I remember as a kid, interested in music, gospel music at that, that it was normal that I would turn on the radio on Sunday and listen to the music. I actually went so far as to record some songs on cassette tapes even before the idea of a CD-ROM being recordable had entered our minds, let alone Napster, Limewire or even iTunes was a forethought. And an .mp3 file was unfathomable. So it wasn’t uncommon to have the radio in the car tuned to a gospel station–even after church.
We commonly went to our church’s 6pm service, so that meant that after church around 7pm that either Bishop Larry Trotter and the Sweet Holy Spirit Full Gospel Baptist Church came on and then for a while it was Donald Parsons at Logos Baptist Assembly. I don’t remember who came on before, but you know how that goes with church radio, whoever stops paying, they’ll replace you with someone else. But, I have clear memories of catching sermons after church from these two gentlemen–but only when I went to church with my dad. If my mom went with us, which was most Sundays, she’d simply say “I don’t want to hear another sermon. I want to let this one settle in my mind.”
Let’s be honest, in the age of podcasts, Streaming Faith, Youtube, XM radio, DVDs, CDs, iPods, other .mp3 players, satellite radio in your car, in your office, “God” is virtually at your finger tips whenever you want! Technically, I could wake up in the morning and catch Jamal Bryant for a morning service, midday I could catch Marcus Cosby and then catch Charles Blake and if the timing was right, I could catch a few 12 or 12:30 services in the middle of the country. Not to mention that there are religious broadcast networks such as TBN and the Word Network that broadcast some form of religious doctrine all hours of the day.
What results is hearing too many different voices.
Whatchu tambout Willis?
Okay, lemme break it down to ya like a fraction.
Me listening to my pastor on Sunday mornings may not line up with what another pastor on the Word network might have preached. That is to say, many pastors are left having to clean up the messes that other preachers are creating by filling the heads of their listeners with opposing theologies. Honestly, if you have a parishioner who’s trying to reconcile the theology of Eddie Long of Creflo Dollar with that of their local church it’s probably going to be very hard.
I think this is a multi-layered issue that needs to be addressed.
1) People don’t know their own constructive theology. Because we’ve been inculcated so long with messages from our pastors, and our family, we have this aversion toward other faiths and other religions. If we hear “Mohammed couldn’t do, Confucius couldn’t do it, Buddha couldn’t do it, but Jesus can…” long enough, we no longer have an aversion, but an arrogance about what we believe in, as if we have the magic key. So because many blacks live in all black neighborhoods and blacks are heavily Christian, too many of us never get our faith challenged. As a result, we’ve never had our beliefs challenged against rational thought.
And the women selling Watch Tower doesn’t really count.
What we teach in our Sunday Schools is clearly Christian education and not religious education. I think that makes enough sense for what we call “baby Christians,” but at a certain point, I think churches need to move toward Religious education. We recite these credos about “what we believe” but never discuss about what the individual believes. Churches have fooled their parishioners into thinking that the midweek service is still Bible Study. The point of Bible study is to interrupt and ask the questions you wanted to on Sunday, but couldn’t.
A faith isn’t really a faith if it’s never been challenged. When we mute others from asking certain questions, basic questions we’ve moved from creating a faith community to a community of persons with cultish principles. We hush children and adults a like from wrestling with basic questions such as who did Cain marry and have children with if it was just Adam, Eve and only Cain. We’re not allowed to ask about the missing years of Jesus from ages 12 to 30; why does Paul speak about being “caught up, in a moment in a twinkling of an eye” and John says that there will those “left behind” in the tribulation times; Exodus says “thou shalt not kill” and Ecclesiastes says there’s “a time to kill.”
Like I said, basic questions.
2) Preachers and pastors don’t really know what they believe. In this day and age with many things from pop culture that influence our consciousness, many of our preachers don’t truly know what they know. Going out on a limb, I’m making, the jump, but this younger generation of preachers–on average–are just as unaware of their truly deep-seated beliefs. They know they exist, but in order to be in the pulpit, a certain message is expected to be projected across to the people.
To the preachers and pastors, many of us sit around and talk amongst each other and perform a cognitive dissonance. We may confess our deep emotions, sins or what not or even countering theological beliefs, but we become hypocrites in the pulpit by providing the same tired message.
I also say this because as a budding homiletician and an avid road trip driver, I’ll sit and listen to a string of sermons on my iPod in the car. Feasibly, I could hear four or five sermons of a preacher back to back, and it’s interesting to see their constructive theology. What I noticed is that among one of the preachers, who I rather enjoy, he said in one sermon that “you know the devil is after you when you gettin’ close to God” and then in a separate sermon said “you know the farther and farther you get away from God, the devil will get after you” and I wanted to raise my hand and say “sir! sir!”
Well, you know that’s not a good look. The preacher doesn’t need to change up theological premises from week to week. Honestly, especially with popular preachers that fly in and out of cities for various guest preaching spots, I wonder how often are they writing new sermons? It’s like hearing a comedian using the same schtick over and over again. Moreover, I wonder how often do us as clergy actually pay attention from week to week what we’re saying.
3) Some preachers and pastors don’t care what gets said, as long as they get paid. That’s a sad fact. Some of the people just recognize preaching and pastoring as a hustle. This happens from the big time leaders of large megachurches, down to the regular sized churches that we see in our communities. It crosses denominational lines as well. But still, parishioners allow their consciousness to be informed by these people, who in my opinion, often present a warped gospel that is only out to enlarge their own territory at the expense of others.
That being said…
…whenever we don’t what we believe, its easy to allow the different opinions to permeate our consciousness and then we get all confused. Look, anyone who’s been a reader of my blog entries know that for the most part I’m real far left of center. It’s very few things I even fall middle of the road with. And when it comes to my true core theology, I’m definitely to the left. But, I know what I believe, so when I hear a sermon, I put it up against that which I already know and believe. It’s a deliberative theology that constantly changes when I hear a turn of a phrase or new information.
As I said before, this plays into my ideas about progressive theology.
God is still speaking, are we still listening?
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL