Not too far from our home – in the Sonoran Desert outside Phoenix – is the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. This wonderful facility cares for many desert animals that have been injured or orphaned. The goal is always to be able to return them to the wild. But that is not always possible, so for some animals this place becomes their permanent home. Some animals are brought there by people who naively thought that a mountain lion cub would make a great pet. But mountain lion cubs always grow up, and people come to realize that something they thought would be safe has become a threat.
I thought of people who mistakenly believe that they could tame a mountain lion cub when I read the April 16 letter from ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton addressing racial justice. A link to her letter can be found here. In her call for reform to “any institutionally racist system” she essentially endorses Black Lives Matter. She encourages people to join Campaign Zero, which she describes as “a 10-point policy platform created by the #BlackLivesMatter movement to address and improve relationships between local law enforcement and the communities in which they serve.” She also urges people to learn more about ELCA resources at elca.org/blacklivesmatter.
I was relieved to read on the ELCA website that “the ELCA churchwide organization does not provide financial support to this chapter-based organization.” I have been deeply disturbed to read about some other organizations and businesses that do contribute financially to Black Lives Matter. It also seemed very reasonable to read on the ELCA website, “This movement does not seek to elevate Black lives above others. Rather, the movement seeks to help people recognize that Black lives matter no less than other lives.”
The ELCA website is correct when it says, “Scripture tells us that each person is created in the image of God. . . . All of us have integrity and value.” There is absolutely no question. Racism does exist, and racism is wrong. The First Readings for Easter Sunday and May 9 have both come from the account in Acts 10 when God clearly directed Peter to go to the house of Cornelius. In the First Reading for Easter Peter said, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.” (verse 34) In the First Reading for May 9 “the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (verse 45) Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (verse 47) If God has included them, how could we exclude them?
But for at least three reasons the ELCA’s endorsing and embracing the Black Lives Matter movement reminds me of people who think that a mountain lion cub would be safe.
First, the page on the ELCA website does not address the fact that at least two of the three original founders of Black Lives Matter are self-avowed, trained Marxist organizers. Marxism has led to political systems that have enslaved people and that have been severely hostile to the Christian faith.
Second, while the full embrace of the LGBTQIA+ agenda is very strong within the ELCA, I am not aware of any official action taken by the ELCA to affirm that full agenda. A document recently approved by the ELCA Church Council, “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” includes the sentence, “This church’s understanding of human sexuality is stated in its authorized social teachings.” (page 8) The most recent of these social teachings is the social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which was approved by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. Actions taken by that assembly provided for the blessing of and ordination of persons in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same sex relationships. They did not embrace the full LGBTQIA+ agenda. In contrast, Black Lives Matter has said, “We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking.” It is interesting that the page that contains that wording from Black Lives Matter appears to no longer exist.
Third, what Black Lives Matter used to call its “Full Manifesto” also is on a page that appears to no longer exist. One of the most disturbing sentences in the “Full Manifesto” reads as follows – “We disrupt the western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children.” Every orthodox Christian parent should be horrified over a statement like that, which advocates for the state’s taking over the raising of children. Every Christian parent needs to do everything they can to keep from losing the ability to influence the faith formation of their children. To me it is interesting – and I believe significant – that some of the statements from Black Lives Matter that have caused the greatest alarm are on website pages that appear to no longer exist. If you can find them, please let me know. Has the Black Lives Matter movement modified and/or softened its position? I doubt it. I believe they are just downplaying it. They want people like the ELCA to believe that there is nothing to fear. What Black Lives Matter advocates for, every reasonable person should be in favor of. Mountain lion cubs will stay mountain lion cubs