When zero-tolerance Christianity goes horribly wrong

But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

– John 3:17

From the blog file: I came across a couple news items recently that share a common theme. Let’s call it zero-tolerance Christianity.

The Rev. Rob Morris offering the closing benediction at an interfaith service for Newtown victims. (The Associated Press)

And I think both go against what faith could and should be about. I believe faith to be about compassion and love for a brother.

That doesn’t have to mean you agree with every choice a person has made. I think you cast aside pious judgments when you act on behalf of charity and faith.

Obviously, not everyone agrees with that philosophy.

Our first news item concerns the much-discussed Lutheran pastor who preached during a Newtown interfaith service and was censured by his denomination. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) prohibits ministers from participating in services with members of different faiths.

It’s not the first time a Missouri Synod pastor has been reprimanded for joining an interfaith prayer service; a New York pastor also was suspended for participating in an interfaith service after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LCMS president Matthew Harrison wrote in a letter to the Synod that “the presence of prayers and religious readings” made the Newtown vigil joint worship—and therefore off-limits to Missouri Synod ministers. Harrison said Morris’ participation also offended members of the denomination.

Harrison has since apologized, which almost makes it worse. As I have stated many times, a controversial position is one thing. Don’t make it worse by lacking the spine to defend said position.

The theologically conservative Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has been a landing spot for many congregations upset with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America after its 2009 decision to permit gays in “lifelong, monogamous” relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay leaders.

Our second news item is taken from this morning’s headlines.

Teri James, 29, had worked at a Christian college in California until she was fired last year for behavior the college considered immoral. Her crime? Having sex while not married.

If that were ever considered the basis for being fired, there wouldn’t be any bodies left to staff most workplaces.

James has filed a lawsuit against the college, stating that the college’s actions were “un-Christlike.” She worked as a financial aid specialist at San Diego Christian College in El Cajon until October of last year when she admitted to the school’s human resource director that she was pregnant.

According to reports, rumors circulated campus that the single woman might be with child, and therefore, she sought to put an end to the speculations.

However, upon being informed of the matter, the human resource director presented an ultimatum: resign or be fired. James was later given a termination notice that stated that she “engaged in activity outside the scope of the handbook and community covenant.”

According to NPR, James has since married the father of her baby. But that isn’t really the issue, is it?

I think it’s unfortunate when a person or organization uses their faith as a sledgehammer to impose their views on others. This may be a private institution and, as such, perhaps they didn’t break any laws. But they disregarded another human being in the name of Christ.

And that is not right. James said it best:

“I feel like what San Diego Christian College did to me was hurtful and un-Christlike,” she stated. “I was unmarried, pregnant and they took away my livelihood.”

“San Diego Christian College did not show any mercy or grace towards me, and acted completely un-Christlike,” James added. “They made more of a business decision than showing God’s love.”

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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