For the sake of unity, Christians should do things that are in themselves stupid.
That is not my view. It is the view of a prominent Missouri Synod Minister of Religion-Ordained.
His thesis, which I wish to combat, is two-fold. 1. Not saying the Alleluia during Lent is stupid. 2. We should follow this rubric anyway, for we should submit to the rubrics for the sake of unity.
Where to begin? First, while some believe me to have an axe to grind with someone who openly lies about me, my critique is really not personal. It is good to emphasize this. I am not here to answer name calling with name calling. Rather, I am here to combat the abuse of power that is perpetrated by means of the abuse of language. Great violence is done in Christ's Church without violence, non vi, sed verbo. What could be more dangerous?
Now, to some of the substance of the argument. To be clear, both parts of the thesis are wrongheaded. Regarding the first part, the rubrics of the Church are not stupid. They are there for time honored reasons. Even those which are diametrically opposite the practice in another rite of the Church cannot be dismissed, condemned really, as stupid. Furthermore, the particular rationale given is badly mistaken. I will get to that in a moment. Regarding the second part, humbly submitting to a rubric for the sake of unity is not really done by calling it stupid. It is a contradiction. That is submission only in a childish sense. And if something is truly stupid, it ought not be practiced in the holy Catholic Church of the Augsburg Confession.
A part of the argument against omitting the Alleluia is the misuse of a quotation of Martin Luther. I have patiently corrected people on Catholic Answers Forum, who have misused Luther quotes. It is infinitely more tragic to see sophomoric treatment of Luther by Lutherans themselves. A case can be made that Luther was not in favor of omitting the Alleluia in Lent (though he wouldn't say it is stupid). However, it is reaching too far to use this passage to make that point:
The general duties and works of love need no new command; they are already laid down and ordered in the Ten Commandments. We are all enjoined of God to hear His Word, to love Him, to pray to Him, to be obedient to our parents, to love our neighbor, to shun all lasciviousness, and to hold matrimony in high esteem. All this is God's will and institution; therefore no especial call of the Holy Spirit to enter matrimony, to become father or mother, is needed. Such matters have all been arranged and commanded of God. But we nowhere find a command of God or word of God, which would demand of us to run into cloisters for the purpose of serving God, or to avoid eating meat, eggs or butter during the Lenten season, or to sing no Hallelujah in that time; and therefore all such observances are no true service of God.
A fair and intellectually honest reading of this passage results not in the notion that Luther condemns the omission of Alleluia, anymore than he condemns fasting, which he elsewhere calls a "fine" discipline (you know, like in the Catechism). Rather, it leads one to an important theological point, viz., that we ought not run after such things as though they were specially asked for by God; conversely, what were once considered holier activities or vocations ought not take our eyes away from the essential holiness of the various callings and stations of life ordained by God, as we see them, eg., in the Catechism's Table of Duties.
Another part of the argument goes like this: "Praise the Lord" is really all that "Alleluia" means, and how could the Church ever be without her praise of her Lord? This line of thought is deeply flawed, for it fails to recognize that the Church in fact isn't ever without her praise of her Lord. The Church is always, always praising her dear Lord and Redeemer. She does this by her life, her witness, her prayer and worship, her Eucharist, the constant use of the Psalms and the classic hymns. She does this by means of her life and witness in the world in the lives of her members. Theology itself is doxological, when it is true to its name anyway. And yes, she even praises the Lord by saying "Praise the Lord," even in Lent. Think, eg., of the Lauds Psalms (148-150). However, it is false to oversimplify the word "Alleluia" by saying that "Praise the Lord is really all that it means." That is all that it means if one is being literalistic. But we ought to do neither Biblical exegesis nor rubrical studies by means of word studies and etymology.
And if one wants to take that approach, then it would be fitting to say that there is really no need for such an archaic word in 21st century Lutheranism. Let us simply say "Praise the Lord," since that is all it really means. Rather, it is a profoundly beautiful Hebrew liturgical term of praise, which the Church has always known to be too rich to translate in her liturgy. Liturgically, we know the same to be the case for other terms as well, such as Hosanna, Amen, and Kyrie eleison. In the Western tradition of the Church's liturgy, the custom arose of ordering the public use of this special term, Alleluia, in a special way. This has nothing to do with denying the Church's essential doxological impulse.
I must also point out that part of the argument in support of the second part of the thesis above (ie., that even though the omission is stupid, we should follow it anyway, for the sake of unity), pertains to the use of the saying, "Say the black, do the red." The true home for this slogan is among Roman Catholics of a more traditional persuasion, who are striving to fight the modern chaos that is all too rampant among priests who ad-lib, improvise, entertain, and in other ways, infect the liturgy with their personality. Yet it is being disingenuously employed among us as an argument against the very ones who want to respect the rubrics. This even when it is shown that the traditional practices despised and ridiculed by the abuser of this slogan are often right in the rubrics of even the newest manifestations of the Synod's "accepted worship resources."
Respect for the rubrics, I hasten to reiterate, does not include calling them stupid. When I see something that is clearly stupid, I refuse to say it, or do it. For the worship of Christ our Immanuel deserves more than the merely stupid. Conversely, the traditional rubrics of the Church I receive with gratitude, not judgement and superiority. Before some of them I stand stupid, stupefied by my own lack of understanding. That, however is the fault of the one who does not understand, not the thing misunderstood.