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Anyone who’s been with me for even a short while knows that I’m a lifelong Lutheran. I grew up getting attendance pins in Sunday school, memorized the Small Catechism, and had a Bible of my own from an early age. In the midst of being educated on what is “Lutheran,” I also received an education on “not-Lutheran,” though this was subtler.

We don’t cross ourselves in worship, because that’s not-Lutheran (i.e., too Catholic). We don’t raise our hands in worship, because not-Lutheran (Baptist). As an adult, I’ve utilized both of these practices from time to time, learning that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them – it’s just us reacting and attempting to distinguish ourselves.

There are other things that have important theological bases for the differences. We use real wine in communion, not grape juice. We serve both bread/body and wine/blood to everyone who comes forward. We have young people go through instruction before receiving it, and we wait until they’re a bit older (usually anywhere from 5th to 8th grade) before that instruction is done). If you want to know more about these things, message me and we can chat.

I wonder sometimes if making the distinctions between Lutheran and not-Lutheran have gotten too specific. I’ve been to churches where members honestly believed that identifying as Lutheran was more important than identifying as Christian. And I see people outside of the faith shaking their heads at all of the arguing that seems to happen. While I truly believe the theological differences must be upheld, why are we so afraid of doing things that are perfectly acceptable, just because they seem too much like another denomination?

I’m watching the same happen among political conservatives in our country, who seem more intent in defining themselves as “not-liberal” or “not-democrat.” What scares me is that I see this creeping into Christian circles as well, even Lutheran circles. In a desperate attempt to avoid appearing liberal, we buy into the entire party platform, regardless of whether or not it fits our principles. And worse, we will defend every aspect of that platform with the same vehemence, as though it is our moral imperative.

Yesterday I posted a question about climate change on my Facebook page, because I truly wonder why republicans seem so offended by it. Not surprisingly, the first two people to respond simply gave their political answers. Neither was particularly helpful in answering my question but both revealed the continued problem we face as a nation. Our political parties have hijacked our ability to think freely and consider both sides of an issue. Even I get sucked into the fray at times. I can’t stand to fully associate with either party, but I worry that taking a stance on any issue will cause others to paint me with a political party brush. But if elephants are red and donkeys are blue, I think I’m much more purple in my political leanings.

I agree with liberals on some of their policies related to care of human beings and the planet. I agree with conservatives on issues of life and sexuality. Where these issues intersect, I try my best to pray and show love. But I fail at this a lot, and I sometimes feel ignorant about issues. Then, when I try to get more informed, I face a wall that divides red from blue and can’t find a single purple article that actually gives an unbiased perspective. No one seems interested in helping me find purple. It’s only about being blue (and not-red) or red (and not-blue).

I’m still glad to be a Lutheran, but I pray that my religious identity is tied to grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone – and not to avoiding all that is “not-Lutheran.”