From the Editor

Looking for the “Christ stuff”

Michael L. Sheerer

Michael L. Sheerer

Martin Luther without Christ would have been no more than a political rebel.

The Rev. Paul T. McCain, interim president and chief executive officer at Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, wrote a movie review for The Fort Wayne Lutheran. He critiqued the recently-released major motion picture, “Luther.”

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans helped bankroll the production of the film, for which all of us owe the fraternal a debt of gratitude.

McCain was high on the movie (as was I when I saw it). But he included a vignette in his critique that jumped out at me. Here’s what he said: “A major Hollywood distributor said that he loved [‘Luther’] and wanted to distribute it, except for one condition. He asked for all the ‘Christ stuff’ to be taken out.”

I remember a lecture delivered by a seminary professor who was explaining the way Martin Luther did theology. He said, “Luther was almost ‘Christ compulsive.’ When he read Scripture, he had a tendency to find Christ under every stick and stone.”

Without the Christ stuff, what would the “Luther” movie be about? The courage of a little guy who stood up to the empire and didn’t get crushed? The clash of the titans (Luther vs. the emperor; Luther vs. the pope)?

Without the Christ stuff, Luther would have been a brash medieval rebel who succeeded in splitting the only multinational corporation of his day — Roman Catholicism. But so what?

This newspaper is distributed among people who believe baptism means something, who are convinced that there’s a difference between pilgrimage and paganism, and who are pretty sure that Paul wasn’t kidding when he said, “When Christ lives in you, you are a new creation.”

Woe to the pastor, the believer, the congregation, the synod, the denomination that try to make their message more marketable, more palatable, by ridding themselves of the Christ stuff. It’s one thing to be welcoming, “user-friendly,” even trendy. But without a focus on Christ, we have no message.