Not to worry, Congresswoman Bachmann's resigned membership in her WELS church...
The Wisconisn Evangelical Lutheran Synod sees the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and raises them one. Or maybe ten.
In my former home of Pardeeville, Wisconsin, the WELS congregation was the dominant religious presence in town. When they called a new pastor, Mary Lee and I decided to invite him with his wife and children over for dinner. After a cordial introduction, we sat down at the table and I turned to him and said, "I've heard lots of things through the years, but let me ask you directly: do you pray, do I pray, or do we not pray at all?"
He answered, "You go ahead and pray and we'll sit by," and immediately his good wife turned to their children and said, "We're going to pray; fold your hands and close your eyes." God bless her.
We had a pleasant evening. During the conversation the WELS pastor told us his grandmothers was a godly Baptist and that he didn't pray with her, either...He explained that WELS souls were concerned to avoid a "mixed confession."
After that evening together in our home, we never saw him again. In a town of 1,500 where I helped lead a youth group shared by eleven different churches, the black hole of WELS confessionalism swallowed him whole. And in my almost-nine years of work in that town I never saw any act nor heard any prayer nor read anything that demonstrated WELS men or the souls under their care have any evangelical commitment. By all appearances the church produced cceremonial religion--which is to say, sacramentalists.
One episode stands out. I was working in my office one day and heard a knock on the office door--we kept the church unlocked. Opening the door, I found two junior high school boys standing there. After greeting them I invited them in for a visit. They said they were on a mission from school to find some working stiff and ask him about his job, and they'd chosen me. They had a few questions about what I did with my time and then we turned to religion. I asked them if they went to church and they both said they did now because they were in confirmation class and you had to go to church while you were in confirmation class. Their church was the local WELS congregation.
Then one boy turned to the other and announced with some high anticipation, "My dad says as soon as confirmation is over, I can stop going."
That did an excellent job of summing up the WELS version of Christian faith I observed there in Wisconsin. It appeard to be a ghetto of pure sacramentalism with no observable impact for Christ anywhere or any time. My brother David has an even worse experience of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod while attending one of their schools for several years in Elgin, Illinois. I'd sum up our convictions by stating that we've both read Luther's commentary on Galatians several times and can't see the resemblance between Luther's commitment to Scripture and Evangelical faith and what we've observed from the Lutherans we've known, whether WELS or LCMS.
So it appears the WELS version of Christian religion poses no particular threat to our idolatrous state, right?
Which brings us around to a news item today from the Atlantic concerning presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's membership in a Minnesota WELS congregation. Or I should say her recently-resigned membership in a WELS congregation--Congresswoman Bachmann sent a letter requesting formal disassociation this past year.
Breathlessly the Atlantic announces, "Michele Bachmann's Church Says the Pope is the Antichrist." The headline is deceptive since the article later reports Governor Bachmann renounced her membership while preparing to run for President this past year. Yet sure enough, still at this late and decadent age when Reformed men of impeccable credentials are all buddy-buddy with the Vatican, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to pronounce what Luther and Calvin and the Westminster divines were all certain of--that the Pope is the ant-Christ.
The Atlantic connects Congresswoman Bachmann's association with this WELS doctrine to President Obama's association with his United Church of Christ pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and John McCain's relationship with the Rev. John Hagee. Their point is that each of these associations are shameful and must be repudiated by anyone seeking public office in this modern, wise and sensitive world.
Banging on this drum for the umpteenth time, the privatizing of religion is the very opposite of what our Lord commanded in His Great Commission:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
When men try to justify their silence in the public square by claiming it's not shame or cowardice but high-minded principle, it's clear the intent of their arguments is to deny that our Lord has any authority outside the home and the Church, and that they wish to make it clear to the world that no one should fear us because we are committed to being no threat to their bloodthirsty kingdoms. Our religion is private and heavenly--not public or earthy.
What men who want their religion safe in the church-house on Lord's Day morning with no mention of the civil magistrate or laws or politics are accomplishing is the destruction of true Christian faith. It's impossible for Evangelical Christians to agree to stay on the reservation and keep their mouths shut without denying a whole bunch of commands and exhortations of Scripture--not to mention examples of godly witness given by our Lord and His deacons and apostles.
He is the One who warned us, "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:25, 26).
Even if every Reformed pastor and elder and their sons made a contract with our civil magistrates and their chattering class enforcers to work for the repeal of every single law that reflects the Perfections of our Heavenly Father--His justice and truth and the sanctity of life that bears His Image, for instance--it would not be enough.
Having denied our Lord's authority over this whole world, we would have announced to every man watching that we are ashamed of our Lord and His Gospel. Trot out our high-minded theological justifications as much as we wanted, they'd get the message very well, thank you. And seeing our flinching, they'd come in for the kill.
Which is precisely what is happening across the Western world today. They told us we could have our religion in private. We agreed and declared our religion to be a private affair, only.
Now they're making sure we're never alone.
Thanks to the fear and shame of Christian pastors and elders who announce to our wicked civil magistrates that Christians pose no threat to his bloody regime, every last man gifted by the Holy Spirit for secular authority understands he must avoid membership in any Biblical congregation.
Most everything faithful pastors proclaim as they preach the Gospel is absolutely scandalous to the wicked and will be used to banish those listening to rural shtetls where they'll be perfectly free to baptize their own sons into the name of their own private and impotent god.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, responded to Congresswoman Bachmann's former membership in a WELS church, saying, "Clearly, that is anti-Catholic. This kind of hatred is reminiscent of Bob Jones. I believe [Bachmann] has in the past condemned anti-Catholicism. But there's no question -- all you have to do is read it -- that they clearly have anti-Catholic statements up there... (I)t's clear that the (WELS) teachings are noxious and it's important for her to speak to the issue. Obama had to answer for Wright, McCain had to answer for the Rev. John Hagee, and this is something that Bachmann has to answer for."
Stop and consider all the noxious things men ashamed of Jesus Christ hide, today.
Spare the rod and spoil the child. The effeminate will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Christless Jewish houses of worship are synagogues of Satan. The woman who divorces her husband and marries another is an adulteress. Murderers must be executed. No man can serve both God and mammon. Elders hand men over to Satan. Those who eat and drink at the Lord's Table without discerning the precious Body and Blood of our Lord get sick and die. God made the world in six days. We are to be fruitful and multiply.
Then there's that bit about obeying God rather than man.