The October copy of The Lutheran magazine arrived on my desk today. A large, caption-less picture of an old man wearing a suit, black-rimmed glasses, and a donning peculiar pose is the cover image.
Having no idea who this man is - or, more important, why he's on the cover of The Lutheran - I asked one of my older co-workers.
His name is Jack Benny.
Bob Sitze alludes to a Jack Benny comedy sketch in his cover story, "It Really Is Your Money or Life."
In one of his ageless sketches, comedian Jack Benny (right) is confronted by a robber's insistence, "Your money or your life." Benny defers for several moments. When pushed by the robber for his decision, the characteristically frugal Benny replies, "I'm thinking about it!"
According to Wikipedia, Benny's comedic character is "cheap, petty, vain, and self-congratulatory."
So why am I annoyed by this picture?
Because Sitze writes a great article! Here's the best sentence in the whole piece:
Heading toward simplicity means slowing down; living within your means; saving more, ramping up your understanding and practice of generosity; and finding satisfaction, serenity and joy inside of what others might think of as scarcity — all good ideals for the life of a reformation-minded steward of God's gifts.
He makes ONE reference to a dead comedian (1894-1974), and it becomes THE image for the primary publication of a 4.6 million member church.
Furthermore, this is the featured image on The Lutheran's newly formatted web site. People who are visiting this site to check out the fresh look will be presented with images of...Jack Benny.
For Lutherans who don't know of Jack Benny, or his reputation, this is just another in a long list of occasions that the church is skewing-old with references that mean nothing to people under the age of 40.
For Lutherans who do know of Jack Benny, they have confused a frugal, selfish life turned inward with a Christ's call for a simple, sustainable life turned outward.
For non-Lutherans who are looking for an identity snapshot, they will likely see us as a bunch of old tight-wads that are trying to cling to archaic traditions and images that don't point to our mission or identity in Christ.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what is being said about this?