January 24, 2012

Jonathan Edwards or John Edward?

Since my deconversion, I continue to tune in from time to time to a radio station that was a staple of my Christian diet for many years, 90.1 Moody Radio. This is a station based out of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. The programming is not quite targeted to my generation - I would say maybe people a little older - but then again I don't want to generalize because I started listening to it in my early 20s, maybe because the more conservative nature of many of the speakers had a familiar tone to my religious upbringing.

It is interesting to listen to pastors -- many of whom I used to turn for wisdom between Sundays -- now from my fairly new a-theist perspective. For instance, the other night when I was listening to a sermon by James MacDonald of the famed (in these parts at least) Harvest Bible franchise, I became painfully aware of how much some sermons are eerily similar to cold readings. MacDonald was talking generically about some obvious principal for living (I don't remember what it was), and interspersing his pontification with comments like "someone here is struggling in a relationship; someone here needs to forgive and hand that relationship over to God." I know these type of comments are made in sermons all the time, likely to elicit an emotional response from the audience, ahem, congregation. I used to fall for it, telling myself that God was using that sermon to speak to me about about some thought crime I had committed. (Not that I was so incredibly self-absorbed that I thought God was speaking only to me. I always told myself that God could use one sermon to touch the hearts of many people at once in ways that were specifically tailored to each person. A beautiful thought, don't you think?) I'm now aware that churches use these general examples because they are simply familiar to the human condition.

OF COURSE there are many people "struggling in a relationship" right now. We are social creatures who have to figure out the dance of life together so that we can benefit individually and as a group. It is so incredibly saddening to me, now that I can see it for what it is, that pastors purport to make these statements as though God is speaking through them to share this insight. And I think a lot of pastors who are being genuine truly feel that this is what they're doing. They don't realize that their ability to call out what's going on with other people is a function of their own empathy and understanding of the human experience. There is NO GOD transmitting a message to any person in the audience whose name contains a vowel, just as there is no Aunt Gertrude transmitting a message through a psychic medium that she wants her nephew to know she's in a better place.

No comments:

Post a Comment