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What would Jesus do?
January 18, 2008 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Reviving an ancient practice, churches are exposing sinners and shunning those who won't repent. Unfortunately, some of the worshipers are expelled not because of willful or unrepentant sins, but for criticizing the pastor on matters of church polity. "A lot of times, flocks aren't willing to submit or be obedient to God. If somebody is not willing to be helped, they forfeit their membership."
posted by mrducts (130 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fuck'em.
posted by mds35 at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia, theopedia, single-link WSJ. I think the meat is interesting, but you coulda put this together in a much better way.
posted by klangklangston at 5:29 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


If only the people who were in these churches lived in a country where people could choose a church that reinforced their own beliefs.

Seriously, why the hell would someone go to a church where the weren't wanted?
posted by Octoparrot at 5:31 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


What would Jesus do?

I reckon Jesus would've thrown up his hands and walked away in disgust from all this "Christianity" business round about two thousand years ago.

I know he loves him some Mahalia Jackson, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:34 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Seriously, why the hell would someone go to a church where the weren't wanted?

They've been going there all their lives and all their friends are there and the new pastor is an insecure power hungry prick?
posted by cytherea at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Terrible post.
posted by LarryC at 5:43 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is not an ancient, disappeared practice. It happens all the time in many religions and sects in the US and around the world.
posted by parmanparman at 5:45 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think this is our cue to start talking about how Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing, right?

Lame.
posted by JaySunSee at 5:45 PM on January 18, 2008


Great article, possibly axe-grindy post. But, since I'm here: what a bunch of fucking chowderheads.
posted by everichon at 5:47 PM on January 18, 2008


Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing.
posted by everichon at 5:47 PM on January 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


These Luddites need to get with modern times and techniques.

Let's lose the shunning and go with tasers. "Don't tase me, god....I'll submit."
posted by PhiBetaKappa at 5:49 PM on January 18, 2008


Amy Hitt, 43, a mortgage officer in Amissville, Va., was voted out of her Baptist congregation in 2004 for gossiping about her pastor's plans to buy a bigger house.

That's all kinds of messed up.

Peggy Penley, a Fort Worth, Texas, woman whose pastor revealed her extramarital affair to the congregation after she confessed it in confidence, waged a six-year battle against the pastor, charging him with negligence. Last summer, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed her suit, ruling that the pastor was exercising his religious beliefs by publicizing the affair.


I've got my fingers crossed for certiorari on this one.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2008


Perhaps Mathowie could pick up some extra scratch touring the Bible Belt and demonstrating THE BANHAMMER to congregations in need of same.
posted by everichon at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2008


Peggy Penley, a Fort Worth, Texas, woman whose pastor revealed her extramarital affair to the congregation after she confessed it in confidence, waged a six-year battle against the pastor, charging him with negligence. Last summer, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed her suit, ruling that the pastor was exercising his religious beliefs by publicizing the affair.

Whatever happened to "your right to swing your fist ends where it meets my face"?

Would he still be protected in exercising his beliefs if he had added that God demands that congregations stone to death adulteresses among them?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2008


I reckon Jesus would've thrown up his hands and walked away in disgust from all this "Christianity" business round about two thousand years ago.

I suspect if Jesus was the sort of person who willingly submitted himself for crucifiction because he was convinced he was the son of god, well, perhaps he'd... well, you know what I mean.
posted by mattoxic at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2008


I think this is our cue to start talking about how Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing, right?

Or we could have a thoughtful discussion of what it means to be part of a social group for 50 years and then have it change out from underneath you.

A lot of American denominations are starting to favor branching off new churches to attract young people while keeping the more "established" churches for the longtime community that has grown up around them. Unfortunately this means that the established churches grow smaller and smaller over time, and inevitably there is a painful moment when you no longer have a functioning parish and need to either reinvent yourself or close your doors.

That's really what the main case in the story is about -- a new pastor coming to town and changing the way things are done to attract new people to a dying parish. Of course there is resistance, but it's really bad that it's reached the point of shunning the resistors. One would hope for more grace than that.

It is telling that the church in question is not part of any larger denomination, so the pastor answers to no one but God. "Absolute Power" and all that... but more importantly it makes any questions on church policy a matter of questioning the pastor's authority directly -- seems like a setup guaranteed to cause trouble.
posted by tkolar at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


[P]astors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for...skipping service...

That's great. You can't expel me, I quit!
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2008


People are only supposed to be disfellowshipped for blatant unrepentant sin. And even then there is a process....it's supposed to be a last resort. And even then, if the person repents, they are supposed to be welcomed back with opened arms.

Unfortunately there are powerhungry individuals who twist the Scripture to suit their own comvenience, and we wind up with these kinds of stories. Sad.
posted by konolia at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2008


(PS I have been a Christian since 1980 and I have never known anybody to be disfellowshipped. Maybe a couple of folks who SHOULD have been, but still...)
posted by konolia at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2008


shunning<>forgiveness

is this how christainity is supposed to work?
posted by mattoxic at 6:05 PM on January 18, 2008


[expletive deleted] wrote...
woman whose pastor revealed her extramarital affair to the congregation after she confessed it in confidence,
Whatever happened to "your right to swing your fist ends where it meets my face"?


Would it be different if she had confessed it to a friend instead of a pastor? Linda Tripp, for example, suffered no legal consequences for betraying Monica Lewinsky's confidence.

Not all religious traditions hold confessions to be absolutely sacrosanct, and it sounds like she didn't belong to one that did. Unless this was the first and only time any pastor in her branch of Christianity had done something like this (highly unlikely) I don't think she has much ground to stand on.
posted by tkolar at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2008


Wikipedia, theopedia, single-link WSJ. I think the meat is interesting, but you coulda put this together in a much better way.

I agree. This is my first post. I really thought the article was interesting because I've always found organized religion to be hypocritical, political and basically contrary to everything it's supposed to represent. Plus, religious topics seem to go over big on Metafilter. You got me, though. I added the Wikipedia and Theopedia links to keep from being flamed over a single link article post. I don't consider your comments a flame though.


When I read the following line in the article I laughed my ass off:

The process can be messy, says Al Jackson, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., which began disciplining members in the 1990s. Once, when the congregation voted out an adulterer who refused to repent, an older woman was confused and thought the church had voted to send the man to hell.
posted by mrducts at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2008


Catholic>scream, fear God.
Forgiveness enters equation.
Maybe.
posted by Mblue at 6:12 PM on January 18, 2008


I think this is our cue to start talking about how Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing, right?

Lame.


