These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Compare and contrast

It’s currently examination time in so many places around the world and this form of statement (compare and contrast) often arises at the end of set questions.

I will do the same here. I will set out a scenario and then ask you to compare and contrast the information given. The conclusions that you reach may not give you a certificate with any local examination board but it will give you enlightenment about an important issue that is facing current society.

Imagine the following scene:

DM and I are sitting in the main service at our church – called Divine Service. We left feeling no divine sense whatsoever, but I’ll continue and you will see for yourself why I have started off this scene with such a seemingly negative positional statement.

As we sit there, the hymns are sung, prayers are shared and then the main speaker – a visiting lay preacher – begins to share his message of ‘divine’ inspiration. It did not take long for me to realise where he was heading.

Within moments he had set out his stall. He was waving a flag of no compromise. Bad was bad and good was good. His opinion on people and things that he disagreed with was as clear as crystal. Some people use complicated metaphors and similes to disguise their meanings, not so with this man: he went straight for the throat. He spoke without apology and listed all the people he thought –nay, knew – in his opinion, to be damned.

He gave his reasons as he went on.

The list included Goths, fashion designers, gays, women who wore trousers, men who wore tight clothing (designed by ‘those effeminate fashion designers’), jewellery wearers, gospel musicians and many, many more.

Just remembering the sermon makes me sad. But I digress. I should hold my opinions on this ‘man of God’ and let you decide. The question that I am asking is, “Are churches and Christians that attend them guilty of false advertising?” What message are they sending out to the world?  How are they influencing society?

Churches and Christians (insert a building type and religious creed of your choice here: e.g. Mosque and Muslims or Synagogue and Jews – you get the picture I’m sure ...) promote a doctrine of love and welcome to all. If there was an advertising campaign what would it say? (For extra bonus points in this question you may produce a promotional flyer for the church that you know best.)

Back to the main scenario. The preacher caught my attention when he first started to lay in to Goths because of their clothing and musical choices. He was not, however, discriminatory in his musical annihilation – gospel musicians also came under fire for the way he deemed their music not to be sacred enough. There were murmurs of appreciation from the congregation as he continued his tirade. As the people warmed to him his voice rose and dropped as he carried them along with him on his crusade. Everybody was paying rapt attention. There were comfortable smiles on many faces as they nodded in agreement. The majority of people were cooperating with this man as he spoke.

Later DM said to me, “It’s strange, but I listen more intently to the bad sermons than I do to the good ones.” A few days later DM also noted that “That preacher was full of hatred, where was the love? He said you and me are going to be damned to hell because we don’t fit in with him.” That was sad to hear.

My worst problem was that I had chosen to take DM to that place. I had chosen to stay once the hateful vitriol had started. I had chosen not to say anything to him afterwards. I had chosen to walk away with my mind full and my mouth empty. This was because my heart had again been broken because of my expectations of going to church. In the Bible the church is known as a gathering of people who have a relationship with God and who share that relationship of love between others who also have a similar relationship and then they, in turn, share their connection with others who do not yet have a relationship with God. At least, that’s the theory.

I knew that there wasn’t much love in many churches for a few select groups but in this instance I felt the preacher was extending the gamut of his hatred to a wider section of society: in fact, he said it himself, “I’m preaching to the converted.” He was not preaching to me. He was preaching against me, in so many ways.
DM said she was hurt for me. She was hurt for herself as well.

There were many other young (and older) minds that were being fed this information as ‘truth’ that day. How will they react to these people (to me) when they meet them (me) again?

As I drove the short distance home I concluded that that type of hatred would not be permitted in many businesses within the country. There are laws against such discriminatory behaviour. The example of Abu Hamza al-Masri came quickly to mind: currently awaiting deportation for several crimes including Public Order offences for inciting hatred with his speeches.

When I spoke with my partner after leaving church, she said that “Fundamentalist views can incite hatred towards marginalised groups and there are, of course, consequences. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and inciting hatred towards particular groups.”

This part of your examination question is do you agree or disagree with this statement? Would this be viewed any differently if the terms were racial?

This whole question carries the maximum of 100% towards your examination mark.

Please answer as briefly or in as much detail as you would like. Use the box below to submit your answers.

I will return your marks to you in the usual manner.

Now, turn over your papers and begin.

You have the rest of your life to assimilate the answers. Thank you for participating.


Rena said...

Waw!!!! the dry eyes were turning wet, how sad at the kind of hate that exists and upheld by the churches the religious, the solders of the cross. Fighting people for God, hating them for God yet all he ask of us is to love each other, the greatest commandment. He will judge what needs judging ..... Sorry you had to go through such

Marj said...


Thank you for your comment. I'm so sorry that it caused you to cry.

I find that these types of sermons are a good launching pad to see what type of active (or passive) beliefs people really hold.

It's strange how comfortable people are with hat but how uncomfortable they are with love.

Surely that's the wrong way around?

We live in hope that we can be the change that we want the world to see and experience.

Stay strong.

Much love to you.

Valentine Girl said...

Oh Lord have mercy!!  Forgive me Marj, you know I'm not racist, but was this a black preacher talking to mostly black people?  Cos this has all the hallmarks of black-on-black, tell it as it is preaching!  Both you and I spent years in a black culture church together and this type of rhetoric was heard often.  I would not have been able to contain my rage!  I wear trousers, jewellery and sometimes have a drink, so I'm going to hell as well according to his theology.  I am dismayed to read about the nodding heads and smiles of approval!  If this had happened in my small church the response would have been quite different.  Jesus said you can't put new wine in old wine skins - man does this apply to him!!

All I can say is Jesus died for ALL sinners.  Proverbs 6 gives us a clue about what God really hates:

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I wonder which part of the above applies to that man??  

Marj said...

Yes, Valentine Girl.

It was as you describe it 'tell it as it is' preaching. I think he actually used that very phrase as he spoke.

We are both aware that this type of (mainly) black-on-black cultural preaching style exists having sat through many such sermons together.

I'm glad to hear the response in your church would have been different. We live in hope that changes and equality (based on love) will pervade all churches.

I love the verses in Proverbs 6: thank you for sharing them.

Hugs to you,

M xx

Marj said...

Fundamentalism means exclusivity and bias (as a friend has reminded me). With this in mind I ventured back to the church with a fragile spirit.

The people I wanted to talk to were not there this week, however, I was not going to be deterred. I chose the next suitably qualified person (in official church ranking) and asked for a word. I then expressed my chagrin at the content of the previous week’s sermon.

The person I spoke to admitted that it was a ‘cringe worthy’ sermon but persistently side-stepped my question about whether the speaker was challenged or would be challenged about the content of his sermon. The only comments were ‘He’s a member of the [church’s] executive committee’ – I’m now left wondering if that is an excuse or an explanation.

I will be attending again, but my walk-out ratio and my challenge ration will be higher than before.

I cannot abide inequality – anywhere. I am an equal-ist. I am a humanitarian.

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