October 23, 2003
This just keeps getting more interesting

The pastor wasn't there when I went to the midweek service last night -- he was off at some synodal conference. But I talked to a woman on the staff there, and she told me something startling about him: he's a converted Jew! He'd mentioned in passing when I talked to him that he hadn't grown up Lutheran, but I hadn't realized how un-Lutheran his upbringing actually was.

I'm pleased to know this, actually, because I haven't really met anybody in my seekings who converted from completely outside the faith. In the blogosphere there's Katherine and Eve (maybe -- I'm not that clear on her life story), but folks I've known in person have generally always been Christian or have gone from half-assed Christian to devout Christian. (I've always loved Telford's line about his church upbringing before he was "born again": "We went from being not Episcopalian to not Presbyterian.")

It also interests me because mainline Protestant churches aren't exactly known for converting the heathen these days. Having encountered various kinds of Christians lately, I'm not having a hard time seeing why. Evangelicals are good at telling you why you need Jesus, and what he can do for your screwed-up life. Liberal Christians are great at knocking out the reasons you might have for not being Christian -- hey, you don't have to be a creationist! you don't have to go for fire and brimstone! you don't have to disown your gay friends! -- but are not as good at giving more affirmative reasons why you should be Christian.

Actually, the funniest example of this happened when I visited that Episcopal church a couple months ago. I mentioned I met a guy who started pushing a book that was really important to his own conversion. What I didn't mention was that he prefaced his witness with, "Well look -- I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't care what you believe -- but ..." It was, to put it mildly, a really odd-sounding line after I'd spent almost a year with evangelicals; in a way, the not caring sounded almost cold-hearted. But obviously, he did care. I guess that as a good Episcopalian, he just didn't want it to sound like he was proselytizing, or anything vulgar like that.

So anyway, I'm really curious about this pastor's story now. Maybe I'll try to book an appointment with him when he gets back, since it would probably behoove both of us to get to know each other better at this point. At the very least, I suspect he'd disagree with the guy in Tom's comments who said a Lutheran is a "Jew-hating Moslem with a Christian veneer." Ah, ecumenicism...

Posted by Camassia at October 23, 2003 12:36 PM | TrackBack

Now, now, he didn't say Lutherans were Jew-hating Moslems with a Christian verneer. He said Jew-hating Moslems with a Christian verneer would find Luther to be their man.

(Oh, and Zippy isn't Episcopalian, in case you were wondering.)

Posted by: Tom on October 23, 2003 01:17 PM

Tom is spinning like a State Department spokesman here. What good ol' Zippy said was: "If you **want to become** a Jew-hating Moslem with a Christian veneer..."--plainly implying that by becoming a Lutheran, one would be well along that particular straight and narrow path.
Interesting, though, the pastor being a converted Jew. It gives me an opening to plug again my favority "Christian" thinker and writer, Simone Weil. I put Christian in quotes because, although she was utterly devoted to Jesus Christ, she was not baptised. Born into a secular and privileged Jewish household in Paris, Simone Weil managed to live a life of devotion to others; in the world, but not of the world. Recommended are "Gravity and Grace" and "Waiting for God".
Also, I just read a nice little book by the poet, Denise Levertov, called "Tesserae"--a series of vignettes, comprising a short memoir. It turns out that her father was a Christian minister (I forget what denomination) who was also a converted Jew. Small world: great place!

Posted by: Rob on October 23, 2003 01:32 PM

The principal at our boys' Catholic school is a very devout Catholic who used to be Jewish. He went to Xavier University (a nice Jesuit school here in Cincinnati) because of their great Montessori program. He met his wife there - and she is Catholic. He has 8 kids, and most of them are home-schooled(!)

Posted by: Steve Bogner on October 23, 2003 01:46 PM

Well, I'm not taking Tom's statement as seriously as Rob is (maybe I'm mistaken, but I detect some of the trademark Kreitzberg irony there). I don't know much about Luther's anti-semitism, but Bill Cork had an interesting post about it recently.

Posted by: Camassia on October 23, 2003 01:48 PM

The "good ol' Zippy" and the "State Department spokesman" were meant to convey the levity that I felt in seeing Zippy's hilarious (if not politically correct) characterization. I have a first cousin who is a Lutheran bishop. And I was baptized in the Swedish Lutheran church to which my mother's whole family belonged. My parents are very active in the Lutheran church to this day. I think you've made a great choice.

Posted by: Rob on October 23, 2003 01:56 PM
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