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December 12, 2007

Comments

emergentninja

1. $35!!! are you serious. what the hell is wrong with these people. i hope you get a bottle of wine and some popcorn before you take your seat and watch a virgin give birth to baby. although, it might be worth the ticket price to see a church member's baby laying in a ghost manger, wearing a golden diaper, watching a baby einstien video.

2. in our local paper, a woman wrote in and advised people to not underestimate the power of prayer, b/c her daughter who is a "devout christian" said that she found out huckabee was a good christian man and has been praying for him ever since. she the goes on to write that his recent surge is due to the prayers of the faithful.

...well, i'm off to burn incense for obama.

Adam Smithee

"Jesus must be crying with joy at that bit of magnanimity."

That line just killed me.

I do find it ironic that you can spend less money at a movie theater WITH popcorn and drinks than you would at seeing a 2nd rate production that would include camels taking a big dump in the sanctuary. Oh they want to get the smells of the manger as authentic as possible....

Larry

I think the hypocrisy meter just exploded.

Why is it a bad thing for Churches to produce a pageant/show/musical? I guess the Bible forbids us from expressing our creativity and if we do, it needs to cost less than $50. You would have felt right at home with the disciples who criticized Jesus for letting the woman "waste" perfume on his feet. They gave the same lame reasons you did about "doing something for the poor." They, like you, probably didn't really care about the poor as much as they did wanting to hear themselves sound so admirably "concerned."

How bout you tell us how much you spend on Yellowtail wine so we can lambast you for wasting money on getting drunk at a movie while others are scrounging through the dumpster looking for something to eat? How much do you spend on food? Movies? Beer/wine?

And I'm not sure what the problem is with Mike Huckabee mentioning that he could be recieving God's help. He might be wrong, but to say categorically that God isn't involved, or that he couldn't affect the race is absurd and unbiblical. Please quit telling us what God will and won't do in one breath and while telling us that we have no clue about God and his activities in another.

What we know about God is found in the Bible. If you don't believe that, then you shouldn't be telling others what they can believe.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at your gift of criticising the world's foremost charitable organization, the Christian Church. After all...

"Some things you just can't know; for everything else, there's cynicism."


greg

Larry Bird? When did you become a grating voice from the right? Damn. I used to love to watch you play.

Adam Smithee

Larry,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a church putting on a yearly production of the Christmas story.

However the criticism in case you missed it, and clearly you did, is the church justifying 1.3 million and then charging people 35 dollars to see a play. You can put on a good production that won't cost that much money and guess what? You won't need to charge people to see it either.

The last time I checked salvation is free to all and I would like for you to justify how a church can charge people for something that should be free?

emergentninja

a sign i saw last year in southwest missouri...

come see the baby camel in our lobby.

Jennifer

You know, when you come out of OBU with a theatre degree, everyone assumes that you're infinitely qualified to direct or even star in these big ol' Baby Jesus productions.

It always troubled me because it always seemed that such productions cheapened the story. I've never seen a very well written script for the extravaganza (The Gospels offer only narrative, not much dialogue. I've seldom seen that narrative translated well.) and so the story is sacrificed for inflated production values.

Furthermore, it always strikes me as hilarious that the big ol megachurch is usually a cousin of the iconoclasts who wanted no human depictions of Jesus.

That said, is paying to see one of these productions is insane! I didn't pay much more than $35 to see Derek Jacobi in Beckett or the Tony winning production of A Doll's House several years back!!

We know the story, and I think it plays better when we demonstrate that the story matters.

louferrigno

My personal favorite quote was the part where the guy who is unqualified to talk about other people because he doesn't believe the bible said, "Merry Fucking Christmas"....just something funny about seeing that written out.

Jennifer, that was one of my favorite quotes of the day, maybe the week: "We know the story, and I think it plays better when we demonstrate that the story matters." Well stated and well summarized for those that miss the point...no offense Larry.

bobstevens
Are church folk so daft that they don't see the bitter irony of spending that sort of money to entertain their own people while others are starving outside their doors?

Yes. But it's worth pointing out that daftness isn't a problem that has anything specific to do with Christianity.

More like... everyone's lives are different, so everyone chooses to accept some things without criticism and to adopt or discard other things after a thoughtful analysis. The correctness of religion seems to be in the former category for many, along with other things like the ridiculousness of the political system or foreign affairs policies or traffic laws or etc etc.

I guess I'm saying it's an occasionally sad reality that people aren't very thoughtful about a lot of things. Cognitive dissonance is the rule rather than the exception.

Larry

So where's the criticism of Hollywood spending multiple millions of dollars PER MOVIE? Where's the criticism of sports leagues who spend multiple millions on players and games? Again, all you do is point the finger at the most charitable organization in the history of the world and whine about how wasteful they are. It's the height of duplicity. We do show the spirit in giving more throughout the year than anyone else. We also give and donate more during the holidays than anyone else (not just time, but money, talent, food, clothing, etc...)

