Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Junk Churches

Anyone else a little sick of megachurches that preach the "Gospel" while the preacher lives in a mansion and drives a Lexus? Anyone else sick of these creatures preaching that wealth and war are OK? Yes, me too. And, of course, these fundies just haaatteeeee Catholics, and why let the poor get in the way when you can bash the Roman Catholic Church?

A church has withdrawn its support for a food pantry serving the needy because the pantry works with Roman Catholics.

Central Church of God explained its decision in a letter March 1 from minister of evangelism Shannon Burton to Loaves & Fishes in Charlotte.

"As a Christian church, we feel it is our responsibility to follow closely the (principles) and commands of Scripture," the letter said.

"To do this best, we feel we should abstain from any ministry that partners with or promotes Catholicism, or for that matter, any other denomination promoting a works-based salvation."

Boom! Note that last line: what these phony churches - and they are phony, they are about as Christian as Satan himself, in my opinion - is that they oppose "a works-based salvation." In other words, their belief is that it's enough to believe - or claim you believe - and salvation follows. Do any of us think that's true? Hm? Considering that Jesus was a Jew and Jews are strongly works-oriented? Let us look briefly at the words attributed, perhaps correctly, to James the Righteous, the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem until his martyrdom:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

Now I know that Paul suggests that faith alone saves. It's worth remembering that we do not have all of his writings and some writings attributed to Paul are not his. We don't know what process of editing happened before the canon of the Bible was set. In fact, a close reading of Paul and "Paul" shows major disagreements. From my reading of the Gospels, which I think have to be more definitive than the epistles, Jesus and his disciples believed that works as well as faith lead to salvation, and we would be well served to remember that.

When there is a Judgment, it will not go well at Central Church of "God." Let us end with a favorite poem of mine, by Leigh Hunt:

Abou ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
an angel, writing in a book of of gold:

Exceeding peace had made ben Adehm bold,
And to the Prescence in the room he said:
"What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou, "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great awakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

And now I shall jump off my soapbox. (via the vigilant Avedon Carol)


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