Monday, March 19, 2012

A Lute wins a ceremonial title

One of the realizations that comes to folks who make up a minority culture is that for all practical purposes, we are invisible.  And trust me, Lutes in USA are about as invisible as is possible to the human condition.  But we DO have a celebrity who recognizes our existence—one Garrison Keillor who spins tall yarns about the Norwegian Lutherans in his fictional Lake Wobegon on American Public Radio.  Not surprisingly, we Lutes love him.  He describes the petty cultural characteristics of our tribe so well, I think one of the Lutheran colleges in the area should bestow on him an honorary Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.  In his telling, we are honest, polite, slightly neurotic, diligent, and hard-working good neighbors, among other mostly endearing characteristics.  Pretty harmless, all in all.

And we Lutes are actually like that most of the time.  Considering we are descended from Vikings, the civilizing influence of the Lutheran Church has been quite remarkable.  But Lutes are have not always been a tribe that consumes weak coffee and Jello in the church basement while we argue over whether teenagers should have to memorize Luther's catechism.  This is an institution that has been a part of some extremely successful governments in the Nordic countries, has contributed incredible cultural gifts through composers like Bach, and has fielded great armies under commanders like Gustavus Adolphus.  The Lutheran Church, believe it or not, has been a source of great moral courage over the years.

The latest outburst of Lutheran relevance came during the last days of DDR when the Lutes organized the main opposition to the brutal tyranny of the Communist puppets.  The movement was centered in Leipzig—the city of J. S. Bach.

One of those incredibly brave Lutheran preachers from DDR has just become Germany's new president.  As the son of a Lutheran preacher, I want to take this moment to express my pride in one of my culture who was willing to struggle to make the world a better place.  Such expressions of pride are so VERY un-Lutheran but it's OK, we'll be invisible again soon enough.

Joachim Gauck elected as German president

Joachim Gauck was elected German president Sunday, becoming the first candidate from the former communist east to be head of state. The pastor, 72, claimed 991 votes out of 1,232, in what was the country's third such election in three years.

Activist pastor Joachim Gauck was elected German president by an overwhelming majority Sunday, marking the first time a candidate from the former communist east will be head of state.

Gauck, 72, claimed 991 votes out of 1,232 from a special assembly of MPs and other dignitaries, parliamentary speaker Norbert Lammert said, against prominent Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, 73, who was nominated as a protest candidate by the far-left party Die Linke.

"What a beautiful Sunday," Gauck said to enthusiastic applause from the chamber of the glass-domed Reichstag parliament building in central Berlin after the vote.

It was the third presidential election in three years for Germany after the abrupt resignations of Gauck's two predecessors.

Gauck helped drive the peaceful revolution that brought down communist East Germany and later fought to ensure that the public would be granted access to the vast stash of files left behind by the despised Stasi secret police after reunification in 1990. He oversaw the archive for the next decade.

In a short acceptance speech, he noted that his election fell on the 22nd anniversary of the first free elections in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous November.

"After 26 years of dictatorship we were finally able to become citizens," he said. "I knew then that I would never miss another election."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also grew up under communism, gave her backing to the plain-spoken Lutheran pastor in February after then president Christian Wulff stepped down amid a flurry of corruption allegations dating from his time as a state premier. more

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