Musings of a Recovering Lutheran: May 2010
I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Isaiah 6:8 (KJV)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Witnesses to the Faith: Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad

Do not take your Christian freedom as something that exists just like air. It certainly did not for these women.

Divorce rings?

Again, this is not a story from The Onion.

Divorce rings, eh? It would seem that there are some who believe that there is not enough pain and suffering already in divorce. It's instructive that the writer of the article linked above writes for a wedding planning website. Talk about working both sides of the street!

I would like to say that churches would never go for this sort of rubbish. But when denominations make themselves slaves to fashion and politics anything can happen. Bishop Margot Kaessmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover thinks that churches should have "religious separation ceremonies" for husbands and wives who want to get divorced. Now thanks to some enterprising capitalists the soon-to-be-split couple can exchange divorce rings.

Maybe they can get a trade-in on their wedding bands. And just as there is Carfax for used cars, maybe there can be Ringfax to see how much milage is on that wedding ring you are considering purchasing.

It's not surprising that at least one official in an American denomination thinks that "religious separation ceremonies" are a swell idea. Commenting on the desirability of such a service:

"This is important not only for confession but for a version of absolution too."

These are the words of the associate director of Christian Education, Children and Family Ministry of - wait for it - the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Somehow I don't think the idea of the ELCA having its very own version of Divorce Court is going to be of much spiritual help to the couple. Such a service would be grim indeed, and appealing only to voyeuristic sickos.

I have heard nothing recently about "religious separation ceremonies" in the ELCA. Possibly such an idea went over like a lead balloon even among the hipsters. But given the recent decision of the ELCA to cast out Jesus of Nazareth and install their own personal god who is more obedient to their wishes, perhaps the idea will now gain traction. With that pesky carpenter from Nazareth out of the way the ELCA is now finally free to take a walk on the wild side.

Maybe the moratorium on "religious separation ceremonies" will turn out to be an idea ahead of its time (this is the sort of rallying cry the ELCA's leadership cares about). The ELCA has certainly begun to flirt with turning back the clock to the good old paganism of a bygone millennium. Aside from embracing Nature religions (which often masquerade as "environmental concern") there is the creepy goddess worship of "Herchurch" which seems to be a fashionable combination of the spiritual and the political. There is also the worship of sex (a true "golden oldie" of paganism) which seems to be the foundation of the mad rush to bless gay/lesbian weddings in the ELCA.

If I were still a Lutheran, I don't know how I would react. Cry my eyes out? Or sell tickets and popcorn? Maybe I would do both. But at least I wouldn't flog divorce rings to the unhappy couple.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who are the savages now?

Originally I wanted to give this post the title "Just in the nick of time?". But after a bit of reflection, I realized this is not the time for levity.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the cruelest ways in which women are oppressed. Briefly put: a young girl's clitoris is mutilated or sliced off completely in order to honor tradition or religious belief. Not only does this deprive the girl of sexual pleasure when she becomes a woman, but is often done without any anesthetics or antibiotics.

A modern society that prides itself on gender equality would abhor such a practice, right? In fact, US federal law prohibits anything resembling FGM. You would also think modern physicians, free from primitive superstitions and religious practices, would also oppose FGM.

Well, maybe not all of them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement that opposes FGM - sort of. Read the relevant passage:

Most forms of FGC are decidedly harmful, and pediatricians should decline to perform them, even in the absence of any legal constraints. However, the ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting. There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC. It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.

Notice what the AAP has done here. First, the substitution of the benign-sounding term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) for FGM. Almost like body-piercing, eh? Next come the it's-all-for-the-children shtick, which is the the new refuge of the scoundrel. Finally, the suggestion that allowing "FGC" will somehow result in its decrease.

It is a passionately held belief of our modern secular culture that Christians are fundamentalist misogynist savages who want to turn the clock back a millennium or two. But it was not the hated Christians who came up with the barbaric proposal to make the degradation of women an accepted medical practice.

In the "primitive" parts of the world unwanted infants are sometimes left in the wilderness to either die of expose or be eaten by wild animals. In the modern Western world we slice them up in the womb and call it abortion. Criminals sentenced to execution get painkillers to prevent their suffering. What steps are taken to prevent pain to the unborn fetus as it is ripped limb from limb?

