I’ve been back in my hometown for a year and a half. In that time, I have visited a handful of churches in an attempt to find a body of believers with whom I can worship. Brooksville is a small town. The size of the town however, is not an accurate indication of the number of churches available for the potential worshiper. In fact, all you have to do is an internet search and you will find that in my small burg, there are no less than 169 places of worship! I have visited at least 20 of them. I have yet to find the place where I am supposed to be, and frankly I’m wondering if that place exists. But I am encouraged to continue trying. It was in this spirit that I visited the most recent congregation.
As I pulled up to the tiny building, nestled in between pastureland and a historic cemetery, I was comforted by the familiarity of the place. I’ve been here before, but it’s been a long time. A colleague of mine and her husband are the leaders of a Bible Study, and it was at her invitation that I chose to come. I loved the Sunday School class. I was hopeful that maybe I had indeed found a place where I could serve and worship. When I entered the sanctuary, I saw many familiar faces. I smiled and searched to make eye contact, only to be passed by time and time again. It’s not my personality to sit quietly by, however I thought I would take this opportunity to make a sociological observation. I saw five co-workers, yet none of them saw or acknowledged me. Mind you, the church only holds about 150 people (if it’s packed to the rafters) and on this day, there may have been 40 people there. I found this curious.
Finally, a lovely lady and her husband (whom I know from our time together at another congregation) came over and greeted me, hugged me and asked me to join them. I gladly complied. I enjoyed the hymns, but it was shockingly still in between songs as we waited for the technology to catch up to the leader. The pastor led a prayer, and he made a point of kneeling beside the altar, but it felt forced and routine. There was no welcome of visitors. For such a small, country congregation it was cold and detached.
The praise and worship music started. OK, finally, something that I will love. They just take awhile to get warmed up. That’s what was going through my mind. I was sadly mistaken. The technological issues persisted, and as I looked around I was impressed with the amount of money that had been spent to make sure that this building was outfitted with the most current equipment. They had a Bose speaker system. They used video presentations for the praise and worship. Each of the five members of the “praise team” had a wireless microphone. The senior pastor was among them, and he wore a Journeyman microphone. Again, there was frightening silence between songs. There was no leader. There was no one to encourage us to sing, or to really lead us into an attitude of worship. OK, they’re just getting into this. They haven’t really found their footing, yet. That’s what I thought.
The pastor began his sermon. There were four alliterative points. There was a scripture at the beginning, but the sermon really had little to do with it. It seemed to me to be inconsequential to his message. The heart of which was not really what he spent more than 45 minutes telling us about. The thrust of the diatribe was really about who “right thinking Christians” should vote for on November 4th. He even went so far as to say how we should vote on one of the amendments. This could jeopardize their standing as a non-profit entity, but I know it goes on in many churches. I was offended. I wanted to leave. Had I not been sitting with the aforementioned lovely family, I would have found a way to excuse myself.
Look, I don’t have a problem with people expressing their opinions. I’m all for it. I think that God encourages us, no, He commands us to examine the authorities that we allow to be over us. I even think that the church has a responsibility to educate people in areas of public policy. The problem I have is when people use the pulpit and the guise of religion to bash others. How does this make us different from “them?” You know who “they” are, don’t you? Anyone who thinks differently than you or I. “They” are the ones we’re fighting in this war. “They” are the people from the other churches (or “CULTS” according many). I’ve actually heard people stand up in the pulpit and call the Catholic Church a cult! But that’s another soap box…I’ll save that for another day.
That’s not what Jesus was about. Jesus did not insist that we all think, feel and behave the same. In fact, he was consistently in opposition to the great thinkers of His day. I would challenge anyone who professes to be a follower of Christ to find a contextual scripture to support that type of behavior. I know that God is a righteous God. I know that He has identified sin as odious to Him. I know that He cannot look at sin. But what I want to know is when did He quantify sin? When did God ever say this sin is more grievous than that sin? In point, I am infuriated when I hear my fellow republican Christians say “If Obama is voted in, what happens to the helpless children who will be aborted?” Well, tell me this…we’ve had a supposed Christian Republican president for the past 8 years! How many helpless children were aborted under his leadership? What about all the lives lost in this war that is completely meaningless?
What infuriates me most is that the process of voting is a PRIVILEGE!!! We are a fortunate country. We have the right to vote our individual thoughts, feeling and beliefs! Many people have died and continue to die to protect that right. How dare you stand up in the pulpit, or anywhere else for that matter, and tell me that because I don’t believe, feel or think the same way that you do, I am not a “Right Thinking Christian!” How dare you? I have never been so infuriated. We as Christians are supposed to encourage one another. We are to build each other up. I have not felt love and encouragement from my fellow republican Christians. I have felt the opposite. I have felt persecuted. I have had my faith called into question on more than one occasion. It is no wonder that people who don’t know Christ aren’t encouraged to become a part of Christianity. We paint a very unflattering picture of Christ and Democracy.
I am on my way to the polls. When I am there, I will cast my votes for the people that I have prayed over diligently. I will vote my conscience. I will express my individuality and at the same time, be bound together with others who agree with me and disagree with me in the real process of Democracy. I am wearing a shirt today that is emblazoned with one word: FREEDOM. I have found Freedom in Christ, but I experience freedom in America because of the people who have gone before me. Who are you to say I am right or wrong? We should all embrace one another. We have participated in a process that many others will never experience. We have raised our collective voices and made our will known.