Tornado’ed?

I’m sure I’ll be labeled as a homophobe for posting this, but here goes.

On Wednesday, August 19 at 2 PM precisely, the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) held a convention in downtown Minneapolis wherein it voted to allow the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. As the convention was voting, an unexpected tornado formed over the city and struck near the convention, eerily sheering the cross off of the roof of the church where the convention was meeting. Even worse, it destroyed an outdoor beer garden set up outside the church that participants had planned to enjoy after the meeting.

A round-up of what happened:

As an evangelical Christian, I do not believe the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with biblical teaching. I believe in treating homosexuals with love, dignity and respect, and I don’t know that homosexuality is worse than other sexual sins. My uncle’s partner is an ordained minister in the Church of England and I’ve never had anything but love and respect for both of them. It bothers me immensely that the evangelical community often gives such special treatment to homosexuality while letting premarital and extramarital sex slide, and politically I’m in favor of civil unions for all.

But as far as the church goes, I can’t endorse the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. Non-practicing homosexuals, possibly, but I realize my gay friends won’t see that as much of a concession, and I don’t blame them. If my opinion on the matter surprises you due to my outspoken egalitarianism, it shouldn’t. Evangelical egalitarians have been responsible for the bulk of the scholarly literature in the evangelical community arguing against the ordination of homosexuals and have written far more on the subject than complementarians have.

That said, I’m not the sort of person who likes to point to natural disasters and say, “Ha! God has judged thee, REPENT!” Remember last year when Michael Moore and a few other Democrat politicians joked about God helping the Dems by sending hurricanes to cut into the Republican National Convention? How classy that was. And how about back in 1999, when a tornado hit downtown Salt Lake City and some anti-Mormons claimed it was a symbol of God’s anger against Mormons? I certainly believe God can judge people with natural disasters if He wishes, but people in our day and age who claim to know when God has judged someone with a natural disaster always come off looking like asses.

So, I will leave you with two final thoughts about this incident:

  1. The timing really was nothing short of amazing.
  2. The image of that cross broken off the steeple looks incredibly creepy.
Image from John Piper's blog post

Image from John Piper's blog post

Best of luck to my evangelical brothers and sisters who are still within the ELCA. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you try to decide where to go from here.


Comments

Tornado’ed? — 9 Comments

  1. Couple of thoughts. None of these are serious, but sometimes I like to think outside the Box.

    Maybe this was a sign that God disaproves of the “cross” in general.

    Maybe this was a sign that God disaproves of beer and beer parties for “clergy”.

    I have a story (possibly untrue) about why it would be good to have had a Tornado in Salt Lake. One eye-witness described the Tornado hopping over the Temple and tearing apart the Beer garden set up for some secular event. Only the windows in the visitor’s center were broken, thus enabling the picture for the 15 living apostles with the Christus picture to be taken (while it was closed to the public).

    I also consider the “natural disasters” thinking low-brow, however, my roommate did say, “Brain Cancer couldn’t have happened to a nicer man,” and I happen to agree with my roommate.

  2. In today’s world, if you take a moral stance, you will be call something horrible by those who oppose you. Those who oppose Obamacare are called racists even though it has nothing to do with race. Only thing is, the more they throw these reactive terms around, the less reaction they will get since it starts to have less meaning. Mud thrown is ground lost.

    Years ago, a hurricane was headed towards the Carolinas, but it changed course, like they do all the time, and slammed into Virginia a short time later. Some bit televangelist said that it was the prayers of the righteous Evangelicals that made it miss the Carolinas, but that statement really upset the Evangelicals in Virginia, many who had family members who died or injured. They said that his comments made them look like God didn’t love them.

    Bad things happen to both good and bad people and it’s not my job to decide who is good and who isn’t, it’s my job to help them all. God gives His blessings to all and I don’t think that I that much better than God.

  3. I used to attend a mega church in Minneapolis and my pastor used to joke that every time the ELCA met they gained 1000 new members.

    As far as practicing homosexuals, I figure churches allow the obese (gluttons), people with bad tempers (wrath) and proud as pastors so since when is spiritual perfection a requirement?

  4. I remember a fascinating sermon/tantrum screamed out by some pastor just after the tsunami that hit Thailand a while back. By his reasoning, God did it to show his anger at gay French people. Follow along here:

    1: Gayness is all the rage in France, you see.
    2: Lots of French people – including the gay ones – like to vacation on Thailand’s beaches apparently.
    3: God wants all the gay people to die.
    Therefore: God decided to get back at those gay French people by blasting another country entirely and making innocent people suffer by the millions.

    And if that makes no friggin’ sense, then clearly the Holy Spirit is not with you.

    And by the way, do any of these “fire and brimstone” types ever remember Job’s gossipy neighbors being much the same way? Wasn’t there supposed to be a lesson there?

  5. As an evangelical Christian, I do not believe the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with biblical teaching. I believe in treating homosexuals with love, dignity and respect, and I don’t know that homosexuality is worse than other sexual sins. … It bothers me immensely that the evangelical community often gives such special treatment to homosexuality while letting premarital and extramarital sex slide, and politically I’m in favor of civil unions for all.

    I pretty much agree on all counts. I’m still sorting out my position on the legal aspects; in an ideal world, I’d probably have civil unions for all as a legal institution, then get Mormons, evangelicals, non-Trinitarian Pentecostals and Catholics (and anyone else who wants to) to jointly agree on some sort of an extralegal institution of marriage that would be recognized by all parties and carry with it some degree of social status that would give support to such marriages. I haven’t thought this through, though, so don’t hold me to this position. And it ain’t going to happen anyway.

