Church spat

Local church splits over gay ordination

As a former deacon and choir member of the Fremont Presbyterian Church, I am saddened at the recent vote to split from the Presbyterian Church USA over the issue of gay ordination. The congregation voted 427-164 to secede from the national denomination and join the more staid Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

As evolution moves Earth’s humanity in new directions of thought, it also isolates those who—because of an addiction to traditional belief systems—cling to the past. After all, since we have a mind, we are obliged to think. And if our thoughts are stagnant, then we need a mental renovation to clean out the prejudiced thought patterns that keep reaching out to eclipse our creative imagination.

Every day a huge portion of humanity arises and goes about its duties with some form of highly prejudicial and primitive religious thought pattern permanently mired deep within its consciousness. This pattern determines the dynamics of what one person thinks of another and his and her attitude toward other people, religions, different nations, different races and the whole diversity of life in general.

Today, too many churchgoers see it as their sacred duty, under the guise of witnessing their God to others, to denigrate all other religious concepts as worthless. This is unconscionable, given the fragile infrastructure of the world today. We must make room for diversity or else fail as a society.

This addiction to traditional beliefs is the main reason I put all organized religion behind me long ago. I just didn’t want the church to do my spiritual thinking for me.

Author Elaine Pagels, in her skillfully written and researched book Adam, Eve and the Serpent, writes about the ancient Gnostics’ insistence that scriptures were not meant to be understood as literal, but as spiritual allegory. “Read this way,” she explains, “the text became a shimmering surface of symbols, inviting the spiritually adventurous to explore its hidden depths.”

In Timothy II, 3:16, the Apostle Paul tells us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” And “reproof” means the “act of censuring or rebuking.” The meaning of the word “correction” is obvious. Thus, here we have the actual founder and promulgator of Christianity telling us to lighten up and correct, or reproof, old scriptural concepts that have outlived their usefulness.

Thus, we must today choose whether Paul is wrong or decide for ourselves what constitutes doing God’s work. Will we drive good people from the church just for thinking differently?

If history tells us anything it tells us that splits—whether over religious doctrine, politics, racial issues or whatever—are destructive in many ways to both sides. I believe everyone would do well to look at their own belief system and honestly evaluate whether they are on the side of evolution, which is lurching toward a unity of diversity, or devolution, which has always been fed by prejudice and hate.

We are thus left with two choices: Will we continue to dig our own spiritual grave, or will we take wing to a new world of compassion and love? Will we follow Jesus, or church dogma?