Monday, May 31, 2010

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You Don't Have a Dog

A few days ago, the First Things website published a brief essay by elite ELCA theologian Robert Benne, on his favorite subject: "Why the church from which I draw my paycheck is no good."

As Egg readers know, our opinion of Benne is not high. We think -- and it bears repeating -- that he is a typical late-career academic, angry and resentful that his true brilliance has never been acknowledged and rewarded with prizes and maybe a college presidency. He expresses this resentment like any willful teenager, by lashing out at Mommy. "You're the worst church ever! I never asked to be baptized!" And so forth.

But that's not the point to our present post, which has less to do with Benne's post than with the responses it drew. They are the usual run of online crankiness, notable principally who is playing. The original post was little more than an advertising broadsheet, laying out the newly-revised mission statements of WordAlone and CORE. (Curiously, though, he does make one claim which we are eager to test: that CORE's New ALC "represent[s] the 'evangelical catholic' or high church wing of the [ELCA]." We suspect that a great many people may have missed that memo.) What attracted the most attention were Benne's closing remarks:

For many [WordAlone and CORE] are the last, great efforts to live out the promise of Lutheranism as a church on this continent. If they fail, the only remaining option may be a bracing swim across the Tiber.

The comments began promptly. One respondent proposed buying Dr. Benne a wetsuit. But the comments that fascinate us, wholly against our will, are those by Paul McCain, the director of Concordia Publishing House and a bizarrely omnipresent figure when Lutheranism is discussed on the web. McCain is greatly put out by the idea that the "only" option for pissy Lutherans may be Rome. "Hey," he says in effect, "what about the Missouri Synod? We've been pissy since the Prussian freakin' Union, okay? We are the natural home for Lutherans who can't play well with others."

In fairness, he doesn't quite put it that way. But he does suggest that by skipping over the LC-MS as a possible refuge, Benne is "audacious," "arrogant," and despite his own protestations, already "looking to swim the Tiber." He calls for Benne to offer "humility" and, later, an apology. When Benne responds, murmuring something about the ordination of women, McCain is ready to go: "so much for evangelical catholicism," he snaps. "The disappointment [sic] of [Benne's] remarks are superceded only by their inanity." For "these people," apparently meaning the entire ELCA, including its dissidents, "the mark of the church is enthusiasm from the 60s."

Yikes. Did somebody wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

Actually, that's our real point here. Benne's original post isn't time-stamped, but it is dated 27 May. McCain's response, the first by several hours, is time stamped 27 May at 8:25 in the morning. We at the Egg have long wondered whether McCain spends hours upon hours doing Google keyword searches for his favorite words, and then writing in to sell his own products and slam those of his competitors. We now wonder whether he gets up very early and begins his day doing this stuff. Has the man no family to care for? No dog depending on him for food and affection? No real work waiting at his desk?

But perhaps we're being unfair. If so, Pr. McCain will no doubt inform us presently, deriding our arrogance, not to say inanity, and demanding an apology.


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Let's hope that today he put God, family and country first. What's with the LCMS that they spend so much energy criticizing others? I've seen this all over their blogs ever since I started blogging. And some of what they have replied to me when I've posted a comment has been very hurtful personally. I guess I'm not allowed to think or have an opinion because I'm a faithful Christian woman.

Pastor Joelle said...

That McCain fellow is like omnipresent. He was even following me on Twitter.

Krauser said...

Not having seen the original source material for the column, I am a bit of a loss. The last time I checked, whether one swims the Tiber or the Mississippi (in retreat from the ELCA), Rome and St. Louis share the same conslusions on the ordination of women question (even if argued on a somewhat different basis) how is that an issue in Benne's response to McCain, murmmered or otherwise? It women's ordination precludes alignment with Mother Mo, then what makes Rome an option?