So its been a few weeks and I have some exciting things to report in the near future. But today I want to share why I am personally involved in the loosely affiliated and barely born movement called #decolonizelutheranism. This wouldn’t be a post from Lenny Duncan if it didn’t start with a disclaimer. So here we go, I don’t represent the organically growing movement #delcolonizelutheranism. I’m not sure anyone does. The hashtag grew out of a series of conversations online a few dozens of us have been having since fall of 2015. Credit goes to Elle Dowd I believe for coming up with the hashtag, but she was sparked by other conversations she was having. The Holy Spirit blows where it will and I doubt you will find anyone who will take credit for what its doing. I certainly won’t. This also isn’t meant to be a manifesto about what this term means, or how it lands on everyone’s unique experience within the ELCA or the wider Lutheran Church we often pretend isn’t there. This is my experience. My story. My blog.
So now that is out of the way, what do I mean when I say #decolonizelutheranism? In a lot of ways I already said it in my piece “Dear Church: You aren’t Dying, You are Becoming a Minority “ Which was my piece to open this blog up. But here is the deal, the ELCA has to take a very critical look at itself when it comes to our “Lutheran Pride” which is often the language of white supremacy wrapped in more palatable terms. Here let me reframe it for you. What do you think of when I say “white pride?” As someone who has been to prison I can tell you that term is code for white supremacist movements. Its how they couch it in language stolen from the Black Liberation Movement of the 60’s. So for me #decolonizelutheranism can be best summed up by a quote from James Cone. I have used it so much in the last few weeks I wouldn’t be surprised if its all people thought I knew by him.
“We cannot say that Luther, Calvin, Wesley and other prominent representatives of the Churches tradition were limited by their time, as if their ethical judgments on oppression did not effect the essential truth of their theologies. They were wrong ethically because they were wrong theologically. They were wrong theologically because they failed to listen to the bible- with sufficient openness and through the eyes of the victims of political oppression.”
So here is the deal for me. Lutheranism has from almost the very beginning tried to marry itself to power and privilege. Other than our reformation and accidental revolution that Luther didn’t intend, but ended up embracing , we have always sided with power. Yes, there have been lone voices in the wilderness awaiting arrest like John the Baptist. Bonhoeffer comes to mind, but I’m not claiming his witness and I bet most pastors won’t. So other than a few lone voices, we have tied ourselves to princes and principalities and allowed ourselves to be tools of oppression. Most notably for me would be the trans-atlantic slave trade. Most recently would be our utter silence on the entire Black Lives Movement, again except for a few lone voices.
The ELCA has been screaming for diversity, but doesn’t realized that they are possessed by the systemic demons of racism and sin that will always result in white supremacy. Our seminaries, our books, our hymns, are all infected by this. The fact we willingly wear white robes and carry crosses then pretend we don’t know the “new” cultural significance of that astounds me. The image of a white Jesus is everywhere. I repeat, everywhere. I’m not even advocating for a black Jesus, just a middle eastern one. You know, that looks jewish. Between Doobie Brother Jesus staring me in the face at every worship space I enter in the ELCA, the “othering” that silently and unconsciously goes on, combined with knee jerk reactions from voices within the ELCA, its enough to make me lose hope.
But the #decoloinizelutheranism movement has given me hope when I needed it the most. The same way #blacklivesmatter did. There is a generation of leaders rising up who aren’t going to accept the status quo in this Church anymore. We are no longer going to sit idly by while you continue your eurocentric theological colonization of our minds or our spirits. We are drawing the line here. If we are the grace people, and that is for anyone, then we are going to make sure that fount is brimming with mercy. Radical inclusion is our banner, and the future of this Church is ours.
That is what #decolonizelutheranism is to me. It is the new rally cry of all those who are willing to explore what it means to be the church in the 21st century, but intuitively understand that white supremacy masked as pride can not be a part of it. We have many things that are facing us, not the least of which is becoming part of the community at large in this country. The day of the cathedral is over and we are lucky to get to sit at the table with this generation. We are no longer in a privileged position and we are finally no longer tied to the worldly powers that be. Thanks be to God! I invite you to enter this movement within your Church at its early stage. To ask yourself and your congregation the hard questions. I ask you to fight false empires that have risen within our Church. I ask you to #decolonizelutheranism