Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where Do You Draw the Line?

I've never been known for being hard-nosed. 

I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

For example, when I got to my first (rural) congregation, I found out that they liked to sit down for the songs before and after the sermon.  I personally think that people sing better when they are standing up; standing for hymns is also a part of my piety.  However, I didn't think it was worth fighting about.  So, we sat.  (Except, on occasion, when I would choose "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus as the Hymn of the Day.")

Though strictly speaking, there should not be any secular songs in a worship service, our contemporary service pianist has been known to play "Lean on Me" once in awhile for the offertory.  And when a woman insisted that the soloist sing the World War II song, "I'll Be Seeing You" for her mother's funeral, I just insisted that we move it from the end of the service (where she wanted it) to right after the Eulogy, before the Scripture readings.  Then in my sermon I could make a connection between the hopes of the people living during the War to our Christian hope for the Kingdom of God, and a place of nor more death and crying, war and separation.

Several years ago, I had a situation where I found that I could not be so accommodating.  I was asked to do a funeral for a woman who was related to our faith community by marriage.  They did not have a shared religious background, so when her husband came in, he mentioned a song that they had heard the Mormon Tabernacle choir sing.  I thought, well, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings a lot of hymns, so I said I would take a look at it.

The tune was easy enough, but when I saw the words, I got a sort of queasy feeling in my stomach.  If we sang this song, it seemed to me that I would violating my ordination vows.  It is one of the few times that I have thought I understood the term another gospel.  It's been several years now, but I think the song requested was this one.  

I did not look forward to this conversation, but I knew that I couldn't allow those words to be sung in a Christian funeral service.  I discovered that the tune was also set to different, more theologically orthodox set of words, and suggested that we sing the tune with those other words.  Fortunately, the woman's husband understood my concern and agreed. 

I've been thinking about this lately because of the recent popularity of TV commentator Glenn Beck.  Thirty years ago, when I was hanging around with Evangelicals and Charismatics, they would have had Certain Opinions about his religion.  However, lately it seems that we are drawing lines in different places than we have done in the past.   Do we draw lines based on theology (sin and grace, Christian hope, the Trinity, ) or moral and ethical concerns (abortion, homosexuality), or political concerns, whether of the right or of the left?   And what does it matter where we draw our lines?  Does theology really matter much any more?

Let me know.

As for me, I think I draw the line on hope:  where do we find our hope? If I can't tell the truth about that, not much else matters. 


Chris said...

This ties in with the Shane Claiborne article I read for Matins today.

Wendy said...

I don't really have an answer for myself. I have a kind of judgmental answer (which you can feel free to not approve--I won't be offended) for the Evangelical church I left. I think it's a bit hypocritical of them to cozy up to members of the LDS church for political and moral reasons when they don't actually believe those people are "saved." It shows how much it has become the political cause and legislating morality instead of simply sharing Truth and letting God convict/change people from within.

Every once in awhile in a discussion my pastor brings us back to the central idea that we are a Christian church and there are things we profess we believe and she always brings it back to scripture. There are things she has not allowed and there are things other people have said that she has gently corrected. I appreciate that about her.

Fran said...

Diane, your post really brings forth so many thoughts for me.

One is a thought that I have spent some time with of late and I think it relates very much to where lines are drawn. I think the lines are also crooked and crazy sometimes and that causes so many problems.

In any event, you bring forth provocative questions for us and hope is the place for a line to be drawn in the right way.

Mompriest said...

I'm sure I must have sung that hymn in church when I was a kid...although I have no memory of it. I think the hymn reflects the LDS idea that when a couple is married in the LDS temple they, and their children, are "sealed" as a family for all eternity in heaven....My birth father and mother were married in the temple and then had three children. When my parents divorced and my mom remarried the LDS church would not "seal" our new family even though my step dad adopted us kids and my birth father gave up his parental rights....that is one of the primary reasons my parents left that church.

anyway, I don't for certain, in reading the text that what it makes me think...

now, regarding this whole bizarre state of fuzzy theology and dogma and's just sad. I had more than my fill of teaparty paranoia while in AZ as it was blooming forth from people who are afraid due to a failing economy and a black President....and are acting out by spreading out right false statments as if they are truth - and if all you listen to is Fox news, then you will indeed have a warped view of reality and God.


Hot Cup Lutheran said...

theology does matter... teaching it however is tough. i'm about to draw a line myself today with a pre-marital session... no, no sweetie you can not walk down the aisle to this country western song. no. no. and no.

(and yes i suspect that news is not going to go over well with the couple...)