Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 10th, 2015 by Joel Watts

quote of the day from Francis Asbury – can’t trust the laity

This is from this blog’s FB page.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

7 Responses to “quote of the day from Francis Asbury – can’t trust the laity”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    This line of reasoning was by no means unique to Asbury. Much the same logic is embedded in The Constitution of the United States as penned in 1787. That’s why, for example, only property owning white males could vote. Even then, that select group was only permitted to directly elect members of the House of Representatives.

    An almost primordial fear of the masses still exists today. This is evidenced in both education and religion.

    Barring some perceived exceptional academic talent sufficient to make the possessor thereof a likely threat to the status quo if not co-opted, most people are denied access to the broader spectrum of higher education found in elite universities. Those lacking the requisite talent are trained in a narrowly defined specialty beyond which their expertise and, thus, authority are severely restricted.

    Likewise, sermons preached in working class churches differs considerably to those delivered to upscale congregations. While most churchgoers are promised an eternal reward based on faith and obedience in this life, those with deeper pockets are assured that God already trust them. After all, upscale parishioners are assured, God entrusted them with wealth and power.

    Essentially, preachers in working class churches act as babysitters. While they have the trappings of education, frequently in the form of a doctorate from some obscure diploma mill, they wield no real power. Meanwhile, the real power in the church resides in the hands of what can best be described as a sugar daddy.

    This really is the untold story of that subculture known as a Baptist church. There is no national Baptist hierarchy. Anyone can start a Baptist church. All that is required is an ability to attract a crowd. Then, if the preacher delivers the right message, he will will find a godfather to bankroll the operation.

    While in the days of the old textile mill South, the mill owner usually first built the church and then hired a preacher to pacify working families, the basic stratagem remained the same. The preacher was merely a front man for an oligarchy of deacons controlled by a puppet master pulling the financial strings. Quite often, this same clique of drinking buddies controlled the town.

    Nor, did this plan have to be confined to the four walls of a church. That was also how Billy Graham rose to fame and fortune as an anti-communist mouthpiece for capitalist puppeteers. These days, of course, son Franklin is stumbling along in his father’s footsteps.

    According to classic Church doctrine, there is one god. Below him is the deity’s designated representative on earth. Beneath the Sunday sermonizer, everyone else falls into line. Those failing to do so are labeled as either heretics or instruments of Satan.

    Leaders not wanting competition is a story at least as old as Saul telling David to bring him one hundred Philistine penis parts in I Samuel 18:25-27. Some things never change.

  2. I recognize a few anachronisms in the quote that make me question its authenticity.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      While Asbury probably never presented a paper on the dying Methodist church during the Second Great Awakening or “Laughed Out Loud” in his writings, the basic theme is consistent with a widely held philosophy of the era.

      • The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they’re legitimate-Abraham Lincoln.

      • not Asbury tho. nor Methodism as whole. Asbury went from lay preacher to bishop in the span of 3 days and worked to promote laity, something that paid off.

        • Know More Than I Should says

          Asbuy’s rise to prominence sounds like a battlefield promotion in a situation where more experienced leadership was lacking.

          Still, as a spinoff of Anglicanism, in itself a product of Catholicism, Methodism did not create an espousal of liberté, égalité, fraternité (the liberty, equality, fraternity of the French Revolution). A moneyed hauteur of founding families paying the bills permeates many Methodist churches in the United States.

          Rather, Methodism seems to have given Christianity two things:

          An intermingling of socioeconomic classes.

          A functional catechism (teaching by practice rather than by recitation).

          However, like Baptists and Lutherans, Methodism teaches salvation by faith rather than by works. At the same time, much like Catholics and Episcopalians, the United Methodist Church is fond of its liturgical trappings.

          In contrast, Methodist sermons can take on the fervor of an evangelical tent revival. Was this not the case, it is unlikely that Methodism would have made a significant contribution to the First Great Awakening. Nonetheless, given Methodism’s prominance in the Sunday School movement, it has been said that Methodists are literate Baptists.

          To claim that Methodism is free from 18th century assumptions of class also glosses over the fact that the United Methodist Church in American life is embedded in a society where an egregious concentration of wealth is considered to be evidence of God’s blessing an exceptional nation.

          In the end, like most white churches — as opposed, for example, to black liberation theology — Methodst churches in America are largely devoted to preserving the status quo.

  3. Know More Than I Should says

    “Oh, I would agree.” responded George Washington.

    Meanwhile, even responding to fabricated quotes can be useful in making valid points. This can be especially true if one does not take anything said or ascribed to politicians or preachers too seriously.

    More to the point with the alleged Asbury quote, the fatal flaw in religion, politics, education, and criminal justice in American life is all four are predicated on an 18th century assumption that anyone without the appropriate title is an illiterate of superficial interests only capable of knowing a great deal about nothing. Thus, he or she must be led by designated experts. .

    Thus, juries, parishioners, students, and voters are expected to sit quietly and learn from designated experts. After all, it is assumed that those possessing the title of academic, lawyer, preacher, politicians are experts in everything.

    In reality, the higher one climbs the professional ladder, the more narrowly defined one’s skills become.

    Much the same omniscient believed to be possessed by today’s professionals was once ascribed to physicians. Of course, that was before antibiotic-resistant bacteria began outwitting them. Now, it is realized that even the once god-like medical profession has feet of clay.

    The above outmoded assumption of expert versus layperson — if it has not done so already — will eventually so undermine respect for the status quo that the whole system will collapse.

    While Donald Trump, that man on horseback writers of The Constitution of the United States so feared, may ride to power in 2016, he will not be able to long save the empire from the seeds of its own destruction. In fact, he may even destroy that which, in his narcissism, he believes he can save.

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