The preacher last night at the Union Gospel Mission made a powerful-seeming point which began when he asked the congregation, "If I steal my neighbor's lawnmower, will I have sinned?"
The question hung out there, like a dark cloud over the congregants, for heavy moments before men in the audience yelled out a few "yeah"s and "yes"es and "sure"s.
But with flaying fury, the preacher informed us that No, he would not have have sinned, for it's not the theft of the lawnmower that creates the sin, it is the nature of the sinner. It is desire to steal the lawnmower where the sin is posited.
It is only through spirit and Jesus and God's grace that the lawnmower remains sitting there quietly on his neighbor's overgrown, weedy front lawn, he told us.
This lawnmower example/parable/whatever-it-was had me looking askance at the fellow waving his arms around behind the cross-shaped lecturn. Only by being in God's supple arms was he deterred from kiping* Mr. Jones's** Toro***!?
Now, this preacher is already one I respect less than most. He evokes the Christian Trap, as I call it, more than any of the few who do so. The Christian Trap works like this: The congregants are told something on the order of, "All who doubt the Word are chained by their nose rings to Satan. Thus, you must never doubt for a moment the sweet mutterings that a God-sealed soul like I tell you. You must wholly repudiate the Satanic secular world which is evil and cunning and intent on nothing other than to drag you down into the fiery lake." [And I kid you not, some preachers, like the one at issue in this post, are fully this hysterical.]
Of course, most of the fellows in the mission congregation, while Christian, have their other foot in the secular world, and are not all that easily swayed by a mission preacher's hystrionics. Still, as accustomed as I get with some of the terrible-preachers' bloviations, I always worry that some of my friends in the audience bite the hook in the preacher's bait.
But what was most interesting to me about the preacher's Parable of the Lawnmower was that thing that we non-Christians find to be the most freeky about some Christian of the immature stripe. That is, they believe about themselves that, failing Jesus holding them back, they'd run rampant breaking the Ten Commandments in a spree of mayhem.
This preacher, captivated by tribalist hate thinking, has demonized the secular world and all of us in it. Very likely there's a lot of text in the Bible that supports this way of thinking, just as there is much in the Bible that repudiates it. Contrary to what many Christians, like this preacher, think, the Bible is chockablock with contradictions and verse that can be interpretted in different ways, which sadly allows haters that come to the religion to cherry-pick from it what they choose to believe that supports hate mongering. This is the fundamentalist problem that most religions have.
I submit that 99.999 percent, plus, of secular folk are not on the prowl to steal lawnmowers. And that the preacher last night, should he disavow Christianity [which is not something I'm advocating; I'm just supposing], would not go out on a lawnmower-stealing spree, either.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor [including thy perceived enemies] as thyself." [I cherry-picked the preceeding sentence from the Bible, here, here, here, here, here & here.]
* kipe: means "to steal" [It's a slang word that I like that dictionaries tell me is fading away.]
** I figure one's fictive neighbors should always be the Joneses, based on the old saw about "keeping up with the Joneses."
*** A good make of lawnmower that neighbors you want to keep up with are likely to have.