NSFW: Here’s a video from Old Nick’s Pub, the Eugene, Oregon, venue that’s hosting a child drag show this weekend, featuring a performance by an 11-year-old child and free admission for “kids 10 and under.”— Christopher F. Rufo ?? (@realchrisrufo) October 21, 2022
When people tell you who they are, believe them.pic.twitter.com/LiFmFaLrfR
I know we on the right probably use the word satanic too often but this peformance from Sam Smith is literally a tribute to Satan. pic.twitter.com/1GrNgjssZN— Ben Kew ????? (@ben_kew) February 6, 2023
Putin: Western elites are false prophets trying to force humanity onto the path of outright satanism. pic.twitter.com/aqd33W89eX— Putin Direct (@PutinDirect) October 2, 2022
Only one major denomination has grown in the last 20 years – the Assemblies of God.— Ryan Burge ? (@ryanburge) February 26, 2023
They also happen to be one of the most politically conservative religious tradition in the United States.
Note just how liberal atheists are – 42% are very liberal. No one else comes close. pic.twitter.com/IIGCdZRsqf
Here’s how 33 religious traditions voted in the last four presidential elections.— Ryan Burge ? (@ryanburge) February 28, 2023
Assemblies of God is the most Republican (~75% for Trump).
Atheists are the least (~15% for Trump).
But note how little movement occurs election to election. Catholics have barely budged. pic.twitter.com/rNrZGNXYve
The most educated religious group in the United States is Jews. 2/3 of Reform Jews have a college degree.— Ryan Burge ? (@ryanburge) March 5, 2023
The least educated are Pentecostal flavors of Protestants.
32% of Mormons have a college degree, so do 61% of Hindus and 46% of atheists. pic.twitter.com/4PFPVXv6Pc
James C. Burkee, Power, Politics and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity
In recent years, American culture has taken a hard Satanic turn to the point where outright public celebrations of Satanism have entered the mainstream. Naturally, this has stirred many of us who are socially conservative and deeply opposed to these cultural trends, but who in the past have infrequently attended our churches to become more religious. In a time when drag queens are performing in churches, “trans” pastors are being ordained and children are being encouraged to mutilate their genitals, we can see and feel the very ground of our faith shaking beneath our feet.
At least in my case, I was looking at all of this and decided that this year we ought to start going to church more often and get more serious about our faith. I honestly didn’t know how else to respond. This is how we found ourselves in the present firestorm in LCMS. We began to hear that LCMS was going woke. We heard about Corey Mahler and the Stone Choir podcast. We watched in horror as Mahler was publicly condemned by the president of LCMS and banned from his church by the police.
This all happened over the span of a few weeks. It was the growth of outright Satanism in our culture which had spurred us to go to church. We went to church only to discover that a bunch of woke pastors in LCMS on Twitter considered us to be “evil” and “Satanic.” These people were publicly following multiple Antifa accounts and were openly working with Antifa to launch witch hunts to purge LCMS of “racists.” As they say, they are trying to “do better” by excommunicating the “racists” from LCMS. It is the same behavior that we see elsewhere from these people, but this time inside a church.
In the past, I had never paid much attention to church politics like 99% of other people who go to church on Sunday. LCMS has a public reputation for being the sane, conservative Lutheran Church. The overwhelming majority of LCMS members are conservative Trump supporters and a huge swath of the church has Christian nationalist views which are indistinguishable from my own. Thus, it was a shocking revelation to see how closely President Matthew Harrison, multiple LCMS pastors and LCMS leadership openly work with Antifa blogs and Marxist groups like “Lutherans for Racial Justice.”
Maybe I had been misinformed?
Maybe I had the wrong impression of this institution?
In 2013, I had married into an LCMS family. My father-in-law was a devout conservative Lutheran who was active in his church for years. I was already on the road to becoming a Lutheran long before I met my wife. It was studying Luther himself and the Lutheran Confessions and the history of the Reformation that attracted me and brought me into the faith. In my youth, I had been alienated from Christianity by the sort of people who publicly represent Christianity in our own times. Whether it was the “Judeo-Christianity” or the Prosperity Gospel of the George W. Bush era, I was repulsed by it. I only got over it after I began to see these people for what they are which is products of their own time and culture. Historic Christianity isn’t Dispensationalism or ELCA churches with ordained women and drag queen performances.
