Sunday, March 16, 2008

People Are So Interesting. Part Five. Comments on Human Authority

I came across the following article on the blog of a writer I always find interesting. I thought the post was worth reprinting (with permission), and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to slightly expand the basic idea.


Obama’s Lovely Church, John Hagee, and Doesn’t It Always Go This Way?

By now you have most likely heard the Christ-less “sermon” by Jeremiah Wright, the UCC minister at Trinity Church.

I couldn’t help but think of John Hagee, the Religious Right version of the same. Pimps of “race,” and churches that have washed away the Gospel.

In both settings, you can hear almost the same thing, just replace one ethnicity for another. And in both cases, when the Gospel is washed away, all the secondary issues of the world take it’s place.

Which gets you nowhere. Fast.


So. Point one. Question one. What does a leader in a church look like? Is he or she hired? Appointed? Uh-h-h … the answer is “no.” If the church is smart, the person applying for any form of leadership is on trial, and has to meet very specific criteria. And even then the candidate may or may not be accepted. In the end, a true “leader” is neither hired nor appointed. A leader is acknowledged. This person has a following, therefore he or she must be a leader. An example of this starts with the apostle Matthias. After the death of Judas, Matthias was elected to fill his position among the apostles. Remember Matthias? Acts I is the only place in the New Testament where he can be found. On the other hand, another figure appeared, unwanted, certainly uninvited, already established with a following. His name was Paul.

You notice how careful I’m being here? It’s important to understand each step before we move on.

Question two. What authorizes someone as a church leader? Answer; a church does. When an individual is hired by a church as a pastor, it’s understood that the person is a – or perhaps the – church leader. Now if that answer sounds both obvious and simplistic, bear with me.

When a person is hired to pastor a church, please understand that the person has been approved by a church, not the church. And, unlike the schooling required to have the title of doctor or attorney attached to your name, no actual schooling is required to be licensed as a pastor – you just need to find a church na├»ve enough to hire you in that position. Is this the exception rather than the rule? I pray to God that it is! But it does happen. Anybody can study the Bible, and can get it to say whatever that person wants it to say. (More on that later.)

Now let’s combine the first two points. A person is a leader because that individual has a following. A person is acknowledged and licensed as a pastor because a specific church somewhere hired that person for that position. Billy Graham is at one end of that equation, Jim Jones is at the other, and everybody else falls somewhere in between.

Point two. As Christians, we are “under authority” of those above us in the church, because ALL authority comes from God. But if someone is leading a church, who is above that person to guide and advise? (And yes, before you climb all over me, I would be first to state that most church organizations have restraints and safeguards built in where outright heresy is concerned. But what about those things that are not outright heresy?) As any individual grows in authority toward a national level, doesn’t it follow, then, that the human authority above this individual grows pretty thin? “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

With all this as background, we are now in a position to comment on the article written by LUTHERAN LUCCIOLA, and reprinted above.

To me, what made the article remarkable was that it commented on the fact that statements made by Jeremiah Wright were inappropriate, and why they were inappropriate. Mister Wright spoke from the pulpit, in a recognized position of authority, “ministering” to those in his congregation. Yet his comments were secular and inflammatory. From the tape I saw, it was obvious they were stirring increased responses from a largely unspiritual congregation.

To discern what is inappropriate would imply knowledge of what is appropriate. This normally is the result of old-fashioned Bible study, using the brain God gave you, and not accepting anyone’s word without a solid Biblical reference. As I had mentioned before, you can make the Bible say anything you want. So here is a general rule; everything is important, but you should teach what the Bible teaches and emphasize what the Bible emphasizes. And everything is in context.

The final point indicated in the article is that it’s acceptable to question authority. Respectfully. It’s acceptable to say “show me where it says that in the Bible.” In 1st Corinthians it says, “by one spirit we are all baptized into one body.” All are equal. Respect those in authority, but don’t follow blindly. I would not disparage any minister. But I left a church when the congregation stopped saying, “The Bible says …” and started saying, “The pastor says …” If this happens to you, run!

So thank you, LuLu, for your article. You made me think – and speak. And … isn’t that what we are supposed to do?


Julie Morrison said...

love the pirate!

Lutheran Lucciola said...

Hey there, Jack!

I also should probably state that this denomination, in case you were not around my blog a few months ago and didn't read my posting on this (I THINK I mentioned it before), is the denomination I grew up going to.

Most streghe usually have a combination with the Catholic church, but my parents hated that church, so they put me in a UCC church for part of my childhood. And I know for a fact, that this denomination has pretty much gotten rid of the Gospel.

If at the least they still had it, there would be room for a pastor going off the deep end, recovery from that could be possible. There would even be room for a pastor to talk about what hurts himself, personally and emotionally, if it is all tied back to the fact that we are all sinners, and God's grace/Christ's blood is what saves us.

The latter is gone from the UCC.

And writing this with the singing pirate next to me is cracking me up....