Unwarranted Sanctimony

The Evanglical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), aka “Unitarians with Lutefisk” (Keillor said it, not me!), are the far-left-leaning wing of American Lutheranism.  The people who gave us “ELCA hair” are headquartered in Minneaopolis, and often seem to spend more time on politics than faith; among certain ELCA circles, “faith” seems to be little but a common theme for (inevitably leftist) politics.  (Most mainline Protestants and Catholics in the Metro are no better).

One of their less-informed stances, like that of most of the dogmatist American left, is on civilian firearms and the Second Amendment.

And they’ve been taking some heat on the issue – because while, like my own former Presbyterian organization (the Presbyterian Church in the USA), the leadership is about as ideologically diverse as a the crowd at the Whole Foods in Berkeley, the folks in the pews on Sundays are all over the place politically (or were: the ELCA, like the PCUSA and other American liberal denominations, is hemorrhaging membership faster than the Gary Glitter fan club).

Anyway, some of the folks in those pews are law-abiding citizens who value the right to keep and bear arms, and they’re not shutting up and taking it from their self-appointed betters.  And  it seems to be rankling the ELCA; someone wrote a post on the ELCA’s “Engage” website responding to some of the flak they’ve gotten.

Well, not so much “responding”.  But we’ll come back to that.

I have received several angry replies to my “Stomping Stand Your Ground” blog. The writers deserve a response.

Although they don’t get a “Response” so much as getting “tut-tutted” by someone who really doesn’t know much about the issue.

One writer called the blog “shameful and disgusting…politically motivated crap. If my church supported this, I would be looking for a real church.” Another wrote “What load of crap! This Lutheran group ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

The ELCA has been supporting this “crap” about actions in support of gun violence prevention (GVP) since 1989.

Since the right to keep and bear arms is one of the things that separates a “citizen” from a “subject”, then yes – the ELCA should be ashamed of their pro-authoritarian stance, and anyone who believes that we, The Peoplle (of all faiths) are supposed to be citizens, not subjects, in our secular, political life, should have some pointed, acerbic questions for the ELCA’s temporal leadership.  (And so should you Catholics and PCUSA Presbyterians and Episcopals and Methodists, too).

Churchwide Assembly action happened in 1989, 1993, 2013 and 2016. Furthermore, the Church Council acted in 1994, the Social Statement “For Peace in God’s World” calls for the need to create peaceful environments, and the St. Paul Area Synod passed two strong GVP resolutions in 2013 and 2016. The ELCA must be a “crappy” church.

If you believe that the best way to secure Peace in God’s World is to keep authoritarianism, dictatorship and tyranny at bay – and I do – then yes.  Those resolutions, as they relate to disarming the law-abiding citizen – are prima facie evidence of a church that is, if not “crappy”, at least more suited to life under an authoritarian regime than a pluralistic democracy founded on the idea of self-government.

I would argue that the will of God and the ethics of Jesus are unabashedly nonviolent in focus. Violence is the result of the Fall and not God pulling the triggers of violence.

And it’s here that the writer – knowingly or not – gets insidious.

All violence is not the same.  Invading Normandy to free Europe is not the same as invading France to enslave Europe.  Freeing a concentration camp through force of arms is not the same as driving people into a camp via force of arms.   Shooting someone who is threatening to kill you or your family is not the same as threatening to kill someone or their family.  To slop them all together under an intentionally-vague label is rhetorically shoddy – and morally repugnant.

The gun in the hands of the law-abiding citizen deters violence; the gun in the hands of the would-be victim of violence turns them, often, into non-victims.

Jesus’ disgust at weapons is clear in his words “Enough!”, “No more of this!” and “Those who live by the [gun] shall die by the [gun].” The Sermon on the Mount is his “magnus opus” on nonviolence.

The Sermon on the Mount decried revenge killing; some religious leaders at the time were preaching that the doctrine of “an eye for an eye” meant that revenge killing was acceptable.  Jesus corrected those false teachings and put the kibosh on that with his sermon.  (Too bad Mohammed never had such a sermon, huh?).  It was not a foreclosure of self-defense.

God and Jesus must be crappy.

No, but the writer’s interpretation of scripture is a tad, er,  fecal.

