Okay, it's going to take us a while to explain that remark. Let's begin by saying that Father Anonymous is tone-deaf. Technically, it's more like tone-mute: he hears the notes just fine. They just come out wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. This has been a blight on his life since childhood, and it has only grown blightier since he was ordained. Turns out there's a lot of music in church services, something nobody had really explained before he sent in his box-tops.
But there's another pastor out there who is far more tone-deaf. Not so much in the musical sense as in the metaphorical, "this-guy-can't-read-the-signs-of-the-times" sense.
The Rev. Ken Pagano, of New Bethel Church (Assemblies of God) in Louisville, Kentucky, has organized an "Open Carry Church Service" for later this month. The things to be carried are firearms. In church.
At the event, Pr. Pagano is "e
So let's get this straight. A few weeks after a man is shot dead while handing out worship bulletins in church, the people of New Bethel decide to mark this tragedy by hosting a "bring your gun to church" day?
You see our point about tone-deafness. It's as if a church had begun Advent of 1963 by hosting a "Cromwell Kills the Catholics" commemoration. (You know, after JFK). Or Easter of 1968 with a mock-lynching. (You know, after MLK).
There's a little more to the story, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal. First off, the the presentations by gun salesmen seem to smack of moneychangers in the temple. More to the point, though, the event was publicized by a poster using red letters that looked for all the world like spattered and dripping blood. Tone-deafness, anybody? (Pagano's explanation is that the lettering was "just a font somebody developed." Um, yes. Rather the point, isn't it? Somebody developed a font that looked like blood spatter.)
Now, Pagano doesn't seem crazy or wicked. He's an ex-Marine, and chaplain to the police department, so we assume that he's personally pretty comfortable with guns; he serves a parish in the Red States, so it doesn't surprise us that he's got a few members who are likewise. No harm in that. Still, the various quotations in the story are all about the Bill of Rights, and not about Jesus. This concerns us, since the message of the Gospel isn't really one of vigorous and lethal self-defense. Those who live by the sword, and all that. When the Lord said "blessed are the peacemakers," we're virtually certain he didn't mean the Colt Single-Action Army revolver.
The story quotes a number of religious leaders who object to the planned event, and they're always good for a chuckle too. Our favorite is the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, who says that it "would nauseate Jesus." We aren't entirely sure of her evidence there -- few scholars of our acquaintance have ventured to speculate upon the gastrointestinal reactivity of the Incarnate God -- but we do take her point.
Still, we can't get the thought out of her head: Would Jesus truly be nauseated by this? And if he were, would he just throw up in a corner, politely? Or would he make a big scene, tossing his cookies on the front steps of the church?
This, we think, is a great conversation starter for your parish youth group: WWJVBO? Try it this week, and tell us how it goes.