Summary: What is happening in Christendom today is not an aberration in the history of the church, nor is it irrelevant in respect to what will happen tomorrow. What we do today will have a major impact on the Christianity of our children and our grandchildren.
As the pastor was summing up the messages and information portion of the morning service he remarked that all church leaders and administrative personnel needed to attend a meeting Thursday evening. It was imperative that they attend.
When Thursday evening rolled around, the church leaders and administrators found they were being visited by 5 government officials. The pastor attempted to initiate introductions, but a distinguished looking silver haired gentleman interrupted him with the remark: ‘Introductions are irrelevant. We are here to address a very serious issue. We have abundant and conclusive evidence that your organization conducts public meetings where hateful and threating remarks are directed toward others.’ Holding up a hand to silence the preacher’s attempt to interrupt, the silver haired gentleman continued: ‘Before you attempt to tell me what your constitutional rights are, let me remind you that you are a business operating under Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(C)(3) privileges, which have been allotted to you by the state … the requirements of which supersede constitutional rights afforded to the individual citizen.’ The room went deadly still as everyone was subdued by the dynamic and authoritarian presence of the silver haired gentleman.
After what seemed like an eternity the silver haired gentleman resumed speaking: ‘You do realize you are a 501(C)(3) business do you not?’ Again there was an awkwardly long silence. Eventually, one of the elders cleared his throat and replied, ‘we are aware of the fact that we are a not-for-profit church.’ ‘You are incorrect,’ punctuated a rather mousey looking government lady. The mousey looking lady clasped her hands together on the table as she looked around at the church members. She calmly spoke: ‘it would behoove you to read IRC Section 501(C)(3) and relevant references.’ She paused to let the people grasp the fact that they really had no understanding of the IRC law that made them a non-profit corporation. She went on: ‘You call yourself a church, but in the eyes of the government, and by the laws you have agreed to, and obligated yourselves under; you are a corporation that must be organized and operated under the precepts of the federal government. Now, I will admit that if you do not wish to remain a non-profit corporation, which is organized and operated according to the law, you are free to relinquish the benefits of being a 501(C)(3) business. I should inform you, however, that the contract your corporation originally entered into does not specify disbursement of corporate assets; therefore, this building and all assets can become the property of the government; per IRC Section 501(C)(3), which was agreed to by those who originally established this corporation’ A middle aged government man, with a strong military bearing, arrogantly spoke: ‘the IRS agent is absolutely correct. Your business agreed to be organized and operated according to government directives … there is no alternative.’ The silver haired gentlemen stood up: ‘let us not get unpleasant. I am sure Dr. Feinstein can better explain why we are here and help us arrive at a proper conclusion.”
Dr. Feinstein stood up: ‘Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce myself. I am a Jewish rabbi. I am also an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I have a doctorate of Ministry from Oral Roberts University. I am also very active on the council for Catholic ecumenical and interfaith relations. So you see I am not unsympathetic to your situation. I realize that you probably do not harbor hateful or threating thoughts toward anyone … after all our God is a God of love and not a God of hate. Still it is like Pope Francis said: “In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?” What the Pope so eloquently said is absolutely true. When we focus on the teachings of Jesus instead of Jesus we eventually can no longer see Jesus. We worship the teachings … not the teacher. Thus, we develop our own peculiar affinity toward the teaching, which causes us to lose tolerance for those who do not share our love of our particular ideology. We become so focused on trying to follow our interpretation of 1st century logic that we become disconnected from modern moral and social norms; thus, we replace the dynamic and ever adapting love of Jesus with rigid ideological doctrines and manmade church creeds, which poorly pattern themselves after outdated 1st century precepts. When this happens we inadvertently say things that others take as being hateful and threatening. Now, assuredly no sane person would want to be guilty of doing this. That is why we are here this evening. We want to help you remain a vibrant and effect voice for the love of God, but without echoing hateful and threating sounds. There is absolutely no need for you to relinquish your rights as a nationally recognized church.”