Every few days I can count on getting a press release from something called the American Pastors Network quoting a guy named Sam Rohrer. Rohrer is one of these far-right, fundamentalist characters who is always displeased about something.
Most often, Rohrer is unhappy because people aren’t doing what he thinks they ought to do. Take America’s pastors, for example. They aren’t beating on the gays enough.
“Marriage and homosexuality are two of the most important issues in the church today, and there is perhaps no area of ministry more crucial,” Rohrer intoned in his most recent missive to the media. “In particular, pastors must not avoid preaching biblical truth about marriage – about how God designed this holy union between one many and one woman. Anything outside of that scope falls short of God’s law and His plan, even if the law of the land says otherwise.”
Rohrer drones on, “One of the goals of the American Pastors Network is to continually encourage pastors to be effective ‘salt and light’ in this dark world and preach the ‘whole counsel of God. There is no greater calling for these ‘Ministers of God’ and no greater responsibility to God’s people. Especially in these sometimes-discouraging times, the church must be a light, and pastors must be committed to bringing these issues to the pulpit – and to their congregations.”
Rohrer believes there are several reasons why so many pastors aren’t attacking marriage equality around the clock. He speculates that pastors may fear pushback from the congregation or worry about getting into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
It apparently never occurred to him that there may be another reason: Lots of pastors believe Rohrer is all wet.
And for good reason. Rohrer, you see, is something of a broken record. On Dec. 9, Rohrer issued a virtually identical statement about the pressing need for more pastors to attack Muslims from the pulpit, chastising ministers for not doing it enough. The two statements literally contain the same quotes.
Rohrer is unhappy because few pastors are taking him up on his unsolicited pulpit helps. There are probably good reasons for that.
One is that a lot of pastors simply don’t agree with Rohrer. Gay rights continues to be a divisive issue in American society to be sure, but a clear trend has emerged in favor of acceptance. The nation turned a definitive corner in June when the U.S. Supreme Court extended marriage equality nationwide. Aside from Kim Davis in Kentucky and some recalcitrant county judges in Alabama, the majority of government officials shrugged and went on to do their duties. They are issuing marriage licenses to all legally qualified couples.
As for the churches, they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to. Members of the American Pastors Network don’t have to preside at same-sex marriages or even allow LGBT people to attend their churches. That is never enough for them. In classic Puritan style, they fret constantly over what people who attend other houses of worship (or choose to not attend a house of worship) are doing.
Another reason Rohrer is being ignored is that polls show that young people these days aren’t much interested in churches that base their theology on crude attacks on LGBT people and constant calls for cultural war. That’s not the Christianity many millennials seek. Rohrer may not like it, but that’s reality.
In fact, lots of people, not just millennials, are weary of politicized pulpits, period. Many folks go to church for a spiritual experience and to get closer to God. They seek grace and salvation, not hate and division.
Of course, Rohrer and his pastor pals are free to preach whatever toxic brew they like in their own churches. This is America. If someone really wants to sit in a pew week after week and listen to a grim and dour neo-Puritan scream about how horrible some people are based on who they love or how they live, there are plenty of churches that offer that.
But lots of others have rejected a narrow and divisive fundamentalist theology that dwells only on the dark side. They prefer a theology that lifts people up rather than constantly tamps them down. (Or maybe they prefer no theology at all.)
It’s great to have options – one of them being the ability to ignore naysayers like Rohrer. I suppose his answer to that would be, “You’ll go to hell.” Well, I have my own reply to that: “If heaven is populated by people like you – people whose theology teaches them only to hate and never to love, people who pander to what’s worst in us instead of lifting up what’s best, people who are quick to judge others but slow to examine their own behavior – that’s no heaven to me. Thanks, but I'll pass."