Monday, May 09, 2005

More Church Expulsions

On April 19, I posted about a church in Atlanta that expelled members for disagreeing about demolishing a historic building. I must have missed the article about a church in NC that expelled members for being Democrats. In an update, it seems the pastor of the church is backpedalling a little bit and there's a little backlash brewing in the congregation.
http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/0505/09church.html
By the way, this was not an anti-church piece or even an anti-East Waynesville Baptist Church piece. Just a reminder of the politically intolerant times we live in and possibly a foreshadowing of things to come, both bad (expulsions) and good (backlashes).

P.S. Hints in parentheses were there to clear confusion.

UPDATE 5/11/05: The pastor of this NC church has abruptly and unexpectedly resigned due to the backlash in the 100-congregant church. What makes this all the more amazing is the fact that undoubtedly nearly all of the members agree with the pastor with regard to abortion and gay marriage and the other hot-button topics of the day, yet still draw the line at political thuggery, even when it is aimed away from them. Maybe there's hope for the world after all.

19 comments:

Ben said...

I'm curious how you feel about Church/State seperation. Should politicians campaign from the pulpit? Should ministers advise their flocks whom to vote for?

sideshow bob said...

I think Scott's been pretty clear about that, Ben.

The idea of a church expelling people of trivial disagreements such as political affiliation, or differing opinions on preserving historic buildings runs counter to the whole idea of a religious community. In principle, church is a place where people of different backgrounds can come together to try to realize a way to a happier, more fulfilling life.

Politics and religion are really on two different levels, one is deep and personal and eternal (in theory, anyway), the other is impermanent and relatively superficial (in the grand scheme of things). Any attempt to mesh them is a flirtation with folly.

Mike said...

Interesting debate Scott, we'll see where you go with it. I hope you will also include cases where people of religion are discriminated against. For instance, high school kids not being allowed to pray after football games. I would just caution your readers not to judge all people on either side of the issue on the basis of the actions of a few.

canis lupus said...

Being a "struggling" Christian and Democrat (gasp!). I can help but laugh at this. Had I been one of those members that were expelled I would have taken it as a blessing. Obviously, this "church" is basing their belief structure on something different. In the Bible their is a story where Peter is meditating in an isolated area and God sends him various creatures to sustain him. He tells God that he can't eat certain creatures since they were termed "unclean". God reply was nothing that I've made should be looked upon as "unclean". This was to prepare Peter to spread the word to Gentiles (who was once considered as heathens or pagans or anyone non-Jewish). To exclude folks from the church based on political affiliations is like telling God that you've found some his creatures to be "unclean". More reason to walk away from such a church feeling less damned. It is not in the best interest of a minister to advise folks on whom to vote for. It should be left up the conscience of the individuals in the congregation. They should be encouraged to vote rather than whom to vote for. Secondly, politicians should not campaign from the pulpits. The church is meeting place where he hear the Word of God and meet others that apply the word of God to their daily living, and through their experience we learn how to approach our Christian journey. Yes, it is a very tough road to travel, and a lot of us stumble along the way. Render that which is of Caesar to Caesar and render that which is of God to God. Man cannot serve two masters. I mention these two phrases from the bible because they sum up a minister's duty. In other words keep your politics separate from your sermons. In the church the minister is supposed to uplift Holy Trinity, not political candidates. However, clergy and congregants, compelled by the word of God, can speak out against injustices and other immoral behaviour especially when it affects people in an adverse manner. Hope I didn't chase or isolate folks out there.

Mike said...

Well said, CL.

I remember back right after the election somebody (maybe Keith Oberman) asking Pat Robertson if Jesus was a republican. Robertson answered correctly and said, "I think Jesus is above politics."

Mike said...

Ok, at this point I have to object to something SS Bob said: "Church is a place where people of different backgrounds can come together to try to realize a way to a happier, more fulfilling life."

I would submit that this is an effect of going to church, but not the reason for going. The reason we go to church is because we are commanded to worship God in song and praise. Living a happier and more fulfilling life is an effect of having a relationship with God.

