That’s the question. Are we, LCMS Lutherans, to some degree sociopathic? In my personal quest to understand all sides of an issue, namely here the issues that are eating at the Synod, it is hard for me to avoid at least asking the question.
I seriously feel nauseous at times when I engage in conversation with some. But it’s more than nausea. It’s a rock-like knot in my gut. In these conversations I find myself seeking either to turn around and run or challenge the living daylights out of the guy. It’s a difficult phenomenon to describe. The conversation feels less like conversation and more like a verbal pat-down–and I’m the one who’s been pushed up against the squad car and searched. Then it’s like I’m being courted or recruited. Like I said, it’s hard to explain.
I do my best to keep my cards pretty tight in those situations. I played a little game the last couple times I was in such a situation. I made a mental categorization of the topics of conversation, dividing them into two groups: talk about others not present and all other topics. It came as no surprise that about the only two topics filed under the latter category were 1) the weather and 2) where to eat.
The former category was lousy with talk about what’s wrong in other congregations, what Rev. So-and-so is up to that stinks, how Rev. Thus-and-such had really done a great job, unlike Rev. Whosit who couldn’t figure out which way was up. Then of course came the inevitable “what’s wrong in St. Louis” suite. These always put me in an awkward bind. Always. The easy way out is to simply go along with the conversation, as dirty as it feels. Or perhaps to simply tolerate the conversation in a non-committal way. I don’t know which feels dirtier–they’re both pretty bad. The hard road is simply to end the conversation. And it’s rarely simple. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only managed to do this well only once lately. And you’d have thought I slapped the guy in the face. It didn’t go well, but I retained my integrity and avoided a slippery 8th Commandment slope.
Part of what I noticed, though, was that no doesn’t seem to mean no in these situations. That is, after the “no” came another statement behind someone’s back. After another “no” a little while later came another such topic. It’s such a normal thing to rant about others to anyone-but-them that we simply do it. And probably the thing that has me asking the sociopathic question is that I don’t hear in the rant a concern for a brother. And that troubles me. I think we’re really good at paying lip service to Christian concern while actually seeking the elimination of the brother perceived to be in error. Maybe it’s just denial. Or maybe it’s sociopathic to a degree.
Or maybe I’m full of hot air. I could be. I’ve been that before. I’m afraid that I’m not, though, and it’s really alarming.
See, there’s so much anxiety in the Synod right now. It’s so thick it’s like you can’t move without upsetting the balance somehow. There are those who seem to be bitter about the latest elections, still trying to get it thrown out and redo what they disagree with from the last convention. The Yankee Stadium event is still alive and festering in some parts. Seminex looms like a shadow over others. PLI. Ablaze. Contemporary worship. Dead Orthodoxy. Us. Them. Liberals. Conservatives. We’ve factionalized and labeled ourselves to death. And some seem to view this as something of a good thing. I don’t understand how. The whole thing just wears me out.
What prevents our talking to each other–talking through difficulty (doctrinal disagreement, personal concerns, etc.) as brothers? Talking to the ones with whom we have issues? Honestly, what? I guess I know what the answers to that question have been, and frankly they’re not good enough. They’re bred either from laziness or from a contempt for one’s fellows and by extension the Church and the Lord of the Church. We’re called to be better than that.