In an October 12 post, Anthony Ruff offered some musings on our divisions, tentatively sketching out some liberal conservative divides. He knows things are more complex, and those labels have limits, but we Lutherans, too, have our divides across theological, liturgical and social issues. The unfolding repercussions of the ELCA’s vote to ordain pastors in same-sex committed relationships has had many varied impacts, including a polarizing one. Yet despite all our divisions, and perhaps especially because of them, I want to raise a possible unifying challenge.
This fall, in a series of highly publicized events, the issue of bullying of gay youth has come to the forefront of national conversation. The suicide of Tyler Clementi after having an intimate encounter filmed and broadcast on the internet by his roommate has spurred much of the conversation and action. Among the reactions culturally, the hit TV series Glee broadcast an episode this past week dealing with the issue of gay bullying. Lady Gaga, the phenomenal New York-based performance artist known for her crazy fashion, has come out full force in support of gay rights both through public advocacy and through her forthcoming album “Born This Way”.
This past Wednesday in our seminary chapel, gay youth were prayed for, holding up their dignity as cherished by God and worthy of love, care and protection from abusive language and action. Might we do this regularly, especially in churches that have (or have had, and this means all of us) formal positions that claim homosexuality is disordered, abnormal, and sinful? The shift theologically to claiming the person is beloved by God while acting on homosexual impulses is sinful, while problematic in many important respects, at least provides the basis for such prayer. And such prayer seems at least morally required given the impact of centuries of teaching that contributed to the social rejection of gay people as expendable.
One last comment: I teach 7th grade confirmation. Last week we talked about the command “you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” and out of that spoke about the power of words, especially swear words. I asked the students about use of swear words in school, and overwhelmingly they spoke of putting down others with versions of “gay”. Were we to say, in our prayers and preaching, that gay people are beloved of God, worthy of protection and affection, we might have a chance not only to be heard by a gay youth or two, but also to be heard by many who deep in their bones think our Christian teaching is that God condemns these kids rather than claiming and loving them.