Monday, February 3, 2014

johnny thunders died for your sins!

I'll be upfront and say that I'm jealous of this essay from the Orange County Weekly, both in its writing and its subject. I would prefer to be known as the punk pastor.

Having said that, I will admit the writing, by Nate Jackson, is done well. He allows enough of Joe Furey's (great name, that, for a punk) conflicted nature and the conflicts of interest between who he preaches to and the theology he preaches from to speak for itself. Furey is another in that line of preachers who have found a personal savior and want to make others aware that this same salvation can be theirs too. I can't fault anyone for wanting to spread the good news, as it were.

The story I would like to hear, however, is that of his wife, Therese. She has stayed with him nearly full-time from his early days as a catastrophically bad drug runner to his new days in the collar, raising three kids, often without help from him, and losing the eldest, her son, to an overdose. Her trust in life giving her what she needed and her ability to rise each morning is worth listening to and it's unfortunate that this isn't her story.

Which isn't to say Furey's story isn't interesting or worth telling. But it's another in a long spate, reaching back to Augustine, of libertines tamed by the Word and who make their life's work the spreading of that Word to the people they used to be. I can't complain about that, either, in that it's exactly what I want and hope to accomplish. As he comes across in the essay and in the single video I could find, he sounds like an amiable, avuncular, kind presence, and there's a lot to commend about that.

But what I'm uncomfortable with is the theology behind Furey's sermons. It's one that accepts what the Bible says as the end to all things, that there is a good and a bad and that if you would be one of God's People, you must change from one to the other. I don't credit that. It strikes me the Jesus of the Bible didn't seek out the homeless and addicts of his time because he wanted them to change in order to hear his teaching but because they were the ones most willing to hear and credit it. You were encouraged to change--"Go and sin no more"--but actual change didn't come from no longer drinking or hooking. Actual change was harder to accomplish (Matthew 19:22-4). Some people, of course, want to stop drinking or come off the road and they should be encouraged. But others don't. And they shouldn't be discouraged.

If there is a Good News to the messages of Jesus and Buddha and other teachers, it's that people  already have dignity, are of "God's People," through the virtue of being alive. They should be accepted as they are, unconditionally. End of message.

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