When bad pastors happen to good weddings

Got this in:

Hi John, I had a friend turn me on to your site today and I have been sitting and reading a bunch of your posts for the past few hours. I thought I might share something that happened to me.

My husband and I were married this past October. We had a non-denominational ceremony with a small group of about forty people. It was a lovely ceremony, nothing overly religious. Neither my husband and I are what I would call Christian, but we both believe in God. We don’t attend church. My family is Native American, and there are three types of people in my family: the ones who distrust Christianity for wrong-doings of the past, the ones who have converted to evangelical Christianity, and the ones who do not care about religion at all, or abide by our tribe’s teachings.

Two weeks after I was married, I attended the wedding of my cousin. As children she and I were close, but her husband’s family are strict evangelical Christians. We have had many arguments over her sudden disinterest in her own family. Nonetheless I was happy to go to her wedding.

As their pastor was giving his speech at their reception, he said, “The only love that is real in the eyes of God is Christian love, and Christian marriage.”

How was I supposed to feel about that? I had just gotten married outside of the realm of Christianity. Yet I feel an enormous amount of love towards my husband. It was the best day of my life. I promptly removed myself from the table and drove home. My cousin and I have not spoken since—although her mother, also a converted evangelical, did call me to tell me how rude I was to leave the wedding.

What do you say?

Dear young woman who wrote me the above:

I say that pastor had as much in common with Jesus Christ as Ronald McDonald has with Julia Child.

Why, as an authoritative representative of a faith tradition, would you stand up at a wedding reception, and start talking about how the only people in the world who can possibly experience true love are those who believe the same thing you do? What could be less appropriate—especially when you know that many of those listening to you have all kinds of great reasons not to hold the same beliefs you do?

If the pastor at my wedding reception had stood up and said what that pastor did, I’d have jumped out of my chair, and said, “Excuse me. I’m sorry. Would you please be quiet and sit down? I can’t believe we hired you. Are you drunk? Friends and family: so totally sorry about that. I didn’t realize we’d accidentally hired a Nazi. What Pastor Wingnut just said in no way represents what I or my awesome new wife believe. Again, sorry. If you’d all hold up your glasses now, let’s have a toast to the idea that every single person on the planet is capable of establishing their own relationship with God, or the Divine, or The Infinite Nothing, or however they conceptualize whatever they do in that regard. Here’s to the personal, private, spiritual integrity of us all.”

Then I’d have used my cell phone to try to cancel the check I’d written to that jagweed pastor. And that’d be a disaster: I barely know how to use my cell phone to make phone calls. I’d probably end up accidentally shutting down my whole bank account, or deleting all the money out of it. And then pretty soon my new wife and I would be destitute. So we’d have to start going to churches and stuff for free meals. And then we’d end up in the soup line of the church run by the pastor who’d done our wedding. And he’d be all, “Aha! No soup for you!”

Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about your cousin’s reception. And I’m sorry that your cousin isn’t smart enough to support you in your leaving her reception. Maybe she’ll come around. Maybe you could write her a short note, and just explain how difficult it was for you to suddenly hear in front of a whole bunch of people that your brand-new marriage is invalid, delusional nonsense.

If you do write that note, I hope she responds to it in a positive fashion. Either way, she’ll at least know why you left her reception—not, I guess, that at this point she’s much wondering about that.

Man, it’s so frustrating to have the faith in which I have such faith so constantly being used to denigrate others.

There’s Christ, trying to show a new way to love. And there, time and time again, are ridiculously inadequate representative of Christ, showing ever new ways to hate.

It’s just so awful.

Oh well. One day pastors like the one who did your cousin’s wedding will die. And there will be God, waiting for them.

“No heaven for you!” he will say.

UPDATE: In the comments section below, one reader wrote in to say: “I think the wedding attendee overreacted. All of the comments are suggesting that he made some big pronouncement and went on and on or something. As far as we know, it was just one statement. We don’t know the context.” To which came this response:

I can clarify this for you, since I am the one who wrote to John with my experience. The pastor made multiple comments like this during their actual ceremony, but the offending line was directed straight towards me and my husband when we met him at the reception. My cousin introduced us, and told him that we (my hubby and I) had just gotten married two weeks prior. He asked us who our pastor was, and we told him that we used a non-denominational minister, and explained we are Native American. The offending line followed, and it took everything I had in me not to punch the man in the face. I thought it would be better for everyone involved if we just left, because clearly, we were not welcome.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The pastor actually said, “The only love that is real in the eyes of God is Christian love, and a Christian marriage.”!!! I know many marriages – both Christian and non-Christian – that prove him wrong!

  • moe

    seems like there are a number of such ‘pastors’ out there. my niece’s wedding 18 months ago, again among evangelicals, in a secular university chapel, was also ‘unfortunate’. from the altar, during the ceremony, the pastor took as much time on the topic of marriage only between a man and a woman, as he did discussing the bride and groom! i felt like i was watching a paid political announcement without the option of an off button. (i was also a bit of a captive audience as i had promised to take the pictures.) i thought it was a bit cheeky but then someone reminded me it took place in colorado springs — the evangelical jerusalem.

  • Anne Reid Oppermann via Facebook

    Amen, Cullen! I really don’t like “Christian” weddings and I try to avoid them. I believe that marriage is a civil contract that religion can only screw up.

  • God as the soup nazi?!?!?

  • Okay, well, let’s not get carried away …. 🙂

  • John, you started it!!! 😉

  • Kerri Baysinger via Facebook

    Ugh…we (Christians) get so prideful, and start over-spiritualizing things, and then we go & say dumb things like that pastor said.

  • Anne Reid Oppermann via Facebook

    Maybe a bit of hyperbole, but then I live in Seattle where a very prominent religious leader just published a book on “Christian Marriage” and I have family members that believe in complementarianism, so this is a sore subject!

  • Shannon Stewart via Facebook

    @Anne, I believe you are talking about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. He is currently doing a “Real Marriage” sermon series (and even a tour!). Every week, I am viewing his sermons just to see what he says. Already I am having too many issues.

  • Sarah Wess Potter via Facebook

    I had a similar experience at a friend’s wedding. We have quite a few gay friends from high school (some of whom were in the wedding), and the pastor sermonized against gay marriage during the ceremony. The bride ended up apologizing to people personally at the reception.

  • Andrew Raymond

    *sob* Why all this hate? Where does it come from? It will be the death of me yet 🙁

  • erika

    “The only love that is real in the eyes of God is Christian love, and a Christian marriage.”

    uh, really? who the fuck says that? any time? so all the people who love others before Jesus did not really love?

    Jacob and Rachel did not love each other?

    the stoopd burns

  • Floyd Miller

    This is why the anti-gay marriage laws and amendments pose a grave danger to this country. The “religious right” loves their slippery slope theories about the subject, which actually seem to be more about their own subconscious fantasies, while ignoring a very real slippery slope that could destroy Americ and even Christianity. Once marriage is defined solely as between a man and a woman, how long before that definition is further narrowed to “of the same race”, “white people only”, “Christians only”, “Christians of the following denominations only:…”, etc., etc. until we return to a pre-Reformation with God knows who in charge. And, as we saw in England, the one side can use the same laws against the other (Catholic Bloody Mary used her father’s anti-Catholic laws against Protestants, Elizabeth I then used them back against Catholics [shout out to Guy Fawkes, whose face is popular thee days], and then Cromwell used them against the Anglicans who had used them against his Puritans.

  • Love.

    Love this post.

    Love others.


    Thanks again, John.

  • I chose a (NYC) Catholic pastor for my wedding that frequently sermonizes about God’s love for all people (including, explicitly, gay folks). So, I was sure that we wouldn’t have any problems with my diverse crowd of family and friends. However, in this I believe that we were somewhat lucky, we could have chosen someone who said something similarly ignorant as above. I don’t think I would have done anything about it right there because my wedding is not about the priest, its about the couple. In the same way, I wouldn’t feel right about making a scene as a guest either. If I felt like the couple who invited me did not respect my marriage, or lifestyle, I wouldn’t go. If they do respect me, then screw the officiant.

  • Brother Doc

    I love my younger brother and recognize he has drifted rightward in his politics and theology as I have moved leftward but I wonder what you and your readers think of this experience. Last summer my nephew (his son) got married in a very nice outdoor ceremony to a young woman (who was already expecting their child) presided over by a judge–a purely civil ceremony except for one song sung by a friend of the bride’s that sort of invoked God’s blessing on the happy couple (pretty bland stuff). There was a crowd of family and friends, as there is at most weddings, including a few who were presumably co-workers or their contemporaries, a couple of color, an Asian, etc. Yet at the rehearsal dinner (which like many these days included virtually all the family and invited guests)–for which of course my brother paid–he saw fit to charge the couple with what really amounted to an evangelical Protestant Christian wedding ceremony, saying their vow was to the Lord, citing NT scripture and including a prayer in Jesus’ name. The bride’s family, who I presume are Catholic, may or may not have appreciated the “charge” to the couple, they seemed to take it in good grace, but I personally was uncomfortable b/c since the couple had deliberately chosen a civil ceremony, it seemed culturally insensitive of my brother to do what he did. Since the wedding he and his wife have been very welcoming and pleasant to the bride, the baby, and so on. My sense is my nephew and his wife are far less “religious” than my brother and sister-in-law would like and “getting in his two cents worth” (clearly several thousand times that!) at the rehearsal dinner was his way of letting them and everyone know how strong his own religious beliefs are. Anyone have any thoughts on this situation? Seems like it has some similarities to the original.

  • Lymis

    Well, FINALLY we have an explanation for the miracle at Cana.

    Jesus went to a Jewish wedding, realized that the love wasn’t real, that the marriage wasn’t real, and that it was all a sham in the eyes of God, so he figured the least he could do is get them all snockered.

    If you’re all Godless heathens, at least you can have a fun party.

  • Gordon

    I grew up in a little town on the southern Oregon coast. When I was in high school and summers during college, my best friend Brian and I were in demand for playing the organ and/or piano at weddings. I have literally been to hundreds of them. And, consequently, I have seen people behaving very badly. The rehearsals were where the real drama usually played out. But, the all-time WORST wedding was one that happened not too long after San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered by Dan White in 1978. The ceremony was going along fine, but when the pastor delivered his benediction, he decided to include commentary on the sinfulness of San Francisco and OFFER PRAYERS for Dan White! San Francisco is about 350 miles south of my hometown. In addition to being completely inappropriate and offensive, it was also just so darn weird. What was, up until that moment, a really beautiful event (and the music was brilliant, I must say!) went suddenly off the rails. The groom was so angry that he apologized publicly at the reception and the pastor was nowhere to be seen, even though it was his church. That church had declining attendance for the next year and then, guess what? A new pastor!

    Weddings are a celebration of two people deciding to join their lives together and a time for the rest of us to cheer them on. Why people use those events to process petty family drama and make political points has been a mystery to me for over 30 years.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Yeah, the pastor screwed up with his delivery there big time. Or at least, that’s what I hope, giving him the benefit of the doubt. You see, as many conservatives understand it, it’s not that others’ love isn’t genuine—it’s just, unbeknownst to them, the very same love that Jesus Christ is believed to have demonstrated most perfectly for all mankind in his example on the cross, the same love which Christ taught his followers to have, teaching, in fact, that it’s not proclaiming the name of Jesus—or even necessarily knowing who that is—that rightly is the distinguishing mark of those who follow of him, but rather that the way it should be known who—and what—is “Christian” has to do with that spirit of love that he extolled everyone to seek after: a love, firstly, for God, but no less for your neighbor—even the least among them—even the beggar in the streets, or the villain behind bars.

    It’s what he was—and is—all about, so it’s what some people apply his title to, perhaps somewhat narrow-mindedly since Jesus wasn’t the only person in history who was primarily about those things. Yet he was, as far as most Christians are concerned, the most important among those persons, to them personally, since he saved them, personally, from the worst of themselves and the worst fate imaginable, by allowing that all the pain they should ever have to suffer be inflicted upon himself, and sacrificing his own life—the life of a god—the one-and-only begotten Son of the one-and-only God that there really is—that is to say, the ultimate sacrifice imaginable—upon the cross. And as for this God of Whom we speak, according to the Bible, He *is* love… and truth, and so much more—every profound mystery of the world instinctively recognized as sharing (but not in the sense of splitting) a certain perfectly good, supremely powerful, positive and positively divine Essence. So it follows that there is really only one, true love.

    As for that title that’s associated with him in whom this love became tangible for us, became a flesh-and-blood human being, Jesus is given the title of Christ from a Greek word meaning “Anointed-one”, the implication being that he was anointed by God to rescue those willing (or perhaps just foolish enough) to believe his promise to do so. (This ties in with most Christians’ belief that the coming of the Christ is foretold in prophecies written down by various holy men in Israel through whom God is believed to have chosen to make it known, throughout the preceding thousand years or so, that his Son was going to come to them some day.)

    So, to the woman who wrote John this letter: I hope you can understand somewhat how—in this man’s overzealous attempt to take that opportunity to share with those listening a little something about what he sincerely believes God’s led him to know regarding a truth so profound, a reality so… well, exciting, that really human words can’t even begin to describe it—things might not always (or even almost ever, as the case may be) come across quite as they’re really intended in his heart.

    That said, my gut feeling, actually, is that this may have been something of a veiled jab at same-sex love, in which case it’s still totally something to be rightly indignant over, but it still might not have been intended in a way that would exclude your and your husband’s marriage: you’d have had to have been born with a penis or your husband without one for that to be the case is his (rather perverted perhaps, if he has to see everything through the lens of looking at genitals) eyes.

