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Religious happiness hustlers

What are we about at Augustana? I stumbled across this quote last week that helps to define what I am about as I pastor this flock.

“. . . the churches, and Lutherans in particular, need to find fresh ways to proclaim the sacramental and communal nature of Christian existence. The sad truth is that many, if not most, of our Lutheran people believe that a personal relationship. with Jesus is what really constitutes being a Christian, with Baptism, Eucharist, Confession and Absolution as perhaps helpful addenda. The idea that being a Christian means most essentially sacramental incorporation into the Body of Christ and discipleship in a committed community is, let us admit it, frequently absent from Lutheran piety. [Martin] Marty and others are correct in observing that those Lutherans are making a massive strategic mistake who would downplay or abandon the sacramental and catholic dimensions of Lutheranism in order to compete in the marketplace of consumer religion. Second-rate Lutherans make fourth-rate Baptists. Diluted Lutheranism is a washout when it attempts to peddle superior spiritual highs. The future of Lutheranism does not depend upon a new gimmick but upon a renewal of evangelical catholic practice and preaching. Given the shape of things short of the Kingdom, the Church will always have a mission among those who recognize the need for sacramentally sustained community in a world that is better explained by the Cross than by the death-defying illusions of the religious happiness hustlers.”

It’s an old Richard John Neuhaus quote from the November 1979, Forum Letter.

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