@Eugene: Speak for yourself, homeslice. Until they stop being bigots, I do want them to suffer, daily and mightily. Their lives should constantly remind them that we would all be better off if they did not exist.
“When you want to be treated like a human being, you are demanding justice, not vengeance.”
I do like that line. Nice writing there. Still, I’ll take vengeance until justice is available. It’s a reasonable substitute.
@Jaroslaw: I dig what you’re saying. This article was basically a lot of hullabaloo for a sliver of substance. Obviously, all churches, not just Lutheran ones, could use more clergy like Erik, especially if they want to remain relevant in the real world. Of course, given the church’s track record, I say give us another couple hundred years or so before “love and respect” are anywhere near the norm. The fact that some of these churches can’t even agree to disagree shows there’s a lot further to go than some of the Pollyannas might think.
@Brian: @Mark: So worth a co-sign, I’m co-signing twice.
@Erik: First, let me offer a little praise: you’ve got more balls than most members of the clergy for actually (sort of) participating in this dialogue without intending to merely piss people off. Some folks are going to be pissed off regardless, of course, and rightfully so.
I’m a pantheist, so I’m not particularly interested in arguing theological differences, at least not in this forum. That’s usually nothing more than a waste of time for little more than intellectual masturbation. I do want to address a few points, however.
“So, you might say, it’s just window dressing, a publicity stunt, and doesn’t actually change anything. Lutheran pastors and congregations are still allowed to exist that teach and preach against homosexuality. And, justifiably, you might be pissed off that we Lutherans are celebrating something that really doesn’t change all that much.”
Yes, it is window dressing. Yes, it’s a publicity stunt. No, it doesn’t actually change anything. And yeah, I’m a little pissed that some Lutherans are engaging in a hearty round of backslapping one another for doing absolutely nothing of value or importance. At the same time, I get what this was all about. It was never about us; this whole display was for yourselves, a way to try to convince yourselves that you’re not hateful, horrible people. I understand that. No one wants to be in the position of thinking they just might be the bad guy.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the writings of Anton LaVey (I’d assume not, but you never really know, do you?) but, if you can get past some of his anti-christian rhetoric, you should look up his essay on the “Good Guy Badge.” Reading about this story keeps bringing that piece to the front of my mind. In essence, he says that many displays (like this ELCA business) are not intended to have any meaningful effect in the first place, but rather are meant to make the participants feel better about themselves as people. Paying lip service to the concept of “good” saves them from having to actually do anything good, because that might be inconvenient or uncomfortable. Sometimes, good does come from these displays, obviously. That’s an unintended, unforeseeable side effect.
Just something to keep in mind when you wonder to yourself why the homos aren’t more grateful for the tinsel.
“But after this decision (and listen now), disagreeing on homosexuality is no longer a primary issue for us in the ELCA, and now that we’ve agreed to talk about it lovingly recognizing we’re not going to convince one another—we can move on to talk with passion about things that actually matter more (like, for example, as Tour de Revs reminded the assembly, the 2500 passages in the Bible that talk about care for the poor). But still, what sort of Justice is that for oppressed people who have fought for so long just to be treated like human beings?”
This portion of your commentary gave me two conflicting emotions. Well, technically, anyway. I’d say it was a 90/10 split between anger and understanding, with a little dash of pure rage for flavor, because that‘s how I roll. Obviously, the inference that true equality is now basically a non-issue for you people because you’ve hemmed and hawed and agreed to disagree without actually doing anything worthwhile is what spurs my anger. The understanding comes from the fact that I’ve been saying for years that the poor are truly the most oppressed class of people in the world, even in America.
That last sentence, though…all rage, all the time.
And as I read on, waiting for a statement that would clarify your point and quell that rage inside of me, I started to believe it wasn’t actually coming.
“I think what the “magical homo” of my previous story realized when he saw the post about Ryan on Queerty is that when that vote was taken Ryan (and a whole bunch of Lutherans across the country) suddenly became queer.”
I understand what you were trying to say here, but I find it incredibly offensive to even attempt to put bigots in the same category as LGBT people. Comparing the oppressors to the oppressed is not only completely unwarranted, but it is founded on illusory similarities that are in no way correlative in reality.
<I?”Do you remember what it was like the first time you were teased in high school for being gay?”
I do, actually, and it drove me right back into the closet for another five years or so, and nearly to suicide for that matter. Funny how, after the jocks (obviously) it was my religious classmates who were the worst offenders.
“Do you remember sitting in a pew when the preacher told you (though he maybe didn’t even know he was speaking to you) that you were going to hell for who you are?”
Absolutely. I remember feeling uncomfortable, feeling as if he were privy to secrets I had shared with no one at that point, and that he wrote that sermon specifically about me. Obviously, I knew that wasn’t the case, but emotions are rarely intellectual, at least if they’re truly emotions.
“Do you remember feeling like everyone is welcome except you?”
