I’m a Christian.
Beyond that, I’m pretty committed to the Presbyterian church. Part of it is that the church traditionally favors ministers who give really good sermons; my dad was a speech teacher, and “giving speaker points” is kind of the family business. More importantly, I believe the Presbyterian book of worship puts less temporal fuzz between man and Christ than any other denomination.
And American democracy was influenced for the better by the Presbyterian church’s manner of temporal government.
But the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US, has been pulling *hard* to the left since I was in my twenties. They’ve dived deep into the “social justice” swamp; some congregations go out of their way to make it *extremely* uncomfortable to dissent with church leadership, not on matters of faith, but on matters of temporal government policy and social belief.
And it shows. The PCUSA is on track to disappear, demographically, by 2040 – worse than the Episcopals. Its membership is collapsing faster than the Cleveland Indians every June. It’s easier to find a closed PCUSA church than an operating one in most of the Twin Cities these days. And church leadership – the “General Assembly” – publicly calls this a feature, not a bug; they rejoice at all those dissenters leaving the PCUSA and going elsewhere. They are, in short, participating enthusiastically in tribalizing America – in pushing “The Big Sort” that is polarizing every facet of American life.
The hiring of a full-time gun control activist wrapped in an ecclesiastical costume is just a further nail in the PCUSA’s demographic coffin. I left the PCUSA 12 years ago; it’s a pity, because I’d leave them again if I could.
And I hate that – the fact that the PCUSA is driving people away from their spiritual home over matters that, in the eternal scheme of things, aren’t what the church is supposed to be into. Several of the most important, formative figures of my life are or were PCUSA pastors. Much of what I am today, at least the good stuff, is because of the influence that my church’s pastor and youth group leaders, and some of my Presbyterian-affiliated college faculty, had on me.
I don’t think that matters to the PCUSA anymore.
And when I say “ecclesiastical costume”, I’m being pretty charitable and neutral:
I expect resistance because when you talk about guns, you are tapping into the part of the brain that protects one’s identity. Guns and identity are linked for many people; that is why I have developed a spiritual practice that helps us shift our bodies from fight-or-flight mode and teaches us to welcome and hold with compassion all the sensations that arise in our bodies. When we connect with one another on the level of personal experience, it leads to empathy. Establishing empathy is key in peacemaking.
I’d be tempted to ask if she thinks that’d work with Nik Cruz, Dylan Roof, Omar Matteen and the like – but then, I’m pretty sure “dodging reality” is the reverend’s stock in trade.
If you’re a Presbyterian? There *are* options. I’ve moved to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The “Presbyterian Church in America” is also out there. I recommend you take a look at it, if you can.
By the way: “thoughts and prayers” – also known as reflection and rational thought – are *exactly* what is needed after a tragedy or atrocity – and nothing about thinking and praying rules out needed action. But thinking (and if you’re a believer, prayer/meditation/mindfulness) are nothing but a benefit when it comes to taking the *right* action.
And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to logroll you…
…oh, yeah. Never mind.