Why don't you start at the bottom and verbally lambast those who do nothing, then move to those who do almost nothing, then those who do a little bit. Eventually, you'll get to the movement who has led the way where charity is concerned form most of the modern era... the Christian Church. Hopefully, before that, you'll have had to address you own effort(s) and will realize that it's silly to complain about others when your own comparative contributions are much more deserving of criticism.

Of course it's easier to just bad-mouth the Church. Most people aren't honest enough to critique themselves first. If you like the Bible so much (and I'm assuming by now that you might not) then get the (yule) log out of your own eye first.

Leighton
So where's the criticism of Hollywood spending multiple millions of dollars PER MOVIE?

Last thread back. You can't miss it.

greg

Larry,

Maybe you didn't notice that Hollywood, which by the way is not a monolithic, univocal entity despite what evangelicals say in their fundraising pitches, is not a charitable organization. They don't promise salvation. They don't promise to help the widow and the orphan. It's not their telos, if you will. That applies to the NBA, NFL, music artists, and cynics like me. There is no sacred text that tells us we MUST do something, nor is there a standard of behavior relative to care for the poor as there is in the book you claim is so important. It would help if you would use honest analogies and quit with the "what about them?" crap.

Leighton
Yes. But it's worth pointing out that daftness isn't a problem that has anything specific to do with Christianity.

More like... everyone's lives are different, so everyone chooses to accept some things without criticism and to adopt or discard other things after a thoughtful analysis. The correctness of religion seems to be in the former category for many, along with other things like the ridiculousness of the political system or foreign affairs policies or traffic laws or etc etc.

I tend to agree that there's nothing specifically wrong with most American churches that isn't also wrong in the overwhelming majority of human institutions. One mitigating factor, though, is that it isn't nearly so universal to find organizations that purport to teach people to grow, while giving them a thinner and thinner skin to criticism (whether deserved or not) as time goes by; or organizations that purport to be doing not just good, but the most good of anyone in the world, and that anyone who isn't doing things exactly the way they do it needs to shut the fuck up and start taking their orders.

A shorter way of putting this is that many American churches are more authoritarian, on average, than most human institutions, with the consequence that however much good they do for outsiders, they continue to mistake some of their greatest weaknesses for their greatest strengths. "It doesn't matter" is common; "Wrong is right" less so. What wrongs are considered right varies from group to group, but some of my least favorite examples from churches I used to be involved in are warmongering, propagation of ethnic and religious bigotry*, and actively campaigning against helping poor people until they "help themselves" to the benevolent church's satisfaction.

But I also think the nearly universal thin skin of the American church usually means that most people criticizing it from the outside does less than no good, since instead of inspiring reflection, it provokes a circling of the wagons and a re-entrenchment of whatever institutional problems are in focus. I don't have the depth of contacts in Christian circles that Greg does, so I tend to restrict my involvement to occasional conversations with individuals.

-------
* "We think they're wrong" isn't bigotry (it's a statement of simple fact, and an obvious one at that); "They shouldn't have the same rights we do" or "We ought to drop nukes and turn them to dust" is bigotry.

Adam Smithee

Larry,

You're pretty angry, did someone take last last "Tickle Me Elmo" doll and therefore ruined your child's Christmas?

I also find it interesting that you sit and judge us when you claim we were judging the church. So by that standard you would be included in the halls of hypocrisy.

You never addressed the issue of the church spending an unnecessary amount on a "Play" and then charging people an over inflated cost to see it. You remained silent on the issue.

Again, re-read the post that Greg wrote about and get back to us when you have your big boy pants on.

Tim Sean

Larry mentioned that story when Judas chastizes Jesus and the woman for wasting resources that could have been used to help needy folks. It has always perplexed me.

I somewhat understand Jesus' response. Perhaps there was something about Judas' attitude or perhaps it was the extravagence of that particular moment with that particular woman. In that regard, maybe stories like those of the Flordia church ought to have get similar consideration.

Ok. Considered it. Nope.

Such costly productions are pretty silly, do cheapen the simplistic, rustic, unlikely context for the incarnation event. If God chose not to make a big regal production out of it (Big crazy star and singing angels excluded) then there is another layer of irony when we do.

Bathrobes and cardboard wings do more to capture the essence of unlikely entraces of God into the world.

Larry

I'll not argue Tim's comments that the home-made costumes and campy productions that often get presented offer some of the most "real" (simple, plain, common) elements of what Christmas really is/was. That's a matter of taste and even though I agree with it, it doesn't preclude another's offering of a much more complicated and ritzy production.

Greg, if you are just a cynic then you offer no substantial solution or encouragement. You, evidently, just like hearing yourself talk (and that's ok, it's your blog) but I just wanted to offer a little reality about the fact that regardless of your ability to disdain, the Chruch is the most overwhelming source of charity in the world. That's the truth and pretty much everyone knows it.

So how much do you give Greg? Can we see your checkbook and credit card statements so that we can pick apart where you went to the movies instead of giving to the homeless? You tell me to quit using false analogies, ok... let's review your bank account so that we can see how much you spend each month on entertainment or food or travel, while the homeless shelters (most of which are operated by faith-based groups) are brimming with the less-fortunate.