    How does that have anything to do with Christianity, you might ask? Well, some people are just profoundly confused. I mean, there are some passages in the Bible that give a negative view of homosexual behaviors, or things, like effeminacy, commonly associated with it. But hey, it also says something about building a fence around your roof (a rather practical idea, if you ask me, especially if we remember to understanding these things in light of the culture, place, and time in which it they are written), avoiding pork (which many Jews and Muslims still obey, a small, misguided, fraction of whom will even point to swine flu as proof of God’s curse upon this abomination), gossiping, lending at interest, letting women speak in church or even to enter with their head not covered, and about a bazillion other things.

    Jesus, however, taught that the entirety of the law of God hinges upon two deceptively simple (but oh-so-difficult to put into practice) things: Love the Lord your God (with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, to be exact), and love your neighbor as yourself.

    In other words, the only verb really needed to express what you really have to do is “love”. Some people just get themselves confused with all the complexities—and it really is complex, isn’t it?—of what that really means.

    One last thing (and I do apologize for the lengthiness of this comment): Allow me to add my own voice of support for your decision to get up and leave right then and there. I hope that someday your cousin might come to understand why you had to do that.

  • Lyn

    You know, there’s part of me that wants my daughter to find a nice woman to marry and settle down with, just so we can avoid all the crazies showing up at her wedding… 😉

    At any rate, I’m sorry this happened to you, letter writer. American Christianity is slowly changing, but a lot of privilege remains ground in to the nooks and crannies.

  • Andrew Raymond

    LOL, Lymis. Thanks, I needed one 🙂

  • Andrew Raymond

    Definite similarities. But mostly it reminds me of the story of the Pharisee who went to pray and made such a production of displaying his ‘faith’…

  • Andrew Raymond

    Floyd, we’ve already seen an example of where that particular slope leads (Nuremberg, 1933) and I agree completely with your assessment.

  • Will

    I believe it is important to note that this so-called pastor is basically the same as the religious authorities who had Jesus murdered by the Romans because he was not following by their religious rulebook.

    Jesus’ definition of Christian is one who follows and abides by the teachings of Jesus the Christ. For example “Love God. Love one another.”

    A definition of Pharisee is one who puts their religious laws ahead of people,

    and/or one who uses their religious laws to condemn people.

    I think it time to start publicly calling out these Pharisees in Christian’s clothing for maliciously using the name and authority of God and Jesus in such a way as to assert the very opposite of Jesus’ words and meaning.

    Thumping a Bible and quoting Leviticus and Deuteronomy to condemn others does not make you a Christian. It makes you an evildoer.

    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Matthew 7:21-23 (New International Version)

  • That pastor was a douchecanoe and you were perfectly correct in leaving. I’m sorry your cousin and her family can’t be supportive, you deserve better from them.

  • Lymis

    I’m not prepared to give him that sort of credit. If it were at a regularly scheduled event in his church, like a Sunday sermon, I’d be happy to go along with what you are saying.

    But there isn’t a wedding anywhere where you can simply blithely assume that everyone who attended is Christian, and the sort of comment he made was completely insensitive to that. People come to the wedding to share a celebration with friends and family, not to get excluded. The same is true of funerals.

    Anyone incapable of that basic level of empathy and compassion shouldn’t be officiating at either.

  • cat rennolds

    Given the demographic data the letter writer shared, I doubt he was insensitive at all. I would be willing to bet he knew full well the religious status of a large percentage of the people there, and the division between relatives and community on the issue, and was pointing his comments directly at it. Isn’t that what evangelical means?

  • Duck

    Don’t forget that it is a small step from ‘marriage is between one man and one woman’ with the implied ‘at a time’ to an implied ‘ever’. You think that folks scream about activist judges and crap like that now, wait until one refuses to grant a divorce to some current ‘family values’ jerkface.

  • Duck

    Isn’t that the guy that proclaimed that masturbation is a homosexual act, since you are having sex with someone of the same sex (yourself)?

  • Reading that title, I just knew… had a feeling… that this was going to be another impressive post, John.

    I was right.

  • Leslie

    Douchcanoe…lmao!! When you say it quickly it almost sounds like a French word or something.

  • Leslie

    Living where I live and growing up half the time on a reservation I’ve become very familiar with some of the Native Spirituality traditions of the local tribe. But being in a conservative church for so long I’ve also heard a lot of crap. One of my closest friends’ mom had an experience from a local “Christian” who asked her what it was like to be married to a Pagan who didn’t believe in God. The ignorance is rampant when they all have had the opportunity to learn and respect.

    To the original writer, I’m sure Creator God blesses your marriage.

  • Mike


    While the following doesn’t really apply to the above situation, speaking as a minister who officiates at weddings, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the couple telling their expectations et. al. during the initial meeting with the pastor.

    I have conducted marriages which were largely secular in nature, I’ve done a graveside service during which the family asked me to read a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, and I’ve done funeral services with no explicit religious language therein.

    The key for me, is that the person(s) coming to me are honest and up front. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. When I know what someone is honestly looking for, I can work with that (or not work with it if I’m uncomfortable), when I don’t know, I can’t.

    IMO a pastor should decline to officiate, if they can’t accommodate the request. To agree to do the service knowing what the couple wishes, and then to trumpet one’s own agenda is passive aggressive and just wrong. Be up front during the meeting (ideally the pastor will be too) and if it’s not a happy match then either the person(s) or the pastor can move on. But, I’m not hired. I don’t charge a fee/honorarium/whatever for funerals or weddings.

  • What a fabulous reply to that letter, and this heathen really loves this bit: “let’s have a toast to the idea that every single person on the planet is capable of establishing their own relationship with God, or the Divine, or The Infinite Nothing, or however they conceptualize whatever they do in that regard. Here’s to the personal, private, spiritual integrity of us all.”

  • Kathy Randall

    I had a similar experience at a funeral of a friend. She may or may not have been a believer, but was not a churchgoer. However, her mother attends a very conservative church, so the funeral was held there. My friend and her husband were fond of going to casinos on weekends and gambling. At the funeral the minister said that he was sure that from wherever my friend was spending her afterlife, she would desperately want her family to know that gambling is a sin. “She would not want you to gamble on your eternal salvation,” he said. We got the impression that the minister was pretty sure that my friend would be spending her afterlife in a lake of fire, but he stopped just shy of saying so.

  • Ember

    That was awesome.

  • Um, God IS love! How completely sacrilegious to assert that only certain love has God’s seal of approval!

  • p.

    The letterwriter had every right to leave the reception. And maybe it hurt enough that she felt she had to.

    However, in the future, she might make herself a lot happier — and everybody else too– if she rolls her eyes and slams back the champagne in her glass. Then, let’s it go.

    I live by the idea that I go to weddings to celebrate the bride and groom, or bride and bride or whatever — not to take seriously whatever drivel falls from the mouth of the officiant. If I did otherwise, I might have stopped going to weddings long ago.

    There are the Catholic priests that talk about having babies –already, at the wedding! –and the New Agers with the colored sand and bad poetry. The guys that threaten everybody with hell do seem to be the worst — but think of it as humanity on display, in all its goofiness. Fortunately, its not so strong as to overcome our lasting desire to couple up and be happy. So hey, when you can — let it go. And have yourself another drink from the cash bar . It’ll be all right.

  • Some pastors pick the most idiotic places to make some big point or draw a line in the sand. Abuse of their place and role, plain and simple, to bring a message of Law into such a beautiful occasion in a way that was totally unnecessary and nonconstructive.

  • evelyn

    So clearly I’m fixated on the wrong issue here, but as someone who had a reception of my own less than 6 months ago… I am having trouble understanding why the pastor felt the need to give YET ANOTHER speech at a reception. Who DOES that? That alone is reason to leave…

  • I bless the reception … bride&groom, family&friends, food&those who prepared it … and then join in the fun. I always tell couples that my homily will be short and sweet since no one will be listening to me; they’ll be too busy whispering to each other about the dresses, flowers, music, and whether or not the bride is preggers. John, I agree with you … I’d have shut him up ASAP and sent him packing.

  • I’ve encountered some pastors who view funerals as a special opportunity to share their narrow sectarian beliefs with a captive audience, too. I remember an awful one for a young woman where the pastor’s message was devoid of comfort and basically a long altar call. I’m sure that the deceased would have liked to have gotten up and left after a few words concerning her mother having inviting her pastor instead of the one from the church where the daughter had grown up had grown up and been married.

  • One of my cousins nearly punched their paster in the middle of the service for going off the planned service into a sermon about supporting the church.

  • LSS

    It very nearly could be, except for syntaxe.

  • LSS

    2 things

    The picture is confusing to me because it looks a bit like Pastor Nadia (the sarcastic lutheran) getting really mad. Except missing the bad-@$$ theological arm tattoos.

    Also, what DOES happen to soup-nazis, and dogma-nazis, and regular-nazis (and grammar-nazis)

    I need to know.

    Especially the last kind.

    No, but seriously….


  • Otter

    John, you never cease to delight me with your viewpoint. You have perefectly expressed the reason I have developed such a deep distrust of Christians…..so many of them are so militantly misled into into thinking their faith grants them not just the right, but the DUTY to denigrate, subjugate and obliterate other people andviees.

    I am a Buddhist who was raised UCC Christian, also a member of the LGBT clan. So I am something of a target for what this kind of zealot spews.

    Which brings me to my real question …..when confronted with examples of your own religion that practice arrogance and judgement, causing others to suffer, what can be done about it????

  • Me, too. I got up and walked out of my spouse’s best friend’s wedding because the minister was saying a bunch of crap that I thought was insulting to the bride (who was a working mother). I didn’t just walk out. I preceded my departure with a pointed jab at minister who was extolling the virtues of women who stay at home to care for their children. He’d just said something on the lines of “The sun was shining through the window and I was lying in bed thinking how beautiful my family was after my wife got up to change the baby’s diaper,” and something snapped in me. I blurted out, “Why didn’t you get up and change it?” and stomped out. I still can’t believe that the bride forgave me for that and invited me back in to the reception! (Was she secretly glad I said that? I don’t know. I never asked.)

  • Christy

    One point of view is to understand that they can’t teach what they don’t know. Compassion compels us to see that the cause of their suffering is within them. And, so, the message and the example of the transforming power of unconditional love is just as important for them as it is for anyone else. (Internal struggles with wanting to scream and yell and bang one’s head against the wall, notwithstanding.) And, yet, in the public realm, Otter, we keep speaking truth to power and challenging the status quo and loving our neighbors and our enemies until the cognitive dissonance becomes uncomfortable enough for some to take on the important spiritual work of asking oneself, “What if I’m wrong?” and then have the willingness and the courage to follow the Spirit (as in the ox herder) where that path leads.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    The most intellectually honest answer: God only knows.

    That said, “Nazi” is just a label. God—being ineffable and all—is so beyond all that, IMHO.

    He looks at the heart (to whatever extent it might even really be appropriate to use the word “looks”, and whatever this “heart” really is–I don’t mean the blood-pumping body part; the point being, proceed with caution, ’cause here I go already describing the indescribable, and that can cause you a kiloton of problems).

    I believe He looks at where one’s own heart, deep inside, understands that it must be headed. And perhaps, after any necessary purification/purging/refining of the spirit takes place, He might ransom one yet unto a place greater still—perhaps something beyond the heart’s ability even to begin to imagine. Yet perhaps another soul possesses—or is possessed of—no real substance to be anyhow redeemed.

    Now, some might support whatever sort of Nazism for callous personal gain; others might actually take delight in inflicting merciless suffering upon others; still others might be brainwashed into well-intentioned support for an ideology sincerely held in good-faith; and others might have other reasons.

    It is not my place, but God’s, to judge them, but some might variously be found in places, or rather states of being, that they would label heaven, the mother ship, nirvana, purgatory, a butterfly, lesser god of their own planet, hell, non-existence, etc.

  • Marie Gettel-Gilmartin via Facebook

    I was bridesmaid in a wedding when the pastor preached about the evils of divorce, when the bride had specifically asked him NOT to do so. What a way to start off a marriage, having someone talk about divorce!

  • Marie Gettel-Gilmartin via Facebook

    And at a funeral where the (Nazarene) pastor praised God that the deceased had become a Christian before he died, so he could be saved!!

  • Jeannie

    Not a wedding but still a horribly, awful, awkward moment –

    When I was a teenager a classmate of mine had been killed in a car accident. There had been some drinking. I don’t know if this girl was drinking or not, but somebody was, and the car crashed and my classmate died. Horrible! Tragic! As a parent, I cannot even imagine the trauma of the police officer ringing the door in the middle of the night.

    A few days later I attended the funeral. It was at a local pentecostal church. I am not sure why it was held there as the family were not members, perhaps a relative was. Anyway, the minister took the opportunity to talk about wild, wayward youth, talked about how this young girl was now in Hell and proceeded to run the rest of the funeral like a melo dramatic altar call. The girl’s mom looked like somebody had just driven a stake through her gut. I and the rest of my classmates attending were horrified. Nobody responded to the altar call, of course. I still don’t know what that guy was thinking. Did he really think God was pleased?

  • About 30 yrs ago I was attending a friends wedding at the fundie church they belonged to and when the father “gave” his daughter away to be married the preacher said, “And now her father’s authority over her has been passed to her husband”. I was appalled but everyone else in the church seemed fine with the preacher treating this grown woman as if she were a child.

  • that is just beyond awful. unbelievable.

  • Jeannie

    True story. Every word. The kind of memory that makes me wonder if I need to have my head examined for returning to any church and bringing my kids along. But I don’t think I will run into this again. It can only happen once in a lifetime, right?

