"In God's Name" on CBS, featuring Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson of the ELCA and LWF

Christmas Eve greetings from Upper Michigan where my family is happily ensconced in warm jammies and blankets, eating good food, and huddling 'round the television hearth.

Last night we watched a documentary on CBS entitled "In God's Name," featuring profiles on twelve global religious leaders. This Rundman/Peterson clan was especially interested due to the inclusion of Bishop Mark Hanson, the leader of our denomination the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the president of the Lutheran World Federation. Not often do Lutherans receive a major-network prime time TV platform, so we were all excited to see how our Bishop would represent us to the world. After viewing it, I can declare a heartfelt "You rock, Bishop Hanson!"

I tried to imagine what it would be like to watch this program if I was somebody searching for a religious tradition to adopt. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, and the Rabbi all came across well. The Pope seemed unsurprisingly distant, above-it-all, and, well...Papal. The Hindu leader was lovable and inspiring but sorta dingy, and the Shinto leader was so chilly and corporate that the poor filmmakers could hardly get anything meaningful out of him, so he was barely mentioned. Muslims and Sihks appeared reasonable, but I didn't hear anything too surprising or insightful.

Bishop Hanson, however, really nailed all the points and values that connect with me, and he did it with concrete examples, humbleness, humor, and classic Lutheran language. I loved it. BUT, I wondered about the chicken-and-egg situation. Did I like Hanson so much BECAUSE I've been raised Lutheran and trained/brainwashed to respond to such ideas? OR, do I naturally/intellectually agree with that worldview, which causes me to remain an active and passionate Lutheran Christian? Either way, I'm thrilled with the way Hanson stepped up to the plate and reflected an honest, loving, and grace-filled Spirituality.

One strange thing about the profile on Hanson: mostly he was shown in a conference room at the Lutheran Center (our churchwide offices building in Chicago), and other shots featured the ELCA cubicle-farm and other business-world images. There was a quick shot of Hanson distributing communion in a church, but most of his surroundings were his office, his home, or hi car. All the other religious leaders were shown in grand cathedrals, or mysterious shrines. Hanson just commutes to "the office." I thought that was kinda funny. But it didn't bother me or anything...it's just interesting.

Finally, I loved the images of Hanson with his wife, and how he spoke so clearly and passionately about being her "lover." How cool...now THATs a real life-embracing Lutheran picture of marriage that I want the world to know. And his admission of doubt, too, was very powerful, and important. When the filmmakers asked the Southern Baptist about doubt he sorta dodged the question and launched into a story about his daughter's bout with cancer, when he never wavered at all. Okay man, whatever. Glad to hear you're so perfect. It must be nice to be 100 percent certain about all the mysteries of life and faith.

Well, anyway, it was a good show, and it was nice for Lutherans to get some props in the global religious scene. Here's a link to the ELCA's page about the show.


Bridget Delaney said…
Wow, wish I had known. I didn't see it. (Not that I didn't already know Bishop Hanson rocked.)

Right now, I am somewhat amused by some of the tunes that are being used in the mass from the vatican being they are the exact same as the tunes in the LBW, so at those points I know exactly what is being said due to the music.
lisa herlocker said…
Havn't watch it yet -- the tapes sitting on the TV, but several people at church yesterday agreed with your review. Alison Larson was quite impressed. I'm impressed that they talked to a Lutheran at all! I'm glad we seemed to have made a good impression -- but you're right about the chicken egg thing -- so far the only reviews I've seen are from fellow Lutherans.

Hope your family had a great Christmas!

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