ronniemcbrayer300 orangeKENTUCKY (8/16/14) — I grew up with a lot of religious rules.

To violate these rules was to subject oneself to the judgment of God. If you had a fundamentalist upbringing, you may be familiar with some of these restrictions. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no playing cards or going to the movies, no mixed-bathing (a prospect that intrigued my teenage mind), no Sabbath-breaking (though we did not actually gather on the Sabbath), and absolutely no questioning of religious authority.

Religious authority was bound up in “The Preacher.” The big Baptist downtown had a pastor. The Methodists had a seminary trained Reverend. The Presbyterians had a collection of elders. The one fledgling Catholic parish on the edge of town had a priest. I didn’t meet a Jew until high school, so I didn’t even know what a rabbi was, but it would not have mattered anyway.

In my narrow ecclesiastical world, we had The Preacher, the Alpha and Omega of religious instruction; the united concoction of fiery prophet, hardened inquisitor, moral policeman, and God’s anointed spokesman. I was certain that he cut his grass in a pinstripe suit and wingtips, didn’t know a single curse word, and all his children were probably adopted because to have sex with his wife was certainly too worldly, too carnal to consider.

See, the world in which the preacher lived was black and white with no shades of gray, no mystery, no ambiguities. There were only hard and fast certainties. You were in or you were out. If you wanted to know which you were, just ask him. He would tell you, and he used the pulpit to do exactly that.

On Sundays he became an inferno of Puritan proportions. Animated, wringing with sweat, discarding his suit coat and loosening his tie, he implored and coerced us sinners down the isle to the mourner’s bench. It usually worked. Someone “repented” most every service, even if it took thirty verses of “Just as I Am” to force the issue. Those altar calls were nerve rattling wars of attrition, and sometimes I felt compelled to go forward so the whole thing would mercifully end.

It was The Preacher who arrived at the hospital on a spring afternoon to visit my family. My younger brother was enduring a lengthy hospitalization with a faulty heart valve and a growing laundry list of complications. Not yet a year old, he had already faced more health challenges than most of us will ever see. His life hung by the proverbial thread.

My parents certainly needed emotional and spiritual support, a pastoral presence, but The Preacher was anything but comforting. I heard him say the most horrible thing to my parents. In paraphrase he said, “Surely you have committed some terrible sin for God to visit this kind of judgment on you and your family.” Even as a child I was flabbergasted, and to this day those words still burn my ears.

Is this the God of Christianity? Is this the kind of God behind our faith? Is this vindictive deity even worthy of our worship? I think not. While this might be the god of The Preacher, it is not the God revealed to us in the person of Jesus the Christ. For in Christ we find truth and grace, not this kind of crass judgmentalism. Jesus doesn’t walk into hospital rooms, his gluttonous belly pushing against the buttons of his tailored suit vest, handing out indictments of guilt to the innocent.

No, this Jesus sits down and weeps with the suffering. He opens his arms to the brutalized and confused. And while he doesn’t always provide us with the tidy solutions we long for, he always walks with us in the mystery of life and death.

I never accepted those words spoken in that hospital room. Maybe I’ve spent these decades of my life trying to disprove them. I hope you won’t accept them either.

The love of Christ always trumps the hardness of men’s hearts – even those men who claim to have all the answers.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

LIKE SurfKY on Facebook - Click here to LIKE us now.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

Most Read This Week

March 27, 2015 5517

Three Arrested during Execution of Search…

by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
March 25, 2015 5240

Fazoli's, Roses Coming to Madisonville

by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
March 24, 2015 5057

One Dies, Another Injured in Mortons Gap Traffic…

by Deputy Heath Owens
March 25, 2015 4988

Grand Jury Finds No Criminal Wrongdoing in Bean…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
March 24, 2015 4182

UPDATE: One Injured in Hopkinsville Road Accident

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
March 25, 2015 3949

Madisonville Man's Living Room Leap Lands Him in…

by Madisonville Police Department / Hopkins County Detention Center

Most Read This Month

March 09, 2015 13370

Multi-Agency Drug Bust Results in $1 Million Meth…

by KSP DESI
March 02, 2015 11523

Madisonville Teen Faces Numerous Drug Charges

by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center

Stories Trending Today

March 28, 2015 2141

Young Child Dies in Princeton Fire

by Chris Rogers, KSP
March 28, 2015 1185

Tractor Trailer Takes Out Guardrail on I-69,…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
March 28, 2015 1022

VIDEO: Shoe Charity Expands to 'Sweet Sixteen'…

by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
March 28, 2015 721

Commission Hears More Proposals for Subdividing…

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
March 28, 2015 690

Independence Bank Scholarship Reception Held…

by Lynnsie Fulkerson
March 27, 2015 639

KSP Charges Jefferson County Man with Possession…

by Kentucky State Police
March 27, 2015 624

Alltech Brewing and Distilling Academy Launches…

by Danielle Palmer
March 27, 2015 547

It's Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot

by Beth Fisher
March 28, 2015 497

Four Roses to Build Bottling Facility in Bullitt…

by Office of the Governor
March 28, 2015 468

Happenings and Meetings - Hopkins County

by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News