Saturday, April 17, 2010
A Minnesota Conundrum
BUT... what kind of Lutheranism? It is generally politically liberal (independent sometimes as well). For example, the champion of Minnesota politics was Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the Democratic Farm Labor Party leader. They have consistently elected liberals like Paul Wellstone and weirdo liberals like Al Franken. They have elected strange independents like Jesse Ventura. Polls tell us that Lutherans are more conservative than liberal -- but here it is different.
I read where Minnesota is putting foot washing stations in public restrooms to accommodate Islamic folks who must wash their feet to pray. I read where there is a very high number of gay and lesbians collected in the Twin Cities area (in fact an article in a magazine I was reading on the plane described the large subculture of this city and the "gay friendly" character of the area.
Lets take, for example, a Lutheran Pastor who lives down the street from my daughter's college -- the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom. He is a native of Litchfield, Minn., born October 18, 1931, from 1958 to 1962 Chilstrom served as pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church in Pelican Rapids, Minn., and Augustana Lutheran Church in Elizabeth, Minn. In 1962 he became a professor of religion and academic dean at Luther College, Teaneck, N.J. He held that position for eight years before accepting a call to be senior pastor of First Lutheran Church, St. Peter, Minn., in 1970. In 1976 Chilstrom became bishop of the Minnesota Synod. He was graduated in 1954 from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. He went on to receive a bachelor of divinity from Augustana Theological Seminary in 1958. In 1966, he was graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a master of theology degree.
I would expect that he came from good conservative Lutheran stock, people with personal responsibility, a healthy sense of guilt and grace, who appreciated their heritage and culture, who worked hard, who saved rather than spent their money, did not live in showy houses, went to church because they know they needed it even if they did not want to, and felt a sense of duty and service. They probably worried about Herbie headed to New Jersey and what kind of folks he might find out there in the strange East Coast but they figured they raised him well and he was solidly grounded. He probably never ever knew a gay person. He hardly knew any minority individual well -- not because of prejudice but because of lack of contact. And he believed what Scripture said and preached the Gospel because he knew Jesus was the only way to heaven. And then what happened to him?
He has become a champion of gay and lesbians in the church, contributed to a book about it, appointed a sexuality study that eventually brought forth the fruit of the ELCA decision to accept and ordain gay and lesbian (albeit within the context of committed relationships). He has written passionately to those thinking of leaving the ELCA that the decision in August of 2009 was right and was the only path for the ELCA to go. He attends First Lutheran (where he was once Pastor) and this graying congregation includes the welcome of gay, lesbian, and any sexual identity as part of their mission statement.
This is Minnesota... too. Would somebody tell me how to reconcile all of this?