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Editor’s Note: Thanks, readers, for your loud, broad response to last week’s cover story, “Smells Like Holy Spirit” (LEO, April 9). Unfortunately, we only have the space to print a fraction of the responses. But please, keep ’em coming. We do love to know you care.
I’m writing to thank Stephen George for his feature article (LEO, “Smells Like Holy Spirit,” April 9) about Sojourn. Recent “journalism” in another Louisville free weekly regarding “progressive” or hip churches (Southeast and Sojourn/The930) has been little more than commercials. George’s investigation and his grappling with some of the important questions was interesting and informative, and long overdue.
A few suggestions for possible follow-up reporting:
The political and theological battle at Southern Seminary was over long before 1998 — the board had been taken over by fundamentalists in 1990, and Mohler was made president in 1993. Also, the Southern Baptist Convention didn’t just “endorse” slavery: It was specifically created in 1845 out of a belief that slavery was good and biblically condoned.
Sojourn is not merely Southern Baptist, or just fundamentally conservative in its teachings. Their theology is almost surely Calvinistic (i.e. Reformed, so think theistic determinism, writ large), and they hold to inerrancy, which means they believe that the Bible they insist must be followed so literally is the perfect and singular written Word of God. It would have been interesting to see you delve deeper into such things, perhaps by asking some of your interviewees where there is any room for church members to “question and interpret their faith” when the faith the church teaches consists of doctrines that are unquestionable, unarguable and not open to dissent.
In the end, it’s that same tension that your article kept returning to. If a church is “not pursuing its own agenda,” but their pastor is saying, “Dude, unapologetically what’s driving everything we’re doing is the gospel of Jesus Christ,” can both be true?
Derek Knisely, Louisville
Got No Spirit
Smells like Holy Spirit? Smelled like Holy Shit to me. I could care less how people choose to be religious, but what a waste of space to fill five pages of LEO to discuss a bunch of homophobes who treat women as second-class citizens and insist that the LEGAL right to have an abortion is murder.
Maybe in the coming weeks you could fill five pages with the beliefs of white supremacists. Any good they attempt to do is destroyed by their intent to mind-fuck the American public. Reform homosexuals? Why don’t you work on reforming your own archaic, idiotic, brain-dead beliefs?
Richard Hodge, Louisville
The Great Pretenders
Just finished reading the Sojourn article, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. It is quite possibly one of the more disturbing things I’ve read in quite some time. That being said, I can’t quite put my finger on what has me so upset. Sure, they’ve dressed the place up, put on a different face and appear to do some good things in the community, but when you come right down to it, Sojourn is really nothing more than your typical, right-wing nuthouse preaching prejudice and hate. Add in the fact that they are buying up property in the area, and it has all the trademarks of something far more sinister.
That they appeal to a younger generation, one that I assumed to be a bit more open-minded, is somewhat surprising and, quite frankly, depressing. I would have assumed that by aligning itself with Al Mohler and the Southern Baptist Seminary, one of the most oppressive institutions around, it would make it hard to recruit young members. Clearly I was wrong. At a time when there are a great many churches that truly are welcoming, it’s a shame that pretenders like Sojourn seem to be doing so well.
Kelly Armstrong, Louisville
After reading Stephen George’s article “Smells Like Holy Spirit,” I couldn’t help but smell the stench of patriarchy. I would advise young people who are into progressive Christianity to avoid groups like this and check out the Emerging Church Movement. The Emerging Church Movement is bringing the ancient symbols of the faith back into the sanctuary, such as the altar, cross, incense and labyrinth, while at the same time taking a futurist look to theology.
I would advise young Christians to read “Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope” by Brian D. McLaren, who is one of the leaders of the Emerging Church Movement.
Richard Clark, Salem, Ind.
Sin is Sin
A very good, objective article by Stephen George. It’s sad, though, that Mr. Phelps and Ms. Fields have to label people as bigots because they believe homosexual behavior (like fornication) is sinful. People believe the behavior is sinful because the Bible declares it so.
Ms. Fields and Mr. Phelps claim to be ministers of Christianity. Where, then, did they attain their knowledge to proclaim what they believe as Christian truths? Must not be the Holy Bible, for it proclaims homosexuality as sin. If they’re not using the Bible as their guide to being a Christian, what are they using? The words of other people’s thoughts or their own reasonings? If so, they are guilty of idolatry by making God into their own image instead of the one presented in God’s holy word.
Jesus himself said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” This pretty much shoots a hole in Mr. Phelps’ argument about different ways to know God. I just don’t understand why people like him even mess with Christianity when they’re always trying to change God’s unchanging truths. Can someone tell me why?
Bob Lee, Louisville
Dear Stephen George:
I did enjoy your article. I think it is great that you seek out the unusual things that are going on in Louisville. It reaffirms my belief that this is an incredible city. The answer to the anomaly of a hip contemporary conservative movement might be found in the title of the article itself. It might just be that the Holy Spirit falls on the Hip, as well as the Unhip, on the Cool, as well as the Uncool. The Holy Spirit can fall on the educated, uneducated, smart, stupid, rich, poor, sane, insane, jocks, nerds, geeks, frat boys, and all races and nations. In other words, the Spirit is not prejudiced. John 3:8 compares Him to the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” This is the radicalism of Jesus. The progressives are no more the authorities for what is cool than the talk-radio gasbags are the authorities for what is conservative.
Jim Wilson, Louisville
Stephen George and the other contributors’ articles on the five years of the disaster still referred to as “war” provided great viewpoints (LEO, March 26), but unmentioned was a huge consequence of the war. The three presidential candidates and most mainstream news articles seem to miss it as well. Such is the plight of the Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. In fact, this is such a huge consequence of the war, and dare I say, Mr. Bush’s fault, but the United States seems to refuse to acknowledge this aspect.
The cost per day of the U.S. “war” in Iraq is $250 million. The United States allocated $800 million-plus from 2003-2006 to be spent to support U.N. agencies and NGOs working with Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. One week’s budget of U.S. war spending is more than the TOTAL ANNUAL budget of the U.N. High Commission of Refugees operations WORLDWIDE. Currently, the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq has made refugees and IDP of more than 4 million Iraqis, or one in five. Between 2003 and the end of 2007, the United States has allowed only 7,500 to seek refuge. Yet until 2007, only 500 refugees have been allowed into the United States, but it was pledged that in 2007, that extra 7,000 would supposedly be let in. The administration categorizes these refugees as carriers of conflict, among other names.
How much aid do we give to the countries who are taking in these people (many middle class professionals)? Not so much. In fact, Syria has taken in 1.5 million refugees, Jordan almost 1 million. And fancy this: Canada hopes to resettle 3,300 refugees in 2008, and Sweden has taken in more than 100,000. What were those numbers again for the United States? Obviously, refugees in such numbers were just one more consequence the Bush administration did not consider before launching this mess.
Lauren Banko, Louisville