I'm going to post a little part of our conversation and to kind of introduce what I'm talking about.
burnthellama: People don't understand that for the rest of us, it [Lutheran communion] feels like a tree-house club with the no __________ allowed sign
moredetails15: I'm definitely learning
burnthellama: I don't have to commune with you, that's fine. I'll do that to not offend you, but I don't need to be told that I'm not the same level of Christian.
burnthellama: by people who really believe it
burnthellama: even though they wouldn't think to say it in those words
moredetails15: good, cause especially in the past few months, I've really been trying not to be that kind of lutheran
burnthellama: Does it bother you that many people would think your faith was slipping because you're trying not to be "that kind of Lutheran"
And this is what I said, hopefully more clearly stated than in the convo. I said that what bothers me is that there are many people on this campus (and in Christian churches everywhere, though I think Lutherans are especially bad at this) who don't understand tolerance. By tolerance I mean accepting that people have different beliefs than you do. I don't mean accepting their beliefs as correct because that would go against what most Christians understand the Bible to say. But it does mean understanding that telling other people that they are wrong and that their beliefs are condemning them to hell is not what brings people to Christianity. It's exactly what turns them away from it.
I have a quick story here to illustrate what I am talking about. I might have posted this before, I don't know. The fall before I went to Australia, I was in Fish with this girl, Melanie, who told Fish this witnessing story and I'll never forget it. She and a few friends had been at a coffee place after seeing the Jonah movie, and as they were leaving this group of about 60 Wiccans came in. On their way back to campus, two of the girls really felt like they should have witnessed to them, so much so that they went back to the coffee shop. Melanie said they started a conversation by asking a few of them if they were Wiccan (they were all wearing the necklace with the Wiccan symbol on it). The two girls asked about what Wiccans believed, and stuff like that, for a good 20 minutes. Then one of them said that they were Christian, and "this is what we believe" and began to tell them. Melanie said the majority response they got was, "You're Christian? You can't be Christian, Christians aren't like this, they don't listen they just tell you you're wrong and going to hell." A few of the Wiccans were still unwilling to listen to them at all, assuming they were the typical Christians they had met, but some of the girls they talked to asked Melanie and her friend if they would come back and talk to them again.
Now, if Melanie and Lindsey had begun their conversation with "You guys are wrong you know," they would not have been able to talk to them at all and they would have deepened the negative impression most of those people had about Christians.
Tolerance means respect for other people's beliefs. It doesn't mean accepting their beliefs to be true. When I say this most people jump to that conclusion. But respecting another's beliefs does not mean you have to accept them as true. It means understanding and accepting that to that person they are true, in fact most of the time they may believe just as strongly that their faith is as true as we believe ours is. But would you feel very willing to listen to someone who told you that your faith meant you were going to "their" hell?
Lutherans on this campus are so bad at this. I am the same way, though I'm trying to get better. I used to bash on Catholics a lot, though I'm trying not to anymore. But there are so many Lutherans on this campus who make those who aren't Lutheran feel like lower forms of Christians. We as Lutherans have this idea built into us that we are more right than everyone else because we interpret the Bible correctly while everyone else doesn't. And because we are more right they are more wrong. And then we tell them that.
And it's not all direct, either. Some of it is simply implied. I took a good look at the Communion service we've been using for Lent. Now, I'm not saying that I think close communion is wrong, but I think that sometimes the way it is handled is. If you look at some of the wording it's very misleading and/or exclusive. I don't have a copy with me so I'm not directly quoting, but I remember there being a part in a prayer about how communion connects us as members of the true church on earth. Does that mean that those who do not commune with us are not members of the true church? I don't think we believe that, but that's what we present to other people.
So there is a problem on this campus. We are not always welcomeing to those who aren't Lutheran. Yes, this is a Lutheran college and non-Lutherans should know that when they chose to come here, but does that mean we should minister only to Lutherans? I think Jordan phrased the problem the best way: (I added the emphasis)
burnthellama: every attempt at welcoming others here is seen by many as abandoning Lutheran faith, which I don't expect you to do. How can you minister to non-Lutheran students within a Lutheran framework and without trying to make Lutherans out of them?
I don't know, but it's worth thinking about.