Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren, Obama, and the ELCA

“There is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population.” Thus said Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, one of California’s largest megachurches, and a major supporter of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in the state. Warren knows that small minorities, such as gays, generally have no clout. President-elect Barack Obama knows this also. Right wing Christians are much more numerous than gays, and, so, the olive branch is extended to Warren, who will deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration.
So, too, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), anti-gay conservatives are much more numerous than gays. This reality is reflected in the political calculation that is its “Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality” (http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney/draft/draftstatement.pdf). In this document, the ELCA stated that “Marriage is a structure of mutual promises between a man and woman blessed by God (Mark 10:7-9) and authorized in a legal arrangement required by the state.” (lines 1005 - 1007) The draft continues: “After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.” (lines 1116 - 1117) And, further, “This church recognizes the historic origin of the term “marriage” as a life-long and committed relationship between a woman and man, and does not wish to alter this understanding.” (lines 1151 - 1153).
Like Obama, the ELCA is bowing to the clout of the “consensus” of religious conservatives who definitely want is keep marriage “traditional.” If gays leave, the ELCA won’t be losing many people. It’s better to see them go, so thinks the ELCA, than to upset the “base.”
So, Mark 15:15 comes to life again. Obama and the ELCA “wishing to satisfy the crowd,” like Pilate, find it expedient to sacrifice the gays. However, one reason to be a Christian is the clear biblical witness that the “crowd” and leaders who pander to them are, in God’s view, often wrong. We hope, as Christians, that the “crowd” will not always hold sway. One way of lessening the impact of the “crowd” is for people of goodwill to identify publicly with people who are demeaned and ostracized. Lutherans Concerned/ North America (LC/NA) has introduced a new program, “Reconciling Lutherans” (http://www.lcna.org/reconciling_lutherans.shtm) that invites all Lutherans to publicly witness to their call for a church and world that welcomes and includes all:
People of every age, class, color, and ethnic origin….
People of all sexual orientations and gender identities….
People who are single, married, divorced, separated, blessed or partnered….
People who are temporarily-able, disabled, or of differing abilities….
As the press release for “Reconciling Lutherans” points out: “Each name added to the list of “Reconciling Lutherans” will strengthen the call to the church for change. For too long, many Lutherans have presumed that there is simply not enough support for the church to proceed with changes in teaching and policy. By revealing the true depth and breadth of support for change, the “Reconciling Lutherans” roster will give courage to all members and leaders, bringing closer the day when all are truly welcome.”
Rick Warren heads up one of the world’s largest megachurches. If enough people show their solidarity with the gay minority, his “crowd” will have less power to discriminate.

9 comments:

Franklyn said...

It sounds to me that Rick Warren tipped his hand in his 2% comment. I thought that ministers were supposed to preach what is ethically correct not what is expedient. Selling a product because the majority want to buy it is usually called marketing. There is nothing wrong with marketing but it is depressing to think that religion and jewelry are both sold the same way

Pete M said...

Franklyn,
Preachers like Warren don't realize that the Gospel is not a commodity. When Warren and those like him pander to the majority, they are doing exactly what the Gospel condemns, namely, turning their backs on the minority to sell their commodity: a message that panders to the majority. Pilate curried favor with the majority and condemned Jesus. Warren seeks to do the same and condemn gays. Scapegoating never ceases to be popular, even though it’s always found later to be wrong.
PeteM

James P. said...

Is "anti-gay" really the most appropriate term? Are there not many moderates who might even support the civil union of homosexuals and the inclusion of homosexuals into Christian community while recognizing homosexual acts as unfaithful to our future resurrected lives?

All I'm sayin, is that harsh language is rightly condemned when it comes from the mouths of conservatives, but must not our tongue also be controlled, and words that stir up anger not used?

Pete M said...

James,
I'm not convinced that trying to soften the truth is the best policy. I think that most church conservatives are, indeed, anti-gay, in terms of their actions, if not their words. Therefore, I think it's important to point that out. Being angry is not always nice, but sometimes appropriate.
In any case why would moderates "support the civil union of homosexuals and the inclusion of homosexuals into Christian community while recognizing homosexual acts as unfaithful to our future resurrected lives?" If they view us as unfaithful, why would they want to allow us anything? They certainly will tell anyone who will listen what's wrong with homosexuals.

James P. said...