ORF said...

That NC story seems a little whack. Then again, I find it hard to believe that Dems would really share similar faith-based interests with a church that is evidently so far right. CL, I'm a little shocked at your first sentence because there are plenty of Democrats out there who are people of faith. It's not such an anomaly as you might think.

That said, churches are, if I'm not mistaken, allowed to be exclusionary if they so choose. However, it's kind of sad that they would bar certain people from coming in on such an arbitrary designation as political party (or sexual orientation). If churches allow convicted murderers to repent, why not Democrats?

Scott, take it from me, this topic is a total firestorm, so just be prepared...

The Indigent Blogger said...

I'm a Christian and even worse than a Democrat, I'm a progressive. People who do not attend church regularly almost always fail to realize there are about as many different flavors of Christian churches as there are Christians.

I went to a church four years ago that was still fully entrenched in the "name it-n-claim it" movement of the late 80s. The pastors and congregation also suffered from the deficiencies of that movement, namely a mildly militant focus on the superficial and outward appearances couched behind a "spirit of excellence". You church-goers know what I mean, a new-born Christian would step into the church and the dripping would start: "quit smoking", "no alcohol", "don't wear jeans to church".

That church is still going, but not doing well. I suspect churches that ex-communicate members for their political party registration aren't going to last long. By the way, the mormons will ex-communicate you for not paying your tithe.

Personally, I think the Christ's church is going through another wave of change, this time involving tolerance. The church I go to now is growing by leaps and bounds, not because it has watered down the Word of God, but because the message from the pulpit and the congregation (for the most-part) is one of tolerance. It is basically don't wait until your life is suitable to come to God and church, just come fellowship with us, establish a personal relationship with God, and let Him worry about your life. We'll just love you.

Mike said...

My wife and I just started going to a new church. It is much more contemporary than we're used to. We love the preaching. It is very friendly towards new christians. They preach about not judging others, loving one another and such. So far I have yet to hear the words, "filibuster", "abortion", or "judicial nominations". This Sunday was a great sermon on Mothers. I was listening to see if the pastor was going to endorse stay at home moms and home schooling. He did a good job of staying nuetral. The closest he came was listing all the things moms do like work, cleaning, cooking, raising kids, and he said the most important jobs moms have is raising their children. I think I agree.

Scott said...

You may be surprised, but I'm really not against a church or synagogue espousing "political" thought or staking a position in politics. It is, after all, the church's role to interpret religion to fit mundane daily life, and what's more mundane than politics?
But I also feel it's absolutely wrong to be exclusionary based on politics. Politics are so complex that only people with an agenda boil it down to single issues. Churches that railed against Kerry for not being strongly against gay marriage simply ignored other facets of his character. I have no problem with them looking through all the issues and making recommendations based on all the places where religion and politics met. To me, those churches used religion to further their agenda instead of letting religion lead them. Congregants trust their church leaders to be their moral signpost, if you will, and certain churches abuse that trust. Most are balanced and impartial, like Mike says his new church is. They may say gay marriage is wrong, for example, but it won't choose for you which is more important, that or feeding the poor. That will have to be up to you and your conscience.
And Mike, it's irrelevant to make prayers at football games a prerequisite to this topic. There are many injustices in the world, but you have to start somewhere, and this is just where I chose to start. I have plenty of experience with religious discrimination and insensitivity, but since I've never witnessed people being told not to pray (usually I witness the opposite), I'm probably not the person to discuss it.

sideshow bob said...

Mike, I suppose I was using the word "church" in a more generic or universal way. I meant any religious congregation, whether church, temple, synagogue, sangha, what-have-you, etc. And I meant that people of different backgrounds (i.e. families, neighborhoods, etc.) gather together in these places and find something that they have in common that unites them and makes them better and more compassionate people, rather than focusing on what differences they have. I guess, in my opinion, that is one of the most important functions of these institutions, from my outsider's view, anyway. Sorry for the confusion.

