Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fiddling while Rome burns

Back two weeks ago, I wrote about the extremely positive experience I had attending the HIV/AIDS Workshop for Medical and Religious Professionals, put on at LSTC by their Zygon Center for Science and Religion, with the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago(UIC) College of Medicine and the Midwest AIDS Training & Education Center (MATEC). I still am torn about this event - very happy, for the powerful information and witnessing that was shared; and very annoyed, because so few seminarians attended it, especially from LSTC (not to mention the other five ACTS-consortium seminaries within walking distance of us!).

My annoyance stepped up several notches when I picked up my mail later that week, and found that the lead story on The Door (the LSTC student publication) was entitled "The Modern Importance of Bach’s Theological Library." A pioneering workshop had been held at our school, on a subject whose "modern importance" is magnified by the massive issues of faith and pastoral-care attached to it - and there was not a single peep about it in the host institution's publication. But the "ever-present relevance and importance of Bach’s cantatas concerning contemporary Lutheranism" (a direct quote from the article) was splashed across the entire front page.

Giving the editor and student-writers the benefit of the doubt, I thought, "Surely it's just because the AIDS conference happened two days before the publication date...they just missed the deadline. We'll see it next issue." Alas, the front page of the next issue of The Door was dominated by an article titled "Controversial 'Vagina Monologues' Comes to LSTC." And again, while I'm glad the LSTC/MTS student body put on the Monologues (for reasons which I won't even get into, for now) I'm still more than a little amazed at what The Door's editorial staff deem "important" or "relevant" to the future rostered clergy of the ELCA.

The problem is, as a former (but not current) student, I don't really feel I have the right to call The Door, or the student body per se to task for the immense pastoral-care-education opportunity that they blew off in their own back yard. So I've struggled for two weeks - write? Don't write? Just say "screw it" and go on with something a little closer to life-on-life's-terms?

Now, I have to issue a disclaimer here: I happen to find great beauty and inspiration in the works of J.S. Bach. Whether orchestral, choral, small-ensemble or organ works, I've been comforted, soothed, and inspired by the works of one of the greatest msuical geniuses of the past millenium. So don't peg me for a Bach-hater...'cause it just ain't so. Quite the contrary, in fact.

But I'm not sure that the theological leanings of a composer who has been worm-food for 250-plus years really compares with the real-life pastoral-care issues facing today's churches in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. And I continue to be amazed by those folks in denial (including a sad number of pastors) who don't even see why this whole issue disturbs me. Two different people have said to me, in so many words, "Oh, well, Steve, let's face it: HIV/AIDS is just not an issue in the demographic groups served by the ELCA."

I just have one question: Who the hell do they think they're kidding?

(Especially in an urban setting like Chicago, where the ELCA is headquartered?)

Then people in the church wonder why so many folks outside our hallowed halls think that Christianity is irrelevant to today's world.



Ed said...

Amen, brother!

New Life said...

Hey brother,

Welcome to the "sideline" church and seminary. We are still focused on "us". We have nearly lost touch with the rest of the world. Hence the play and Bach. Hello??? Knock,knock, anyone home?
I face this kind of stuff daily and I cannot wait to be finished.

On a side note, I was telling my wife about a blog post I read and she wanted to know if it was that guy "who writes so well". She was talking about you. I'm jealous. :)


Dave said...

Interesting. I was listening to a Christian minister's CD presentation the otehr day and her contention was that whereas Jesus said to be in the world and not of it, she thinks a great many Christians are of the world but not in it.

Im A Foto Nut said...

Alas brother, they are as we, sinners all.