Friday, November 02, 2007

Cliches and synodical politics

I don't encourage church politics.

Like getting into a wrestling match with a pig, the end result is usually that both participants end up getting filthy, an outcome that the pig enjoys.

Far better than to fret about who's elected to this post, who's appointed to that, getting the "right" delegates to whatever convention, is to do your job.

I mean it. Do what God or the church or both have called you to do, pray without ceasing, and let God deal with church politics.

What I do is encourage folks to think about what is being said. Consider how the discourse is going.

Because when we don't think clearly, we're captive to bad ideas, and mis-formed thinking.

A good (bad, actually) example comes from Gerald Kieschnick. Kieschnick is widely quoted as saying, "It's not your grandfather's synod."

A lot of time, energy, and effort have been expended on trying to figure out exactly what this means. But I'm going to suggest that it has no meaning at all. And that's precisely why Kieschnick says it so often.

My day job is a nurse. And among the injuries and illnesses and damages to our bodies that we medical people deal with, one thing we see are scars.

A scar is a place where the body's tissue has stopped growing. In other words, when your body is injured and a scar ensues, that spot will never "get better." It will look like it does for as long as you live.

I think a cliche is something like that. A cliche is a phrase used when we've stopped thinking. We repeat a cliche without thinking, and those listening hear it without thinking.

Cliches are harmless enough most of the time. When they become harmful is when they're used to stop a conversation. And that's what I suspect the "grandfather's synod" comment is used for.

We hear it, and we don't know what to say. We hear it, and -- as it's designed to do -- it stops the conversation about events in the Missouri synod.

Like most cliches, it has no meaning. It's vaguely seen as a warning that Missouri must get up to snuff, must stop acting as though it's 1953. But what's dangerous about this silly cliche is that it provides no grounds for debate, for discussion, for trying to determine what the LCMS should -- or shouldn't -- be doing.

As I said, most cliches are harmless enough. When something's "dead as a doornail," we've heard it many times before, but it's just a phrase people say. But when cliches are used as means of stopping the conversation -- as Gerald Kieschnick is wittingly or unwittingly doing -- the cliche should be challenged.

When someone says it, or something like it, ask them: "What does that mean?," "What are you trying to say by that?, "What was 'our grandfather's synod,' and how does that relate to our current difficulties?" and "If it isn't our grandfather's synod, how does that change the way we do church in 2007?"

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