Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, November 3, 2017


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…

500 years ago, on the just past Oct. 31, an obscure Augustinian friar named Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 points on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. The “theses” detailed the ways in which he felt the Roman Catholic Church needed to be reformed.

At the time there were basically only two forms of Christian church, each calling itself Catholic, which means universal. There was the Eastern Church, usually called Orthodox, and the Western Church, centered in Rome. They had been basically one church, which deserved the title of “catholic,” since it was universal, but Eastern and Western Christians split in 1054 AD, basically over the pope--that is, whether to have one. The Eastern Church was against. [1]

The Rome church continued to call itself Catholic since it was “the only true church.” When the church refused to enact the badly needed reforms that Luther championed, he left, and his followers, ever since, have been known as Lutherans. That was the start of what we call The Reformation, because Luther did not want to divide the church, he just wanted to reform it.

At the same time Luther was trying for reform in Germany, John Calvin was working for it in Switzerland. To distinguish his followers from Luther’s, they were known as “Reform” or “Reformed,” simply meaning people of The Reformation who were not specifically Lutherans. Those are folks we know today as Presbyterians.

When John Knox tried to bring the Reformation to Scotland, he ran into a lot of trouble, like people trying to kill him, so he fled to Calvin’s Geneva to let things cool down. There he became convinced of the truth of Calvin’s approach and took the “Reformed” back to Scotland, which is known even today as a Presbyterian stronghold because of Knox’s work.

McFarland is a Scottish name, and my family was Presbyterian. My father, though, married a Methodist, so that is what I am, which is a real advantage at family reunions, because all those Presbyterians are predestined to eat healthily, but we Methodists, being of the free will persuasion, are able to choose freely as many pieces of pie as we want. [2]

Now there are many Presbyterian denominations. In the town where I live, we have three different types, and as the saying goes—One is United, one is Reformed, and one is neither united nor reformed.

The forebears of the one known as Reformed came directly to South Carolina from Scotland, because, unlike other Presbyterians in Scotland,  they refused to admit any king but Jesus, and so were persecuted by the English king, who ruled Scotland. Like so many other immigrants, they came to America looking for religious freedom.

Because they were so convinced that King Jesus brought freedom to all, they were opposed to slavery, on Biblical grounds. They wanted to free the slaves, but it was illegal in South Carolina even to buy a slave and set himher free, so they moved to southern Indiana, where they ran the Underground Railroad, along with the Quakers, and an occasional renegade Methodist or Baptist.

I learned much of this when Richard Holdeman, who has a PhD in biology, as well as his Doctor of Ministry degree, and is a biology professor at IU as well as the pastor of the local Reformed Presbyterian church, spoke recently to us Methodists and told us the story of his people.

It’s a great story, and it says that often when the church is at its best, it’s underground.

I occasionally tweet as yooper1721.

1] The split was known as The Great Schism. When we were high school freshmen, we learned about it in World History, with Coach Delbert Disler. Since the coach’s favorite sports writer was Dan Scism of The Evansville Courier, we began to refer to him as “The Great Scism.”

2] A gross misuse of “predestination,” which has only to do with whether a person will go to heaven or hell when they [3] die, not anything else. Predestination is not fatalism, as in what you have to eat at reunions. I still like having free will at those, though.

3] I hate the singular “they,” but we seem to be stuck with it, and no one else will use the himher or shehe words I thought up, except for former IU basketball player, Will Sheehey, which is pronounced as Shehee.

Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:

I stopped writing this column for a while, for several reasons. It wasn’t until I had quit, though, that I knew this reason: I did not want to be responsible for wasting your time. If I write for others, I have to think about whether it’s worthwhile for you to read. If I write only for myself, it’s caveat emptor. If you choose to read something I have written, but I have not advertised it, not asked you to read it, and it’s poorly constructed navel-gazing drivel, well, it’s your own fault. Still, I apologize if you have to ask yourself, “Why did I waste time reading this?”

Also writing it keeps me sane, almost.

Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her new book, What Goes Up, came out July 18. It’s published in paper, audio, and electronic, and available from B&N, Amazon, Powell’s, etc.

Two problems with writing a blog for old people: an ever smaller # of available people, who can’t remember to click on the blog link.

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