Dictatorship of the Ecclesiatariat in Decorah


Posted: Thu, Mar 7, 2013 7:15 PM

Dr. Mark Hagerott, the finalist for the job of Luther College president, has issued this statement in the wake of his decision to withdraw his candidacy…see the rest the article here.


Luther College, Decorah, Iowa is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  A statement on their website declares they are dedicated to “liberal learning” which is not the same as liberal arts.   It was announced in the local newspapers that as of February 24th he was the single finalist to replace  President Richard Torgerson who had resigned after fourteen years in the position.

Dr. Hagerott is a Rhodes Scholar. He is  Professor of History of Science and Technology, Military/Naval History at the U. S. Naval Academy.  He has a Phd. in history.  He is a captain in the USN…see his vita here

Why did Dr. Hagerott withdraw his candicacy?  Was it some impropriety or scandal?  No.  He withdrew his candidacy because the accusation against him was quite simple.   Dr. Hagerott is a member of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and this disqualified him, not officially, but in the court of public opinion at Luther College and in the community.  This is the scandal.

From what I can reconstruct of a timeline, his candidacy for the position was first announced in January along with  another candidate, Dr. Ann Duin. It was announced on 23 February by the Luther College Board of Regents  that Dr. Hagerott was the choice. But by March 3rd, the local paper reported that the Board of Regents was requesting additional information for their now “preferred choice”.  They wanted some theological information because it was reported Dr. Hagerott is a member of the LCMS, from the article:

“For instance, LCMS is opposed to ordaining women, opposed to abortion in all cases, considers homosexuality sinful and believes in a literal translation of the Bible (http://www.lcms.org/belief-and-practice

Please note that “the literal translation (sic) of the Bible” should have come first because Scripture’s authority is the basis of their objections.  I maintain that they know the Scripture is the Word of God but the powers that be rage against the Word, foes who fear it, because it is true.

A student, in the Luther College newspaper, Chips, expressed his dismay at the prospect of a  Dr. Hagerott presidency at Luther, not only for  the reasons cited in the quote above but also for the LCMS’s teaching of closed communion.  From the student’s article:

It appears that Mark Hagerott, the recommended candidate for the presidency of our college, is a parishioner with the LCMS. I have no qualms with someone worshiping as a member of the LCMS. My aunt’s family is LCMS, and I have good friends with roots in the LCMS. But I do not believe that a member of the LCMS is a good fit for the presidency of this institution.

In the cursory inter-net researching on this, the student’s article was probably the tip of the iceberg.  Dr. Hagerott also failed for the presidency probably because he is white and male.   A candidate who is an African-American lesbian wins the trifecta of political correctness these days.

Why did Dr. Hagerott withdraw?  You can read his letter here. Crucial to his letter, and for this article is this:

“…as the presidential search matured, I realized a fundamental issue for Luther dating from 2009 had now emerged and became the only theme to be debated in the open press and one I did not anticipate:  a narrowing lens of theological affiliation. (And, for the record, I disclosed my denominational affiliations from the outset of the search. Moreover, I have for three decades been open and welcoming to other faiths, demonstrated over years of seagoing ship assignments and service with the Army in combat zones ashore, where I worshiped in interdenominational Protestant military services).

Despite my record, the debate as framed both in the college newspaper and in decorahnews.com became one sided, portraying a requirement for theological conformity.  Counterpoints were conspicuously absent.” (emphases my own)

I think Dr. Hagerott’s citation of 2009 refers to the August 21 decision of ELCA’s churchwide assembly to open “…ministry to partnered gay and lesbian Lutherans”.  Note that he puts the shoes of intolerance on the supposedly feet of the ‘tolerant’. It is a perfect fit.

It is way too easy at this juncture to start throwing brickbats at the personalities of the people involved and is inappropriate given the 8th Commandment.  Christian warfare is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and the principalities of this dark age, the work of the devil (Ephesians 6: 10-12).  So what is at work here? Yes, the devil but that begs the question: what is the devil’s work at play?

I find that Dr. Hagerott’s statement is quite educational, as per his vocation.  He uses phrases to describe what transpired that are ostensibly pejorative:  “narrowing”, “one sided”, “theological conformity” to describe a liberal, tolerant college   but aptly correct to what transpired for him and his family.  Yet, those phrases do not initially correspond to the adjectives “liberal” and “tolerant”.  Growing up the ’60s, if you had asked me, who is intolerant and repressive, I would have answered it is all those conservative “Archie Bunker” types, but with the unveiling of the zeitgeist within the churches and society  of a new liberalism, I realized that liberalism itself was fast becoming just as Dr. Hagerott described:  conformist, narrow and intolerant.

