I read something on a blog somewhere that I arrived at through a series of random links, that was written by a pastor from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Now, if you don't know much about the Lutheran Church, saying the Missouri Synod might confuse you. In fact, it confuses members of my own church. The ELCA is split up into synods, many with names like Northeast Ohio Synod or Nebraska Synod or Florida-Bahamas Synod. And these are all parts of the ELCA. Now, Missouri (in the ELCA) does not have its own synod. It is part of the Central States Synod. But sometimes when people hear a reference to the Missouri Synod, they can often think of a synod of the ELCA. That is not the case. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is it's own independent church body which is not confined to the state of Missouri. It started out, when it began, as The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States in 1847, and it's name was shortened on its 100th anniversary.
Now, the LCMS is known for its conservative views on most things, including the ordination of women and the communing of nonmembers (meaning they don't allow either...). They don't fraternize with other denominations, and they seem to harbor special ill will towards the ELCA because we dare to call ourselves Lutheran, and they don't recognize us as an authentic Lutheran (or even Christian) faith.
Anyway, back to the original point of this entry, in the blog I read, this LCMS pastor basically demonized the ELCA for all of their "sins," especially even considering ordaining homosexuals and for tainting ourselves by having open communion with the Episcopalians and UCC. He said some pretty harsh and spiteful things, all in the name of Jesus.
And I was angry. How dare he make us look like the bad guys for exploring ways to broaden our Christian community, for recognizing that there is more the same than there is different with our Episcopal and UCC friends, and for considering the possibility of including everyone in the Body of Christ. Just because we're different from you doesn't mean we're wrong! I wanted to yell at this man, to tell him how hurtful and mean and close-minded and ignorant he was being. And then, it hit me...
Don't I do the very same thing? Don't I look down on him because I see him as close minded and ignorant? Don't I disregard him because he interprets things a bit differently? Why is his offense greater than mine? (Besides the obvious reason that his offense offended me, of course)
Of course this hit me a couple of hours after reading the blog, and I'd had time to sit there and stew on it and build myself up because I'm inclusive and liberal and expansive and progressive and open minded, and tear him down because he's exclusive and conservative and narrow and regressive and close minded. So when this realization came to me, I had quite a distance to fall as I came tumbling off the pedestal I had made for myself. And then I got to sit there and feel kind of hypocritical and stupid.
So, I've decided to do what good ol' Marty Luther says, in his explanation of the 8th commandment (you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor), and strive to interpret my neighbors' actions in the best possible light. They may not agree with me, they may say things that are diametrically opposed to what I believe to be true, but I must remind myself that they are coming (hopefully) out of a place of faith and devotion and the desire to do what they believe is right and true. I don't have to agree with them, I don't have to like what they say, and I can even speak out against them, but I should strive to always do so with compassion and humility and tact.
That's a pretty small task, right?