Religion When God has Left the Building

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Religion When God has Left the Building

Today I read an article about John McCain’s attempt to make amends with evangelicals. Two mega-church, televangelist pastors were named: Rev. Rod Parsley in Ohio and John Hagee (pictured on the right) in San Antonio Texas.

That the media and politicians alike continue to fail to make any distinctions between fundamentalists, televangelists and evangelicals is not a surprise but is ignorant and inexcusable.

Fundamentalists share in common a feisty, combative nature. Their black and white view of the world combined with their militancy lends itself to provocative comments and the demonization of those who disagree with them.

The early “evangelicals” like Billy Graham, Harold John Ockenga and Carl Henry sought a more reasoned bridging of faith & culture.

Fundamentalists are bridge burners and Hagee and Parsley fit the mold perfectly. Parsley rants about Islam and refers to Europe as the “godless pit.” Hagee has called Roman Catholicism “the great whore” and a “false cult system” and once claimed Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a gay rights parade in New Orleans.

In a free country people are allowed their opinions and can express them in any manner they choose. But the sloppy journalism that continues to label hostile talkers like Parsley and Haggee as evangelicals is disconcerting to those who value the conciliatory spirit and thoughtfulness that gave birth to the evangelical movement and led to it’s split from fundamentalism in the first place.

A lot of mega-churches remind me of a comment I once heard about Roman architecture, “failing to make it beautiful they made it big!”

With many people Hagee’s megachurch scores bonus points because of its bigness–with 19,000 active members it registers with political pollsters and marketers alike, who tend to think of big as good.

That big is not necessarily good or true or beautiful is a fact that Hagee seems not to understand based on one very troubling comment he made about Barack Obama and “the ministry.”

When asked about Barack Obama’s oratorical skills Hagee said, “He is going to be difficult to beat, because the man is a master of communication. If he were in the ministry, he would make it in the major leagues overnight.”

That Haggee thinks of ministry in terms of major leagues and minor leagues (and himself as a big shot in the major leagues) may be very Texan and American, but it seems a bit uncharacteristic of the life, work and teaching of Jesus.

The statement reeks of the kind of pride Jesus warns, “comes before the fall.”

Furthermore, with a mere 12 disciples Jesus evidently was not in the major leagues. As a matter of fact Jesus warned against confusing big numbers with spiritual progress. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I am among those who think American Christianity’s penchant for bigness and a minor league/major league mentality is one of the reasons it has been accurately described as “3,000 miles wide and an inch deep.”

But lest my pride precede my fall, let me confess that though I spot these specks in Hagee’s eye it is likely I have a beam or beams in my own.

All Christians–fundamentalists, televangelists, evangelicals, mainline Protestant, Orthodox and Catholics ought to think about what BONO once said, “I’m a believer, but sometimes I think religion is when God, like Elvis, has left the building. When God has left the building you get religion. But when God is in the house, you get something else.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in March 24, 2008 by | No Comments »

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