Along the Tracks

Sunday, February 19, 2006
 

Not in my name



Organized religion has been a tough thing for me to accept for most of my life. I consider myself a Christian, even rather devout. But I'm not a very regular church-goer, and I'm not really "officially" a member of any particular congregation.

Since moving to Bryan over eight years ago, I've bounced in and out of a couple churches, but have been most at home with our local country congregation, West Bethesda Presbyterian. It has a warm, friendly atmosphere, true expressions of joy during worship and a "real world" outlook on the responsibilities of Christian life. After weeks or even months of absence, I'm always welcomed back with a smile and a handshake, invited to take part in various church activities. My tendency to miss Sunday services has never shut me out of other chances at fellowship, and I'm glad to say church members or the pastor haven't shied away from asking for a helping hand from me or my family when they need one. I'm only too happy to oblige when I can - in fact, I think those instances are when I feel most a part of West Bethesda.

Yet the world keeps busting in on what should be the simple, pure joy of celebrating a life in Christ. This morning, I learned the Presbyterian Church USA chose to be part of a ridiculous propaganda initiative by the World Council of Churches that does nothing but encourage Islamic militants and American conspiracy theorists. The WCC released its claptrap as part of a gathering in Brazil. The Associated Press story quotes a portion:

"Our country responded [to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks] by seeking to reclaim a privileged and secure place in the world, raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbors . . . entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of national interests."

Who's their publicity writer, Osama bin Laden?

It's disgusting enough that groups like the WCC effectively back brutality and genocide around the world (including in Saddam's Iraq) by refusing to support efforts to stop it. To accuse the U.S. and her allies of "raining down terror" as Christians are slaughtered by Islamists in Nigeria because of some cartoons, thousands of Iraqi Shiites are blown to bits by the al Qaeda militants the WCC is tacitly supporting and Sudanese Muslim fanatics attack Christians and fellow Muslims in Darfur and elsewhere - it's intentionally inflammatory at a moment when tensions are already boiling over.

And who does it inflame? Fanatical Muslims against Christians.

Wow, there's a real "message of peace" for you.

I have learned to expect little from these wider ecumenical groups - they are only nominally "Christian" at all. When they enter political debate, they are often at odds with Christian values. Some would say the WCC and other such entities represent the "lowest common denominator" of Christianities diverse traditions, but that would be incorrect. These groups represent elitist thought masquerading as unified theological principles. The Reformation arose due to Catholic edicts and policies devoid of any basis in faith, scriptures or Christian tradition during the late Middle Ages. Today, the WCC and other such groups attempt to impose similar controls on wider Christianity to accumulate political power. They're not in the business of saving souls, but solidifying earthly structures which they hope to lead.

The Presbyterian Church USA's complicity in this is a backbreaker. I had already come to the conclusion I would not contribute to any collections which funded activities by the denomination (rather than the local church) after the Presbyterian leadership decided to divest in companies which do business with Israel, a blatantly anti-Semitic action which puts Presbyterian USA leadership in league with folks like David Duke and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The claim it somehow helps Palestinians is ludicrous; the fact only democratic Israel has been specifically targeted as a country (what about China? Sudan? Zimbabwe? Iran? The rest of the dirty list of world tyrants?) belies the true intent of this shameful action.

Now, the Presbyterian Church USA joins in a statement accusing the United States of terrorism - intentionally targeting civilians to provoke fear (that's what terrorism is, after all). No "support for the troops" here - and as I've said before, at least they're being honest.

But I won't have such filth propagated in my name.

The early Christian church had congregations scattered across the Mediterranean world, north Africa and the Middle East. These disconnected congregations developed their own traditions and rituals, based on their sincere desire to live as Christ directed them. Some later were suppressed as heresies as bishops took charge of regions, but most were simply melded into the conventions of worship and life which form the basis of all Christianity today. This desire for unity and control is human nature, and will always be present. Yet, this drive does not always aim toward strengthening faith in individuals or expanding the faith in the wider world. Sometimes, it actively blocks both.

The Presbyterian Church USA, by signing on to the WCC's anti-Christian propaganda, is rejecting Christ's Great Commission. I cannot be part of such a "church."

Will I still attend West Bethesda, and other Presbyterian churches on occasion? Probably – those good people don’t deserve the stigma their overseers at the denomination level are creating. But I’ll never consider myself a Presbyterian.


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