Skip to comments.Wild About Harry?: Tales from Diocesan Convention, Chapter 2
Posted on 03/04/2005 10:55:33 AM PST by sionnsar
Who of us over the age of 30 has not heard of Clint Eastwoods character Dirty Harry? Wait since a lot of Episcopalians profess a false gospel of social justice and non-violence, many of you might quickly turn the channel if you came across Inspector Dirty Harry Callahan and his vigilante methods. But for those of you who have seen a Dirty Harry movie or two, you know the great one-liner in the original movie. You may have even jokingly quoted it a time or two:.
Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?
The poor guy posed with that question, looking at the wrong end of Inspector Callahans .44 Magnum, knows the gamble. As he tries to remember if it was five bullets or six that Harry fired back there, he would indeed have to feel lucky to challenge Harry by choosing not to surrender. Needless to say, the consequences of gambling and losing were grave.
Clint Eastwood was not present at the 174th Diocesan Convention, but there was another character there very much like Dirty Harry. He was at work in the words of the keynote speaker, and the question that should have arose in any Christians mind after hearing his address on Friday afternoon is much more serious than the question Inspector Callahan asked.
The question is: Do you believe Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God the Father?
Why would I compare the Very Rev. Harry Pritchett, former dean of the Cathedral of St. John in New York City, to Inspector Dirty Harry Callahan? One might have reason to exercise some caution when listening to Rev. Pritchett based on both his past history and based on past events at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. But in Birmingham last weekend Rev. Pritchett was entertaining, enthusiastic, engaging, and energetic. He said convincing things like people matter more than religion and it is wrong to hold right beliefs above right relationships. To elevate principle above people is to behave like the Pharisees or Sadducees, and look how often Jesus rebuked them! After all, he said the Sadducees believed that the Scriptures included only the Pentateuch, and we know that the writers of the New Testament certainly recognized and quoted passages outside the first five books of the Bible as Scripture. All this sounds good so far.
Rev. Pritchett also said that narrowness and rigidity are never signs of faith, but of fear. If we are showing narrowness or rigidity, we need to just stop it. Now I dont want to be like a Pharisee, but didnt Jesus say in the gospels of Matthew and Luke that the way to life is narrow, and didnt he encourage us to make every effort to enter through the narrow gate? I began to feel a little suspicious about where this was going.
My suspicions were confirmed as Rev. Pritchett went on to describe an event where the Dalai Lama processed down the two-football-field aisle of the cathedral with Rev. Pritchett and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. He moved forward and joined hands with the two of them, much like Jesus would have done. This was the only time I recall hearing the name of Jesus mentioned in the keynote address. So Jesus and the Dalai Lama are two wonderful, loving, peaceful, gentle models for us to pattern our life after. There was no mention of how Jesus might be a little different from the Dalai Lama in that Jesus is the Son of God. No mention of his saving blood or the hope of eternal life we have in his resurrection. By then I could see the narrowness and rigidity theme was directed not only at those who would say certain behaviors proscribed in the Bible are sin, but also at people like me who proclaim John 14:6, where Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. I had better not tell anyone that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). And dont even think about saying something like anyone who does not have the Son of God does not have eternal life (1 John 5:12).
Suspicion turned to shock when Rev. Pritchett said faithfulness is being willing to hang loose. If we just hang loose, we lean toward affirming we really are one with the heartbeat of creation. Where did this come from? This message is not biblical!
We know that all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Gods purpose in Christ is to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10). He is the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15). We are commanded to proclaim the gospel of Jesus to all of creation (Mark 16:15). All of creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19). Meanwhile, all of it is subjected to frustration and groans in the pain of childbirth because of sin (Romans 8:20-22; Gal. 3:22). So while all people are created in the image of God and God has made a way through Jesus for all to be reconciled to him, nowhere does the Bible say that Christians and non-Christians are one. In fact, it calls us to be separate from the world (John 15:19, 17:16; Rom. 12:2; James 4:4; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:15, 5:19). To say that we are one with the heartbeat of creation borders on the worship of creation described in Romans 1. That passage is clear about the consequences of such idol worship, and we are doing the same thing today that Paul spoke of then. Is it any surprise that we are confused about sexuality?
This leaning toward the worship of creation is not surprising, given that other former deans of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine such as the Very Rev. James Parks Morton have been a not-so-covert supporter of the United Religion Initiative. While at St. John the Divine, Morton said, "The language of the 'Sacred Earth' has got to become mainline."
This coming together of all creation under Christ does not occur by following some new age concept of becoming one with all creation. To suggest this is to preach a gospel other than the gospel of Jesus because it refuses to say Jesus is Lord. In fact, it curses him because it denies his power. We know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, Jesus be cursed, and no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). So if Harry Pritchett was not able to say Jesus is Lord, and in fact cursed Christ by elevating the Dalai Lama to his level, he could not have been speaking by the Holy Spirit. So who was that crafty character we heard speaking through him?
Harry Pritchetts words carried death as surely as Harry Callahans .44 Magnum. The Dalai Lama needs to be surrounded with Gods love and he needs to be in a Christian church as much as anybody. But Rev. Pritchetts sermon was no different from this Unitarian Universalist sermon. We could have heard the same thing by watching The Lion King and listening to the song Circle of Life. The principle of the one true gospel is the greatest form of love ever expressed (John 15:13). God loves us so much that he gave his only Son for us (John 3:16). We sinners could not be with him if he had not sent Jesus and Jesus had not been obedient (Rom. 3:23; Philippians 2:8). By preaching a false New Age gospel, Rev. Pritchett actually withheld love.
But from all appearances most at diocesan convention did not see it that way. Rev. Pritchett received a standing ovation from almost all present. Resolution 19, submitted and passed from the floor the next day, said he lifted us from our lugubrious state, and were just wild about Harry. In speaking out against a proposed amendment to the budget that would have reduced money sent to General Convention, Rev. Steve Gruman of St. Matthews in Madison quoted Rev. Pritchetts just stop it line during debate on the floor of convention.
So Ill repeat the question I have for those at diocesan convention, and for anyone reading this. The consequences of a no answer are life and death, just like the consequences of gambling with Dirty Harry Callahan.
Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God the Father? (Well, do you ?)
The good news for you is God our Father is patient, not wanting anyone to perish. He invites everyone to say yes. He stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears his voice and opens the door, Jesus will come in. To the Dalai Lama, Rev. Harry Pritchett, and to all he says, Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
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