Saturday, July 5, 2014

Humans make nests, God makes Hornets

The second president of the United States was a Christian…well sort of. Born to a Puritan family, John Adams converted to Unitarian Universalism. His beliefs were rooted in Jesus’s teachings but his adherence to UU views denying the Trinity and questioning the divinity of Jesus was controversial.

Adams once said, “Ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate a free inquiry? Touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes.”

In our times, many of those nests have been disturbed. The hornets of church dogma fly into the faces of those who see things differently. Twenty-first century church wars are front-page stories.

The Mormons excommunicated Kate Kelly, founder of a women’s group, because her organization staged demonstrations to permit women to join the faith’s lay clergy. The harsh punishment is obviously designed to send a message in the hopes of putting a quick end to the nest disturbing.

The Methodists recently defrocked Frank Schaefer for presiding at his son’s same-sex wedding. On appeal, a higher authority reversed the decision, putting Schaefer back in the pulpit. It’s uncertain what disturbed the nest most, the wedding or the appellate decision.
Church wars over marriage equality rage throughout most denominations. The Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly June vote to allow Presbyterian ministers to preside at same-sex weddings will unfortunately mean the exodus of some members. The differences on this issue are irreconcilable for many. Just as the Presbyterians lost congregations when it voted to ordain gays and lesbians others may leave in the wake of this decision.
This isn’t the first issue to initiate church wars. Social issues have walked through the church doors and sat in the pews or stood at the pulpit since the nation’s founding.
The Revolutionary War was a struggle for freedom and independence for most Americans. But for many church members it created a conflict between loyalty to what became the United States and their oath to the King of England. More than half the colonial Anglican priests gave up their ministries rather than violate their promise to serve the King.
Next came slavery. Mainline Protestantism tried, without success, to deal with slavery. Some denominations voted to excommunicate members who bought and sold slaves. Methodists found such rules unenforceable and withdrew them.
Virginia Baptists denounced slavery. Kentucky's Elkhorn Baptist Association tried to draft a resolution against slavery in 1791 but it proved a hot potato and the association dropped it.
Presbyterians in New York and Philadelphia called for members to gradually end slavery in 1787. In 1818, anti-slavery preacher George Bourne insisted on slavery's cessation. Like Rev. Schaefer, Bourne was defrocked.

When the 1844 Georgia Baptist Convention appointed a slave owner as missionary to the Cherokee Indians, his petition for approval was denied. Southern Baptists then withdrew and formed the Southern Baptist Convention.

Methodists founded their first anti-slavery association in 1834. When Georgia's slave-owning bishop was suspended, Southerners withdrew and formed the Southern Methodist Church

In the 20th century, the “Red Scare” visited its divisions on American churches. Charges that some churches were soft on communism dated to the Chinese Revolution of 1949, and critics found it easy to apply that rhetoric to antiwar protesters and civil rights marchers.

Church wars were fought over the civil rights movement and the war in Viet Nam.

These issues have political implications. They are also spiritual as they deeply impact the lives of people. Christianity was founded because of divisions with Judaism. Divisions are a part of our spiritual journey, a winnowing process that allows us to grow.

Why should issues that divide Americans not divide the church? Jesus said, “I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.” He knew truth always collides with dogma and some nests ought to be disturbed.


  1. It's no secret, I'm a Democrat that leans just barely left of center. I'm in a strange place for that, surrounded by members of the other party. I won't compromise my political values simply because the majority just happens to not agree with them. Better that most folks know where I stand and why so that there be no guess work to it. I don't want to be viewed as someone who 'rides the fence' on issues. That tells me, 'shallow character' and an unreliable vote.

    I'll tell you why I do or don't approve of certain action taken in current affairs and issues that affect us as a community.

    Our Lord overturned tables at the temple. His idea of 'nest removal' I reckon. I must say, I like his approach to a problem like that. No mistaking where he stands on that issues....and I loved that 'Sermon on the Mount' approach too.

    If I just stick with 'mission', one that takes love and patience to operate, instead of getting all tied up in the 'way or the wherefore', the politics of the whole, I find that the more I stay focused on 'mission', the less I politicize, the less I judge and the more I love.

    I stopped looking for the reasons why someone or a peoples got into such awful shape and just concentrate anymore on what it's going to take in getting them started down the road towards recovery. It's not impossible, it's been done before. It's always worth the fight to try and extract as many vulnerable and helpless as one can.

    Just like in the military, we're running out there to get our fallen battle buddies , sometimes under enemy fire and scrambling back with them to the choppers laying down suppressing fire while throwing the casualty(s) into the doors onto the platform/floor of the 1A-UA Iroq. and into the hands of medics about to prepare an I.V. and shoot em up with morphine and saline solution.

    Called 'dustoffs' or 'Medevac'. We'll do it anywhere, anytime, we don't ask why.

    In a war to save lives, not take them.

    To build, not destroy.

  2. Dogma should always be questioned both political and religious. Thanks Rodger