No, actually I think that was it right there.
posted by Artw at 6:12 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


mattoxic wrote...
shunning [is not] forgiveness.

As others have mentioned, shunning is traditionally only for the unrepentant. Once you repent forgiveness is yours.

is this how christainity is supposed to work?

Sort of. The Christian bible doesn't depict Christ himself saying anything about the founding and administration of churches. Some of the apostles were quite verbose on the topic though, and all of the theology surrounding church law, etc. starts with them.

As with anything biblical, controversies abound.
posted by tkolar at 6:19 PM on January 18, 2008


posted by tkolar Linda Tripp, for example, suffered no legal consequences for betraying Monica Lewinsky's confidence.

Well, not quite. She was indicted, but the charges were dropped--not because she was innocent, but because Monica Lewinsky's testimony against her was, "bathed in impermissable taint."
posted by fandango_matt at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2008


LarryC

Rather than just writing 'terible post', why don't you offer this first time poster some guidance as to how the post could be better, or indeed why you think it terrible.

I hope that suggestion wouldn't ruin your fun of shitting on a first-time poster too much.
posted by mattoxic at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


"bathed in impermissable taint."

Hey, some of us are eating here.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


fandango_matt wrote...
Linda Tripp, for example, suffered no legal consequences for betraying Monica Lewinsky's confidence.
Well, not quite. She was indicted, but the charges were dropped [...]


She was indicted for wiretapping though, not for publicizing a "private" conversation. If she hadn't taped recordings without consent, there would have been no case at all.
posted by tkolar at 6:33 PM on January 18, 2008


Matthew 7:15 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 24:11

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Micah 3:11

11 Her leaders judge for a bribe,
her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets tell fortunes for money.
Yet they lean upon the LORD and say,
"Is not the LORD among us?
No disaster will come upon us."

Matthew 23:3-4

3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.



When you're in doubt, go to the sources. I'm follow the Tao, not the Bible, but the information is there. Humanity uses the idea of God to lead other astray, regardless of which faith you're talking about.

Shame that there's so much prediction of how we'll behave as a species, yet it's continually ignored.
posted by SaintCynr at 6:49 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Would it be different if she had confessed it to a friend instead of a pastor?

Well it certainly casts a dubious light on the privilege that protects a priest or minister receiving a confession from being compelled to testify in court.
Assuming such a privilege exists, and I haven't been lied to by the movies. It's OK if I have; it wouldn't be the first time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2008


Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord"

I'm trying to imagine how long I'd stare befuddledly at someone who accused me of spreading a 'spirit of cancer'.

It's somewhere in the vicinity of 10 minutes, right now.
posted by CKmtl at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pastors are people, and unfortunately, like people, there's going to be a few jerks in the lot.

I don't see a problem with a church choosing to practice shunning, if thats what they choose. Its why we have so many different churches, folks choose the church they want to be a part of. However, its despicable when it apparently seems to be practiced as a cheap means of retaliation against congregation members who don't want to toe the line. Then again, people are free to choose their churches and their pastors.
posted by Atreides at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I really thought the article was interesting because I've always found organized religion to be hypocritical, political and basically contrary to everything it's supposed to represent. Plus, religious topics seem to go over big on Metafilter. You got me, though. I added the Wikipedia and Theopedia links to keep from being flamed over a single link article post. I don't consider your comments a flame though."

Well, frankly, that's kind of a problem. Not the considering my comment a flame, since it wasn't really, but posting the article because you've got an agenda, and thinking that religious topics "go over big," (or that said going over is a mark of quality).

Next time, try for things you think are interesting but aren't intended solely as bait, because that's kinda the textbook definition of trolling.
posted by klangklangston at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2008


Scrub away your sins.
posted by furtive at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2008


Well it certainly casts a dubious light on the privilege that protects a priest or minister receiving a confession from being compelled to testify in court.

The privilege exists, but that same privilege exists in other cases -- notably between spouses. Spouses speak publicly and even testify in court about the misdeeds of their partner all the time (ever watch "Divorce Court"? so I don't think that it's correct to infer that an immunity from being forced to testify translates into an obligation not to....
posted by tkolar at 7:08 PM on January 18, 2008


klangklangston wrote...
Next time, try for things you think are interesting but aren't intended solely as bait, because that's kinda the textbook definition of trolling.

Yeah. This thread has not yet descended into the traditional mefi-religion bashing ritual, but it's kinda disappointing to hear that was your motivation for posting it.
posted by tkolar at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2008


posted by tkolar She was indicted for wiretapping though, not for publicizing a "private" conversation. If she hadn't taped recordings without consent, there would have been no case at all.

Right, but that wasn't my point. I'm simply pointing out that Tripp did indeed face legal consequences, but the case against her was dropped.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2008


What? To go over big means to find favour, not to stir discord.

You two are imposing what you think about religion threads on what OP thinks.
posted by topynate at 7:29 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Next time, try for things you think are interesting but aren't intended solely as bait, because that's kinda the textbook definition of trolling.

"I find organized religion to be hypocritical, political and basically contrary to everything it's supposed to represent..." isn't an agenda. If you think I'm trolling then so be it. Trolling is a pretty subjective term. I'm not attacking Christianity but I do find organized religion to be hypocritical, in that, it's one group of human beings telling another group of human beings "do as I say and not as I do". I posted the article because I thought that there would be a lot of interesting views on the topic.

"Plus, religious topics seem to go over big on Metafilter." OK. Maybe not a good choice of words but I wasn't trying to bait anyone. Most any discussion on religion will always bring out a passionate dialogue.
posted by mrducts at 7:48 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is my first post.

lay off the kid.

my first post involved a one-link youtube post, followed by my second post which was a one-link NYT piece about artists getting high in their basements.

these were both followed up by a writhing of hands by me in a self important "WHY WERE MY POSTS DELETED" thread on metatalk, with a corresponding askMe.

And let's not even talk about the Bird Flu. Oh, man. Anyways- yeah, lay off the kid.
posted by localhuman at 7:55 PM on January 18, 2008


The post is completely unobjectionable. The fact that mrducts feels strongly about religion is of no consequence, because everyone tends to post on matters that are important to them. Religion-related threads really do seem to interest the Metafilter community, and mrducts can't be faulted for noticing that something he's interested in seems to interest Metafilter.

The actual phrasing of the post doesn't excessively editorialize, either. There's no suggestion he was trying to get a rise out of anyone.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 8:04 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


The post is fine. Quit harping about it.

