Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God and Politics

Woke up early today, for some reason during my first smoke of the day something came to mind from years ago.  I'm not sure what brought it to mind. If you follow this blog or know me in passing you might be surprised of what I was like ten or more years ago. I used to be a "Born Again Christian." Devout Baptist and every bit as boring as Ned Flanders. I won't even go into why I'm not now, or never will be again.

I did the whole nine yards of it with bible studies, retreats, tithing and saying all of the right things at the right times. For a short while I was a trustee at a small Baptist church in New Jersey. A trustee is a church member who with others oversee the finances of the church. Numerous long boring hours of my life wasted never to get back. Sitting around a table with aging stuff shirts debating the new roof or paving the parking lot argument.

The Pastor's transportation was provided by the church. The auto, it's maintenance and insurance came from the church budget. Along with the housing and health care for the Pastor and his family. Likable enough people. This morning during my first cigarette I recalled the time the pastor got into a minor fender bender that had been the other driver's fault. The ugly blue Buick that was church property got a little banged up but ran fine with no real damage. It just looked like hell.

Being great people of faith, they immediately saw God's powerful hand of control at work in their lives. Weeks later when the check from the other party's insurance company paid out about a grand for the damage to churchmobile, God in all of his glory had provided to those of great faith. It turned out the Pastor and his wife hand been praying in earnest for the Lord to provide them with the means of going on a cruise. The insurance check was almost the exact amount need for two tickets on a cruise line. Our God is an awesome God.

I saw it in a different light. The now uglier church owned Buick was in fact church corporate property, just like the parsonage. If the parsonage burned down, would the pastor get to pocket the insurance money? My position was the money should go into the church account. The church would get a nice little shot in the arm with a thousand bucks and our Pastor could show off how humble he is by driving a beat up old Buick. 

Instead weeks later we had to listen to how magnificent the buffets were, and how the couple ate non stop during the excursion. These were the same people who lectured me on "sins of the flesh and self control."  I guess leafing through a Victoria's Secret catalog at the mailbox is considered a sin, but eating 10 pounds of crab legs in one sitting isn't a sin.

There were a few instances concerning finances like that. There was a time the Pastor wanted the church to pay to have the parsonage basement remodeled so the Pastor's daughter and her son could move in. Already the large home housed the pastor and his wife, several college age children and an aging mother. Now we have to take up an offering to squeeze in one more generation? "Sorry, we ain't Amish, raise your own barn" was my thoughts. I was out voted 5 -1.

I discovered more about politics in church than theology. When as a trustee I tried to offer a check and balance to the spending of the executive branch, I thought that was the duty of a financial officer. Any filibustering on my part was quickly pointed out as an attack on the Pastor and his family, a stumbling block to the work of God, and I obviously was secretly living a sinful life to allow Satan to use me to stand in the way of the church.  Any critic was written off as an instrument of dark forces and should be hen pecked back into the folds of the flock.

Political lesson: When you try to stop a charismatic leadership from spending other people's money, his followers will attack you.

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