The Bible also endorses self-defense in several places:  in Exodus 22:2-3 we are told “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”.  Which reads a lot like Minnesota’s case law on self-defense; you can defend yourself from an immediate threat to your life and health.  If you do it later, as revenge, then you are in huge trouble.

Proverbs 25:26 says “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.”   Allowing wickedness – whether street crime or political tyranny – to oppress the faithful is wrong.   LIfe – ours, and those of our fellow humans – is a gift from God; to allow the wicked to destroy them is an affront to His creation.

Anyway – you gotta figure that even if the learned scribe from the ECLA can’t do theology, they’ll at least have some Old Testament evidence and logic on their side.


You actually read this blog, right? What do you think?

Another called the article “misleading and false.” The sources for my comments are Protect Minnesota,


As I’ve shown in this space for the past fifteen years, “Protect” Minnesota has never – not once – made a substantial, true, original statement about guns, gun owners, gun laws, the Second Amendment and its legal history, the law-abiding gun owner’s affect on crime, or anything else.

Among the informed, using “Protect” Minnesota as a source is tantamount to admitting you know nothing about the subject.

…The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, State Health Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Center for Health, plus Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins Universities. I will trust these sources immensely more than those quoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s ignore for a moment the “Appeal to Authority”  – the logical fallacy of using the provenance of your sources as evidence, rather than the actual facts.  Saying “my sources are better than your sources!” are the mark of the seventh-grader who hasn’t learned debate, or logic, yet.

Leaving aside the risible “Protect” Minnesota, the other sources – I’m familiar with all of them – have deep flaws in the information they present.

What are those flaws?  We could go through them point by point, study by study, and systematically refute their applicability and authority.    Indeed, we have, and do, do that; it’s one of several reasons the good guys have been winning this debate for the past twenty years; the facts are on our side.

But I suspect we won’t be going through the with the anonymous writer, because the pro-criminal-safety movement – including the ELCA’s Reverend Nancy Nord Bence, the false-witness-bearing head of “Protect” Minnesota – have told their various adherents not to “engage” with Human Rights activists.

Seems exposure to the facts has caused the Kool-Aid to wear off with some of the less zealous disciples.

One hopes the writer of this piece is made of sterner stuff – more below – but this next bit casts doubts:

I am pleasantly surprised that no one criticized the references to the Second Amendment nor to our nation’s Founding Documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is nice knowing they are not “crappy.”

Fourth Grade called.  They wanted their big finish back.

Speaking of “big finishes”:

Stand Your Ground escalates the probability of gun violence.

No, it doesn’t – the statement relies on turning a dubious correlation into a  specious causation – but let’s take it at face value for a moment.

If someone shoots someone wrongly – as an aggressor, in commission of a robbery or a gangland shootout – then “Stand your Ground” is irrelevant.   If someone is not the aggressor, and shoots a rapist, a robber, a burglar, a kidnapper, an attacker, then you can say an act of “gun violence” has happened.  But you’d be portraying an act of self-defense – where, by legal definition, someone legitimately feared for their life and health – into an evil act.

And that, itself, is downright evil.

Not “crappy”.  Evil.

Note to readers:  I’m going to try, in a spirit of respect, inquiry and attempt for mutual understanding,  to send a link to this story to the people from “Engage” to see if they will, y’know, engage.  Please feel free to do the same; tell ’em I sent you.

I’d very much like to invite the people behind “Engage” on my show for a rational, factual debate on the subject.   I doubt they’ll do it; I don’t think they have the confidence in their command of the issue, legally, theologically, morally or factually.

But hope, as they say, springs eternal.

UPDATE:  I’ve left a comment, with a link, on the article.  As this is written, it’s “in moderation”.

I’d almost bet money it’ll stay there forever.

15 thoughts on “Unwarranted Sanctimony

  1. Mark 14 (KJV):
    45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
    46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him.
    47 And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

    Maclaren tells us the disciple with the sword was Peter.

  2. I have to disagree with you, Mitch. Stand Your Ground may increase the probability of gun violence. Where I part company with ELCA is we don’t think that’s always a bad thing.

    If a guy is beating his wife to death with a crowbar but she could crawl away, she’s required to do that under present law. Under Stand Your Ground, she could shoot her attacker. So yes, there could be more GUN violence. But is it BAD violence? There’s already violence happening; is allowing a little gun violence to end the crowbar violence really such a terrible thing that society must ban it?

