Monday, May 19, 2008

Friendly Fire - Shooting Our Own

In an earlier post I talked about the news story from Florida that a pastor had received threatening notes because he removed the US and "Christian" flags from their display in his church's place of worship. For the safety of his family the pastor has taken a 4 week leave of absence and has presumably left the vicinity.

One of the notes left (and my guess is that they were anonymous notes - the sign of a coward) implied that if he didn't resign the writer would ensure that rumors would be generated and spread about him.

Pardon me while I puke.

Regardless of whether or not the pastor made the right or wise choice to remove the flags, there is a greater concern here. The Bible - and Baptists supposedly are people of "the Book" - spells out how to handle differences between believers. Guess what? Rumors and threats are not part of the plan. Jesus' own instructions were for the offended to go to the offender and for the two of them to find a way to reconcile their differences.

No one, certainly not God, gives anyone the right to use scare tactics in the church. And those who do so are less than Christian in their behavior. Apparently those upset by the pastor's decision not to display the flags are in the minority. My guess is that this church is typcial of most other baptist churches and is governed by a democratic majority. If so, then no threat is necesarry. Just bring up a motion to dismiss him and let the congregation vote him out. But if the necessary votes would not be there, then perhaps threats will get the job done.

Can you envision Jesus leaving a note in someone's hymnal or mailbox like this? I don't think so.

I hope somehow the police identify those who made the threats. Whether or not sufficient grounds exist for criminal prosecution (that depends on Florida law), certainly grounds exist for the threateners to be disciplined by the church.

Will the pastor return? Who knows? Perhaps if the church's leaders took a strong stand against the purveyors of fear and intimidation he could return and continue on as their pastor. The issue is not whether or not the pastor did the right thing in removing the flags. It sounds like he attempted to be understood and to understand those who disagreed with him. This is an issue of control by a minority who seek to irreparably harm someone's reputation.

Shame on them. There are right ways and there are wrong ways. They've chosen the latter. And now another church gets a black eye.


Tricia said...

Amen!! I totally agree. How selfish the Christian world looks if we already don't have a "bad rap" in the worlds eyes. Way to make things even harder!

Thanks for you thoughts and your standing firm on what God's word says. I appreciate your wisdom and leadership in your church and as a pastor.

Tricia :)

A Jersey Girl said...

What is worse about this situation is that it is showing others that this is a way to get what you want. By threatening and bullying, you can have what you want. I do not fault the pastor for wanting to keep his family safe, but leaving does not solve the bigger issues in this church. The church leaders should have taken a stronger stance on the side of their pastor on this one.

Anonymous said...

I think Christians give themselves a "bad rap" at times. Especially in a few posts back when you were talking about Obama and one commenter said, "imagine if he were saved." Sometimes I think the presumptiveness that some Christians express is what turns people off. How does this woman know anything about the Senator and his Savior? So I have a hard time having sympathy for Christians in the general world view because those of us non-christians (I'm jewish) who live in a christian dominated society see the hypocracy daily.

As far as the flag being in churches I think churches need to stay out of politics and the flag resembles to me more than just freedom of religion. But that freedom of religion is also for those of us who do not want to live under a Christian regime.

Besides, Bush claims to be a "Christian" and I must say that his actions do not speak of what I feel Jesus would do. Or would even approve of. Yet because he claims to be born again he is sancitifed and saved and Obama is a heathen.

I think Christians need to focus inward more than outward. Some of us aren't looking for Jesus and would really not to be asked if we've found him on a daily basis.

We also don't want prayer that we'll one day find "the way."

Don't mean for this to be negative just an overall comment on the presumptiveness of Christians.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Thanks. Your comments are welcome here.

I hope you'll discover that not all who claim to follow Christ are not presumptuous or hypocritical!

Your words are a wake up call.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Please shoot me an email.


Lady Eli said...

Maybe this other pastor needs support from his fellow pastors right now. A show of supprt by taking the flags out of all of the churches to show him that he is supported and not ousted. He probably is scared for his family and doesn't know where to turn on the physical plain. He has his faith but you know yourself that faith is a hard road to follow and even a little encouragement or support might help him to go a long way. But again you run the same risks as he did by standing his ground.

diaries of a confused tn said...

We have the same issue currently in our church. The flags have been removed and there has been a lot of hurt feelings. Not being an American myself and coming from a country where flags are not so important, I feel a little offended. While I follow all traditions of the US with high respect and beyond, I really feel that the church belongs to God and has no borders. Flags are everywhere else. Why get so upset?

Unknown said...

As long as there are soldiers willing to lay down their own lives for my freedom to worship in this country, I will never be offended by the flag of my country being present in a worship center. Likewise, I do not take offense if I enter a worship center where there are no flags. We're very blessed in this country to have the freedom of worship and expression that allows us to express these very thoughts openly... I'm just sayin'

CFHusband said...

I've heard of churches that move buildings, and hide their flags in some dark closet somewhere so that people never even notice if there are flags or not, avoiding this issue all together...

Rosi said...

Ahhh, Rick ... you brought back some unplesant memories of just how unchristlike those who call themselves Christians can be ...

I have worked for a pastor as his "administrative assistant" for many years. I have seen this first hand. Things such as threatening calls in the middle of the night because he brought in a different pulpit. Watching Christians in action has discouraged me spiritually on more than one occasion, but then I have to remember - it's Jesus who my eyes need to be on. If we look at "Christians" we'll sink ---every time.

Rick Lawrenson said...

I remember well one Sunday when because of space needs I removed our bulky pulpit and replaced it with a smaller wooden lectern. One elderly saint had fire in her eyes when she came in and asked me, "Where's MY pulpit?!".

Yikes! It's still MIA.

Rosi said...

More memories!

I remember the upset I caused when I switched to a tri-fold bulletin! Yikes! The pastor was eventually let go due to these kind of infractions I think -- I now work for him at a different church, born out of a split. It would all be funny, if it wasn't so sad.

I do recall that the old pulpit made an appearance after the pastor left....

Rick Lawrenson said...

When a church becomes all about us, or that could be all about U.S., and not about Him it gets its collective shorts in a bunch over things that won't even be considered in eternity.

And before anyone gets their shorts in a bunch over that statement please read "all about", ie. it's main focus.

Apple said...

Seriously, people. A tri-fold bulletin and, what is essentially a glorified, "music stand?" You have GOT to be kidding me?! (insert incredulous laugh here) "We" choose to attack/hurt/fight over those things? Do "we" really take ourselves THAT seriously?! Sell the pulpit and feed the hungry child on the street corner. I'm sure Jesus would much rather see her body and soul nourished.

Focus people, focus! Say it with me "Jesus." There are so many greater things to worry about.

Sorry, I get fired up about this stuff. This is of course not directed at anybody who has commented under this post...but to those who choose to attack their "brothers and sisters" over the things that don't matter.