And now for something completely different
What is sin? Not bad as a philosophical question goes, I think--lots of options, lots of belief systems to discuss. I tend to go with Robert Heinlein's definition that sin is hurting another person unnecessarily, but there's lots of open space for debate there.
Unless you're a member of East Waynesville Baptist Church. There, it seems, the most heinous of sins, is to be a Democrat who voted for John Kerry. Now, to have voted for Kerry in the primaries may indeed have been sinful, even by my definition (but I snark here), but it certainly wasn't "you've got to repent or you'll be cast out of the church and into the everlasting pits of damnation and hellfire" sin. It was more of a "if you live in Iowa and you vote for him again in 2008, I'll kick you really hard" kind of sin.
But that's not good enough for--and I'm not making this name up--Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist. From the Asheville Citizen-Times:
WAYNESVILLE — Nine members of a local church had their membership revoked and 40 others left in protest after tension over political views recently came to a head, church members say.
About 20 members of the 400-member East Waynesville Baptist Church voted the nine members out at a recent deacon meeting, which turned into an impromptu business meeting, according to congregants.
Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.
“He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said.
Now for a quick theology lesson. The New Testament is pretty explicit about the place of the church in politics--it doesn't belong there. Forget that the Catholics have ignored that injunction since the tenth century at least, and that Protestants have ever since they first protested--Jesus and Paul were on the same page on this one. The church shouldn't get involved in politics. Jesus told Pilate "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) He said much the same to Peter earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane when he told Peter to return his sword to his sheath after healing the ear of Malchus, slave of the high priest. (John 17:10,11) As for Paul, well, chapter 13 of his letter to the Romans pretty much sets out the church's official opinion on who has secular authority--"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."
Pretty clear to me that if you're a christian, then your church has no fucking business dealing with politics. You can have all the opinion you like as an individual--there's no injunction against it in the Bible as far as I can tell--but the church is supposed to stay the hell out of it.
Chan Chandler, your theology is seriously fucked up. I understand how it could happen, what with you spending all your time hating on gays (something else the New Testament is strangely silent on) and abortion and obviously neglecting your Bible study, but you know, maybe you could get back to it, especially if your church loses its tax exempt status as a result of this action.