I didn't know this trend was happening, and might not have learned about it for a while if it weren't for this post.
posted by univac at 8:07 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


First, this sort of thing hardly ever happens. I'm a pastor and I've never heard of this happening except very carefully, and in extreme cases--actually just once, and that involved sexual impropriety with a minor. But the dumb cases and the cases that clearly involve power-crazed pastors make better WSJ stories than "church official disfellowships child molester." The article gave stats on how many churches practice this sort of discipline, what it doesn't say is that in 90% of these cases, any reasonable person would agree that the shunning was appropriate or even necessary.

I am agreed that no single person should have the power to do this, and I would prefer it if the pastor has no vote at all in such matters--he or she is too often personally involved.

Reading about the dumb, unjustified cases angers me as much as it does anyone. I hate it when pastors abuse their power like that. It makes it that much harder for the rest of us to do our jobs. But in the end, every organization has the right to set its own boundaries and guidelines. It's a shame that some people get hurt by discipline done badly, but the option must be there for the cases where it is needed.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Man, am I torn on this. On one had I think this piece isn't giving us the full story with Mrs. Caskey. In a town of 200 the church went from 12 members, lost 25, and now has 70 in about two years? And this new pastor just came in and started acting like a jerk, but the congregation grew? Where did these people come from, anyhow, and why do they like this jerk? Smells fishy.

On the other hand, man that pastor sounds like a jackass, calling the cops on a little old lady in his church who has dedicated her life to the place.

Plus, I think its a great idea to start shunning people who break their church rules. Its hypocritical to condemn the practices of society while looking the other way when your parishioners act the same way. With any luck they'll drive out the majority of their congregations to more tolerant denominations. Poor old Mrs. Caskey ought to chuck those jerks and Allen Baptist and start hanging out with, say, some Unitarians.
posted by Reverend John at 8:11 PM on January 18, 2008


When I was a kid, I belonged to a small, Independent-Fundamentalist Baptist church of a very similar vein to the one in the article. We only ever shunned one family during the time I was there. The story is as follows:

....

One Sunday, almost out of nowhere, a black family showed up at our church door. They were new to the neighborhood, they said. They were looking for a church home, and were wondering if they could worship with us. I remember that our pastor politely welcomed them while the rest of the church (gathering for pre-sermon coffee) sat around and looked on in stony silence.

The thing about Independent-Fundy Baptists, you see, is that we were largely creations of the 19th century -- an era where blacks, Mexicans, poor people, etc, were expected to "know their place". Naturally, "their place" is almost always somewhere else. And the thing about churches, by and large, is that their doctrines and attitudes will always be products of the era in which they were founded. It doesn't matter how "Biblical" the church claims to be -- it's idea of "Biblical" doctrine will always (mysteriously) resemble what Southern plantation owners of the 1850's believed to be "Biblical" -- if thats where the church comes from.

Anyway, within six months, or roughly 24 Sundays, the only black family in the congregation were being officially brought up on "Sinful Offenses" which included lack of tithing, disrespect for elders and "slothfulness" (lazyness). They weren't present for the trial, but the rest of the entire congregation (40+ individuals, all white), including the Pastor, voted and convicted them unanimously.

I was only 11 or 12 at the time, and I didn't get why they were being expelled. I had known them, had played with their kids, and had thought they were good people -- while I had never noticed them being lazy, greedy or "disrespectful". I remember asking my mom why they had been shunned, to which she could only reply that they were "sinners", in a very vague sort of way.

It wasn't until much later in life that I could finally connect the dots and see the real motivation behind their shunning. I can't say that this was the single episode that caused me to become an atheist, but it was certainly one of many that lead me in that direction. After coming to grips with what had really happened, I realized -- and would forever realize -- that churches exist, first and foremost, as cultural and political gatekeepers rather than as pathways to the divine.

tl;dr: Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing.
posted by Avenger at 8:16 PM on January 18, 2008 [18 favorites]


And this new pastor just came in and started acting like a jerk, but the congregation grew? Where did these people come from, anyhow, and why do they like this jerk?

It would grow even faster if they started flogging people.
posted by Brian B. at 8:24 PM on January 18, 2008


After coming to grips with what had really happened, I realized -- and would forever realize -- that churches exist, first and foremost, as cultural and political gatekeepers rather than as pathways to the divine.

Not that I disagree with your doubts about churches as pathways to the divine, but....

You made a general conclusion about the 1,000,000+ congregations in the United States based off your experience with a small Independent-Fundamentalist Baptist church?
posted by tkolar at 8:25 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


you need never fear shunning as long as your general obnoxiousness quotient is lower than the capitalized present value of your collection plate stream.
posted by bruce at 8:32 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


<derail>
Wow, no one has mentioned "Charlie the Unicorn" yet?
</derail>
posted by crataegus at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2008


And this new pastor just came in and started acting like a jerk, but the congregation grew? Where did these people come from, anyhow, and why do they like this jerk?

they came from other towns, probably - it's nothing in that area to drive 10 to 30 miles to your job in jackson, albion, coldwater or battle creek - and some people drive that far to church, if they like the preacher, or belong to the denomination

another thing about a town as small as allen is that there are two social centers - one's the church, the other's the bar

everyone in the township knows everyone else's business, count on it

along with that comes a lot of drama - the bars have fights in the parking lot and the churches have these vicious little gossipy battles and this is the result - that baptist preacher may well think that the pentecostal church in albion is leading people astray and those going to the catholic church in coldwater are going to hell - and god help you if you go to the big city of battle creek or jackson and live in the black hole of sin

that's what people DO there - they work and go to church a lot - or they work (sometimes) and get smashed and do meth

my ex was from a town 12 miles north of allen - and i used to work at a country grocery in a very similar community 30 miles north of there

that whole area is a fucking waste - and they ban people from their churches because they don't have shit else to do - nothing new about it - i was hearing about bannings 30 years ago
posted by pyramid termite at 8:43 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


""I find organized religion to be hypocritical, political and basically contrary to everything it's supposed to represent..." isn't an agenda."

Most of us realize that SOME religions and SOME religious folks are pretty hypocritical, political and contrary to what it represents while we're in high school. Presenting all of 'em as hypocritical, political and contrary to their stated intent is an agenda or a bias, however you like to put it, and it's one that doesn't lend itself to discussions so much—you either agree or disagree with it. That people either passionately agree or disagree is not the same thing as passionate dialog, and besides, it helps to post links to things that are interesting beyond their ability to stir passionate dialog.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 PM on January 18, 2008


Funny - I see it as male power run amok. Reading this I was reminded of Dea Birkett's story of the Pitcairn island troubles. A small community, isolation and excessive power in the hands of a few.
posted by TorontoSandy at 8:57 PM on January 18, 2008


"that whole area is a fucking waste - and they ban people from their churches because they don't have shit else to do - nothing new about it - i was hearing about bannings 30 years ago"

And yet they wonder why young people leave.

