…or keep it up, you’re proving what I don’t like about organized religion.

I’ve been planning to do make a post about this all week, but alas, packing for vacation and tying up loose ends at work has pushed this post back a few days. As usual, some spectacular bloggers Obie and Brant have already weighed in on it.  I don’t want to rehash their wonderful thinky thoughts, but I would like to expand on the concepts of the proverbial big tent and–on the flipside– the intolerance of exclusivity.

Like many early Christians, Martin Luther took the concept of priesthood of all believers and ran with it. And this is one of the concepts that keeps me a Lutheran despite my skepticism of man-made constructs that annoy me in organized religion. Luther didn’t coin the phrase, but he definitely embraced it:

That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,” and Revelation [5:10], “Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.” (An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation.)

The passage reminds me of an illustration from my grandmother’s children’s bible where all of the believers surrounded Christ in white robes and crowns.  It’s an image that has stuck with me for nearly forty years–we aren’t born into nobility. It is through our service to Christ that we become royalty.  It isn’t something bestowed by a priest, bishop or church body. It something offered freely to all through Grace. Believe and it shall be yours.

Yet there is still that pesky man-made judgment that tries to narrow down that royal court. You know, the sanctimonious WE that has declared themselves worthy, and the rest of us lowlife apostates are lucky if we get the paper cups and folding chair version of Heaven.

It’s just another form of bullying to push the agenda of I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small. If you think it has anything remotely to do with Christ, then I want no part of your “Christian” agenda.

We all know there are now volumes of criticism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for its decisions to become a Church that welcomes an uncloseted and noncelibate GLBTQ community at all levels including ordination and rostering. And there is no doubt that there is now v. 2.bazillion of finger pointing, name calling and judging that is circulating after the recent ELCA Rite of Reception when it welcomed seven openly GLBTQ ministers into the roster of the ELCA where they had been banned prior to the 2009 CWA decision on sexuality.

No surprise CORE pounced on it. And the Missouri Synod blogosphere is up in arms. Obie linked to the Brothers of John the Steadfast, one of the ultraconservative blogs of the Missouri Synod. I don’t know why I clicked on it. Maybe my blood pressure wasn’t high enough for the day. I knew the blog itself would bash and/or mock the ELCA press release. But what shocked me was the tone in the comments that were nothing short of hate-filled, homophobic and downright elitist complete the I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small attitude.

And many of these hate-filled comments are coming from pastors and leaders:

Yes, I do point out the homophobia. One poster goes as far to mock Rev. Megan Roher, a transgendered Lutheran pastor:

/scratches head

Hmm…

/more head scratching

I need a “plumbing” diagram I think. On second thought… not a good idea.


Then there are the accusations that we ELCA Lutherans aren’t Christian enough, aren’t Christians at all, and are definitely not Lutheran. I’m sorry, but I not have time such juvenile name calling such as ELC-Gay, unrepentant heretical ELCA,

And then there is this gem of a comment,because hide your babies and beadwork. The ELCA defectors, conservative as they may be are NOT conservative enough to meet LCMS muster:

apostate is as apostate does. ELCA is no longer Christian, period, let alone Lutheran. So if one leaves the ELCA do they come over to the LCMS which is fast becoming an american evangelical church?

Careful kids, the ELCA defectors may destroy the moral fabric of the Missouri Synod of they should join:

What really concerns me in all of this, apart from the ELCA continuing its drift away from any notion of what it is to be ‘Lutheran,’ is the possibility of those fed up leaving for the LCMS, or other more confessional Lutheran church body.

The reason this concerns me is how many of these people have been members since the ELCA ordained female clergy and not had a problem with it…. or at least not enough of a problem to do anything about it. These ‘conservatives’ leaving the ELCA could become the new ‘liberals’ in the LCMS.

And then, if that is not enough to push my buttons, the giant brush of Better than You, the critics toss Valparaiso University into the list of apostates for 1) open communion for all who gather at the Chapel of the Resurrection 2) Allowing not only an ELCA minister to serve beside the other two LCMS ministers as University Pastors but allowing that pastor to be a woman! (quick, faint of heart, clutch those pearls in horror!) and 3) Allowing that ELCA minister to have a ministry reach specifically to the campus’ GLBTQ community:

My question is: Why is LCMS teaming with ELCA pastors who ” extended hospitality and care to many in the university community, including international students, women and Alliance, a community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students” ? (according to LCMS Pastor Cunningham) Where is the LCMS care/warning to parents who send their children to such Lutheran Campus Ministries? Better a millstone…..

That’s right, folks. Don’t let those evil liberal quasi-Lutherans in Indiana corrupt your children! For the record, as a proud alumna of Valparaiso and its honors college Christ College, I really take offense at such histrionics. Sure, you might want to warn your kids if you don’t want their eyes opened to a broader exposure than what the MS wants you to see. Then by all means, warn them. Hide them and protect them from inclusive practices.

And then it gets better. There IS a pastor that warns his congregation about Valpo. It’s an evil place that lets gays attend its classes side by side with hetersexuals!! Better yet, he condemns it because it is more than a preacher/teacher college (read: it teaches evils like science and such heretical concepts such as evolution, round-earth geography, and women’s studies!)

