Friday, April 14, 2006

I Go To Church, U2?

This story illustrates the sorry state of affairs in the Episcopal Church. (Editor's Note: I am not nor ever have been nor expect to be a member of said church. I therefore have no "moral authority" to comment on their doings, but this is America, so too bad.) If a church thinks it needs to rely on pop culture icons or other things to be "relevant" perhaps they'd better consider whether what they're preaching is the Truth or "feel good" pap.

In fact, this unique approach really doesn't seem to work anyway. "About 130 people showed up for the Friday night service, roughly the same turnout as a Sunday morning." Another church did get more. "A similar U2 Eucharist in November proved popular at All Saints' Church in Atlanta. Organizer Laurie Haynes Burlington said she and her husband planned on 300 worshippers. About 500 showed up."

Well, all churches have a need to grow, and that's their calling, to increase membership. Unfortunately, such stunts generally water down what the message should be. "Christian Scharen, 39, a Lutheran pastor (ELCA apparently) and professor at Yale Divinity School, said he's often argued to older colleagues that U2 is heavily influenced by Christianity." Yeah, that's great, let's take our theology from people "influenced by Christianity." Too bad that doesn't guarantee you'll get someone who's a Christian. U2 lead singer Bono reportedly "has told interviewers that he worships God through music." All well and good, but as been asked before of others, which God does he worship? If his theological beliefs do not match yours, why would you base your church doings on his music?

Supporters might say, "Well, it's just his music we use to attract people to come in, we really don't mix our liturgy with our music." Huh?! If your worship music doesn't match your theology what message are you sending? One of confusion. "Well, we sing this song, but we don't subscribe to what it's saying." So in other words a church such as this, ie a Trinitarian, would have no problem singing Unitarian songs during their worship. (Do Unitarians even have worship songs?) Confusion reigns and the message is corrupted and misunderstood and essentially, worthless. All because of some perceived need to make the church "relevant" for today's sinners, er, righteousnessly challenged.

Although this story references goings on in the Episcopal Church, we see already misunderstandings and incorrect interpretations of scripture given out everywhere. "In Providence, Blair (Rev. Paige Blair, a parish priest in York Harbor, Maine) delivered a homily to pitch the One Campaign, which the Episcopal Church supports. She ticked off statistics about poverty and infant mortality in Africa, underscoring her points with equal parts Bono and Bible. "If you're a Bono fan, you know the next line: Where you live should not determine whether you live or die," she said, then reminding worshippers of a Gospel passage warning that taking care of the needy is what will separate the good from the bad at the final judgment.

What?! That is an incorrect interpretation of Matthew 25. The separation of the good from the evil is prior to the questioning. The good are not judged good from doing deeds, they do deeds because they are good. This is shown to be the correct interpretation in Ephesians 2 verses 8-10. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Was the separation of good and bad presented this way by the Rev Blair or the writer of the story? Either way, it shows that many people and perhaps churches misinterpret the clear meaning of scripture. Adding things such as rock music and other non religious trappings can lead to losing the message in the rush to introduce novelty hoping to gain some new parishioners. Bad for the churches, and bad for the new members. Then again, that's a certain person's plan, isn't it?

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