I did always like driving to the printer in Albion though—the only real bitch of that was that it only happened when we were behind deadline, so I had to haul ass, but I remember that the bars seemed decent and that the place looked pretty pleasant. I'd understand wanting to live there instead of Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo.
posted by klangklangston at 8:58 PM on January 18, 2008


klangklangston wrote...
Presenting all of 'em as hypocritical, political and contrary to their stated intent

Well to be fair, the actual post is fairly neutral. They only reason that we know that there was "I think churches are hypocritical so I'm going to make a post that includes elements of hypocrisy in churches" thing going on is that the OP copped to it later.

So intentionally or not, the post doesn't seem that bad.
posted by tkolar at 9:04 PM on January 18, 2008


I'm still waiting for Jesus to come back as a large block of hashish.
posted by undule at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2008


I almost forgot: Mrs. Casky rules.
posted by everichon at 9:07 PM on January 18, 2008


I still have to ask, if this really is a clear cut case of a jerk new pastor abusing a kindly little old lady and longtime member of the congregation, why are people driving in from other towns to visit his church, when they could drive over to any other town as well? According to the article these people didn't belong to the denomination before he arrived, so this means they must like something about him. People don't usually like guys who bully little old ladies.

Could it be possible that this particular little old lady might have been trying to insist that the congregation bend to *her* will since she was such a long time and dedicated member, and then when they refused she made a pain of herself until they booted her? We don't know the pastor's side of the story since he refused to talk for the interview, but I have a hard time seeing his congregation siding with him unless there is more to the story than we know.

I'm as eager to beat up on the hypocrisy of the religious as anyone, but her case sounds more complicated than its been presented, and the rest of the examples in the article are less outrageous. I'm still in favor of pastors taking a hard line with their flocks, though. If they want to focus on rules and sin and hell and not on loving god and their neighbors then let them keep their focus inside until they've driven out all the decent people.
posted by Reverend John at 9:08 PM on January 18, 2008


I'm still waiting for Jesus to come back as a large block of hashish.

Oh, he has man. He has.
posted by tkolar at 9:12 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


The practice of shunning speaks volumes in its silence. It essentially reveals the group committing the act of shunning to be ignorant - and a general willingness to perpetuate this ignorance because they find it is the only way to insure that they do not learn how wrong they are.

For the record, I consider myself a Christian. For the record, there are many different kinds. One cannot with any legitimacy measure all Christians by the mettle of one individual or congregation or even denomination. However, when something is done by a vast majority of denominations? That's where things get a mite more embarrassing.

Shunning for example. Widespread ignorance for another example. Remember, it's the Catholic Church who once used political pressure on Galileo to make sure he didn't tell the world that WE weren't the center of our Lord's universe. Science and religion have been at loggerheads for millenia. Religion's been a little better at using politics than science has in order to get its job done, which is part of what makes the first amendment so novel, and so important. It's also what I find makes this recent development so disturbing.

I have spoken in recent years with people who call themselves Christians. Friends. Acquaintances. Strangers. On more than one occasion I've found myself in a discussion involving today's government, and they tell me they think that the Constitution is "out of date" and needs to be scrapped in favor of something that can better apply to today. I ask them if they feel the same way about The Bible. Not only do they change their tune immediately, they're completely deaf to the contrast.

The Constitution is two hundred years old, give or take a couple decades.

The New Testament is two thousand years old, give or take a couple centuries.

Shunning? You're worried about a little shunning? That's the least of our concerns, given today's intolerant political and societal climate. There are growing numbers of people on this planet who no longer wish to practice tolerant. They don't want to be tolerant of other people's views. They only want one thing.

They want to be right.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:14 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


"""I find organized religion to be hypocritical, political and basically contrary to everything it's supposed to represent..." isn't an agenda."

Most of us realize that SOME religions and SOME religious folks are pretty hypocritical, political and contrary to what it represents while we're in high school. Presenting all of 'em as hypocritical, political and contrary to their stated intent is an agenda or a bias
"

I'll go further then klangklanston, your comment on religion is offensive and prejudiced.
posted by oddman at 9:15 PM on January 18, 2008


"Well to be fair, the actual post is fairly neutral. They only reason that we know that there was "I think churches are hypocritical so I'm going to make a post that includes elements of hypocrisy in churches" thing going on is that the OP copped to it later."

Oh, yeah. I suppose this'd really be for Metatalk, but I didn't want to get all yelly. I just hoped that this'd go OK (and it mostly has, except for our bitching), and to encourage the OP to either do more or less next time. I do think it's an interesting article, even if, like PT mentions, it's nothing new.
posted by klangklangston at 9:19 PM on January 18, 2008


The practice of shunning speaks volumes in its silence. It essentially reveals the group committing the act of shunning to be ignorant

Uh..... shunning an unrepentant child molester reveals ignorance?

You lost me somewhere.

posted by tkolar at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2008


(apparently it was the same place my second HTML tag went)
posted by tkolar at 9:25 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm torn. On the one hand, I chafe at the petty garden-club politics that define so many of these kinds of scuffles. The idea that people need to be perfect, or that even True Believers must adhere to the minutiae of dogma to be allowed in the door, is depressing. On the other hand, one of the experiences in the Christian church that really stuck with me was when a couple of pastors I knew and respected kicked the youth pastor out of the church.

I'd been a good friend of the youth pastor and his wife; both were just a few years older than me and while they were by no means perfect, they were the quirky Gen-X couple that looked a lot like what I hoped I'd eventually find. We hung out, got to know each other, and all that. Their two kids were adorable. Slowly but surely he was going on more and more missions trips, though, and it was really starting to wear on his family. When he wanted to help launch a new "outreach center" for youth in the area, under the church's umbrella, it got even more difficult. Then, someone suggested that it might be cool if he and the church secretary didn't always stay so late closing up shop after everyone left. And then after they spent a foreign church trip off doing 'private missions work' together, someone put the question to him point blank. He admitted he and the secretary were sleeping together. He said that there was nothing wrong with it and that God wanted the two of them to be happy together.

