My mother’s church in Wisconsin holds an annual rummage sale that, for them, is a big moneymaker and a top social event of the season. All year long congregants set aside various odds and ends they’re ready to give up, creating a small mountain of post-consumer flotsam in their basement or garage. Then on the big day it all gets hauled to the church, where it’s spun into gold. And by “gold” I mean two bucks for a seriously scratched copy of “Burl Ives Sings Chuckwagon Favorites.”
Rummage also means, “to engage in an undirected or haphazard search,” and it seems that we are rummaging through some churches of late, perhaps uncertain what we’re looking for. Although there could be more Burl Ives albums out there.
It may be nothing more than coincidence that at roughly the same time Texas is finally busting in on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are also seeing a Nightline report on Scientology hinged on first-hand accounts from a young woman who was deeply involved with that group, and taking second and third looks at Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and his Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which claims Barack Obama as a member.
In the case of the F.L.D.S. sect in Texas, authorities responded to a cell phone call from a 16-year-old girl in the compound who was making a cry for help. So one can argue that the initial action was solely one of safety authorities doing their job. But certainly those same authorities had a running interest in a huge “ranch” where they knew polygamy was practiced and they had speculative knowledge of sexual abuse. The phone call created a possibly long-sought opportunity to move in with legal legs.
As far as Scientology goes… when the next Tom Cruise film “Valkyrie” finally gets a release and tanks as predicted, we’re bound to get some fresh evidence of exactly how peaceful Scientology makes your mind. Oprah should cover her sofa with that plastic stuff… now.
Of course we know how Rev. Wright’s church and his sermons came to be called into question. What’s surprising is that any of it found traction. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Black Pride movements of the 60s and 70s should have no problem understanding Rev. Wright’s full-picture take on American history. And while video showing Wright seeming to imply that America brought the terrorism of 9/11 upon itself seems bold because it was from a sermon delivered only five days after the attack, those of us who understand that there were no WMD’s in Iraq may see Wright’s statements as prescient of a soon-arriving change in the American mood.
Still… did some Americans actually entertain the notion that Barack Obama belonged to some kind of fringe Black church of American resistance?! Why? Because there was too much strong truth served straight – no chaser in Rev. Wright’s sermons?
With Scientology and the F.L.D.S there’s an element of concealment that has perhaps finally worn down or collapsed. Much as we love freedom and liberty here in the U.S., we often show little tolerance when people assert that what they’re doing or practicing is none of our business. Part of that is that privacy is no longer valued; it’s viewed as quaint or even backwards. So who are you to try and protect what goes on in your “church”?
Maybe there’s a wave that started with Jim and Tammy Faye Baker that is now picking up steam because of the child protective movement and causing us to be more assertive about exactly what’s going on in a church. What was the deal with our tolerance of polygamist church ranches before the Texas action? These F.L.D.S. dudes have been at it for a hundred years! No, I don’t think it’s about time. Because it would be odd if we were only now suddenly rummaging for some clearer definition of a church’s legitimacy when we’ve known for years that the darkest corruptions and violations are possible even in the world’s largest, and Christianity’s oldest, religious body.