Thursday, August 16, 2007

Onward Christian Posers - As mentioned elsewhere, the psychological birthmark of liberals is "an acute awareness of how others make them feel about themselves." This has become no more evident than during an e-mail exchange that I had with Kelly Fryer on the matter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) decision to suspend a church policy that required gay and lesbian clergy to remain celibate (as discussed here.) Kelly is herself a former ELCA pastor and seminary professor, and now dedicates herself to her coaching and consulting business, A Renewal Enterprise, as well as blogging at Reclaiming the F Word.

After posting my thoughts on the ELCA's recent decision here and on a sister blog at
, I was surprised to receive a comment from Fryer.

As a progressive, I agree with much of what you say hear [sic]. First point: We're not a monolithic bloc that all sees things the same way. Second, I wish that what happened at Navy Pier was really as dramatic and important as the media is reporting. Lutherans are NOT allowing pastors in gay relationships! I was at this assembly, blogging about it at And what I saw were a bunch of very tired people agreeing to give their bishops some space. This was in no way, I do not believe, an affirmation of the gifts gay and lesbian pastors offer. It was deference to and concern for bishops who have been put in the middle of a mess. It was an attempt to keep the peace…just like every other resolution that passed during this assembly. The reports are overblown. Unfortunately! There is a lot of work to be done in order to effect REAL change in this denomination.... I'd love to hear your thoughts. (Emphasis added.)
Upon reviewing Kelly's comments, I replied to her a few days later. (My reply is posted at my Townhall blog as well as at Kelly's site.) My commentary is a bit too lengthy to recapitulate here; suffice it to say that I attempted to point out the areas where I thought Kelly and I had some agreement, particularly on the matter of this not necessarily representing a dramatic shift in church policy per se.
Let's start with where we agree: I agree with you that the MSM has (as usual) overblown the ELCA "gay clergy" story beyond what the decision represents in a de jure sense. I don't suspect that congregations that were not otherwise inclined to ordain an openly gay non-celibate pastor will suddenly do so. In any case, as Bishop Landahl crafted his verbiage, this resolution would not seem to allow for the calling for new clergy in such relationships (with the current exception of the extraordinary candidacy programs.) And as you correctly pointed out, this will surely provide the all of the ELCA bishops some breathing room until the 2009 social statement is published.
I also restated the need for religious organizations to maintain faith with their own policies and traditions, as they impact not only our denomination, but the larger Christian community.
So it is with our present situation. Whether or not a single non-celibate gay clergy is offered or accepts a call under this abeyance, it has sent a message to our co-laborers in Christ's vineyard within and outside of the ELCA. And it was all done for no higher purpose than the convenience of our bishops. But if the bishops of our church are not prepared to lead their synods - while complying with church doctrine and policies - then they too should be drummed out of service.
So I was a bit surprised by Fryer's response to my remarks on her blog.
Walter - Actually, I don't agree with you at all! The only point of disagreement I had with your post was what seemed like your assumption that all "progressives" are on the same page. And we definitely are not!! In fact, if you read my top ten list here, I think you'll see that my position about doing this "right" is even more conservative than yours.

I was deeply disappointed with what happened at Navy Pier for all kinds of reasons. I'll let my blog entries speak for themselves.

Thanks for the conversation.

I am not 100 percent sure as to how to take her sentiments, but her second opinion notwithstanding, it does appear from looking at her original comments that we agreed on something at one point (2:45 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 12, 2007 to be exact.) Perhaps she was troubled that I did not remark more specifically on her "top ten" list; in my defense, as a layperson, I felt just a bit out of my depth in commenting on some of her specific suggestions.

But I am troubled by the tone of dismissiveness, as if the very idea of a Christian conservative posting on her site is something of an affront. Which gets me to my primary grievance with the Christian Left: namely, my sense that their worship and supposed concern for religious doctrines are as fig leaves. Or more correctly, they are as much a fulcrum by which they hope to leverage their classically liberal agenda into fulfillment as they are a balm by which they might palliate their own wounds.
As much seems to be true on the issues of gay marriage and openly gay clergy, in as much as the proponents of such things speak to their desire for "recognition" from both church and state. Indeed, Kelly herself speaks to the varied motivations on the part of some progressives.
Admit that we all have very mixed motives. We want justice. But we also want self-preservation. We want to reach resolution. But we kind of like being caught up in the excitement and emotion of this movement. We want to love the other. But we demonize them, too.
The Christian Left shrouds all of their other sine qua nons - nationalized health care, adoption of a "living wage", sanctuary for illegal aliens - in religious imagery (cavalierly asking "Who Would Jesus Bomb?"), but their primary goal is to scratch their own psychological itches. Secondarily, their allegiance is more to the word of Pelosi and Reid rather than to the Word of God. It is clear that the Christian Left seeks some sort of personal "affirmation of the gifts" that they possess, and they crave said affirmation more from an increasingly secular Democrat Party than a Republican Party that fairly teems with their co-religionists.

In as much as they are in equipoise with progressives, the Christian Left appears to be more a fixture of the Left than they are servants of Christ. If biblical prophesy is
at all to be believed in this modern age, perhaps - after the sounding of a great celestial trumpet - they will be left.

1 comment:

Kelly Fryer said...

Walter - I was surprised to read this post and a bit confused because i agreed with so much of what you said in your comments to me...including the way you call church leaders on the carpet and demand that they live according to the rules they have agreed to (something I've tried to model). As I looked back at my response to your comments, I found an unfortunate typo. It should read "Actually, I don't disagree with you at all!" That error has been corrected at my blog.

No wonder you weren't 100% sure how to take what I said. You should have asked.

What I DO disagree with you about - then and now - is the way you seem determined to paint all progressives with the same brush - and treat us all as if our theological commitments are just "fig leaves." Yes, it's true: There are "varied motivations" on the left, just as there are on the right. For my part, I'm doing my best to keep "my side" honest. Who's doing that on your side? Why is it so much easier to just blast those with whom you disagree? What itch are you scratching, I wonder, as you accuse brothers and sisters of serving something other than if we don't ALL do that...saint & sinner, simultaneously, that we are?

I'm sorry that you read my comments as "dismissive." I am genuinely interested in finding some space where liberals and conservatives can reach common ground. And the whole lay/clergy thing is, to me, a false and harmful "line" that needs to be erased as quickly as possible.

But, I've got to tell you, I'm feeling just a bit "dissed" myself.