Yup, especially the part where I was advised not to come back to church unless I was willing to undergo “reparative” therapy. And this wasn’t even a crazy fundie church, believe it or not. It didn’t matter that I had been attending for almost four years, that I was always writing and performing sketches for the teaching and entertainment of the congregation, or that the younger children adored me and their parents encouraged them to look to me as a role model. It didn’t matter that I enthusiastically participated in every retreat and missions trip we planned, or that I could always be relied on to bring a friend to every social event, many of which I was active in planning to begin with. It didn’t even matter that I was being fast-tracked to become a youth pastor myself. All that mattered to what I thought was “my church” was who I looked at and found attractive. Yeah, I know all about unwelcome.
“Do you remember fighting so hard against your sexuality and the curious freedom that came when you embraced it?”
I remember praying to be changed. I remember allowing my friends to set me up on dates with girls, even though I knew I wasn’t at all interested. And yes, I remember feeling something that resembled freedom when I finally came out. One imprisonment was replaced with another soon enough, though. I was free to be myself, but I was still living in a world where I was less than human in the eyes of most. The oppression of the self was replaced by the oppression of others. The former is definitely worse, but the latter is its own force, and it’s quite strong even now.
“And do you remember the day you showed up at family dinner to tell everyone you care about what is true about you, wondering if you will even have a family after that conversation?”
I do, and that’s why (most of) my family consists of better people than any church I’ve ever attended.
“Does it really bring you comfort to do that to other people or to relish in their suffering when it happens to them? Really?”
Yup. They’re reaping what they’ve sown. I didn’t bring hatred and persecution on myself for being the person I am. They did, however, by being evil. Not being a christian, I am under no obligation to even pretend to love my enemies. That is liberating, let me tell you.
“So Ryan, and many, many Lutheran pastors and church members, got to go back to their congregations in places where homosexuality does not have the cultural acceptance it does in places you and I have lived, and try to explain why the ELCA—their church!—had made a decision they honestly thought was contrary to scripture and God’s will.”
I really doubt their “explanations” had much to with the truth of the situation. You know as well as I do that their interest lies in justifying their own bigotry, and telling the truth about this situation simply cannot do that for them. They will have to distort reality, or outright lie, in order to feel that they are in the right. That’s how bigots operate.
“Some, I’m sure (maybe including Ryan and his congregation) will be leaving, disowning the ELCA and its queerness, like has happened in other denominations (and so many families). “
The ELCA has no “queerness” until it takes an unequivocal stand that homosexuality is not wrong or sinful. Until that day comes, do not presume to co-opt our language to serve your own purposes, please.
“It’s easier to hate people when you don’t have to look across the table and say “pass the salt” to them.”
I wouldn’t share a table with someone who hated me anyway. As for doling out my own hatred, if the person deserves it then I have no difficulty with that, whether they’re right in front of me or 3,000 miles away. I refuse to coddle bigots in order to come off as “a nice guy.” If a bigot wants to be in my company, they should be prepared to be relentlessly challenged and ridiculed. That’s just how it is.
“But the witness of the Gospel of Jesus (when we are getting it right) is that everyone means everyone, all are welcome at the table—and that means anti-gay folks as much as gay folks, as hard as that may be.”
And that’s one of my biggest sticking points with this “gospel” stuff. If spreading “love” entails welcoming people whose existences are defined solely by their “hate” then that’s not the kind of “love” I think is worth spreading in the first place.
“And what I saw again and again on that assembly floor was that gay and lesbian people and their allies (including me) were surprised by the feeling of pain and compassion they experienced when the thing they had longed for finally was reality. They realized that they knew, deeply, what those newly queered folks (their brothers and sisters) were now experiencing—and reached out to them not as opponents, but as fellow broken, hurting, queer people. “
Now you’re reaching. I don’t doubt that you feel this way, but the analogy is getting pretty tortured.
“And followers of Jesus—gay and straight, rich and poor, male and female, Democrat and Republican, fundamentalist and liberal—when we are doing this right, reach out of our brokenness (and I dare say our queerness?) to bring healing to our brothers and sisters.”
Except that you’re not trying to bring healing to the bigots in your company. You said yourself that this resolution was little more than an agreement to disagree. That’s not healing anything. It’s propping up a patently wrong and evil belief in order to keep those who subscribe to it from feeling too bad about it. It’s pacification, nothing more, and it doesn’t help these people or the people they continue to harm with their dangerous, hateful beliefs and practices.
And seriously, you don’t have the right to use the term queer when describing bigots. You don’t have the right to use it to describe yourself either. Stop.
“How queer these Lutheran Christians are, loving people who aren’t like them, loving as would wish to be loved, even their enemies as themselves. Isn’t this the kind of justice we all long for?”
Or not, I guess.
And no, it’s not the kind of justice I long for because it is not justice at all. As long as pro-equality churchgoers coddle bigoted churchgoers, justice will be unattainable in that arena.
In spite of my objections, I thank you for taking the time to write this piece. I’m sure you knew you were going to be challenged (and, yes, attacked by some) and you did it anyway. I believe your message ended up being little more than a fluff piece with only minimally useful substance, but kudos to you for having the testicular fortitude to offer it anyway. Your approach is a step in the right direction; it’s a step on a long and convoluted detour, but at least it’s trying to get to where it should be going. Oddly enough, I’m hoping we haven’t heard the last from you around these parts.