Likewise, we have joined hands with "primitives" who want the aged and sick to die. Only we call it euthanasia, and in certain parts of the Western world you can make a living snuffing the unwanted. In America we watched a ghoul named Jack Kevorkian become a folk hero, and we can be thankful that Dr. Joseph Mengele never made it to the 21st century (otherwise Hollywood might be making hagiographic movies about him).

It is hard to look at the actions of the American Academy of Pediatrics and not come to the conclusion that something has gone terribly amiss in that organization. Does the AAP really believe that "FGC" will stop at just a little nick? It certainly didn't with abortion, which we were assured would decrease after legalization. One wonders when the AAP will address the issue of foot-binding, sati (wife burning), and child brides, and decide that multiculturalism trumps human rights in those cases as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Gospel According to James Clerk Maxwell

And God said:

And there was light.

An interesting biography of Maxwell can be found here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Witness to the Faith: Tiffany

Those who doubt the healing power of God's love should read this.

God is not a remote god judging right and wrong and dispensing punishment like a judge in a court of law. He is a God who stoops to conquer (as C.S. Lewis wrote), and in love will chase you to the very ends of the Earth.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Interview with Sabatina James

Sabatina James is an ex-Muslim who converted to Christianity. She has received numerous death threats and lives in a secret location in Europe under police protection.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

ELCA South Dakota Synod

ELCA South Dakota Synod warns 4 SD congregations and pastor that their dual membership with the LCMC is in violation of the ELCA constitution.

I have to be honest: I have some sympathy for the ELCA's position here. I don't know what the ELCA's constitution actually says, but the defense that "the ELCA has never enforced this before" does not strike me as very strong. The ELCA appears to be well within their rights to take this action.

There is also some quibbling over whether this action by the ELCA constitutes "censure" of Rev. Frezil Westerlund and the four congregations in question. Again, I have to be honest: it does not seem that way. Censure would involve some penalty or threat of penalty, and that does not quite seem to be the case here. I would be interested in seeing the actual ELCA statement to know for sure.

Regardless, this move by ELCA South Dakota Bishop David Zellmer was perhaps not the wisest that could have been made, since it conflicts with the ELCA's publicly expressed desire to honor the consciences of those who oppose the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

I believe that the ELCA has a decision to make. The ELCA has jettisoned the God of Abraham in favor of a new and shiny god of political activism. But this new god is a jealous god, and will not countenance heretics like Pastor Westerlund and the South Dakota congregations. The ELCA must choose between "dialog" or obedience to its new god. It cannot have both. This is the price of the 2009 General Assembly's actions, although the ELCA leadership may not wish to admit it.

My wife and I felt called to leave the ELCA. However, God may have issued a different call for Pastor Westerlund and the four congregations she serves. They need our prayers.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania rejects ELCA's decision concerning homosexuality

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) has reiterated her opposition to same-sex marriage and stated that those who are in such unions are not welcome to work in the ELCT because such practice is incompatible with Biblical teaching.

Key quote:

The ELCT Executive Council meeting, held in Moshi on April 27 to 28 this year, received and approved "The Dodoma Statement" prepared in January this year by the ELCT Bishops' Council. The bishops met in Dodoma to discuss in details steps to take after the decision of some European and American churches to recognize same-sex marriages.

The Statement says: "Those in same sex marriages, and those who support the legitimacy of such marriage, shall not be invited to work in the ELCT. We further reject their influence in any form, as well as their money and their support."

This will be interesting if the ELCA tries to knowingly send homosexual couples to Tanzania as missionaries.

Do not underestimate the resolve of Tanzanian Christians on this issue. As economically poor as the ELCT is, they will not sell out. I know these Christians well, and they will stand strong.

In a way, this could be a blessing in disguise. Many Tanzanian Christians have been concerned about the growing Western influence on Tanzanian culture - especially sexual and family customs. Independence from American denominations may help Tanzanian churches avoid the spiritual poison that is destroying the ELCA.