Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Being a Decent Human Being

After the Newtown shootings, there were a number of interfaith vigils for the victims’ families and the community. One in particular featured leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Baha’i backgrounds. Setting aside for a moment the issue of where the atheists were (or whether they were even invited), that actually sounds like a comforting event — religious people setting aside their differences for the common good.

But now, Reverend Rob Morris of the Christ the King Lutheran Church, is apologizing for taking part in the event.

Because it apparently gave the impression that he endorsed the beliefs of those who came from non-Lutheran backgrounds.

Really.

Pastor Rob Morris

… The fear is that by sharing the stage with false teachers, I have diminished the proclamation of the truth which is ours by grace through faith in Christ.

… Thus, to those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies. If any of you know church members or friends or family who are now confused because of my participation, believing that the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod fully endorses the doctrine of anyone else who was on that stage, please correct this confusion lovingly, and I will personally be happy to help in any way that I can…

I apologize where I have caused offense by pushing Christian freedom too far, and I request you charitably receive my apology.

What the hell…?

I can’t believe I’m defending a pastor here, but who are these people “confused” by the interfaith vigil?! Who watched the event and thought, “Oh shit! That’s my pastor! He’s sharing the stage with a Muslim! WHY DOES MY PASTOR HATE JESUS?!”

And why would a pastor apologize for taking part in an event like that? Don’t apologize to the people who sit on the lowest rung of common decency — tell them you’re ashamed of them! Tell them you did the right thing! Tell them not everyone accepts Jesus but we all grieve the same way!

I guess I can’t completely blame Morris for his apology, though. It’s not his fault his faith requires him to be a complete dick in the most tragic of situations. In fact, the 2,300,000-member Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has a constitution forbidding pastors from participating in interfaith services like this in order to remain doctrinally pure:

Even as an atheist, I readily admit that religion can be a source of comfort for a lot of people. Religious people may be wrong theologically but at least they take care of people in times of tragedy, we often say. This story just reiterates the idea that compassion ranks below adherence to mindless doctrine in the minds of certain theists.

Oh… there’s one more thing.

A bunch of religious groups just filed a joint amicus brief (PDF) in support of Proposition 8 in California (banning gay marriage).

Check out who signed onto the brief:

National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; the Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America; and Truth in Action Ministries.

As Fred Clark puts it:

So praying for the victims of tragedy with other members of the community is forbidden. But interfaith coalitions are just fine when it comes to kicking LGBT people.

This isn’t hypocrisy. It’s just that the people in church of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod hate gays way more than they love the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook.

If you ever needed evidence that religion is part of the problem and not the solution, look no further.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Don’t surprise me none. His fucked up worldview is more important than twenty dead children.

  • Jeffrey Shallit

    I’d prefer it if he apologize for belonging to a church founded by a nasty anti-Semite: Martin Luther himself.

  • Stev84

    Aside from the far smaller Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Missouri Synod is the most fundamentalist Lutheran sect in the US I think. They aren’t all that crazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593952864 Angelia Phillips

    This man’s mentality and that of his “church” is what creates hate and religious wars. And the main reason I despise organized religion.

  • blasphemous_kansan

    Holy crap, I read this hastily on CNN over lunch the other day, and I was really hoping that I misread the point; that this man was not forced to apologize for taking part in the vigil.

    So your god says that it’s not ok for a leader of your faith to offer words of comfort to/with people of other faiths following one of the most horrific events in the recent history of this country? Well, here’s a revelation: your god is a shithead, and so are the asshats who created him.

    The goals of atheism will come about much more quickly if the opponents continue to feed on themselves.

    • rlrose328

      Yes, his faith is the One True Faith ™ and by appearing with the others, he is silently acknowledging that they are valid. Can’t have that… because if they are all valid, NONE are valid. His God knows that so he can’t do it. I guess he thought for himself that day… now, he’s back in line.

      • blasphemous_kansan

        Being an atheist is so easy when compared to the mental gymnastics I would have to perform to make my mind into the disgusting instrument that would be manipulated into thinking like this

  • http://kalamazoopost.blogspot.com/ Tony Indovina

    I’ll play the other side of this thesis: the Lutheran minister was correct to apologize for giving implied support to false teachings. Taken to another level, non-believers should be so honest and hold everyone to such a standard. This would do wonders to shed some light on all the weird crap people believe.

