When I was growing up, I was a regular churchgoer. When I say regular, I mean I went all the time. Every Sunday, twice. Every Wednesday, cathechism. Sunday school after morning church. In the summer, there was vacation bible school, because, really, what was more fun on a sunny summer day than sitting in someone’s house reading and memorizing bible verses while making comb holders out of shoestrings and leather.
And, even more fun, when we went on vacation, we went to church then too. We were part of the Reformed Church denomination, so when my family and I were out on the road, there weren’t too many RCA churches around. So we went to churches that were sort of similar to ours. Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Southern Baptist, we experienced them all in our travels. It was an interesting way to see how other people worshiped. My favorite was Methodist because they didn’t have Sunday night service. Although, I remember going to a Methodist Sunday night bible study once.
I didn’t really care that much about what was being said or what the liturgy was all about. All I cared about was one thing. Please don’t notice me, don’t call on us, and let us get though this with as little fuss as possible so I can get back to the campground and go swimming. There was nothing worse and nothing more embarrassing in a ten year olds brain then having some church make you stand up in the middle of the service to get recognized as a “visitor.” I remember one church had us wear ribbons AND stand up. I could have died.
The one thing I did notice, especially as you got into more of the southern part of the U.S., is that the preachers were louder and more demonstrative. These guys would stand up there and pound the pulpit with their fists while getting a reddish hue across their faces and necks. It was actually pretty entertaining. The standard sermon was usually about the evils of drinkin, druggin, fornicatin,(I had no idea what that was) and how Godless communism was going to bring down the United States of America. And it was somewhere around 90 degrees in the sanctuary with a few fans doing a really crappy job of providing any relief. In spite of the heat, these guys were always up there in a suit and tie, sweating profusely as they shouted the word of God at us unrepentant sinners. Fire and brimstone would rain down on all of us unworthy human beings if we didn’t repent our evil ways.
The one thing that was clear through all these sermons? We sucked. We were all horrible excuses for human beings for all the drinkin, druggin, and fornicatin we were doing and that we really didn’t deserve to be alive. We needed to repent all of our sins, get right with God, and put more money in that collection plate going down the row right now. And then, maybe, just maybe, God will look favorably on us and let us live and let us continue to thrive in the United States of America.
I think about those sermons and those preachers when I see some of the things being said on social media today. Today, preachers wear jeans and shirts from Untuckit.com, write blogs or are on Facebook that basically have the same kind of message that those guys in starched white shirts and too tight sport jackets used to say. We suck. We suck for not being tolerant of other people’s religion. We suck for not letting illegal immigrants into the country. We suck for having a confederate flag in the back window of our truck. And especially, we suck because we voted for THAT TRUMP GUY!
One of my least favorite things about the church thing has always been this line. “How can you call yourself a Christian if you ___”? Back when I was a kid, it was usually a Sunday thing. “How can you call yourself a Christian if you play golf on Sunday? Or go to a movie? Or go out to dinner? Or do anything besides take a nap, and then get dressed back up and go back to church.” Or a social thing. “How can you be a Christian if you watch ‘Planet of the Apes’? Or watch ‘Charlie’s Angels’? Or ‘Battle of the Network Stars’? ” (Ok, nobody asked that last question, it was just an example of terrible 70’s television.)
Now, its “How can you be a Christian if you don’t believe (put your favorite cause here)?” It’s a form of the same question that was asked in my town back in the 70’s. And I know this question is asked on both sides of the political spectrum. So for every “How can you be a Christian if you don’t believe in open borders?”there is a “How can you be a Christian if you believe in abortion rights?” Or “How can you be a Christian if you want to stay in the U.N.?” Or “How can you be a Christian if you voted for THAT CLINTON WOMAN?”
And really, when you get right down to it, isn’t having a “holier than thou”attitude on social media just the 2017 version of Fire and brimstone? If you don’t believe the way I do, you risk eternal damnation. Instead of from a pulpit, the message rains down on all of us from Facebook, twitter, or blogs. Yes, even this blog. I have done it too.
I’m going to say a word that liberals love and makes conservatives throw up a little in their mouths. Tolerance. We all need to calm down a little, take a couple steps back, and be a little more tolerant of other people’s views. And before liberals start fist pumping over that last line, let me say that tolerance goes both ways. If you are a woman, and you throw on the hajib and put your fist in the air and march with your fellow females, I say rock on sister! But, if you are a Muslim woman and you choose to take off the hajib and talk about genital mutilation and woman’s rights, well, guess what? That view should be tolerated too.
I have a friend who’s political views are sharply different from the rest of his family’s. When they posted some stuff on Facebook, he argued for the other side. And he was promptly unfriended. By his whole family. And you might say, so what, it’s just Facebook. But for him, it was really the only way he was in contact with his nieces. And that’s now gone.
So as we continue down this road of different opinions on just about everything, let’s remember that we are all God’s creatures, and that Jesus preached forgiveness above all else. Or else we are not much different from that preacher in that little church in North Alabama, screaming about commies coming over the border, and the evils of too much fornicatin’.
And we all know that ain’t good.
Thanks for reading.