  • If I’m actually involved, what I usually do is go to whomever was the target of Bad Christianity, and say, “Just so you know, that was bullshit,” or something like that. I just try to let people know–here on my blog, and in real life whenever it comes up–that traditional, conservative evangelicalism is only one strand of Christianity. My whole life is basically dedicated to letting people know … well, just that. (I mean, that’s putting it a little dramatically. But it’s a large part of what I do with my life.)

  • YIKES! Awful.

  • There’s real wisdom here. Thanks, p.

  • Whoa. I can’t believe how many AWFUL things so many pastors say at exactly the wrong time and place. This one’s sooooo bad! Yikes. Just unbelievable.

  • lovely. thanks, Mike.

  • I remember a wedding where the pastor said that it was the bride’s duty to always look good for her husband (makeup, dress nice, etc.). I was pissed. Sorry, I’m allergic to most makeup, so what you see IS what you get.

    It is by far the worst, most un-Christian thing to say to a couple, no matter if they are evangelical or not. Just like people say that interfaith marriage is not good. Whatever. I don’t know one marriage of consented interfaith that has ended in divorce.

  • Jeannie

    That’s how it was done at all the weddings I attended as a young women. If the girl had no father to walk her down the aisle one of the pastors or somebody signifying her “spiritual authority” would walk her down and give her over to her husband’s authority. Kinda makes me feel sick to think about it now.

  • Caitlin ‘Cake’ Gateaux via Facebook

    When a friend died the pastor was like Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons and it was very clear he hadn’t picked up on the vibe about how troubled this woman’s life had been, and how much a mixed blessing her death was. He just proceeded on with his script, which was not terribly offensive, just clear he wasn’t tuned in to the circumstances. Might have been better just not to have a pastor I think.

  • It’s not even exclusive to Christian clergy – my uncle, a rabbi, chose a family event to expound upon the evils of divorce and inter-faith marriage while my mother (his sister) sat in the front row of his synagogue with her 2nd husband who was raised Catholic. At 12 years old I knew it was classless and insensitive. I still wonder why he didn’t.

  • Laura Hall-Schordje

    I wonder if whole fault is the pastor’s fault–perhaps the young woman’s cousin is not in touch because the pastor said exactly the kind of thing she wanted said. I remember going to a funeral where the priest told the couple that their 2 year old had died because God wanted her for an angel. I was appalled–they were comforted. I don’t believe in the kind of God that would swoop in and make children die in order to get more angels, but they thought it gave her death meaning. One of the difficult things about faith is that some people truly embrace a kind of faith that, while others find exclusive and hurtful, makes them feel very connected as part of God’s close family. As a seminarian ready to graduate this spring and begin ordained ministry, my prayer is not to say something stupid and hurtful that causes such pain. Blessings to all–and remember God loves you all, despite the failings of foolish pastors.

  • Michael Haberlein via Facebook

    What about the pastors that say idiotic, stupid things at funerals, like “I just want you to know that your (82 year old) mother’s death (after 8 years with Alzheimer’s) is not because of her sinful nature.”

  • Ria Mcllduff via Facebook

    I find it incredible that so many clergy are of the flesh and not the spirit. To use any gathering of souls to preach the religion of division and exclusion is the biggest sin of all. They are like peacocks prancing and extolling their pervert knowledge and calling it “God’s word”. And yet I look around, and like sheep, it is accepted (which makes them even more pea-cocky). And on and on it goes. And, yes, I know “pea-cocky” is not a word.

  • LSS

    A worm, slowly eating through the wood of an ancient desk, saying “oi, that’s ____ing mahogany, that is!”

    (one of the best literary afterlives i remember, courtesy of Terry Pratchett. By the way, after i read his image of the night desert where everyone meets Death and Death sends them to different things they deserve and/or have imagined, i found out it has a lot of parallels in people’s actual beliefs about the afterlives. And perhaps a lot to recommend it.)

  • LSS

    Our local indigenous are nearly all Mormons. I tend to forget that some groups actually still keep their old religions.

  • You should do another called, when bad pastors happen to good people’s funerals.

  • Audrey Mann via Facebook

    At a church-sponsored fund-raiser classic car show that my Jewish husband went to because his daughter was a member of the church, the pastor gave a “sermon” in which he asked everyone who was saved because they had accepted Jesus to raise their hand. He went on from there with the usual hellfire speech. My husband would have left but couldn’t get his car out. Needless to say, he will never go back.

  • Christy

    Actually, altar calls at funerals are common place in this neck of the woods. The minister usually takes it as an opportunity to “reach out to the lost” members of the family, believing this is his one chance to finally get through to those who usually don’t attend church. As in: “We are so glad that our sister ________ has gone on to glory to be with Jesus. Wouldn’t you like to know that one day you will be able to see her again….” It’s usually woefully lacking in comfort and long on guilt.

    Though, I have to say, the most recent example of funeral callousness was by a priest at a Catholic funeral. Our neighbor’s husband died unexpectedly on a jog this past summer. Athletic and fit, he was only in his 50’s. He was a bit older than she, and they had three young children. The youngest was only 9. Tragic. Unexpected. Knee dropping for this family. He was a non-practicing Catholic. She a Presbyterian. The family was active in their Presbyterian church where they attended as a family and she taught Sunday School. His family of origin wanted the funeral at the Catholic church. He was a local high school sports coach. The church was packed. His wife and children sat on the front row through which the priest consistently referred to him as a coach and a son – but never as a husband or a father. They had communion during the mass and since his wife and children were not Catholic, the rest of his family walked by them to go forward. If that wasn’t bad enough the priest, with the children sitting just beneath him, said “We hope that ______ is with Jesus.” It was the worst. There was no comfort. There was lots of talk about how great Jesus is and how much he suffered for us. I left thinking the Baptists would be really ticked off to know how similar this Catholic funeral was to their own.

  • Christy

    I love this approach too.

  • Theresa DePaepe via Facebook

    I had the Do you want to be saved? situation (went on and on and on trying to guilt people into raising their hands, Don’t you love Jesus? over and over and over again) happen at a funeral home wake for the husband of a friend whose children were 5 when he died. Appalling. Inappopropriate.

  • vj

    And you do it SO very well 🙂

  • vj

    Of course the pastor was insensitive, but maybe she should be grateful she at least had the opportunity to attend her cousin’s wedding… I know of an Australian family whose one daughter moved to the USA (to study?), and met & married a Mormon (her family were not affiliated to any religion). The wedding was held in Florida; Mum & Dad flew in specially from Australia (quite possibly the longest flight in the world?) to attend – but, because they were not Mormon, they were NOT permitted to enter the temple to witness their daughter getting married!

  • I am a Christian. I am not a fundamentalist. I am a gay man who believes that everyone has the right to marry the one they love in whatever sort of ceremony or event they choose. But (1) I think the wedding attendee overreacted. All of the comments are suggesting that he made some big pronouncement and went on adn on or something. As far as we know, it was just one statement. We don’t know the context. And if the bride and groom were ok with it, that’s what matters.

    And John, I usually like your stuff. But when did you get the job of deciding which pastors go to hell?

  • Awesome!!!

  • No kidding! I was once at a funeral where the pastor, clearly drunk, said almost nothing whatsoever about the deceased person, and just vaguely rambled on about his dog and his house and a few of his hobbies, slurring his words and just … being generally horrendous. It was so painful for all of us, but of course especially for the immediate family. Awful. And some of the stories here! I had no idea this sort of offense was so COMMON.

  • I don’t know if it’s fair to call sheep the people people who get victimized by bad pastors. I think it’s a tad more complicated than that.

  • YOWZER. God, that’s awful.

  • This all convinces me all the more to just quietly find a probate judge for my own wedding and then throw a potluck themed bbq supper after the fact.

    As for my funeral, my kids already know the “I’ll come back and haunt you if you..” list, if they allow for certain things at the sending off of my corpse ceremony.

  • The last wedding I sang for had several pastors speaking. Something not uncommon in my area. Two of the three said a few comforting words, the third proceeded to give a 15 minute “you need to repent and be saved” rant, including the thumping of his bible on the pulpit.

    I kept think what an inappropriate time to speak on such a subject, and what a terrible method to do so.

  • Robert: I got the job of deciding which pastors go to hell just this past Tuesday. I applied for the job about a month ago. When I didn’t hear back for so long, I figured they’d passed me over. But I got called in for a second interview (where I ROCKED it), and next thing I know, I got the job! It’s awesome. The pay isn’t really that great, but some of the perks are pretty impressive.

  • DR

    How are the benefits? Do you have a 401K plan?

  • It’s not just weddings. Funerals/memorials/celebrations of life can be just as bad if not worse.

  • Lorelei Hillman via Facebook

    Funeral stories are bad, too…

  • Laurie

    My parents were married in a non-denominational church back in 1967. My father was Catholic, but had been married/divorced once before, and had been ex-communicated from the church. When we started going back to Catholic Church…my parents had to take extensive “rehabilitation” classes, and my Mom (whom was raised Presbyterian) had to convert to Catholisism. In 1994, my parents decided to end their marriage. According to the rules of the Catholic Church, even though they were married for 27 years, their marriage was annulled…..like it never even existed (like my sister and I never even existed).

    My husband and I decided to join a Christ United Methodist Church. I’ve only been back to Catholic church once…..and when I went up to receive the Eucharist, my step-sister grabbed my arm and said to me…”Only Catholics are allowed to go up, YOU can’t”. Even though I know that it is one of those “RULES” …..it confirms that I will never go back to one again. At my church, when once a month we receive the body and blood of Christ….my pastor makes a point to say “Anyone is welcome, you don’t need a membership card….just a love of Jesus. If every church could be as accepting…..we wouldn’t see declines in church attendance.

  • Kristen Wack via Facebook

    His comments were about as un-christian as you get. I’m sorry they had to endure such rudeness and pious condescention.

  • Amanda


    I can clarify this for you, since I am the one who wrote to John with my experience. The pastor made multiple comments like this during their actual ceremony, but the offending line was directed straight towards me and my husband when we met him at the reception. My cousin introduced us, and told him that we (my hubby and I) had just gotten married two weeks prior. He asked us who our pastor was, and we told him that we used a non-denominational minister, and explained we are Native American. The offending line followed, and it took everything I had in me not to punch the man in the face. I thought it would be better for everyone involved if we just left, because clearly, we were not welcome.

  • Andie

    My United Methodist Church does open communion, too; I think it is beautiful. There’s no pressure to take it, but everyone who wants to can. I know it’s a rule, but the exclusion kind of hurts my feelings when I visit Mass with friends.

  • Gordon

    Now that you have this fantastic position, I think you need a really great Administrative Assistant. May I send you my resume?

  • Andie

    Wow, that is truly appalling. I am so sorry, and glad that you didn’t make yourself sit through any more malicious crap like that!

  • Lisa Baxter Sajna via Facebook

    Oh, I have a funeral story…

  • Susan Rogers St Laurent via Facebook

    I have a funeral story too:0/

  • Oh, gosh. I’m almost too afraid to ask. I just shared my own in the comments of the blog itself. Share yours if you will! I think I’m going to COLLECT them and publish them as one big post, or something. It’s just too awful.

  • LaNeece White via Facebook

    “Man, it’s so frustrating to have the faith in which I have such faith so constantly being used to denigrate others.” – John Shore. There should be a standing ovation button . . . .just sayin.

  • Elizabeth DeHoff via Facebook

    Denise took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve heard about some horrible funerals.

  • Nothing they like more than a captive audience of people who normally would not get within a mile of them.

  • Hi, John. Thank you so much for posting my story! I clarified in one of the comments exactly what happened, because someone asked when the comment was made. Thank you again!

  • Elizabeth DeHoff via Facebook

    For example, I know of a pastor who would say that as much as he hoped the deceased was in heaven, he probably wasn’t, and those in attendance should repent lest they follow him to his final destination. WTF?

  • textjunkie

    Huh. Wow. I’m so used to disregarding what religious authorities might say. that my response, “Why do you CARE what your cousin’s wedding official says? He can say what he wants at that point, and it’s not about you. If you went to a Hindu wedding ceremony would you expect to agree with the theology being spouted? Of course not, and it’s the same idea here.” I would have just nodded and smiled and been there to cheer on my cousin, not to seek validation for my own marriage–what they say or think about it doesn’t affect my marriage in the least, any more than if they were orthodox Jews or Buddhists or Muslim or whatever. It’s not your culture, and the wedding isn’t about you.

    I just can’t get my head into the space that the letter-writer was in, where she thought that what he said applied to her. (So yeah, from where I sit, she does appear to have left a wedding reception in a self-centered snit. On other other hand, there is probably a history there that I can’t understand, and hopefully she can work through it over time.)

  • Jeannie


  • textjunkie

    oooooh!! I’m sorry, please disregard my note above. It IS about you and that pastor DOES suck. 🙁

  • Amanda

    It was pretty awful. We sat back down and left halfway through his hate filled speech that followed, which further reiterated what he had said to us. Enough was enough, so we left.

  • Tom

    Oh I think I would have stood up and said, “fuck you” before I walked out. That would have given them something to talk about for the rest of the reception and also ruin the whole affair.

  • Jeannie

    It needs to be done. Thank you

  • Carl Fraley

    I wish I had had that kind of courage a number of years ago when my grandmother passed away. The minister at her funeral found a way to preach against homosexuality–AT A FUNERAL!!!! I was a coward back then. But if I ever find myself in a similar situation, I will make my objections known one way or another.

