Monday, September 22, 2008

Page 3A: A Glimpse of Religion in America

Today is Monday, September 21, 2008, the first day of autumn. Like most Mondays I spend a bit of the day reading USA TODAY. Monday is the day the paper features an article about religion on its op-ed page. But this Monday is different; religion is everywhere. Here is just a sample from page 3A:

Item: Along the Texas coast, a day of reflection. This article is about parishioners along the Texas coast whose churches were decimated by hurricane Ike. The buildings may have crumbled, but not the faith of those who worshipped in them. “I know it’s hard. Looking around, it’s tough,” said one pastor to his flock. “But there is a God, and he has a plan for our lives.” It is not my place to argue with the good reverend, but I can’t help wondering if he and his parishioners are really open to God’s plan. What if God wants them to leave Texas, perhaps that is why He destroyed their church. Or perhaps God hates their brand of worship and meant to end it without relying on His usual homicidal option. How come God’s plan is always the plan that we want God to have? The plan, in fact, that always reinforces what we want in the first place?

Item: Homeless pit borough against Bible. Just under the fold and to the left of the Texas church story, we find that the small western Pennsylvania town of Brookville is fining a local church for housing three homeless men in their church-parsonage. It seems that housing the homeless violates zoning laws in the town. My problem is that if the homeless are provided with housing, how is it they are still “homeless”? Can it be that the town can tell the church whom to house in its parsonage? Or is it that these men are not related or married, something that biology (in the first case) and the state of Pennsylvania (in the second case) does not allow?

Item: Ark. keeps custody of 6 children after raid in porn case. This story, appearing just to the right of the article on the illegally housed homeless, is about a two-year investigation of child abuse and pornography allegations against the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Mr. Alamo (pronounced A-lah-mo), who was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994, denied there is any pornography going on in his church. I was surprised (not really) that he didn’t say the same about child abuse (though he may have, and the paper didn’t print it). In any case I love Tony’s explanation of these charges against him: “Where do all these allegations come from? The anti-Christ government. The Catholics don’t like me because I have cut their congregation in half. They hate true Christianity.” Is the anti-Christ government and the Catholics one and the same? Or is Tony being persecuted by both? I hope it is the former so we can at last vote a pro-Christ Protestant into the Executive Branch of government.

What are we to make of the state of religion in America this first day of autumn? Honestly, I don’t know. But I can tell you this: It is awfully hot for the first day of autumn, but just right for the beginning of the Fall.

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