Author Topic: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive  (Read 1202 times)


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Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« on: September 20, 2012, 10:28:28 AM »
I just read the news release from the ELCA titled, "ELCA leaders call for an end to hate crimes, domestic extremism".It raised some questions for me.
First off there is the term "Domestic extremism".  What exactly does this mean.  I have people in my community that think that my belief that "no one comes to the Father except through the son" is extreme. I have heard many on both the religious left and right speak of the "radical" and "revolutionary" teaching of Jesus. Are not these just other words for "extreme"? And at what point does someones belief in the exclusive truth of their proclamation open them to charges of extremism?

It seems to me that an "extreme" adherence (to quote the news release) "to uphold the values of inclusion, plurality and diversity" at some point negativly impacts the boldness of ones proclaimation.  At some point the gospel imperitive gets sacrificed out of fear of giving offence.

This is a news release and I don't have a copy of the statement the ELCA leaders gave to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee but I find the ending quote in the release to be curious to say the least.

"As people of faith, and as Americans, we uphold the values of inclusion, plurality and diversity and seek to live according to the commandment that summarized the law: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31), stated ELCA leaders.

Why the omission of the full biblical text? In particular the part identified by Jesus as being the first and most important commandment;

"Which commandment is the first of all?"  Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'" (Mark 28b-30) 

And then, "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (v.31)

Jesus was pretty clear in both the Mark and Matthew texts that love of God (specifically the God of Israel) and the love of neighbor cannot be separated. "All the law and the prophets hang of these two commandments." (Matt. 22:40) When we remove "love of neighbor" from these two commandments we risk much violence in the name of religion.  But if we remove "love of God" and reduce the law to "be nice" then we have ripped the heart out of our proclimation and abandoned the great commission.

I personally believe that the decline in the ELCA has much more to do with a confusion over the priority of these two commandments than with sexuality issues. It is to my mind nearly impossible to maintain an idology of non-offense and proclaim a gospel that is guarenteed to offend at least someone, if not many.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2012, 10:39:18 AM by dkeener »


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Re: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2012, 01:38:50 PM »
AMEN!!  Good analysis.

Mike Koch :D


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Re: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2012, 03:29:22 PM »
It is to my mind nearly impossible to maintain an ideology of non-offense and proclaim a gospel that is guaranteed to offend at least someone, if not many.

Particularly given that our Lord said very clearly that we can expect hatred from the world if we faithfully follow him.  "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).  (This, of course, is no excuse for being a jerk.  Let the offense be at God's word, not the boorish behavior of God's people.)

Paul O Malley

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Re: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2012, 10:05:54 AM »
I just read the news release from the ELCA titled, "ELCA leaders call for an end to hate crimes, domestic extremism".It raised some questions for me.

I was rather taken aback at the first part of the headline "ELCA leaders call for an end to hate crimes," thinking for a moment that they might actually have advocated repeal of these laws.  The article made it clear that in fact the ELCA leaders were in fact calling for an expansion of and greater vigilance in prosecuting "hate crimes."  In part the article called for:
  " ensure robust and comprehensive implementation of the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act;
+ improve federal hate crime data collection, categorization and reporting efforts, adding new categories for affected communities not yet covered -- anti-Arab, anti-Sikh, and anti-Hindu;
+ allocate and prioritize federal funding for initiatives that prevent, investigate and combat hate crimes, hate groups and domestic extremism;"

Hate crime legislation of course is directed only at certain types of legally condemned states of mind, in the words of the statute crimes committed "because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person—."

Before federal intervention in a State proceeding there is a "(b) Certification Requirement.—" which requires
"(1) In general.— No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, or a designee, that—
(A) the State does not have jurisdiction;
(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;
(C) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or
(D) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice."

Read literally the law does not require "hatred" but only "bias" and, given parts C and D above, potentially imposes a second set of penalties to an activity that is already a crime. 

From a legal  point of view I agree with those who have critical of these laws as punishing "thought crimes" and as constituting double jeopardy.  The circumstances surrounding the crimes committed against James Byrd and Matthew Shepard were certainly ugly.  But using the ugliness of the crime as a tool to inflame a jury against a defendant, who under our tradition, the federal constitution and every State constitution, is presumed innocent, is an old prosecutor's trick.  These laws quite literally though make the ugliness of a crime (such ugliness being evidence of bias) a legally relevant issue.  I'd guess the leadership of the ELCA trusts in government prosecutors more than I do.  I'd suggest there are better ways for Christians to combat communal hatred than through these laws which go far beyond civil rights legislation.

Paul O'Malley - NALC layman
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Re: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2012, 03:43:13 PM »
It is silly to criminalize motive. That is indeed making it a thought-crime. But it is not silly to criminalize intent. Crimes intended to send a message to a larger group than just the actual victim are indeed a different kind of crime. The problem is in searching around for a sufficiently bad motive; that's what makes these laws so dangerous-- they are attempts at thought control, and they are promoted by the most intolerant people ("You're not even allowed to think there is something wrong with me!") in the name of the tolerance. I would be glad to see all hate-crime legislation repealed in favor of domestic terrorism legislation that acknowledges some crimes as more harmful, not because the criminal was a racist but because the crime had more victims beyond the physical victim.


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Re: Domestic extremism and the gospel imperitive
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2012, 04:40:38 PM »
Social statement making by the ELCA simply does not offer any value beyond that of an institution voicing its own opinion, one opinion among many by one institution among many.   It only carries as much authority as people ascribe to it.  As a member of the ELCA I recognize their value that constitutionally is assigned to them.  But at least for me they are only one voice among many others as I engage myself both as a pastor and a public citizen.  Social statements within the ELCA are only valued as other free citizens or church members authorize their value for them.  What is bad for the ELCA is that these programs end up politicizing the ELCA and do not even promote good use of Luther's idea of the two kingdoms.  In our American society, the message has always been that public opinion was a value that would encourage citizens to voice their ideas within a relatively free setting.  Ideally policy would be established and the rule by law would be somehow streamlined.  I realize that one of God's right hand "jobs" is to preach to the state to keep its office and their methods just and according to law appropriate to its jurisdiction.  But it ought end there and a church not give its own weight to policy-making.   It sometimes I think borders on politicization.  Perhaps this is the scandal of what a free church in a free state (Cavourschen model) has to settle for.

In a different vein:  It seems to me that our Christian proclamation at least in dealing with public policy issues ought to be deferred to the state and yet certainly we should encourage individuals to vote according to their consciences.  But proclamation of this kind from a Christian pulpit ought to end there. 

I seek to proclaim the value of keeping in front of those who seek comfort from the Gospel and forgiveness of sins to be of a different priority and the Church's exclusive one at that.  Certainly, the Gospel, strictly speaking, is something that the State ought not promote.  And contradistinctly to this, it is not the Church's main office to promote political agenda, etc.   

The State's role imo is to engage itself with issues of tolerance, retribution both positive and negative and to promote the common good.   These are separate values from the distinct office of the New Testament Gospel which is to forgive sins, offer life and the promise of salvation in Christ.  Christian Gospel values are confined to the arena of the Body of Christ no matter how free a society is in which the Body of Christ manifests itself through word and sacrament and no matter how much that free society imports values from the Church.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2012, 05:19:13 PM by readselerttoo »