Saturday, 12 June 2010

Of Rice Bubbles and Missouri Mullahs

Every now and then I go off on an uncharitable rant about the LCMS. For those folk outside the US, I'm not talking about the Australian Kellogg's rice bubble bars, but the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. I grew up in a household where the kitschy Concordia calendar hung on the wall in the kitchen, and the trite little devotional digest Portals of Prayer was one of the few regular periodicals in the home. As a thirteen year old I remember having to study Catechetical Helps in confirmation classes: all Missouri Synod productions. Remarkably my family was living not in St Louis, Missouri, but Hamilton, New Zealand. In those days (and still to some extent, though less so) Australasian Lutheranism was in cultural thrall to the mad mullahs of Missouri.

Finding any objective assessment of Missouri Synod Lutheranism today isn't easy. Lord knows, I certainly don't claim to be impartial. LCMS members tend to be, as I see it, either brainwashed or brain-dead, so that rules them out (see, I told you I wasn't impartial.) So it's nice - in fact it's near miraculous - to find a journalist who can hang an intelligent, respectful, yet critical article together. Larry Mitchell is the man who has pulled off the feat in the Chico Enterprise & Record (sadly, the praise doesn't extend to Mark Noll's facile pontifications.) If you've ever wanted the skinny on the LCMS, this is probably the place to get it.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a young man I worked as a delivery guy for a printing company that printed up literature and little affirmation cards for the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a Phoenix satellite enclave of German Lutheran Nuns.

    The Grand Fromage was a pudgey faced woman named Mother Basilea Schlink. They all seemed to adore her but boy were their lives austere. There was a very rigid pecking order in that place. In retrospect the stuff we printed reminds me a lot of the new age affirmations you see in new age groups. The whole order seemed to revolve around Mother Basilea Schlink and her every thought, which they would print up on these cards and send out to people.

    I have no idea what version of Lutheranism they represented but they seemed very similar to Catholics.

    Local Lutherans would drop into the enclave much like Buddhists would do to a monastery.

    The Lutheran Nuns were quite normal when compared the other customer we had, The Reverend Neal Frisbee and his spiritual light show. At least the Nuns gave me cold herbal tea and chocolate chip cookies. I got the feeling they all would have been quite appalled if they have ever met Martin Luther himself in a German beer hall. I saw no signs in the enclave proclaiming "Sin Boldly!"

    Frisbee built himself this huge pyramid shaped chapel in Paradise Valley Arizona. Frisbee's faith healing sermons were supposedly filled with manifesting blobs of colored lights of the "holy spirit". The guy racked in cash and spent a fortune on printing literature.

    One day while unloading the umpteen box literature, I asked the women in the mailing room whether they saw the colored lights themselves. The photographs to me looked like what happens when you open the back of a 35 mm camera with the film still in it.

    The mailing room women replied "...some people say they do!"

    "Uh huh...well I best be getting back to the print shop!"