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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Are America's values universal?

This week’s article comes from Paul A. Wee: it's an excerpt from his book, American Destiny and the Calling of the Church, published this year by Augsburg Fortress as part of its “Lutheran Voices” series. Wee is an ELCA pastor who teaches at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Previously he worked for the Lutheran World Federation. The book calls on Lutheran Christians who are U.S. citizens to critically examine our roles and responsibilities in the world.

This week’s feature: Are America’s values universal?

When official U.S. policy speaks of the values of freedom, democracy, and free enterprise as being “right and true for every person, in every society,” the church needs to take a giant step back. Just as “not every one who says ‘Lord, Lord’ is fit for the kingdom of God,” so can it be said that everyone who speaks these cherished words—freedom and democracy, for example—do not always mean the same thing.

Anyone who is familiar with life in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) during the communist period can testify to one gross misuse of that cherished word. Or consider the various meanings associated with the word freedom. Over the past decades, representatives of developing countries at the United Nations have complained that, in the North Atlantic region, the word freedom is invariably understood in individualistic terms (freedom of speech, religion, and so forth), while less attention has been given to the freedom of the community, including freedom for integrated community development and the freedom to have a guaranteed source of food.

We love the ring of these great words—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—but we need to gather with friends at home and abroad to ask what they actually mean in the context of the real world. Although we Americans enjoy a pluralistic society, it is also true that we can be insulated from the ways in which people from other cultures use language and how they view the world (pages 47-48).

This week's front page features:

Joy in the ordinary: Pentecost offers time to recognize the holy in the everyday. (Photo at right.)

Among the stars: Space-traveler tells students to aim high.

Palestinian financial crisis affects hospital, schools.

July 20, 1969: The baptism I do not remember.

Also: Circulation tales.

Also: Presbyterians debate gay clergy.

Also: Summer humor.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

This week on our blog:

"I almost fell in a stampede," blogs Andrea Pohlmann. "I wasn’t attending a rock concert—just trying to get inside a church."

Elizabeth Hunter writes about three movies in which faith and re-inspired faith are the main dramatic element.

"Thar be treasure!" Amber Leberman blogs about a nugget of spiritual wisdom from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Kathleen Kastilahn writes about waiting for late passengers on Flight 8611.

Sonia Solomonson (right), who has just returned from a three-month sabbatical, writes about the value of getting away from the routine to "just be" with God.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment) > > >

This week in our discussion forums:

Readers are welcome, as always, to start or join a discussion about articles in the most recent issues of The Lutheran in our discussion forums.

Join the discussion > > >

Are you in the call process?

If you’re a pastor seeking a call or a congregation looking for a pastor, be sure to check out The Lutheran’s expanded classifieds section.

Even if you read the print version of The Lutheran, some opportunities are posted only in our Web classifieds.

If you’re a congregation looking for a pastor, you may post an ad in The Lutheran’s Web classifieds for $150 per month. (Congregations should check with their synod office about how to handle inquiries.)

Also, The Lutheran now offers congregations and individuals the opportunity to post announcements about anniversaries, church anniversaries, birthdays, deaths and reunions. Web prices start as low as $75 per month. (Visit www.thelutheran.org/classifieds or e-mail advertising@thelutheran.org to learn more.)

Check out our online classifieds > > >

Tell us! The big goodbye.

For a future story in The Lutheran, share your opinion(s) of today’s funeral/memorial service trends:

1. What’s most important to you for your funeral? (200 words)

2. What’s the oddest, or most meaningful, thing you’ve experienced at a funeral? (100-200 words)

Send your responses to either or both questions to Julie Sevig or The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631, by Aug. 1. Be sure to include your name, congregation, city and state.

Or respond online > > >


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For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web Standard memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans. 1-800-328-4648.)

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