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Update on the unhinged goings-on at NC's Waynesville Baptist Church

Pastor Chandler said “his duty, according to the word of God, was to root out that he believed to have Democratic tendencies.” The brain-dead minister told church member Inman: “if we didn’t support George Bush, we would need to resign our position or go to the alter and repent.”

It’s been all over the national and international news at this point – the shenanigans of the East Waynesville Baptist Church’s numnut pastor Chan Chandler, who “excommunicated” members of his church (it was posted on the Blend yesterday). His reason: weeding out “Democratic tendencies” in his flock by telling them that they had to vote for Chimpy of get out, because a vote for Kerry was a vote for abortion and support of homos.

He is looking like the horse’s ass, never mind the little matter of the IRS tax-exempt status of his house of worship.

Video from WLOS/AP is here.

Jerry Meek.

The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Chairman Jerry Meek didn’t mince words, saying Chandler is jeopardizing his church’s tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president. “If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law.”

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.

He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard something like that. Ministers are supposed to bring people in.” Repeated phone calls to Chandler went unanswered Friday, and he was not available at the church or his home to comment. Those members supposedly voted out also could not be contacted Friday.

Dr. George Bullard, associate executive director-treasurer for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said if a church’s bylaws allow for the pastor to establish who and who cannot be members of the church, the pastor has every right to disallow memberships. “Membership is a local church issue,” he said. “It is not something the state convention would enter into.” Morris said, according to the church’s bylaws, business meetings must be announced from the pulpit at least two weeks before the meeting, and 20 members must be present for a quorum.

“He had a quorum, but this was supposed to be a deacon meeting, not a business meeting,” she said. “They’re legally not terminated.” Morris said the members have a lawyer looking into the situation.

Dr. George Bullard of the NC Baptist State Convention: “Membership is a local church issue.” Robert Prince, a pastor at First Baptist in Waynesville, noticed other Baptist ministers in the area were endorsing Bush.

…The Internal Revenue Service exempts certain organizations from taxation including those organized and operated for religious purposes, provided that they do not engage in certain activities including involvement in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Valerie Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, said she could not comment on the East Waynesville situation, but said “in general if a church engages in partisan politics, it could put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy.”

Pastor Robert Prince III of First Baptist Church of Waynesville said he was appalled to hear about the claims but noticed a lot of Southern Baptist ministers endorsing President Bush in November’s election. “One rule has been to speak to issues but not to endorse particular candidates,” he said. “It’s a disturbing development that Baptist pastors are crossing this line and are endorsing specific candidates.”

Also, House Blender Robust McManly Pants (love that name), a gay Tar Heel with family ties in that part of the state, posts about why the goings-on at East Waynesville are no surprise at all. I planned to excerpt a chunk, but this is his whole damn piece, because it was so on-target.

How much crap like this can happen in the world before something changes?

Here’s my immediate reaction: doesn’t he realize the election is over?

Here’s my next-most-immediate reaction: guess he’s tired of that tax-exempt status, eh?

DailyKos has all kinds of information on how to contact various authorities such as the IRS over just such a point. I plan to call them to lodge a complaint, myself, but being from near there all I can really think is, Um, who is surprised this happened in Waynesville?

It’s hard for me to remember not everyone has cousins in Waynesville, though. Ultimately, it’s hard for me to get it up to care – not because I don’t care but because it’s so humiliating to my native region of the state.  It’s like seeing a cousin show up on CNN with MULTIPLE HOMICIDES emblazoned under them on the title bar.  I just want to cover my face and hold up a little sign that reads Not My Deal and wait for it to go away.  I mean, jeez, how many times can this kind of thing happen before everyone just assumes we’re all completely batshit insane if we’re from there?  How many times can someone do something like that before everyone around them starts to hope they just shut up, starts to think that maybe they are crazy, starts to avoid them in the grocery store?  It’s also hard to properly emphasize – neither over- nor underplaying it – that extremist churches split up all the time over stupid little shit.  The church my parents go to is hardly extremist (they’re both Democrats, and they both gladly voted for Kerry, and they both hate Bush) but just before I was born there was a huge schism within their congregation over, I shit you not, where to put the American flag in the sanctuary.  The question revolved around whether to have it up front, next to the altar, suggesting that (a) religion and politics were inseparable, (b) faith and patriotism were inseparable and/or (c) that the secular state and religious sanctum shared equal importance in worshippers’ lives.  The side that advocated keeping it at the back of the sanctuary won out, and from what I later came to understand – all through eavesdropped snippets, mind you, since down here we only talk about bad things when we can pretend no one is listening – that was the side that said neither a, b nor c should be considered church doctrine – but without ever agreeing on what church doctrine should be.  There were people on both ends of the left-right spectrum on that side, people who couldn’t have had a civil discussion of politics tied to a chair and loaded on hits of X, who teamed up together because, all is
sues aside, that simple matter of interior design – a geographical question of less than 100 feet – was enough opportunity for blood to push their otherwise disparate packs together.  In little churches like this, or in any community where there are an abundance of things so minor they’re worth killing for, it’s far easier to fight over what people should not do than try to establish and agree upon what they should.

Witness the last 30 years of right-wing politics for a taste of this, people.  Getting churched for being a Democrat is just a microcosmic instance of the entire right-wing philosophy: to question is to subvert and disagreement is treason.  If you make fun of Bush, you must hate America.  If you disagree with the war, you must hate America.  If you vote for Kerry, you must hate the church.  If you have gay sex, you must hate families.  The entire right-wing machine runs on the fuel of negative philosophy – that is, they do nothing so much as attack that which they say they are not because it’s sure as shit easier than trying to produce that which they say they are.  It’s so much easier and cheaper, every time they get bored, to just find a new strawman Other and pronounce them entirely unfit for treatment as a human being, isn’t it?

After all, it would get ugly mighty fast if they tried to talk about what they are. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to happen.  And I’m shocked that anyone – including myself – is ever shocked anymore.

Surf over and check out Robust’s blog for some excellent reading and a good laugh (I highly recommend the entry on Jim West, the outed Spokane mayor).

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding