First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a Christian church in Missouri that adopted a non-traditional approach to filling its pews on Fathers’ Day.
Ignite Church, in Joplin, is catching serious heat for giving away two Black Rain AR-15s on Father’s Day in a bid to connect with 18 to 35-year-olds in the area.Critics said the initiative was “seriously messed up,” could “give way to new violence” and questioned what the reaction would be if a mosque held a similar give-away.But tattooed mohawked pastor Heath Mooneyham defended the scheme – telling the Joplin Globe that “if we get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel.”
Houses of worship have traditionally tried all kinds of creative ideas to encourage attendance, but assault-rifle raffles is a provocative approach, especially given Biblical text like this from the Book of Matthew: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
ThinkProgress’ report added that the pastor posted a YouTube video promoting the raffle, in which he promised that “you can kill a weak zombie with that thing” or “double tap a zombie” with another gun, “the “Lamborghini of AR-15s.” Mooneyham added, “So get your butts to church, if you’re late don’t cry to me that you’re a pansy and you cannot set your alarm, alright? You’re a big boy. You got big balls between your legs, you’re a dad right?”
The church’s Facebook page featured some lively discussion, including one person who asked, “What if a mosque did this – how would that be perceived?”
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Frank Schaefer’s return: “Six months after losing his ordination credentials for presiding over the wedding of his gay son and for leaving open the possibility of performing future same-sex wedding ceremonies, a Pennsylvania pastor has been welcomed back into the United Methodist Church. On Tuesday, a nine-person appeals panel of church officials overturned an earlier decision to defrock Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., who in 2007 married his oldest son, Tim, to another man.”
* A welcome debate: “The Vatican conceded Thursday that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant and officials pledged not to ‘close our eyes to anything’ when it opens a two-year debate on some of the thorniest issues facing the church.”
* A new public display of religion on the way: “The U.S. National Park Service says the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., commemorates ‘service, sacrifice, unity, and victory.’ After last night, however, they might as well scratch ‘unity’ off that list. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 370-12 yesterday in favor of adding a prayer given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) to the memorial.”
* In what I believe is a first, the Huffington Post is liveblogging Ramadan.
* And TV preacher Pat Robertson not only believes haunted houses are real, he’s also willing to give advice to those who find themselves living in one.