You really don't want to be that honest do you? Not honest enough to look your own self in the mirror? Just honest enough to point at the one group who is at this very minute running food banks, homeless shelters, orphanages, pregnancy centers, rehab centers, after-school programs, disaster relief assistance, at-risk children's centers, inner city organizations, retirement homes for the elderly, meals on wheels, free medical care in remote places of the world you've never even heard of, Christmas gifts for the children of the incarcerated, and that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Quit with the criticism of the church if you're really serious about your claiming to know what her mission is or how she should carry it out. She's (apparently without your help) doing a better job than her critics and her critics are only showing their ignorance by continuing to point to the one or two things that seem a little extravagant, while ignoring the vast and seemingly endless array of others that prove that Jesus is alive and well and that His followers are serious about helping the less-fortunate.

Adam,

No anger whatsoever. I'm not sure if you are married or not, but if you were and I called your wife a whore, would you feel like defending her a little bit? (note: if your response is "no" then wait awhile before you get married).

I simply refuse to not offer an more complete look at the picture.

Why don't you gather statistics, you know, like you might actually have an informed opinion, and then report back with how much the church has done FOR the less fortunate. Pointing at Greg and saying... "Yeah, what he said!" only shows that you are ignorant of the facts and need to do your homework before trying to trick us into thinking you have a clue.

Merry Christmas!

Adam Smithee

WOW!!!! You're right...I have NO clue what I am talking about. Larry, thank you for helping me.

Oh this Christmas will be much better off knowning that Larry has helped me see that I don't know what I am talking about, that a church can justify spending 1.3 million on a Christmas production and charge people 35 dollars to see it. Oh I can clearly see that I was wrong...Thank you Larry.

"You cut to the core of me...you're like a miniature Buddha covered in fur."

greg

Larry,

I think you're a pastor. That's the only explanation for you inability to see the forest for the trees and for your love of preaching.

I wish you'd answer Adam's question rather than throw up a million justifications for how pure the bride of Christ is. Is a church justified in spending 1.3 million? Are they further justified in charging $35 to see it? Answer those questions before you say another word, or I'll just troll you.

For the record, my wife and I have always given. We give to local charities, Compassion Int'l, World Vision (for Darfur), and to other people we know who have needs. Thanks for asking though. Now that I've encountered iron sharpening iron, I'll never be the same.

Larry

To be fair, I will specifically address the question of this individual church's production and it's 1+ million cost and $35 ticket price.

When I read the initial totals for the production it certainly seemed like alot. Then I had to ask myself, "How much is too much?" and "How much does the Bible allow?" The answer is... ? Jesus didn't forbid his church from doing what they are doing. He made clear that the Church was to be in the process of evangelism, discipleship and ministry (Including helping the less fortunate). Is there a limit of what a Church can spend? Not in Scripture. If this church didn't give to missionaries around the world (they do) or if they weren't involved heavily in local assistance and charity to the less fortunate (they are) then we might say "Hey, how 'bout these people? Aren't you forgetting something?" The fact is that this church, as I have discovered, is like many large churches in America and is very involved on the local, national and global level with missions, charity and the like. Is there some magic equation where "If your pageant costs this much, then you must donate this much to charity?" Nope.

1.3 million is alot of money, but unless you have all the facts about how much they also GIVE (and the burden is on the critic here because they're the ones making derrogatory comments about the cost of the pageant) then you're really not doing anyone a favor and instead are only showing your "I love to criticize" hat by relating a portion of the picture and not the whole thing.

Before anyone else chides this particular church, why don't you do what any decent reporter would do and find out how much they give. Talk to those who have been supported and fed and clothed and housed by any of this churches resources and then tout those accomplishments before you mock them for their pageant.

I know you won't because you're really not interested in the whole truth. You'll continue to stand as far away from your own glass house so that you don't break any of your own walls while you throw rocks at others.

Typical. You hide in your little blog and hope no one comes in and burns your eyes when they turn on the light.

bobstevens

Yeah, the Bible doesn't specifically address how much money is OK to spend on a Christmas pageant. But things here point to a variety of problems ranging from the subtle to the blatant.

Starting with the subtle... why would a Church have a Christmas pageant? To the best of my understanding, the clear thrust of the New Testament is that evangelism is best realized not by attracting people to a place where they might hear the Gospel, but by taking active steps to go to places where those who need to hear it are.

Every "let's get the unchurched to come to church" initiative is at best an inferior attempt at quasi-evangelism and at worst a complete misunderstanding of what amounts to a pretty large part of Christianity.

The issue of churches accumulating wealth is pretty frightening as well, though Christians from the United States who were brought up believing the lie that capitalism has anything at all to do with their religion are very very resistant to alternative viewpoints. My recollection of the earliest church in Acts is that everyone shared his or her property among one another, and that when an issue about spending was raised... they appointed the first deacons to look after the distribution of food to the less fortunate so that the apostles could focus on teaching. Their wealth was distributed... not horded and not wasted on spectacles. They used it to meet peoples' needs, not to entertain them.

