A socialist leader with a far right following
Upon entering the Christian life (I will explain how why and when later) I found the church a mixed bag of people and personalities; ranging from the very weird through the meek and mild, to the kind, the dismissive and the intelligent but all seemed to have one thing in common: Most were looking for something that was missing in their lives and thought God might provide answers for them. I was no different (saving souls for Christ).
Unlike Catholics who are born into their faith or the Uniting Church who are more open to freedom of thought on many issues (very refreshing), Pentecostals are saved. They believe that Jesus will only come again when the Gospel of Christ has been preached to all corners of the world.
I once asked at a Bible group: “If the only way to be saved is by confessing Jesus as your lord and savior, how would you get on if you lived half way up the Amazon and you had never heard of him?”
I never got an answer to what I thought was a reasonable question.
Theology differs enormously from denomination to denomination.
As do Priests and Pastors. Having met many and conversed with them openly on a wide range of issues I can tell you that charismatic Pentecostals are on the far right of politics.
It was Ronald Reagan who made it possible. When he gave them the opening to become involved in politics he had no idea of the problems he was unleashing.
The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rationale explanation.
One pastor I was friendly with had a junior school attached to the church. One teacher was a paedophile. The pastor lied to protect the image of the school.
The Pastor appeared before the Royal Commission.
Another pastor who I was on best friend terms was also a Financial Adviser who embezzled $2 million from his clients, and lost his pastorship, his business, his friends and his flock. He helped me in my own business. I trusted him.
Another spent time in jail for much the same thing.
Two other pastors were hounded from their jobs simply because they weren’t popular. A fairly common occurrence.
Often pastors are not natural leaders and lack the charisma demanded of them in the fundamentalist movement.
Luke 6:38 (DBY): Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall be given into your bosom: for with the same measure with which ye mete it shall be measured to you again.
On the basis of this scripture, church members are encouraged to give and give and give. On this basis they are promised that God will make them rich.
Do they want your money? Yes, they certainly do. Just like the local football club or the Country Women’s Association they need money but do so more abundantly; the flock is constantly hounded to give and give.
They justify this through a tithe. A system of giving that is based on ancient scripture that you should give 10% of the harvest to God. Serious scholars would think this scripture reference is unjustifiable.
They believe in growth, and this can only be achieved by capturing the young and they are successful at doing so.
Places like Hillsong are full of young people excited by the music and become intoxicated by the consistency of being told that they are important.
In charismatic circles the success of the pastor is judged on the wealth and size of the church and how many bums there are on seats.
Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.
In an uncertain world the message of the gospel told from the feel good perspective of Pentecostalism is exactly what they want to hear. It gives them hope and they feel good about it, but it isn’t necessarily the truth.
However, these same city churches are bereft of older people. Over a period these same young people either by life experience or education find that many Christian concepts don’t meet the evidentiary standards of today.
The fastest growing sectors in education are the Pentecostal churches; all full to the brim with children who their parents think will walk away with better values than those the public schools teach.
One would think that they would get that at home. but it appears not.
Religion does not have a monopoly on morality. Or anything else in my experience.
Our local Catholic secondary college educates in excess of 1000 teenage boys and girls, but if you were to peak into Mass on Sunday morning you wouldn’t find a corresponding figure.
The more educated people become, the less likely they are to believe the Christian story. This is evidenced around the world.
Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact.
To believe in Christianity requires a faith ignorant of fact. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding. It has to rely on faith alone.
Elle Hardy, in her article in The Guardian ‘Today’s Pentecostals aren’t tongues-talking hicks – they are slick Australian exports‘ says Pentecostals are “looking not to save souls, but to transform societies.”
That is also correct, they do want to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and see them changed in all areas of their lives.
But it is also judgemental – the carrot and stick approach a method of control. Do as we say or you will most certainly go to Hell. Give your life to Jesus and a life hereafter is guaranteed.
In an article in CRUCIS titled ‘Under the surface of Pentecostalism‘ Dr. Jacqueline Grey argues that:
“It is holistic change; that relationships will be restored, family’s reconciled, financial situations redeemed, their vocations and work given purpose. For this reason, many Pentecostal pastors will say that they preach to help people on Monday, not just Sunday…
However, the purpose of the practical emphasis is the transformation of people, communities, society and creation to live as consistently as possible with the gospel…
It is not, as Hardy fears, a political movement per se; its transformative impact, however, is widespread.
Grey also writes that:
“This is not to deny the pitfalls of such grassroots movements. Pentecostals have sometimes uncritically embraced secular practices. They have not been immune to the pervading challenges of money, sex and power.”
The problem here is that these things cannot be achieved without eliciting some form of control over people’s lives both in and outside the church. It is not as simple as preaching the Gospel and saying that is how you should live.
I find it difficult to pray for anything while at the same time knowing that 30,000 children will die from preventable deceases the day I am doing it.
In my time in the church, “control” was always an issue.
The transformation of people and communities by the church in order to create a theocracy, in my view, would be wrong.
It would always result in a clash of cultural norms and individual rights all of which form the foundation of our democracy.
That is why religion has always been held – and should always be held – separate from state.
My thought for the day
The study of free will is an important foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?
Link to Part 1
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