Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Meaningful content

“Mr. Brandt, can’t Postman just say what he wants to in three pages?  It’s too long.”  Sensing an Occupy-Movement moment, another AP Lit. student chimed “Yeah, why can’t he be simplistic instead of going on forever?”
We were about to discuss chapter four of Neil Postman’s, Amusing Ourselves to Death.  I looked down the row toward the student who made the comment and thought of Robert Frost. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveler, long I stood” ...and thought about how I would respond: Acerbic quip? Disbelief? Marty McFly?  I simply paused and pondered the luxury of job security.  
Yes, the youngsters would need some guidance.  Yes, the youngsters would wince at Postman’s prophetic prose.  Yes, this was the perfect complement to their Facebooked, Twittered and texted lives. Their incessant whining proved it. 

 Here are some literary morsels from that chapter:
  •  For one thing, its (Lincoln/Douglas debate audience) attention span would obviously have been extraordinary by current standards.  Is there any audience of Americans today who could endure seven hours of talk?  Or five? Or three?  Especially without pictures of any kind?  Second, these audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lengthy and complex sentences aurally (45).
  • …it is not difficult to demonstrate that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American public discourse, being rooted in the bias of the printed word, was serious, inclined toward rational argument and presentation, and, therefore, made up of meaningful content (52).

 This past weekend I attended  a presentation on The Book of Concord hosted by St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Memphis, Mi.  Rev. Anthony Voltattorni was the keynote speaker; his presentation was scintillating in depth and scope.  During the presentation my students' complaints came to mind.

Why isn't the Book of Concord a staple of church Bible studies or an anchor in Lutheran upper grade school and high school religion classrooms?  Is it because people can't handle the language, the history, the relevance of the Lutheran Confessions? Is it because today's audience is not serious and not inclined toward rational argument and presentation?  I refuse to accept this.

Rev. Voltattorni ended his presentation with this quote from CFW Walther's 1877 Synodical convention sermon.  Walther powerfully articulates why the study of Lutheran doctrine is vital for this earthly life while we anticipate our heavenly life:

As in war the banner and the one who carries it draws all the enemy fire - for when the flag falls the enemy cries victory - , so in the great church battle of our day everything is also directed at the flag of the confessions and against those who carry it. Oh, so let us, then, raise that flag of our pure confession that much higher, even as we are all the more reviled for it, courageously battle under it, boldly proclaim it, and, when it is necessary and possible, die a thousand deaths rather than to shamefully and cowardly concede even the most insignificant part of the same to the enemy. “Hold fast,” the apostle declares to our synod, “to the pattern of sound Words that you have heard from me by the faith and the love in Christ Jesus. Guard this good deposit through the Holy Ghost, who dwells in us.” Oh that our beloved Synod would not finally grow weary in her retaining and defending the confession, but that she might become ever more zealous and bold in doing so! So will she progress even further in her victories, in all of her battles, which are appointed her in these last times, that, finally, she be brought into the ranks of the eternal triumphant host of God in heaven, as victorious warriors. To this end, may we be helped by the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, who is worshiped, loved and praised to all eternity. Amen.

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