So the simple issue of "I'm going to spend $1.3 million on a Christmas pageant" should definitely raise at least two red flags, and Larry's spirited defense of the practice here raises a couple as well. But the biggest red flag is that Larry seems more interested in criticizing this blog and its author than in the actual issue at hand. Whoops.

goz

Well said bobstevens.

Also: Larry's insistence that one has to find out how much a church is giving before they can criticise or question how much they are spending is nonsense too.

If they give away $2 million in charity and aid does that justify spending $1.3 million on entertainment for the believers? You're absolutely asking the wrong question.

Also also: calling a Church to account on its use of money (especially when their actions tar me with the same brush) is hardly akin to name-calling (calling Larry's wife a whore, as he puts it).

dr dobson

“Before anyone else chides this particular church, why don't you do what any decent reporter would do and find out how much they give. Talk to those who have been supported and fed and clothed and housed by any of this churches resources and then tout those accomplishments before you mock them for their pageant.”

Big Larry—forgive me for chiming in on this nifty little debate so late in the game, but you’ve asked us to “find out how much [FBC Ft Lauderdale] give [sic].” Though I’m not a reporter, I beg your indulgence as to my insight into this church, which is VERY local to me (depending on your golf handicap, it is about a nine-iron away from where I rest my head at night). Each night my bedroom window is blasted by its lights highlighting its fancy steeple and, when mixed with the orange-hued mercury-vapor lights from the CVS parking lot, it creates a nice little shadow on my wall. My wife and I have attended services at this church off and on for about the past 2.5 years—it’s only a 42 second walk from my building. With that bit of background, I shall now (unfortunately) digress into my experience of the ministry of FBC Ft Lauderdale.

First, as most churches do these days, they print their financials in their worship folder on a semi-regular basis. Going from memory (I don’t carry the latest copy with me during the week as I’m sure you do). As of June 24, 2007, they had received in giving a grand monthly total of ~950,000.00. Of that amount, only ~1100.00 or so was labeled as “missions” giving. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure there are other categories in the p/l statement (sad to use that reference in the context of a church), but they weren’t published.

Second, with respect to the “Pageant” as it is referred to there, one can give toward that ministry at any time or church place they wish—I’m sure this is included in “missions” or “external ministry” budget line items and accounting. There is an entire bus “ministry” that brings folks in from all parts of south Florida to watch the presentation and to be given the opportunity at the end to be won over to the Lord—that is, after all, the best score to keep, eh? As to the “less fortunate” being given a free pass in to the show, the church used to print special tickets just for those who couldn’t afford a “real” ticket so they could receive “special treatment” and be “recognized as someone deserving of [their] affection and good tidings.” Now, they have cleverly discovered that it is more generous to simply hold one afternoon matinee performance which is of no charge to anyone who wishes to attend—how nice. There is also a satellite church in Guatemala that also has a baseball ministry. It is to this location that most youth trips and adult outreach “missions trips” are focused.

I could go on, but I have grown tired in describing the above (as if it were a crime scene of sorts—I’d rather stop rubber-necking, thank you very much). Nonetheless, you have attempted to call the bluff of anyone wishing to criticize this bastion of “Christianity”. I exhort you to get your facts as straight as your sexual orientation before ripping in to Greg or anyone else for calling it what it is: psychological and theological rape all in the name of “winning souls for Jesus”.

Why do I make such a bold statement? Read on:

First, FBC FT Laud, along with it’s xmas presentation, holds a “ministry” fair once per year—in July. They have bounce-houses for the kiddos, face painting and other carnivalesque activities to woo people into the fold. They also spin this as a “community” affair by offering haircuts, life-counseling, job counseling, etc. What is amazing about all of this is a) it’s a HUGE deal for the church if their advertising and pulpiteering about is any indicator; b) they ACTUALLY DISPLACE ALL HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO “LIVE” IN THE AREA JUST SO THEY CAN ROPE OFF THE AREA REQUIRED TO HOLD THIS OUTDOOR FESTIVAL (in the spirit of the inerrantly-breathed word of God, I’ll repeat that phrase right here to emphasize its importance) they ACTUALLY DISPLACE ALL HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO “LIVE” IN THE AREA JUST SO THEY CAN ROPE OFF THE AREA REQUIRED TO HOLD THIS OUTDOOR FESTIVAL; c) they block off the 4 city blocks in front of their facilities (Broward Boulevard from US-1 to 4th Avenue—this is also “home” to the highest concentration of homeless people in all of Broward county) just to hold their parade/festival wherein they set up tents and other festive settings as if you’re at Silver Dollar City or somewhere similar—this does nothing more than piss off everyone else who normally either “lives” in that area vis-à-vis the homeless or others who use Broward blvd to get where they need to go; and d) they call this “community involvement” and invite all who are interested to come out to spend the day with the church family. The theme for this year’s festival was “Country Roads” and the theme song (sung twice during every service for the entire summer), you guessed it, was a butchered rendition of John Denver’s classic.

