April 11, 2008

Nonbeliever In Church Series

My esteemed colleague and fellow Mississippi Atheists contributor, Oliver, has been inspired by Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) to begin a series of posts reporting on his experience at various churches in the South (mostly Mississippi). The most recent post in Oliver's Non-Believer in Church series is absolutely terrifying and reminds me that we still have much work to do in opposing Christian extremism.

Oliver's description of the manner in which the pastor at First Free Will Baptist Church worked his congregation into a frenzy and told them that abortion and homosexuality were sins certainly fits with the "old-fashioned preaching" the church advertised. However, this extremist went an additional step, extolling his congregation to speak out against these sins even if they had family members involved in them. And we wonder why life can be so difficult for homosexual teenagers!

The pastor Oliver encountered here embodies the "stereotype" many atheists have of the bible-beating Christians that thrive here in the South. Sad to say, there is more than a little truth to this depiction.
He wanted to bring the Bible and prayer back into our schools. He warned his congregation that if they tried to bring the Bible into schools, the government would oppose them, but do not worry: God will be on side of God, and God's side always wins. Everything the preacher said was shouted. The people shouted "Praise the Lord!", "Praise Jesus!", and "Amen" though all of this. The preacher was talking fast and loud and everyone had their hands up in the air. I felt like I was at a cattle auction without any cattle.
I commend Oliver for his courageous reporting. I'm not sure I could do it, and yet, I am glad that someone is willing to do so. Not having been raised into fundamentalist Christianity myself, I have much to learn about its inner workings. I will certainly be following Oliver's series with great interest.

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