Friday, May 30, 2008

Rod Parsley II

Yesterday I wrote that I thought Rod Parsley's beliefs, as expressed in the Washington Post, were inconsistent with my understanding of Jesus' teachings. Then I began to wonder if his views are being distorted and taken out of context, as Jeremiah Wright's view may have been.

I haven't yet googled Parsley. I had never heard of him, despite his 12,000 person megachurch and best-selling books.

I wish he didn't live in a million dollar, 7,000 square foot home, but at the same time, can I condemn him? Would I turn such a home down if I could have it? I hope I wouldn't want it. But then I look at how I struggle with moving to a smaller house in August. Part of me says smaller is better; part of me wants to hang on to the bigger and nicer. There's always that struggle between two worlds ...

I don't know about getting "off" on war ...the Bible seems clearly to condemn violence and look towards a peaceable kingdom. Psalm 5 says "bloodthirsty people are hateful to you Lord." But the Bible is filled with violence and with images of people like King David, roasting bulls and banging cymbals, dancing and exulting over military victory. I tend to think Jesus new version of kingship as nonviolent sacrifice wipes away the old model ... but I can't deny the old model is there.

I have been told (and have sometimes seen) that many people who have grown up in the chaos and dysfunction wrought by rapid social and economic change can thrive within the strict boundaries of more authoritarian churches. I have known some women who have flourished in fundamentalist environments. They saw their parents divorce and lead chaotic, impoverished, damaged lives, they saw their siblings struggle with addiction and single parenthood. Then these women were invited ... to church. At church, they found an alternative culture in which they could marry someone committed to marriage, have children, stay home with their children and be supported by a community that values marriage and motherhood and where there's no pressure to drink or use drugs. While the rules might be rigid and those out of bounds punished, inside the fold they have found a structure to pursue abundant life.

Mostly, I think God works through people like Parsley to bring other people to a true understanding of God. These other people will read the Bible, talk about it, think about it, pray about it, be informed by the Holy Spirit, and become true servants of God. And in doing so, they will reject a message of gross materialism and exultant violence.

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