Guest / Limited Access /

Being a Lutheran can be a cross, especially in trying times. Why insist on believers having citizenship in two distinct kingdoms—earth and heaven—when one of them, the world around us, is so dysfunctional? So I took a three-day leave of absence to join an Amish congregation whose bishop, Vernon Raber, told me, "We are citizens of one kingdom only, the kingdom of Jesus Christ!" I thought they were an excellent group to escape to, good Christians singing and praying in German, my mother tongue, and avoiding the vulgarities of politics. I liked it.

My ephemeral desertion to Raber's world might raise eyebrows among my Lutheran coreligionists. "How can you enjoy the company of people disdaining this world, which is of course not Christ's (John 18:36) but nonetheless the realm of our hidden God?" they might ask. Someone will surely reprimand me: "Have you forgotten Luther's counsel that we Christians must engage the secular reality we live in, which is ruled not by faith but by reason, the 'empress of all things,' in Luther's words?"

It would not surprise me to hear someone ask: "Do you deny that our faith in the Good News of being redeemed sinners sets us free to fulfill our divine tasks in this sinful and temporal world? Are you not mocking Christ's sacrifice?"

Well, I don't deny this, nor do I wish to mock Christ, and I haven't forgotten Luther's advice. But even a confessional Lutheran might be permitted an occasional reprieve from sound doctrine to delight in the company of a warm-hearted minority of people believing an entirely different theology—people like Vernon Raber.

I ran into Bishop Raber and his flock in what's called Little Arabia, a flat, rural section of southeastern Illinois where ancient oil pumps ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only News Briefs
Former pastor arrested in a $120 million Ponzi scheme, International Aid shuts down, and other news in the Christian world.
Current IssueProfessional Soccer Was My God
Professional Soccer Was My God
My sense of well-being depended entirely on my on-field performance.
RecommendedTim Keller and John Inazu: How Christians Can Bear Gospel Witness in an Anxious Age
Tim Keller and John Inazu: How Christians Can Bear Gospel Witness in an Anxious Age
Our confidence in the gospel spurs us to serve our communities, not to shrink back when they decide they no longer need us.
TrendingWho’s Who of Trump’s ‘Tremendous’ Faith Advisers
Who’s Who of Trump’s ‘Tremendous’ Faith Advisers
The Republican candidate finally names his campaign’s evangelical connections.
Editor's PickCome Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes
Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes
How men and women can have better conversations about leadership, love, and life together.
Christianity Today
Out of This World
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.