The Internet has been buzzing this week about the arrest of an Arizona Pastor for having weekly Bible studies in his home. Fox News reported the story and you can read or watch the original story at http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/07/11/arizona-pastor-arrested-jailed-for-holding-bible-study-in-home-his-wife-says-it-defies-logic/. Being a long-time pastor I have to admit that these stories usually catch my attention. This one caught my attention because I typically have Bible studies and sometimes they are in people’s homes. If the government—on any level—is going to be busting pastors for having Bible studies, well . . . I want to know. Wanting to know I read the story . . .
. . . and I read a lot of the reactions to the story. I read everything from this action being a conspiracy against the pastor to the local S.W.A.T. team busting down the doors to arrest the offending pastor. The rumors are flying and certain spheres of Christendom are up in arms, ranting and raving that this is government persecution against religious freedom. Lots of folks are jumping on that bandwagon. It has got to be true . . . hey, Fox News reported it and the Internet is smoking with it.
There is a reason that I quit watching television—especially news-- beyond the college football season . . . you can't trust it. Whether it is Fox News or CNN or ABC it has been years (lots of years) since you could get the news factually, non-biasly, and without some sort of slant. Most news now-a-days is not news—it is editorial or opinion pieces—especially on the national level. When I watch the news I want what Detective Joe Friday used to tell people on Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” I just want the facts and to be allowed to form my own opinion. I have learned to take most of what is reported with a grain of salt and to do my own homework to find the facts.
Now I am not dumb enough to believe that Fox News reported all the facts on this story. Nor am I willing to be spoon fed any news story from any source as being the gospel truth. I am also not so lazy that I cannot do a little research on my own to discover the whole story—or as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now . . . the rest of the story!” This was one of those stories that was screaming to be researched some more. Things weren’t as they seemed when reported by the media . . . it sounds like this pastor needs to go back to school and learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a good citizen.
Apparently the city did have a beef with the pastor . . . a legitimate beef. It seems that the pastor was not honest about his intentions going all the way back to when he got a building permit to build a recreation room on his property. A 2,000 square foot recreation room. That is a pretty big rec room—bigger than a lot of folks’ homes. Then he furnished the rec room with a pulpit, high tech equipment (microphones, projector, the whole nine yards), and seating for over 70 people. Then he held his “Bible study” there . . . in the rec room . . . like thousands of others do throughout the United States and beyond. Man, from the pictures I have seen and from what I have read, this guy’s so-called rec room was nicer than the sanctuary where I preside over weekly worship –I mean where we gather weekly to “re-create”. The pastor was not honest from the very beginning. This was never intended to be a rec room.
Probably the best summary of the whole story is found on John Wootten’s blog called SOMETHNGNESS. Wootten has done his homework and done it well—complete with documentation. He shares a whole bunch of information (facts) that Fox News failed to report in the name of good journalism. Wootten --like me—stated that his first reaction was to defend religious freedom. Liberal or conservative, defending religious liberty should be embraced whenever it is being stomped on. At first glance that is what this story reeked of . . . in the end it reeked of something else and it was not religious liberty. You can read Wootten’s blog on this story at http://johnwootten.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/update-on-arrested-arizona-pastor/.
In the end this was not a story about religion being stymied by the government . . . not a story about government dictating how people are to live their faith. It was a lot of sensationalism meant to get a reaction and stir up trouble for the sake of ratings. The reaction was exactly what Fox News wanted knowing that most people are not going to do the necessary homework to get the whole story or the facts. You don’t think so? Well, consider this, up to this point in my personal blog I have mentioned Fox News eight times—you can’t buy that sort of publicity! The end result is that people are talking about Fox News and it is making all followers of Jesus look ridiculous as the facts come out.
I agree with what one person stated in the original story . . . if the law is going to start busting Bible studies in people’s homes as illegal gathering, then they need to start busting all those other dens of inequity happening in our communities across the nation. Bust those Tupperware parties and get them off the streets! Bust all those Amway pushers and keep our streets clean! Nail them all! Shoot! That sounds funny . . . and stupid. Get the facts before jumping to conclusions . . . what any of us hear is rarely the whole truth. I think I can safely say that if you or I want to hold a Bible study in our homes that we are quite safe and within the boundaries of religious freedom . . . but then again, if we build a 2,000 square foot rec room complete with all the furnishings necessary for a comfortable church to have our weekly study . . . well, we had better be on the lookout for the local S.W.A.T. team!