Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Cotton Patch Story (based on John 9-sort of)

There was once a man who was a current member and former deacon of the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem, who began to question many of the doctrines he was taught, but was afraid to tell anyone in his faith community about his questions.

During this time of doubt and uncertainty, his job was terminated. The large corporation he worked for decided that the money invested in his job could be best utilized as a pay raise and incentive for the top managers already making 10 times more than what he was earning as a service worker.

Unable to find work, he soon found himself in a men’s home existing on food stamps. Unemployment had been terminated when the Tea Party became the dominant party in government. Fortunately, they had not yet been able to do away with food stamps.

A former member of FBC, Jerusalem and former professor at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Jerusalem ran into him at a local jobs fair, where the former professor learned about his plight.

The former professor invited his friend to stay with him until he could get on his feet. He helped him explore some of his faith questions and found him a job as a bartender with a friend who owned a local sports pub.  

The professor had been fired from the seminary when the new president took control of the school. The professor believed that Jesus was the revelation of God, but not God himself. He believed that the Bible was a medium for the living Word of God, but not the literal Word of God. He believed that all people reflected God’s image and were children of God, not just those who believed certain doctrines his church and seminary believed. He believed in marriage equality and equal protection under the law for the LGBT community, and he stood with them in their struggle for equal rights. For these beliefs he was fired and cast out of the seminary.

Eventually word reached the FBC of Jerusalem that a former deacon and current member had been working as a bartender and was associating with a heretical professor and questioning many of the fundamentals of the faith. When the deacons met in council they decided to first ask his parents who were long time members of the church. 

When asked about his recent activities, the man’s parents kept silent, for they feared the power of the church deacons and their ability to have them shunned and disenfranchised by the church body. They said, “We don’t know, you will have to ask him.”

So they called the man in before the deacon council. Presiding as chair was the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Jerusalem. They encouraged him to find a more respectable vocation and to cut off all association with the heretical professor and affirm the certitudes of the faith. They said, “We know that this man who is causing you to question your faith is not of God. He does not believe in or speak the truth.”

The man replied, “This is most strange indeed. This one you condemn took me in and gave me a place to stay. He listened to my questions and encouraged me to seek the truth for myself. He helped me find employment and has been a compassionate friend. Does he not do the works of Jesus? How is he not of God? How is it that you do not see?

Furious at his reply, the council of deacons cast him off the church membership roll, for they had been given such power at the last church business meeting. Congratulating themselves for being true to the faith and satisfied that God’s will had been done, they saw the former member to the door and dismissed the proceedings.

The man ventured over to a local café where he ordered a cup of the house blend and retired to a near-by park where he sat on a bench, sipped his coffee, and reflected on the events of the day.

Deep in thought, he was caught up in a vision. Jesus appeared, “Fear not, my dearly beloved. I am with you always. Do not be anxious about being cast out of the church. They threw me out several years ago.”



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