Second (as if that’s not enough to make you puke your communion wafers—I actually did throw up in my mouth just typing the above), the sermon series for the remainder of the summer this year was, and please sit down for this as it is very dangerous to be standing when you read this: “Seussology”— as quoted from the marketing material for this series: “Take a Biblical journey with characters created by Dr. Seuss. You'll be amazed at what we can learn from the work of Theodor S. Geisel. In each message, Dr. Larry Thompson offers a literary look at important lessons from Dr. Seuss and the accompanying principles reflected in the Bible.” The very last time we ever attended a service there was the first Sunday this was presented—and we didn’t attend because we actually wanted to; we attended because we had to see the train wreck for our very own eyes. It was AMAZING, replete with “the pink stain”, “Thing 1 and Thing 2” (who, by the way, cleverly interrupted Pastor Larry’s “sermon” to demonstrate disruption and chaos in our lives when we don’t follow Jesus—just as Geisel intended, amen? Amen and amen).

My wife and I looked at each other and started laughing out loud—literally. No one around us noticed because they were too busy clapping at the excellent theological point just made.

Remaining within the golf analogy, there is another church approximately a well-struck driver and 3 wood away from FBC that is about one-twentieth in size and congregation (and yearly budget, mind you), but thousands more in scope and effective ministry—All Saint Episcopal. At All Saints, there is an emphasis on inclusion and the harboring of those who are seeking friendship and the fulfillment of physical need; and, most importantly in my theological opinion, the welcoming of those who are not sure of the answers. The “Beds Around the Altar” ministry houses homeless families who are participating in the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. This ministry actually feeds, clothes and shelters homeless families in the church—they sleep at night literally around the high altar under the glow of the Christ candle. While only a few can be served at any one time in any one place, there are over 50 churches in Broward county alone who participate in this ministry. It is an amazing ministry to participate in. Sadly, FBC FLL is unaware of this ministry—I’ve asked several times and they just stare back blankly and then start talking about the events described above (I’m not making this up).

You see, Larry, FBC FLL at its core and elemental function is not evil, it is not outrageous (irrespective of my intended cynicism) and it is not entirely wrong. However, when one superimposes “church” over the entire scheme, it becomes anything but church; it’s a circus and a country club of like-minded people who are all seeking the same god. The exact same could be said of those seeking the mouse-ears 3 hours to my north. They have an introductory DVD entitled, “Shopping for a Church? Try FBC Fort Lauderdale!!”. I’ll cease with trying to explain further and simply leave you with that. God Speed and I hope you don’t get wet from all the rain on your into watch the Pageant from the tour bus that is blocking traffic out in front of the church—that would be unfortunate.

dr dobson

“Before anyone else chides this particular church, why don't you do what any decent reporter would do and find out how much they give. Talk to those who have been supported and fed and clothed and housed by any of this churches resources and then tout those accomplishments before you mock them for their pageant.”

Big Larry—forgive me for chiming in on this nifty little debate so late in the game, but you’ve asked us to “find out how much [FBC Ft Lauderdale] give [sic].” Though I’m not a reporter, I beg your indulgence as to my insight into this church, which is VERY local to me (depending on your golf handicap, it is about a nine-iron away from where I rest my head at night). Each night my bedroom window is blasted by its lights highlighting its fancy steeple and, when mixed with the orange-hued mercury-vapor lights from the CVS parking lot, it creates a nice little shadow on my wall. My wife and I have attended services at this church off and on for about the past 2.5 years—it’s only a 42 second walk from my building. With that bit of background, I shall now (unfortunately) digress into my experience of the ministry of FBC Ft Lauderdale.

First, as most churches do these days, they print their financials in their worship folder on a semi-regular basis. Going from memory (I don’t carry the latest copy with me during the week as I’m sure you do). As of June 24, 2007, they had received in giving a grand monthly total of ~950,000.00. Of that amount, only ~1100.00 or so was labeled as “missions” giving. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure there are other categories in the p/l statement (sad to use that reference in the context of a church), but they weren’t published.

Second, with respect to the “Pageant” as it is referred to there, one can give toward that ministry at any time or church place they wish—I’m sure this is included in “missions” or “external ministry” budget line items and accounting. There is an entire bus “ministry” that brings folks in from all parts of south Florida to watch the presentation and to be given the opportunity at the end to be won over to the Lord—that is, after all, the best score to keep, eh? As to the “less fortunate” being given a free pass in to the show, the church used to print special tickets just for those who couldn’t afford a “real” ticket so they could receive “special treatment” and be “recognized as someone deserving of [their] affection and good tidings.” Now, they have cleverly discovered that it is more generous to simply hold one afternoon matinee performance which is of no charge to anyone who wishes to attend—how nice. There is also a satellite church in Guatemala that also has a baseball ministry. It is to this location that most youth trips and adult outreach “missions trips” are focused.

