Below is the account of an orthodox, Bible-believing seminary student who attended the ELCA's United Lutheran Seminary. We conversed over email at couple years ago and then again last week. What follows is Joseph's letter to me and to everyone reading, about his experience attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seminary.
At the time of our correspondence, I was unsure of what direction my vocation was going to take so I did not want to divulge too much information about what I was encountering at seminary, for fear of retaliation from the so-called “powers that be.“ I use quotations because the people who are in charge of the ELCA are not actually the ones who are running the show. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
The reason why I am writing today is because I feel that my personal story and experience might be of some benefit to your readers. First and foremost, I must be transparent in stating that I have since left seminary and Lutheranism altogether and returned to the Catholic Church of my roots. Recognizing that there are many Lutherans of a more traditional practice who might be skeptical of Roman Catholic theology, I want to emphasize the fact that we have far more in common with one another than those same traditional Lutherans might have with ELCA Lutherans, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Putting all theological differences and minutiae aside, I think I can say with certainty that traditional Lutherans and traditional Catholics are at least mutually faithful to the basic tenets of Christ’s teachings. With that said, I would like to share a little bit of what I experienced—and what I still observe from social media posts and the ongoing firsthand accounts of friends who are ELCA clergy—friends who I cherish. They are not the intended target of this expose.
It has been said, ad nauseam I might add, that the ELCA is the “whitest denomination in America.” This is a common phrase uttered by some of the loudest, most bloviating “pastors” in the ELCA. Statistically speaking this may very well be the case. But what I find most interesting about that is the fact that the individuals who are so quick to utter this phrase are the same individuals who initiate every attempt at dialogue with the preemptive notion that if you’re white, you have an obligation to “listen” and not speak and this is actually done as a means of shutting down the dialogue before it can even begin. So if the denomination is 99%+ white, what they’re saying is that only they, the small 1%—many of whom are also white, interestingly enough— should be allowed to speak. This is neither dialogue nor an attempt at equality; it is a hostage situation. And in no venue was this made clearer than in the seminary classroom.
I had a professor of New Testament studies who started the semester right out of the gate by informing the class that if you were a white, straight, “cisgender” male, you had an obligation to stay quiet and allow other people to speak before you. Understandably this put a number of us in the position of feeling like we were paying for classes that we were being discouraged from participating in. So I took the professor’s advice and decided not to say a word in class. As the semester went on, that professor started to become passive-aggressively antagonistic toward me by calling on me at random times to contribute—usually when she knew that my opinion on the topic du jour would likely lead me to say something that the “wokesters” in the class would pounce on. I chose not to give her what she was looking for, as there is no winning on their idealistic playing field, and of course she decided to dock participation points from my grade. This same professor--and others--would dock points if you referenced God as "Father." When I explained that God as my Father was the only way I knew how to encounter Him, I was told "it's not all about you."
At that time, I was still writing for a Catholic blog and I wrote a critique that was aimed at dispelling all of the nonsensical, heretical revisionist history being spewed out in her class. The fact that I wrote for this website was not, to my knowledge, known to my classmates at the time. Little did I know that the “Google sleuths” were hard at work trying to dig up material to use against me. And they succeeded, though I must say that I was not exactly hiding anything as it was all public information in plain sight. This led to almost weekly summonses to the Dean’s office where my guidance counselor and this same professor would be waiting to interrogate me and threats would be made to “call my candidacy committee.” In other words, my orthodoxy was being used against me. During one rather bizarre exchange, I was leaving class one afternoon and was blindsided by a seminarian who proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs, crying maniacally with snot bubbles and an Oscar-worthy act, calling me a racist, a sexist, a transphobe, an imperialist, a supremacist and every other “-ist” imaginable because she had come across an article I had written in defense of Western Civilization--I was, after all, a history major during undergrad. This was in a crowded hallway in front of my peers. This was supposed to be graduate school.
I was repeatedly threatened by other professors, many of whom I genuinely believe felt pressured to enforce and live up to the standards set by the loudest and most unhinged seminarians and pastors, that they were going to contact my candidacy committee about things that I wrote in assignments or said in class. I was told on a number of occasions that fellow seminarians did not “feel safe“ being in the same building as me because I identified as pro-life. I was told that I was anti-woman and unchristian for opposing abortion on the unthinkable grounds that all human life is sacred. A self-described “abortion doula” said that she did not feel her kids were safe around me because I was a homophobe and micro-aggressive mansplainer. When it was learned that I had attended Latin Mass in my early 20's at the private chapel of Mel Gibson, I was branded a white supremacist and an anti-Semite. When that young high school student, Nick Sandmann, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March for Life while an activist banged a drum in his face, I applauded him in class for maintaining a dignified composure. I was branded a “colonizer” and anti-Native American for that.
