Sunday, June 06, 2010

Spit Not, Hit Not

This week's sermon at ECOOS was an excellent example for newcomers to the Episcopal church to hear how the social gospel of justice, when applied to current issues, and projected by an unqualified speaker, can be twisted into a distasteful, tangled, political diatribe that in the end causes harm to the body of Christ.

Today's lengthy homily is blessedly fading from my memory, but to summarize, errors began right off the bat when the rector said that both Elijah and Jesus were prophets but failed to explain any differences between the two. This is very bad teaching because it might lead us simple pewsitters into the heresy of Arianism. I suspect most pewsitters let that pass without notice, but it seemed like a lost opportunity to examine the difference between a fully human prophet and the Son of God, and how important it is to our salvation that there is a difference between the two.

Later, the sermon deteriorated into a tirade against people who "hate the government." These people are bad because the government provides for the widows and orphans and pensioners through our wonderful social safety net and social security system. The rector, in an increasingly agitated state, vociferously said he wanted to "spit upon" those who hate the government. Hmmm...I seem to recall that he himself was in the government hating group during the years of the Bush administration. Is this "change we can believe in?" Next, the rector went on to bash the state of Arizona and its recent laws regarding how police should manage a certain category of law breakers. To top it off, he reiterated his desire to spit on people once again.

I am trying to remember that new fangled baptismal covenant thingy that people like to throw at me...Let's see...Oh yes, p. 305,
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Throughout the ages, being spat upon has been a powerful act of degradation, an act contrary to the principle of respect for human dignity.
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. Matthew 27:30 (KJV)

Sometimes I picture myself in that crowd, spitting upon the Lord my God, I later kick myself, and then bow down in prayer for that same God to save me. Once I felt my feelings of indignation mount today, I made sure to confess those feelings before ascending the steps to the altar rail for communion. I was reminded during my confession of Article XXVI of the Articles of Religion that I should accept the bread of life from someone who is, after all, just another fallible face in the crowd.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that such preaching is not only degrading, but harmful to the body of Christ. It appeared that way to at least one visitor today who, like earlier visitors, left clutching his Bible on the way out the door.


  1. The sermon seems particularly odd, seeing as how the history of the Episcopal Church really began after a war started by men who hated the government of the time.

  2. Agreed. I am sorry for your experience today. Such great care is required in the task of preaching so that God's word alone is offered with power, and not the word of the preacher. As a priest myself, I can only offer the consolation that I know there are also many faithful preachers out there in TEC today. Bless you for your self-constraint and prudence today.

  3. In reviewing the archives of this blog, there appears to be a pattern of increasingly irrational behaviour on the part of your rector. Has anyone considered taping some of the rantings and presenting them to the bishop?

  4. I appreciate your faithfulness in reporting the facts and pointing out the errors to readers. The Lord bless your patient endurance.

  5. I can't help but wonder if the conflation between The Word Incarnate and the rest of the prophets is deliberate. Once Jesus ceases to be Christ and merely "one of the boys," the Gospel becomes just another philosophy on the order of a Deepak Chopra book.


  6. Adam, Good point.

    Father Ferrell, Thank you for stopping by and your kind words.

    John, When this was pointed out to our last bishop, and when we suggested the rector write his sermons out and study them prior to Sunday a.m., we were given a gracious kiss-off. As a consequence, erratic preaching has gone uncorrected and this simply reinforces the behavior. Do you think the new bishop will be any different?

    Chuck, Thank you, and may He bless the things He has sent you out to do as well.

    R. Sherman, Agreed. I think there is a recurring strain of thought we are given to that easily leads to doubt of a physical resurrection, doubt of the miracles of Jesus, doubt of His Divine nature, along with other nagging doubts that, while common, are dangerous when they creep into the worship of the Church.

  7. Okay Folks,

    be sure to check out Father Ferrell's recent post, A Revelation of Jesus Christ.

  8. Because the rector constantly chooses to preach "social justice" (as opposed to repentance, redemption, etc), let's take a look at how that term is used by leftist activists, clergy, and politicians to describe the goal they hope to achieve. In a nutshell, "social justice" is the complete economic equality of all members of society. That means that wealth should be collected by the government and evenly distributed to everyone. In short, "social justice" is communism. It is rooted in the Marxist idea that money and assets such as property do not properly belong to those who worked hard to earn them. In the Marxist paradigm, social justice means economic equality and can only be accomplished by wealth redistribution with the government as the agent of redistribution. This is the goal of the left's social justice agenda. This is the goal of ECOOS as promulgated by its rector.

  9. Cato,

    We should let them know that if the end result of social justice theology is communism, then the theology has written its own death warrant as well as the arrest warrant of the Church. Watch out for the black sedans.

  10. Perhaps your rector would feel less like spitting upon people if he were to feel the cathartic effect of actual spitting, but then, not upon people, of course (well let's hope not!)

    Young people sometimes bring the practice of spitting into something more resembling a sport or art form, able in some cases, with great accuracy, to produce a thin, beam-like projectile from their spittle which can be accurately aimed. The possibilities of amusement for this type of spitting are nearly endless.

    Your congregation could also modify its culture somewhat in a fashionable, retro-manner, bringing back chewing tobacco and spittoons in corners. Originally it was women who primarily objected to this behavior, but in a more liberated context, I can envision your ladies taking part in the chewing and spittoon spitting as well, especially if it somehow relieves your rector's poor nerves.

  11. Wilf,

    While I have not witnessed any of our congregants using chewing tobacco, the use of "dipping snuff" exists in some local elderly women. We might become a more inclusive church by adding a spittoon. I will suggest that to the memorials committee.