There is a church down the street from my house that uses a sanctuary that once housed a neighborhood Southern Baptist Church. The church that occupies this building today has a catchy, hip name but when you read their “beliefs” they are still basically a Southern Baptist Church in a different candy wrapper. My community is dotted with these kind of old traditional structures that have been filled with pastors who don’t wear robes or ties and congregations attending services in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. It is a casual brand of fire and brimstone with guitars replacing organs and big screens replacing hymnals.
I am not criticizing this new brand of worship. Both my kids, who grew-up in a very traditional Presbyterian Church, attend these kind of churches. Thankfully just ones a little less conservative than the one near my house.
This church sits on a prime piece of real estate and given that the crowds look a little sparse to me every Sunday I decided to check-out their website to see if I could learn anything about how they were doing. What struck me immediately was how they described their beliefs. The Bible is the “written Word of God”. It is the “essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind”. The Bible is “fully and verbally inspired by God” and therefore “free of error”. And here is the fun one for me, the Bible is “totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly wisdom”.
I really struggle with groups who proclaim to take a literal interruption of the Bible. The fallacy in this approach is it is a biased, human interruption of stories written 2,000 years ago. For me, the idea of fitting the Bible into our modern context or adding “worldly wisdom” means having a living and growing base to work from. We should appreciate and understand the time, place, and background of the scriptures, and recognize that, like our faith, the scriptures should grow with us, not against us. Rob Bell, author and founder of the Mars Hill Bible Church summed it up best for me, “To take statements made in a letter from one person living in a real place at a moment in history writing to another person living in a real place out of their context and apply them to today without first understanding their original context sucks the life out of them.”
If you have spent anytime reading my blog you know that I am not a fan of Franklin Graham. Mr. Graham, at least for me, epitomizes the type of biased, human interruption of scripture that continues to divide this country. I consider his remarks, and views as self-serving and hateful rather than inclusive and compassionate.
Recently Mr. Graham asserted that it was his belief that Donald Trump would remain in power until God’s purposes had been accomplished and completed in the United States. What exactly that purpose is I am not sure and Mr. Graham didn’t or hasn’t offered any hints. He truly believes that Trump’s election was divine intervention. He stated in an interview about Trump, “He did everything wrong, offended almost every group of people, but I believe he won because of God.”
The list of things dividing this country is enormous and sadly growing everyday. In Washington it is a battle between Republicans, and Democrats, Conservatives, and Liberals and those battles have spilled into the homes of every American. Religion shouldn’t be a divide, faith in whatever you believe shouldn’t be a line in the sand with us and them on either side. But it is, made so by extremist such as ISIS and the Franklin Graham’s of the world and yes, there are parallels. Words and actions matter and can be just as harmful and deadly as bombs, just as deadly as bombs Mr. Graham.
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35