Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster

Keeping the Faith - 'The Preacher'

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.

© 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 by using one of the social media links below.

button coupons
button classifieds

In Other News...

Juvenile Hit by Vehicle at McDonald's

GREENVILLE, Ky. (1/25/15) ― A juvenile was struck by a vehicle at the Greenville McDonald’s restaurant at 4:39 p.m.… Read More

NHRA North Central Division Names Dallas Jones Family Person of the Year

KENTUCKY (1/27/15) — The Dallas Jones family and Beech Bend Raceway were recently recognized as the National Hot Rod… Read More

Most Read This Week

January 23, 2015 9185

Local Church's Faith Restored; 71 Souls Saved…

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
January 22, 2015 7311

Nortonville Man Accused of Selling Drugs near…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Jail
January 21, 2015 6593

KYDOT Pre-Treating Roads Thursday in Antipation…

in Top News For All Sites by Keith Todd
January 22, 2015 6155

MCEA Head: Further School Mergers Might Ease…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
January 23, 2015 5799

Parents Face Charges after Marijuana Joint Falls…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Jail
January 25, 2015 5238

Dean’s List Announced

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Joyce Riggs
January 21, 2015 4970

Man Arrested after Allegedly Nodding off on Baby…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Jail
January 26, 2015 4677

KSP Arrests Two on Child Porn Charges; MPD…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper Stu Recke
January 23, 2015 4640

Nortonville Woman Charged for Meth Possession

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 22, 2015 3775

Local Family Business Changes Hands

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News

Stories Trending Today

January 26, 2015 4677

KSP Arrests Two on Child Porn Charges; MPD…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper Stu Recke
January 26, 2015 3489

Man Goes to Jail after Allegedly Attacking Family

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Jail
January 25, 2015 3300

Juvenile Hit by Vehicle at McDonald's

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by GPD Officer Wes Miller
January 26, 2015 2747

School Board Votes 3-2 for Utility Tax

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
January 26, 2015 2624

Madisonville Post Welcomes New Troopers

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper S. C. Recke
January 26, 2015 2383

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

in General News For All Sites by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office
January 26, 2015 2330

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Jan. 26, 2015

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
January 26, 2015 2162

Kentucky Highway Crews Prepared for Snow into the…

in Top News For All Sites by Keith Todd
January 26, 2015 1934

Hopkins District Court Fines Handed Down

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Circuit Clerk's Office
January 26, 2015 1770

McClearn Remains Optimistic I-69 Signs up Between…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Keith Todd

SurfKY News Group, Inc.
Corporate Office & Studio
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431
270.452.2727 (phone)
  •  270.452.2249 (fax)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social fbsocial twsocial yt
social gpsocial flr subscribevideoitunessocial rss