I could go on, but I have grown tired in describing the above (as if it were a crime scene of sorts—I’d rather stop rubber-necking, thank you very much). Nonetheless, you have attempted to call the bluff of anyone wishing to criticize this bastion of “Christianity”. I exhort you to get your facts as straight as your sexual orientation before ripping in to Greg or anyone else for calling it what it is: psychological and theological rape all in the name of “winning souls for Jesus”.

Why do I make such a bold statement? Read on:

dr dobson

(continuing post from above--Greg, your new fancy spam filter has quite a temper)


First, FBC FT Laud, along with it’s xmas presentation, holds a “ministry” fair once per year—in July. They have bounce-houses for the kiddos, face painting and other carnivalesque activities to woo people into the fold. They also spin this as a “community” affair by offering haircuts, life-counseling, job counseling, etc. What is amazing about all of this is a) it’s a HUGE deal for the church if their advertising and pulpiteering about is any indicator; b) they ACTUALLY DISPLACE ALL HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO “LIVE” IN THE AREA JUST SO THEY CAN ROPE OFF THE AREA REQUIRED TO HOLD THIS OUTDOOR FESTIVAL (in the spirit of the inerrantly-breathed word of God, I’ll repeat that phrase right here to emphasize its importance) they ACTUALLY DISPLACE ALL HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO “LIVE” IN THE AREA JUST SO THEY CAN ROPE OFF THE AREA REQUIRED TO HOLD THIS OUTDOOR FESTIVAL; c) they block off the 4 city blocks in front of their facilities (Broward Boulevard from US-1 to 4th Avenue—this is also “home” to the highest concentration of homeless people in all of Broward county) just to hold their parade/festival wherein they set up tents and other festive settings as if you’re at Silver Dollar City or somewhere similar—this does nothing more than piss off everyone else who normally either “lives” in that area vis-à-vis the homeless or others who use Broward blvd to get where they need to go; and d) they call this “community involvement” and invite all who are interested to come out to spend the day with the church family. The theme for this year’s festival was “Country Roads” and the theme song (sung twice during every service for the entire summer), you guessed it, was a butchered rendition of John Denver’s classic.

Second (as if that’s not enough to make you puke your communion wafers—I actually did throw up in my mouth just typing the above), the sermon series for the remainder of the summer this year was, and please sit down for this as it is very dangerous to be standing when you read this: “Seussology”— as quoted from the marketing material for this series: “Take a Biblical journey with characters created by Dr. Seuss. You'll be amazed at what we can learn from the work of Theodor S. Geisel. In each message, Dr. Larry Thompson offers a literary look at important lessons from Dr. Seuss and the accompanying principles reflected in the Bible.” The very last time we ever attended a service there was the first Sunday this was presented—and we didn’t attend because we actually wanted to; we attended because we had to see the train wreck for our very own eyes. It was AMAZING, replete with “the pink stain”, “Thing 1 and Thing 2” (who, by the way, cleverly interrupted Pastor Larry’s “sermon” to demonstrate disruption and chaos in our lives when we don’t follow Jesus—just as Geisel intended, amen? Amen and amen).

My wife and I looked at each other and started laughing out loud—literally. No one around us noticed because they were too busy clapping at the excellent theological point just made.

Remaining within the golf analogy, there is another church approximately a well-struck driver and 3 wood away from FBC that is about one-twentieth in size and congregation (and yearly budget, mind you), but thousands more in scope and effective ministry—All Saint Episcopal. At All Saints, there is an emphasis on inclusion and the harboring of those who are seeking friendship and the fulfillment of physical need; and, most importantly in my theological opinion, the welcoming of those who are not sure of the answers. The “Beds Around the Altar” ministry houses homeless families who are participating in the Broward Coalition for the Homeless. This ministry actually feeds, clothes and shelters homeless families in the church—they sleep at night literally around the high altar under the glow of the Christ candle. While only a few can be served at any one time in any one place, there are over 50 churches in Broward county alone who participate in this ministry. It is an amazing ministry to participate in. Sadly, FBC FLL is unaware of this ministry—I’ve asked several times and they just stare back blankly and then start talking about the events described above (I’m not making this up).

You see, Larry, FBC FLL at its core and elemental function is not evil, it is not outrageous (irrespective of my intended cynicism) and it is not entirely wrong. However, when one superimposes “church” over the entire scheme, it becomes anything but church; it’s a circus and a country club of like-minded people who are all seeking the same god. The exact same could be said of those seeking the mouse-ears 3 hours to my north. They have an introductory DVD entitled, “Shopping for a Church? Try FBC Fort Lauderdale!!”. I’ll cease with trying to explain further and simply leave you with that. God Speed and I hope you don’t get wet from all the rain on your into watch the Pageant from the tour bus that is blocking traffic out in front of the church—that would be unfortunate.

dr dobson

Larry

one last post on this subject (and in the spirit of "performance" art):

"Git R Done"


Larry

Goz,

OK, so what is the magic number? If they give 10 million? Twenty? Five? Are you competent to make the call for everyone? Are your accounts open for investigation?

