August 27, 2013

Lutherans Gone Wild: God, Gays, and Gender in the ELCA, Part III

This last article in the examination of ReconcilingWorks (RW, Parts I and II available here) analyzes RW’s denial of sexual and lifestyle norms interrelated with RW’s denial of natural genders and their significance.  These Lutheran heretics reject standards of family formation within the natural institution of marriage and sexual propriety, once again irrespective of consequences.  RW’s baleful influence in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) calls into question whether any committed Christian can in good conscience remain in the ELCA.

RW’s PDF booklet How Does Marriage Matter brings gender denial into marriage and the lives of children.  The booklet proclaims that marriage is “both a way for God to do God’s work in people’s lives and a way for people to do God’s work in the world.”  Marriage allows “married couples and their families to mirror, as best they can, God’s total love for the world.”  Although the booklet proclaims that homosexuals value marriage “for the same reasons as everyone else” such as mutual care, RW’s authors do not explain how a naturally barren same-sex couple can “mirror” God and His work.

Noted earlier in this series, God’s full image described in Genesis 1:27 is both “male and female.”  This full divine image in turn parallel’s a triune God’s joyful creation of the universe in a human procreation occurring amidst a trinity of husband, wife, and their mutual love.  As the Anglican evangelical John Stott has analyzed in discussing the Fifth Commandment on the first tablet of commandments ordering the relationship of man to God, God’s full image in father and mother then represents the divine to a child.

Such considerations of what the Declaration of Independence refers to as the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” do not concern the homosexual couples appearing in How Does Marriage Matter.  Having a hyphenated name like all the other couples in the booklet, Lauren Morse-Wendt, for example, discusses without any sense of incongruity how she and her lesbian partner Michelle “are expecting our first child.”  Henry Urrutia-Selland and Dirk Selland, meanwhile, similarly discuss that their “dream has always been to raise a child together and expand our family.”  Fulfillment came with “our beautiful daughter, Cameron Dalarie Selland…Holding her in our arms at the hospital nursery was such a soothing joy that cannot be measured conventionally.”  Cameron’s mother receives no mention from Henry and Dirk for her giving birth.

Lutheran pastor David Eck of the Eck-Mitchell “family” suggests an arbitrary, ad hoc approach to family not on the basis of biological fact, but personal feeling.  “Everyone in this world has two families,” Eck writes,

the family we are born with and the family we make.  Our biological family is only the beginning of the journey.  Along the way, we form deep friendships, fall in love, and perhaps have children and grandchildren.  This “new” family is the family of our choosing.

For such artificially formed households How Does Marriage Matter demands unequivocal social acceptance no matter the leap in logic.  Past proposals of civil unions for homosexuals receive rejection as the “reality is that nothing is equal to marriage but marriage.”  In contrast, “civil unions have the effect of legalizing gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens, and thus may invite other forms of second-class treatment and discrimination.  “Separate is not equal,” RW concludes in citing the 1954 United States Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case.  Citing as well the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving vs. Virginia striking down miscegenation statutes, RW describes the “freedom to marry” as “characteristic of what it means to be a full-fledged citizen.”  Homosexuals do not seek marriage “simply to achieve…rights and benefits” but also to “stand up in front of their friends and families—and, in the case of people of faith, their church—and proclaim their love for and commitment to one another.”

Homosexuality must likewise find favor with God’s message.  Writing of his relationship with Barry James Knamm, James H. Mapstone-Knamm references a homosexuality-affirming Lutheran congregation without which “we would have lost our belief in Christ, and thus our very salvation.”  Unilaterally asserting that he is right with God as an active homosexual, Mapstone-Knamm praises this congregation for having “restored to us the most precious gift one could ever give:  the faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior and the gift of eternal life.”  Here Barry and James “were able to be married in our church and stand before God and in front of our friends and fellow church members to pledge our undying love and commitment to each other.”  RW’s co-chair, Nicole Garcia, similarly writes in the Spring 2013 edition of RW’s newsletter Concord that actively “being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a deterrent to being saved by the blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Another Lutheran pastor in the same issue, meanwhile, admonishes that “‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is still a condemnation.”

