Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Nine North Carolinians who are surely going to Hell

How can they not listen to their pastor, the ultimate spiritual authority in this evil secular world, the very vicar of the Lord Hisself? How can they not vote for God's Own Party?
A spirited spat steals church calm
Ousted nine whose politics didn't suit pastor return


WAYNESVILLE -- The nine members of a Baptist church who said they were expelled last week for refusing to support their pastor's political views arrived at church Sunday with their families, saying they were not ready to give in.
"We're glad you're here today," the pastor, the Rev. Chan Chandler, told them. "We're here to worship the Lord."

The public welcome may have been largely for the sake of the media; many journalists huddled in the rear with their notebooks and microphones.

East Waynesville Baptist Church is locked in a bitter battle over how members should apply their moral beliefs to politics. On the one side are those who support the pastor's hard-line theological and political views that led him to support President Bush. On the other side are church members who agree with many of the pastor's social views but who don't want to be told how to vote.

The spat started before Bush's re-election last year, and it climaxed last week when nine church members were asked to sign a pledge supporting the pastor's views. They walked out and were summarily expelled by the remaining church members.
Ah, so it wasn't just their knuckle-dragging pastor. I don't remember reading this earlier.
Each camp has hired lawyers, and despite appearances, no one is backing down.
But I thought lawyers were all evil Democrats, the source of all that is wicked and wrong in the world.
Those opposed to Chandler said he has not stopped talking politics since he told the congregation in October that those who planned to vote for presidential challenger John Kerry should repent or leave the church. His defenders said the argument isn't over politics but principle: Can a church member vote for a candidate who supports a woman's right to abortion and equal rights for gays?
Can Bush's supporters vote for a man who lied to get the country into an unnecessary war that has killed almost 2000 Americans, wounded uncounted tens of thousands more and wounded and killed at least a hundred thousand Iraqis? Can Bush's supporters vote for a man who has condoned the detaining and torturing of innocent people?
"What's made it unique is that pastor came out with it," said the Rev. Buddy Corbin, pastor of the more moderate Calvary Baptist Church in nearby Asheville. "It's an unstated view promoted by many church leaders."
Self-righteous hypocrites. If my synagogue kicked out Republicans, would we ever hear the end of it? Would Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity ever stop shrieking about how the politically correct liberals were trampling on the rights of poor, helpless, defenseless Republicans?

And no, that is not a trick question.
Baptist leaders say it's unusual to expel members because of their political views, if only because it violates a federal law that prohibits nonprofit organizations, such as churches, from endorsing political candidates.

"The voter has a right to choose," said James Royston, the executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in Cary. "Those are matters of individual conscience."
Oops, wrong answer, Mr. Royston. What do we have for our loser, Johnny?

"Well, Satan, we have a one-way ticket, all-expenses-paid trip to - that's right, you guessed it - Hell!"
Several national groups committed to the separation of church and state have denounced the church and asked Bush to do the same.
And look who's going to be joining you for your eternity of damnation and torment, Mr. Royston!
Chandler, 33, has been pastor at the church for 2 1/2 years. He is studying for a master's degree in divinity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
Evidently, not the Harvard of the Old South.
He did not take questions and has refused to talk to the media. His lawyer, John Pavey Jr., issued a brief statement in which Chandler said, "No one has ever been voted from membership of this church due to an individual's support or lack of support for a political party or candidate."
No, they were kicked out because they laughed at his multi-color polyester sports jacket and his multi-color polyester toupee. Flint-headed, red-necked, narrow-minded pastors have feelings too, you know.
Vicki Smith, a church member who supports the pastor, volunteered that she was a Democrat and added, "In no way have our political beliefs been challenged."
Absolutely. You can vote for any candidate named George W. Bush you want.
But she said the church was developing a "covenant" that spells out that members must "abide by the word of God."
And She told you how She wanted you to vote, is that it, Vicki?
For many church members, the feud has been distasteful.

"It's supposed to be a place where you go to worship God and be a witness to him," said church member, Selma Morris, 78. "That's our purpose."
I've recently been reading a biography of Shakespeare, which includes a chapter on the religious conflict of the second half of the sixteenth century. Catholics burning Protestants, who happily returned the favor. Is that where we're headed? Is that really where the Christian wingnuts want to see us headed?

I suppose these self-righteous fanatics are sincere about their conviction that they have to try to impose their beliefs on everyone else. But if they could just take one small step back and get a look at the bigger picture, because they are actually threatening their own rights, too. If there is no principle of religious freedom, if anyone can use temporary power to dominate, then nothing can stop someone else from doing the same. If their religious mania provokes a backlash, it could threaten everyone's religious freedom.

Not that I expect them to imagine it is ever possible that their opponents will gain the upper hand. As far as they're concerned, in the words of Homer Simpson, "Everything lasts forever."
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