  • Jeff Blackshear via Facebook

    The worst I’ve heard of were funerals. Sociopaths in shepherd’s clothing…

  • Robert

    Amanda–What you describe now is very different from what was in your original post to John where you said the pastor made the statements during “his speech at their reception.” Your cousin had the choice of which pastor would officiate at her wedding. You had the choice of leaving or turning the other cheek and enjoying the reception. I am not sure I would have made the same choice you did, even if the comment was as direct as you now say it was. But it wasn’t my decision to make. I’m sorry it has resulted in your being estranged from your cousin and her mother. I know how that feels.

  • Amanda

    “It was pretty awful. We sat back down and left halfway through his hate filled speech that followed, which further reiterated what he had said to us. Enough was enough, so we left”.

    He had repeated what he told us during his reception speech. Of course there are other reasons why my cousin and I no longer speak, but it all comes back to what her and her family now believe in. I do take some of the blame. I am too vocal and outspoken when it comes to things I feel are wrong and not everyone appreciates that. It is what it is.

  • Hi, Amanda. Thanks for writing in again. I used your addition to the story as an update to it. Sorry again that happened to you.

  • Really, Robert? You, estranged from anybody? Hard to imagine.

  • Robert

    Touche. A smart-ass response to a smart-ass question. But, seriously, don’t you think that we run the risk of being just like the fundamentalists when we make bold pronouncements about who is going to hell?

  • It seems to me that too many pastors/priests/what have you seem to have gotten into the roll as much for the feeling of power and influence as much as having a calling. And too many become, for whatever reason, focused on funding. In my last church we made a great effort to make sure that was not part of the pastors role, that when we needed fundraising on of us in the ‘civilian’ leadership made that call and only did so during the regular community news time at each meeting. Even in emergencies we on the board would make calls, but tried to never involve the Paster. On the other hand our Pastor was also in the role of the corporate executive of the non-profit, so most funding requests did originate with her or one of her staff. They would be brought to the board for us to approve and to have the fundraising part assigned to that committee (that reported to the board rather than to the Pastor).

  • Amy

    I’m not sure if you saw the update where she says it was said directly to her, not just in the ceremony. I think it’s pretty clear it was being applied directly to her by this poor excuse for a minister of the Gospel.

    I’d have left, too.

  • At my cousin’s funeral, we had a preacher tell us that we would never see my cousin again unless we believed in Jesus. I thought, “God probably wouldn’t approve of this method of conversion.”

  • Lymis

    Oh that’s silly, inappropriate and a complete misunderstanding. Shame on you and how utterly intolerant of their tradition.

    They weren’t treating her like a child. They were treating her like property.

  • Martha

    I do a ton of weddings, being a Christian pastor in a denomination and location (Canada) that recognizes same-sex marriages. Couples come to me because they want the sense of the presence of the Divine (however they define the Divine) at their wedding. Sometimes I am asked if I can simply preside “without any spirituality,” and I gently tell them I cannot. I can make the ceremony non-denominational, and incorporate elements from other faith traditions, but there will be a sense of the Divine. What I do not do is insist on my brand of spirituality. I have always before me the memory of my seminary professors of pastoral liturgy (they spoke with one voice on this), insisting that at gatherings where people of many faiths (and people of no faith) are present, it was un-Christlike to insist that our way/faith was the only…that old “do unto others” bit. Every year, I offer a prayer of blessing on the local gay Pride celebration, and I begin with a list of the many ways the Divine is recognised–Allah, Grandfather, God, Creator of the Universe, Ahura Mazda, Higher Power, She Who Is, etc.–so that those who do beleive can hear the name of the divine that speaks to them. I am not there as an evangelist, I am there to offer the blessing of the divine–to all.

    Sorry this has gotten long-winded, but it is a pet topic!

  • Oh man… don’t get me started.

  • Lymis

    I’m not a minister, but I’d extend that – I’ll agree completely that if the couple explicitly asks for the overtly religious or sectarian aspects to be toned down, or is smart and sensitive enough to point out that the groom’s mother is Buddhist, or whatever, those things should be respected or the offer to officiate should be declined.

    But I still think it should be a given that even if they don’t tone down the explicit religiosity (that’s a part of why they’re getting married in church, right), it isn’t a betrayal of your duty to keep things focused on the positive.

    As a gay man, I have no objection whatsoever to the officiant waxing poetic about God’s joy in the couple, their expectation of children, and readings about what “a man leaves his mother and takes a wife” and so on. The couple is Christian, the couple is straight. If I had an issue with that, I don’t belong there.

    But even if the couple doesn’t request it (and why should they have to), a straight couple’s wedding is a time to praise their marriage, not to condemn anyone else’s.

    Anyone who can’t smile politely and say “how nice for you” when presented with someone who’s marriage they disapprove of shouldn’t be allowed out in public, much less running public ceremonies.

  • Lymis

    Isn’t that a lake in Wisconsin?

  • Martin Otto Zimmann!

  • Josh

    A few years ago I attended a funeral for my great aunt. In attendance were her gay grandson and his partner. I was very happy how everyone treated his partner just like they treated the other grandson’s wife.

    And then it happened.

    In the middle of the pastor’s message he turns to the gay grandson and his partner and says “God can change your lifestyle”.

    It was so shocking to me. This grandson was there to mourn the loss of his grandmother and now he had to deal with being attacked from the pulpit by the pastor.

    I was also shocked at how no none said or did anything. There was a moment of extreme awkwardness and then the pastor went on with his message and no one brought it up again.

  • carl

    Marriage is the business of the State. When you want a license, you go to the City Hall and apply for on, not to a church. Most pastors when marrying will say “and now by the authority of the State of whatever, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Sometimes they say man and wife, and then I cringe. There are many many people who are married in civil ceremony. That woman should never ever think her marriage is invalid. Keep religion out of it!

  • Robert

    Wow. What did I do to get on your list? Are we not allowed to take issue with anything you say in your responses to emails people send you?

  • Kristi

    My mother’s funeral service was conducted by my sister’s Southern Baptist pastor. He had been asked, indeed told and cautioned, not to do any kind of altar call or proselytizing because of the variety of religious and non-religious beliefs of the attendees. He actually did quite a good job conducting the service. Although there were expected religious overtones, his words and stories offered comfort to those of us present.

    As for me, as soon as I saw my mother’s coffin, I broke down. I was trying to be quiet, trying to be dignified, but I couldn’t be. I sobbed so hard I was physically shuddering and shaking. It took a good 15 minutes of holding on by my sister and my uncle for me to calm down enough for the service to proceed. I, unfortunately, made quite a spectacle there.

    After the service was over, I approached the pastor, with my sisters, to thank him for conducting the service. I was hanging back, letting my sister handle it, when the pastor grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me forward. He said to me, “Are you saved?” I yanked my arm away and said, stiffly, “I don’t wish to discuss it.” He said, sternly as if speaking to a recalcitrant child, “You need to discuss it. Don’t you want to go to heaven to be with your Mama?”

    I’m not precisely sure what would have happened next had one of my uncles and my nephew, both LARGE men, not intervened by putting their arms around my shoulders, nudging me away and my uncle telling the pastor to “Mind your business, Preacher.”

    That pastor was specifically told not to do anything like that but in his arrogance, in his complete assurance that he was right and righteous, he ignored the expressed instructions of my family and tried his nonsense on the person who looked the most vulnerable. How very…predatory…of him.

  • Wow, I had no idea these types of things were so common?! I guess I’m just a bit naive as I live near San Francisco and my world is very liberal. This kind of stuff makes me appreciate my wedding sermon even more and the church I grew up in. The pastor there (same one who did my wedding) would be appalled. I wish more churches and pastors could be like Redeemer’s Reedley!

  • I did not at all like the way you implied—with your “even if the comment was as direct as you now say it was”—that Amanda was in some way dissembling. It’s such an obnoxiously passive-aggressive thing to say.

  • Mark

    All most brides and grooms just want the pastor to stick to the standard wedding script. My old church’s pastor could never to that. He either had to make a sales pitch for Jesus, or would talk about whatever was on his mind. It got so bad, long time members of my church would find creative ways to get out of having their weddings at my old church.

    If I ever get married, I’m going to Vegas!

  • shadowspring

    Fundies always see funerals as an opportunity to share the gospel with people who will never otherwise come to church. It’s appalling that no matter what the occasion, doctrine trumps all other considerations. When I was a fundie it made perfect sense to me: how better to love these people than offer them escape from hell? Now that I don’t believe in eternal literal hell, or that saying a formulaic prayer in response in response to a shaming, paranoia inducing sermon is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the mystery of being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, well I finally get why others see it as so rude.

    Funerals are to comfort the people who have lost a loved one, period. Keep your religious agenda out of it, and make the love agenda your purpose for officiating.

  • shadowspring

    My fundamentalist niece’s wedding had her writing her own over-the-top vows. She must have used the word “submit” a dozen times. The kicker was when she said she would serve her husband as if he were Jesus himself. Whatever happened to “thou shalt have no other gods beside me”? Blatant idolatry, that’s what it is.

    The sad thing is that her self-subjugation is probably going to sabotage the whole relationship. Her husband clearly loves her, but how long can he stand to see her do this to herself if that love is genuine? Will he be able to resist the corruption that fan worship causes in the mind of the person put on that pedestal?

  • Virginia Galloway via Facebook

    Long ago, a young man known widely as “Peaches” escaped from some backwoods hamlet in Oklahoma and came to Houston. He was a constant presence in the bar scene (leading me now to think that he was drowning his sorrows, something I was too young to realize at the time), and he was greatly loved.

    He went back to Oklahoma for his father’s funeral, and the officiant (I am reluctant to speak of the guy as a “pastor” or “minister”) took the opportunity to savage him DURING THE FUNERAL SERVICE for the “sin of homosexuality.”

    Peaches came back to Houston and drank himself to death, dying at about age 35.

    How many times must this kind of horror happen before people stop perverting the message of love that Jesus gave us?

  • Valerie

    Your comment makes me want to be part of your congregation. What a wonderful witness you are and I wish there were more like you. Peace and blessings to you and those that know you.

  • I am so sorry that happened to you.

  • That is just horrifying. I wish there was a process by which any pastor who says asshat comments like that could be banned from ever conducting another funeral, wedding or baptism.

  • Andie

    Yeah, that was not the most gracious way to phrase that.

  • Prob’ly not, Maddie.

  • Will

    Don’t sweat it Robert. Everybody gets a turn to be beat up. Everybody gets a chance to step in it. Welcome to family.

    Its just life here in the big city. Please stick around and see that tomorrow is a clean slate.


  • yomyisnot

    All true love, whether from a Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, Pagan or something else, is Christian love. To fail to understand that is to fail to understand Jesus’ central message.

  • yomyisnot

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it will ever fully stop as we are all human and prone to great error.

    But, our current overly conservative environment has given license to many who hate very easily and consider the “other” a threat, thus allowing them to be lead astray very easily, that they are unafraid to give voice to their fear and hatred and confuse with true moral outrage.

  • Will

    I think this is a good example of why we shouldn’t give anyone the title of religious authority.

    No one is closer to God than anyone else. Or farther away.

    No one on earth has absolute knowledge of the Divine without having it filtered through our human experience.

    No one has first hand knowledge of the afterlife. Yes there have been plenty of books sold by people claiming special knowledge but those claims often disagree with other claims. Even when there seems to be a consensus that is no proof of validity. The individuals of a lynch mob agree with each other on a certain point but they have been found to have been mistaken.

    Ministers, Priests, Rabbis, and Pastors are only human.

    They can be just as comforting or as big a blowhards as any person off the street.

    No one deserves a pedestal.

    If we define truth as what can be proven in a court of law, then we must admit that so-called religious authorities speak very little truth, and a whole lot of opinion.

    “Can’t we all just get along” (Saint Rodney) 😀

  • Kristi

    Wow. That is so sad. Poor Peaches.

  • Will


    My favorite cinematic wedding ever. 😀

    From the film Little Murders

    Pastor Donald Sutherland manages to offend everybody.

    Warning! Offensive to those without a sense of humor.

    Written by cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Little Murders is a 1971 black comedy film starring Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd, directed by Alan Arkin. It is the story of a girl, Patsy (Rodd), who brings home her boyfriend, Alfred (Gould), to meet her severely dysfunctional family amidst a series of random shootings, garbage strikes and electrical outages ravaging the neighborhood.

  • Lawrence Petry

    to the original poster;

    i’m sorry for your experience. That minister doesn’t represent all (or even most, I pray) evangelical ministers out there.

  • Lawrence Petry

    also, to be fair….

    i understand the thread of what you’re doing here.

    But to highlight one single bad experience (which, to be sure, was intirely inappropriate) and some others, and then lift those up to paint over evangelical christianity with a broad brush isn’t quite fair.

    let’s keep in mind the dozens of hopefully well-officiated and gracious weddings we’ve all been to.


  • Thom

    People seem to want a monopoly ticket to heaven. I think this feeds their ego. And I think God is laughing at these people whether they be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish (or whatever).

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Well I, then, stand corrected: He really is as much a jerkface as he would seem to be.

    Sadly, there might never be a Christianity worthy of having Christ’s name on it.

  • Antigone

    Thing is Lawrence, it’s generally the evangelicals who pull this sort of thing, because they believe fervently that it’s their job to proselytize (though I don’t see anything above in which John has singled them out). Also, this isn’t the thread for ‘remembering the good weddings’–this rather seems more for people who have been wounded by this sort of thing to express themselves. Please don’t trivialize or dismiss people’s pain in this way. Tell me, do you go to threads where, say, Catholic parishioners are discussing their abuse and tell them not to paint Catholic priests so broadly and to only think about the good times? (If so, shame on you.)

