Rev. Dr. Alberto Lázaro García calls us to live incarnationally under the cross (i.e., as theologians of the cross) rather than theologians of glory. Being a disciple of the cross is “a call not only to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness of sins for all tribes and all nations but also to live this incarnate compassion as a living witness of our confessional faith… For Luther the art of theology was an incarnate witness of how Jesus calls his disciples to live as theologians of the cross” (p. 207).
García realises that part of our problem in living as incarnate witnesses under the cross of Christ has to do with our theological training, particularly what pastors receive and then teach to their people. Speaking on his own theological training, García shares, “It was more important to reject false teachings and to stand for the truth than to become a theologian of the cross” (p. 208). If you can pardon my geeky terminology, we see ourselves as Guardians of the Galaxy of the Corpus Doctrinae rather than being Theologians of the Cross. Indeed, we conflate being a theologian of the cross into being knights in the order of orthodoxy whose vocation it is to go on dialogical crusades against heretics, the heterodox, and low church liturgies. Even worse, we teach our people to do the same. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protect orthodoxy and traditional liturgy, but we mustn’t make a crusade out of it.
As García puts it, “This theological exercise became more cerebral rather than incarnate in the living Gospel” (p. 208). In other words, we Lutherans have a tendency to treat discipleship under the cross as solely a cerebral exercise (and you transcend to esoteric greatness if you get your Ph.D.) rather than an incarnational living according to the Gospel with Jesus as our model, such as in table fellowship.
What does such incarnational living look like? Using Rev. García as an example, after some time he finally began to see himself as a both/and rather than an either/or—that is, he is both Cuban and Lutheran rather than having to choose between being Cuban or Lutheran as if being a Cuban Lutheran is a false dichotomy (thus, the same can be said of any culture). As he relates, “I hadn’t grasped the living and dynamic concept that lives under the cross. We can affirm our Hispanic identity and at the same time live our Christian faith under the cross” (p. 209). There’s a multiethnic culture I’ve long been a part of that I believe best represents how the church ought to be. This culture, much to your surprise or dismay, is the video game culture.
The first video game I played was Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis in 1993 when I was just 3-years-old. My older brother, who was 5 at the time, wanted someone to play the game with, so why not his younger brother? So, he taught me how to play and it was perfect since Sonic’s sidekick, Tails (player 2), has unlimited lives, so I could die as many times as I wanted without getting angry while I also had no idea what I was doing.
It wasn’t until six years later in 1999, however, that I connect the true origin of my gaming or geek identity. For Christmas that year, my parents had bought for me a red GameBoy Pocket (my favourite colour) with Pokémon the Red Version to match, while my brother also got a blue one of each respectively. This gift is really what got both of us into gaming. As I got older, I found myself in the gaming culture, and it’s multiethnic. I still belong to this culture and it is crucial to my personal identity.
A large reason why I still feel a strong sense of belonging in this culture is because of its unified diversity. Everyone in the culture is diverse—which is especially manifested at the various gaming conventions—and yet everyone is also unified under the commonality of love for video games. Sadly, the gaming culture did for me what the church had failed to do.
The gaming culture, I believe, ought to serve as a model for the church. Where is our diverse unity? Where is our welcoming diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and languages under the unified commonality of our love for Jesus Christ? “We cannot claim a unity that does not take seriously our racial and ethnic particularity,” García says (p. 211). In other words, we cannot truly confess we believe in the communion of saints if communion is severely lacking in our incarnational living under the cross.
González, Justo, J.A.O. Preus III, Douglas Groll, Aurelio Magariño, and Gerald Kieschnick. Under the Cross of Christ Yesterday, Toady, and Forever: Reflections on Lutheran Hispanic Ministry in the United States. Saint Louis: Concordia Seminary, 2004.