One thing that visitors to the area soon comment about are the number of churches.
Religion is big business here, and that is exactly what it is, a business.
Yesterday, one of the very first television preachers or evangelists I saw over here, Robert Schuller, passed away. His famous church, the Crystal Cathedral, is in Southern California, and for years he was on every Sunday morning with his sermons and service. I never once saw him ask for money or donations. Unfortunately a few years ago it all went bankrupt and the wonderful church was sold to a nearby Roman Catholic church.
I believe there are more churches in Tennessee per head than anywhere else in the US. Even where our land is there is, in the middle of the countryside, there is a church, The Rocky Creek Baptist church, within walking distance.
One of the most ‘successful’ churches in the Nashville area is led by a convicted murderer. Yesterday I saw a commercial on television for this church, with its new restaurant, free wi-fi and very beautiful, new spacious building. A local paper has had this pastor in its sights for a number of years, as it appears he has never shown remorse over the death of the woman he murdered. Now, I’ve never met him, but a couple of my family have. He is the least Godly person – arrogant, rude and cold. I even wrote a song about him, Jailhouse Jesus and the Preacher, which was on the Country Tales and Hobo Trails album. He claims, like many other prisoners, to have found God, in prison. Of course this helps with their parole.
I am also aware that members of his congregation actually donate a percentage of their earnings to his church, on a regular basis, no matter how little they earn, or how much.
Faith is such a personal thing, and I feel that respecting other people’s faiths and beliefs is paramount to a safe world. I have a friend who was born Jewish, has tried most faiths through his life and is now a devoted Christian, saying that Jesus spoke to him one day from the television, and told him to stop smoking weed! His social media page is full of rants against Palestine, updates throughout every day. It is a dangerous obsession. I did try to steal his soapbox one day but he caught me. I also made sure not to be stuck in a car with him for anytime amount of time, the few occasions I did I seriously thought of jumping out of the moving car, or pushing him out. He is one of the sweetest humans I’ve met, but has this dark side to him, fuelled by religion. His extremism is as dangerous in some ways, (not all ways, of course) as extremists from other religions.
To kill, in any religion, is a sin, it is as simple as that, no matter how people may try to twist or reword the Bible or the Karan or any other religious book, and take words out of context, to suit personal fanatical views.
Financial gain should never be allowed either. In England, the Church of England are the largest land owners in the country, yet they invest their profits in companies that make loans to desperate people, with extortionate interest rates. Why not invest it back into the community? The Vatican of course is another incredibly wealthy institution.
Personal beliefs should never be imposed on others; other faiths and views should be respected, surely? I have learnt never to start a conversation about religion, or politics! They are the two no goes!
Here in Middle Tennessee you can’t buy wine or liquor on a Sunday. A new bill is being passed that allows supermarkets to sell wine; they already sell beer, but that’s it.
Now the Jesus I believe in liked wine, was always drinking it. The Jesus I believe in though didn’t like churches, called them ‘a den of thieves’, (which I used in the Christmas Jackson Woods story). That’s why He spoke on hillsides and beaches and other open spaces.
Going back to the church in the commercial last night, there is simply no excuse for restaurants in churches, or free wifi. Go to church to pray, go to talk with God, but that’s it – the profit is paying for a private helicopter (which this pastor has), and a huge mansion (which this pastor has). He found that not only was God his possible way out of prison early, but he discovered that God means money to many people, makes money for so many. This pastor is now making millions, far more than if he had kept to his life or murder and crime.
The irony though is that his church is packed every Sunday, as indeed many are here. There is a weekly television broadcast of the services. There are church sections in the local papers where churches advertise but in many cases I feel their faith is being abused. History shows many so-called men (and women) of God end up in prison for abusing their positions, either financially or sexually, or both!
I think they have lost sight of the faith, blinded by greed and the green dollar signs.
When I was looking to join a royalty collection company I went to PRS offices in London. They are lovely, very lavish, with original paintings, sculptures, all paid for by songwriters. I went then to the ASCAP offices and they were in a small, working suite of offices. I joined them. Maybe it should be that way with churches. There is a new church that has just opened down the road. They have to have the sheriff’s department at their services to organise the traffic there are so many people.
I remember going to church, in Cardiff, the Albany Road Baptist church. It was always crowded, which was nice, and I went to Sunday school, as did my kids. Learning the teachings of any faith is wonderful and I can understand and respect why so many people go to church but there are some people who will seek to abuse these people’s trust, just like in any industry = look at the entertainment industry! I saw yesterday another new church being opened, this one called The Music City Baptist Church!
Today is Good Friday, so this seems pretty apt. Someone doesn’t have to go to church to be a good Christian, far from it. To me, Christianity is more a way of life, helping and loving each other, just being kind – do unto others …..
There does also seem to be a belief here that someone can sin and just go to church the next Sunday and God will forgive them, so it’s okay that they killed someone. It is not okay, but they can make serious amends. If you’re in prison and you find your cellmate is Jesus, great, but don’t use that to make money and abuse people’s need to believe in something, or someone.
Finally, remember Matthew 19:24 “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Happy Easter or Passover.