His wife and two daughters didn't take it so well. Neither did the secretary's daughter, who was in the youth group the guy was in charge of. Over the course of a month or so, he insisted that he was doing nothing untoward and that "God wanted them to be happy." The pastors didn't make a public announcement of it, but let him go from his official position. Eventually, they said that while he was still sleeping with the church secretary he couldn't effectively be a member of the congregation. He said, 'Fine,' left, and the two of them moved a couple miles away and got jobs at the local mall.

Should this guy have been free to do what he wanted? Yeah. He was free to. But was the congregation within its rights to say, "That's not cool, this goes beyond 'being an imperfect person and turns into actively doing something everyone here believes is wrong?" Yeah. I think that's legitimate. Having watched his wife and daughters struggle by -- they weren't exactly living on the fat of the land on a youth pastor's salary to begin with -- drove the point home, too. He wasn't a free spirit being beaten down by a closed-minded congregation, he was just an asshole. A guy I'd hung out with, and thought I knew fairly well, went and pulled a serious asshole move and dug in his heels to defend it, hurting his family and the people around him.

So when I hear about this kind of stuff, I think, "Yeah, there are freaked out powermongers kicking out parishioners over petty disputes. But sometimes, there are people that really do just need a boot in the ass." It's complicated, I guess.
posted by verb at 9:35 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I remember that the bars seemed decent and that the place looked pretty pleasant.

it pretty much is, except for the "hood" - and yes, they have one, although i never thought it was real bad

worse is the surrounding countryside - it's a poverty stricken and dysfunctional hellhole - i knew of one woman who was arrested for hooking her 12 year old daughter out on the streets of marshall - and can tell you some interesting stories about her roommates and her kids ...

i knew some respectable people in albion, though - all went to the pentecostal church my ex had been in ...

you've got to drive awhile to get a decent job, unless you're lucky - trust me, you're better off in grand rapids or kalamazoo - calhoun county, especially eastern calhoun county, is one of the assholes of the universe

i grew up in battle creek, i should know
posted by pyramid termite at 9:43 PM on January 18, 2008


About fifteen years ago, my mother and I were disfellowshipped from a church, and this was after she and the pastor had been very close friends for the previous thirteen years or so. Why? Because she was divorcing her husband, my step-father, for frequently physically abusing me. This, at the time, left her a pretty much completely friendless single mother with two children to take care of. She has had trouble making close friends ever since.

Personally, I can't think of very many good reasons to revoke one's church membership, possibly beyond being a frequent disruptive presence. To many people, the church provides a whole major social group. That's a rather severe thing to take from someone.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:45 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The practice of shunning speaks volumes in its silence. It essentially reveals the group committing the act of shunning to be ignorant

no, it's small town people being small town people - they just have a church and a preacher to ratify it for them and make it official

ten times as much goes on in a town like that and the pastor has nothing to do with it, but it's still shunning
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


About fifteen years ago, my mother and I were disfellowshipped from a church, and this was after she and the pastor had been very close friends for the previous thirteen years or so. Why? Because she was divorcing her husband, my step-father, for frequently physically abusing me.
Jesus. Talk about the polar opposite of my own experience. I'm sorry.
posted by verb at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2008


About fifteen years ago, my mother and I were disfellowshipped from a church, and this was after she and the pastor had been very close friends for the previous thirteen years or so. Why? Because she was divorcing her husband, my step-father, for frequently physically abusing me.

Wow. What a terrible thing.
posted by tkolar at 10:00 PM on January 18, 2008


Avenger, your post strikes me as ironic considering the large contributions churches made to the civil rights movement. In the absence of good quantitative data I assume churches are good and evil in about the same proportion as all the other stuff we do.
posted by Wood at 10:15 PM on January 18, 2008


I still have to ask, if this really is a clear cut case of a jerk new pastor abusing a kindly little old lady and longtime member of the congregation...

Man, am I torn on this. On one had I think this piece isn't giving us the full story with Mrs. Caskey.

posted by Reverend John


I thought the same thing when I read the article. There probably is more to the story. Really, for all we know the lady is insufferable and the whole congregation wants her gone. Just because she's an elderly woman who's been a church member for 50 years, taught Sunday school and regularly tithed 10% of her pension doesn't mean she's a saint or, for that matter, that she's a pleasant person to be around. But then I thought, "Man, there's gotta be a better way than throwing her in jail!" That's just against what the church is all about.
posted by mrducts at 10:17 PM on January 18, 2008


There probably is more to the story. Really, for all we know the lady is insufferable and the whole congregation wants her gone.
True. On the other hand, "You're sowing discord" is often Christian-ese for "We disagree with you and you won't change your mind."
posted by verb at 10:23 PM on January 18, 2008


Exrtra Extra! Christians (and others) shun members of their own faith!

The flock decided that the best way to forgive your sin was to completely disavow your existence! Sure, we've been friends for thirty years, but you fornicated. Eww.

/sarcasm off

But really. Seriously?
posted by kurtroehl at 10:31 PM on January 18, 2008


As others have mentioned, shunning is traditionally only for the unrepentant. Once you repent forgiveness is yours.

That's exactly how I trained my dog.
posted by fshgrl at 11:13 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Avenger, your post strikes me as ironic considering the large contributions churches made to the civil rights movement.

So the irony continues.

In the absence of good quantitative data I assume churches are good and evil in about the same proportion as all the other stuff we do.

So then Christianity and religion in general is good for nothing?
posted by Brian B. at 11:55 PM on January 18, 2008


I am not a particularly religious person. However, I do believe in fairness. When I think of religion, I think of the guy, standing on the sidewalk, holding a sign that simply says, "Jesus Saves".

If you were to walk up to this guy, and simply say, tell me more -- it wouldn't matter if you were black, white, young, old, male, female, Jewish, Muslim, beautiful, hideous, rich, poor, a landowner, or an ex-con. Right there, at that very moment, you would experience acceptance. This guy would talk to you.

There's something fundamentally fascinating, and positive, about that fact.
posted by effugas at 12:35 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


A little digging around will show you that Jason Burrick (the pastor in the story) is a graduate of Hyles Anderson College, an unaccredited and controversial place.

The Church Disipline Blog discusses Hyles Anderson and Jason Burrick thusly:
The core debate is whether Hyles Anderson is training its pastors to "steal" congregations. That is get a pastoral appointment to a church with weak or no outside leadership, kick out the old members and rebuild the church in a new way. This technique is what is controversial. Its often advocated under terms like "congregational renewal". More importantly it gets to the heart of the great debates that appear to be splitting the evangelical and fundamentalist community renewing the classic debate as to whether the church is broad or narrow, that is the issue of regenerate membership.
Posts over at haloscan.com reiterate the "HA is a cult factory" theme...albeit badly spelled and difficult to decipher. However, buried in there are reports that Burrick has now stationed "bouncers" outside the church doors to stop the "unwelcome". The unwelcome of course being those people who wanted him to follow the church constitution and turn over the financial records. Infidel bastards.

