Soapbox Warning

You’ve been warned. The following is a release of disappointment and anger at something that transpired at church today. I purposely (and sometimes awkwardly) withheld names because I really just want to vent; not make personal attacks.

Our family attends church at a wonderful, exciting congregation. We’ve been there about a year and a half now and are really pleased with the atmosphere and especially the dedication to the children that many of the members share. Also, the singing is awesome. We’ve been without a preacher for a few months, and we are looking forward to our new ministering family, who will be here this week. Next Sunday will be our new preacher’s first Sunday with us. In the interim, we’ve had members from the congregation and a few visiting speakers handle the sermon part of the Sunday morning services.

Today we had a visitor at church with us: Chris’s best friend of 32 years. Our lesson today was given by a member who suggested we needed to get back to preaching “Bible and morality.” I’m all for Bible and morality. Really. However, the speaker proceeded to insult Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, the women’s rights movement, and those who wish to be ‘politically correct.’ Very, very unfortunately, Chris’s best friend attends the church where Joel Osteen ministers. We were embarrassed and needless to say, Chris’s friend was insulted. The lesson just further cemented our friend’s reasons why he doesn’t wish to associate with our particular brand of Christianity.

I have several issues with today’s lesson that I just need to get off my chest. One issue is the speaker’s obvious contempt for the equal rights movement. He stated he was against the ERA in the 70s and went to rallies to demonstrate against passage of the ERA. He called it “garbage.” I almost walked out of services — I was that offended. That’s fine for him — that’s his choice and his belief, but it was NOT appropriate for a Bible lesson where visitors are subjected to listen to it and not be able to respond. In fact, I believe equal rights movement is very Biblical and moral. Jesus gave us several examples where He treated women and children with respect and dignity. Women are not second class citizens, and I think the New Testament tries to show us that. It’s a shame that 2000 years later we are still debating equality. The speaker’s problem with equal rights seemed to stem from the fear of unisex bathrooms and drafting women into the service. I’m not sure that is the point of the equal rights movement.

Another issue is the speaker’s disdain for those of us who sin. He gave this example: he knew another church member who “fornicated” (his word) with a girl and ended up “having to” marry her (aka they had a kid). Eventually, they had marriage troubles and were headed toward divorce. The speaker said he didn’t know how someone could be raised in Christianity and listen to the Bible growing up and then “fornicate” and mess up his life like that. Here’s the answer: Everyone sins. Not everyone has the level of self-control that the speaker obviously possesses. Sometimes lapses in judgment alter our lives and those of others forever. The poor guy made a mistake and was paying a heavy price. When you make a statement like the speaker did today, you have lost touch with the human aspect of mankind and I think one is in grave danger of being “too good” for his own good. Remember the plank in your own life before you go pointing out specks in others’ lives.

Another issue is the speaker’s statements alluding to Billy Graham and Joel Osteen and others who do not preach exactly what the speaker believes. He said they didn’t know their Bible. While I may not believe everything these men believe, saying that they do not know the Bible is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. Billy Graham can probably quote hours and hours of scripture. Not only can he quote the Bible, he studied it. I believe these people have the right heart and are dedicated servants of God. We may see things differently, but that’s because we are human. If we all saw things the same way, we’d be robots. We all come from different experiences, different families, different educational backgrounds, different cultures and that is what makes us special and human. If God wanted robots, he would have created robots.

I understand the reason the speaker chose his topic. Grace and law are often difficult concepts to balance. One one hand, a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” is easy — you know where you stand completely by your actions. If you follow the list, you’re OK. If not, then you’re in trouble. On the other hand, “grace” is actually a scary concept when you think about it — there’s no measuring system, no one grading your performance. The problem is, God wanted to free us with grace and we keep running back to the law. (I’m not saying rules are not important — of course they’re important, but they should not supplant grace. And that’s another topic for another time.)

I have never been comfortable with subscribing to the list of do’s and don’ts. Even as a teenager it bothered me; I have known a few of those people. The list is dangerous. For one thing, if you only follow the list mentality, it’s not love for God that makes you obey; it’s fear of failure. Another thing, it opens the door for fingerpointing and holier-than-thou attitudes, which quite frankly, are sinful. In this environment, it’s really difficult to be caught in a sin and seek forgiveness if everyone else is “perfect.” I have witnessed people sin and never return to church because of the reception they would have gotten from the members (frosty, at best).

I am suspicious of the speaker’s motivation for his lesson today. He spoke requesting more “hell fire and brimstone” type lessons, which makes me think a few things:
1) He believes that our new minister will preach “politically correct” lessons and be all warm and fuzzy and not preach what the speaker believes we ‘need’ to hear.
2) The speaker took the opportunity on a Sunday morning ‘captive’ audience to air his personal beliefs in the guise of “Biblical and moral” teaching. These personal beliefs should have been expressed in a class where others can respond or in a debate or just plain kept to himself.
3) The speaker insulated himself from criticism of his lesson by stating we need to hear more lessons that people don’t want to hear — which would most likely be his response to any criticism of his lesson (i.e., I was insulted, so I was one of the ones who needed to hear the lesson).

I left off names in an effort not to stir up trouble. I really don’t want to do that. I’ve been in trouble for this blog before, and it is not my intent to stir up the hornet’s nest. Writing gives me great joy and relief in most cases and is actually helping me grow. However, this is my blog, these are my thoughts and writing is my way of sorting out my thoughts and feelings. The key word is “my.” Everyone should think for themselves. God gave you a brain; so use it and study.

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One Response

  1. i couldn’t agree more. thanks for saying it in a way (and a forum) that is appropriate.

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