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Ignorance is not bliss.


Do you remember the old days of Jay Leno where he would take to the streets to find unsuspecting pedestrians to riddle them with questions to which they should know the answers?  He would ask things such as, “Who is the Speaker of the House?” or “What is the proper name for the fourth of July?”  The answers ranged from “Uh, I dunno,” to off the wall replies from left field.

My brother posted a video on his FB page last week demonstrating the same ignorance about our country’s founding events/documents where a fellow was roving a sandy beach and asking sunbathers questions to which very few correct responses were given.  I really thought it was a set up.

All day yesterday, Independence Day, my husband quizzed everyone we met with these same foundational questions and we got many blank looks, shrugged shoulders and nervous giggles and these long time American citizens could not answer questions like “Who did early settlers fight against for independence?”  “When was the Declaration of Independence signed?”

Well, this got my thinking about the church. . .

If we learn all of this vital information about our country in American History and in many other places here and there in our first 12 years of school and we fail so miserably at answering basic identity questions about our country. . . why would we ever expect the people in our pews to have a firm grasp on the basics of our faith?  I’m not talking about bible stories, bible heroes and the liturgical colors of the seasons (though I bet there are many folks who don’t know those things), I’m talking about basic doctrine:  Law/Gospel; Justification by Grace through Faith; 3 uses of the law; more than a cursory understanding of what the sacraments mean (esp. “Is the Eucharist a memorial dinner or the real presence of Christ?)  To be quite honest, I don’t remember a darn thing about what is in the Small Catechism from my confirmation days.  I’ve had to study it over and over again to learn it’s nuances and depth.  In our churches many times confirmation is the formal “end” of Christian education, but at age 13 we are not going to learn and retain all that we need to in order to make informed decisions about church life/doctrine/you name it when we are adults.  The ignorance (and I use that word in its intended meaning- I am not calling anyone stupid, simply uninformed and lacking sufficient knowledge) that we find in the pews of our churches is what has led the church in a movement toward succumbing to culture, rather than being counter-cultural in its nature.

I just had a conversation with a young woman who has been worshipping with us for the past 2 months and she said, “You are the first pastor that I have ever heard make mention of Martin Luther.  Who was he?”  I can relate!  That’s why I do it. . . I never heard a word about Dr. Luther growing up and I’m a cradle Lutheran!  (I also don’t recall how to be taught how to give as a spiritual discipline by any pastor but that’s another post.)

Ignorance is NOT bliss.  Luther went to the painstaking trouble to translate the bible and summarize its contents in the Small and Large catechisms so that people might THINK for themselves.  We cannot do that if we don’t know the material or the history and most of all— the BIBLE!  If we cannot think for ourselves then who knows what might happen, the church has already drifted far from orthodoxy and there are many churches with many members who have no clue that it has even happened.

Have an insightful, joy-filled day!

Amy Little

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 5July2011 16:41

    That’s one of the reasons that we have worked through both Catechisms in our Adult Sunday School class, and I preached out of the Book of Concord for our summer series two years ago.

    It’s also part of my inspiration to offer Intro to Theology this fall – to understand the basics of systematics and Lutheran Theology in the Spring. So that folks understand WHOSE they are, WHO they are, and can talk about what that means in the context of a 21st century world that very much resembles a 1st century environment on the faith level.


  2. 5July2011 17:58

    So important for us to continually assess our understanding of the faith in terms of scripture and the confessions and the tradition of the faith as understood by the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Local tradition can be an important and vital expression of the faith, but it should never be understood as foundational to the faith itself.

    We, too, have been through Luther’s Catechism in adult education. It is amazing the deepening of understanding that results.

    KMS @ CCD

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