I hope that when I'm as old as Mrs. Caskey that I'm as brave and self determined as she is. Oh, and I also hope that if there's a God in Heaven, a meteor will whack Burrick in the back of the head hard enough to smack some sense into him. What a horrible, petty, little man. And if "real Christians" don't stand up to denounce this sort of behavior, then don't be real surprised with secularists hold it up as an example of the evil inherent in the system.
posted by dejah420 at 12:50 AM on January 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately there are powerhungry individuals who twist the Scripture to suit their own comvenience, and we wind up with these kinds of stories.

This religion thing is new to you?
posted by ryoshu at 1:00 AM on January 19, 2008


So the H.A. club1 is hijacking churches now, eh? Brilliant businessmen, the H.A. upper echelons. Big money to be made when you're willing to look for any opportunity, morals be damned.

1Hyles Anderson, not Hell's Angels. But I can easily understand how one might confuse the two.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:42 AM on January 19, 2008


(PS I have been a Christian since 1980 and I have never known anybody to be disfellowshipped. Maybe a couple of folks who SHOULD have been, but still...)

[blink]

That's quite a strong statement of opinion and judgement.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:57 AM on January 19, 2008


"i grew up in battle creek, i should know"

I like the cereal, and I like the beer. That's, in fact, one of the best things about western Michigan: New Holland, MBC, Arcadia, Bell's (though I guess MBC, being in Fowlerville, isn't really "western")…
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 AM on January 19, 2008


Who would Jesus shun?
posted by XMLicious at 2:02 AM on January 19, 2008


I am not a particularly religious person. However, I do believe in fairness. When I think of religion, I think of the guy, standing on the sidewalk, holding a sign that simply says, "Jesus Saves".

If you were to walk up to this guy, and simply say, tell me more -- it wouldn't matter if you were black, white, young, old, male, female, Jewish, Muslim, beautiful, hideous, rich, poor, a landowner, or an ex-con. Right there, at that very moment, you would experience acceptance. This guy would talk to you.

There's something fundamentally fascinating, and positive, about that fact.




Of course, the same goes for the guy holding the used car dealership sign. Any type of salesman is happy to give you a pitch.

As to the main article, it's just another example of religion's standard operating procedure:

Preach love - practice hate.
posted by fairmettle at 2:49 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


this sort of thing hardly ever happens. I'm a pastor and I've never heard of this happening except very carefully, and in extreme cases

I was raised in a batshit crazy fundy group in which shunning (being 'put out') is the norm. You can be put out for all sorts of good things. My father was put out for three weeks for attending the football grand final (the first year his team had made the final) when he should have been at church. My mother was put out for three months for apparently criticising a pastor during a tongues session - how the fuck did the pastor know? Most recently, my mother was let back in two years after having been put out "until marriage", after she kissed a man she was intending to marry (but then couldn't, as she wasn't in fellowship - do you see how this works?). There was a massive split in this group about ten years ago after one faction decided that fornication was punishable by being put out for life, but another faction thought two or three years was long enough.

It's all about control. I'm not sure how this works in traditional religions as my knowledge is quite limited, but in churches like the one in which I was born into you are told it is the ONLY true church and your only hope for salvation, you can't see friends or family who aren't in fellowship and you must abide by a very strict code of conduct that is totally at the discretion of the pastor. You are also strongly encouraged to seek advice from oversight in even the most minor of life decisions, so that pastors are aware of and have a say in everything, and to share information about your fellow congregants. The church thus becomes your life and being shunned a fate worse than death.

There is really not much difference between such churches and any definition of cult you choose to use.
posted by goo at 4:10 AM on January 19, 2008


This thread IS INTERESTING. Good thing most people ignored the initial attempts at shutting down discussion. It almost feels like a flashback.
posted by srboisvert at 4:39 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing about the Pastor in this case and the controversy surrounding his training school on hijacking churches, is that congregations create committees to interview and select their pastors, and generally, they even have the pastor preach a sermon or more to see if he'd fit the church. Since this church only had 12 members, I'd assume everyone had a role in selecting the new pastor. So either the church did a poor job in vetting their new pastor, or the pastor deceived the folks interviewing him.
posted by Atreides at 5:38 AM on January 19, 2008


Gee...it's going to be really fun around here once we finally get that theocracy up-and-running here in the US. Neo-Inquisition, anyone?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:38 AM on January 19, 2008


It's an interesting story and I thought about posting it yesterday. I think leaving the power of shunning with the pastor, who is essentially an employee of the church, rather than with the congregation or the elders, seems pretty screwed up. This seems to be a personal issue between the two of them and he is using his position to make her as miserable as possible. It 's not like she committed some grievous sin, she just disagreed with him about how to run the church. Who knows though what else may be going on. She may be a battle axe, she may really dislike the new members he has attracted, etc. Still, for this guy to unilaterally ban her from the church she has attended for many, many years seems shameful. If there is a God, this guy will have some explaining to do come judgment day.
posted by caddis at 6:04 AM on January 19, 2008


I think this is a wonderful trend. When the churches themselves directly involve themselves in driving people away from religion, that's less work to be done by the rest of us.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:18 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how this works in traditional religions as my knowledge is quite limited, but in churches like the one in which I was born into you are told it is the ONLY true church and your only hope for salvation....

No, that's pretty much the way all around, with few exceptions.

Funny how God always thinks how you think, hates who you hate, and, out of the thousands of rules in the bible, only really cares about the ones you care about.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:19 AM on January 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Religion really sucks!
However:
Jesus saves, at Bank Leumi!
Jesus made me say that, He likes some humor, really.
Sounds silly, allowing a pastor to take over and then scoff at the bylaws. If God wanted preachers to operate without oversight, He'd not have invented Judgment Day.
posted by Goofyy at 6:32 AM on January 19, 2008


Wow. Communities have rules? Scandalous!
And they expel members who violate them? Completely unacceptable!
Time to dismantle MetaFilter I guess.
Or is it actually possible that tunnel-vision hypocrites aren't only found in churches?
posted by Horken Bazooka at 7:00 AM on January 19, 2008


Avenger, your story is one of the main reasons why I don't attend church. Churches are some of the most racially segregated "public" places and unless your story happened during the civil rights era, I'm surprised a Black family would have attempted--without invitation--to join a "White" church. In a very large church one might get away with being regarded as the token whatever, but in such a small congregation the differentness is too apparent.