    BJM said:

    If my opinion on the matter surprises you due to my outspoken egalitarianism, it shouldn’t.

    I’m not surprised.

    Evangelical egalitarians have been responsible for the bulk of the scholarly literature in the evangelical community arguing against the ordination of homosexuals and have written far more on the subject than complementarians have.

    I wouldn’t have predicted that, but it makes sense. Complementarians would probably be less likely to “think outside the box” and thus less likely to see the issue as being worthy of debate or much study.

  6. Mormons, evangelicals, non-Trinitarian Pentecostals and Catholics (and anyone else who wants to) to jointly agree on some sort of an extralegal institution of marriage

    I love this idea of having the government just did civil unions and having a coalition of religious institutions for marriage. This is essentially what Orthodox Jews did and it works very well.

    But for Christians you would have real problems that I’m not sure they are ready for. Evangelicals and Catholics have very different philosophies of 2nd marriage. When one of the parties is “already married” with an organization that doesn’t believe in divorce or doesn’t believe a divorce they are not going to agree on the marriage and that is a substantial fraction of marriages.

    It gets trickier with evangelicals because of cohabitation. Protestants do not have a theology of long term cohabitation, that is a theology of concubinage. Lots of protestants hold that a couple that is living together, having sex and sharing finances is married. Others disagree and hold that consent/intent to marry is the key component (i.e. agree with Catholics). So what is the status of people who have been in these long term “shacking up” situations prior to their marriage?

    Another place is unequal yoke. Some Christians hold that unequal yoking means that a marriage between a Christian and a non Christian is non-binding with different rules for divorce. Of course they don’t agree on what qualifies one as a Christian.

    Thankfully the notion of bastard has disappeared for our culture so we don’t have to worry about the children of such unions and their marital status, I think. If some of the groups do want this it gets even more complicated.

  7. What Lynn wrote reminds me of something that Dave Ross commented about a few years ago. A major Hurricane was heading for Virginia. A very prominent Televangelist (who I won’t name here) commanded the Hurricane to turn, on the air. It didn’t turn. And, nothing more was said by the Televangelist about the Hurricane not turning. If any LDS Leader had done that & failed, it would have been page 1 news for centuries. Go figure.

    Moments after the Landers earthquake in 1992, a local anti-Mormon called up our Stake President (about 4:50am), and told him that earthquake was a warning from God for the SP to repent & change churches.

    Lubbock, TX, used to feel in the 1960′s that they had so many churches & church attenders, that they were safe from disaster. Then, they were hit by an EF-5 tornado, very damaging. After that, they installed warning sirens in Lubbock, with tornadoes in mind.(You better get used to tornado safety protocols now, Jack, living where you are).

    So, yes, I can see what you mean, Jack, but it can be very hard to tell. What did New Orleans do to deserve what Hurricane Katrina did, above the rest of the region? Too much Mardi Gras? Some other places go wild at times, too.

  8. Eric, part of the reasons egalitarians have written so much against the ordination of homosexuals is that complementarians frequently attack us on the grounds of “the slippery slope”—that allowing women into ministry opens the door for gays and lesbians in ministry as well. The hermeneutics for why women but not homosexuals have to be clearly laid out for us, whereas it’s pretty much a given that if complementarians won’t ordain women, they certainly won’t ordain gays.

    @ the topic: I don’t believe that all natural disasters are signs from God, and of course history (even recent history) is replete with examples of Christians making silly calls on when nature shows God’s wrath. Mormons, too. I remember when Elizabeth Smart turned up, reading one Mormon on a message board bragging that it was the prayers of the righteous saints that brought Elizabeth Smart home safe. Wow, that’s precious. Maybe Mormons should pray a little harder for all the unwashed non-Mormon kids who disappear every year, to say nothing of the LDS kids who don’t make it back safe. So on the one hand, I definitely believe caution and tact are both warranted in making prophetic pronouncements.

    On the other hand, I’m a charismatic. I believe there are people out there who have gifts of discernment and prophecy and can know when these things are in fact God speaking to us, and that’s exciting to me. So there’s part of me that wants to believe that this was indeed a message from God—not because I hate gays, but because I don’t want to miss out on God interacting directly with humankind just because I’m afraid of offending people. And if it was a message from God, it would certainly be consistent with what I believe concerning the cross as a symbol for Christianity and the ordination of homosexuals.

    What compelled me to post about this case was that the details surrounding this event were so specific. If it had just been a tornado in Minneapolis on the day of the convention, I would have said meh—coincidence. But it was more than just that.

    I know this much: I have good friends in the ELCA. They’re part of a noble Protestant tradition and I’m genuinely grieved that they’ve gone down this path. This was a sad day.

  9. BTW, there’s an essay in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005) by William J. Webb called “Gender Equality and Homosexuality” in which Webb lays out the basic reasons why the hermeneutics for gender equality do not lead to abandoning the Bible’s position on homosexuality. He lists the following books by egalitarians on the issue:

    Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2002)
    Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995)
    Marion L. Soards, Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1995)
    Donald J. Wold, Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1998)
    Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1998);
    William J. Webb, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001)

    He notes one significant book by a “hierarchicalist” on the subject, James B. DeYong, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in the Light of the Bible and Classical Jewish, Greek and Roman Literature and Law (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2000).

    I’m still working through these, but the one by Webb is first on my list.

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