Tag Archives: Youth

When Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber talks, Lutherans listen

Nadia Bolz-Weber

I was one of 500 or so who packed the sanctuary of Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis last night to listen to ELCA rock star, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, as part of her whirlwind tour to promote her spiritual memoir, Pastrix.

Rev. Bolz-Weber, a tall, slender, dark-haired, heavily tattooed, “cyber-punk” pastor and a self-described “cranky, post-modern gal of the emerging church a la Luther,” rocked this audience, much as she did the 35,000 screaming teens and chaperones at the most recent ELCA youth convention in New Orleans. The irony is that her counter-culture appearance and hip language born of a prior career as a standup comedian (I’m sure last night was the first occasion that “F-bombs” were dropped inside this hallowed sanctuary) is used to convey a decidedly mainstream Christian, especially Lutheran, message (grace and redemption, saint and sinner, death and resurrection).

I first encountered Rev. Bolz-Weber, long before she became famous, about the time I started this blog back in ‘09, and she had started her own called Sarcastic Lutheran. At that time, I read a story in which her mission church startup to “my people,” the House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver, had provided sanctuary to a lesbian teen who had been booted from her own home. Though Bolz-Weber is straight (she talks about her really cool and good-looking husband), she has been an outspoken LGBT ally. In 2011, Pastor Nadia offered the sermon at the California Rite of Reception for seven gay, lesbian, and transgender Lutheran Pastors. One of them, Pastor Ross Merkel, had been defrocked by the ELCA in the early nineties after he came out to his Bay Area congregation, but the congregation kept him in place and a newly-elected synod bishop did not object. Pastor Nadia calls Pastor Merkel her spiritual mentor, and she embraced Lutheranism in his adult-confirmation class after a childhood of spiritual abuse in a fundamentalist, patriarchal, congregation.

Again, an irony. This outsider and pastor to the outsider has been embraced by the ELCA establishment. Though there were youngsters in the audience last night–including a carload of teens from Iowa who tweeted while traveling north on I-35, “We’re coming! Don’t start on time!”—the audience was mostly middle-aged Lutherans, even elderly, including several hundred clergy from the Twin Cities area.

Before encountering Pastor Merkel and Lutheranism, Pastor Nadia had experienced spiritual healing in AA, where she became sober “by the grace of God and in the fellowship of other recovering alcoholics.” I share this journey with Pastor Nadia, and I have given talks entitled, “I learned all I needed to know about grace in AA.” She also credits a couple of years of Wiccan involvement for healing the patriarchy-inflicted, gender scars of the church of her youth.

Queer Clergy cover jpgJust released this week, Pastrix is already appearing on best-seller lists. As an author whose own book will be released later this year (Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism), I must confess to more than a little envy. Maybe I should hire her publicist.

The Courts and Conversion Therapy

Once upon a time, I tried lawsuits for a living.  “Plaintiffs,” “defendants,” “negligence,” “foreseeability,” “standard of care,” and “reasonable man” were the jargon of the litigation attorney.  Many of my cases fit the category of “professional liability,” aka malpractice.  I served as attorney, on both sides, in professional liability cases against engineers, insurance agents, attorneys, chiropractors, and, especially, medical doctors.  Here’s the medical negligence rule in Minnesota.

The prevailing professional standard of care for a given health care provider shall be that level of care, skill and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.

Since the recognized medical, psychiatric, psychological, and counseling organizations have issued statements debunking conversion therapy (aka reparative therapy) as ineffectual and harmful, would it not be possible to sue practitioners for failing to provide “that level of care, skill and treatment … recognized as acceptable and appropriate?”

A different legal theory, consumer fraud, is behind a lawsuit recently filed against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) in New Jersey.

Four former JONAH clients, who were teens when they signed up for help, filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against JONAH and two of its counselors Tuesday, saying they were defrauded by JONAH’s claim that “being gay is a mental disorder” that could be reversed by conversion therapy — “a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association four decades ago,” the lawsuit said.

According to CNN:

“This is the first time that plaintiffs have sought to hold conversion therapists liable in a court of law,” said Samuel Wolfe, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Meanwhile, a California law recently went into effect that bans conversion therapy for persons under 18 years of age.