And SaintCynr, I generally find the quoting of Scripture to make an argument to be tiresome, but it is clear that even the Bible calls out religious hypocrisy. Too bad those it is pointing to don'r recognize themselves or their behavior.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:34 AM on January 19, 2008


Pastor Burrick is still there, Horken Bazooka, and he broke his own church's constitution.

I'm thinking that the rules to which you refer aren't really church rules. I prefer to call them virulent outbreaks of authoritarian cultic lunacy. You might want to throw a 'patriarchal' or a 'regressive' in there too... I'm guessing that the Allen Baptist Church is broad enough to cover all that and more.
posted by topynate at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Although I'm sure it was a perfectly nice little church before the pastor arrived.
posted by topynate at 7:49 AM on January 19, 2008


Dammit dejah420, you beat me to it!

She may be a battle axe


Perhaps this is just my misinterpretation, having been raised by godless communists, but isn't there something in the Bible about forgiveness, turning the other cheek and loving thy enemies as thyself?

You can make scripture support any argument you want:
From the Liveblog at Christianity today:

Matthew 18:15-17 gives instructions for addressing an unrepentant Christian living in sin…

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.


Then you just need to have some agreement as to what constitutes "sin" and who gets to decide.

(by the way, I love the equation of "Gentiles" with "tax collectors" )
posted by nax at 8:18 AM on January 19, 2008


Atreides wrote...
Since this church only had 12 members, I'd assume everyone had a role in selecting the new pastor. So either the church did a poor job in vetting their new pastor, or the pastor deceived the folks interviewing him.

Or (and this is what I'd guess happened) there was a split vote on bringing in the new pastor and Mrs. Caskey was on the losing end of it.
posted by tkolar at 8:34 AM on January 19, 2008


I'm not sure how this works in traditional religions as my knowledge is quite limited, but in churches like the one in which I was born into you are told it is the ONLY true church and your only hope for salvation....
No, that's pretty much the way all around, with few exceptions.


Sigh. As usual, these threads are interesting until the zealots arrive.

Thanks for the interest post, mrducts.

[leaves rapidly filling swamp]
posted by tkolar at 8:37 AM on January 19, 2008


Anything that gets people out of churches is fine by me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:51 AM on January 19, 2008


Who would Jesus shun?

Money changers.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2008


Christ: "What an asshole!"
posted by TedW at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The one instance of disfellowship at the Covenant (Evangelical) church I grew up attending was that of a family friend who would not countenance our lesbian lay pastor. She made her views known, loudly and during services, and the congregation eventually shunned her. Sometimes it's the right thing to do.
posted by generalist at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2008


Whoa, generalist. I was aware of the Evangelical Left, but I didn't know there were churches under the Evangelical umbrella that were that liberal. What about sola scriptura?
posted by topynate at 10:59 AM on January 19, 2008


As one of the token born-agains on here, let me remind everyone that Christianity has a pretty wide umbrella. Under that umbrella are some churches that I think every one of us on this thread would agree were cults. Some of the stuff I read about some of these "fundamentalist" churches are enough to make me cry. If that had been my only exposure to Christianity....I shudder to think about it.

But, it's like everything else. If people have a hand in it, there are boundless and sundry ways to screw it up. Holds true for government, healthcare, and, sadly, churches.
posted by konolia at 11:50 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


topynate:

I haven't been a churchgoer for a long time, so I'm hesitant to talk about doctrine. I don't remember my church as liberal so much as unconcerned with political issues and accepting of various interpretations of scripture, without denying its primacy. The church defines itself this way:
Evangelical, but not exclusive
Biblical, but not doctrinaire
Traditional, but not rigid
Congregational, but not independent
If the aforementioned woman had kept her views to herself, or discussed them reasonably, she would not have been shunned.
Cursory googling shows that the historical aversion to official church stances on controversial issues, including sexuality, has been changing, not without controversy. If I'm talking out of my ass and anyone knows it, please correct me.
posted by generalist at 12:06 PM on January 19, 2008


And here is a bit of Scripture that addresses all this:

Ezekiel 34:2-10: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
7 " 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
posted by konolia at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


More fun "Christian" practice: fake abortion clinics.

Only in the USA. Friggin nuts.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on January 19, 2008


I think this is an excellent thing for churches to do, as it's useful when the stupid and powerhungry highlight themselves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2008


fff, may I subscribe to your newsletter? I am very much interested in non-sequiturs that include substitute expletives.
posted by generalist at 12:39 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


nax wrote...
Perhaps this is just my misinterpretation, having been raised by godless communists, but isn't there something in the Bible about forgiveness, turning the other cheek and loving thy enemies as thyself?

It sounds like you're saying that Christian congregations should never ever force someone to leave, no matter what their behavior is. That seems like a really untenable position.
posted by tkolar at 12:54 PM on January 19, 2008


Question:

Who owns the church, when a pastor "kicks out" the present congregation?
posted by effugas at 12:55 PM on January 19, 2008


generalist wrote...
fff, may I subscribe to your newsletter? I am very much interested in non-sequiturs that include substitute expletives.

What do you mean non-sequitur, generalist? The topic of religion came up, therefore any person with any agenda can just start tossing random crap in the thread.

That's how religion threads work on Metafilter.
posted by tkolar at 12:57 PM on January 19, 2008


Sorry tkolar, the kitty stickers on my monitor started speaking in tongues and I was confused.
posted by generalist at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2008


Who owns the church, when a pastor "kicks out" the present congregation?

I'm kind of curious about that too, particularly for these "independent" churches.

