Author: Martha E. Stortz

Martha E. Stortz is Professor Emerita at Augsburg University, where she held the Bernhard M. Christensen Chair of Religion and Vocation from 2010-2021.  With Rabbi Barry Cytron, she directs the Collegeville Institute’s Multi-Religious Fellows Program.  She writes, speaks, consults, and publishes, most recently, Called to Follow: Journeys in John’s Gospel (Cascade, 2017).

Interfaith Engagement: Because We’re Lutheran

With temperature and humidity pushing into the nineties, the football team broke early for lunch. As players headed over to the cafeteria for lunch, a few hung back. The coach approached, offering to walk with them. “Thanks,” one replied.” “But it’s Ramadan, and we’re fasting.”  When the non-Muslim teammates heard the reason for their absence […]

Review: Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

Whoever read Greg Boyle’s first book has been waiting for the next. Tattoos on the Heart (Simon & Schuster/Free Press 2010) introduced readers to the ministries of Homeboy Industries in east Los Angeles. Fr. Greg Boyle wasn’t always CEO of Homeboy; he started his own ministry as priest of Dolores Mission Parish in Boyle Heights, an area wracked with gunfire and gang wars. Having failed at shuttle diplomacy between rival gangs, Boyle suddenly realized that best way to stop a bullet was a job. The idea of Homeboy was born.

“Neither Jew nor Greek, Male nor Female, Slave nor Free, Strong nor Weak”: A Call to Friendship in Christ

[1] The final scene of Eric Till’s 2003 movie Luther silhouettes Luther and his wife against a green hill as horsemen gather ominously. The tension breaks when one of the riders gallops toward the couple shouting “They accepted our confession!” Melanchthon bears the good news. As the scene fades, words scroll across the screen praising […]

A Review by Dr. Martha Stortz

Michael Shahan (ed.), A Report from the Front Lines: Conversations on Public Theology, A Festschrift in Honor of Robert Benne (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009). xv + 166 pages. Paperback. ISBN 978-0-8028-4863-5. [1] Someone as prolific as Robert Benne probably ought to have a festschrift every decade, simply to pause and […]

A Lutheran Approach to the Family Values: Focus on Fiducia

[1] “Sex, Marriage and Family:” that’s the title of the LCA social statement from 1970.[1] I always wondered if this was the table of contents for the document – or a description of the way life really works. The ambiguity was delicious. In either case, “family” came last. It was almost an afterthought. That is […]

“His instinct is to praise you:” Reading Augustine through the Lens of Praise

[1] After they’ve read his compelling spiritual autobiography, I ask my students the obvious question: “What is Augustine confessing?” To a person they reply: “His sins.” To be sure, Augustine recounts his sins in vivid detail. But Gilbert Meilaender offers a second answer: “His love of God.” Moreover, Augustine confesses from a nature that is […]

Introduction to Lisa Dahill’s Article, “Bonhoeffer’s Late Spirituality: Challenge, Limit and Treasure

1] With Lisa Dahill’s lyrical exposition of Bonhoeffer’s spirituality, we find a contemporary Lutheran theology working within a critical appropriate of virtue and character. Bonhoeffer has too long been labeled a “command of God” theologian, whose work confronts Christians with Jesus’ words “Follow me.” Certainly an “ethic of command drives the first part of his […]

The Top Five Things I Miss When Lutherans Talk about Sex

[1] In the cult classic “High Fidelity” (Stephen Frears, 2000), John Cusack plays the beleaguered Rob, a record store owner who trades equally in classic tunes and romantic fantasy. He and his loser employees spend a great deal of time coming up with soundtracks for all the important events in their lives – “Top Five […]

Imagining a Conversation between Brother Martin and the Angelic Doctor: A Lutheran Approach to Virtue Ethics

[1] Lutheran ethics remains untouched by the vaunted “return to virtue ethics” in contemporary Christian ethics. The pursuit of virtue smacks of “works righteousness;” it registers as one more attempt to ascend the ladder of spiritual perfection. Martin Luther saved his most savage critique for Aristotle and Aquinas, traditional figures associated with virtue ethics. It […]

Casualties of the Iraq War

[1] If truth is the first casualty of war, cynicism must be its last-and most enduring. Sadly, we have seen both in the war in Iraq. No one found WMDs, the stated reason for entering the war. Nor were there any discovered links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The majority of Americans who believed […]

Review of Gilbert Meilaender’s Bioethics: A Primer for Christians

[1] When they enter the field of bioethics, too many theological ethicists check their theological credentials at the door. Thus, they lose theological eloquence, as they learn medical-ese. Not so with Valparaiso University’s Gilbert Meilaender: he never loses fluency in that first language of faith. Not every Christian will agree with his conclusions on abortion […]

Solus Christus or Sola Viscera? Scrutinizing Lutheran Appeals to Conscience

This article appeared in the summer issue of dialog. Published with permission. [1] In the wake of recommendations from the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality, one commentator worried that Lutherans would fall prey to bitter “red synod/blue synod” squabbles reminiscent of the November, 2004 election. Let’s hope we have recovered from the fallout of […]

The Politics of Fear in a Season of Campaigning

[1] “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As he stood in the Ellipse, my father-in-law remembers that the only thing he was really afraid on that wintry day was frostbite. But I am not worried about the weather. What concerns me is how far this country has traveled from Roosevelt’s insight. Fear has […]

Considering the Gospel in a Culture of Fear

[1] “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he […]

The Passion According to Mel

[1] The latest film by Australian film-maker and actor Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, has kept people busy both at the box office and at the computer. Biblical scholars scramble to assess the scriptural authenticity of the dialogue. Theologians of all stripes sift scenes for implicit theories of atonement. Jewish leaders register appropriate […]

Whither Childhood? Conversations on Moral Accountability with St. Augustine

[1] In his Confessions, St. Augustine tried in vain to understand where his infancy went. Did boyhood overtake it? Or did infancy leave of its own accord, and if so, “where did it go?”1 Were Augustine to write today, he would have only been more confused. Children like Jon Benet Ramsey sport grown-up costumes and […]

Thinking the Unthinkable: Just Deliberation on War

[1] During the Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched through Georgia. In his wake he left ruined fields, pillaged plantations, looted businesses, and casualties in the thousands. “War is hell,” he shrugged. With these words he situated war outside the realm of moral experience. The judgment justified the carnage. [2] “War is hell.” […]

Why Bonhoeffer? And, Why Now? A preface

A preface to a JLE portfolio on the life, theology and ethical constructs of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. [1] For the last two years running the semester’s start brought a knot of students to my door demanding a special reading course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Interest sparked by the week-long courses offered each January by the Rev. Dr. […]

Gathered and Scattered: Worship and Service as What it Means to Be Church

[1] From here…. Some years ago a woman from a congregation in the Northwest offered her congregation’s mission statement: “Gathered to worship, scattered to serve.” [2] It stuck in my imagination — for any number of reasons — but in part it stuck, because it so succinctly stated the mission of the church: worship and […]

Rumors of War: The Need for a Lutheran Voice

[1] Lutherans will be of various minds regarding an impending war with Iraq. If you are like I am, you are still trying to sort out the “issues.” At this point, I do not know what we should say, but I am convinced that we should be involved in the debate. Specifically, I am convinced […]

Practicing Faith and Practicing Law

[1] My topic for the conference is the practices of faith and the practice of law, and I begin by offering a story that presents these two sets of practices in sharp relief. I will then make some general remarks on the subject of practices in general, what practices are and do, and then conclude […]