Even before the fictional Elmer Gantry men of the cloth have tumbled from their high places beyond the altars whenever daylight exposed their secret lives. Last week Rev. Matthew Makela of St. John’s Lutheran church in Midland, Michigan, was forced to resign after Queerty.com posted screen shots of him from Grindr, a social app for homosexual men. Makela, an associate pastor, is married with five children, so his hypocrisy will likely cause serious and long term pain and suffering in his immediate household even if his congregation ultimately welcomes him back after a proper period of penitence. And according to his pastor, Makela is currently repentant so this period has already been completed. Over and done with. It’s on to forgiveness. That power to forgive is obviously a mighty thing to wield by a congregation that has silently accepted Makela’s past disparagement of homosexuals and transgenders. Read a full account HERE.
Rev. Makela joins the somewhat steady stream of public clergy whose exposed private lives are similar to the ones they rail against from their pulpits. Collectively they are the religious hypocrites, as opposed to our colorful political hypocrites of whom we’ve come to expect this sort of thing. The Swaggarts, Haggards, Alamos, and numerous Catholic priests, among many others, who have exercised religious and political influence based on a conflation of pastoral power with political power and have urged support for politicians and laws that regulate humans’ private adult behavior and delegitimize people because of their sexuality.
There is no delight in passing along this story because Makela and his family have an uncertain and no doubt painful future. But there is an instructive aspect to it that calls out for consideration: The religious community might do well to concentrate on ministering to the poor, the troubled, the ignorant, and the dying. In other words, providing those charitable activities that were the basis for all churches’ tax exempt status. They should leave political issues for their congregants to address, each one for himself, and to vote on accordingly without pressure from the pulpit. The Constitution is clear about our government not imposing any form of religion and the Bible is clear about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. The separation between church and state must be maintained despite many churches’ seeming belief that the Moral Majority’s significant contribution to electing Ronald Reagan 35 years ago somehow secured a lifetime license to call the plays on social issues involved in the nation’s governance.
That Rev. Makela preached the right wing religious line about the LGBT community publicly and simultaneously entered a homosexual online social site suggests that he is very much at war with himself, something he can work out once he sheds the need for political posturing. Pastor Daniel Kempin of St. John’s in Midland has rightly asked his congregation to support Makela and his family throughout the coming days. Supporting others during a crisis seems a Christian thing to do. Perhaps over time Rev. Makela will find the strength to be who he is and not disparage others for being who they are.