I know that for Episcopalians the buildings tend to belong to the larger organization. The current split as the conservative parishes go off to find a male to lead them is resulting in some interesting real estate issues -- basically the conservative parishes are being kicked out of churches, and pastors who are loyal to the American Episcopalian Church are being brought in to occupy the space and attempt to start new parishes.
posted by tkolar at 1:07 PM on January 19, 2008


tkolar, like I said, I was raised by godless communists (and actually virulently anti-religion ex-catholics so I admit my prejudices were set early on). But yeah, I would say that forcing someone to leave sounds like it is contrary to to the whole "turn the other cheek" thing. This could very well be my complete unfamliarity with the day to day reality of being part of a religious community, and how much you have to toe the line, but I would hope that it isn't like a job, where you can get fired for inadequate performance. It seems to me that the only excuse for religion is to allow people to find a path to the holy, which when all is said and done you have to do really on your own. I mean, I don't see how some pastor can say "go find your path to the holy at some other church" if *this* church is the one that helps you to do that. Maybe Mrs. Caskey is overly focused on place, but if that's what works for her, refusing her access to god in that way is what seems like the sin to me. One needn't approve, countenance, support, or frankly talk to the person you disagree with. Don't invite them over for dinner, and maybe refuse them communion (or whatever it is called in protestant churches). But kick them out? I just don't get it.
posted by nax at 1:13 PM on January 19, 2008


But yeah, I would say that forcing someone to leave sounds like it is contrary to to the whole "turn the other cheek" thing.
Well, the 'turn the other cheek' principle is about how Christians are supposed to respond when they're attacked. In theory, kicking people out of the religious community is about something else entirely.

The underlying principle is this: if someone is actively violating fundamental principles of the religious faith -- and saying that they don't care, and will continue doing it -- does the community of people say, "OK, then you can't really claim to be part of this group any more?" It's a bit like catfight around whether Lieberman and his membership in the Democratic party: At what point does everyone say, "Dude, you're effectively a Republican?" Not the best analogy, but it captures some of the complexity.

In the New Testament, there are a couple of incidents where churches wrote to the apostles for advice about how to handle these kinds of things. In one of them, a member of the congregation was sleeping with his mother in law, and the advice given was to talk to the person privately and explain to them that it was unacceptable, then have a group of elders contact them privately and explain that it wasn't acceptable. If after those steps the individual continued to openly do the discussed things that were against the tenets of the faith, they'd be publicly kicked out of the church. This was all with the caveat that if they stopped, or at the very least accepted that the behavior was wrong and made an effort to change, they'd be welcomed back and helped.

In most cases, it boils down to whether the individual sees the behavior as a failure to be overcome, or something they shouldn't have to stop. In reality, it also tends to focus on two kinds of things: open, unrepentant violation of Christian sexual guidelines (adultery, homosexuality, shacking up with your girlfriend/boyfriend, getting pregnant in really conservative congregations), or (less frequently) trying to undermine the church leadership in major decisions. The controversial part -- obviously -- is whether the particular infraction is just part of 'people being imperfect humans' or whether it's really an unacceptable violation of the faith's commands.
Maybe Mrs. Caskey is overly focused on place, but if that's what works for her, refusing her access to god in that way is what seems like the sin to me. One needn't approve, countenance, support, or frankly talk to the person you disagree with.
Yeah, the Mrs. Caskey incident sounds a lot more like a pastor trying to orchestrate a power play. I've seen other cases, like the one I described above, where it was a different scenario by far.
posted by verb at 1:45 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


... it is contrary to to the whole "turn the other cheek" thing.

Interesting factoid about the turning of cheeks -

I caught part of a documentary wherein some researcher (I can't recall either the documentary or the researcher's names, unfortunately) posited that, in the culture and time of the bible, the "turn the other cheek" advice had a nearly polar opposite meaning to what people take it to mean today.

Nowadays, it's a semi-forgiveness thing. "Don't focus on the ills done to you", etc. Right?

According to this researcher, in its original context, the "turn the other cheek" thing was almost an act of protest. Suppose you're standing face to face with someone, and the person you're arguing with backhand slaps you on the right cheek with their right hand. If you turn your head and present your left cheek, you're inviting them to give you a forehand slap on it. The gist of it was that a backhand slap was dismissive and reserved for people lower than you (slaves, for example), while the forehand slap was used among equals. Maybe I have the sides backwards, but it was something along those lines.

So, apparently it was more of a "if you're going to disrespect me, at least disrespect me as an equal" thing.
posted by CKmtl at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


CKmti, yeah, that's something that came out in my studies as well. A couple other classic Jesus homilies have similar implications: "If a soldier tells you to carry his gear a mile, carry it two miles" was tricky, because Roman soldiers could force anyone to carry their gear for them -- but only for one mile. Any farther, and they were essentially abusing their privileges. By carrying a package two miles, the oppressed person was essentially saying, "You want to keep your job? Then you have to admit that I'm doing this willingly as a fellow human being -- not a person you control."

There were some interesting nonviolent protest themes throughout the Gospels, lots of cultural aikido going on that we now just collapse to 'be nice, even to your enemies'. Regrettable.
posted by verb at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Suppose you're standing face to face with someone, and the person you're arguing with backhand slaps you on the right cheek with their right hand.

I can honestly say I have never been in an argument that devolves to cheek-slapping.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:46 PM on January 19, 2008


[WWJD]

Kill himself ... wait ...
posted by ogre at 1:44 AM on January 20, 2008


damn these primitive internets!
posted by ryanrs at 4:39 AM on January 20, 2008


I can honestly say I have never been in an argument that devolves to cheek-slapping.

Well, you could also honestly say that you've never been a second temple Jew living under Roman rule, nor have you ever read scripture in that context, and therefore your arrogant mewlings on the matter have zero credibility. Because, you know, if five fresh fish has never been in an argument that devolved to cheek-slapping, such a thing is clearly outside the realm of possibility, both past and present, for all of mankind.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2008


I'd watch the sarcasm with five fresh fish, HB, because I seem to recall that when I first heard of him he was just three fresh fish, and I think I heard something about loaves in there too...
posted by nax at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can honestly say you're a hypersensitive twit who has read way the fuck too much into a single-line throwaway, dipshit. Go blow a goat.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2008


Sorry, I'm not familiar with that peculiar Canadian custom.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 10:14 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not actually a Canadian custom; and contrary to your barnyard fellatory interpretation, it originally wasn't an imperative suggestion to go forth and commit bestiality.

You see, back in Mesopotamia goatskins were a common trade good. However, lacking the means to make airtight seams and one-way valves, it was impossible to make a much wanted goat-shaped balloon. No matter how tightly one stitched and no matter how hard one blew, there would always be leaks and the thing would deflate.

So, when one was tired of someone bothering them with futile things, they would calmly suggest that they go 'blow a goat' in the hopes that they'd go off and be distracted by an even more ineffective task.
posted by CKmtl at 11:08 AM on January 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


CKmti wins.

Everything.
posted by verb at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2008


I <3 CKmtl!

But only with permission.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2008


konolia: But, it's like everything else. If people have a hand in it, there are boundless and sundry ways to screw it up. Holds true for government, healthcare, and, sadly, churches.

People had a hand in composing and curating the collection of texts we call the Bible.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:58 AM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


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