The events of the past two months at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, in the supposedly rock-ribbed Midwest, was the perfect storm involving three institutions:  church, media and academia. What interconnects the three?  Answer:  the zeitgeist, the powers and principalities. They can be described as dictatorial, and allow no other thought they deem to be “intolerant”, even though the people are rather vocal in claiming they are  loving, caring and inclusive Christians.  It reminds me of my brother-in-law’s insight:  Can you trust any wine that says how good it is on the label? As all who preach the Christian, this is the case.  What is that false spirit and powers?  I think the nature  of the  powers and principalities can be understood in three  interconnecting dictatorships:

The dictatorship of relativism/The dictatorship of tolerance/The dictatorship of  politics

  1. The dictatorship of relativism is not my  original phrase  with this article.  It is from a sermon Cardinal Ratzinger gave to the cardinals before he became Bishop of Rome.  It is quite apt:                                                                      “Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires”.                                                                                               The article by the Luther College student  is essentially autobiographical.  Personal anecdote rules.  It is all about my feelings, not about the reasonable revelation of truth in Law and Promise. He and his family have been swept along.  Yet, in the liberalism of today we are stuck at John 18:3 8,Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”.  Pilate had none, except power. The Roman Empire was tolerant towards all religions and viewpoints, except those that went against the polis/polity of the Empire and those religions which had the temerity to state there is only one God, which meant Judaism and Christianity. Christians were not persecuted and martyred for good deeds, but the good Creed:  Jesus Christ. In these days, in a similar fashion there are no absolutes and anyone who claims such is labeled “patriarchal”, “oppressive”, a “fundy”  and the like. This is aimed at the Bible as is clear in the reportage surrounding Dr. Hagerott’s candidacy.  Except as one ethics professor asked his supposedly relativistic freshmen: “Is it ever all right to take the handicap parking space or rape a woman?” (from an article from First Things).  As C. S. Lewis wrote that the man who says there is no right or wrong is usually the first one to cry out, That’s not fair! Clearly, there is moral law, right and wrong.  How else can you teach a child?  This dictatorship espouses…
  2. The dictatorship of tolerance which becomes the only virtue and aspiration left (the seven virtues are unheard of) but must denounce anyone who says there is absolute truth, absolute Law and the Savior who absolves, as intolerant, a fundamentalist!  It is a vicious circle:  no Law, no Savior. In the orthodox confessional Lutheran Church I can be a sinner, forgiven in Jesus, but in this dictatorship I can only be politically incorrect and need to “get my mind right”. The heretical circle is broken by…
  3. The dictatorship of politics espousing the group that rules wins and sets the rules.  This is not to be confused with democracy at all. It is pure power politics as the ELCA from the get-go which was institutionalized in the quota system.  It was to insure voting blocks of the politically correct/tolerant/relativistic, after dethroning Scripture as a “paper pope”, could then rule the unenlightened.  It is only about power, not authority, ruling not serving. This is not about inquisitive minds but an inquisition. This is tyranny.

These intersecting dictates were all in play as they are in media, politics, and denominations (Romans and Orthodox are infected as well) in Decorah. I heard a caller on a radio talk show say that today politics is religion and religion is politics.  The former engenders the latter. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote that when the Church  is pushed out of the public arena (even in a church college!) then the state will become the ‘church’ and the converse is also true:  the church becomes the  state, merely juridical, making the new rules and regs of the ‘enlightened spirituality’  of political action.  This is reminiscent of the Lord’s parable:  if we kill the owner of the vineyard’s son, then we can inherit the vineyard…then it will be ours, our vineyard, our kingdom, our church.  What a legal fiction! We are the “builders” (St. Luke 20: 17), the movers and shakers…But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
    “‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
(St. Luke 20: 17)

Sadly, the Lord said  it will crush them (St. Luke 20: 18). Jesus does not want anyone to die but live. Repent or perish is His Word we are called to preach.

P.S.  My favorite ‘preacher’ on the radio is  the ‘Rev. Billy Ray Collins’, on the radio program “John Boy and Billy Show, the Big Show” out of Charlotte, NC.  He said the other day: “Our minds are made up and our doors are always open.”  Settled minds and open doors are not at all mutually exclusive in Jesus Christ.



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