religious dispatch

Lutheran Pastor Samuelson: Believing the Bible Bans Gay Sex Is Not Bigotry

Following August’s vote by the ELCA to permit noncelibate Lutherans to become clergy, Queerty has brought you perspectives from Lutherans Concerned/North America’s Ross Murray, straight pastor Erik Samuelson, and queer pastor Lura Green. Today, Erik publicly responds to Lura’s message to him — and has an apology for everyone else. But, there’s a but

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Pastor Lura, thanks for your response to my article. I haven’t commented on my original Queerty post because I haven’t really known how to respond to the challenges the commenters have offered. I’m realizing how little I really understand what many LGBT people have gone through, and I’m saddened by the abusive experiences it’s clear so many have had in the Christian church. But your email really helped me see their responses (and my own comments) more clearly, and to wrap my head around what I might say next.

First, I appreciate your efforts to preach a bit of “law” to me, I needed it. I see that much more clearly now. You said it in a way that I could hear it, and I thank you for that. Where the gospel is in this, I’m still not sure.

A little explanation of terms for non Lutheran readers (feel free to skip): When Lutherans talk about law and gospel it means something a bit different than it does in other contexts, even religious ones. We usually think of law and punishment or law and reward—and when many Christians use the word law they mean rules, and gospel they mean cash and prizes for following the rules. Lutherans will talk about law in two ways 1) “the first use of the law” means those things (like stop signs and “do not murder”) that are generally good ideas and basically keep us from harming one another and 2) “the second use of the law” (or theological use) means those conversations, laws, experiences, flashes of insight or whatever that point out to us (in a way that wakes us up) how crappy we are being, or how crappy we are treating other people. By bringing the truth to light (even when it hurts), the law wakes us up to how we should be living. My f-bomb my previous post about my down syndrome neighbor is the second use of the law. (Feel crappy about using that word when you heard about my neighbor? Good. That was my point. I didn’t see the word “mongoloid” once in the comments on my post. Seems to have worked.) The purpose of the second use of the law is not just just a list of dos and don’ts or to just make everybody feel crappy, but to hold up a mirror that helps us see how things really are, and through that to bring about real change in attitude and action. For Lutheran Christians it reminds us that we are all ALL screw-ups no matter how hard we try to fix ourselves (or how hard we try to follow the law or make other people follow it) we really do need the forgiveness we experience in Jesus and in reconciliation with one another. The ELCA heard the law when we realized last week that the way we’ve enforced the “laws” of Leviticus, etc. on our LGBT brothers and sisters has been crappy—those very laws showed us the “law” of how far we were from actually doing what God intends—and so we changed, a small change but a real one.

So, Pastor Lura, here’s my confession. I’ve never been called a heterosexist before (though I probably should have been) and in this case I really deserve it.

The way I co-opted the word “queer” was not just offensive, it was dismissive of real people, real experiences, real pain. I didn’t mean it the way it came across (probably should have said “a tiny taste of what it is to be queer”) but even that, I now realize, is awful. You’re absolutely right: I have no idea at all what it really is to be queer, no matter how many stories I hear about it. I probably will never know. So to you, and all the people I hurt with this line of comment, I’m sorry. I won’t use “queer” in that way anymore. I didn’t realize how this comes across (much like the really stupid “But some of my best friends are gay!”) and I’m going to knock it off.

I also confess that I did a poor job of communicating to Queerty readers what the ELCA vote might have to do with them. In my defense, I’ve never read (let alone written for) a gay news website. But I didn’t take the time to frame things in a way my audience could understand (and my lame attempts with the word queer only made it worse). This was confirmed to me by the fact that my straight, Lutheran friends really enjoyed my article, while most of the Queerty folks and my LGBT friends thought it was a load of crap. (In fact, some of them have taken to calling me “The Betrayer,” Queerty readers are in good company.) I was writing from where I was at, from my point of view (maybe even to myself), and most people (especially those on this website) actually didn’t give a damn about what I had to say. Aand I don’t blame them. For this too, I am sorry.

So I’ll try again.