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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Going my way

"I don't go to church, I don't read the Bible, but that doesn't make me a bad person," says Bruce Knutson, a game warden in Cascade, Mont., 65 miles northeast of Helena. "I have arguments about this with my parents and my brother," an ELCA pastor serving as an Air Force chaplain.

"I'm not a heathen and not an atheist," Bruce says. "Religion is part of my life, but I don't believe in announcing my faith publicly. Put it this way, my parents are significant in my life, too, but I don't see them every week."

Bruce and his wife, Debbie, a manager with a grocery chain, have three children: Ben, 15; Chelsey, 13; and Krist, 9. They pray together at meals, but none of the youth are confirmation bound.

"There are no Lutheran churches in Cascade," Bruce says. "The nearest one is 35 miles away. Right now we don't have time for the commute.

"Sunday is a workday. I spend most of my time outside enjoying what God has created. Frankly, I find the Lutheran liturgy repetitious and monotonous.

"I remember when I was growing up, my father knew the whole service by heart. He didn't even have to open the book. What's good for my dad and for my brother isn't good for me."

Bruce's individualism is echoed by 1978 confirmation classmate Jim Benjamin, a family man and milk processing plant employee from Three Forks. "Out here in Montana individual rights and freedoms are important," he says. "It's more important to lead a Christian lifestyle than to dress up on a Sunday and go into a building. We have God's creation all around us in nature. We admire what God has made, not what man has built."

Jim doesn't dispute the value of confirmation. "It explains the covenant between man and God," he says. But his teenage daughter, Mandy, doesn't attend confirmation classes. "If she wants to go toward the church when she grows up, I'll do what I can to help her," he says.


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September issue

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