Christian Right Weekly Round-Up: Pastor Pillow & the Parable of the Empty Megachurch


The Gospel According to The Golden Rule

1 1 Normally on the Lord’s Day, Pastor Pillow arrived at Cubic Zirconium Cathedral several hours before even the most faithful member to perform dutifully the humble role of sexton—to his mind, a kind of facility foot washing.

2 He unlocked doors; adjusted thermostats; flipped on hallway lights; spot-checked the childproof condition of the four nursery rooms; erased youth group room dry erase boards; and brewed fresh pots of “Jesus Java” and “Deacon’s Decaf” in the Koinonia Room, 3 a grand hall with biblical murals where parishioners gathered before and after service to share with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ how heavenly hosts and principalities had administered their lives since Friday morning’s gender-segregated prayer breakfasts.

4 When the church was dressed for its two morning services (one at 9:30, the other at 11, as the digital marquee above the church’s main entrance announced), Pastor Pillow took his place of divine call upon the altar platform.

5 Seeking the ministration of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Pillow paced the crimson carpet podium, like a brooding thespian tracing the staged terrain of an imaginary Agincourt, 6 or a zoo-strapped polar bear desperate to find a path that leads to an Arctic ice ledge. 7a At the moment his spirit was moved, Pastor Pillow turned on his heels and rendered the opening lines of his memorized sermon to the purple-padded pews; 7b each segmented pad had an embroidered dove-in-flame on the upper-left corner.

8 He next retired to his office and surrendered to genuflected intercession on a Moroccan leather prayer bench until precisely 9:04 a.m.—the chapter and verse of his favorite Pauline passage9 at which time, with a righteous furrow across his brow and well-worn New International Version Bible in hand, he emerged to engage in fellowship with the several thousand sheep who entrusted him to shepherd their everlasting souls.

10 But not this Sunday morning. 11 This morning, when his spirit was moved and he turned on his heels to render the opening lines of his memorized sermon, he paused. 12 Though the sanctuary lighting was yet dim, he spied a single individual seated in one of the furthest rows in the otherwise empty megachurch.

2 1 Pastor Pillow squinted yet failed to identify the lone individual. 2 The good minister had no lavalier microphone to carry his evangelistic voice, so he shouted to the back wall, “The service doesn’t begin until 9:30! I haven’t even set out the Christ croissants and the Divine Danishes in the fellowship hall! Would you mind coming back in an hour!”

3 The figure did not respond.

4 Pastor Pillow tapped a forefinger upon his trusty, jewel-encrusted, leather-bound Bible. 5 “If you’re here to make a donation, just leave your credit card information in one of the membership dues envelopes and drop it in the Gardall FL2522-2 B Rated Front Load Cash Drawer Safe in the lobby on your way out the door! 6 We even accept Diners Club!”

7 The figure whispered—though Pastor Pillow could not hear the message. “I am Daniel Pierce.”

8 “Come again?” Pastor Pillow bellowed. “Can’t you make your way down here to the altar so I can hear you?”

9 The figure whispered again from 40 rows away, “I am Brunel Athis.”

10 “What’s that?” Pastor Pillow hollered. “I’d come to you, but I tweaked my knee yesterday on the 17th hole while shooting a round with Zach Johnson and Kurt Warner at the Cubic Zirconium Country Club. 11 Man, there’s a reason they call that sand trap Abraham’s Bosom!”

12 The figure whispered a third time, “I am the widow you neglect. I am the orphan you do not clothe. I am the family displaced by the military industrial complex which you support. I am the neighbor you fail to love.”

13 Pastor Pillow approached the edge of the altar platform. “For Pete’s sake, whoever you are! This is a terrible inconvenience. I really need to rehearse my morning service message. I’ve got to get the congregation emotionally riled by Fourth Offering today, or we won’t be able to cover the cost of our NFL corporate luxury box. And if that happens, how are we going to properly wine and dine potential Pentateuch Theme Park investors? By the way, I’ve got this idea for a two-in-one biblical genealogy corkscrew and flume baptismal ride. Hmm, it just occurred to me that we should work the Egyptian plagues into that—especially the blood red Nile. Here, let me make a note. At any rate, if you can’t make your way down to me, I’m going to have to ask you to vacate the premises. This isn’t some vagrant community center, you know. Also, we just had all the pew pads steam-cleaned two weeks ago. Seriously, don’t make me call security; we recently hired several ousted Ferguson Police Department police officers. Trust me, they’re itching to enforce some peace.”

14 Suddenly, the sanctuary was flooded with light. Pastor Pillow heard the voice of the control room operator over the speaker system. 15 “Morning, Pastor P. We were about to let the worship band inside to rehearse. You okay? Thought I heard you say to call security.”

15 Pastor Pillow set his hands on the acrylic lectern. The figure in the distant seat was gone.

Please open your hymnals to No. 1971.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Behold, the Christian Right Weekly Round-Up.

5. The Creation Museum Beyond Genesis, over at Answers in Genesis: “Are There Really ‘Gay Christians’?”

Lest you think that Ken Ham’s kooky Young Earth belief has little impact on your day-to-day existence, think again. There is nothing innocent nor innocuous about misguided cosmology through biblical literalism.

While I yahooed during Bill Nye’s triumphal presentation of the bullet points of the scientific method to millions of conservative Christians, Nye struck far afield of the heart of Creation Museum villainy.

The fundamental problem with Ken Ham and his ilk is—and always will be—not science, but biblical hermeneutics. That is, how one understands and interprets the Bible as sacred writ.

The sleight of hand trick that the Creationist overlords play on Christian flocks is: if they can convince people to interpret Genesis literally and without critical thought (with stories engrained in Evangelicals in a cartoon manner from youth), then they have an easier time getting them to interpret the rest of the Bible this way—from the Gospels to Pauline epistles to the Apocalypse of St. John.

Before you know it, articles decrying gay Christians, including the one above and this one by Ken Ham and Steve Golden, end up on websites like “Answers in Genesis.”

Let’s be clear. Hameans don’t just think sit around watching VeggieTales episodes about Noah’s umbrella and writing books about dragons. (Sadly, they seem to believe in the historicity of dragons now.) Here is where the path of biblical literalism leads beyond Genesis:

There is no denying the fact that many repentant Christians dealing with same-sex attraction will struggle with that temptation for most or all of their lives. But it is, like pride, anger, or heterosexual lust, a sinful desire—not an orientation that one is obligated to follow.

Also, for what it’s worth, my challenge to Ken Ham remains unanswered.

4. National Home School Association Backpedals from Backsliders, via Christian Post: “Homeschool Advocate Michael Farris Responds to Sex Scandals of Homeschool Leaders Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips”

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Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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