Friday, January 14, 2005

Lutheran Theology and Homeownership

If you look back through the recent comments on this blog you'll note, curiously, that there are more comments on wallpaper than there are on prayer, and more comments regarding the blank space in our kitchen now filled with a refrigerator than there are posts on the doctrine of all things coming into being through the Word. This makes me wonder if I should blog more frequently on decorating and less on theology.

But actually I'm not surprised. Since we bought our home this past December, I've discovered a whole new world of casual conversation one can engage in that was opaque/hidden to me in the "Clint as renter" phase. All homeowners share similar trials and challenges, like wallpaper removal, painting, shoveling sidewalks, property taxes, none of which I dealt with as a renter. I now ably engage folks in lively conversation at our Aaslasen's hardware store and Premier Paints, whereas before I walked through those places confused and wishing I were in a bookstore.

One friend made passing reference to my owning a home while being a member of a pilgrim people. Another past commenter made a tenuous connection (he acknowledges this tenuousness) to homeownership as recapitulation of at least one aspect of the divine drama. So depending on the respondent, owning a home is either part of the narrative, or a deviation from it. Theology of land and property is never easy to parse.

I've stayed in Wittenberg for a few months, and know from walking past Luther's and Melanchthon's homes that the originators of Lutheranism were not overly concerned about homeownership. It was part of their responsibility in their vocations to own and care for places of residence. Of course, it's hard to imagine Luther most days paying attention to anything as practical as painting walls (although he did get ink on the wall at the Wartburg). That was more Katie's station and work. But I don't find anything in Luther that argues against ownership of property either.

Of course, Luther did have an understanding of stations in life and proper vocations that is different from our own, not to mention one that pre-dates any kind of liberation theologies that might question the ease with which those of us who do theology and pastor accept our ownership of homes, building up of pension plans, etc. I do theology and pastor in a safety net, you might say.

What I have observed about myself is this: that I find a way to justify and celebrate the state I'm in. When I was a renter, I never wanted to own a home, and was critical of the whole process and what it did to people. Now that I'm in a house, I love it, and I wonder why I ever rented.

Which is a good warning: watch out for the urge towards self-justification (like writing a blog where I justify why owning a home is ok and good and sound); remember to give thanks for the blessings we have been given; keep questioning; but enjoy the new conversations, and by all means, as often as possible, post photos of wallpaper and other goodies for the greater enjoyment of the blogging world.

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