Pete,

Thank you for your response. I would think that a Lutheran of all people would recognize that salvation, thus "inclusion" into the Church, is a matter soley of grace by faith. In this way, we do not demarkate the homosexual Christian any more than we do any other Christian.

Someone might support civil unions because of a Yoder or Haurwasian kind of civil engagement where we do not force the way of the church on the society at large.

In the end, I am a young kid, and I'm straight; so I do not have the same kind of vested interest as you do in discussing this. Whatever the case, as a recent "convert" from mainstream Evangelicalism to the Mainline, I have found the same kind of biggoted attitude amongst the "liberals" as amongst "conservatives." (I'm not saying you are, I don't know you, and your posts are quite gracious. I am here speaking with broad strokes.) And I find this does not help the conversation.

Thanks Pete,
James

Pete M said...

Hi James,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You are, of course, correct. In a world and in a church that trusted God more fully our sexual orientations would not become issues. Sadly, we all are fearful of our vulnerability and, in our fear, we often try to show strength or shore up our position by joining with possible allies to blame “the other” for problems. Minorities, including gays, are often seen as problems, and as a result, fearful people often work to eliminate them or push them back into the closet. Their task has become more difficult because fewer of us gay people are willing to go quietly. We are less willing because we are less fearful than before. We are less willing because we no longer believe the terrible things our enemies say about us. We are finding ourselves as out gay people.
For gay Christians, much of this discovery comes about as we trust the promises that we hear from God in the Word and the sacraments. We begin to trust that the Gospel is for us, too. The Gospel is so simple that few really trust it: God loves us always, and we are with God always.
But, you say, where is God? How can we find this God who loves us? God is closer to us than our breath; God is in us and, most important, in our neighbors. In the Word and the sacraments, God reveals God’s love for us and calls us to be God for others. Because God became human, we can experience every person who crosses our path as, in some way, God for us.
This process, of course, occurs in fits and starts. We open to God and move toward the other; we close and retreat. But here particularly is where Baptism is a powerful aid. Baptism is a sign to Christians that they are with God and God is with them. This is salvation: God has chosen us and will always be with us. Nothing can ever separate us from God, and because of this union, we share God’s life and can become God for others or “little Christs.” Of course, we often don’t trust God, pushing God away, and moving into separation and sin.
Here’s where Baptism is invaluable. Baptism is a sign of the start of God’s resurrection of us, and if we renew our Baptismal vows each morning upon arising, as Luther urges, we not only become conscious once again of God’s presence in us, but we are reunited with God, leaving our sin behind. Leaving sin behind really means not letting fear determine our “life and conversation,” and working for a life without fear. For gays, it often comes to mean that they accept themselves as gay people and live openly as gay people, working to make the world more just and equal, not only for gay people, but for all. For heterosexuals, letting go of fear can mean not being afraid of gay people, accepting them as people who want lives of dignity.
Of course, this is just a sketch of some of the highlights of the Christian life, as I’ve come to know it, but maybe it will be useful to you.
Pete

Franklyn said...

I am heartend to hear a group within a mainline church hope that the Church will become more fair minded, not to say Christlike. I have a less optimistic view, which, of course, does not mean one should not try. My view is that as the general public changes the mainline churches, led by old men, will become more extreme in their current views and by so doing will become increasingly irrelevant. Those that feel the need for a spiritual element in their lives will look at new and different groups. The traditional churches will just wither

Anonymous said...

Let's keep this simple.
1. Gays were born that way because GOD wanted us to be like this.
2. People who don't like any faction about that, are kind of, well, ignorant.
3. Why are homo's so important to you? Why do you spend so much of your time worrying about that? Why not worry about the cars 1 or 2 percent of the population drive? Or the laundry detergent they use? or something useless like that?
4. If I need a person standing at a pulpit to help me with my belief in GOD and JESUS. Then I will also need somebody to dress me. Since my belief in GOD and Jesus is as strong as yours, don't start picking out my wardrobe.
5. Since when are 1 to 2% of the population expendable? Did GOD tell you that in one of your dreams.
6. I do not what to know what you do in your bedroom. Stay out of mine. You really sound like a peeping Tom.
7. May GOD still love you when you die. I pray for you, you ingnorant bastard - but I pray for you, and so does my spouse.

Anonymous said...

My Name Is Rob P.

who wrote the above and believe it as much as I believe in GOD.

Let's start hearing from the Bible Belt Neo-Nazi's!!!!!!