The day after the event mentioned in the previous post, I drove back to Immanuel--hoping to discuss my reactions with Pastor Paul Nelson. He wasn't in, so I made an appointment and eventually shared an hour with him on Wednesday morning.
Immanuel is one of Eden Prairie's three ELCA Lutheran churches; Nelson tells me he is not a biblical literalist and is proud his synod allows female ministers and is led locally by a woman bishop. Nelson was very friendly and polite during our meeting in his office.
That said, organized Christianity's role in our community still cries out for reevaluation--and in that reassessment, liberal Christianity should by no means be exempt. Our two community newspapers, The Eden Prairie News and the Sun-Current, regularly publish press releases from churches and solicit dogma-laden articles from ministers--which they present as unbiased reporting. Few Eden Prairie citizens have any notion of the magnitude of our annual subsidy to churches.
When the local ministers invited candidates and citizens to meet at Immanuel, more than 100 of our most engaged citizens showed up--along with most city and state-level candidates. Ministers enjoy far greater moral prestige in our community than is warranted. Expertise in bible storytelling is simply not a valid criteria upon which to base ethical leadership.
Also on Wednesday, I looked at Wooddale Church's website, looking for an evening educational event to audit. Wooddale often presents itself to the public as if it were an institution of higher education--the 15 full-time pastors it employs serve on a variety of 'campuses.' Arriving at the church on Wednesday evening, hundreds of people are moving about, to take part in numerous educational, religious and play activities.
I attend History of the Biblical World, taught by the mildly twangy Likudnik minister Max Frazier. The students are well-dressed elderly couples, who imbibe Frazier's 90-minute PowerPoint presentation with an awe and gratitude entirely devoid of skepticism. Clicking through the first century Roman Empire's leaders, he teaches (Slide #22): 'The Greek mind did not possess the religious unity of the Jewish mind.'
On Thursday I attended a conference on Vatican II, at St. Patrick's in Edina, organized by the theology department of St. John's University. The event has an academic and leftish bent, filled with the belief that Vatican II's promise has not come near fruition; if the flock only knew, one sensed. In the breakout session I attended, a certain priest avers salvation may remain attainable for the atheist of good will. (While I genuinely consider the afterlife wishful thinking, I take the statement as a friendly gesture.)
Organized middle class Protestantism appears well-funded and chillingly well-shepherded, while the ostensibly monarchical, non-democratic, four-cylinder Catholic realm in fact has more mental activity. Attendees generally admire Fr. Mike Tegeder greatly (despite his not receiving any official mention)--and detest Archbishop Nienstedt.