Are you seriously pretending to set the standard? Or are you just so bitter that you are simply volunteering to be chief critic?

Bob,

You make non-critical, or at least constructively-critical statements that make it apparent to me that you are really trying to find a good balance and are really not so concerned with verbally assaulting as much as really getting to the core issue. Thanks!

If they come and hear, but don't also, and more importantly, SEE the Gospel, then the Chruch (any Church) is wasting it's time.

Big bank accounts may not be always bad, but if church leadership isn't actively pursuing ways to meet the local, federal and global needs of those less-fortunate, or supporting organizations that are, then something is wrong.

I'm not criticizing here for criticizm's sake. I think you and I could have a discussion of sincere quality where neither of us is out to "make the most fun" of someone who may not be doing things the way we would do them. I just needed to make sure that before we make an opportunity to belittle another's attempt, we need to sincerely look at the whole picture and also at ourselves first.

Blessings.

Larry

Dr. Dobson (James???)

Wow! You have actually reported back with facts. You actually live nearby and have first-hand testimony about this church and it's operations. You are able to tell us about the surrounding community and how it interacts with the church and about other churches and how they interact with the community.

While your account doesn't prevent them from holding a pageant and displacing the homeless (I used to work with the homless on a much more regular basis than I do now and I was always blow away by the majority's willingness to NOT go to a shelter and sleep on the streets, mostly so they could still use drugs, drink, sleep-in, etc...), it does help us see things that allow us to make informed comments.

I think "Seussology" is nuts. I don't live anywhere near Florida (Golf analogies notwithstanding) and I'm also encouraged by your reports of the Episcopal church's participation. I used to be baptist, but would consider my own theology much more in line with a Episcopal or Presbyterian (conservative) bent.

Thanks for the details and I have every intention of "gittn' 'R done" (whatever "R" is) at some point this weekend.

greg

Larry,

I'm hurt. Dr. Dobson makes fun of you and you don't get it? I make fun of you and you do? I need to be more subtle. Not only that, he confirms what I said in the original post and yet you still want to bitch at me about how bitter I am. Amazing.

Larry

Greg,

Yes, it's amazing what showing up with all the facts will earn you. The good doctor actually attended the church and was involved enough in the community to actually have an informed opinion. That's something you're not used to offering I know, but the cynic usually isn't really concerned with anything but his/her ability to whine.

Larry

Dr. (James) Dobson,

By the way have you ever attended the pageant?

greg

The only fact I need is that a church spent 1.3 million on a pageant. It's inexcusable according to any calculus. Your persistent unwillingness to admit that shows that there is nothing you won't justify.

dr dobson

Larry

we have never attended the Pageant as we are not necessarily drawn to such things. We have seen several homeless people on the campus of FBC FLL while leaving Sunday morning worship, which makes all of it a little disheartening.

I am genuinely amused that you describe your own theology "with a [sic] Episcopal or Presbyterian (conservative) bent" (emphasis yours).

I'm not sure what you mean by that unless you are convinced that Calvinism shares commonality with the theological underpinnings of the Anglican Communion, which I can assure you it does not.

"I was always blow [sic] away by the majority's willingness to NOT go to a shelter and sleep on the streets, mostly so they could still use drugs, drink, sleep-in, etc...)"

I think your statement should speak for itself--nice generalization about why homeless folk do not go to shelters. Larry, most, if not all homeless people don't go to shelters because there isn't enough effing room for them. In the spirit of the current season, does that sound familiar to you at all?? They "still use drugs, drink and sleep in . . ."? That sounds like undergrad to me, not homelessness.

That platitude is as logical as Calvinism=Anglicanism.

sorry, but I have to get back to my pursuit of capitalism so I can afford to pay for my charitable donations . . .

Larry

Dr. Dobson,

I'd say the Anglican-Calvanist connection is a little closer than you think. Many of the great Puritan theologians were of the Anglican persuasion and were staunch Calvanists although many were more closely tied to the Episcopal or Presbyterian Churches.

And as for the shelter/homeless issue, it sounds like you'd like to believe that there's not enough room for them all, but there always was at the 4 to 5 shelters that I served at and the bottom line was that the majority who didn't take part refused to participate in order to alliviate themselves from the rules and regs. of the establishment (which is what got many of the "homeless" in the first place.) Those who wanted to better themselves got job training, job placement assistance, positions working at the shelters and were trained to become leaders in the places in order to further assist those still trapped in their situation. They were given free transportation to and from work, food, clothing and a permanent room at the shelter (some shared permanent rooms with others who were also serious about improving their situation.)

If you haven't seen that, then you've probably not been around homeless shelters very much or haven't talked to those who have access, but who would rather be the "captain of their own ship" and refuse the help. I have and I can't help but think that my experience (and those who served with me) was not unique or that it would not have played out in most other urban areas as well.

greg

Many of the homeless are so because in the Reagan era the state mental hospitals were closed with the promise of community mental health facilites. They never appeared. Shocking! Seems the Reaganites had other priorties, like making sure prosperity trickled down to the lost and least. That's worked well...

greg

Larry,

I'm pretty sure that legit Wesleyans (Wright, Pinnock, Sanders, et al.) would disagree with your assertion.

