Friday, February 18, 2011

" ... Send Me Home ..."

Playing an Iranian mother abused by her Islamist family in the Closer's 2005 episode "L.A. Woman," Marina Sirtis said (and this is from memory, so it may be off): "They don't want to send me home; they want to send me to the seventeenth century."

Actually, Iran in the 17th century seems like a comparatively pleasant place -- the Savafid dynasty peaked, securing the frontier, and then entered a gentle decline, marked by monument-building and high living. It is really for Christians in Europe that the 1600s were a disaster: on the Continent, the Thirty Years' War; in Britain and Ireland, Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Death, disease, and religious intolerance ruled the Western world.

And yet, perversely, many Christians feel an aching nostalgia for the 17th century. It was, after all, the age of the King James Bible, of John Donne and George Herbert, of Thomas Browne and John Bunyan and lots of other people we like. And that's just in England. For us Evangelicals, the 17th century saw an explosion of theology and, especially, hymn-writing. Much of what we sing most heartily, or did until a generation or so back, comes from those days.

So, almost despite ourselves, we tip our biretta to The Repristination Press, which since 1993 has earned its pittance by keeping the likes of Johann Gerhardt and Nicolaus Hunnius in print. They actually began with the cream of the 19th century -- Wilhelm Loehe and C.P. Krauth -- and worked their way backward. The catalog is deeply tempting, and the books are not outrageously priced.

And yet. Like that Irianian mother, and despite our fascination with the past, we have no real desire to live there. We can't help thinking that this separates us from the editors of the RP, who are connected to one of the Lutheran micro-denominations, the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America. (The website seems to be updated every year or two, literally). Founded in 2006 and counting 14 pastors, the ELDoNA appears to consist of unhappy ex-Missourians. You can imagine how attractive we find such a prospect. And in fact, along with its gems, the catalog does include a neat little pamphlet on "Woman Suffrage in the Church" by W.H.T. Dau. Oh, joy.

Still, the catalog is more than worth a look.

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