    If an evangelical reads all this and thinks “I’m not like that”–great for them! I like to think that they would be like John, and that they would be more concerned with rectifying the problem within their own camp rather than getting knee-jerk defensive toward those whom their congregation have wronged. Victim-blaming = not of the good.

    Now then, my own experience:

    For my own hetero wedding, we didn’t have the problem of condemnation of orientation, but the pastor we found decided she’d get her licks in re our religious beliefs. My fiance was an atheist, and I was a practicing Wiccan, and supposedly this pastor was fine with us having a non-denominational wedding without direct mentions of the Christian God (we have nothing against that at other people’s weddings and such, we just didn’t want it at ours since we’re not believers in that tradition, and we certainly didn’t want to be hypocrites either).

    Well, the pastor had her own notion of how we “should” be married and the ceremony was God, God, God. At the point when she asked us if we would take each other, more God God God–my fiance did his best to ignore it and said “I do”, but when it is my turn I panicked…I wanted to marry, but I didn’t want to “take this man” in the name of a deity and faith that wasn’t me. It felt like I was being forcibly converted, and I started having an anxiety attack right there in front of everyone.

    My fiance leaned over to the pastor and muttered something like “she’s pagan not Christian, don’t make her repeat this”. I have trouble remembering what happened after that…I think I dazedly said “I do” and the whole ceremony was quickly ended, and I was hustled in back so I could try to get my breathing under control and not pass out.

    So yeah–what should have been one of the happiest days in my life, now forever tainted by the memory of someone who decided they knew better than me and my spouse as to what was good for us spiritually. And stepping all over our own beliefs to do it. And I can only imagine how much _more_ painful and humiliating that would have been if we had _also_ had a pastor there to denigrate our love because of our genders and orienations. 🙁

    Which is why I’m so glad to encounter devout Christians like John Shore–some of that pain is lifted when someone like him comes forward and essentially says “YOU matter” when so many other religious sorts tell you that you don’t. To me, that is true Love.

  • Diana A.

    “But to highlight one single bad experience (which, to be sure, was intirely inappropriate) and some others, and then lift those up to paint over evangelical christianity with a broad brush isn’t quite fair.”

    No, you don’t quite understand. These kinds of things happen all the time. It isn’t just one incident that happened to one couple. It is many incidents that have happened to many people and this happens to be one of them. And these types of incidents drive people away from Christianity, often turning them hostile to the whole of idea of religion in the process. It’s not cool.

  • Andrew Raymond via Facebook

    Me either. Frightening.

  • Charles Rios via Facebook

    Bad pastors at funerals are also terrible. I’m a funeral director and I’ve had to leave the chapel during some of the preachy funerals I’ve worked. It’s about the person, not trying to recruit people to your church.

  • Marci Farran Kutzer via Facebook

    I also had a bad pastor experience, but at funeral of all places. The man used my grandmother’s death as a pulpit to preach against abortion….needless to say, rather than celebrating her life, I felt angry and betrayed.

  • Diana A.

    When my cousin married his first wife (it didn’t work out), the pastor who officiated slipped the word “obey” into her part of the vows–after she’d specifically told him not to. Everybody else thought it was funny because they didn’t like her much anyway. I thought it was horribly wrong to do that. She sucked it up and went forward with the ceremony, but she was justifiably P.O.’d. I would have been too.

    Pastors should not willfully go against the wishes of the families they are serving in this capacity. If they feel that it is against their beliefs to perform the ceremony according to the couple’s wishes, they should gracefully bow out. I’m sorry that your pastor ruined your wedding by shoving her beliefs down your throat and that of your husband’s.

  • Andrew Raymond

    Predatory. A completely accurate description of a reprehensible person. I am so sorry you had to endure it.

  • Andrew Raymond

    I like the way you dream there, Barnmaven!

  • Rebecca Harrison

    Bethany, I also live near San Francisco, and unfortunately, as a Presbyterian pastor (now retired), I’ve seen or heard about such things happening, and not infrequently. Those in my own circle of friends and colleagues would never dream of behaving like this, because most of us believe that God (the Divine) gives us as many ways as it takes. We’ve heard horror stories from friends and parishioners of weddings and funerals they’ve attended – in the Bay Area – where this very same behavior is exhibited by the officiant. It’s sad, it’s slimy, and it’s so unfaithful.

  • Andrew Raymond

    Junkie, it sounds to me like you need some sensitivity work yourself.

  • Andrew Raymond

    Second THAT, LaNeece!

  • Rev. Carl Johnson

    Of the many weddings I perform as an Inter Faith minister, I let the couple establish the parameters of spirituality they want in their ceremony. I do not preach, nor pass a plate, nor seek to tell another which path they must follow. I’ve performed religious weddings and non religious weddings. Still do. As an open minded and open hearted minister, the joy in the event is what drives the train. Anything that is preacher directed comes across to me, as arrogance in belief.

    That said, there are many of us who are not shackled into the guilt trip messaging. You should let you limits be known, preferably at the first time you speak with your officiant. To not advise him or her of your limits is inviting them to place their spirituality in your arena. If you are open and honest with your officiating person, there should be no surprises.

    All best!

    Rev. Carl

  • Diana A.

    Collect them as a book and call it “Bad Pastors–How They Ruin Christianity for the Rest of Us” or something like that.

  • Andrew Raymond

    That particular one being from the novel ‘The Truth’.

  • Sue Hulett via Facebook

    The Pastor at my mother’s funeral preached about forgiveness of sins. I was NOT happy about that.

  • Andrew Raymond

    Wonderfully said, Will. Thank you.

  • Diana A.

    Gotta love the “God Police.”

    That’s one of my favorite things about the United Methodist Church though–the open communion.

    Somehow, we UMC people seem to attract a lot of ex-Catholics. It’s cool.

    I like Andrew M. Greeley’s form of Catholicism. Too bad he’s considered something of a heretic. But then, I happen to think heretics are cool.

  • Diana A.

    Yeah. But sometimes we can’t help ourselves. It gets so tiresome to deal with the “God Police” that we start acting like them. What can I say?

  • There is an ongoing epidemic of hate crimes directed at transwomen in DC. At a funeral for one of these murdered women last year, the pastor (from the Baptist church her family is associated with) made remarks like “when you live a certain lifestyle, there is a consequence,” and telling the attendees that God let her die so that others could be saved. He also repeatedly misgendered her. There was a mass walkout. When confronted later, the pastor said there was nothing disrespectful about what he said because it was from a biblical perspective.

  • Diana A.

    Me too!

  • Diana A.

    I think you did the right thing. I also think you showed a great deal of ladylike discretion by not slapping that pastor across the mouth, hard, the way he deserved. Way to resist temptation!

  • When my father-in-law had a heart attack and triple bypass, his pastor came in to visit him in his hospital room. He told him he must have committed some sin to deserve that heart attack, and to think about it.
    (He was never allowed back in to visit after that.)

  • Diana A.

    Yeah. Poor God. Having to put up with the likes of us! Oh well. It’s not as if he didn’t know what he was getting into.

  • Mollie Stewart Bandy via Facebook

    The pastor at a recent wedding we attended kept emphasizing that a MAN and a WOMAN were getting married. It really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • I just told one. Horrible how widespread this is.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    There are two sorts of marriage, carl, often one in what they label, but distinct in what they signify.

    There is civil marriage, as recognized by the state, and there is marriage before God.

    Now, if I might travel to a land in which our marriage might not be recognized, would I be wrong to present my woman even there as my wife? If I lie with her there, am I an adulterer? Or have I a right, morally, even if I do legally, to there pick another to call my wife instead? Or even only just to sleep with for the night?

    If the government were to collapse, if all record were to be burned, would I be then a bachelor?

    If someone decided they didn’t like my sort of marriage and wanted to declare it null and void, what then gives them such a right? Yet if they might have any effect, they do indeed have the power, and from may derive their claim to a right, to do so.

    But that doesn’t make it ultimately right.

    The powers of this world have no power over God – over love.

    Whether the state does or does not recognize a certain marital bond has nothing to do with whether God has brought together in Holy Matrimony the parties involved. And surely God has the power and the right to bless, to sanctify, to ordain—or to decline to do so—whatsoever sacraments, rites, states of affairs, that He will, and the reality may be known by their fruits.

    The preacher performs both at once by first giving a pronouncement such as you refer to of this legal state of affairs and then, in faith that the union be one forged by God, giving an invocation against any man’s tearing it asunder.

    “Sometimes they say man and wife, and then I cringe.”

    Why do you prefer using the terminology regarding the mastery of chattel (that is, the word relating to husbandry)? Or what have you got against males being men (I frankly wish more of them would be)?

  • Diana A.

    “(Was she secretly glad I said that? I don’t know. I never asked.)”

    I bet she was!

  • Diana A.

    What Christy, vj, and Jeannie said. Thank you!

  • Andrew Raymond

    Matthew, that is very well put, and is right at the core of what puts my teeth on edge when the conservatives try to pass laws to preserve the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. There simply is NO sanctity to the civil institution by both definition and intent.

  • Mary

    I too will perform any kind of wedding that anyone seeks. Our nephew is marrying a lovely Wiccan woman and I am HOPING that they will ask me to do the wedding.

    An area where even more hurt can happen is funerals. I have a doozy of a funeral story.

  • Mary

    Oh, David…that is HORRIBLE!

  • I had a pastor’s wife once tell me the following after I was introduced to her while visiting a friends’s church for the first time: “I heard that you were sexually abused as a child and have had a hard time dealing with it. Well, don’t worry, God can forgive all your sins, even that one.” Yup, turned around and never went back. Not to mention having had a confidence broken by a friend.

  • OMG, funniest EVAH.

  • Jennifer Vance via Facebook

    wow kim…..that is a horrible experience. don’t blame you for not going back.

  • These are the people who make my “tempted to slap the crap out of you for your rudeness, but then I’d have to ask your forgiveness, so I’ll skip it” list.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Where do people get this often-expressed idea that, whatever they happen to think of as a “biblical perspective”, is somehow exempt from being a RUDE perspective to share, if not always, then at least on certain occasions?

  • Camille AndEric Nelsen via Facebook

    Now you know if any of the above-mentioned idiots reads our posts, they will feel the innate urge to pray for us that we may be forgiven. LOL

  • Tammy Watson via Facebook

    My favorite was a Catholic Wedding where the priest mentioned about four times how the couple had been together a while!!! I admit I had to chuckle!!!

  • Lois Phillips

    Our Episcopal Church allows both the Missouri Synod Lutherans and the Unitarian Universalists to use our space. At a funeral last week for a young man killed in an auto accident, the MSLC pastor pounded on the pulpit, railed about abortion (huh?) and pointed to the casket and said “THAT’S why he’s here!” Guess he meant because there’s sin in the world…that’s all I can come up with. So here’s a congregation of folks at the funeral of their friend/loved one, in shock and grieving, and they get not hope or comfort, but a hell and brimstone lecture on how they’d better shape up. It was like that verse where Jesus says “Which one of you, when his child asks for a fish, would give him a snake?” Ugh….I feel sick when I think about it.

  • Jennifer Sandberg via Facebook

    Those clergy persons (actually all men, I assume) should be ashamed of themselves. Making pointed comments like that is unprofessional.

  • One pastor freaked me out when he started droning on about “eros” and physical affection in bed at the wedding of a friend’s mother — right in front of the young grandchildren (who were old enough to get it) and her son (who didn’t really need to think about that).

  • dan (chicago)

    Oh my. Talk about being broadsided at church. That about tops it. When I was involved in church a young lady was supposed to meet the pastor after a weekday morning church service. She had been away to college(a secular one!), was dating a secular humanist, and was questioning her faith and wanted to talk to him about it. While she was waiting at the pastor’s office a woman came out of the church service, saw her, and walked over to her, asking her if she was the young lady who had gone off to college, got involved sexually with an unbeliever, and was now questioning God. All with a Christian smile and a gentle Jesus loves you.

  • Michelle P.

    I had a related situation when I got married. My (now) husband and I weren’t members of any specific church. He had been raised in The Assemblies of God, and I had been raised Catholic and then Assemblies of God. On the recommendation of a friend, we had an interview with her pastor (a fundamentalist of some sort, but after 15 years, I don’t remember which one). Anyway, we had the interview and my husband indicated some doubts in his own faith, and some questions about Christianity. The pastor was VERY concerned about if our potential children (we’ve ended up not having children) would be raised in the proper Christian tradition. He said he had “concerns,” was going to pray about it, and let us know. It took over a month and three phone calls from me before he finally called back and left a message, saying that “He didn’t feel it would be right in the eyes of God to perform our marriage since you are a Christian and your fiancé isn’t.” I was floored. He just decided, on his own, despite what my husband actually said about his faith journey, that he just “…isn’t a Christian.” I wanted to punch him for being such a judgmental coward, and I’m still angry with him, frankly, 15 years later.

    God was working, though. Another friend suggested we contact her Lutheran pastor. So I did, telling him the situation and what the other pastor said, and he calmly said, “If he’s willing to go through a Christian ceremony, I’m willing to perform one.” We had our counseling sessions, and when my husband would bring up a question or concern, the pastor would respond, “Well, here is what Lutherans think about this…” Pastor Karlsgodt was a real blessing and the counseling has been very useful over the course of our marriage. His calmness and willingness to engage my husband on the issues he was concerned about without judgment and with openness also gave my husband a better foundation and willingness when we decided we wanted to find a church.

  • Wow! After your first paragraph I was filled with rage. After your second, I was Joe Lovely Feelings. Nice!

    Lutherans rock. Pastor Bob (see the bottom half of the front page of my site if you don’t know who he is) is a Lutheran. And it was the Lutherans who so bought and taught my first book, “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang.”

