I attended a mega-church today, one that patterns itself off of Willow Creek. It is the largest church in Lexington with 7,500 people attending each weekend. I wore my rainbow cross from a previous Soulforce national action around my neck.
Our Soulforce local group is holding a meeting tonight where we will watch and then discuss a previous sermon preached at this church titled "What Does God Think About Homosexuality." A gay man who goes to this church had contacted me a month or so ago. We're hoping to research the false anti-gay rhethoric and build our case (always a Soulforce first step) before requesting a meeting with the pastor.
Police were there to direct traffic. The church was big huge and I felt like I was at an airport (I actually walked into Concourse B to get to Building E where the main worship space was.)
As the young pastor walked on stage, he got a standing ovation. (Not from me, of course. I remained seated. I had no idea why everyone was applauding and I'm certainly not applauding someone who I only know as an anti-gay conservative.*
) Come to find out, their church was on the front page of the paper today and he had been interviewed this past week by several national media outlets. The pastor had changed today's sermon to address all the negative attention the church was receiving after having announced they would be closing on Christmas day.
To me, it's a non-issue. I've always connected with God easier outside of a church building anyways. And the preacher was correct when he said that historically, Jesus of Nazareth was most likely not born anywhere near December 25th and that the holiday started out as non-Christian.
Here's my position. Fundamentalist and conservative churches have huge problems when it comes to understanding the inclusive Spirit of God. Often, it seems as though they're bent on keeping the exclusive spirit of the Pharisees alive. Their eyes are closed to many of the things that make for peace & justice.
So for progressive Christians working to apply Jesus's teachings to social issues, we sometimes (maybe often) find ourselves having to rebuke our evangelical and conservative Christian brothers and sisters over issues such as GLBT equality, their support for "just" war (show me a war started by their country that they don't label as just), etc. Those are the big
issues we need to continue to address.
This Christmas Sunday thing isn't one of them.
Ok, funny story about my not applauding the pastor. Well, later in the sermon, the pastor went on about how their church should "hold church" outside in the community during this Christmas season. He suggested that Christians who are able should leave a larger than normal tip at restaurants. And then, unexpectedly, he added, "...and don't leave one of those soul-winning tracts behind when you do it." So I clapped at that, though I think I was the only one. The lady sitting beside me chuckled a bit.