Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Serving two masters

Check out this insightful piece by Episcopal pastor Tom Ehrich, illustrating how so many churches have distanced themsevles from the teachings of that damn hippie, Jesus Christ:

Our nation needs ethical and religious instruction in the basics: honesty, fidelity, humility, sharing wealth, sharing power and sacrifice. Yet those are the last topics one is likely to hear in churches.

Instead, for more than a decade, preachers have been grandstanding about such secondary issues as sexuality, Christmas greetings and institution-building.

Nice contrast from the likes of Jerry Falwell, who routinely brags about owning multiple SUV's and encourages others to do the same. You know, like it says in Ephesians.

Jesus devoted roughly two-thirds of his teachings to our need to give away wealth and to value humility and servanthood more than power. Paul condemned "love of money." Hebrew prophets spoke forcefully against greed, bribery and injustice. The Law of Moses is concerned with basic ethics? respect for persons and property, truth-telling, generosity and mercy.

Yet, in the typical congregation, it is safer to preach about someone else's sexual behavior than about wise and faithful use of money, or on economic dislocation, corporate ethics or widening gaps in the distribution of wealth. That's my conclusion based on a survey of several dozen websites and posted sermons, as well as my experience both as a preacher and listener

As Ehrich points out, it's easier to rail against hot-button social issues than the lack of personal responsibility.

People will endure sermons about esoterica such as stem cell research or same-sex marriage, but they'll squirm when talk turns to personal priorities, time spent away from family, wealth accumulation, casual adultery or truth-telling. It is safer to lambaste gays than to tout Jesus' model of embracing diversity. It is more profitable to back one political party than to call all leaders to account for their behavior. A dull preacher will be tolerated; an intrusive one will be fired.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece Mal. The status quo has gotta go.