Thursday, June 16, 2016

a dying art

Today, while perusing Facebook, a friend had posted a link to a story about a Baptist minister who was telling his congregation that the shootings in Orlando this past weekend were a good thing.

 Here's that story- please watch the video for context.

I have many, many friends that I love dearly that are atheists and agnostics.  Some of these friends are even a little hostile where the church is concerned, and I try very hard to assure them that 99.9% of Christians are not the hate-filled, hyper-judgemental jerks that the media would have them believe they are.  This guy makes that job even harder.  Having said that, it is to my agnostic/atheist friends that I write this blog entry- if you are a Believer, this might not interest you all that much.

For some strange reason, the Christian church has created a lot of terms for things that seem to require a ton of research in order to fully understand.  As an atheist or agnostic, this probably fuels your fire as there really isn't much of a reason for you to do that research.  Surprisingly, as a Christian, I actually agree with you on that- it just shouldn't be that difficult and a lot of it is total nonsense.  It seems like as soon as you've drawn a bead on one groups beliefs, something else comes along and negates everything, and confusion reigns supreme.  This kind of story comes along, and all of the sudden you get the idea that since this is a "Baptist" church, it's like the Baptist church that is on your nearest street corner, so that means that all Baptist churches will be in agreement with the "pastor" in this story.

I want to assure you that I completely and totally understand why you might think that.  I also want to assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth.  Or, let me put it another way: this "pastor" no more represents Christianity than the Islamic extremists represent Islam as a whole.

But, I digress.

The media, in it's absolutely relentless attack on "hateful Christians" has done you a vast disservice here.  I know you have heard that kind of statement before from Christians about an attack on our faith, but that doesn't change the truth of the matter.  It is happening, but it isn't due to Starbucks Christmas cups or anything like that- this is real, and this story is proof of that.  Since this "church" calls themselves a ""Baptist church", the media- who did no homework on the topic at all- has tried to lump this group into the well of the Baptist denomination, and some will immediately jump to the conclusion that all "Baptist churches" fall in line with this group.  I do not blame you for thinking that.  In order to discern what is truly real, we have to embrace some of these "terms" I mentioned earlier, and we need to do some Critical Thinking.  So let's do that, and I'll do the work for you to show you what I mean.  I'll even cite sources for you.

On the Verity Baptist Church web site, there is a section that tells what they believe.  They would have you believe that they are a strict, no-nonsense, Bible-Only-Believing fellowship.  We'll take them at their word here- and, that means that everything they believe must be Biblical, and that will be our basis of thought and postulation of all arguments made.

The 3rd line of their belief statement:
"* We believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God. We believe God inspired and preserved it. "
The King James Version Bible was written in 1611 AD.  (Some scholars believe that William Shakespeare had a hand in writing it, too.)  The texts used in the Bible existed before that, and the KJV is a translation of the original text.  If we take this church at their word here, this would mean that the translation was made from a non-God inspired and non-God preserved text.  The Bible says that:

John 14:6 KJV
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

And, since Jesus is God, that means that God is truth, and truth cannot lie.  Therefore, according to Verity's own words, they contradict their own statement of the veracity of Scripture.

But, there's more:
"* We believe in the autonomy of the local church. This means that we are independent of all denominations, conventions, and fellowships. We have Jesus Christ and the Bible as the head of our church and not some Pope, Prophet, President, or Board of directors.
* We believe in the “local church” we reject the teaching of the “universal church”.
This text is very telling- they admit here that they do NOT line up with any denomination, and that would include the Baptist Church- the one on your street corner, or even the one Donald Trump might visit next week.  Further, since they have no other governing body other than the Bible, and the pastor is the leader of this church, this pastor has no one to "check" him or sources. That is an extremely dangerous thing:

Acts 17:10-12 KJV
"And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. "

What's happening in the above passage is that the Bereans basically heard what St. Paul and Silas were preaching, and then double checked everything that was said.  They did not take the word of the very men who were the de-facto scholars of the day.  And, Paul refers to them as "honorable" because they did that.  If Verity was truly Biblical, they would have some kind of check/balance system (which most churches do have) instead of leaving it to one man's interpretation.
"* We believe that church membership is a privilege and not a right and church members are subject to be removed from membership and not allowed to attend the services if they violate the qualifications of church membership as set forth in the Holy Scriptures and the by-laws of Verity Baptist Church. "
This one is interesting- it seems that you have to "apply" to be a member.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that membership of a church is required, nor does the Bible say that membership is even important.  The early Christian church was a community of Believers with no membership.
"* We reject the teaching of Calvinism and believe that God wants everyone to be saved."
I'll stop short of saying that Calvinism is something they must believe in (I am a Calvinist, btw) but, the idea that God doesn't want everyone to be saved is actually very anti-Christian:

Matthew 28:19 KJV:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"

That text says "All" and if God wasn't interested in "all" we wouldn't have been commanded that way.

And finally, there's this:
"* We believe that sodomy (homosexuality) is a sin and an abomination before God which God punishes with the death penalty. No sodomite (homosexual) will be allowed to attend or join Verity Baptist Church. "
This one is very interesting in its sub-text.  The Bible is very clear that sin is not measured in degrees- no sin is worse than any other sin,  and sin is what separates us from God.  The rules of that separation and the definition of sin are found all over the Old Testament- most notably in the 10 Commandments - and are referred to as "Mosaic Law" or simply "the law".  It is impossible for man to not sin according to this law, and that is why we, as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ came to save us from it and redeem us.  Again, from the same Bible that Verity Baptist says is the unerrant word of God, and these are the words that Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17 KJV
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."

This means, plainly and simply- Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law, and the law is no longer in effect as it was.  The law is still in place, but the punishment for not obeying it is no longer required.  The really interesting part of the topic of sodomy is that it isn't the only sin.  Murder, gossip, being mean, cheating, lying, being disrespectful of your mother and father - all of those are sins as well, and Jesus' death on the Cross paid for all of them, but Verity singles out sodomy as something that is at another level and requires the sinner to die for it- that is patently un-Biblical.  This tells me several things, chief among them is what you are thinking, too- somebody probably has something to hide.  And, while it might be fun to point a finger at these folks and yell "hypocrite!", if it were anyone else hiding their sexuality like this, you would say it's sad.  Let's do this instead- let's agree that it's also sad that the members of Verity having to hide whatever is going on in their own bedrooms is just as sad, and we'll just leave it to God to judge them.

I think I'll stop there.

Here's the deal- I don't want the media to have to become theologians in order to write a story, but I do want them to have some responsibility when they just write a story in such a way to defame the 99.9% of Christians that don't believe the way these people do.  All they would have to do is call someone who is a theologian to vet their story - like they do for darned near anything else - and they would have realized that these people are a cult, and not write the story this way.  But, in the media, "if it bleeds, it reads" and we as the public are given a shoddy, over-generalized statement that would make you believe that all Christians are homophobic.  And, we are not.

What I'm really getting at here is this: Critical Thinking, as an art form, is dying.  We just accept all the drivel that is handed to us and we have lost our ability to ask questions and discern what is real and what is truth.  You may not believe in God, and that is your right- and I, personally, would defend to my death your right to believe that way - but those of us that do believe in God are not the enemy.  The Christian Homophobes are in the vast minority in Christendom.  When you read these stories, do yourself a favor: suspend your beliefs for a minute and check things out for yourself or feel free to drop me a line and I'll be happy to help.

You never know- you might learn something.