The World Cup Final yesterday was a legalistic nightmare in which the refs gave yellow cards for every hard tackle, ruining the flow of the game. The Spanish team capitalized on the refs' gullibility and began falling and claiming their knees were hurt. It became a competition of thespian exaggeration. Late in the second half, the Spanish convinced the refs to give a red card to a Dutch player. At that point, down to ten men, the Dutch team collapsed, the Spanish scored, and the game was over, 1-0.
2. Also yesterday a man named Gregory Dwyer came from Concordia College to our church to preach. He spoke on the Good Samaritan and argued that the Good Samaritan had it right because he didn't limit his liability to his own specific group, or to any sum, but went all-out to help a stranger. We are supposed to do the same, he said.
The parables of Jesus are baffling to me, and I don't like the way they are interpreted, or perhaps I don't like Jesus' notions. We are finite, and yet he is infinite. He is God. We are human. Now it's true that he became human, but does that mean that we (conversely) can become God? Just because God is both, does that mean that we are both? If God is finite in the person of Jesus, are we infinite in that we share in the Godhead? Does that also mean that our authority is equivalent to that of God (who speaks in first person in the OT), or to that of Christ and the apostles, or that laypeople are suddenly the equivalent of pastors?
It is obvious to me that although there is a side of us that is infinite, we are in fact finite. At least, that is, our resources are finite. Our lifespan is finite.
If we were to go all-out to help every broken stranger on the side of every road, we would go broke, and our children would die.
Gregory Dwyer suggested that just the same, we should be like the Good Samaritan.
Is this possible?
Is this impossible?
After church, Dwyer spoke again, but this time about the college for which he works. Concordia College is one of ten surviving Missouri Synod Lutheran Colleges. It is the only one in the northeast, and the only one in the New York City area. It is about a half hour north of Manhattan in an area where a small house might have an annual tax of $40,000. Dwyer said that he himself can't afford to live in that area, but has to commute in from Connecticut. The college has 800 students. They typically leave the college with debts of about $50,000 (an undergrad B.A.). There are about ten pre-seminary students: the rest are trying to find a high-paying job (presumably).
It used to be that seminary students got a free ride, our own pastor said, through the two big Missouri seminaries (St. Louis and Fort Wayne). He himself got through with a total debt assumption of $500.
Meanwhile, our pastor learned Greek and Hebrew, and learned to preach. All to the good, but the synod is now in straitened circumstances, as are many of the churches. Attendance is down, as is the financial situation.
Dwyer mentioned that a pastor may have a debt of $50,000 and get called to a rural church in Illinois where the annual income would be $20,000. Therefore, the pastor would be on WIC, and other kinds of state help, just to feed his children.
(The ELCA also has some 40 colleges, but they are no longer in any sense Lutheran, although they do receive money from their synods. Muhlenberg College in Allentown, for instance, is technically Lutheran, but has only 1 or 2 Lutheran faculty out of a faculty of 108. Its students are mostly wealthy and Jewish. Students do not have to take any classes in Lutheranism. Still, they get a half million dollars a year from the synod. Wagner College on Staten Island is still nominally Lutheran and you see a cross here and there on the campus. They, too, receive synodic money, but they are an entirely secular campus -- neither students nor faculty are Lutheran, and there are no Lutheran core classes required for matriculation.)
6b. Concordia has a large percentage of Lutheran heritage students (not all Germans), and the rest are mostly Roman Catholic. The faculty is also composed of these two groupings. Students have to take Lutheran theology classes even if they are majoring in business in order to graduate. It looks like an excellent college, and one that I didn't know much about. If I was to choose a college today, I would certainly look closely at Concordia. It's in a good location (they have a thriving film school, apparently), and has the right ethics, or at least some ethics. A school should give you something wholesome.
Gregory Dwyer of Concordia is a full-fledged pastor, with a Master's Degree in Divinity. He said he didn't agree with what seminarians taught him with regard to the division between Law and Gospel. He decided that the limitation of liability (justification) that Lutherans allow themselves (the two kingdoms notion) wasn't demanding enough, and that we have to ask ourselves to assume grace for every neighbor. He cited the notorious last passage in James, which Luther virtually banned. Dwyer mentioned "people" only in this equation of universal generosity. That is, we are responsible for every human being with whom we come into contact, but not animals or insects. Is this theologically sound? Probably. Is it fiscally sound? Not. Is it ecologically sound? (Who cares!)
Dwyer also said that Missouri Synod seminaries will not allow anyone to enter their school if they have a debt accumulation that is too large. They make you go to work first because they don't want to send out pastors who are insolvent. If the seminary is fiscally responsible, why should they ask individual families who belong to the synod to be irresponsible? Something didn't add up (but perhaps I misunderstood something).
