The National Meeting for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ECLA) has just voted by exactly a 2/3 majority to allow theological differences regarding sexuality and scripture. The cynical part of me wants to say something snide. The more thoughtful side of me is wondering if this is progress or not.
Sure, it’s “progress” for gays to have a church they can go to where they will be officially recognized as not having magical stains on their genitals. It’s better to be accepted as gay than reviled and spat upon. It’s also nice that there are now three Christian denominations in the U.S. that are moving towards the position that we rationalists have held for years — that homosexuality is normal and acceptable, and occurs all over the natural kingdom. (The other two are Episcopals and United Church of Christ.) That’s not to say that these groups have adopted the scientific position, but they’re moving towards it.
I’m not sure I think it’s all that great, though. I have not read the minutes of this meeting, nor have I read anything explaining the rationale behind the decision to be a little less hateful and divisive. Did they decide that the scientific evidence was overwhelmingly on the side of homosexuality as normal? I suspect not. I imagine this was more of a public opinion poll than a scientific inquiry. Lutherans are typically a little more educated and liberal than Baptists, Methodists and Catholics. I can imagine that the 66.7% who voted for this amendment all feel in their guts that it’s wrong to discriminate against gays. It just feels wrong to be hateful towards good people who just happen to prefer rubbing bodies with members of the same sex.
The thing is, there’s nothing else to hang your hat on if there’s no real measure of truth. This particular group of religious nutters has taken a step towards creating their religion in their own somewhat socially updated image. They are finding ways to make the dogma match what they want to believe. American society has become more tolerant of gays since the 50s, and a couple of churches are starting to catch up. Specifically, the reason I doubt that this is real progress is in the detail that disagreements regarding scripture and sexuality are now allowable. In other words, scripture — not evidence — is still the ultimate judge, but it’s possible that men screw up the interpretation, so they’ll allow disagreement.
May I humbly suggest that real progress would be a resolution that when scripture disagrees with overwhelming empirical evidence, the scripture is wrong? How about a resolution to study all the evidence regarding homosexuality and then adjust the holy documents accordingly? How about a resolution that any dogma that disagrees with science should be stricken from the holy documents?
Of course, that’s asking too much. If they did that, they wouldn’t be a religion anymore, would they? They’d be a group of folks getting together for pot luck on Wednesday and Sunday. They’d be rationalists just like the rest of us.