Madly, deeply

May 30, 2008

Are you going to be disappointed with me over my disappointment at Hillary Clinton’s disappointment that Barack Obama didn’t flatly reject Father Phleger’s comments and instead only said he was “deeply disappointed” by the pastor’s remarks? After all, the priest now says he is “deeply sorry” if his remarks offended anyone. Here’s CNN showing the video and “analyzing” whether it matters. I’m deeply sorry if you think I shouldn’t be bringing this up, so let me apologize ahead of time.


2 Responses to “Madly, deeply”

  1. Dawn W Says:

    Have they ever thought of actually teaching, say…the BIBLE at this supposedly Christian church?! Where I come from pastors do so & don’t curse in the pulpit or out.

  2. Harl Delos Says:

    Dawn, if your church believes in teaching the Bible, you apparently come from a fundamentalist tradition.

    Mainline Christian denominations consider the Bible to be sacred but not inerrant. When they have questions, they don’t turn to the Bible for answers, but instead turn to God. Instead of teaching the Bible, they teach that one who accepts the grace of God needs to live a life which is pleasing to the Lord.

    The United Church of Christ is one of the “seven sisters” of Mainline Christianity. The others are the American Baptist Churches USA (but not the Southern Baptist Convention), the Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (but not Missouri Synod Lutheran), the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Methodist Church.

    There are scads of smaller denominations whose beliefs align with Mainline Christianity.

    When I attended the University of Dayton (which is owned by the Society of Mary) as a Methodist, I discovered that there’s considerably more diversity within the Roman Catholic church than within all the major flavors of Protestantism, but that most of the RC church was far more similar to the Mainline, rather than to the Fundamentalist branches of protestant christianity.

    I had been listening to Trinity’s broadcasts – they’re on DirecTV – but I stopped a couple of weeks ago, so I haven’t heard *all* of Father Michael Pfleger’s sermon, but it appeared to me that he was saying that we’re all equal in God’s eyes, and it’s a mistake to think we’re entitled, more so that others.

    When I’ve attended fundamentalist churches, the sermons seemed to assert that those attending are like members of God’s elite country club, because they don’t tolerate gays, illegal immigrants, etc., that God has a special place in his heart for Americans, and that marriage is, as it always has been, a union of one man and one woman of the same race. Whups. Forgot. They omit that “of the last race” part these days.

    That’s an awfully nasty paragraph, and I’m sorry about that. I really don’t mean to be nasty, but I have a hard time finding value in Fundamental Christianity. I’ve talked to God about this a number of times, though, and She says I need to try harder, because we’re all Her children, even those friends of mine who worship the Bible instead of God. Some people have a harder time with “no graven image” than others, She says, and She’s willing to forgive those who are doing their best, as many Fundamentalists quite obviously are.

    In the mainline protestant churches and in RC services I’ve attended, the sermons usually started with the assumption that we’ve all come short of the glory of god, but that we can do better if we try, so they’re about trying to live the life that God wants for us. And they quite often point out that you don’t go to church on Sunday morning to get a booster shot against damnation; you attend on Sunday to help you live the rest of the week.

    The other difference between fundamentalist churches and mainline churches is that most mainline churches typically have clergy who study for the ministry after making their way in the secular world for 10-20 years. They often learn to read greek and hebrew so they can study the bible in the original languages, and study noncanonical texts, such as the Gospel of Mary, the infancy gospel of Thomas, Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews”, etc. The fundamentalist minister typically has less secular life experience, often entering the ministry in his twenties or even earlier, and typically has an education that’s fairly narrow in scope. “Focused” might be a more politic term for that.

    Barry called Father Phleger’s comments “divisive” and I agree they are, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t quite entertaining. If you want a message to sink in, you need to make it memorable.

    And if you’re preaching in church, you damned well offend some people, because they need to straighten up and fly right. The whole point of the sermon is to help us avoid damnation, isn’t it?

    God’s requirements are fairly easy to meet, but they are also very direct. There’s no commandment against lying for instance, but bearing false witness – perjury – is expressly forbidden. There’s no commandment against fornication but adultery – violating your marital vows – is flat out prohibited.

    You may have noticed that I use hyperbole, exaggeration, and sarcasm to make points in my posts, just as Father Phleger and Doctor Wright do in their sermons. If you think about it, though, Jesus also used powerful oratory skills, posing rhetorical questions and using parables to illustrate his points.

    And he offended some people, too. That’s why they nailed him to a cross. (Luckily, I’ve escaped that fate so far.)

    If your faith works for you, Dawn, cling to it. (We sing that we shall “cling to the old rugged cross”, so I don’t see “clinging” as negative; feel free to substitute another verb if you want.) You need to exercise your faith a lot in order to build a faith sustains you in time of crisis, and anyone who interferes with your relationship with your Creator is no friend of yours.

    But it wouldn’t hurt to learn why others believe as they do. The United Church of Christ has a nice website at that explains their church. God is still speaking, they say; they quote Gracie Allen as saying “Don’t let anyone put a period where God has placed a comma”.

    These aren’t evil people, Dawn. They may be doing things differently than you’re comfortable with, but I believe they’re doing the Lord’s work. “In my father’s house are many rooms.”

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