Slavery. The “New” World. War. All of them. The crusades. The Civil Rights movement. #Blacklivesmatter. The LGBTQ community. The Moral Majority. Prosperity gospel. Sex scandals. All of them. Witch trials. Inquisitions. Church leaders becoming heads of states.
We are wrong a lot. I mean we completely miss the mark. Sometimes when I look back at the troublesome history of the Church I’m just heartbroken. As many of you know I am an ELCA Lutheran and I can’t help but be troubled by Martin Luther. His anti-Semitic views that so many of my peers try to write off with blithe comments. “That’s just cranky Luther.” Ohhhh I get it. The theological basis for the very beginnings of Hitler’s “final solution.” That was Luther being cranky. I know there is an ELCA member right now steaming over that comment and they will lambast me for it. They will say Hitler’s use of Luther was much more nuanced than that and I’m being theologically irresponsible.
Luther wrote a pamphlet called “On The Jews and Their Lies.”
We get it wrong as Church, and the Lutheran Church in particular has got it wrong. If you are looking for me to sway you to sleep and compliancy by trashing our Evangelical brothers and sisters and ranting about mega churches, you have read the wrong blog. If I take the Gospel seriously than they are my brothers and sisters – in the same Church. At the heavenly banquet Bonhoeffer may pass you the salt, but Pat Robertson will hand you the butter. While you marvel at that, remember that when Jesus stops down our end of the table we will all have some explaining to do.
We get it wrong. A lot. Just like Lenoir Rhyne University – home of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. I mean really wrong. They are inviting a candidate who is running on a platform of hate to an institution of the Church. I sent an email and received the stock reply that we have all seen by now. If you haven’t I will post the picture below.
In response lofty principles are bandied about. One of which is “Freedom of Speech.” I have written about this before, but let me perfectly clear. The only document of antiquity I use as my moral compass is Scripture, specifically the Canonical Gospels with emphasis on Luke. Not the constitution. Sorry, not sorry. The idea that this document written by the founding fathers of this country somehow trumps (no pun intended) loving our neighbor. Welcoming the stranger. Healing the sick. Exorcising the demons in our land. The cross. Resurrection life. Well, frankly it’s insane. At least for us as Church.
Wayne Powell, the president of the university, gets it wrong. I write this on Sunday evening and I have no idea what’s going to happen. But I know he’s got it wrong. He’s got it wrong because we are soaked in so much ancient blood as Church we will never be fully rid of the dark, rust-colored stains or the copper taste from our mouths.
We need to own this. ELCA, we need to own this. Church we need to own this. Bonhoeffer’s family thought it was ludicrous Hitler would rise to power. He was a thug who made no coherent political sense. He was part of a party in decline. He repeatedly made a fool of himself. They, like many rational and intellectual Germans thought the conditions weren’t what they really were. But hatred is a funny thing. With the right amount of benign neglect. Just the absolute tinge of absurdity. Throw in a dash of disunity. Add a bit of xenophobia, racism, and political dysfunction and you can see it spread. Like a virus in the heart of all you hold dear. With each strained beat, the lifeblood of your home slowly starts to thicken. Coagulate. Until we are all stuck in its grasp. Hatred is funny like that.
One of the things hatred needs to fester in a country is for the Church to do nothing.
Slavery. The “New” World. War. All of them. The Crusades. The Civil Rights movement. #Blacklivesmatter. The LGBTQ Community.
We are slow to love, Church. We are slow to care. We are lethargic in action. That’s why we are irrelevant. Not because we don’t have worship teams and praise bands. Not because we don’t have state-of-the-art facilities. We are irrelevant because when the chips are down, we are cowards, and don’t stand up for the Gospel or our fellow man. Because when people call us out we blame everyone and everything else. Because when I talk to you about anti-Semitic hatred you fire back with “cranky Luther.”
Lately things seemed critical. Lately every time I turn around I’m having to speak light into the darkness. Is it the times? The proliferation of information? Is it both?
I have hope because I’m awake. I can’t be alone. I have hope because of Easter morning. I have hope because of the road to Emmaus. That even if I don’t recognize Jesus in my midst, he will reveal himself. I have hope because of the incredible peers at my seminary who realize that uncertainty is the new normal. I have hope because of activists across the country. I have hope because of Kwame Pitts. Francisco Herrera. Tim Johansen. Sarah Garrett. Danny Phelps. Eric Worringer. Korala Masters. Elle Dowd. Bishop Smith of North Carolina and countless other ordained, and emerging leaders in this Church. These are names you should pay attention too. I have hope because Jesus presents as an exorcist through out the Gospel, systemic evil has a name and we know it. In Christ’s name we will dispel it. I have hope because the in breaking of God’s kingdom is happening. I have hope because the margins are being pushed to center. I have hope because anger is being molded to furious love. I have hope because heaven longs to give earth a sloppy wet kiss.
Cleanse the temple Church. Say no to hatred. Preach the damn Gospel.