Mike said...

No offense taken, Bob. But again, I think you're missing the point of church (temple, synagogue, mosque, what-have-you). From an insiders view, people go to church to worship God. Period. We don't go to organize anti-abortion protests. We don't go to find out who we're supposed to vote for. We don't go to be told how respond to people who question our views. We don't go to have a good time. If we wanted a little organization where they can get together and have a good time we would throw a block party. I think what you are seeing (compassion, a happier way of living, a more fulfilling life) is an after-effect of knowing a God who loves and provides for us. There is something peaceful about recognizing there is an all-knowing being and being certain about your fate at the end of this life. To say churches are these nice little places where people can go to feel good takes away from the real reason we are there.

sideshow bob said...

I think we're arguing the same point, Mike. We're both saying, I think, that church (or whatever) is a place for deep, spiritual purposes, not a place where politics, or anyother topic not having to do with salvation (or enlightenment, etc.) for that matter, should be debated or instructed; a church (or whatever) should be on a higher plain than that.
When I mention "happiness", I'm not talking pennywhistles and lollipops and puppydogs and group hugs; I'm talking about true happiness, consisting of knowing the love and awesome power of God, or experiencing sahmadhi, or doing whatever it is that Jewish people aspire to (little help, Scott?).

Scott said...

Oh man, SSB - that's a pretty deep question. I think Jews just try to be good people, to follow the laws as best they can. Judaism has no set of beliefs or dogma that must be followed - the rules are about actions only. There are 613 laws from the Torah, in addition to rules set by the rabbis as "fences around the law" and in addition to customs which have become nearly as strong as law.
Synagogues are meeting places. They are called "Beit Knesset" or "House of Assembly". They exist because one of the rules of Judaism is to pray in a group of people and not to do it alone. They also serve a multitude of other functions which are secondary.
They're not really supposed to be places of indoctrination, but of prayer and learning, so you'll probably find that many Jews would be appalled if their Synagogue started giving what's considered political advice. There's no single entity over Judaism, and Jewish law is continually debated and examined and changed in what could be called grass-roots movements, although not very often, as the practices are very similar to those of 3,000 years ago. One prayer we typically sing to the tune of a 17th century German drinking song - someone tried it out 400 years ago and it stuck. There are only a few rules governing the Passover dinner, or seder. But the book we use has been virtually unchanged (verbatim) since the 12th century. No other version has been deemed better... yet. Things happen like that.

Checkout JewFAQ if you're curious.

sideshow bob said...

Sammy Davis Jr. was right. Jews are the swingin'-est people on the planet. Thank you for the info...I will absolutely check it out.

Ben said...

I don't remember ever getting any political urging in my synagogue. Certainly some political talk during a sermon here and there, but mostly it was non-partisan and related just to what the Talmud (a compendium of generally agreed on guidelines for being a good Jew) might happen to say about a situation. The exception being Israel, any Temple I've been to is pro-Israel. I understand why the majority of American Jews have always been liberal, but I don't understand why so many still are. Especially with all the anti-Israel talk coming from the left, you'd think more would be disgusted like me, and move right, or at least more center. I really don't understand why any Jew would be socialist, considering that Hollywood, science, big business, and so many other individualistic indutries are so dominated by Jews. No one, including George Soros (one of the world's biggest hypocrites), ever got to be rich by being socialist. Someone who really believes in and follows socialism can not get rich, right? But if you ask Soros, he would tell you capitalism is evil. I agree that capitalism is evil if you are a hypocrite about it, talking "for the good of man" while trying to destroy the British eocnomy and send millions to the poor house.

Mike said...

I hope you will tell the rest of the story now.

Mike said...

I saw on the news yesterday that this pastor has been removed from the church for his actions. Lest anyone think the church sanctions this type of discrimination.

Scott said...

Mike, look at the update I posted on the original post. I included a link to the article. He actually quit unexpectedly - he was not puched out. But there was a controversy brewing within the church.