a big church

Fremont, OH

This morning I stopped at a big church. I usually avoid big churches. But walking from Clyde, I arrived at this one just as services were starting, so I went in.

I was a little late for Sunday school, but because of the holiday weekend there were only three people in the men's group and they welcomed me eagerly. And we had a good discussion. About communicating love to your spouse; this week was about physical intimacy. It started slow, but when we turned to Song of Solomon I perked up. We talked about how the imagery of the sexual relationship says so much about the ideal of our relationship with God: desire, openness, vulnerability, trust, nakedness, acceptance, tenderness, abandon, fulfillment, adoration.

The worship music was good, but the preaching raised serious questions. It was on Colossians 2.8, about not being led astray by empty and deceitful philosophies. The pastor warned of the many "isms": moralism, legalism, ritualism, deism. But apparently overlooked patriotism. In honor of the 4th, the worship had begun with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which was written, incidentally, during the Civil War, when our nation was fighting itself). The words were superimposed over the image of a waving U.S. flag:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally: let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
A strange juxtaposition, especially in a time when our nation is at war. Is this about evangelism, or war? Are we supposed to equate the death (or life) of soldiers with the death of Christ, who died with no weapon in his hand, crucified by soldiers? Or are we talking about making men free through faith, as Jesus did? But then what does the flag have to do with it?

It was followed by an emotional song about the pledge of allegiance (the loyalty that citizens owe to their country, or subjects to their sovereign). Not allegiance to God, but to the flag and "the republic, for which it stands."

What ever happened to "no one can serve two masters"?

One interesting thing the pastor mentioned was that many in Germany don't want to recognize Scientology as an official religion, because they see it as a money-making enterprise. Everyone in the audience nods approvingly. But look around. We sit in a huge auditorium, with stadium seating and plush theater seats, two giant video screens projecting images throughout the service. There's a coffee shop in the lobby (with another video screen there). And at the end of the service the pastor announces that, for their fall outreach event, a secular music star is coming... Randy Travis. The crowd oohs and aahs. "It will be expensive... to bring him in," the pastor informs us.

See, if done properly, Christianity can be quite a money-making enterprise too.