Thursday, November 18, 2021

Otto Plath Was Disowned Because . . .

A personal insight: Aurelia Plath's Letters Home introduction tells us that Otto Plath's Lutheran grandparents financed his college education on the condition that he become a minister. When Otto told them he could not as a matter of conscience continue at the seminary, his grandparents disowned him and struck his name from the family bible.

That seems exceptionally harsh, but I'm from Wisconsin, in the general area of Milwaukee, 50 miles from Watertown, where Otto lived and attended Northwestern College. Wisconsin was and still is full of Lutherans of German descent, and the Wisconsin Synod is so extremely strict that it will not cooperate with other Lutheran synods on matters of doctrine.

A folk belief among these Lutherans was that if a boy became a minister, God granted his parents automatic tickets to heaven. The first time I met the Lutheran parents of a boy I was dating in the 1970s, they told me this. My date's younger brother was attending Northwestern College, preparing for the ministry; the parents spoke of him with pride. My date was majoring in pre-medical studies and his parents were soooo disappointed that he was not studying to become a minister, and told him so repeatedly. In his junior year of college they were still pestering him to become a minister. They threatened not to strike his name from the family bible but to cut off funds.

No comments: