Tuesday, July 24, 2018

First Baptist Church, Luverne, Alabama - A Study in What's Wrong with American Christianity

The Washington Post has a very lengthy piece that tries to reconcile claims of Christian godliness and evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump and, I would argue by extension the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda.  The problem, in my view, is the two cannot be reconciled.  Not if one truly believes in the New Testament message.  Trump is the embodiment of the seven deadly sins and should represent everything true Christians reject and condemn.  Instead, throughout the articles making excuses for their own failure to put Christ's message first and instead embracing the foul and toxic individual occupy the White House. Perhaps the most favored excuse: that God put Trump in the White House.  Sorry, but no, God had nothing to do with it.  Look instead at Vladimir Putin, Russian interference, Trump and the GOP's incessant lies, and most importantly those who put their racial fears and bigotry first.   While perhaps not intended to be such, the piece is, in my view, an indictment of conservative Christianity in America.  People like these parishioners are why I rarely call myself a Christian anymore.  If they are what it means to be Christian, I want nothing to do with it.   Here are some highlights where even the pastor fails the test of putting Christ's larger message and the truth first.  It's a study in cowardice and moral bankruptcy:
He prayed about what he was going to do. He was the pastor of First Baptist Church in the town of Luverne, Ala., which meant he was the moral leader of a congregation that overwhelmingly supported a president who was an alleged adulterer. For the past six weeks, Crum had been preaching a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, and now it was time for number seven.
It was summer, and all over the Bible Belt, support for President Trump was rising among voters who had traditionally proclaimed the importance of Christian character in leaders and warned of the slippery slope of moral compromise. In Crenshaw County, where Luverne is located, Trump had won 72 percent of the vote. Recent national polls showed the president’s approval among white evangelical Christians at a high of 77 percent. One survey indicated that his support among Southern Baptists was even higher, surpassing 80 percent . . .  

They settled into the seafoam-green cushions along the wooden pews, some of which also had back cushions to make them more comfortable. They opened old Bibles bookmarked with birthday cards and photos of grandchildren, and after they all sang “I was sinking deep into sin, far from the peaceful shore,” Crum walked up to the podium to deliver the sermon God had told him to deliver.
“What is adultery?” Crum began.
Jewell Killough was listening.
“Adultery, simply stated, is a breach of commitment,” Crum said. “When one person turns their back on a commitment that they made and seeks out something else to fulfill themselves.”
He talked about the dangers of temporary satisfaction, of looking at “anything unclean,” and in the choir behind him, Jack Jones nodded. He talked about other kinds of adultery, such as “hardheartedness” and avoiding personal responsibility.
“See, we don’t want to look at ourselves,” Crum said. “We don’t want to say, ‘I’m part of the problem.’”
Someone in the congregation coughed. Someone unwrapped a caramel candy.
“The purpose of the commandment is so we can see the sin, so we can repent of the sin and then fully experience the complete grace of god,” he said. “But only when we admit it. Only when we repent of it. And only when we return to him by faith.”
He was at the end of his sermon. If he was going to say anything about Trump, or presidents, or politicians, or how having a Christian character was important for the leader of the United States, now was the time. His Bible was open. He was preaching without notes.
He looked out at all the faces of people who felt threatened and despised in a changing America, who thought Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were sent by Satan to destroy them, and that Donald Trump was sent by God to protect them, and who could always count on Clay Crum to remind them of what they all believed to be the true meaning of Jesus Christ — that he died to forgive all of their sins, to save them from death and secure their salvation in a place that was 15,000 miles wide, full of gardens, appliances, and a floor of stars.
Not now, he decided. Not yet. He closed his Bible. He had one last thing to say to them before the sermon was over.  “Let us pray.”
The pastor said one thing that was true: he and his congregation do not want to look at themselves and admit that they are the problem.  Sadly, the same phenomenon is replicated thousands of times in "conservative" churches across America - some right here in Hampton, Virginia.  Religion is again proving that it is a great evil. 

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