"Anyone who wants to give your life to Jesus, please come forward as the congregation sings. If you want to be in prayer about how God is calling you to serve, come to the prayer rail and let's pray.
Oh, yes - and those of you who did not vote for George Bush in the last election, come to the altar and repent of your sin. Come down now! ... I know who you are! If you don't come down front, then just go ahead and leave"
In one church in Waynesville, North Carolina, voting for anyone but George Bush will get you called to the altar by your preacher for repentance, and if you choose not to come up to the front, you will be excused from the church altogether.
This is apparently not a joke. This apparently actually happened. A WLOS news clip reported it. It probably will never make big headlines nationally, but the blog world is all over it. One of the reports I saw lists an Associated Press byline, and I have read that Keith Olberman is going to have it on his show tonight.
An isolated incident? Just one nutty preacher? Something to laugh at?
A symptom of something bigger? The first of many nutty preachers? Something to be scared of?
Here's what I think: when it happens in one congregation, it hurts the entire church. Not because it might happen again, but because it happened once. We are one body with many members. What happens with one member affects the entire body.
You know what I think we should do? (tee-hee!) This Sunday, when the preacher extends the invitation to Christian discipleship, I think all of us who voted for John Kerry or Ralph Nader last fall should come on down and repent! We should come to the altar and say, "We are sorry, God. We are sorry for wasting everyone's time by voting last fall. We are sorry for the time we wasted considering the issues, studying candidates' positions, and trying to figure out the best decisions to make. We are sorry for actually thinking that we live in a free Democratic society. It would have been so much easier just to listen to the religious right and do whatever they told us to do. Please do not smite us, O Lord. We promise never to think on our own ever again!"
And since I'm the preacher in my local manifestation of the body, I'll be up front already. Less distance for me to walk!