I don’t know my neighbors at Messiah Lutheran Church, but they sent me some postal mail addressed to “Neighbor,” and it piqued my interest. I went to their website and learned that the members of this church deserve punishment. It’s on their homepage:
He allowed himself to be crucified to suffer the punishment we deserve.
They are free to believe that they deserve punishment, but this doesn’t make the 15-week Adult Information Class publicized in their leaflet sound inviting. I suspect that by the end of the class they’d want me to feel like I deserved punishment, too. I found this on the “What We Believe” page:
We believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God …
If the Bible is inerrant, then we have to believe that Jesus cast devils out of some people, sent the devils into a herd of pigs, and then drowned the pigs. This is in Matthew 8:32 and elsewhere. Really? They believe that? What about these items:
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” Exodus 35:2 KJV
If a bride is found not to be a virgin, she should be stoned to death. Deuteronomy 22: 20-21 KJV
“Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” Luke 12:5 KJV
Maybe the church-goers have some elaborate mind games that allow them to believe in Bible inerrancy but somehow avoid the pigs-and-demons stuff and the stoning-to-death commands. I don’t know. But then there was this:
We believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is the true body and blood of Christ which is received with the mouth along with the bread and the wine (Real Presence). This is not a symbolic eating and drinking.
If it’s not symbolic, it’s cannibalism, right? No wonder the leaflet they sent me goes out of its way to explain how the class is a “safe, non-threatening” environment. Flesh-eaters who think they deserve punishment and believe in devils; yes, I would wonder about my safety. If you pick and choose you can find some lovely poetry and moral instruction in the Bible, but if the whole thing is absolutely true, then we’ve entered the realm of crazy.
The leaflet also says that if you take the Adult Information Class, “There is no obligation to join Messiah Lutheran Church.” It seems like this would go without saying. Are there circumstances under which there *is* an obligation to join? I often get a creepy feeling from churches, but this one gets a little extra on the “yikes” factor with the stuff about punishment, literal blood drinking, and reminders about no threats or obligations.