Valpo ceased being Lutheran many years ago in every way except in its name. With the ever increasing number of non church worker related course being offered at our own Universities, I have the same concern about them. They give out more and better scholarships to those not in the church worker programs. I know because two of my chidlren attended one of the Concordias. I warn children as much as a pastor is able. Please note that many of the things that effect Valpo also effect our Concordias! I know of at least four where there is open communion practices in the campus chapel and such things. I am confident that our campuses also have their share of homosexuals attending classes. Whether they are open or not I would not know. I know that our seminaries while they do a great job, must not convince some people because I had the unfortunate obligation as a circuit counselor to preach in a congregation whose pastor admitted he was a homosexual and had been since early in his college days. This is not a condemnation of what the seminaries are doing but I am simply pointing out a fact of how well they are able to disguise themselves as being non homosexuals.

That’s great. Fear and guilt disguised as college counseling! For the record, I entered Valpo as a Missouri Synod Lutheran like half of the population that attends VU. I was one of those heretics that majored in two sciences: biology and chemistry. While Valpo has its fair share of pre-seminary and deaconess students, I’ll admit it’s not a preacher mill. It never will be a preacher/teacher institution like the Concordias. But area where it proudly succeeds is being a top notch, nationally recognized university that, year after year, promotes tolerance and acceptance while at the same time fostering future leaders in science, business, medicine, academics and religion that never forget the Christian-based education that they received.

This type of intolerance is exactly why I left the Missouri Synod and never looked back. Want to know why I was so disillusioned with organized religion for a decade and didn’t claim any affiliation? Read those hate-filled comments and you will have an answer. Fear, guilt and judgment of those who dare to question the heteronormative, patriarchal power structure of the Missouri Synod that promotes an We are better than you mentality.

Ann Rice, an author that irritates me on most days, really echoes many of my thoughts when it comes to this type of judgmental Christianity. As you all know, she very publicly turned her back on organized religion, finally fed up with the intolerance once and for all:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

I think she’s telling the intolerant factions, “Quit it, you’re making our side look horrible.” And it’s true, Christianity as whole carries the reputation of its most repugnant. Those who scream loudest tend to get the most attention. And like many bloggers, I agree that her comments are a bookend to that famous quote by Ghandi:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

A few weeks ago, a more conservative poster over at Obie’s blog brought up the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and using the predictable anvil, tried to use it as a cudgel to beat us over the head that the unworthy goats will be cast into damnation. Nothing like adding some de rigueur brimstone intimidation to beat home the I’m right, you’re wrong mentality.

Since I’m feeling a little lazy and need to not only pack but can several quarts of pickles before the sun comes up tomorrow, I’ll just quote my response that I posted there:

Unfortunatetly the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is often used as a cudgel to silence dissenting voices. It is used as a fire and brimstone cautionary tale about the “proper way” to live, act lest you be damned for all times. In other words, it is too frequently used as a weapon to assert, I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small. And quite frankly I don’t like how it is used as an eschatology hammer to push an agenda or maintain the status quo.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really like the parable. It’s an edict to provide shelter and comfort to our fellow man where there is none. It is a reminder that if we ignore one, we ignore God, because he is reflected in each of our faces. And it does’t codify any one person into more godly than the next. The charge is to accept and comfort each other. Sounds a lot like love each other as I have loved you.

Ann brings up a great companion to the parable: Galatians 3:28. We are all one in Christ. And it is because of these premises that I left the LCMS in college. How can a church body refuse to raise up half of its population because of the man-made construct of patriarchal bureaucracy? And on the flipside, it is why I stand proudly as a supporter of the ELCA’s 2009 CWA decisions. We are all one in Christ regardless of age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status or sexual identity or orientation.

Too often people forget that humanity does not decide who sheep and goats are, but those hammering the parable like a mallet tend to think they get to make that decision.

Yes, I like that parable, and I am going to go one step further and point out that shepherds find worth in both the sheep and the goats. A sheep provides wool that clothes him, it can provide meat that feeds him. But a goat has an equal worth as well. Its milk will nourish the shepherd and family and its meal will feed them as well. And while the parable was meant to point out that how we treat each other reflects how we treat God, I think we need to remember that a good shepherd would not kill or cast out his goats. He has other uses for them yet still appreciates their worth.

Declaring one’s self a better or more worthy Christian is what makes me hate organized religion. Creating a Frozen Chosen that claims moral superiority, or worse yet Biblical Authority (see previous rant) over others is nothing more than something humanity created to make one group feel better and superior to others. It’s a weapon to oppress, intimidate and wound. This is how we end up with the blonde-haired, blue eyed Christ, which in my opinion, represents centuries of creating Jesus to be something we want him to be(ie, like Us)  instead of what he truly was (the fear that he was like Them.)

Let’s go back to Galatians. There is neither slave nor free. There is neither Greek nor Jew. There is no male nor female. We are all one in Christ. We are taught early in our Sunday School years that humanity was made in God’s likeness. So if you take that concept to heart, then God is not only our Father, he is our Mother. God is straight and God is gay. God is male, and God is female. God is black, God is white, and God is every color in between. That sense of belonging is what brings me closer to God. Strip away the high church of Old School Lutheranism. Get rid of the patriarchal hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Toss out the snake handling and tongue speaking of the Deep South and we are all on the same path: searching for Christ, trying to see our selves in Him and reaching for his Grace that comes without the caveats and speed bumps that humanity has put it the way of those goals.