To my pastor

It’s been a while since I’ve written you directly.  I’ve included you on a few other things that I thought you might be interested in, but I’ve fallen behind in rattling your cage.  Or mine.  It’s all a matter of perspective…

First, I enjoyed the sermon today.  Not often that you hear Darfur mentioned from a Baptist pulpit, or the heresies of prosperity and wellness theology reprimanded.  Speaking of Baptists, I read in yesterday’s newspaper that the Missouri SBC had purged some churches for their dealings with churches that weren’t on the “approved” list.  Has the SBC always been capable of thinning the herd?  I thought participation was voluntary on the part of churches sending their messengers.

We attended a Catholic funeral mass yesterday in Little Rock.  My son’s swim coach for the last 4 years died at 57 after a long battle with cancer.  See for the obituary and comments.  What struck me most about the service was its elegant simplicity.  No giant video screens.  No canned music.  No carpet or padded pews.  It was easy to listen to the message while gazing at the crucifix and stained glass windows.  No worries about anyone bumping into the camera or following the pastor’s motion back and forth from the pulpit.  No clapping.  On the downside, there was an ample amount of silliness about the Pope and Mary.

At one point, everyone (who knew what to do) recited a prayer with their arms extended and palms upward.  It was a bit ritualistic in that it wasn’t done at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (or whatever spirit moves people to do such things spontaneously), but I’m starting to wonder if I was a bit too reactive about your similar gestures in an ealier e-mail.  Maybe we’re all wired to react that way, and I’m just too stubborn to give in to it.  It’s an interesting dilemna, one that the Catholics have cheerfully avoided dealing with — when do we eschew certain behaviors because even infidels and pagans indulge in it?  Seems like we Baptists are a pretty reluctant lot when it comes to incorporating the worship practices of other religions and cultures.  Or at least we used to be.  Is there a pattern as to what we adopt and what we disown?

The priest at the funeral opened his remarks this way.  There was an old preacher who realized he was dying, so he summoned two members of his congregation to his home.  One was a lawyer and the other an IRS auditor.  Neither of the men were particularly close to the preacher, so they were a bit confused about the request, but complied anyway.  On arriving, they were seated outside the preacher’s bedroom for what seemed like hours.  Finally, the men were ushered in and the preacher weakly motioned for them to sit on either side of his deathbed.  He grasped their hands and then laid back down with a satisfied smile on his face.  As the preacher’s breathing grew fainter, the lawyer finally broke his silence and asked him why they had been called to be with him during his final moments.  He opened his eyes and whispered, “Jesus was one of three men crucified that day, and like our Lord, I want to die between two thieves!”  After the laughter died down, the priest continued, “While it is important how a man dies, it is even more important how he lives…”

A couple of weeks ago, the church bulletin mentioned something about “prayer walking.”  I had never heard of it until then, but shortly after, it was mentioned as a regular practice of the now less-than-reverend Ted Haggard’s church, where they would encircle municipal buildings and spray them with water and exhort evil spirits to depart.  Is this a new fad?  Is there a historical/traditional basis for it?  Is it similar to the Catholic procession where the transformed wafer is carried from one place to another?

Finally, my daughter came home from UCA this weekend.  She attends a Conway SBC that I won’t name.  Lately, her SS teacher and many of her close friends have engaged in something she calls “spiritual cleansing” where they methodically and very thoroughly confess all manner of extremely intimate things to each other.  She looked over the literature involved and was reluctant to participate (she is her mother and father’s daughter!).  The result has been that those who have been “spiritually cleansed” are now less friendly towards Jennifer than before.  I guess my question for you is, how prevalent is this movement?  She brought home the paperwork involved and most of it is copyrighted by a John W. Gilliom.  I Googled the name but did not find anything.  She is expected to document a personal inventory of her involvement with the occult (including yoga, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny), generational sins we parents have passed along (including anxiety, fear and hypocrisy) , her exposure to false teaching (most of which are spelled out, but there are also checkboxes for “other”), drug use (Prozac didn’t make the list), moral failure (this gets very detailed, including lust and fantasy, but only when they persist for “a period of two weeks or more”), emotional pain, spousal and family member emotional/physical/spiritual/sexual abuse (the paperwork asks for names and details), and wrong feelings against God.  All in all, there are about 40 pages of lists and forms to fill out, and special prayers to recite.  The more I read as I worked on this e-mail, the more it freaked me out.  Who is this guy and what is he trying to do?  For example, in the section where you’re supposed to check off exposure to false teaching, he mentions things as general as being a member of a cult, but then zeros in on obscure (to me) but detailed things like Echkankar, Father Divine, Roy Masters (who in the heck is Roy Masters?), and Silva mind control.

She doesn’t know if her pastor is aware of this going on at the church or not.  Should she ask him about it?

Hope you have time to read all this.  I value our correspondence…

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