So Campus Crusade for Christ has decided to change its name. To Cru. Why? Because it thought the “Crusade” part too off-putting to many it was trying to reach with the gospel. Please note that the change of moniker refers only to its U.S. operations. Apparently folks in the other 190 nations it ministers to are more broad-minded, including those in the Middle East, no doubt. But in the States, it’s Cru. Short for Crusade.
Now I am neither a cynic nor a skeptic. I merely assume that everyone is either lying, stupid, or lying to me about how stupid they think I am. So I’m wondering if this name change is merely an attempt to get Muslims to drop their guard long enough for a bunch of flip-flop-wearing Jesus freaks to love-bomb them back to the Lionheart Age. But who am I to judge.
In other news, Coral Ridge Ministries, founded by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, is also changing its name, to Truth in Action Ministries. This, too, is an attempt to facilitate “outreach,” which presumably was hindered by what most people assumed was the true motto of Coral Ridge Ministries: “Miserable Lies in Amber.”
Whether these fresh, fab soubriquets affect the desired change in public perception remains to be seen. Christianity is all about new beginnings, after all. So mazel tov.
But there is another change in name that has been nagging at me for so long that I hit a pastry chef in the pancreas the other day just to get it out of my system (along with a stale cruller). What change is that you ask? (Just play along.) This:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins…”
When I began attending LCMS services after years in evangelical churches, punctuated by non-communicating attendance at Catholic Masses, I was jolted by that Christian. Every other English version of the Apostles Creed I have ever encountered in a church setting translates the Latin catholicam—as in “sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam”—correctly as catholic.
Yes, yes, I know, evangelical churches inevitably punctuate that “catholic” with an asterisk* that explains how “It’s not that kind of catholic, like in Roman Catholic, but catholic in the sense of universal.” Thanks. Explains the picture of Benedict XVI with the red slash through it in the Welcome Center.
But at least the “catholic” was preserved, the tradition, the original, intact and respected. Not in the Lutheran churches, or at least in the Lutheran churches using materials produced by Concordia Publishing House. At first I thought this to be a recent innovation. I would have sworn on a stack of Smalcald Articles that I learned my Small Catechism with the “catholic” in the Creed. But an edition of the catechism published by CPH in 1943 also translates “catholicam” as “Christian.” So the one I used had to have also. Did I imagine that “catholic”? Or had I recited it so many times in other contexts that I read it back into my boyhood church experience?
“But isn’t it the same thing?” you might ask. “Christian and catholic/universal?” No, you idiot. And who asked you? Didn’t Gnostics fashion themselves Christians? Didn’t Montanists? Don’t Mormons today? And Jehovah’s Witnesses? How about oneness Pentecostals? And there are a smorgasbord of nondenoms that would rather be caught reading out passages from The Story of O than one of those man-made traditions commonly known as a Creed. Anyone and everyone can call themselves Christians, including mainline churchniks who have longed jettisoned any notion of the Fatherhood of God and the divinity of His Son. My goodness, even the atheist Marxist Slavoj Zizek considers himself a Christian materialist, and Richard Dawkins wears a T-shirt that reads “Atheists for Jesus.”
(I must remember to breathe during these things . . .)
When I was but a teen, back in the days when garbage was still garbage and the Recycling Regime had not yet enforced segregation of our detritus, I was as pious as an assassin’s bullet. I wanted nothing to do with religion, organized or ramshackle, and thought the existence of a personal deity about as likely as Joe Pepitone’s being elected Emperor of Japan. My main obsessions were movies, books about movies, and Valerie Bertinelli (not necessarily in that order.) This caused a great disturbance in the Force, namely, my mother. The woman who taught me my Small Catechism as we sat across the kitchen table when I was but knee-high to a Buick Riviera was concerned for my soul, and not only because I was fast turning into a miserable blaspheming apostate. You see, my best friend was a Catholic-turned-charismatic-fundamentalist type who also worried about my eternal destiny, and he and his mother were determined to see that I was converted, and not by the frozen chosen who surrounded me five days a week in my Lutheran parochial school.
So my mom asked our pastor** to pay a friendly visit one evening to perhaps steer me back onto the straight and narrow before I swerved into a bridge abutment. What I remember from that talk was his response to my complaints about how my friend kept hectoring me about how I needed to be born again. “I was born again at my baptism,” the pastor reminded me, adding: “We are catholic in our faith.”
Years would pass before I’d find my way back onto the narrow path (admittedly veering to the right and to the left now and again, as the Old Adam is a lousy driver). And I know I’m but a lowly layman who spends most Sundays hunting down a church, any church, that still uses the Common Service of 1888. But I do implore the powers that be in the LCMS: put the “catholic” back. I don’t care where or when saying “Christian” became de rigueur; it seems to have started in the Old Country, with German translations influenced by pietists who wanted to put more distance between themselves and Rome (but I could be mistaken about that). And frankly, I don’t care. Just put it back. Why? As has been said many times and will need to be said again: Luther never had any intention of starting a new church. In fact, he never left the church he was in—he was kicked out. And despite all the nasty things he had to say about the popes and how the “power of the keys” was wielded by same, neither he nor any of his successors ever denied that the Catholic Church was a true church, as it had the Word and the Sacraments. We, along with Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, and Orthodox, are members of the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”
Catholics and Lutherans may debate from now till kingdom come about the nature of true apostolic succession: whether it is a matter of an unbroken line of men upon whom the laying on of hands has conferred episcopal authority, or a matter of perennial apostolic doctrine. But we English speakers should be saying the same words come that point in the liturgy when we express a common ancient faith as members of “one holy catholic and apostolic church.”
Whether a Campus Crusade or a Coral Ridge changes its name don’t make me no never mind, really. I am a member of neither, and both are parachurch entities. Here today and gone tomorrow. So go with God. But I am a member of the church catholic. Or at least I thought I was. And I take it personally when I’m told that I’m now a member of something else. In fact, I will not say “Christian church.” I will mount a singular, solitary, albeit quixotic protest by continuing to say “catholic church,” in a loud and clamorous voice. Now I just have to find a church to say it in . . .
*Every time I saw that asterisk, and considered its intention, I was put in mind of that exchange in Woody Allen’s film Bananas, when Allen, a budding Latin American revolutionary, reads out the charges against a member of the deposed regime, which includes the slaughter of thousands of civilians, torture, and other horrors: “How do you plead?” Allen asks. “Guilty,” the accused responds, “but with an explanation.”
**My pastor at the time was Kazimierz Kowalski , who is now a popular priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The man who succeeded him in my old church, Leonard Klein, is now a priest in the Archdiocese of Wilmington, Delaware. Never let it be said that Lutherans have never done anything for the pope. No thanks are necessary, but we are open to small gifts of cash.