In my Congregational Education (I think that was the title) course, I gave a presentation in class on Martin Luther‘s devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and I was told that I was trying to infuse patriarchal Catholicism into the seminary environment. I’m not really sure how that conclusion was reached based on the presentation I gave but then again logic and reason were probably considered “white supremacist“ on campus. Simply using the word “civility“ was considered racist. If that does not exemplify the soft bigotry of low expectations, I don’t know what does. And I suppose the part that amuses me the most is the fact that throughout this entire fiasco, my mentor and closest advisor on campus was a black Baptist professor—who I am still close with today—who was, at every stage of the game, flabbergasted by the charges lobbed against me. Of course the “wokesters” would call me racist for mentioning that, because in their world everything that they say is racist is de facto racist but this brings me back to my main point which is that the hierarchy of the ELCA, flawed as they may be theologically, is being held hostage. They no longer have any power because the small minority of individuals who openly brag about the fact that they are looking to dismantle everything, including orthodox theology, controls the narrative. If the presiding Bishop or other bishops say anything that the “wokesters” disagree with, they are swarmed upon and branded every negative thing under the sun. If those same bishops say nothing on an issue, they are charged with being complicit in bureaucratic and systemic white supremacy. So either way, the well-meaning bishops lose and the “wokesters” win at their own rigged game. By appealing to the court of secular public opinion, this small minority of heretical activist "pastors" are actively destroying the church from within and with great success.
During my time as a vicar at a rather conservative Long Island parish, I was repeatedly told that the needs of my parishioners, many of them law enforcement officers and firefighters, didn’t matter because they were part of the “systemic white oppressiveness” that the “wokesters” were trying to dismantle. It was my obligation, they would say, to “challenge” them and oppose their “racism.” I never saw any racism at this parish. I simply saw people who loved God and loved their neighbors. This was a parish that routinely filled the church for all three Sunday services—unlike the first parish I was initially assigned to in Philadelphia where we averaged around 11 people for the one service they held every Sunday, but hey, at least they were “woke” and “relevant.” I lasted for three weeks at that parish until a parishioner said he would no longer attend the parish if I was there because he saw something I wrote on social media about the possible connection between mental illness and gender dysphoria. No conversation took place about it, I was simply told that I needed to find a new placement because this individual “didn’t feel safe” around me. I never realized what a menacing, imposing individual I was. Nevertheless, the fact that the parish that is attracting hundreds of people every Sunday with their orthodoxy is viewed as a threat to these individuals—and the fact that this same parish has to largely insulate itself from the rest of the ELCA for fear of retaliation—is all you need to know about who is running the show.
Students who lean conservative or are at least moderate tend to stay silent and keep their heads down, which is shameful because these individuals are paying for the same education as everyone else and deserve to be able to participate in their own pastoral formation just like everyone else. The fact that they have to be afraid that anything they say which might be perceived as "offensive" (which in almost every case means they're upholding orthodox Christian teaching) is a disgrace. I know that the "woke" individuals read your blog, Dan, because it serves as conversational fodder fairly often on campus so I'm sure if any of my former classmates or their crony gurus read this, they'll have all kinds of snarky responses and defenses for their actions. They'll say I'm bitter and jaded and racist and all kinds of other things, but the fact is that they engage in deflection at every turn because they know exactly what they're doing. They are actively destroying the ELCA from within and they don't even try to hide it. These narcissistic activists are perfectly fine with seeing 3 million baptized Lutherans without a church in order to push their narrow-minded, heretical agenda of fabricating a Church of Christ without Christ, to reference Flannery O'Connor. They look to burn it all down yet they offer nothing of substance to replace it with, other than idealistic pipe dreams of egalitarian utopianism and yet, in reality, what they're really trying to do is seize power in order to become the oppressors that they seem to see in everyone else. They don't want equality; they simply want to control the narrative. I could go on and on but these are some of the highlights from my year at ULS.
Joseph M. Di Marius
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:11