Monday, April 07, 2008

parsing pulpit talk
submitted by: slowfo

So yesterday I found myself leaning back in my theater seat and listening to yet another sermon on solomon and his obsessions with women. The preacher went on and on about how many problems this richest and wisest man in the world had because of his hundreds of wives and sex"concubines." Hmmm...knocking down the Angelina Jolie's, Scarlett Johansson's and Amanda Peet's (ok, Amanda's kinda my personal hang-up) of his day while sitting in a cedar palace, observing life with the help of limitless wisdom and surrounded by subordinates willing to carry out every command and respond to every whim. Yeah, sounds like he had a tough life.

However, in the midst of such abundance "Solomon's wives got him to worship the same gods they worshipped," the talking head solemnly reminded us. I anticipated what would come next from him (mostly because I've heard it many times before): "Okay gang, we've got a few gods of our own today don't we? We worship the gods of money, power, sex, beauty, etc. don't we?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold it right there Pastor. I caught that. You just created your own spin on "The Word of the Lord" out of thin air.

Let's be clear on this: temptations aren't gods and gods aren't temptations. Sure they work hand-in-hand but not always. The gods of today are Scientology, Hindu, Wicca, etc. and the temptations are money, sex, and power as they've always been. Let's also include convenience as a tasty temptation for the Church and its pastors. In the name of producing a good practical moral from the story, we stretch, tweak, and spin a biblical text to fit our Sunday morning needs. Count me as guilty. I've done it myself in years past. Good intentions in our ministries don't justify speaking words of God that aren't His words at all; otherwise we create a "false" God ourselves.

Every time a pastor or a member of the church speaks the Word of God in hopes that it will become the Word for Today we must ask ourselves: "With my ministry, am I really reflecting the teaching of God accurately and in accordance with the grammatical/historical context that these books and letters were written in? Or am I interpreting the these texts according to my own lights and shaping the word of scripture so that it coheres with my predetermined theme and so does not challenge the conceptions or either myself or my audience. Have I shaped this text in accordance with my own intentions and so succumbed to temptation of convenience?"


g13 said...

amanda peet eh? i always figured you for more of a maggie gyllenhaal kind of guy. the latter would equate more easily with that dirty little shirley manson fetish you were sporting for a while.

mike said...

so uh, what would be the lesson from that passage? that we shouldn't have a lot of wives lest we worship actual foreign gods?

cool, i think i can handle that one.

Smee said...

A thoughtful read...

Rick said...

how can the gods of today be wicca, which acknowledges no god, or Scientology, which also acknowledges no god? would the gods of today be "no god". Of course, with Hindus, we would say that the gods of today are too many gods.

These are religious systems of belief, not the gods themselves. I feel this exegesis is only a slight bit better than the previous one. There are good points to be made, but it fails the smell test.

If we understand idolatry to be worshiping the graven image of another god, would we say that only those religions which worship at an alter or statue (Hindu) are breaking this command or what Sol did?

Can we say that worship of a nation/state such as America or Russia is worshiping a false God since we bow allegiance to an image (flag), pledge our allegiance to that image and give it ultimate authority. I mean there is no god in nationalism, but it is at least as much a religion as Scientology and Wicca.

Why would Baseball be a new god. It has temples. it has a religious text. It has trinitarian figures. It is worshiped. I could go on.

Since you mention wicca, etc. would you include Islam? Where do you draw the line? Official Religions with a text and statement of beliefs?

Your exegesis leaves me with more questions (and not always the good kind).

slowfo said...

Rick, perhaps to be more clear the definition of "gods" and/or "religion" should be clarified. In my initial post, my foundational assumption was that the definition of "other gods" would include but not be limited to mean a purposeful, systematic, and mostly exclusionary devotion to seek and/or receive spiritual enlightenment from a source/belief system other than the sole devotion to the Judeo-Christian God. In this case, my above examples would apply; however the "devotion" to baseball or a government probably would not - although I do question the spiritual foundation of most St. Louis Cardinals fans but that's another story altogether (Go Orioles! 6-1!).