    If anyone of religious stripe was disallowed from taking part in secular events: graduations, marriage ceremonies, invocations at sporting events, memorial services for the slain, etc, for fear that others would be forced to “share the venue with false teachers”, then maybe we would finally expel such insane beliefs from our culture.

    Kudos to the Lutheran minister for his discontent with false teachers…as an atheist, I wish I could be so bold.

    • Stev84

      This isn’t about “values” in general, so you are missing the point. It’s about not worshiping other gods specifically, so the issue is far more specific. Those morons think that if a Christian prays to his god, while a Muslim next to him prays to his god, they are actually both praying to the other god too. Instead of simply praying to their own gods while standing next to each other.

      • http://kalamazoopost.blogspot.com/ Tony Indovina

        I’ll stand by my point, thanks anyway. What this minister is saying is that by sharing the stage with other religious leaders he is giving the appearance of acquiescence to heterodox beliefs. Let’s call on other religious leaders to do the same. This will effectively remove all religion from secular ceremonies.

        • Blasphemous_Kansan

          I’m not sure I get it. This group has a problem with heterodox beliefs, which lead to the current situation. The fact that this didn’t happen with other religions that were present at the vigil would indicate that those religions don’t have a problem with heterodox beliefs, at least not to the extent of this particular group of Lutherans (whether that’s hypocritical of them or not is another discussion altogether).
          So the atheists should pressure religions to alter their belief structures to be less tolerant of the presence of other religions, therefore no more religion in public life? In what universe would the religious change the tenants of their religion due to atheist pressure?

          Lutherans bully their own for endorsing heterodoxy –>
          Atheists decide to pressure groups to be intolerant of heterodoxy->
          ??? –>
          PROFIT!!!

          • blasphemous_kansan

            Typo above. “PROFIT” should probably be “PROPHET”.
            heh….funny homophones.

          • http://kalamazoopost.blogspot.com/ Tony Indovina

            “In what universe would the religious change the tenants of their religion due to atheist pressure?”

            Answer: Scandanavia

            • blasphemous_kansan

              Some elaboration would be nice, as I’m sure how that’s an answer, or relevant to my questions. Are you saying that this exact situation was executed in Scandinavia, religions were successfully turned against each other, and that public displays of religion are extinct?
              I’m making an honest effort to understand how the scheme to remove religion from public life is supposed to go down (that ‘???’ section in my comment above), but if you don’t want to discuss it, that’s cool.

              • http://kalamazoopost.blogspot.com/ Tony Indovina

                “Turned against” sounds like intolerance and that’s not my verbiage. Scandanavia has succeeded in making god-talk less acceptable in polite society. The US is pretty much the opposite with any event, secular or otherwise, having the necessary invocation to some vague deity. i can’t promise to know of a “scheme” that would work but it seems to me that calling attention to the fact that all these theists have a different view of what God wants is a decent place to start.

                Someone upthread said that it’s ironic because “they all have the same God” and I would argue that that is not necessarily so. Their views on God are very different: some think it’s okay to stand next to Muslims and others think God abhors it; some think God wants us circumcised, other think God does not want us eating pork, etc.

                Their Gods seem very different to me and we should point this out..then maybe they’d all just shut up about it. Or not, who knows? My guess is that secularization has a strong enough foothold that the time is close to stake our claim to cast out all this ridiculous superstition from the public forum.

                • blasphemous_kansan

                  An interesting point. And apologies for the ‘turned against’ verbiage. I was mistaken to attribute that phrase to your comments.
                  Thanks!

        • http://hircus.wordpress.com Michel S.

          And that’d be WWJD too – Christianity’s founder wasn’t big on praying in public anyway, something his followers ignore

        • icecreamassassin

          The primary problem with what you propose is that it works to enable and foster ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Even if it does effectively remove all religion from secular ceremonies (which I suspect would *not* be the case), the growth and normalization of us-vs-them-ism amongst the religious would bear far too much strife and agony.

          If it were just the religious leaders who were at risk of accepting and promoting dogmatic thinking, I’m not sure I’d be all too opposed to frankly. But there are many, many people in these leaders’ congregations that would also continually be fed the righteousness of ‘our dogma vs their dogma’, including children who cannot mentally defend themselves with critical thinking.

          Yes, I understand that the ability to wiggle around doctrine is one of the better defenses that irrational thinking has, but breaking down that barrier without injecting in critical thinking and empathy is asking for trouble.

