Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Digging for the pony

In a former life when I was a Democrat I wrote a few speeches for a member of the governor's cabinet. I know how to write jargon and doublespeak and how to read it. I am making it through the draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality (ELCA, March 2008) line by line because I'm supposed to speak on it to a group tomorrow. I'm very conscious these days both of the word TRUTH and the biblical concept of TRUTH because of our current small group Bible study. In this draft statement, the word TRUTH appears only once, in a Bible quote (John 1:14).

The word TRUST, however, or a version of it (TRUSTWORTHY, or TRUSTING, or ENTRUSTING) appears 138 times! The phrases "husband and wife" and "mother and father" do not appear at all--just references to family and parents (which these days could be any mix and match, and in this context is a collection of negative images of violence, abuse and economic deprivation). There is ONE reference to a family headed by a married man and woman as we would recognize the term on line 673 "legally married, heterosexual 'nuclear family'." On line 641 the writers say that Scripture places family as secondary to the community! (It takes a village. . .?) Maybe 9 of the 19 uses of the word gender were to "same-gendered" or "gendered." I had never heard or seen the word "gendered" before, implying it is a past participle of an active verb--and "same gender" would have the same meaning--unless of course, the implication is that this is something done to the couple by someone--someone like God perhaps?

Examples from the first page only--as there are just too many to list
    Line 13-15: “This social statement addresses the question: What does it mean for us as sexual creatures to love our neighbors as ourselves and thus fulfill God’s law of love in this time and society?”

    Dogs and cats, horses and zebras are also sexual creatures. God’s law is for men and women, for human beings, one aspect of which is sexuality. Humans who have lost sexual function from injury, birth defect, illness, age, or immaturity are still men and women with other defining qualities and worth and can still fulfill God’s law of love, because that love is revealed most perfectly in the cross of Jesus, where he died for all sin, including misusing our sexuality, and in his resurrection in which we share as Christians.

    Line 21-22: “The past six or seven decades have seen immense changes in every aspect of human life, including human sexuality.”

    Although we think we sense more changes, they are no greater now than our parents, grandparents, St. Paul, or Moses experienced. My grandmother was born in 1896 and died in 1983--she experienced a tsunami of change just in communication, travel and health care with the advent of telephone, radio, television, print media, the automobile, air travel, vaccines, modern drugs, health insurance, and nursing homes. For a woman who had all nine of her babies (all healthy who grew to old age) at home and rode a draft horse to church when they were little, I’d say that’s much more mind bending change and societal chaos than I’ll ever see or experience.
This ELCA draft does violence to our English language--verbal abuse, noun abuse, adverb abuse and adjective abuse, to say nothing of abusing our Christian faith. It is Scripture twisting and gymnastics! This draft criticizes "Lutheran historical teachings concerning homosexuality" with no footnotes (Book of Concord? Luther? Lutheran Brethren? Missouri-Synod Lutheran? Wisconsin Synod? the old ALC?). It does not analyze or reference any teaching, research or biblical criticism by known Christian homosexuals, theologians or Lutheran pastors who promote ordination and marriage for gays. It does find space to comment on and condemn children's clothing, playground bullying, consumerism, date rape, dangers of the internet, early sex education, grandparents raising grandchildren and inappropriate touching of female pastors. If you throw in the kitchen sink maybe no one will notice there is no Biblical foundation?

I didn't find anything in this document about ordination of openly gay or closeted gay Lutheran pastors--which was in the original charge in 2001, as was gay marriage blessed by the church--also not specifically addressed in this document. It's possible it is in there--as the saying goes, if you keep shoveling the **** there's bound to be a pony in there somewhere. We know and love such a man--and his synod hasn't let him go after he left his marriage. It's apparently a local choice not addressed in this document.
    "This church encourages all people to live out their faith in the community of the baptized. Following previous decisions of this church, we call on congregations to welcome, care for and support same-gender-oriented people and their families, and to advocate for their legal protection."
What this document doesn’t say, refuses to say, is that marriage is an exclusive lifelong pledge of fidelity between a man and a woman sealed in physical intercourse. In Genesis 2:24, Moses says, “a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body,” and Christ in Matt. 19:6 added, “So then what God has united, man must not divide.” (Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics) It follows that Christ is talking about the marriage of a man and a woman, and he is commanding people of whatever culture and society in whatever century, that they are not to destroy marriage or pretend they have it harder than any previous era.

Marriage is not a human invention. God planned it from the beginning. He created a woman from a man's side and put them together in a perfect environment. God sent Jesus for our redemption to be born into a family of a man and woman. Since this was done in a miraculous way, he could have just as easily dropped him in the cabbage patch, but he didn't. The Bible uses marriage imagery to describe Yahweh's relationship with Israel, and Christ's relationship with the church, and when gay activists in the church enlist pastors, theologians, and sociologists to twist that to mean something else, it is blasphemy.

I don't know what our congregation (UALC) is waiting for--it took this sexuality task force seven years to write a mish-mash and hodge podge and submit it to the people of God as a serious work. Every paragraph looks like the sentences were drawn from a hat of former reports and pasted to a page. It is an insult to our common sense and a travesty of our faith. It's time to go. It really is. These people will not back down; they'll just wear us out.


JAM said...

It definitely sounds like something written by the government or a committee. Seems that the organization has become such a bureaucracy that they can only produce watered down mush.

I grew up in a family that always attended independent Baptist churches, never Southern Baptist, and as an adult, have gravitated toward independent churches and have therefore watched things such as you describe here with amazement. Totally outside my experience.

I hope your speech goes well.

Norma said...

There does seem to be a problem in large denominations figuring out what is plain to a 5th grader reading Genesis. UCC led the way on this almost 60 years ago; then the Quakers in the 60s; Presbyterians maybe 35 years ago. Lutherans have been a bit slow--but the fringe sure is persistent.