  • Matthew Tweedell

    “If they feel that it is against their beliefs to perform the ceremony according to the couple’s wishes, they should gracefully bow out.”

    Exactly! What god gave them any authority, or any right, to officiate at any rite that they don’t, as is, believe in, anyway?

    What horrendously blind guides there are in this world! If a pastor doesn’t feel comfortable performing a marriage that isn’t according to his/her own faith tradition, why agree to do so in the first place? Hijacking the ceremonies in ways like this is no less than theft! (spiritual theft {and in the name of God no less!}, as well as stealing a show that costs untold amounts of money and human effort, both physical and emotional, to bring together).

    Do they really think their God is pleased? Do they really think they’re doing a good job representing Him? Or do they just not think?

    It’s like a pet dog kills the new pet cat and presents it proudly before their master, like, “Look what I just caught! Look what I just caught! Aren’t I a good little doggy? Who’s a good boy? Me, right? Say it. Go ahead, whatcha waitin’ for? Ooh, I’m supposed to sit too, right? See! Now who’s a good boy?”

  • @Kim – awful – just awful. @Harvey – I’m thinking that might have been my minister. We loved him and his “earthy” take on life (he’s the only pastor I’ve ever heard of who preached about Martin Luther’s sex life and how it must have just pissed off “the opposition” that Luther and his wife were so happy and in love) – but not everyone appreciated his “instructions” about the sacredness of the sexual part of the marriage union.

  • Linda Thorington via Facebook

    I loved (not) the Mother’s Day sermon when a woman-hating speaker gave a diatribe on the evils of abourtion!

  • Matthew Tweedell

    The “sin” of having been sexually abused?

    Or even if she was referring to having difficulty dealing with it, is it not absolutely RIGHT to not have an easy time dealing with it!

    What Bible has she been reading!?

    And moreover she thinks this is somehow supposed to encourage you to join them?

    It takes a pretty unhealthy person to what to join such a toxic environment! And perhaps, sadly, some people who are abused have in fact been made to be so unhealthy. But I’m so glad to hear that you were stronger than that!

  • Carol Morris Dukes via Facebook

    Years ago, our pastor met with my sis and her fiancé (husband later) after they asked him to officiate their wedding. Our pastor, whose son had a shotgun wedding at 16, told my sis that he could not, with good conscience, marry them, because her fiancé was not born again. Her fiancé was Episcopalian, after all.

  • Jane Carlton via Facebook

    Kim Kelley-Wagner I too was sexually abused and I come from a HUGE Catholic family, although some of my family have converted to “Holy Rollers” and during my 10th summer I went to church with my cousin at her family’s church (literally thier church since my uncle was the founder) I was called in front of the church and chastised for (1) being Catholic and (2) having been the victim of Incest….When I later spoke to another cousin who was and is a Catholic priest his response wasn’t to tell me it wasn’t my fault it was to say “Well he shouldn’t have said that “in church”.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Wow. Again I’ve got to ask, what Bible have these people been reading?

    No, I’m sorry, make that, what Bible have these people been *smoking*?

    But in all seriousness—this is indeed a very serious and troubling matter—where in the hell do such ideas come from and why do they seem to be so widespread out there, if usually shrouded in the darkness of silence on the matter (it being nearly beyond belief that your uncle would actually make a point of putting you up in front of a whole roomful of people and saying this! [and what absolute shells of people those must have been to hear such idiocy yet keep their asses planted in those pews weekly])?

    I am truly impressed at your strength, Ms. Carlton—amazed at your resiliency—that you can even talk about this episode in your life, and here among complete strangers.

  • I chose not to get married at a church when the pastor I was meeting with announced his position that marriage was between a man and a woman within five minutes of introducing himself. Considering that I was a woman marrying a man, it seemed obvious that this man felt the need to preach his little piece of hate at every possible opportunity. I was stunned.

  • Whoa. That’s pretty full-on crazy.

  • LSS

    I asked my husband (the agnostic) if one doesn’t believe in Hell, then where does one think that the really awful people go, the ones who one doesn’t want to end up in Heaven since they spent their whole life telling perfectly decent Other people they weren’t going to get to go to Heaven… Where does one “send” those people?

    He says “Walmart”.

  • Then there are guys like the older, married preacher who spent part of his sermon complimenting my legs…other compliments too, but how did he think it made his wife feel to talk about my legs over and over???

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I suppose, I mean, I believe I do know where it comes from ultimately: People can’t understand why and how socio-/psycho-pathic or otherwise seriously messed-up individuals do the things they do (which is simply because such things just AREN’T really understandable to the normally-functioning human brain), so they think the victim must have been somehow complicit, or even provoked it (perhaps saying more about their own messed-up—and perhaps dangerously so—psyche, if they can imagine anything might “provoke” such behavior). Yet that still doesn’t explain why such dysfunctional thinking seems all too common.

    Yes, we all want to think the best of people, so when we hear someone did something awful, we like to think, “Yeah, but there must be some reason, some external factors as to why he/she did that.” And perhaps it is so. But the last place to look for them should be with victim!

    I doubt many of these same sort of people think even for a second about the things they might be doing that “provoke” people like those in al-Qaeda to lash out against America! Why? Because it’s obvious that America (for all of her shortcomings)—that the people going about their everyday lives on September 11—did NOTHING deserving/provoking a response like that! When they, whether personally or indirectly by way of their national identity, are the victims, that is usually pretty stinking obvious to them. But when someone else is victimized, especially someone whose shoes they cannot even imagine themselves in, and perhaps even might more easily imagine themselves in the place of the abuser/attacker, they look to put some portion of blame on the victim.

    It seems to me perhaps a problem in moral instinct, education, and training. People—especially those in ministry—need to understand—need perhaps to be told—that moral culpability—regardless of whatever, if any at all, underlying causes there can be—lies squarely with one who pulls the trigger—that is to say, the last human agent along whatever chain of causation leads to whatever sort of victimization, along with anyone directing and/or knowingly lending support to his/her actions, with three simple exceptions: 1) the victim posed a real and immediate threat of equal or greater magnitude that the actions undertaken may reasonably have been deemed necessary to remove; 2) the action that resulted in suffering was committed unintentionally, but not by way of negligence; and/or 3) the action could not have been reasonably foreseen to result in victimization.

  • Tom

    Actually, I think that all religions with the exception of witchcraft, should be banned

  • Marise ‘Hightower’ Tuttle via Facebook

    wow, these make me feel good about the work I have done as a pastor, and officiating weddings and funerals!

  • We had a doozy in Fairfax: a priest at a first communion decided to give a long, rambling but quite grisly homily (I think it was the homily) addressed directly to the cute little kiddies in which he repeatedly described the rape and bloody injuries and death of a young girl who was a Christian martyr and saint. The poor sweet young communicants sat there listening horrified, with their eyes wide as plates and their mouths shaped into gaping maws of terror while the rest of the church fidgeted and muttered. Then (many years ago) there was an episcopal deacon from National Cathedral who kept drunkenly suggesting at a wedding party that the bride and groom ought to “get the h*ll out of there and find a hotel somewhere.” (It seemed quite racy at the time.)

  • Calvin R. Griffin via Facebook

    Amazingly horrendous stories!!! So sad! SMH. Some of these “ministers” should have never been ordained. Very sad.

  • Andrew Raymond

    I sincerely hope the first case got his head truly examined. He sounds like he could have been a violent pedophile in the making.

  • Andrew Raymond

    If you’re going that far, why exempt witchcraft?

  • Jessica

    I’m offended for this couple. My husband and I were married by my elder (my church doesn’t have ministers) and while I am a Christian, my husband is an agnostic. According to the pastor in this ladies story, our love isn’t valid either. This just isn’t right.

  • Will


  • Peet

    Yes, somehow when people feel the Bible supports them, they can say any incredibly offensive and rude thing with God’s backing.

    Assholes of the Word.

  • DR

    Wow. What a dickish comment.

  • DR

    What in the WORLD are you talking about, anyone reading that clearly knows the point being made is about the pastor’s certainty of the couple’s salvation, when have you honestly ever seen John make any kind of “bold pronouncement” of who is going to hell? It doesn’t happen.

  • DR

    Your microscopic nitpicking of this account is creepy.

  • DR

    That’s not accurate. People don’t get “beat up” here, if they are dicks, they get called on it.

  • Otter

    Okay…..Injust have to say this…how many thousands of examples of

    unprincipled, judgemental, homophobic, mysogynist, bigoted ministers -pastors preachers & pedants does it take becomes obvious that the way Christianity is being practiced is NOT WORKING????? By “not working”, I mean not guiding its leaders or its followers to grow in wisdom and compassion. I dont think its possible to study and take refuge in the Dharma withou absorbing the lesson everyone is first of all equal, and second , interconnected. IMHO if people devoted them selves to emulating Jesus and gave up acting like his deputites or his storm troopers, everyone would be better off. I hold the view that any organization that can foster this level of hate or arrogance and cause this type of suffering is disgraceful. And if your sacred texts justify people acting this way, they need an overhual. I honor you , John for exposing these stories, so far removed from the message of Jesus. Wouldn’t these make a great book? Oh yeah! Chapter one : The Westboro Baptist Vultures. You could write for years and never be done.

  • Otter

    i agree !

  • Diana A.

    I disagree.

  • Diana A.

    Gee, if the pastor was Catholic, he could have been in trouble for breaking the seal of the confessional. Even for non-Catholic clergy, it is ethically inappropriate to discuss your parishoners’ issues with others. Possibly illegal as well.

  • Diana A.

    Carl: Sometimes they say man and wife, and then I cringe.

    Matthew: Why do you prefer using the terminology regarding the mastery of chattel (that is, the word relating to husbandry)? Or what have you got against males being men (I frankly wish more of them would be)?

    Diana: I, too, have cringed at the “man and wife” vs. “husband and wife” wording. Now that you’ve reminded me of the original meaning of the word “husband,” I am completely frustrated. I think that if/when I get married, I will strongly request that our pastor say “I now pronounce you married,” and leave it at that.

  • Diana A.

    Folks, calm down, textjunkie takes it back later down in the thread.

  • Diana A.

    Your husband is seriously smart!

  • Diana A.

    “American Christianity is slowly changing,….”

    Slowly as in “slowly, the ice age ended,” to paraphrase Rita Mae Brown!

  • Diana A.

    “But there isn’t a wedding anywhere where you can simply blithely assume that everyone who attended is Christian, and the sort of comment he made was completely insensitive to that. People come to the wedding to share a celebration with friends and family, not to get excluded. The same is true of funerals.

    “Anyone incapable of that basic level of empathy and compassion shouldn’t be officiating at either.”

    Yeah, I think that’s the bottom line. There is (perhaps) a time and place to shove one’s religious ideology down someone else’s throat, but neither a wedding, nor a funeral is it.

  • Diana A.

    You bad, Lymis! ;-D

  • Diana A.

    That’s the guy!

  • vj

    Exactly! Jesus is our High Priest, the rest of us are [should be] just trying to put His Words into practice, helping one another, encouraging one another, edifying one another, serving one another – NOT judging one another.

  • vj

    Wow – it was said directly to your face?! I had just assumed it was part of a speech, but my mind boggles that anyone would be so utterly RUDE as to say that directly to someone they have just been introduced to… totally without class 🙁

  • vj

    Yes please!!!

  • vj

    “God Police”

    What a perfect description!

  • vj

    John doesn’t actually believe that anyone goes to hell, so it’s not quite the same when he says it as when a member of the “God Police” says it….

  • vj

    Perfect, again 😉

  • For God so loved the world. NO ONE has the right to make judgments of others, that includes priests, bishops, archbishops, the Pope etc. They will be left cackling at their altars, with an empty church in front of them. What I’m pleased to see (as a British Christian) is how many are leaving the ‘regular’ church and either going native, or finding their own paths back to God, which doesn’t involve being heckled by some sicko, poorly educated individual such as these. These individuals make my blood boil. I believe that God calls us to be the very best of who we are meant to be, to believe in and shine his light, wherever we find ourselves. And to show (social) justice to all. When I hear and read things like these, I just want to give each of you a hug, and cry about the insanity of it all. Stand true for yourselves, Jesus, compassion and peace!

  • And whosoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
    – Luke 9:5

    There are people who can’t be reasoned with. Maybe it’s my age that makes me completely lacking in patience for these kinds of people, but their delusion makes my blood pressure go up. That’s why I so love Luke 9:5.

  • LSS

    YES! Which is ironic considering all the stuff people have been saying about pastors and truth in this thread.

    Funny how many of us american christians come from Ankh-Morpork. well, some of us grew up in Klatch. i realised so much about the psycho-calvinism i was raised in, by reading about Brudda and the Omnians.

  • LSS

    I definitely have to contribute the guy, in a tiny fringe calvinist church plant, who preached about the woman with the issue of blood, in (i won’t even say “almost”) pornographic detail. Pretty sure the gore was (figuratively?) associated with sin in some way or it would not have been as effective. i’ve blocked out a lot of the memories of that sermon, as i am sure happened to most other women who were on their period that sunday. but there was one lady that was in the bathroom crying, and some other ladies found out that she had an actual medical condition involving hemorrhages and that sermon probably scarred her for life.

  • Dan(Chicago)

    No, for a very long(long long) period in my life I attended a mega non-denominational charismatic church — the kind where the ministry is passed from parent to child like a family business. Needless to say, the pastor had not taken an ethics class before he was annointed by his mother, the first pastor. It astounds me that I was ever so naive to look up at these people in awe, which I did, as did thousands of people.

    But they were amazing when it came to creating touching church moments, as most mega pastors are. It takes a lot of time before you saw that they weren’t so good in the every day stuff.

