Sunday, March 07, 2010

More wishy-washiness from the Presbyterians

My family and I attend a local Presbyterian church, and I am rarely at a loss for happenings there that make my tongue cluck.

One of my biggest pet peeves would be the non-offensive and squishy sermons given by our two pastors in which they seem to tie themselves into rhetorical pretzels in an attempt to be all things to all people and not offend either side of our politically balkanized congregation. When a stand is actually taken, it has always fallen on the left side of the political spectrum; especially when it comes to extolling the virtues of Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and the other movers and shakers in the so-called Social Gospel movement, which calls for using the coercive power of government to carry out the wishes of God and Jesus.

The weekly sermon is almost always based upon a short scripture reading that is seemingly picked at random from either the Old or New Testament. The scripture is read, then the message of the sermon is based on that scripture. Rarely is anything beyond a personal anecdote used as a current example or illustration of the scripture being discussed in the sermon. Current events at the state, national, or international level are almost never mentioned; especially if the event is anything that might be considered controversial.

Today, I found out that sometimes, even the scripture itself can be excised of controversy as well.

Our pastor read from the 63rd Psalm this morning. Here is the part he read to the congregation:

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

And then he stopped and began his sermon based on what you just read. What you just read sounds so nice and sweet: I will lift my hands in your name, oh God; I thirst for your love; Your right hand upholds me. Doesn't that all sound so non-offensive in a Kumbayah sort of way? The problem is that our pastor didn't read the entire Psalm. He skipped the last three verses. Read them and take a guess as to why:

9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.

10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

If you are a Christian who thinks that God should be some sort of all-loving pacifistic camp counselor who does nothing but boost your self-esteem with His everlasting love, then verses 9, 10, and 11 of the 63rd Psalm would be a real buzzkill. These verses show the other side of God; a side that is just as essential as the one that loves you.

In today's mainline Protestant churches, God is no longer the Supreme Being of the Universe like the days of old, where His wrath and judgement came crashing down upon you if you broke His laws and got out of line. Now, God is your non-judgmental buddy and personal cheerleader who only has wonderful things to say about you, no matter what kind of sinner you are. In effect, today's mainline churches have emasculated God. He has become all carrot and no stick. That becomes all too evident when the "stick" portion of the 63rd Psalm was struck from existence in today's sermon in a fashion that would make Orwell shudder.

All you have to do is ask yourself if our lives and our society are based on all carrot and no stick. If you commit an injurious crime, are you sent to a loving and forgiving prison? Many of the pathologies in our society have arisen in a time when we have abandoned our fear of God, and instead, the only wrath that exists is from our police and legal systems. Would it not be easier to start at the source and worry about God's wrath instead?

We are supposed to be a - yes, I will say it - God-fearing people who respect God's judgment enough to take it upon ourselves to behave and do the right thing. John Adams said it best when he stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." In other words, the fear of earthly authority will never be as effective in keeping the peace as the fear of Heavenly authority.

Now, why is it that I have to point this out instead of the two seminary-trained pastors at my church?

Good Day to You, Sir

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