Boy Scouts of America (BSA) should also welcome “families of all configurations,” as expressed by RW operations manager Kurt Neumann in the Spring 2013 Concord issue as well.  In the subsequent summer issue, Garcia’s other co-chair, Rev. Darryl Kiehl reminisces about achieving the BSA rank of Second Class, but dropped out of BSA as he “didn’t like being in Scouts and wasn’t accepted there.”  Kiehl is nonetheless pleased with the recent BSA decision to accept openly homosexual scouts, although he faults BSA for not yet doing the same with BSA leaders.  Kiehl also complains about not having “heard a word about bisexual, transgender, or intersex” individuals in BSA.  The Girl Scouts in turn disappoint Kiehl because they “finesse the controversy by emphasizing that sexuality, in action or discussion, is not part of their territory” in a policy that “is more of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”  This is “not an environment where a young person could feel free to openly discuss, as people do in nearly every setting, who it is they like, or are dating, or hope to marry one day.”

Many people would say that such homosexual topics are precisely what youth should not discuss, yet Gretchen Brauer-Rieke, wife of ELCA Oregon Synod Bishop David Brauer-Rieke, seems to have lost any decency qualms with respect to homosexuality.  In her story “Receiving Hospitality:  The Effect of a Pride Parade March on a Straight Christian” in the Summer/Fall 2012 Concord issue, Brauer-Rieke reports on her positive experience at a 2011 Father’s Day gay pride parade in Portland, Oregon.  Brauer-Rieke had previously declined to participate in such parades, in part because she “fretted about the perceived outrageousness of the folks in the parade.”

“Almost immediately,” she recounted, “my fears were confirmed” as her Lutheran “group lined up behind a parade entry that included a number of young men in full drag-queen regalia.”  Everywhere there “were people who seemed to revel in gender-bending clothing and (what many of us would consider) highly sexualized displays of their bodies.”  One “beautiful young man” wore “micro-shorts, some kind of bikini top, and sparkly incredible tall platform shoes.”

Nonetheless, Brauer-Rieke

was gradually able to stop obsessing over what the other participants were (or weren’t) wearing and started looking at their faces—and realized that I was looking at joy.  I was seeing faces of people who were, for this one day, able to be in the majority at their own party, free to be exactly who they wanted to be, supported by their peers instead of suppressed by the majority—and they were so incredibly happy!  Their smiles were huge—their faces (and bodies) were completely animated.  I became captivated by the inner spirit of the people around me and slowly began to be able to see flamboyance of their outer presentation as part of the complete picture:  whole human beings celebrating their uniqueness.

The “conservatively-dressed church-folk” of Brauer-Rieke’s group made her “feel like a black and white portion of a movie that was otherwise in vivid color.  How had we become so dull?”  “Who, I wonder,” Brauer-Rieke ultimately asked, “is really following the example of Christ” and “really living in the fullness of joy of who they were created to be?”  “Join their party,” she advocated, and “recognize the joy of fully being oneself.”

Brauer-Rieke is presumably right at home in RW with people like Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, described in the same Concord issue as a “leading voice in the emerging church movement” and RW’s 2012 assembly Bible study leader.  Bolz-Weber appeared “casually in a tank top that revealed heavily tattooed arms.”  “I swear like a truck driver,” she stated.  “I ask that you accept this about me….It’s excruciating for me to try to not be myself.”

The behavior of homosexuals themselves is bad enough, but their implications for the behavior of the heterosexual majority are perhaps even worse.  On the RW website is a 2007 article originally appearing at the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, an official ELCA publication where the article also appears online.  Entitled “Re-Thinking Adolescent Sexual Ethics: A Social Justice Obligation to Adolescent Sexual Health,” the article comes from Kate M. Ott, a professor at Drew Theological School and contributor to the nonprofit organization Feminist Studies in Religion.

In the article, Ott criticizes the “dominant sexual ethic communicated to adolescents in the United States” of “abstinence-only-until-marriage.” Ott instead advocated a “developmental sexual ethic” of “incremental sexual behaviors” allowing adolescents to “explore the dynamic and qualitative nature of relationships rather than relying on a static definition of marriage.”  Indeed, Ott found that “[m]any current marriages do not reflect the qualities that…sexual relationships, long-term or short-term, should embody” such as mutual pleasure.

Youth in Ott’s vision would learn “to say ‘Yes’ to a variety of sexual expressions” including “intercourse, in a morally responsible fashion.”  Using role playing exercises, teenagers could “decide for themselves along a timeline of sexual behaviors when they would like to stop.”  One teenager approvingly quoted by Ott, for example, discussed how she and her boyfriend “kissed each other everywhere” and “masturbated each other.”

