For the past two months, CL has been visiting churches ranging from mega to mini, metro to suburban, conservative to liberal, to find out what's going on within the Christian faith -- that almighty force that's credited with smiting evil, swinging elections, and engaging in never-ending debates over which denomination hears the word of God most clearly.
It's fair to say most Georgians these days seek greater religious influence over the public domain. For instance, 79 percent of Georgia residents approve of prayer in schools; 72 percent approve of displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings; and 58 percent want to see religious values have a greater influence on politics, according to a 2004 poll conducted by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
In an unscientific survey of the many incarnations of Christianity in Atlanta, CL visited churches across the metro area, from the fire-and-brimstone pulpit of Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs to the televised broadcasts of prosperity preacher Creflo Dollar in College Park. We heard warnings about the sins of homosexuality in Cumming's Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, encountered reflections on loss at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, and caught a lesson on integrity and deception at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta (where Dr. Charles Stanley, incidentally, is spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush).
Here, in their own words, are excerpts from the sermons of some of the most (and least) influential church leaders in metro Atlanta.
"I have no idea how I got off on that"
Bishop Jim Bolin is the dynamic and passionate senior pastor of Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs. He and his wife, Robin, lead a congregation of more than 7,000 people. The following is from a sermon that he and his wife delivered in November.
Bishop Bolin: "Have you ever seen so much happen in one year's time on this Earth? Have you seen such extremes go on all over the Earth, with the rain and the storms and the typhoons and the hurricanes and the earthquakes? I mean, over and over. It's breaking out in France right now. They are getting crazy over there. They are fed up with it in western Europe. They are fed up with it down in South America.
"We are fed up with it here in the U.S. I'm telling you, I'm fed up with the Democrat, and I'm fed up with the Republican. I'm so sick and tired of the games they are playing, the accusations that they keep making. They need to shut up and get back up there to Washington, D.C., and do what we elected them to do -- quit bellyaching and moaning and groaning. We need some men and women who are adults and will conduct themselves in the best interest of this nation.
"[They are] acting like a bunch of nuts up there, tearing down the president. I know he didn't do everything right, but the Bible says to pray for the one in authority over you. Last time I checked, this nation is founded upon the word of God. We are one nation under God, indivisible.
"Raising taxes doesn't solve problems. Hey, the government didn't birth you to raise you. They will mess with you every time. They will use you and abuse you and drop you. Let Him be your source. As long as Uncle Sam is your source, they're gonna control you and manipulate you and use you.
"It's time [for] the church [to] stand up. It's time [for] the church [to] say, 'Hey, come follow us. We got a way out of poverty. In fact, we're not going to give you a handout, we're going to give you a hand up. We're not just going to give you some fish, we're going to teach you how to fish. And if you don't want to learn how to fish, all you're going to get is a fish sandwich, because this boat is going on down the road.
"Amen. I have no idea how I got off on that.
"Now, please listen to Pastor Robin for a few minutes."
Pastor Robin: "Let me first of all, men, say to you, would you please let me stand in the gap for the women of this church? And I want to ask you to forgive us if we have put our own desires in, [if] we have beat you down, and made you feel like you're scum, or you can't take care of your family.
"Will you forgive us women for making you feel like you cannot be the leader and the warrior of the home? Would you forgive us women for being controlling and manipulative? Would you please let me stand in the gap for the women today?
"Women, let me just address you a minute. God is calling you to shut up. Women, we think [we] always gotta say something. We think we always gotta do our little manipulation to get the man to do what he was supposed to do.
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