      • coyotenose

        Which is extra bizarre since they ARE the same god…

        • Tor

          It is even more bizarre than that. LCMS won’t even pray with other Christians. They think they have the only one true version of god. They won’t even pray with other Lutheran denominations.

      • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

        Prayer gets crosstalk? That’s kind of shit. Even the cheapest cell phones fixed that years ago!

  • baal

    Well, once you have the cap. T truth, you have to keep it pure and all. (/makes squinty eyes at folks who like arguments from purity)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1162328886 Diane Klug Peltier

    I was raised Lutheran in the ELCA – I had Missouri Synod friends – my mom wasn’t pleased . . .

    • LesterBallard

      Reminds of the Emo Philips joke.

      • Wild Rumpus

        EXACTLY what I was thinking …so for those who are new to atheism…

        Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
        He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in
        God?”

        He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said,”Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

        He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

        Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

        • coyotenose

          “My principal said, ‘You know, Emo, I could expel you.’

          “I said, ‘You’ll have to catch and eat me first, you weirdo.’”

        • rlrose328

          That is one of our favorite jokes in this house… Thanks for sharing!

      • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

        The ELCA always reminds me of one of these. They’re fairly peaceful and not a bad alien to be confused with:
        http://images.wikia.com/masseffect/images/6/65/Elcor-mass-effect.jpg

    • The Other Weirdo

      Pleased by what?

  • Sven2547

    The Missouri Synod is the same branch of the Lutheran Church that doesn’t allow women to vote or even SPEAK in official church meetings. There was one particularly egregious instance where a female teacher at a Missouri Synod Lutheran school was being discharged, and she was not allowed to speak at her own discharge proceedings.

    • Stev84

      You are confusing them with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The Missouri Synod is very, very conservative, but not as crazy as the Wisconsin branch. They let women vote since the 1970s.

      • Sven2547

        You’re right, I’m wrong. The woman I had in mind belonged to the Wisconsin Synod.
        I do note that some (but not all) Missouri Synod congregations still practice men-only suffrage. One time when we were at dinner, years ago, my grandfather (Missouri Synod) infamously defended the practice of keeping women from voting on church matters. Seated next to me was the stunned female Pastor of my family’s (non-Lutheran) church.

        • Tor

          My birth congregation in the LCMS allowed women to vote on congregational matters. My parents retired and moved to another town whose LCMS church does not offer suffrage. Several of the smarter congregants switched to the ELCA after srffrage failed at vote. Of the men.

  • fsm

    Amazing that no one apologized for backing a Moron in the last election.

  • coyotenose

    They probably just realized that joining a vigil for white children murdered by guns would imply that they did not support their presumed right to shoot black children for looking at them cross-eyed.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Was that really necessary?

      • coyotenose

        Very little of this is necessary, but given how often Christianity and guns are hypocritically conflated in the U.S., I consider it perfectly in-line as hyperbole.

        • Tor

          It might have appeared that the LCMS was anti-second-amendment.

  • Rain

    Wow I was right when I was 2 years old: Other faiths have the cootie bugs, and the boogie man is gonna get everybody–nanner nanner boo boo. Wow, little did I know.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Well, Lutheranism has exceptionally strong anti-Semitic roots, and it wasn’t so long ago that they struck those roots down, or at least scratched them a little. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps. Wouldn’t want anyone to freak out or, you know, progress.

  • newavocation

    Ah can you say beauty contest? My god is prettier than your god.

  • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

    If their religion had any real truth to it, they wouldn’t feel such a paranoid obligation to defend it. It’s those who have nothing to back up their claims to truth that protest the loudest about the need to differentiate themselves from the teachers of falsehoods.

  • RobMcCune

    Looks like the LDS Church and Orthodox Jews were also part of that amicus brief, some how I don’t think they would be allowed to grieve together. Oh well it’s not like religions have ever really been united by anything except common hatred.

  • rlrose328

    I was raised and confirmed Lutheran in a Missouri Synod church and attended there until I was about 16 (I’m WELL beyond that now as my gray hair can attest). I don’t remember the subjects of homosexuality or politics ever rearing their ugly heads in church or discussions within the church community. It was a different time then, I guess. It was a military town and for Easter, there were sometimes joint services with the local military base that had interfaith chaplains. Also, during the summer at the 4th of July festivities, there were prayers and such with ministers from all over town on the stage.

