Friday, February 24, 2012

LHP Review: Pastoral Care



Siemon-Netto, Uwe. The Acquittal of God: A Theology for Vietnam Veterans. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2008. 107 Pages. Paper. $13.00. www.wipfandstock.com (P)

Preus, Peter. And She Was a Christian: Why Do Believers Commit Suicide? Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2011. 183 Pages. Paper. $25.99. http://online.nph.net/p-9606-and-she-was-a-christian.aspx (LHP)

Schuermann, Katie. Collects by Deaconess Melissa A. DeGroot. He Remembers the Barren. Fort Wayne: Lutheran Legacy 2011. 116 Pages. Paper. $14.95. www.lutheranlegacy.org http://heremembersthebarren.com/ (LHP)


Pastors deal with difficult issues nearly every day. Some are more challenging than others. Though issues like these may need to be faced more infrequently than others, they still need to be faced with the Law and comforted with the Gospel of God's Word.




Many Vietnam veterans felt and, in fact, still feel rejected by their God and the church and betrayed by their nation and even their families. Using themes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology, Uwe Siemon-Netto explores the veterans' situation and argues for God's acquittal of the charge of abandoning the veterans during and after the war. (publisher's website)
I have personally used Uwe Siemon-Netto's The Acquittal of God when providing pastoral care to Veitnam veterans as well as vets from other conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan. So many feel so burdened after killing in war. After all, were they not taught, "Thou shalt not kill"? I urge them to examine the updated and more accurate translation of the commandment: "You shall not murder." Such a translation is what the Hebrew of the commandment actually says, draws an appropriate distinction between capital punishment, just war, and mere murder, and is more Biblical. In addition, military personnel (and contractors) who kill outside the line of duty are subject to charges of murder.

Siemon-Netto spent years covering the Vietnam war as a correspondent. He understands veterans of that conflict better than many pastors of that era. This is a resource that will help pastors today honor veterans for their service to their country by helping through their theological struggles, PTSD (28), and confronting the failure of a country to care for its own after it sent them to war (53ff). Selected portions of Bonhoeffer can make good reading for those struggling with war and death. Jesus is central to healing and Uwe Siemon-Netto's theology for Veterans (74, et al). He speaks their language. And he can help you translate the love of God into words they can hear.



Most pastors I know don't have to deal with suicide very often. And She Was a Christian should be required reading so that pastors are prepared when they need to provide Biblical comfort to the grieving and support to prevent suicide where possible.

How can Christians, who by definition rest their eternal hope in Christ, seem to give up hope and take their own lives? The author of this book--writing from a solidly scriptural, confessional Lutheran perspective--addresses the theological issues involved with this paradox. The result is a book that offers a helpful scriptural corrective to views of the past that often emphasized the law more than the gospel when addressing the paradox of Christians committing suicide. It is aimed at pastors and teachers of the church, as well as Christian counselors. At the same time, laypeople who have wrestled with this paradox will also reap many benefits from reading this book. (publisher's website)
Why do believers commit suicide? The answer is complex. Pastor Peter Preus does the whole church a service in telling the story of his own wife. I could not have been an easy book to write. I pray that the comfort of the Communion of Saints, Forgiveness of Sins, Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting is supplemented by the comfort of helping others through his own traumatic experiences and theological reflections.

The entire book was helpful to me, but I wish to highlight Part Two's chapters for special commendation. Part Two covers "The Church's Case Against the Suicide." Harsh, right? 

Chapters One and Two bring the reader through "Posthumous Judgments of Yesterday and Today" and "Modern Theology and a Thriving Stigma," one that applies to mental illness in general. Christians know that Faith Plus "Anything" is unacceptable theology, for it states that there is something inside us (and/or in addition to Jesus) necessary for us to be saved. Chapters Three through Six address Faith Plus...Obedience, Reason, Self-Esteem, and Optimism. All are false Gospels that human beings know well and sometimes apply to the Church and especially to suicides. 

There is Gospel hope for the hopeless. I am thankful for the comfort author Peter Preus provided to me that I could share in a future time of need.  


Barrenness is a difficult topic for many couples to face. Well-meaning friends and Wannabe-grandparents may not always understand. I recommend Katie Shuermann's book and blog for all who struggle with infertility and those who love them.
 

He Remembers the Barren by Katie Schuermann is a tender conversation with women in the church who wrestle with the issue of barrenness in marriage. Addressing questions frequently asked by those struggling with infertility, the author walks alongside the reader, relaying personal stories to both encourage and support those who are suffering. Issues such as control of our bodies, family planning, and the source of conception are examined through a theological lens, reminding the reader of her clear vocation in Christ and pointing her to the ultimate source of fruitfulness, vitality, and comfort, our Triune God.

With Psalm readings, beloved hymn texts, and collects penned by Dcs. Melissa A. Degroot, each chapter of He Remembers the Barren resonates on a devotional level that is pitch perfect for women struggling with the grief and shame which often accompany barrenness. This book also serves as a valuable resource for pastors, family members, and friends seeking to better understand the barren experience of a loved one. (blog site page on the book)
Readers can post their own questions. I can identify with the concerns of this question: http://heremembersthebarren.com/2012/02/22/christian-man-to-man-advice-about-dealing-with-barrenness/. This book is just the beginning. It has been a great source of Christological comfort of me. I am now a regular reader of the author's blog of the same title.

My wife and I have been married since 1997 and we have been a family of two since then. I am grateful for understanding congregations and for the support of our parents. Adoption has not yet been a realistic option for us. My current call allows for be to have sixteen children as Headmaster of a Classical and Lutheran School. Being a pastor has allowed be to be the father of many in the faith. My wife is very generous in volunteering her time to be school librarian and help in countless other ways in the congregation.


Difficult issues will always be with us because of the valley of the shadow that is our home in this earthly life. All three of these resources are highly recommended because they consistently point us to our dual identity as sinner-saints, remind us of the forgiveness, hope, and salvation we have in Christ alone, and point us heavenward while living in Christ and sharing his love here on earth in our vocations.



Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.