Friday, May 12, 2006
It occurred to me in one of my less sane moments earlier today that there is an uncanny similarity between Bingo and the Lord's Supper as they are commonly perceived in our Lutheran circles today; this is especially so when one considers also how Bingo and the Lord's Supper are traditionally perceived in Roman Catholic circles as well. Casual observers might be somewhat inclined to assess Lutherans as wanna-be-Catholics when they observe our church services and practices: we use the same Western Liturgy, but with apologies and uneasiness over it, and when it comes to the Lord's Supper, sad to say, our churches and pastors are less inclined to see it as the Reforming fathers saw it. We speak of the body of Christ being "in, with, and under" the elements, without really knowing what we're talking about. It is doubtful that too many of us mean what was once meant by "under", namely "under the form of", for that sounds too much like (dare I say the "T" word?) . . . transubstantiation. No, that's Catholic, we must steer clear of that. So we find ourselves more comfortable with a host of Reformed explanations of "real presence" which accomodate reason a lot better than that old Thomistic jargon. Transubstantiation, to be sure, is far from the last word on the matter. But I’d take it any day over the rampant receptionism in our midst. Some even speak (dreadfully) in our circles about the elements as nothing more than "vehicles" for the body and blood of Christ. We try to distinguish ourselves from the Reformed on this, but it seems we can't bear to come off like those Catholics, so we come up with flaccid disclaimers.
Now Bingo is much the same way. In the Reformed tradition, Bingo is simply out. Verboten. Anything which even looks like gambling, even if it isn't, is to be shunned. It’s guilt by association. And more importantly, Bingo is, as everyone knows, too, well, Catholic.
But then there are these Lutheran churches, which (to that casual observer) are sort of second-rate Catholic, sort of wanna-bes. And so, true to form, they do, wouldn't you know it, have Bingo in Lutheran churches too. Sort of. There is Bingo there, at their Parent-Teacher League social events, and at their church picnics, and at their annual Thrivent (formerly AAL) parties. But of course, it isn't gambling. That, they are quick to say, would be too Catholic. So we do it without the money. Actually, though, come to think of it, we do even use money sometimes, as in the Thrivent parties, but only as "prizes" to winners, never as a return on a gambling investment.
So in short, Bingo is rather like the Lord's Supper as we have, alas, come to think of it in Lutheran churches. It’s Catholic style and Evangelical substance. We say it isn't really gambling, in the former case, and we say it hasn’t really changed into the body of Christ, in the latter (because that’s too close to transubstantiation for comfort). So we come off as pretenders. Just wanna-bes, second-rate Catholics.
I mean, if you really wanted to get some Bingo action, which church would you attend? So to all you who tremble at the notion of being too like those Catholics, I ask: if someone really wanted to get the body of Christ, would he be likely to attend a church which took such great pains to distance itself from those Catholics on the Body of Christ?
Modified from a 1995 article.