Monday, August 14, 2006

stupid statements from the pulpit

I guess we all have moments where someone says something so ridiculous we're unable to contain ourselves. Mine seem to come in church.

One time a couple years ago I was at a New Jersey megachurch where the preacher -- a venerable fellow, he was the head of the entire Pillar of Fire ministry, I believe -- said, without offering any support for his statement, that the book of Job refers to dinosaurs. I made such an audible noise of derision that several heads turned to look at me.

He was referring, one presumes, to Leviathan and Behemoth, but given the context it seems likely that Leviathan is an alligator and Behemoth a hippo. Creationists some time ago decided that Leviathan was diplodocus or something, and that Behemoth was a brontosaur (or apatosaur, as is now fashionable), but there's no contextual basis for such a claim, nor is there any accompanying illustration in the earliest MSS to support such a claim.

It's clear it's just some creationist wish-fulfillment at work; i.e., "We need dinosaurs in the Bible. Where can we find them?"

Another time, when I was attending the Assemblies of God, the pastor made some comment about the church providing all the community a believer could need. I didn't even realize I was doing it, but I snorted so loudly that the pastor himself stopped and looked at me.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember once hearing a pastor make the bizarre claim that, even though Jesus turned water into wine, and that there was wine present at the last supper, "Jesus never touched booze." That was priceless.

I also went to a few schools that claimed that the dinosaurs and people lived at the same time. One of them, in Texas (of course) actually had yearly excavation field trips, and the teacher claimed to have once found a dinosaur footprint (fossilized, of course) with a human footprint embedded in the middle.

Sometimes I'm embarassed by my Christian family.

Hunter Barnes said...

love your writing, but let me be a bit nit-picky here and question your description of Zarephath as a "New Jersey Megachurch". Attendance while you were there hovered around 450. Hardly in the "mega" realm. Seeing your penchant for accuracy I thought I'd be a bit of a gadfly and chime in with a correction. alligators inflated to dinosaurs or inflating a church into "mega" status...rhetorical style can get the best of all of us, venerable preacher or man in the pew eh? :)
Hope your well. would like to a look at your scripts one of these days.

peace.

marauder said...

Good to hear from you, Hunter. (And let this be a reminder to all that although cyberspace is infinite, it is bounded on all sides and not as big as infinity would first appear.)

I half-agree with your point. The megachurch label *is* inaccurate, provided the term's proper usage depends solely on attendance figures. I've always thought that whether a church counts as a "megachurch" depends on more than just how many people show up on a Sunday morning, though.

Aside from attendance -- which at 450 is still more than nine times the congregation I now attend in Nova Bastille -- Zarephath Christian Chapel also has a radio station that broadcasts to most of New Jersey, New York City, and parts of Pennsylvania; a working farm; a dining hall; a gymnasium that is not in the church basement, and a separate library building; an auxiliary chapel the same size as (or bigger than) some churches I've attended; its own Bible college, with a freestanding cafeteria building that is also used for some church events; and a K-12 school with its own buildings and athletic fields, in addition to other buildings I never knew the purpose of. And the paid staff includes ministers for music, preaching, youth, drama, and children, plus secretaries and any other ministers I never became aware of. I don't know if there are any volunteer staff -- my impression is not, at least not in positions of responsibility or leadership -- but even without them, Zarephath has a sizeable staff directory.

From my perspective, anyway, that's a megachurch.