Monday, January 11, 2010

Still Not Getting It

After a bit of holiday respite, I notice that the ELCA Facebook page is once again filling up with people angsting over the Churchwide Assembly vote allowing congregations to call partnered gays and lesbians as pastors/other rostered leaders.

Obviously I have a bias here; I have a dog in this fight, not so much for myself but for my sisters and brothers who are called to these vocational paths as well as to their relationships.

But can someone please explain to me why solidly heterosexual congregations in Outer Possum, North Dakota are freaking out over the thought that a congregation in NoCal or Ann Arbor or Manhattan might call a partnered gay person as a pastor? Can someone explain to me the use of words like "anguish" by these people in describing their state of upset?

Here's why I ask this.

This evening we are entertaining one of Fellow Traveler's high school friends, a fellow veteran, whom she found on Facebook about a year ago. He'd been seriously underserved by the VA, and FT has been helping him navigate through the system to quallify for the benefits he has coming to him, particularly for what is most surely PTSD that dates all the way back to the Vietnam era, as well as for possible Agent Orange exposure.

He's at our house today because this morning, somewhere en route to his "comp and pen" exam, he checked out. He tried calling his home but no one answered. He'd lost FT's and my phone number. He wound up calling another high school friend who is also on Facebook, and asked her to ask us to call him. And she did -- IM'd us in a panic. (All the Farmville and viral cut-and-paste silliness aside, Facebook can be a wonderful thing.)

When FT finally got ahold of her friend, he had made it to the VA, but had no idea of how he'd gotten there. He was crying over the phone, and not always coherent: "I can't remember driving here...I can't stop shaking...I don't think I can do this." FT jumped in the Jeep and drove the 40 miles to the clinic to help him; when she got there the nurses told her they were so concerned  about his not having someone with him to take him home that they were going to admit him as an inpatient. FT got her friend calmed down; spoke to the staff on his behalf; helped him get his VA ID card and some meds to tide him over for a couple of days, and insisted that he stay the evening at our home instead of attempting the four-hour drive back home. She had intended to have him park his car at the VA and ride back with her, but he chose to follow her back this far. We had supper, and now we're just watching TV, chatting, trying to keep things light.

Anguish is thinking about your Vietnam tour of duty in the dark of the morning, on a four-hour drive, and suddenly finding yourself there in the jungle with your friends getting blown up next to you by unseen enemies all around you, and  your heart pounding its way out of your chest, and your suddenly losing your ability to think or even to breathe, and your winding up in a hospital parking lot two hours later not remembering how you got there.

Amguish is sitting in a room with a VA doctor who's trying to find reasons to not grant you service connection, describing your experience all over again, along with the details of your entire military career and along with all the physical and emotional pain, all the failures and humiliations you have suffered, for the next 30 years because of what happened to you while you were in the Army.

Anguish is not being able to string words together into sentences, or remember instructions that someone gave you 30 seconds ago, or sleep through the night. Anguish is waking up each morning wondering what strange physical symptom is going to plague your body that day. Anguish is having panic attacks that come out of nowhere and leave you shaken and gasping. Anguish is knowing that your loved ones, the people closest to you, don't know what's wrong with you -- not really -- and not being able to explain it to them in a way they can understand.

That, dear readers, is anguish.

Getting upset because someone else's ELCA congregation may call a partnered gay person as a pastor, getting upset because you think the ELCA hasn't gotten it right about "the homosexuals," isn't anguish. I don't know what you're feeling, folks, but it's not that.


Gene said...

Frakkin' great post. I don't have the same bias you do, but I fully supported the ELCA vote (and it's about darn time!)

The folks in Outer Possum are typical Lutherans (or any denomination, really) -- change is bad, even if it's not in their congregation.

Blessings upon FT. Her friend is very fortunate that she's around. I wish all vets who are in need had a friend to help them where the VA falls short.

Mompriest said...

Somehow people have confused partnered gay folk with morality, or rather immorality and they think that all in heaven and hell depend on doing the "right thing" about this very thing. Because, instead of worrying about the hungry, the sick, the dying, the poor, etc... God instead cares who loving committed people sleep with. Right.

Or is it that God cares THAT loving committed people DO sleep together...

uhm, I'm betting on the latter.

Hope your friend in the VA gets the help he needs.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I saw a Vietnam vet go into a PTSD episode and I believe every word you said, not to mention having the same bigger questions.

Gilly said...

Great post! Should be published in a newspaper, magazine, or, dare I whisper it, a church newspaper! (Do you have them in the US? and are they so rigid and denominational so as to only publish non-confrontational stuff??)

Outer Possum needs to get a life!

(And thanks to FT - the world needs more like her)

LutheranChik said...

Thanks, everyone. The irony just got to me last night. Feel free to link here if you know someone who might want/need to read this.

Pastor said...

I'm with Gene, I don't have the same bias, but I support (and, as a voting member at CWA voted in favor of) the change. I live in an area where I'm very much the minority; many of my colleagues are using the language you describe. You're dead-on right, "anguish" is not the appropriate word. And frankly, if there are folks who feel that it is, "they need their theology adjusted" to quote a former Sunday school teacher of mine (who is also a New Testament prof at one of our ELCA seminaries).

Seems that, along with the situation you've described, there are countless issues over which we should be anguished (hunger, homelessness, and child abuse spring immediately to mind), but which have taken a back seat in the ELCA today. It's sad.

Rev Scott said...


Thanks for putting words to the disconnect I've been feeling since August. I just don't get how another church calling a pastor has this much to do with your emotional state of being, 'Anguished ELCA Person.'

Hee hee - my word verification starts with "ire." :-)

Mary Beth said...

Beautiful. So well said. And I am so grateful that FT is there for her friend. That, my friends, is ministry.

Tom in Ontario said...

When I saw the title of your post I thought you were commenting on your personal sex life. Then I read further and, I guess, in a way you are.

I think you know I'm with you and "your kind" ;-) on this whole issue.

I know there are people on both sides of this issue and some for whom it's not an issue either way. And we're all a part of a church family that's not going to be of one mind on this issue for a long, long time, if ever. But I think (hope) we can still live together as a church family even if we don't agree on this.

As far as "anguish," I can see your objection to the use of the word. Maybe the people who are using the word have never experienced anything like you and FT have with this old friend. Maybe for them the thought that "their church" is traveling down this road that to them is obviously so wrong is enough to provoke something like anguish in them. Maybe we think it's silly for them to feel that way but if I try to see it from their point of view, living in Outer Possum, those NoCal folks are my sisters and brothers and I see them doing something that's just wrong and it's anguishing (is that a word?).

Maybe eventually they'll get over it when they realize it doesn't really affect them personally or their little church in Outer Possum.

I'm not sure who you were referring to in the title of your post. Maybe they're "still not getting it" but maybe we aren't quite getting it either.

Jody said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

I'm so tired of hearing about "the Grief people are feeling" about this vote, I could scream. Grief? Are you KIDDING me?

Trish said...

As someone in "Outer Possum ND," I must say that we're trying to get people to recognize the different ways God gifts people. It's going to be a long process, though, but hopefully they'll calm their asses down and get to spreading the Gospel by helping the people of Haiti, their own neighbors, and recognizing that we don't make it on our own.

LutheranChik said...

[rueful grin] My metahporical shorthand for "thinly populated state" is usually either North Dakota or Idaho...not too many Lutherans in Idaho, so if I need a stand-in for "thinly populated, largely Lutheran state," ND and SD are pretty much it. Actually, my paternal grandmother's family rode in a wagon train to ND when they were just off the boat and my grandma was 3 years old, very long ago.