“We want to place a full-page ad in the New York Times — perhaps as early as next Wednesday — to proclaim the truth about who we are as the United Church of Christ. Will you help make this a reality?”
So goes the latest plea from the Reverend John Thomas, the president of the United Church of Christ, in an announcement to church members this past Friday, March 28th. The UCC is, of course, Barack Obama’s denomination. Mine too. (As always, I speak here for myself, not the UCC church where I serve as a church officer.)
Why the ad? The Reverend Thomas again: “The vision for the ad is to speak proactively to the breadth and diversity of our denomination, while also acknowledging the hurt that many in our country have experienced in recent weeks, including the members of Trinity UCC in Chicago.”
I see. What brought on this sudden urge of the Reverend Thomas and his colleagues in the denominational leadership to run this ad? Well, says the good Reverend: “People are looking at the UCC like they never have before, and that’s why it’s critical that we respond proactively and tell our church’s story. Otherwise, we will let others continue to define us in narrow and distorted ways.”
Let’s come back to this one in a minute.
What will this ad set us back? I always thought ads in the Times were, uh, a bit pricey — unless of course you were MoveOn.org and you got some sort of interesting discount. Thomas is pretty up front: “Of course, the cost will be significant, perhaps in excess of $120,000.”
Yikes! The concern that a conservative UCC member like myself has about something like this is, to be honest, that, well, there will be a less than accurate presentation of the UCC in this very expensive ad. But Thomas insists that “this will be an occasion to explain the uniqueness of our polity, to acknowledge the freedom of our pulpits, and to affirm the rights of our members to agree or disagree in love.”
Just as I was beginning to sigh with relief and love over all of this, I spied the telltale reality check, the typical language of the UCC’s leadership, the reality that has gotten Barack Obama in so much hot water in the real world outside the UCC leadership’s left-wing bubble he had to perform confession to Pope Barbara (as the CBS newsman Morley Safer once referred to the esteemed Ms. Walters) on The View. Finishes Thomas in his e-mail about the prospective ad: “The statement will speak to our oneness in Christ, who strengthens us to be agents of justice, peace and reconciliation.” (Emphasis mine)
As a UCC member, allow me to translate that last part. What Reverend Thomas is saying, without the slightest sense of irony that he is contradicting his own claim about people who might “define us in narrow and distorted ways,” is that the $120,000 he is seeking for his ad will inform the unwashed that, amazing though it might seem, Jesus Christ is actually a genuine 21st century American liberal. Really! Whatever conception you might have of the words “justice,” “peace,” and “reconciliation,” you will find, if you open your heart, they are really the biblical translation for “high taxes,” “appeasement,” and “disagreeing-with-liberalism-is-morally-wrong-because-we-all-know-there’s-nothing- to-debate-besides-which-conservatives-are-bigots-homophobes-and-heartless.” This, I’m always assured, is right there in the Gospels. You can look it up.
All of which, when agreed with, quickly brings us to a round of Kumbaya!
LET’S SPEND SOME TIME on simple math for a moment. “The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind,” says the UCC leadership itself on our church website. This is, however, something quite different from the results of the 2002 Congregational Life Survey of the 15 Mainline Protestant denominations that included the UCC. This survey concluded the following on the political orientation of our church members as they self-identified:p>Conservatives: 41 percent br> Middle: 40 percent br> Liberals: 19 percent /p>
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