Monday, December 04, 2006

The Farming of Thistles

A couple post-worthy events happened in the last week that I didn’t have the time to write much about, so I’ll try to play a bit of catch-up during my brief bouts of free time.

Last Tuesday, my brother posted a brief note about Becca Stevens, the founder of Thistle Farms in Nashville, a noble organization that aims to provide aid to women who need to recover from addictions and prostitution. He refers to her as ‘the finest preacher I know,’ and based on a brief quote he gave, I can believe it:

“…And God forgive us when our theology becomes a position to defend and not a story of serving others in our lives…”

The aptness of those words was posted by my brother ironically on the same day that an article came out in the New York Times, covering the resignation of the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, the Reverend Joel C. Hunter, who is also a pastor of one of those ‘mega’ churches sprouting up all over America like mushrooms after thec rain. His church, Northland, helpfully is posting a live webcam of its future facility construction, posted by its ‘Ministry of Construction.’ I don’t want to beat down Northland too much here – it strikes me as more of the ‘watered down’ catechism churches designed to appeal to the masses than Ted Haggard’s fire and brimstone approach. And at least his church doesn’t seem to have a Starbucks franchise inside.

And I also don’t want to rag on him too much because of why he quit the Christian Coalition. As the article says:

“..Dr. Hunter has argued that a large number of conservative Christians feel that right-wing religious groups do not represent them, because they focus their energies too narrowly on what he calls moral issues, often to the exclusion of economic and environmental concerns…Dr. Hunter said that although Mrs. Combs [chairwoman of the Coalition] had indicated that the organization also wanted to expand its priorities to include the issues that concerned him, the board backed away from such a commitment during a conference call last Tuesday. By the end of the call, Dr. Hunter and the coalition had decided to part amicably, according to both sides.”

Said Mrs. Combs:

“We’re a political organization, and there’s a way to do things, like taking a survey of your members and seeing what they need,” she said. “Joel had a different way of doing things, so he just went out there.”

I love the idea of poll-testing religious faith. Dr. Hunter seems to be running into the same ‘Christian’ wall that the Republican Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, ran into three years ago when he tried unsuccessfully to pitch a tax increase as aiding Christ’s ministry for the poor. The tax increase was designed to increase taxes on the rich and lower them on the poor, while raising an additional $1.2 billion for education and social services. The measure was soundly defeated by the 93% of Alabaman’s who self identify as Christian, forcing the governor to cut the budget of state agencies by 18 percent.

I hope that Becca Stephens is as rhetorically gifted as my brother says – she has a lot of work to do among the Christian ‘Faithful.’