  • Lymis

    I think it is a direct result of the idea that God protects good people from bad consequence, and if you have faith and pray enough, only good things will happen to you, because God loves you for being good enough.

    It follows logically, that if bad things happen to you, you must be a bad person, not have enough faith, or enough of the right faith, or prayed hared enough.

    A lot of people preach this sort of simplistic faith, apparently because they believe it themselves. The judgement and lack of compassion follows inevitably.

  • Tom

    Because I don’t know any rotten witches and I have a lot of Pagan friends. I know plenty of rotten Christians, a lot of which are in my family. I would rather sit down with a thousand witches than just one fundy Christian. Well, so-called Christians, because these people are the antithesis of everything Jesus ever talked about. I want nothing to do with them. And another thing. I take great comfort in knowing that they ain’t goin’ where they think they are. Religion, and not just Christianity, is responsible for 90% of world strife, something that should be solving world problems, not creating them.

    We in this country are rapidly heading for theocracy at the hands of a bunch of lunatics, and we’re allowing it to happen. Every country on this planet that is controlled by religion is fucked up. Think about it. The only decent places on earth to live are secular, like The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, etc. Anytime any of the incidents such as the ones described in this thread occur, the VICTIMS need to tell these so-called pastors to go fuck themselves. If you’re a member of his or her church you should NEVER go back. Period. People are so addicted to the bullshit that they can’t imagine their lives without it. Get over it!

  • Come to think of it,Tom, I don’t know any rotten pagans either…you might have a point. :0P

  • “Religion, is responsible for 90% of world strife.” As a rationalist who loathes people who put the emotionality of their convictions ahead of common sense, I’m sure you wouldn’t just make up such a statistic for the sake of inflammatory hyperbole.

  • I concur, Lymis. Life as it has unfolded convinces me that for the most part we have a noninterventionist God. People can be faithful, loving, kind and good and still have terrible, unimaginable things happen to them. For the most part, I think the rewards in this life for our faith are things that can’t be seen, the joy and love we feel in our hearts when we pray and when we spread that love to others, the sense of purpose we have when we realize that the act of loving others is our mission. I think the rest of it comes when this life is passed, when we are no longer bound to this world.

  • Grrrr.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Excellent point!

    I guess I just wanted to believe that people—that clergy—were a bit more enlightened than that! What silly, superstitious B.S.! To them, it should seem, Jesus was the worse sinner between him and Barabbas, right?

    So I guess the answer as to what they’ve been reading is the prosperity gospel (or something along those lines). It seems to me, though, that the only people in their right minds who actually openly preach it, are people exploiting it to enhance their own prosperity. (And it seems only to result in their ever getting *farther* from God. As Jesus said, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”)

    Do these people somehow overlook the whole story of Job?

    Or the book of Ecclesiastes?

    There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve,

    and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. (Ecc. 8:14)

    Or the words of Jesus?

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God

    might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

    Yet, rather, they take this guilty-until-proven-innocent sort of attitude? Even towards the most innocent of children? (to such as whom belongs the kingdom of God, no less—at least according to Jesus, whose words they don’t seem to give much credence.)

    Talk about adding insult to injury!

    Talk about ignorance and lack of compassion!

    It makes sense, though, that selfish man would reach for this quick-and-easy, heartless theology to help him make sense of a world in which there’s suffering all around us. But their willful blindness to how they’re likely *contributing* thereby to suffering—and certainly aren’t helping, as every true religion calls us to be doing—is abominable! There must be some way to get them—or some portion of them at least—to remove the scales from their eyes. I suppose this sort of thinking, and anything at all related to it, simply needs to be respectfully challenged at every opportunity, even when it is truly a comforting, seemingly innocuous if not seemingly entirely correct, understanding of things.

  • DR

    Oh for God’s sake. There are shitty people everywhere but this is self-serving and one dimensional.

    I get your point, I don’t think anyone would disagree with you or try to talk you out of anything but how about you open your eyes to the people on *this* particular blog who represent the massive amounts of reasonable, cool, enlightened followers of Christ out there. Simply put, you are choosing to focus on the Christians you have had bad experiences with to define the whole of Christianity. Which you can do, everyone will still live. But that’s your *choice* when you have a lot of other Christians from which to choose.

  • textjunkie

    Well, true dat. I am not your go-to person for sympathy and a reassuring pat on the head. But with 1,000s of comments on this blog (including many of my own) that are all “yeah, John!” “right on, John!” etc., that if every now and again I’m in the tails of the distribution and post something that says “I don’t see it your way”, no harm done.

  • textjunkie

    oh come on, DR. I was polite.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    I of course understand why you might cringe.

    The point is… they’re just words. Neither way of saying it is inherently better than the other. It is unfortunate that certain phrases might have come to be associated with certain unpleasant attitudes. But when these attitudes aren’t exactly denoted by the words themselves, well, then I can live it either way (or, as you would prefer, neither).

  • DR

    Being polite and dickish aren’t mutually exclusive (as you’ve aptly demonstrated).

  • Matthew Tweedell

    *. . live ^with^ it . .

  • DR

    Even though you know, you got the story completely wrong. But please keep justifying it.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Sounds to me like the *pastor* hadn’t been born again!

  • Christy

    For what it’s worth: In Spanish the word for spouse both masculine and feminine shares its origin with the same word for handcuffs, meaning: linked together.

  • Wow. Do you ever … not read all the comments. (Not that you should.)

    But come on, people. Let’s start cranking out those, “Yeah, John!” and “Right on, John!” ‘s!

    Why ever bother saying anything else?

  • Will

    DR wrote, “if they are dicks, they get called on it.”

    Really, DR?

    OK then. DR, you are a dick.

  • DR

    Sometimes! 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your heart rending, heart felt stories. So, who is going to create a pastoral “Angie’s List?” We surely could use one!

  • Will

    I was with a grown daughter and teenage son when their mother died after a long and painful disease.

    The son was about 18 but was mildly retarded. He had lived with, been home schooled by, and been wholly supported by his mother all his life and was unable to work or take care of himself.

    During his mother’s illness a pastor the son was close with, was continually telling the son that God would not let his mother die and her illness was all in her mind. When the hospice nurse visited the son would fly into a rage saying his mother wasn’t sick and shouting Bible verses.

    On the day the mother died the pastor said that if only his(the son’s) faith were stronger and if only he had prayed harder, his mother would still be alive.

    And the poor dumb kid bought it. Hook, line, and sinker.

    It was a heartbreaking, disgusting spectacle.

  • that’s pretty much the worst thing like this I’ve ever heard of

  • Will

    Thanks John. It wasn’t the worst I’ve seen. It was just the one that came to mind.

    What allows me sanity is knowing that Jesus was/is also disgusted at those who use religion to bash other people. His protestations to that offence are what got him killed.

    I see all these phony holier-than-thou bible thumpers and I am reminded, through prayer and belief and logic, that these are NOT christians because if they were they would actually be following the guidance of Jesus the Christ. Instead they are mimicking the very hypocrites who murdered Jesus.

    The mob of stone-throwers today are no different than the mob that Jesus shamed into sparing the prostitute. Only today they have hijacked the name of Jesus so that they may feel righteous while they carry out their evil.

    And even though Jesus is not fooled, they have fooled a whole lot of good people.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    You forgot to mention the part where the pastor is MORE than mildly retarded.

    I don’t mean this offensively, though my saying so might indeed be construed as an offense, to the perfectly fine people out there who happen to have less than average intelligence.

    Sure, there are people who are somewhat slower at grasping new and/or complex ideas…

    but worse by far are those who think they already know it all.

    (And I far too often fall in among the latter myself.)

  • Tom

    Ever notice that when people want to use a statistic to drive home a point, they all say 90%? Well, it might as well be John. Could you find me the actual number? I think this article is pretty inflammatory in general so I was just fanning the flames. 🙂

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I don’t know about that. I hear a lot of “99%”‘s.

    But don’t you think, first of all, that institutionalized ideology in general would be more appropriate to blame than religion in particular (e.g. lots of strife in N. Korea, but little in the way of religion)? Secondly, that human greed, and fear of the “other” (in so many more ways than just religiously/ideologically “other”) are really far more to blame for all the strife in our world? And that religion (together with other centrally organized idolatries—oops, I mean, ideologies) is often merely a convenient vehicle for and excuse used to justify that greed and/or fear? Yet can you deny that, at the same time, organized ideological movements—or organized responses to the same—are ultimately what drive social progress in the world?

  • Sharla

    I don’t give a sermon unless the couple asks for it. Usually they don’t, but sometimes it happens.

    One time the couple, on their own, selected the passage about wives and husbands from Ephesians 5 for their wedding text. They’d just heard me preach a sermon on it on a regular Sunday morning. They wanted the text read, but they wanted at least an abbreviated version of my sermon. The bride had belonged to a church that had taught the “traditional” (mis)interpretation of the text, and she had been thrilled to know there was another way to think about it (i.e., mutual self-giving love on the part of BOTH spouses).

  • Sharla

    Awhile back I had a funeral for a woman with several children, one of which is an inactive member of my church. Another of the children, in the meeting to plan the service, asked me if I would include a “sinner’s prayer” in the service. I asked him what he meant, and he said, “An opportunity for people to accept Christ as their Savior.”

    I don’t believe I imagined the relief on his siblings’ faces when I told him that I didn’t really think that was appropriate at a funeral.

  • LSS

    I don’t use that word, neither as an insult nor to talk about a diagnosis. But technically, it means “slowed down” or “late”, doesn’t it?

    I often think with anger/ shame/ remorse about how Late i was in leaving extreme religion. Decades, in fact.

    It is more disturbing to me by far than the 20 or so years that i am Late in other things (social/ emotional development) due to my actual neurological differences.

    All of which is to say, you have a point.

  • Sharla

    You know how you share the gospel at funerals? By showing love and compassion to those who are grieving, and assuring the congregation of God’s even greater love and compassion. That’s what Jesus would do.

  • Diana A.

    “I often think with anger/ shame/ remorse about how Late i was in leaving extreme religion. Decades, in fact.

    “It is more disturbing to me by far than the 20 or so years that i am Late in other things (social/ emotional development) due to my actual neurological differences.”

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a journey–and you can only walk one step at a time. If you were raised with certain attitudes and beliefs, of course it’s going to be hard to walk away from it. Give yourself credit for being courageous enough to change when given reason to do so.

  • Diana A.

    What that pastor did was pure evil. I believe Jesus was talking about him when he said “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2)

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.


  • Sharla

    The Bible doesn’t support them. What the Bible REALLY says is, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (That’s from 1 John 4, by the way, if anyone wants to go look it up.)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Jesus went to a wedding once.

    He didn’t use it as an opportunity to win converts, to steal the show and let the world know once and for all what kind of marriages he does and does not approve of, or even to make sure everyone knew that it was only by his divine intervention that the booze kept flowing late into the night.

    Jesus went to a funeral once.

    Ok, I wish I could say something nice and poeticky here, but the fact is, he did *sort of* exploit the opportunity to further his own ends (Doesn’t God have such a habit of doing that, though, if we let him?), saying to his disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there [to have prevented his death], so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

    Upon arriving, he proceeds to declare to the man’s sister, in her moment of weakness, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die,” punctuated with what almost amounts to an alter call, “Do you believe this?”

    However, he then goes on to weep empathetically with all those who mourned that day—with all those ever who mourn—the loss of someone dear to them.

    And then, he brings the man back to life—which totally gives him a pass to use this as an opportunity for soul-winning, as it turns out Lazarus’s funeral this day was not to be after all! But unless a pastor’s got an ace like that up his sleeve, I think he’d best leave such things to God Himself.

  • Diana A.

    Ya know?

  • Jo

    I’m sorry to learn of this kind of behavior on the part of a pastor, but it does not surprise me. A few years back I attended a wedding at a Lutheran church. The pastor apparently forgot he was there to officiate at a wedding. He did everything except issue an altar call. The service was long and boring. I felt sorry for the couple because I’m sure they were embarrassed by the pastor. His “audience” was visibly restless and annoyed.

  • Jo

    I heard one on Mother’s Day about wives being submissive to their husbands….That was in an “Evangelical Free” church. Ugh.

  • Rachel McCann

    When I married, 25 years ago, we asked the pastor to take the word “obey” out of the vows, and he agreed to replace it with “support.” Then at the ceremony he preached an entire sermon on obedience. (Or was it submission?) Anyway, everyone got the point. Standing with my back to the congregation, I put my hand to my head (to hide from embarrassment?) and shook my head in disbelief at what he was saying. A laugh broke out through the entire congregation because there was the preacher preaching about obedience, and the bride’s veil was violently shaking from side to side to signal her disagreement. We still laugh about that moment. Like you, John, I thought about not paying him, but we didn’t even have cell phones then!

  • Will

    LSS, no offense intended. I believed I was using the correct clinical term.

    At this stage in my life I believe it is ridiculous to condemn or slur people because they happen to display physical differences from the majority.

    And I include dysfunction of the brain organ to be a physical cause of outer problems. To varying degrees I am also “late” in certain social/emotional developments. Oh well.

    I face the fact that everybody else is smarter/dumber, taller/shorter, bigger/smaller, richer/poorer, faster/slower, prettier/uglier, happier/sadder, than me. 😀

    All I can do is play with the cards that are dealt to me, and recognize that everyone else is doing the best they can with what they’ve got too.

    Definition; Mental retardation (MR) is a generalized disorder appearing before adulthood, characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors.

