November 26, 2008
To follow up on my Pailin post for Thanksgiving I am tempted to talk about the silly practice of “pardoning” turkeys (as if they committed some crime, as if that makes up for the millions killed…) and the tricksy news camera man who set her up. Instead I want to draw more attention to the sermon that was preached by visiting preacher Thomas Muthee at the Wasilla Assembly of God.
Pailin was chosen for her merging of political and religious views and I assume that his views match hers. His basic orientaion was that righetousness is the absence of evil and corruption. He spoke nothing about “doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.”
His sermon focused on the need for “believers” to take control of society. He enumerated several areas in which he felt true Christian believers needed to be in charge, including Finances, Education, Media, the Courts and Governement. The odd thing was his ‘why.’ For example, Chrisitans needed to take over financial institutions. Why? Because then there would not be all this corruption and mismanagment. Nieve does not begin to describe this opinion. Christians must take over Education. Why? Is it because an educated mind is essential for a healthy person, is it because an educated citizenry is essential for a well functioning democracy, is it because critical thinking skills, an understanding of the scientific method, and a familiarity with history will help people make better, wiser decisions? No, its becuase if we have Christians in education then there won’t be any controversy about prayer in schools, just as if there are Christians in the courts no one will be trying to get rid of the Ten Commandments.
This is from a man who’s ministry has become famous for identifying and rebuking witches. He actually named a woman in Wasilla who was causing car accidents. I am sure he understands what goodness is, in and of itself. The problem is that he is leading people to primarily live by a negative definition of goodness and to create a negative politics of witch-hunts, finger pointing and judgement of others without any real self-criticism and tempering doubt. This is the worst kind of politics and religion. It nurtures fear above hope. It is good to point out what is wrong in the world and in our actions, but the solution should be doing good things and cooperation, not casting out demons and blaming others.
November 17, 2008
[Note: I started this blog entry in mid-October, but only finished it today.]
My politically liberal friends asked me if I had seen “that horrible video” with Sarah Palin being prayed over. They talked about how if this had been done with Obama there would have been a firestorm of protest. It sounded wild and scary. One person told me that the video featured an African “voodoo minister” who was “casting out witches” as if Palin had been threatened with some sort of demon possession. So I looked around and found the video clip.
It was pretty tame. Really; I have seen far more dramatic prayer in Muncie during a weekly Christian prayer meeting. I have seen rituals in other religions with much more drama. In the Palin video two men stand beside her, holding her arms in case she is overwhelmed by the spirit (she wasn’t in the slightest). It is all pretty controlled and conventional for the new “spirit filled” style of Christianity that has become quite popular these days.
The Minister does say that witchcraft is one of the things that God is rebuking (presumably through Sarah,) but even Unitarians in the Kasi Hills of India fight forms of witchcraft, trying to turn the Kasi people from propitiating evil spirits to living ethically. Belief in evil spirits and those who can control them are dangerous beliefs, but they are also amazingly common and even ordinary. In fact we UUs have cast out and rebuked more witches than Sarah’s minister ever has. We have done this by simply not believing in them, being skeptical of those who suspect others of being witches, and by heeding the results of science and the guidance of reason.
The video must have been made early in her V.P. run. The minister in the video asks God to provide her money, an army of people and other resources needed for success. The prayer came at the end of a homily talking about the importance of “believers” taking over all areas of society to transform them to “righteousness.” I certainly am glad that his prayer failed and his narrow vision of the right and good has been kept from taking over society. But the prayer was not crazy or scary, unless of course you are personally afraid of becoming the target of a (Vice Presidential led) witch hunt.
November 11, 2008
Yesterday’s sermon used the story of the “Three Goats Gruff” to talk about facing change in life begining with these words:
I once was asked if my church “believed in the Bible.” I gave my standard answer which was, “sort of.” Then, since I could guess what this person wanted to hear, I clarified, “We find much of power in the Bible but we certainly don’t believe that it is the direct word of the creator of the universe.” This person looked suprised and asked incredulously, “Then what do you preach on every Sunday?” At that time I said something about universal truths and how to live well, but this person wanted to know what texts I used; what sacred words served as the seeds of my sermons? Well, brothers and sisters, today we draw from the most ancient of texts, the sacred book of folk-tales; specifically I preach from the Gospel of the Goats, chapters one through three. What the goats tell us is that to cross some bridges of life is difficult, and so we need the courage ans wisdom that comes from being part of a community of differing strengths.“
Often in our services, during announcement time, we will say “ours is a literate faith, and thus we expect you to read the announcements printed in our order of serivce.” It is a little joke that gives the Worship Associate permission to not read every little thing in the bulletin, yet the fact remains that we are a very literate faith. We expect our people not only to read church bulletins and newsletters but newspapers, ancient literature, modern literature, blogs and books, not to mention the scriptures of every faith. In a sense anything can serve as our “scripture” but in a more serious mode we claim only the Bible and perhaps the Tanakh, the Bhagavad Gita and a few Buddhist Sutras, and the poetry of Mary Oliver; or perhaps we really have no scripture at all.
One of our forbears spoke of our scripture as the truth that is written on the heart of every human soul. I know that some of us claim one book or written work as more valuable, more inspiring than all others, but it is different for every person.
As a covenental faith our scripture is really our covenants, and the promises that we keep. Perhaps the greatest source of unquestioned truth is found in the stories we tell of our forbears, those who inspire our actions and guide our commitments.