Among other things, adolescents should be “protected against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.”  This would presumably interfere with a “sexuality…rightly oriented toward pleasure” that “may incorporate offspring, but it may not.”  Yet Ott conceded that “all sexual behaviors involve a level of risk and a level of pleasure” and “you need to use protection.”  Ott also recognized that “some young women” see sex as a “means to ‘keeping the guy,’” a coercive factor entailing unwanted sexual risk taking.

Along with the fraudulent, Alfred Kinsey-based claim previously discussed in this series and made by Ott that “about twelve percent of the youth in…congregations self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual,” it is clear why RW would favor Ott’s views.  RW seeks to reduce all sex to the level of homosexuality itself, a behavior “oriented toward pleasure” with no interrelated purposes of procreation and husband-wife unity and not requiring any permanent relationship.  Even Ott, though, could not deny that promiscuity, like homosexuality, involves health risks and pregnancy, unwanted or not, is an unalterable difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality.  There is no evidence to suggest, moreover, that Ott’s teachings will encourage “morally responsible” sexual behavior as opposed to abstinence.

For all of its self-interested ideology, RW simply cannot overcome natural realities.  Unlike homosexuals, heterosexuals cannot ignore sex’s all-too natural purpose and, if unintended, peril in pregnancy in order to focus exclusively on pleasure.  While involving no problems of crisis pregnancy, homosexuality is, however, physically destructive.

Contrary to Brauer-Rieke’s bizarre assessment, meanwhile, homosexual deviancy is deeply disturbing.  Attesting to this fact are my own chance encounters with gay pride parades in Berlin, Germany, Washington, DC, and Vienna, Austria.  Brauer-Rieke could also ask the four San Diego firefighters who successfully sued for sexual harassment after their lesbian fire chief forced them to attend a gay pride parade.

RW’s awkward attempts nonetheless to present homosexuality as a thoroughly domestic matter all in a child’s family only raise suspicions through contrived omissions of natural parents.   Human life is only possible through the unity in diversity of the “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) union of male and female, two genders critically important to a child’s development.  As with abortion allowing heterosexuals to pursue sexual pleasure without children, the homosexual households advocated by RW allow individuals to pursue their unnatural sexual pleasures while raising children.  In both cases, though, children’s lives are subordinate to adult lusts.

As RW’s often welcomed presence in the ELCA shows, this is not your father’s Lutheran church.  It is almost impossible for me to associate what I have seen of RW with the modest, sober-minded, friendly Lutherans who were such a presence in my boyhood home of Minnesota.  As my mother would often say, they were wont to drink their coffee black.  Such Lutherans still committed to faithfully following Christ must today ask what purpose there is in remaining in the ELCA alongside RW’s pernicious neo-paganism.  But that is a question for another article.

One Response to Lutherans Gone Wild: God, Gays, and Gender in the ELCA, Part III

  1. Didaskalos says:

    For decades, the ELCA hasn’t been your father’s Lutheran Church. For decades, a whole host of ELCA bishops, pastors, college and seminary professors have been fervent pilgrims on the ELCA Path to Abject Spiritual Fecklessness:

    1. Recoil with horror at the mean things the Christ-rejecting world keeps saying about Bible-honoring Christians and denominations. Ask fellow ELCAnites if there’s a way to escape that contemptuous disparagement.

    2. Experience the Prince of Darkness-engendered epiphany that publicly depreciating the Bible might spur the world to send oodles of warm fuzzies your way.

    3. Test the theory. Write a letter, as ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson did [ ], contending that Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God. Introduce profane theophobe Dan Savage to your denomination’s youth [ ]. Publicly question and depreciate foundational tenets of the Christian faith. Bowdlerize the Bible at your 2009 national convention, and double down on that apostasy by ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as pastors and bishops. Cozy up to Marcus Borg and the Jesus Seminar. Intimidate pastors and hector parishioners whose Biblically informed bound consciences don’t align with your libertinism and Gnostic antinomianism.

    4. Discover to your great relief that the Christ-spurning world is now your best buddy. Rejoice as LGBT groups praise you to the skies. Delight in invitations by the Democratic Party to be “advisors.” Bask in the glow of media approbation. Enjoy your celebrity status in the faculty lounge. The world’s your oyster. Who needs the praise of God, anyway?

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