    The terms used to describe this condition are subject to a process called the euphemism treadmill. This means that whatever term is chosen for this condition, it eventually becomes perceived as an insult. The terms mental retardation and mentally retarded were invented in the middle of the 20th century to replace the previous set of terms, which were deemed to have become offensive.[citation needed] By the end of the 20th century, these terms themselves have come to be widely seen as disparaging and politically incorrect and in need of replacement.[2] The term intellectual disability or intellectually challenged is now preferred by most advocates in most English-speaking countries. Clinically, however, mental retardation is a subtype of intellectual disability, which is a broader concept and includes intellectual deficits that are too mild to properly qualify as mental retardation, too specific (as in specific learning disability), or acquired later in life, through acquired brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Intellectual disabilities may appear at any age. Developmental disability is any disability that is due to problems with growth and development. This term encompasses many congenital medical conditions that have no mental or intellectual components, although it, too, is sometimes used as a euphemism for MR.[3] Because of its specificity and lack of confusion with other conditions, mental retardation is still the term most widely used and recommended for use in professional medical settings, such as formal scientific research and health insurance paperwork.[4] (wiki)

  • Allie

    It’s a shame that there’s no term which has the same sting as “retarded” but doesn’t also reference disabled people. There needs to be a word for “I know you’re not mentally disabled, but you’ve clearly got SOMETHING wrong with you, because of what you just did.”

    I didn’t know there was a word for the euphemism treadmill, but I had noticed the phenomenon. Originally “cretin” and “moron” were technical terms. Now, along with “short bus,” “take your Adderall?” “special,” and “retarded,” I’m starting to see “developmentally delayed” used on the internet as an insult. The process is inevitable, as long as people regard a condition as undesirable.

  • Allie

    Me too. The only comeback I can think of, other than a punch in the nose, is to ask the pastor why he didn’t love the woman enough to pray harder himself. But when I ask WWJD I’m pretty sure that the Jesus who whipped a bunch of extortionists out of the temple would go for the punch in the nose.

  • DR

    Yes. Beautifully said.

  • bleeping unbelievable.

  • Michelle P.

    Thanks for the response. : ) I was really hurt, for a long time. To compound things, that first “pastor” had (and may still have, for all I know) a weekly newspaper column on religion, for the local paper. It used to fill me with rage to flip through the paper, when we went home to visit, and see his picture next to his column. I refused to read the column, because all I could ever think about was how blind he had been about us, so how could I trust his thought process on anything?

    We’ve met many wonderful Lutherans. And without the Lutheran church and Pastor Karlsgodt, we probably wouldn’t be at our Presbyterian church, which is pretty amazing.

  • Will

    Tom and John, I’ve told you over a million times not to exaggerate!


  • Tom

    I will never believe that organized religion has ever driven social progress. You would have to cite several instances of that for me please.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Why ask me to cite several instances if you will never believe it anyway?

    But ok… I’ll indulge, if only to provide everyone confirmation of the truth in what you’ve just said.

    Let’s start with the oldest one on record: It was an organized religious movement against the backdrop of general West Semitic religious tradition (perhaps occurring under the influence of beliefs and customs from nearby Ancient Egypt) that led to the enactment and enforcement of the first known laws explicitly protecting children (from infanticide, rape and other atrocities once customary).

    For a more recent example, would you not consider the end of the Gaddafi regime social progress? Well, what sustained the movement that ultimately led to his ouster through its early days, when the backlash from the regime was strong, and it was brutal? When the opposition would get repressed on weekly basis? It was that, at the end of each week, no insignificant number of courageous imams would speak the truth in their Friday sermons about was going on, from a perspective of awareness of its eternal significance. And so every Friday the bloodshed would start right back up again.

    Now how about one a bit closer to home: The principle leaders of the civil rights movement in America were… preachers. I’m talking about where the credit goes generally for the accomplishments attained. Sure, there were politicians who enacted the laws, but elected officials only ever *are* elected officials to the extent that they respond to what voters, and those who foot the bill for their marketing of themselves to voters, elect to have done in this country (with relative political chaos, such as we seem to have in this country at present, being but the inevitable result of an electorate that, in many ways, doesn’t really know just what its priorities are). And sure, there were the learned men and women, scholars and professors, who worked tirelessly but largely behind the scenes, to lay the foundation for, to orchestrate, and to coordinate effective mass movements, and of course there were the everyday men and women who, relentless in their convictions, gave a mass movement its weight. But whence came the force to move these masses? It came from men (and probably a few women whom, for whatever reason, I fail to recall at the moment) such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the Rev. Jesse Jackson—men who were first and foremost spiritual leaders. And who better to shape and to guide the spirit of the times, in any generation?

  • LSS

    That is why WWJD is often a wrong question. Jesus could do certain things because of being God that regular people can’t get away with.

  • LSS

    If only we could get people to realize that the ultimate insult is “HUMAN” …

    Of course it also works as a compliment sometimes.

  • LSS

    Thank you for saying that. I will try to remember it for some of those times when i feel like that. At this moment i was mainly using my own example to make a point that a person’s heart can be more “backward” than their brain.

  • LSS

    With worse results.

  • Otter

    Any worldview that teaches its subjects or believers that they are superior to other humans is a spring board into the pool of opression. Makes no difference if it’s social, religious or politically driven system, the end result is someone ‘s going to be deemed unworthy and suffer, while others are privileged and exalted. And those who bekieve that they are privileged by virtue of their special relationship with God are particularly dangerous, because God isn’t likely to show up to refute their claims.

    As examples, I cite Swaggert, Baker, Robertson, Haggard, and the list goes on….

  • Otter

    And what, precisely, are those excellent Christians doing to limit the damage being done by the misguided ones?

    When they hear the likes of a certain presidential candidate cthreaten to dissolve all legal same-sex marriages and constitutuonally consign LGBT people to second class status do they rally against him, or shrug because the injustice doesr not affect them?

    Just wondering……

  • Sharla

    Hospitals and universities, in Europe, both began as church-affiliated organizations. Modern Western science began with Christian scholars seeking to understand God’s creation.

  • Ashley C

    Well, the reason they become insults is because people use these terms to insult others. It’s just like substituting the word ‘gay’ for ‘stupid’. It is INTENDED to be insulting towards the person the word or phrase is aimed at. Saying someone ‘rides the short bus’ is literally saying ‘you go to school with developmentally delayed people because you are also developmentally delayed”. How on earth is that NOT supposed to be hurtful to the group of people who are being used as an insult?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I was delayed and missed the short bus. So I hopped aboard the crazy train instead.

  • cat rennolds

    trust me, they’re out there. I say this as a pagan myself. power trippers, I-dotting T-crossers, holier-than-thou, you name it, the pagan religions have ’em too. the percentage just tends to be a lot lower.

    I will say they don’t tend to show up at your door with pamphlets at inconvenient times. Although I’ve thought about proselytizing in uniform (which for us is skyclad:)….”Are you afraid of Hell? Become a pagan! We don’t have one!”

  • cat rennolds

    yup, Lutherans are pretty much the only reason I was ever Christian at all. First minister I ever met who was HAPPY about Jesus. Although Episcopalians aren’t too far behind:) I don’t know a lot of Presbyterians, though.

  • LSS

    Please tell me that’s just a really poetic way to say “naked”. Otherwise i have to revise my whole mental image.

  • LSS

    I have an EpiscoPagan friend.

  • cat rennolds

    I LIKE that one:) I used to call myself a Zen Daoist Neopagan Christian Witch. Then for a while I tried UU, but I’m just not peaceful or liberal enough.

  • cat rennolds

    It’s a really poetic way to say naked….but what on Earth were you going to revise it TO?

  • LSS

    Like, skyblue body paint with glitter stars. It didn’t seem… Authentic enough, somehow.

  • Michelle P.

    That sounds absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing that with everyone.

  • Diana A.

    “Although I’ve thought about proselytizing in uniform (which for us is skyclad:)….’Are you afraid of Hell? Become a pagan! We don’t have one!'”

    LOL! If I didn’t think you’d end up in jail for indecent exposure, I’d tell you to do it!

  • Diana A.

    1) Some Christians are LGBT. Some are even out, loud, and proud.

    2) Some Christians are not LGBT themselves but have friends and loved ones who are.

    3) Most of the people in the two categories above are fighting for LGBT rights–in their churches, out in the streets (Gay Pride Parades), in the political realm, etc.

  • Otter

    That is wonderful….these are courageous people! I once saw a photo of Christians counter protesting the

    ” bigots with bull horns” at a Pride Parade. It was inspiring! They refused to stand by and just let the haters wreck the celebration

    But my perzception is that theses good folks are way way outnumbered by the bigoted sort……or maybe the bigots get a lot more media attention.

  • Alison

    Yeah it was, Diana A. That pastor ought to lose his preaching license at a minimum for saying something so outrageous. If I were to look up “insensitive a–hole” in the dictionary, I might find that guy’s picture. That’s the worst thing I’ve heard all day.

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, I can kinda see your point. But more and more of us Christians are coming around.

  • LSS

    i read some statistics that apparently the tide is turning. especially in younger generations of christians.

  • Dan(Chicago)

    Love that you were able to take control of the situation with just the shaking of your head. I’m sure the preacher still trembles with anger when he thinks about the laughing crowd.

  • Sharla

    The bigots get more media attention. They’re more interesting than the vast number of Christians going about their business quietly loving their neighbor and letting God worry about who’s sinning and who’s not. And the media likes to have someone on that can deliver a good controversy, like somebody from the American Family Association or the like, instead of having a representative of more reasonable, mainstream Christianity (such as the leader of my own denomination, Rev. Sharon Watkins, whom you may remember as preaching at the interfaith service the day after President Obama’s inauguration).

  • Diana A.

    Yes, this is true too.

  • Andrew Raymond

    You know, using LSS’s body paint idea, you might get away with it!

  • Andrew Raymond

    Well argued, Matthew. In my experience, that ‘other’ mentality is what seems to separate the positive religious from the negative. I’ve seen this in Catholics, Baptists, Muslims, Mormons and Buddhists personally. It seems like whenever you are dealing with people of faith (any faith) who practice their faith from the heart, you are dealing with some of the best people on earth. Whereas when you are dealing with people who use their faith to separate the world into ‘us’ and ‘other’, then you are apparently dealing with a dangerous maniac of the worst kind.

  • Andrew Raymond

    Nice thought, Beth!

  • Andrew Raymond

    The other simple reason for this, unfortunately, is that it is MUCH easier to lead people to hate than it is to lead them to love. Every despot in history learned this early in their career.

  • I’m late reading this – just returned from a badly needed vacation to a desk full of work and an inbox full of email.

    As a minister who does a fair number of weddings, I’m appalled at this story – and the stories in the comments. Appalled, but not surprised. I remember my brother-in-law’s first wedding where the priest went on and on about a couple who were to be married, but the bride died in a car accident days before the wedding. The groom-to-be sent a veritable mountain of roses to the funeral. His point? More than 3 decades later, I’m still not sure…

    I never, ever “preach” at a wedding. I do offer a homily (no longer than 2 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font). The homily talks about the couple, their love, their values, their bright (we hope) future together. I usually do offer a few thoughts on handling change over the years ahead, and I try for a little humor along the way (usually). Most of the couples I marry are of different faith backgrounds, don’t belong to a church/other religious institution, or are same gender couples. I work with the couple on the amount of religious language they want, rituals they’d like included, etc. I also rarely attend receptions – unless the couple attend the church I serve, or I’ve known them personally for some time.

    I met a colleague of another tradition at a premarital counseling training course once who told me his ‘rules’ for couples who want him to marry them. Yeah, none of the couples I’ve married would have qualified. How sad, because I think he missed Jesus’ core message of love.

    I agree with Alice Walker when she wrote this about love (and God is love, right?):

    “Love is not concerned/with whom you pray/or where you slept/the night you ran away/from home/love is concerned/that the beating of your heart/should kill no one.”

    I also have a funeral story, truly awful… (not one I did, one I attended).

  • Joyce

    What a thoughtful comment! Love the poetry you quote.

    I would like to hear the funeral story, too.

  • Thank you, Joyce. This piece by Alice Walker is a particular favorite.

    The funeral story:

    This happened about 6 or 7 years ago. The deceased was my aunt, my mother’s much older half-sister. I don’t recall ever actually meeting her, but I know her children (sort of). My spouse and I attended to support my mother.

    I’m hazy on the order in which things happened, but…

    –The minister vividly described the heaven that my aunt had been welcomed into, that she was ‘strolling down streets of gold, hand-in-hand with Jesus,’ and no longer in pain. (It made me wonder how he knew what heaven looked like?)

    –The minister sang during the service. Several times. Each time reminding us that his CDs were available for purchase in the foyer from his lovely wife/organist. (Where’s Jesus to send the moneychangers out of the temple when you really need him?)

    –There was a time during the service that came perilously close to an altar call, where the minister went on a roll about sin and salvation and the need to get right with God. This might have been bearable if he hadn’t chosen to focus on the youngest folks up front (my aunt’s grand- and great-grand-children); e.g., “I know you are probably missing your grandma right now. I hope you all know that it’s possible you will see your grandma again, but only if…” (I have no patience with people who use religion to frighten children.)

    As I became visibly upset during the lengthy service, my dear spouse (bless him!) leaned over and whispered to me, “Think of it as an anthropological expedition. What strange and interesting customs these people have.”

  • alwr

    Only certain kinds of Christians can really love is not an uncommon sentiment in their circles. I was a young teacher in a Christian school when Princess Diana died. Several students and a few staff members proclaimed that her sons would not have any real grief because the family was immoral and un-Christian thus they didn’t really love each other. No one argued with them. I found the sentiments completely horrifying.