I’ve never liked John Piper. In college, this certainly put me outside a certain “inner circle” of Whitworth religion majors (those who all read John Piper, were being “mentored” and attended Faith Bible Church). Now, I never had any problem with that, and I was always a little concerned with just how much some of my peers loved John Piper’s sermons and books.
This morning – years after those Whitworth college days – I am reminded again why I never liked John Piper. Many of you know that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is holding their 2009 Churchwide Assembly this week in Minneapolis. Of course, because they are discussing the proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and issues of ordination, the meeting is being covered extensively throughout the media. Many of you also know that a tornado hit downtown Minneapolis yesterday and even damaged the roof of the church building where parts of the Churchwide Assembly were meeting. New York also faced hurricane-force winds yesterday, while Anchorage, Alaska dealt with a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. It was a big day for nature yesterday.
And then leave it to John Piper to help explain exactly why the tornado came to Minneapolis. And of course, it was because of the gays.
John Piper’s blog post today was entitled, “The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality.” And Piper continues on in the great tradition of Pat Robertson by helping to explain why natural disasters occur – and naturally, they are an expression of God’s wrath and serve as “gentle but firm warnings” from God. Piper makes some very compelling arguments, detailing eyewitness accounts of when exactly the tornado hit downtown, and compares that to the EXACT time that the conversation about the Social Statement on Human Sexuality was on the schedule! And he shares how the tornado hit the convention center (where there must have been Lutherans discussing homosexuality) and Central Lutheran (again, where more Lutherans discussed homosexuality) – even breaking the steeple in two – and then it lifted. The above photo is John Piper, although I can’t tell if he is shielding himself from the tornado or giving God a “10″ score for God’s placement of the tornado.
As Piper works through his post and details how unrepentant sin (like homosexuality) excludes persons from the kingdom and how the potential decision of the ELCA could be evil, in that it condones something God is clearly against, I couldn’t decide whether I should just laugh (LMAO) or get upset with yet another interpretation of scripture that is clearly contributing to the culture of fear we experience surrounding this issue.
I think most would agree that Americans lived with a strong culture of fear in our post-9/11 world. We were told by our government to fear Muslims, anyone with a Middle Eastern background, and the heightened security everywhere kept everyone on edge. As the church continues to debate the issue of homosexuality, we find ourselves facing another culture of fear. Many in the church fear those who are other, who are different, and are able to find ways to manipulate scripture to support this fear.
And it certainly doesn’t help when extremely influential Christian leaders like John Piper make absolutely ridiculous statements about the connection between a freak tornado and an ELCA meeting. I have to wonder if even John Piper really believes what he has written – or whether this is a convenient way to support the discrimination and hate of the LGBT community. It’s certainly a much more convincing argument to sway others to believe that not only you are against something (and have scripture to support you), but God is also pissed about it – so pissed that He [sic] is going to bring tornadoes and other natural disasters our way if we keep approving this sin.
Piper ends his blog post with the following conclusion:
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
I completely agree with Drew Tatusko’s post, The Tornado to Stop the “Gays.” It’s worth a read – he comes to this conclusion about Piper’s connection between the tornado and “the gays”:
This sort of “theology” tries to divine God’s pre-destined program for us by picking and choosing natural events that appear to confirm a pre-existing ideological condition. It’s not theology, it’s insurance to justify one’s own ideology.
It’s an easy way to convince others that God is on your side – insurance to justify one’s ideology. While I’d like to think that Christians in this nation and world are slowly moving toward a more open and inclusive position when it comes to our LGBT brothers and sisters – posts like Piper’s remind me that we have a long way to go.
For a better sense of the ridiculousness of Piper’s interpretation of the tornado, check out Jenell Paris’s post: The Toddler, The Discharge, and The Humidity. Thanks Jenell!