Shuck and Jive

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Millstones and Little Ones

Thanks to Seeker for this post Clergy and Progressive Christianity and for linking to this pastor from San Antonio, Texas. Seeker quotes from his blog:
In my younger days, I was saddled with Jesus saying that it would be better to have a large stone tied around my neck and that I be cast into the lake than for me to tear down the faith of the little ones. I used that teaching to defend my unwillingness to challenge any of the "little ones".

I was wrong; and now at the age of 66 and now standing on the edge of retirement I have come to understand that my fear had more to do with my own need to be "acceptable" and the ill-founded concern for the advancement of my "career", than the fear of being thrown in the lake.

In 1 John 2 the writer delineates three stages of Xn growth: (1) little children, (2) young adults, and (3) mature Xns. So often I and a vast number of educated United Methodist ministers (who ought to know better) have opted to retard the growth of our "faithful" by preaching a harmless, self-centered, salvation gospel to the static congregations in our charge. When the struggles of the"young adults" have arisen, we, for the most part, have smoothed them over and put the children back into their beds. We have ignored the yearning of so many of our faithful to understand the "mysteries of our faith" that are reserved for those who are mature.

My fear to share my understanding of the "mysteries" is rooted in my own cowardice; and perhaps for my own selfish concern for my "career". So much for fear.
Bingo! Shame, bullying, and threats come from the outside all of the time, of course. The problem is when clergy internalize these threats. I received a warning the other day from Rev. Tom "Too Holy for the PCUSA" Gray that was printed in The Layman. Check this out (millstone threat in red):

A response regarding John Shuck
November 2, 2007
It seems that John Shuck [Letters, October 31, 2007] has one real interest – himself. His Web site is clever, but built upon typical 19th-century skepticism. He is deeply sociological, but lacking in any real theological depth.

When he gets down to issues, he mentions important political ones, but he only gives glancing authority to Jesus, saying that he might "have something to say." (I know he was being ironic, but his Web site and his association with the "Jesus Seminar" demonstrate that he doesn't really believe in Jesus as the Gospels reveal Him).

Looking at his blog, it is evident that John rejects, even mocks, much of what Scripture says, settling for a Jesus of the "Seminar's" design. It would be good for John to look to what Jesus really has said:

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

"There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:48)

And, since John is a teacher/pastor, he will be held to a higher standard:

"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

If I believed what he claims to believe, I wouldn't want to believe what those verses say. Since I do believe Scripture, John needs to heed the warning – the words that Jesus actually did say.
Tom Gray
Kirk of the Hills
Tulsa, Okla.

P.S. I wonder if The Layman Online should print one of John's blogs verbatim, simply to illustrate the problem and attitude in progressivism.

Editor's Note: As requested, a blog posted by Rev. Shuck on Oct. 31 is reprinted below (edited for language).

New Winos Are Too Holy for PCUSA

Yeah, yeah. Ho hum. We will always have the fearmongers with us. With a snarl and a spit they will shout "Jesus Seminar" as though they are naming demons from Hell.

Thanks, Rev. Archer, for your honesty. We cannot allow the fearmongers to cause fear within us.


  1. Read the letter and my reaction is "OH BROTHER."

    John, I think you should wear your smear by The Layman as a badge of honor. After all, they have smeared the likes of Clifton Kirkpatrick, Fahed Abu-Akel, Jack Rogers and Melva Costen. You find yourself in very privileged company.

  2. BTW, I reread the "New Winos Too Holy" post again and realized that The Layman made a telling decision. Tom Gray asked The Layman to "print one of John's blogs verbatim, simply to illustrate the problem and attitude in progressivism."

    John, did you notice they chose the one where you argue against schism in the church?

    THAT's the problem with progressivism, trying to keep the body of Christ whole???

  3. Yes, Fly! Exactly! Of course, the Rev. Gray is a schismatic who is trying to take his church and the Presbytery's property out of the PCUSA.

  4. John,

    I don't know if you saw my earlier blog posting about the way the "Jesus Seminar" is used as the boogie man and as a quick means of dispensing with any real discussion of the issues that progressive scholars raise. But the letter attacking you is yet another example of this.

  5. Interesting. Rev. Gray seems to have written something of an autobiographical nature and replaced his name with your's.

    Is there a word for such an effort?

    Anyway, I wonder who Mr. Grey voted for in the '04 Presidential election. If it was Bush, Jesus has probably fitted Grey for his "Millstone" already.
    How many instances of Republican pedophilia have there been? It's difficult to keep up...
    Right Wing Leads "Little Ones" Into Sin

  6. Seeker,

    Yes, I did. I was thinking of that as I was writing this. Should have linked to it Jesus Seminar

    Right on the money! Thanks!

  7. **I know he was being ironic, but his Web site and his association with the "Jesus Seminar" demonstrate that he doesn't really believe in Jesus as the Gospels reveal Him**

    I haven't really received this impression from the heavy-hitters of the Jesus Seminar, such as Marcus Borg. What the author of that post should really be saying is that you don't believe in Jesus as a certain doctrine reveals him. Because that's really what it comes down to. I read somewhere else that when we say, "The Bible says," what we're really saying is "This is what I think the Bible says."

    As it is, Marcus Borg does believe in Jesus as the NT reveals, only in a metaphorical sense. He doesn't take many of the statements as literal truth, but rather as how a community came to interpret Jesus.

    It is interesting how often the Jesus Seminar gets mentioned in dismissve tones, as though they're not worth bothering with, almost. If the Jesus Seminar is that far-left, and radical, then what is there to fear? Why continue belittling it? Shouldn't the Jesus Seminar eventually burn itself out, if it truly has that little substance?

    Me thinks the speaker protest too much.

  8. tn 420 - there is a word for it in psychology: projection.

    onesmallstep - There is a word for what the Layman et al try to do when they disparage the Jesus Seminars: strawman.

    They can also be accused of patronizing those they refer to as the "little ones". All together, now everyone - put your left hand on your hip, place your right hand, about shoulder heighth, in front of you, palm facing forward and repeat after me: "you are NOT talking about me. I KNOW you are NOT talking about me!"

    Nicely done.

  9. From reading his blog, Tom Gray doesn't know much about faithfulness. He betrayed his friends and defenders at presbytery, he is way too obsessed with homosexuality, and completely betrayed the vows he took as a minister of word and sacrament.

    As best as I can tell, he doesn't believe half as much in Scripture as he says he does.

    But I agree with Fly. You know you are hitting home when the Layman takes the time to badmouth you.