I don't know how many hours I've spent in church, but it's a lot. I guess it doesn't matter since they're not counted as frequent flier miles for admission into heaven. Some of my greatest life lessons were learned at the foot of a pulpit. Some I missed, and had to learn the hard way. One lesson was particularly memorable. It may have been the shock of delivery, but it stuck.
I'd always believed the commandment "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain" had something to do with cussing. The preacher corrected me. That commandment is about claiming that your work or words are perpetuated in the name of God when they aren't.
Ten percent of the Ten Commandments was unraveling before me. Reconciling this new definition meant I would never claim that my actions were in the name of God. How could I know for sure? I never wanted to be in the position of claiming a divine endorsement for an ungodly act. It might just bring on damnation.
I grew up playing hymns on the piano for my church. It wasn't denominational. Free-range, organic and more full of questions than answers, though the answer always seemed to be love first, ask questions later.
This is the background for my criticism of one of Alaska's most vocal, semi-pro "Christians." Yes, I put it in quotes. I believe, as Mark Driskoll says, "... If grace is water, the Church should be an ocean. It's not a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken."
Jim Minnery, mouthpiece for the Alaska Family Council, signs his money-begging, choice-denying, gay-hating newsletters "In His Name." Beyond the inaccurate drivel he spills, it's the claim that he's acting in the name of God that's troubling.
His latest attack is on the One Anchorage effort to protect our gay and lesbian population from evictions or firings because of who they love. Apparently, a couple in Great Britain wasn't considered fit, by a British court, to be foster parents because of their extreme stance against homosexuality. That became the centerpiece of one of Mr. Minnery's newsletters. Apparently, he had to go thousands of miles, to a different country, to find a justification for voting against the upcoming GLBT equal rights ballot initiative in Anchorage's April elections.
(Mr. Minnery doesn't mention how many gay and lesbian couples have been denied the right to adopt or foster-parent children thrown away by straight couples.) All those years ago, sitting in the pew, learning for the first time the meaning of taking the Lord's name in vain, made a lasting impression on me. Hating, firing or evicting people simply for being different could never be done "in His name." In fact, that kind of behavior couldn't be more contrary to the message of Christianity.
If Mr. Minnery was supported by two crutches, one would be a certain type of church and the other the Republican Party. And yet the Republican icon, Ronald Reagan himself, once said:
"We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief."
The "Family Council" isn't advocating to provide school lunches to 51,000 hungry kids in Alaska, or medical care for children without insurance, "in His name" or otherwise. I'd like to think that isn't because those who can't afford food or a doctor probably won't be sending money to Jim Minnery and the Alaska Family Council.
If you're feeding, clothing, healing, housing, employing and loving without judging your neighbors, then you can say you've acted "in His name" or "in Humanity's name." If you promote bigotry and discrimination toward your neighbors, you can't.
And if you do it anyway, you'd better look out for lightning bolts.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM/95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. on KYUR Channel 13.