Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Tale of Two Churches

Baptist? No, Republican. Democrat? No, Baptist.

"A church has no right to make anything a condition of membership which Christ has not made a condition of salvation." A. A. Hodge

A radical Republican minister in North Carolina put himself front and center in the Politics Vs Religion debate. He told his Baptist congregation just before last year's presidential election, "...if you vote for John Kerry this year you need to repent or resign. You have been holding back God's church way too long." Then he ousted church members who disagreed with him.

Turmoil ensued. Even his opponents agree he was a dedicated and vigorous minister, if badly misguided. "He was energizing [church members]," their lawyer said, "but he was not energizing them with religion, he was energizing them with hate."

He could have preached sin. Or hell. And he should have preached forgiveness. Understanding. Love. But lordy, lordy, why do clergy members with impassioned political views have to turn them into hate-filled rants?

Now he's resigned, along with like-minded Republican church members, leaving behind a confused congregation of mostly Democrats. To those still there, the temporary guest pastor said, "It's time to quit taking sides. The only side here that's worth anything is the side of Jesus."

I'm a Jewish person, not a Jesus person. But hearing those particular words in that particular situation, from a Christian minister in a Baptist church, I am compelled to add: Amen!

Hosanas? No, Horrors.

"For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel." Martin Luther

What is it about the South? Dateline Louisiana this time.

A pastor, his wife, six church members and a deputy sheriff have been arrested and charged with abusing children and animals. They targeted kids, from toddlers to teenagers, in what was described as a cult-like sex ring. Don't even ask about the animals.

From what I can understand, this is a fairly small Holy Roller church. The confessed pedophile's father was once the pastor. By all accounts a good man. When the son took over the post, he fired his mother as church secretary. And started having sex with the church's children.

Last week, he walked into the local sherrif's office and confessed. "I don't really know what motivated him," said the parish's Detective Supervisor.

Guilt? Let's hope so. But too little, too late.

There's a special place in Hell for a clergyman like that. Or, he can join the Catholic church and get off scot free.

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