Weighing in

Well, I have tried to avoid it, but just feel the need for some catharsis regarding the Winkler case in Tennessee. I have been going to a news website located in the area to get the latest info on a daily basis as mainline media interest has slipped–and we don’t have cable. This morning I found a couple of good blogs regarding the case–basically two men just writing their thoughts–which are also my thoughts–and probably everyone’s thoughts. . .especially if you are a member of the church of Christ. On one blog, a man–a Baptist I believe–had expressed that probably church members had a hard time believing this had happened because we don’t believe in the power of Satan or the power of the Holy Spirit. I know that to be true in some of our brotherhood–it’s still pretty true of the church where I grew up, but here is the comment I left:

“I am a member of the church of Christ, and Adam was correct in stating that some members of the church don’t recognize the power of the Holy Spirit or of Satan. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to doctrine of some denominations. . .

Satan is powerful–and very, very happy right now. He has managed to end the life of a servant of God and ruin the life of his wife, kids, and family. HOWEVER, Satan DOES NOT get the last word here. The response of the members of the church in Selmer (from what I’ve read) as well as Matthew Winkler’s family and the community at Freed has been one of love and forgiveness.

As a woman ‘born and raised’ in the church, I cannot fathom picking up a shot gun and killing my husband. I cannot fathom my mom doing it or my grandmother doing it. . .that is not how we live. But the Bible is full of stories like this–times and places and situations when things got out of hand and horrible things were done–either planned or at a moment’s notice. I think God included those stories for a reason.

The apostle Paul stated that you should ‘be careful that you think you’re standing lest you fall.’ In other words–we are all on a precipice–the choice between right and wrong. It takes but a nudge to send us plummeting over the edge–no matter how ‘good’ we are. I think that is why there is such intense curiosity in this case. If SHE could do something so outlandish–something that NO ONE saw coming, then so could I. So could you. So could anyone. Or maybe we are missing signs that we should be paying attention to. It causes us all to wonder about our own stability.

I, like your wife, have thought that no ‘good’ can come from this. And that is a defeatest attitude. My conscious mind knows the statement is true–but the Spirit of God cries that it is untrue. We do not yet know the good that will arise since ‘God works all things together for good for them that love the Lord.’ Even death. Even tragedy. Even when all hope is lost.”

I DO know one thing–a lot of the people close to the case certainly believe in the power of forgiveness. . .and I’m pretty confident they believe in the power of God to sort out this terrible mess.

I do not know Mary Winkler personally. But I have known thousands of Mary Winklers in my life-time. They are you and me and every woman I’ve ever encountered at any church I’ve ever visited–at Harding–at camp. She’s a young Christian wife and mother who believes what I believe–attended a Christian university–was “raised in the church.” I am still naive in a lot of ways, and that is why I cannot fathom how this all transpired. It is very, very sad. That is an understatement. I do know that God will use this tragedy as a lesson–though we don’t yet know exactly how far reaching that lesson might be.


2 thoughts on “Weighing in

  1. One of the real tragedies of such narrow, exclusivistic sectarianism is that, although these people are truly in the minority in the Churches of Christ, they are nevertheless extremely vocal. Therefore, their religious antics have caused those in this faith-heritage, who do not share their narrow-mindedness, to be the recipients of some very negative publicity from others in Christendom, and also from unbelievers. Good, decent, devoted, rational Christian men and women within this movement are too frequently slandered and libeled because of the irrational excesses and attitudes of those on the extremist fringes of our movement. It is the Waddeys of the world, and, believe me, he is tame compared to some, who have made the efforts of evangelistic, ecumenical disciples of Christ, who work and worship with Churches of Christ, far more difficult.

    A perfect example of this was seen recently on a CNN broadcast in connection with the Matthew Winkler murder. On Monday evening, March 27, on the Nancy Grace show (and I would encourage readers to examine the Transcript of that particular broadcast), she, in the course of her discussion of this tragedy that occurred in Tennessee, briefly conducted an interview with a Baptist pastor named Tom Rukala. Nancy Grace said, “I want to go to pastor Tom Rukala, joining us tonight, a special guest, a Baptist minister. I’ve been researching the Church of Christ. I don’t know that much about it. What can you tell me?” First, I found it rather interesting that she sought insight from a Baptist pastor as to the beliefs and practices of those in the Churches of Christ. But, the pastor was there and she tossed the question his way. His answer was fascinating, and it has caused quite an uproar among members of the Churches of Christ, some of whom are even calling for a boycott of CNN (personally, I stopped watching them years ago!).

    Pastor Rukala (some have suggested his name was not spelled correctly in the transcript, and that it should be “Ruhkala”) replied, “Well, the Church of Christ is a relatively new church. It was started about 150 years ago by Alexander Campbell. And it’s, unfortunately, a very legalistic sect, and they tend to use methods of intimidation and pressure tactics. They claim that they are the only ones going to heaven, and all other people are condemned to hell.” Nancy Grace said, “What more can you tell me?” The pastor continued, “Well, they claim that if you’re not baptized by one of their ministers, that you’re doomed to hell, even if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, which, of course, breaks completely from the traditional Christian view that all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved because we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. For the Church of Christ folks, that’s not enough. You have to be a member of their narrow sect. It’s a very exclusive group. And if you’re not a member of their sect, you’re condemned.”

    Nancy Grace responded, “You know, Pastor, you keep saying ‘sect.’ You make it sound like a cult.” He then replied to her, “It kind of is a borderline cult, unfortunately. I don’t want to make it out to be some kind of Hare Krishna group, but it has cult-like characteristics.” Nancy asked, “In what sense?” He responded, “Well, in the sense of the exclusivism, the attitude that they are the only ones who know the truth. The tactics that they use are sometimes not only unbiblical, but unethical, and they can be very ungracious, unfortunately.” At this point, Nancy Grace turned to another guest. However, in just a few seconds, millions received a very negative view of the Churches of Christ. The temptation, of course, is to vilify the Baptist pastor for his harsh remarks, or to question the journalistic approach of Nancy Grace. I will do neither. Sadly, I think some within our faith-heritage have invited such a view by their religious arrogance. Was the characterization of Tom Rukala accurate? Well, yes and no. It is most certainly NOT accurate of the vast majority of Churches of Christ, or those within them. But, sadly, it is very accurate of the extremists among us … and they tend to be the most vocal, unfortunately. Thus, Pastor Rukala may simply have been reporting what he had personally observed and experienced.

    Brethren, let’s face it: there are some among us — the legalistic patternists — who are doing great harm to the One Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Frankly, there has always been such an element among the people of God … even among the early Jews. They were called the Pharisees. Paul gave a quote from the prophet Ezekiel when describing such rigid religionists, saying, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you!” (Rom. 2:24). I fear that today the good name of many within our faith-heritage in Churches of Christ is being tarnished by the excesses of exclusivists among us. They need to be exposed and opposed, otherwise they shall continue to divide the Body of Christ, shun the extended family of God, and shame the fair name of our Savior before the lost of this world. May our Father help more of us to be bold in our stand against this sectarian mindset. If we allow this cancer to remain in the Body unchecked, it could well consume us … it has already sickened us. Dear God, be merciful to Your people and help us to be ONE, and, Lord, forever silence those who have positioned themselves as obstacles in the pathway that leads to genuine unity among Your sons and daughters!–>

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