours to mold.
    We tolerate all things no matter what that brings,
    For we are liberated.

    All paths to light have merit; ours is but one tradition.
    However we compare it, we take a soft position:
    Let everyone, we say, seek his or her own way.
    For truth comes from within. You find your way to heav’n
    And cure your own condition.

    Morality none should impose. No standard lasts forever.
    Each generation comes and goes. In this we must be clever:
    To justify our ways. Our self-esteem we raise
    And sweetly quash all guilt. And thus our lives our built.
    Such is our great endeavor.

    (The author wishes to remain anonymous.)

  14. @Carl Vehse #19

    Not surprised that this came out during Kieschnick’s administration. I’m sure our universities are teaching environmentalism, “global warming” nonsense, etc.

  15. “Unless they go to a trade school or learn a trade somehow, they will have to go to college. ”

    This seems an odd statement. Why would anyone HAVE to go to college?

  16. Nicholas, if you are being facetious, please forgive me. If you are serious, then I find your arrogance offensive. Neither my wife nor I have degrees, but we both have abilities that have made us useful to our employers. We don’t work for minimum wage, haven’t since our first entry-level jobs when we were teens. The Lord has provided us with the skills, work ethic, and intelligence to provide comfortably for ourselves and our children. The idea that one must go to college in order to be successful, competent, or intelligent is ridiculous.

  17. Joel,

    Thank you for that comment. It is right on.

    Nicholas may have just been referring to those who work for minimum wage without meaning it in a demeaning way.

    Nicholas, please explain to us what you meant.

  18. The spiritual practices sound eerily similar to the “partnership ” wellness promise I was forced to make to get the lower insurance rate at benefits election time.

  19. I read it. I laughed.

    All spiritual beliefs/practices seem laughable to outsiders. Here’s a list
    of beliefs a former Mormon (or Formon) once held before leaving his faith.

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