Monday, October 24, 2016

Decolonize16: First Debrief

As soon as the #decolonizeLutheranism hashtag began to be used on Facebook and Twitter, I was in and involved. It was like jumping into a river and realizing that I could swim better than I thought I
Candle station for prayer at conference
could. The impetus behind the movement is to separate North American Lutheranism from being considered interchangeable with Mid-Western, primarily imported Scandinavian, culture and cuisine. By "decolonizing" or separating Lutheranism from that context, the people in and behind (and ahead of) the movement hope to release and refine our theological and biblical commitments toward inclusion, welcome, understanding, and embracing the height and depth and breadth of the love of God in the world.

The initial conference of this movement was on 10/23/16 at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. It's a long way to for an Alaskan, but I couldn't stay away. Once some of my friends knew I was coming, they signed up too. Thus, I had reunions, reconnections, and reformation (of the current church) all in a day. What a day.

The framework of the conference was sections of the Augsburg Confession pared with seasons of the church year. We heard small sermons or sharing and then had small groups to talk about our reactions and our thoughts. I'm still thinking about so many things, but here's my first thought:

Nice is the law and honesty is the gospel. 

Lutherans have a very specific way of thinking about the words "law" and "gospel". The law is anything, anywhere in Scripture (or in the world), that reminds and makes us glaringly aware of our need for God, God's work in Christ, and the aid of the Spirit. The gospel is the glad tidings anywhere in Scripture (or in the world) of how God is already aware of our need and is ahead of us, behind us, and within us- bringing us into the reality of our salvation through grace and the on-going truth of our sanctification.

In my small group, we talked about how people we know (including ourselves) resist the hard work of combatting racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ behavior, and cultural appropriation without appreciation.   One person in the group asked if we could figure out how to use the framework of law and gospel as part of this work. I thought of my own work around "being honest, not good". I'm not a liar, but in general- my desire to be liked, efficient, and good means that I don't always own up to my own feelings, reactions, and perceptions.

In order to decolonize Lutheranism, we must stop the idolatry of "nice" and "good". We can no longer excuse that racist jokes are "just how so-an-so talks". We can't pretend it's okay to ask a queer couple if we could just not mention their wedding in the announcement or on the church calendar like we do for other couples. We can't ignore that there are women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals who are gifted from God, but are ignored for call and service in this church and- if they get called- are held to a much higher and more scrutinized standard of behavior.

Nice and good behavior asks for there not to be so much fuss about this. Niceness says, "It's been that way for a long time and change is hard." Good behavior accepts being a token, being diminished, being ignored as part of what it means to be a child of God in a certain context.

No.

I said, NO.

No more.

No more "nice", No more "good".

When my therapist told me that I needed to work on "being honest and not good", I looked her in the eye and said "Honesty is not one of the fruits of the Spirit."

But are we really being kind without honesty? Does true generosity exist without honesty? Can we truly love without honesty?

In order to decolonize Lutheranism, we must begin a full-throated, full-bodied, and fully embodied embrace of honesty. We have to die to nice and good and be aware of how God is resurrecting us to honesty in Christ. We have to be willing to say what is obvious, what hurts, and what needs to be done. We have to be willing to sit with the pain of complicity, the reality of what we can and can't fix, and the emptiness of the seats of those who will refuse to do this work. We have to be willing to make changes and re-think how our work as congregations looks, sounds, and feels even before we believe it "applies" to anyone already there.

And we don't do it so that "others" will come. We do it so that we can be a church, the church, churches who are actively teaching and learning how to live and how to die in Jesus Christ. We do it because it is, honestly, the right thing to do.

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