This is Minnesota, where all the Scandihoovians are Lutheran and all the Germans are Catholic, and there ain’t no one else. Well, at least that’s the stereotype. Since we went to the liberal Lutheran church last week, because that’s what I grew up in, my wife suggested that for parity’s sake we attend a church like the one she was brought up in. She was Baptist, once upon a time. Would there be any Baptist churches here?
Yes, there’s one. So we dropped in this morning, and Mary introduced me to Baptist culture.
First shock: Baptists sleep in. The service didn’t start until 11am. I know! They’re stealing an atheist advantage there! Mary said that was typical, though. There were also more Baptists in town than I expected, with about 60 in attendance.
The second mild surprise was that the whole service is practically non-stop hymn singing, and that they had a pianist, an organist, and a violinist up front to accompany us. I was used to liturgies & chants & recitatives breaking up the occasional hymn, but no, we opened up the hymnal as soon as the service started (promptly at 11, and again, it ended promptly at noon) and worked our way through a series of hymns with one interruption for the offering collection and one for the sermon. And we sang every verse of every hymn! Of course, every song had the same structure: two line verse, followed by two line chorus, then repeat and repeat and repeat.
The music did nothing for me, but then I wasn’t brought up in it. Mary got caught up in the rhythms, which I found interesting — early childhood experiences seem to program us to respond to particular patterns, and I could tell that I’m a Lutheran atheist and she’s a Baptist atheist. Irreconcilable differences, I guess we’ll have to divorce.
Wait, no, I think the atheism cleared those conflicts away. Whew!
Then, the sermon. Scratch that, the “message”. It started off well.
It was built around Psalm 147, and the pastor was telling us about the things God is not impressed by…and the first one was by show of force. Was this going to be a pacifist message? I might like this guy after all.
Alas, it was to be that only certain shows of force fail to delight the Lord. God is not impressed with North Korea’s parades of tanks and missiles, and they keep shooting missiles at us (Really? Where?) and they keep missing. And hey, Napolean invaded Russia with 600,000 men, and nearly all of them died to God’s winter, and the same for Hitler’s army. Ditto for Pharoah’s army, which chased Moses across the Red Sea, and then God made their chariot wheels fall off. They’ve found those chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, too. (No, they haven’t. This is more propaganda from wacky Ron Wyatt, who made that claim — I can tell what kind of literature the good Reverend is reading!)
God is also not impressed with snobbery — he’s all about the little people. Somehow this was illustrated by the example of our president traveling overseas to visit terrorists and communists, but being unable to find time for the funeral of the great Margaret Thatcher. I didn’t quite get the connection, but OK, he was rambling on at this point.
The third thing God does not find delightful is…secular thinking. Modern people are all bowing down to the god of medical science, and engineering science, and geological science, and did you know that George Washington almost died because the doctors kept bleeding him? But William Harvey, a Christian scientist, discovered that the heart was a pump, and showed them all to be wrong. I was feeling rather confused at this point, since a) the doctors who were bleeding Washington would have been Christian, too, and b) William Harvey discredited the practice of bloodletting in 1628, and can’t really be credited with saving George Washington in the 18th century.
Then my favorite part: “Evolution is only a theory, not a proven fact, and did you know that intelligent people don’t believe that theory?“ He actually said it. I guess I won’t be joining his church, then.
Then the sermon got really incoherent, and not pacifistic at all.
This guy was really obsessed with Israel. He told us a story about how as a boy delivering newspapers he read about the Six Day War in 1967, and how Israel with God’s favor whipped all of its enemies until the United Nations forced them to stop, and now the UN is trying to force Israel to turn over most of Jerusalem to Arab Terrorists. Israel good, UN bad.
He also told us how the US had the North Koreans beat and chased them all the way to the Chinese border, and then the Chinese started massing troops, and General MacArthur asked to use nukes on them, and got turned down by Truman. I got the distinct impression that this servant of a god who is not impressed with shows of force thinks we should have nuked the Chinese.
America has become more concerned with its own house rather than God’s house, and is in moral decline, what with all this homosexuality. We must pray for America to humble herself so that God will heal her — if we don’t pray, we’ll find ourselves in the midst of a Nazi-Communist America! We have forsaken the Chosen People of Israel! God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel — not America, not Germany, not France, only Israel, and Israel is a monument to God and a witness to show that the End Times of the book of Revelation will come to pass!
You get the idea. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I would have been curious to learn if the majority of the congregation were as rabidly pro-Israel as their minister, but then it ended abruptly, the minister announced that we were dismissed, and we left.
I was impressed that it started precisely at 11am and stopped exactly at noon. So far these services have been remarkably well-timed. Otherwise…no, I’m not tempted by any of them.
By the way, this particular church is a member of the New Testament Association, which has a few rules.
Q. What is the NTA position on sexual practices?
A. Each local church sets its own standards, but we commonly hold to these practices. We believe in monogamy and sex only within the bond of marriage (between a man and a woman). We do not accept homosexuality, abortion, and other conduct that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
Q. What does the NTA believe regarding dietary practices?
A. We believe it is improper for believers to use alcoholic beverage in any form, tobacco in any form, or illicit drugs of any kind. A balanced diet (consisting of meat, vegetables, and fruits) should be maintained conducive to good health.
So, no gay vegans allowed in this congregation? I can’t even wash out the taste of the sermon with a beer afterwards?
There are other people who aren’t welcome.
Affiliated churches of this Association: 1) Shall be composed entirely of immersed believers. 2) Shall have declared by vote their agreement without mental reservation with the Statement of Faith and the Preamble of this Association. 3) Shall not be in affiliation with any other national association of churches. 4) Shall not be in affiliation and/or fellowship with any organization which condones the presence of religious liberals or liberalism.
Darn. I guess I shouldn’t go back then.
P.S. Padded pews again! What is it with these decadent modern folks and their pampered butts?