The pastor who was the brunt of my disillusionment from the 1/11 post took the time to reply to me. I’ve snipped a few of the names, and readers should know that Marietta was my grandmother. Otherwise, this is verbatim. This is what he had to say:
I received your note and regret that you feel as you do. Part of the reason for this is that, although you evidently had some exposure to certain forms of “Christianity”, you clearly have no real understanding of what we as a Church Family believe and treasure concerning our great God and Savior. As far as [name removed]’s talk, he was asked […] specifically to read that particular Bible passage and explain what it teaches, and what Marietta believed with all her heart. I think [name removed] was trying to do the same thing Marietta talked to me about–to communicate one more time to her family and friends the Truth.
You did have a wonderful grandmother. We all loved her! And we rejoice in the absolute confidence that she is with her God and Savior, and will spend eternity serving and worshipping Him.
In response, I offer the following:
You are right that I have never studied the nuances of the Baptists, so perhaps I do not understand how your beliefs and treasured things lead you to a position of refusing my grandmother communion. To my understanding, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 seem to saying that partaking of the body and blood of Christ should be a frequent remembrance of your relationship with him. I’m assuming you have another interpretation, or some other conflicting bible reference which you find more important. I’d be interested to learn your reasoning.
As for [name removed], that was merely an annoyance, and I have since learned that there were several others who were also annoyed. I did not take issue with the passage he read, but rather his explanation of it.
The bible recounts Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) However, Romans 10:12 talks about how the Jews are also due god’s salvation. [name removed] specifically called out those who worshipped Mohammed and Buddha as unworthy of heaven (and by implication, condemned to hell). First, Muslims don’t worship Mohammed. He is not their “Jesus”. (Jesus actually shows up in the Qur’an.) Mohammed is a prophet. Muslims worship the same god as the Jews and the Christians. And by even the most rigid interpretation of Romans, that would seem to get their ticket to heaven validated. Buddhists actually don’t worship anybody. It is a philosophy, and like many eastern “religions” lacks a central deity. To my knowledge, Buddha doesn’t appear in the bible anywhere. And interestingly, Buddhists as well as atheists are not 2nd Commandment violators.
The god of the Old Testament, certainly was portrayed as rather vengeful toward those who rejected him. But I’ve always viewed the New Testament and the message of the so-called “Good News” as one of hope. Jesus was portrayed as believing there were Christians and there were Opportunities. I believe this is the basis of your evangelical mission. So depending on which parts of the bible are important to Baptists, I can certainly understand their view that at least 47% of the world’s population is going to hell. But personally I have a lot of trouble with that level of intolerance.
It is interesting to note that while 33% of the world is currently Christian, there are 34,000 recognized sects of Christianity. And several of those groups are pretty comfortable even condemning the other Christians to hell. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t envision, nor would he condone, that level of in-fighting.
But bible study aside, I do object to the notion that my grandmother wanted a message of condemnation delivered to her family. She was a kind and accepting woman. She believed what she believed with great fervor. But I can’t recall her ever condemning others in any sense. She doubtless hoped that people like me would find a path to the god she held so dear, but she never would have damned us for not being on it.
It felt as if [name removed] did condemn us. I respect his right to that opinion. But I do not accept it as a reflection of my grandmother. And therein lies the rub.