BJS Muse Responds Poetically to the Recent Deaths of Neuhaus and Elisa: Paralell Lives – Ein Lutherisches Märchen, by Jon Townsend

(Editor’s Note: Jon Townsend is a creative brother. He is the one who writes and produces the BJS ads on Issues, Etc. His posts can be found on our Regular Columns page under the title of “I Desire Mercy and Not Satire, but a Little Satire is Good for the Soul.” There has been a lot of discussion of the pros and cons of Richard John Neuhaus. Here is Jon’s unique perspective.)


I like the word Märchen better than fairytale. “Die Mär” means story or report, the diminutive ending “chen” changes the meaning into something akin to “little story”. While many of the so called “Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm” can be rather fanciful and magical, a large portion of the lesser known tales are a little more real. I remember one in which two boys were only play fighting with their fathers’ swords and one of the boys is killed and a trial is held. After making the boy who was still alive sweat it out, the judge acquits the boy because it is realized that it was all foolishness on the part of the boys and there was no malice or intent.


In collecting such “Märchen” the Brothers Grimm went out to the peasantry and listened to the tales they had to tell and recorded them in writing for posterity. In similar fashion I have floated through the Lutheran peasantry, both in real life and on the internet, and I humbly submit this little story for your consideration.


In some places winter is hard and cold and in others, it never gets cold, but regardless of the weather man is still dust and to dust he must return and shortly after Christmas and on either side of the New Year two pastors returned to the dust in blessed hope of the resurrection – one in a land of deserts and jungles and one in a concrete jungle.


Both men went through deep philosophical, doctrinal, confessional and ecclesial conversions during their lives.


The one in the land of desert in the north and jungle in the south was given Luther’s Small Catechism by a man he chanced to meet and abandoned ecumenism and endless redefinitions of doctrine with the confession, “”We all knew that we never spoke truth and still we continued speaking.”   In the light of pure Christian doctrine he set forth to build in his land on the cornerstone Christ laid with the building materials Christ left for us – His Word and His Sacraments.


The man from the land with a cold icy north who moved to the concrete jungle turned his back on the Small Catechism his own father, a pastor, gave him, believing that the cornerstone Christ laid was the Petrine ministry rather than St. Peter’s confession. He was a man of great intellect and reason and liked the space that the structure of wood and straw that was built on the cornerstone offered. Longing for the restoration of the Western Church this pastor laid aside his ordination vows, joined the Roman Church and was made a priest.


In a short range of time around which the two men were ordained, or re-ordained, both men lay near death: One in a coma, the other slipping between life and death. Both recovered and went on to do great things.


The now priest in the concrete jungle found notoriety with his books and journals. He talked to Presidents and dined with Popes. He was on radio and television and traveled the world.

The pastor in the land of desert and jungle started churches and met with political leaders. He traveled abroad to study and preach. He lived in a basement and dined with his host family. He was consecrated the Lutheran Bishop of his war torn land.


The priest’s notoriety brought verbal and written attacks especially for his defense of the unborn and his stand for conservative Roman Catholicism.


The Bishop’s position as a Christian leader in a Muslim land brought him much danger as he suffered with his people.


Both men died from tumors or cancer and they left behind legacies.


The priest left behind journals, books and a lasting influence on his time and culture; especially for his condemnation of his land’s holocaust – abortion.


The Bishop left behind congregations, a seminary and a hospital he helped support that will treat anyone – a place where no one must proclaim allah as god in order to be treated. He was survived by his wife and four children.


A Lutheran Bishop in a Muslim land of deserts, jungle and misery and a Lutheran Pastor turned Catholic Priest in a land of the unborn killed within the womb – both men to be admired in their own rites.


And as the “little news” spread, the peasants told the story. The demise of the Lutheran Pastor turned Priest was spread within his own community and was the talk within the community that baptized him. Some within his former home never stopped thinking of him as their own, others wondered if the traitor was in hell because he had surrendered the chief article, others posited that he is finally Lutheran again. The “little news” was hardly little and his former faith community did not treat it as such.


For the Lutheran Bishop and hero of the faith in the land far away, the news also spread and it remained small. The news was out there, but it was just more interesting to talk and write about the Lutheran turned Roman Catholic.


And the man who sat in the basement once upon a time with the good Bishop of that far away land who has written this Märchen is left to scratch his head and wonder why Lutheranism is in such a state that we would waste so much energy – good, bad or indifferent – considering the body of work of a Priest who preferred wood and straw; instead of saluting a Bishop who was given the pearl of great price and used that as his building material?

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