Larry

Greg,

I'll continue to justify it as long as you refuse to open your financial records for us so that we can hold you to the same standard.

And BTW, where do you find a mandate for the Church to help the poor? Is it somewhere in the book we call the Bible? You know, the one you don't think we should take that seriously?

Are you suggesting that we take that part seriously or should I (according to you) conclude that Jesus' words about Christian charity are the victim of so much redaction that we can't even be confident that they are correct anyway?

I'd say if you're going to scold us for taking the Bible seriously, then don't further reveal your ignorance by turning around and using the same book as some sort of standard for appropriate behaviour.

You should go into politics. You certainly know how to ignore any shred of consistency while you try to "fix" everyone else.

I think I should let my 4 year old post for me from here on out. Debunking your ignorance is child's play.

Leighton

Man, why can't I proselytize for atheism this well? I feel inadequate. :(

dr dobson

Larry

You might try asking your brother Darrell and your other brother Darrell for a little theological accuracy before aligning Anglicanism with Calvinism.

The blog-offered-as-proof for your argument states that Cranmer was clearly a Calvinist theologian. Funny how when I was studying Cranmer at Oxford (and every day walked by the mark on the Broad Street where he was burned at the stake), we never associated him with Calvin, save for (perhaps stretching this a bit to make you feel better) the fact that they were somewhat in the same historical era. Cranmer was more of a Lutheran than anything else; then upon death, pretty much a devout Catholic by theological belief, including pronouncement of loyalty to the crown and commendation of just about everything HVIII wanted to do with his country and subjects (most of whom were either concubines or serfs anyway).

I would agree with you if you were arguing in favor of 99.98% of the entire church in America being Calvinist, but I'm not sure you're able to see that logic, either. Proof that it is is found in every pew every Sunday morning and the resultant tide of non-charity and gross consumption of the haves to the expense and literal elimination of the have-nots in this country.

Finally, stand down with the demand that you see Greg's personal accounting. To recall the great theologian Tommy Boy, "take the butcher's word for it." Your "my dad's charity can kick your dad's charity's ass" argument is simply tiring and, frankly, confusing with what your 4 year old might be typing anyway. By the way it sounds, your 4 year old is already very-heavily influencing your logic and ability to recount history accurately, so it seems that we have one and the same if you simply continue to post here--an activity I hope that you do not consider too heavily.


Larry

Atheism's biggest obstacle continues to be common sense. It's like Ross Perot running for president. He came on T.V. with all his charts and graphs. People just shook their heads and laughed.

Was he really serious?

Dobson,

I doubt seriously if most of the church in America would consider themselves Calvinists. Despite the fact that the rank and file are, as you pointed out, regularly subject to "Seussology" they probably don't even know what Calvinism entails.

And I don't really need to see Greg's records, I already know what they'd show. It would be (percentage-wise) much the same (or less) as the spend-give ratio of 1st Ft. Lauderdale. I understand he's not really concerned with what they do, it's just good-ole' human nature to shrug off your own shortcomings via pointing the finger at others.

BTW, shouldn't you be taping the next "Focus on the Family" segment?

Larry

So far I've handled Greg's inane criticizm of a church's expenditures, Oxford trained Dobsons rabbit trails about Calvinism, and an atheists random musing about his/her inferiority.

I thought you liberals were supposed to be smart. If this is the best that the other side has to offer, then no wonder the tide is turning so quickly.

The Emporer still has no clothes?

I'm sure my rhetorical dominance will no doubt get me banned as most liberals usually can't handle big doses of reality but this was just to easy to pass up.

Friar Tom

Larry,

Thanks for the invite, but it appears you have things wrapped up here.

I told you it would end up like this didn't I?

God's truth will always trump liberal ignorance and common sense is just too easy for them to swallow. They (with Bertrand Russellesque ability to persue ambiguious morality) like to create huge societal problems and then point the finger at the one organization doing the most to solve them.

Friar Tom

Oops... That should be "Pursue..."

Of course here in moral ambiguity-land I should be able to spell words any way I want.

greg

Larry,

You're officially a troll. And a dick.

greg

Dear friends,

Larry is a troll. Pls refrain from commenting with him unless you have some funny insults.

Leighton

What about funny YouTube videos?

bobstevens
God's truth will always trump liberal ignorance...

I can only hope that God's truth trumps all ignorance... but that willful kind is really a tough one.

greg

I've found that strangers to the truth think they are the most chummy with it.

Amanda F.

can i throw up now? 1.3 million?!!!

don't you know jesus wants huckabee to win? his slogan is "i heart huckabee."

Larry

I knew it - there's no response - only name calling and insults.

You've taken your toys and gone home.

Larry

Greg,

As for your last statement... are you claiming that it is the "truth?" And by making it (according to you) aren't you indicating that you're a stranger to it?

I don't even need to say anything, you make yourself out a fool with your own home-spun wisdom.

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