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Raw DS Article: The ELCA’s “Gay” Vote

September 2, 2009

I’m expecting this article to garner a bit more attention this week…

A few weeks ago, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow the ordination and opportunity for ministers in same-sex relationships. While arguably a step in the right direction for the equality of gays and lesbians, the reaction here in the Red River Valley area (the Mecca of ELCA, if you will, with its largest population in the United States) has ranged from cautious acceptance of the majority decision to virulent hatred at something that approximates the blessing of sin by a Godly church. The response has been particularly harsh on the website of the Grand Forks Herald and in letters to the editor of that newspaper. Most of what has been said on these pages has been ignorant at best, and incredibly hateful at worst. It doesn’t show any resemblance to the amazing hospitality I’ve experienced in ELCA churches and their membership around the Grand Forks area during the last five years of my time in North Dakota, yet it still plays into the aloof nature of many of this city’s populace.

For those that may not know, I’m one of the few Jewish students on campus. The sect of Judaism I consider myself to best associate with (the Reform movement) has had some form of allowance of same-sex ordination and partnerships as far back as 1977—11 years before I was even born. While I’ve yet to have an openly gay rabbi hold a full-time pulpit in either of the two synagogues I’ve belonged over the years, I do know of several that currently or will soon be amongst the ordained clergy of synagogues around the country. These rabbis and cantors (ordained musicians) lead normal lives, and in cases where they have a partner, are in a fully committed relationship filled with a love that often exceeds that of straight couples.

One of the main arguments presented by the detractors of this most recent statement by the ELCA is that by taking this position, the church is somehow “officially” allowing sin. They commonly quote and take a very literal interpretation of verses from Genesis and Leviticus in the Old Testament/Torah (the Jewish Bible) and from several books in the New Testament. There are, however, huge problems that arise when you take the Bible (Hebrew, Christian, or even the Muslim Koran) literally. Flip a few pages forward from the famous verse against homosexuality in Leviticus, and you’ll find the dietary laws of Kashrut. Should I stone the large groups of church-goers I see at Perkins on Sunday mornings for ordering bacon with their omelets, simply because my religion says I can’t eat pork?

Of course, the common belief amongst Christians when it comes to the dietary laws of what is Kosher is that after Jesus died for their sins, these laws no longer applied. Just as Christianity takes a different interpretation of what animals are clean and dirty, Jews take their own interpretations of biblical laws. Take, for example, the laws in the Torah/Old Testament relating to animal sacrifice. The common interpretation amongst Jews of almost every level of observance is that these laws only apply to the central Temple in Jerusalem. Since the 2nd Temple was destroyed in the time shortly after Jesus’ death and a 3rd Temple likely won’t be built (with two Muslim holy buildings on top of the site, it’s a pretty fair assessment you’d piss off a fair amount of the Arab world even more than they are pissed off about Israel today), these laws are generally considered not to apply.

Thus, we reach the ultimate fallacy and shortcoming of modern religion: every sect and the observance within seems to pick and choose which parts of the bible they interpret literally and those they interpret with just a passing glance. When a religious group and its members insist that their literal interpretation of the word of God are right (in the case of homosexuality) while ignoring other parts of the same book (condemning homosexuality while…say…eating a Wendy’s Baconator and holding the hand of their wife/girlfriend while she’s on her menstrual cycle—another no-no per Leviticus), they present themselves as being horribly hypocritical. As a matter of fact, I’d love to challenge even the most purist Christian biblical scholar to find a teaching from Jesus himself that discusses homosexuality. I’ll go ahead and tell you now…the Lord and Savior himself said nothing on the subject.

What Jesus’ teachings do preach (regardless of yours and my belief that he is the Messiah or not), however, are love, tolerance, and respect. What is commonly lost in the fray during these ultra-religious debates on sexuality is the fact that regardless of a couple’s makeup (male-female, female-female, and male-male), each half of that couple shares a deep love for the other. Ironically, one of the best descriptions of this deep love for another originates from the New Testament and the apostle Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.”

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