    I know there are reflexive responders who would say duh – all gun violence is bad violence. Well, except for cops. When a cop shoots a perp, that’s a violent act and it happens by gun, but it’s not gun violence. Or is it? Maybe ELCA is joining Black Lives Matter in demanding all cops be disarmed? Because Jesus said, or at least implied, or we can speculate He would have hinted, that people should put up their swords and that means both citizens and cops should be disarmed, only criminals should be armed. The righteous should be happy to die for a better Minnesota.

  3. Joe – my point was that IF there’s a correlation between SYG and “More violence” (and that is questionable at best), it’s unclear to what extent that increase is in justifiable homicides.

    But again, I doubt there’s an actual correlation.

  4. We agree, Mitch, that there’s the same amount of evidence Stand Your Ground will increase gun violence as there was evidence that permitted carry would turn every fender-bender into a shoot-out; that is, none at all. The claim is pure fear-mongering.

    I’m going a step further by saying “Even if SYG does result in more shootings, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I’m making an analogy between SYG and cops. Having armed cops increases the number of people shot by cops. Obviously it does. If cops were disarmed, they could never shoot anybody. But we tolerate cops toting guns and even shooting people, because the benefit of armed police outweighs the harm. It’s not a matter of simply counting number-of-people-shot, the reason for the shooting matters, too.

    In a similar way, the benefit of more lives saved though SYG outweighs the risk of more attackers being shot. ELCA would have us believe it’s a matter of simple numbers but that’s not right; the reason for the shooting matters, too.

  5. Given their propensity to go to the experts for factual information, I’m guessing the ELCA is informed on teh Gayz by reading Lavender personal ads.

  6. Hahaha. Not a native so don’t get the reference but I’ll bet it’s a good one.


    The idea of “ELCA Hair” is explained here. It’s a tamer, workplace-friendly version of “Former Hippie Hair”.

  7. Doesn’t Amy Klobuchar have ELCA hair? She ever set foot in a church?

  8. As a pastor in the ELCA I am often embarrassed by the public stances of church leadership. Laudably, they sense that the Church should go beyond the walls of church buildings; the Church has sometimes lost track of that. Unfortunately, ELCA leadership is overwhelmingly liberal and not at all curious about engaging with conservatives, even within their own midst. Synod conventions are often one tiresome *derp* after another.

    That said, what about the Lutheran theology of the matter? Luther makes a distinction between what is required of a Christian and what is required of a Christian with a particular vocation. So a Christian cop can be justified in using violence (depending on the situation obviously.) So can a soldier. And so can a parent or a husband who is protecting his family (or a wife for that matter.) It is by no means clear that refraining from self-defense is the obviously Christian position, it depends significantly on the vocation and the conscience of the individual.

    So then, this leads to where the ELCA really mucks this up. They are attempting to use the power of the state, not to protect people (which Luther would advocate), but to strip people of their freedom to follow their conscience in a serious spiritual matter. Church leadership is misapplying the Law. Luther hated that. And so should we.

  9. “Church leadership is misapplying the Law. Luther hated that. And so should we.”

    Wasn’t aware of the Lutheran theology. I know that Knox had similar views on defending self and community (they had to practice it enough) – and the PCUSA has been nearly as erroneous on the issue as the ELCA has.

  10. Bonhoeffer was a committed pacifist, but ultimately saw the need to resist the violence of Hitler and the Nazis. “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

    To be sure, there were non-violent ways that the Church could “bandage the wounds” but a certain amount of violence is implicit in “driving a spoke” on behalf of the cause of righteousness. Interestingly, the German Church was controlled by the State, which licensed and approved the pastors and leadership. If you were “unreliable” you could not get a pulpit and the senior leadership of the denomination was either co-opted or replaced by the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer and the ever more persecuted and dwindling “Confessing Church” that splintered away from the politically correct main body were simultaneously in opposition to Hitler and their own church, which ultimately became one and the same.

  11. Your comment on ENGAGE’s page was released from moderation and is now visible. However, given this is a blog from a local synod, I am guessing their readership is probably 3 to low 4 digits. I doubt very many people will see this comment.

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