    I just don’t understand why acknowledging there are others who believe in your god, albeit differently than you, is such a big freakin’ deal. I’d be proud to know we were accepting of all people, regardless of belief.

    • Tor

      You and I are probably of similar age. I, too, was baptized and confirmed in the LC-MS. Homosexuality and politics were never mentioned. They only preached about going to hell a lot. And our pastor poached deer out of season, shortened his sermons on St. Louis Cardinal game days, and communed an LCA (before ELCA) member who was married to the daughter of a prominent member. I’m pretty sure he is in hell, now for that failure.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “To all my congregation, I must humbly submit this apology: Yesterday I was driving on a deserted highway when I saw that a car had just skidded and crashed into a tree. I ran up to the crushed car and saw that the unconscious driver was injured and bleeding rapidly, and would soon bleed to death. I pressed my hand against the wound to stop the bleeding while I called for help with my cell phone. While I waited for the paramedics to arrive, I noticed the way the man was dressed and realized he was a Muslim! I know that I should have recoiled in fear and disgust, letting his poisonous blood continue to gush out, but I was weak and I gave in to my base animal instincts of empathy and compassion. Because of my transgression, that follower of a false prophet is alive and will recover. I am deeply sorry for my failure as a True Believer, and I hope that you can some day forgive me. I will be on guard to never again give in to my sinful human impulse to care about someone who is not a member of our One True Church.”

  • icecreamassassin

    The close of that letter is my favorite part:
    “I thank you all again for your love, care, and compassion.”

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I blame him somewhat. If you’re part of a morally deficient group, you leave! It’s really hard, and as a pastor it’d be even harder because you’re so invested in the group, your status in it, and your real faith that you’ve got it right. But this should be sending up giant red flags to him.

    • Tor

      In college, I was still trying to be a good LC-MS member. I went to services because I had a crush on the cute single pastor. I finally had a talk with him where I told him I was gay. He said that he would continue to “commune” me. He also mentioned that he was in trouble with the church board because he was communing an unmarried couple who lived together. I doubt he is still in the MS.

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    To clarify one point, the issue isn’t that he attended the prayer vigil, it’s that he offered a prayer there. The idea is that by merely attending and speaking generally he’s acting as a community leader, but by offering a prayer he’s acting as a pastor for his particular church.

    It’s not that much different from observant Jews who refuse to enter venues at which you could pay up front or use a long term pass on the Sabbath. Even though they use a long term pass, their presence might makes someone believe that they had handled money on the Sabbath. Similarly, it wasn’t enough for Billy Graham to be faithful to his wife; he never once met with another woman behind a closed door. It’s called “preventing the appearance of impropriety.”

    I still think it’s a ridiculous policy.

  • ruth

    I wonder how long it takes to talk in that weird Christian sort of way as evidenced in the letter of apology. You know, phrases like “ours by grace,” “administer Christ’s grace,” “our adoption into Him,” and “correct this confusion lovingly;” that kind of stuff.

    • Cap’n Tragedy

      Better still; is there some sort of online generator for it? You just type in whatever English phrase and out comes liturgical babble?

  • Tor

    I was born and raised in the LC-MS. Believe me, they do not usually offer comfort in times of grief. My father’s funeral was a ridiculous message of “you’re all going to hell unless you say the magic word.” They would not even let a member of the family speak at the service. I could go on and on. LC-MS is notoriously anti-ecumenical – they won’t even commune other Lutheran denominations. I was shocked that they signed on to the amicus brief with Mormons and Evangelicals. Highly out of character, but Hate is a strong binder.

  • katiehippie

    A little late to the conversation but the president of the synod asked him to apologize (in a huge wordy letter) and he responded with a huge wordy letter but I didn’t really see that he apologized for what he did. He just apologized for upsetting people. Later on the president of the synod issued his own non-apology for not realizing what he was asking would upset people. (duh) I come from the position of going to the same LCMS church for over 40 years. A church my great-grandparents helped found. In the last 10 months or so I have totally turned away from them and all religion. I think one of their huge problems is that they concentrate so hard on getting all their doctrine correct (in their minds) that they have totally lost sight of how this doctrine actually affects real people. The letters from both the pastor and president of the synod are so full of big words that it’s more like they are just trying to impress each other with their scholarly-ness.


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