Still though, I never looked too closely into the history of LCMS. I didn’t see any reason too. From what I knew, the founder of LCMS, C.F.W. Walther, was a proud Missourian who hated communism and who denied that slavery was a sin. He supported states’ rights and protested having to “swallow the dog” and sign a loyalty oath to the Union after the War Between the States. The church itself was racially segregated for a century. It was originally a German-speaking ethnic church for German Lutherans which refused for a while to incorporate what is now the English District. It had Negro missions in the South. The Gospel was spread to blacks who formed their own congregations. It was no different than black Baptist or Methodist churches in the South. “Love thy neighbor” wasn’t interpreted to literally mean supporting miscegenation or communism. The LCMS refused to perform interracial marriages in all the states where the practice was banned for over a century. Miscegenation was considered abhorrent inside the church until the 1980s. No one was excommunicated for the “sins” of racism” or “white supremacy” which were unknown at the time. On the contrary, LCMS segregationists served at all levels of government, especially in Missouri. The LCMS didn’t condemn “racism” during the Civil War, Reconstruction era or the Jim Crow era.
The church that President Matthew Harrison describes and the “sins” of racism, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy DID NOT EXIST a century ago. How did the church of C.F.W. Walther and John Behnken evolve into the church of Matthew Harrison? Why do Matthew Harrison’s views on race and sex contradict those of his predecessors which have more in common with the “alt-right”?
This is what led me to James C. Burkee’s book Power, Politics and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity. The book is about the “Battle of the Bible” that culminated in a split between liberals and conservatives in the LCMS in the early 1970s. It isn’t specifically about the history of race inside the LCMS, but it does offer a window into what was going inside the LCMS during this turbulent transition period between the 1940s and the 1980s. Burkee’s thesis is essentially that a secretive conservative cabal led by Herman Otten (pictured above) and Jack Preus who was elected LCMS president in 1969 rode a wave of reaction to purge liberals from LCMS in 1974. In the decades that followed the Seminex period, American Lutheranism became more polarized as liberals found a home in the ELCA and conservatives found a home in the LCMS and WELS. Hence, the conservative reputation of LCMS and the liberal reputation of ELCA, which is more or less an accurate stereotype.
I’m not well versed enough in the details of the Otten-Preus purge of LCMS to comment on the matter. The facts are hotly disputed. There are still people who are trying to settle old scores over what happened back then decades later. The basic outlines of LCMS history though are still clear enough in Burkee’s narrative. When FDR was president, theological liberals took over LCMS and dominated the Synod until 1969. Jack Preus rode a wave of conservative reaction to become president of LCMS in 1969. There was a split in the Synod in 1974. Conservatives have dominated the Synod ever since. There was also a major falling out between Otten and Preus. Herman Otten, the publisher of Christian News, was blackballed and was a thorn in the side of LCMS for over half a century until his death in 2019.
Overall, the overwhelming impression that I got from Burkee’s book was that the history of LCMS mirrors the broad strokes of recent American history. Liberals dominated LCMS when the New Deal coalition was ascendant and lost power in the same wave of conservative reaction that ended it during the Nixon presidency. LCMS simply followed the Truman administration on integration and the Supreme Court after the Brown decision. In the 1960s, liberal activists pushed the same agenda both inside the church and in American politics by supporting the Civil Rights Movement. Before he became a Catholic neoconservative and the founder of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus claimed that he had helped push through a revolution in LCMS during the 1960s. John Behnken and key leaders of his generation were disillusioned with the young liberals who had taken over Concordia Seminary in the 1960s.
Conservatives came to power in LCMS in the 1970s. They were as ineffective in changing the direction of the Synod as they have been in American politics since the Reagan era. They blacklisted men like Herman Otten for “racism” and “Holocaust Denial.” They condemned Martin Luther himself for “anti-Semitism” in 1983. While the LCMS dialed back the aggressive Social Gospel activism and messaging after the split with liberals in the early 1970s, the seminaries were still full of yet another rising generation of young liberals who were heavily influenced by the latest trends of contemporary American culture. The LCMS continued to pass resolution after resolution denouncing “racism” at its various conventions in the 1980s and 1990s. In our own times, this inability to control and wield power inside institutions has produced a president and a generation of woke pastors who are now using Twitter to organize witch hunts to purge “racists” from the Synod. They are wielding power in unprecedented ways.
After reading this book, I now see that this isn’t anything new. Church politics has always been this Machiavellian in the Synod. A generation of liberals came up through the seminaries in the 1940s and 1950s. They seized power inside the Synod and became a mouthpiece for the Civil Rights Movement. It led to a cultural rift with the laity and a conservative reaction. Triumphant conservatives failed to purge the seminaries. The cycle is repeating itself as young liberals come up through the seminaries again and reinterpret church doctrine to conform to all the latest fads of our own times.
At the end of the day, a church is just another institution. It is full of people who inherit a tradition from the past, but who are influenced by the culture around them and the circumstances of their own time. The institution is also only as good as the men who control the institution. This kind of corruption is a perennial problem in the history of the church and really all institutions. It is not unique to the LCMS. The same problems can be found in all institutions in our society which is obsessed with “racism.”
I’m not sure what can be done about this drift. We can learn something though from Herman Otten’s pyrrhic victory over it in the 1970s.