California’s conversion-therapy ban … was one of the signature bills passed by the Legislature this year. The law prohibits minors from being subject to therapies aimed at changing their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Under the law, therapists who practice conversion therapy on minors risk loss of their licenses or other discipline by the state.

When California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, he stated, “these practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

Not so fast.  Conversion therapists have immediately gone to court seeking to overturn the law.  One judge has allowed the law to stand, but in a real head-scratcher, a second judge has issued a temporary injunction against the law on the basis that the free speech rights of the conversion therapists outweigh the potential of harm to minors subjected to the therapy.  Really?  You can’t make this stuff up.

Wayne Beson, in a blog on Huffington Post calls out the up-is-down, Alice in Wonderland, lunacy of the decision:

It seems that Judge Shubb is a bit confused about the First Amendment. He appears to believe that it gives mental health providers license to say whatever they want, even if it is not in the best interest of clients. Such thinking makes a mockery of medicine … the judge seems blissfully unaware that the toxic words of a biased shrink can sometimes be as harmful as a scalpel in the wrong hands. The wounds of “ex-gay” survivors are real, devastating and can sometimes last a lifetime.

Shubb should fully understand that when he protects reparative therapists, he is wholeheartedly promoting and endorsing such outlandish quackery. It becomes particularly damaging when such demented “therapeutic” techniques are practiced on LGBT youth.

In another example of false equivalency in which all views are considered equal, even when repugnant, dangerous, and demonstrably false, the Anoka School District in Minnesota is back in the news.  This is the largest school district in the state that garnered unfavorable national attention in the last couple of years due to a number of teen suicides following bullying.  At issue was the district’s neutrality policy in which teachers and administrators were required to remain neutral when issues of human sexuality were discussed; critics claimed that this elevated the views of homophobic bullies to equal footing with tolerance and respect.  Following a lawsuit, the district eliminated the policy and also set up an Anti-Bullying Task Force.  A Minneapolis Star Tribune report today suggests there is further controversy on the Task Force.

Apparently, in another misguided notion of fairness, the school board believed the point of view of the bullies ought to be represented on the Task Force, and a known gay-basher was appointed.  The School Board chair said the man was appointed because the Task Force should be “a diverse community.” Upside down diversity.

Now, a petition is circulating in the district seeking that person’s removal, claiming he “uses his personal faith as a weapon and represents the anti-LGBTQ bigotry that is STILL hurting kids in our district.”

“To imply that [he] lends balance is so disingenuous,” [a parent] said. “His position is very clear, and the effects of that rhetoric are painfully clear in this district. … This has nothing to do with balance. It has nothing to do with opposing views. It’s one thing to have opposing beliefs, but this is about opposing the existence of students.”

Mitt’s got some ‘splainin’ to do

News out of southeastern Minnesota tells more sad tales of teens who succumbed to bullying and committed suicide.  Oftentimes it is the short one, or the heavy one, or the shy one, or the stutterer, or the gay, but thirteen-year-old Rachel Emhke didn’t seem to have any distinguishing characteristics except that she got on the wrong side of the wrong crowd.  For seventeen-year-old Jay “Corey” Jones, his life got both better and worse after he came out as gay.  His dad said,

“I just saw a difference in him I saw a smile, I saw a little more energy than actually being down and out and depressed-looking,” [his dad] said. “To me he felt a sign of relief, like, ‘Yeah I got over the hard part, right,’ you know.”

But, being out also meant the bullying increased.

Mitt RomneyIn national news, the Washington Post is out with a well-attested article that suggests Mitt Romney’s elitist upbringing also included some bullying at his posh private school.  But the well-manicured governor’s son was not the object of the abuse; instead, the presidential wannabe was the chief perpetrator.

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

Candidate Romney has attempted to get out ahead of the story by issuing the standard wishy-washy apologyI don’t remember but if I offended anyone, I’m sorry.  In any case, Mitt says, “I’m quite a different guy now.”

We can only hope so, but I doubt we’ll be seeing any “It Gets Better” videos out of his campaign.