The Problem with Lutheran Journals of Little Ethic

or why people like Dr. Ted Peters should listen more

Today I want to talk to you about the growing and disturbing trend of white male boomer theologians coming out of their quarantine caves to grace us with their thoughts on white supremacy or critical race theory. 

First of all, I just want to say to this very august body of leaders, teachers, scholars, theologians and “thinkers” : no one fucking asked you. 

In case this group of self-important leaders hasn’t noticed, we are still reeling from the effects of a world, republic, and church left in utter shambles by their generation.

Instead all we receive is, “Here you go, kids. Enjoy the church!” and a shit-eating grin.

The fact that they feel they can slither their way out of their retirement viper nests made on the very fucking backs of the communities we are trying to save now is, in a word, gross. Anyone with common sense or the ability to read the room would just be quiet in this national moment; this collective sigh of relief as we roll up our sleeves for the real work. 

But not these over-bloated intellectually comforted cis straight man children. Ohhhhhh no, you see, their perfect little post-racial utopia they thought they were leaving behind is under threat. They had solved this in mainline theology. You see, they were happy and felt they had done enough, incidentally also securing white male leadership as the model. Now they are “blessing” us with their power analysis and an ethical way forward.

Remember: the same people who can’t imagine a world beyond the church are the ones who can’t imagine this republic beyond white supremacy. The two are so intrinsically tied together that whenever Love emerges into this world Incarnate, the state and the church always move against the Divine, not with it. In fact, there are these 4 really great books about it called the Gospels, and I recommend them highly to each one of these old monsters to read. 

And they are monsters. They are Frankensteins of the academy slapped together within the beating heart of the ELCA. A denomination so young, I remind you, that I own records that are older. But here I stand in a church slapped together with the remnants of 500 years of theology and polity to create a system that empowers oppressive thought and theology and never holds the bishops, the synods, churchwide or the congregations responsible for shit. It smells to me like a pathetic attempt to abdicate the responsibility as followers of Christ to live out justice in this world.

That same church creates theologians who feel they can say and do whatever they want with no consequences. They never have to look at the blood and tears they leave on the ground. Today I will wipe one of their faces in it like a puppy. Publicly. 

We are trying to wage peace on the world. They are trying to prove a point. 

We are trying to save a desperate world by following the way of Christ at a critical juncture in salvation history. They want the Obama years back. 

The most egregious recent example of this crap recently was published in the so-called Lutheran Journal of Ethics. 

First of all, what has this rag produced lately that has in any way shaped this church? In the last 4 years, the only reason I even noticed it exists is that it published some ill-fated article THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED. It’s called editing. Ahem. Editors. You get to decide the voice of your journal. 

They put out a call recently for what I can only guess are “dissenting” opinions. Now, this is a publishing trick. I don’t want you to think they are innocent in this, so let me pull the curtain back a bit.

Let’s frame this: 2020 is coming to an end; it’s clear that the former administration’s most disgusting policy will start to, as best they can, be dismantled. This is post-George Floyd. All of creation just a spent a summer screaming: I Can’t Breathe. 

God just clearly said to the world: I Can’t Breathe. 

To the Lutheran Journal of Ethics’ credit, most articles over the last few years reflect this. But they knew exactly what they were going to get when they asked the soon-to-be-silenced white mediocrity to speak up. They received disgusting, ill thought-out pathetic attempts to steal the mantle of the church from this current generation. One article, which I will address shortly, not only twisted the entire meaning of my first movie, but used it as justification to dismantle the Strategic Authentic Diversity document, arguably the first sign of institutional hope for BIPOC peoples in decades in this church. I know most of the authors of this document personally. I know the blood, sweat, tears, and years of stress they lived through pushing for these changes. These authors that I personally know are BIPOC, most Black or Woman of Color. That is anecdotal, but considering I read drafts for years as folks were preparing it, talked to people up and down the process about it, prayed over synod resolutions, then the churchwide resolution 3 years later, and held some of the authors while they cried the day it passed, maybe I know what the fuck I am talking about. 

In response, Ted Peters offers this:

And the Journal of Lutheran Ethics publishes this complete factual inaccuracy. Then they pull the most obvious self-serving click baiting move in publishing by asking the wounded and harmed BIPOC people to take the time to defend the deep wound they helped publicly inflict. Then they will fall back on “this is how conversation happens in the academy”. All of it a pathetic attempt to drive traffic their way. I would never waste this much time on the Lutheran Journal of Ethics if they didn’t allow a white man to weaponize my work against my own people. The article is written by Ted Peters. Here is his main premise: 

“[2] What I fear is that, if executed, this strategy would backfire. It would actually perpetuate the very institutional racism it seeks to overcome. Why? My answer is subtle, but I will attempt to make it clear. Then, I would like to tender an alternative way to think about ELCA white racism and the strategy for overcoming it. In brief, here is my two-pronged recommendation: (1) we should cease feeding the unhappy consciousness of the ELCA white leadership and remove this white leadership from the center of our spiritual attention; and (2) we should ask people of color—perhaps by collecting anecdotes or even conducting in-person surveys–about what they need and would like to see happen in the ELCA.”[1]

His entire premise is wrong. The Strategic Authentic Diversity document was conceived in its original form from the work mostly of BIPOC woman. Sure, it was written in community with other white folks'; it is the ELCA after all. But anyone could just call the office of secretary and see that these “anecdotes” from people of color that he calls for have already been offered by the actual authors of the very document he dismisses.

And for those keeping score at home, this all could have been avoided by a little thing called research. I though this dude had a PhD? Didn’t he teach our pastors? Would he have accepted a factually inaccurate paper at any point during his tenure in the academy? Nope. 

Then his model isn’t a model. It’s basically: let’s put the weight of 400 years of America’s sin at the feet of Black and Brown peoples, then ask them to dismantle the systems of oppression we helped create. He doesn’t want to do the “white folk work” that other thinking, feeling, and loving white folk have collectively decided to do to create world peace. Nope. Teddy wants Black folks to do it again. Well, he is more inclusive than that. He hopes all BIPOC folks are willing to sacrifice our everything once again to save his small misguided midwestern church body in a way that he finds tolerable. 

Basically, he is asking for a thing that has already happened, with much public emotional labor by BIPOC leaders, to happen again so he can make sure the process is theologically pure. 

Sir, may I say this on behalf of all the leaders who put this strategy together, since they are much better Christians than me and never would do this publicly:

Fuck. Off. 

Is this anecdote enough to feed your unhappy consciousness? Do you feel like you are hearing from a Black Man now? 

He then goes on to talk about the spiritual healing of the ELCA. My dude, where have you been? Leaders in this generation have been calling for a large, en masse systemic and spiritual change to the way we function as the so-called church on earth. We see the white supremacy as a symptom of our collective spiritual sickness. Were you asleep the last 6 years, or just so full of yourself you didn’t listen to any of us? 

I won’t bore you with this white man’s take on dismantling white supremacy anymore. There are going to be a ton of these shitbag books coming out from white theobrogians who got bored in quarantine and finally noticed “how bad the Blacks have it.” Its hunting season on all you creepy profiteers and relics of the old world. I got my first vaccine shot. Yawl got 28 days to get your shit together. 

Ted Peters: don’t ever use my work again. This is your first public warning. 

I have the honor of being this church’s obedient servant

The Rev. Lenny Duncan he/him +