We have a seminary student that was once a member of our congregation that we are asked to help. That's fine. But we also have our own children, and car payments, and house payments, and must be responsible for our retirement, and tiny things like insurance.
Jesus is often a bit irresponsible. He challenges the authorities in Jerusalem and gets himself killed. St. Paul and most of the apostles do the same. The only survivor is John (he's the only apostle who isn't martyred). I like John. When I read him, he seems to be thinking for himself. God gave us freedom of inquiry, and Luther said this was a good thing, and Lutheran colleges should promote this (even if the Marxist and crypto-Marxist ones don't).
Luther understood economics. I like Luther. He understood that the Pope was bankrupting Germany and Germans in order to throw toga parties. He was against this. He got the German princes to sign on to his revolution, which in essence, saved the church from being a cash cow for the Pope. Luther understood economics and he understood the devilish Pope.
When people waive economics, it doesn't mean that economics goes away. When Obama says that we will accept invaders from Mexico, it means that the people of Arizona will pay. Obama doesn't care. He's not in Arizona, and doesn't have to pay. He's hoping to cash in on the votes of the growing Hispanic community. That's all Obama cares about: cashing in. Fortunately, he can't add. There are more legal residents of the US, and they are going to vote him out. His approval rating is 44% and declining daily.
The ten commandments are pretty good because they define and delimit the economics of what we're supposed to do, and how we're supposed to behave. Secularist scoffers laugh and say, well, they talk about slaves, and how you're not supposed to poke their eyes out. Call that relevant today? But if you have a business and your workers get you mad, you can't go crazy on them. If you are running a 7/11 in 2010, you have to make sure the employees aren't stealing Slurpees, but you also can't knock them around or poke their eyes out. At least not here in the US. In many countries you can. In this one, you can't. So I'd call the ruling relevant and contemporaneously so.
We need a set of rules that allows us to play ball (and work) together. The rules shouldn't wreck the game, as they did in yesterday's World Cup, where the police are all over you all day. The police should be barely visible, and rarely enter into any particular transaction, but it should be felt that they are there if you need them. In Mexico, they apparently aren't, which is why their citizens come here, even if they aren't willing to abide by any rules regarding how they got here.
But we do need clear rules. The rules allow for a free exchange of ideas, but there has to be limitations. There has to be clarity. There has to be some understanding of our limitations, and the rules can't expect us to be God or saints, or even demand that we be Good Samaritans in the sense that the G. Samaritan was redefined yesterday by Pastor Dwyer. God is the Good Samaritan. All of us understand that the universe is a spectacular blessing, and that being born into it is something that no one can ever deserve. And yet, our place in it remains limited, according to sound Lutheran doctrine. Not only is our authority limited (we have to obey laws), but our contributions are limited (we are not God, and didn't invent this universe -- it's His).
We can be expected to take care of our own families. People who leave their families should pay child support. The law demands this. The law cannot demand that I empty my bank account for every shiftless zombie pretending to have a sick leg on the side of the road.
For every no-goodnik who illegally enters the country, who kidnaps my children, demanding ransom, the police should repay them with a bullet to the head.
The president should know this.
We need rules. The rules have to be clear and yet flexible. They should help us play the game, but not overburden the game.
I have had a policy of trying to write every other day at LS. The rest of the summer I'm going to write less, or at least less punctiliously. I need to swim a bit more with the kids, and do other things. I want to read more in economic theory and in law, but I also need to think about time as money, and spend it more wisely. Just because some nuts want to say that we don't need to think about these things, or that they will take care of it, don't bother to look into the laws we are passing, doesn't mean that they will go away. We need in fact to think more, not less, and try to be as precise as possible, lest we give away our shirts and pants, and walk nude on the road to Jericho, so that the people who are pretending to be hurt on the side of the road can steal our things, steal our livelihood, pretending to be victims, like the Spanish yesterday in the World Cup. There ought to be a conscience that doesn't allow people to do such things as fake a leg injury in order to get a free kick. But not everyone has a conscience. Therefore, there must be rules and laws to protect us from the many around us without a conscience or without any true regard for the spirit of the law: especially those who prey on our conscience.
Luther understood this, which is why he banned indulgences as a way of getting into heaven. Don't "misunderestimate" Luther. As Lutherans, we have to listen to Jesus and also to the law of the Old Testament. But as Lutherans, we get to listen through Luther, to the ways in which he interpreted those ancient rulings, and to the almost crazy (and venal) way in which the Catholics and others have sometimes made sense of the Christ's paradoxical ethical pronouncements. Watch out for the way the Marxists, the crypto-Marxists, and the others reinterpret things. If they just want your money, and are willing to put a wolfish design on your income while presenting a sheepish face, split, as Luther did.
I haven't reached 95, but I should shut up.