Sunday, July 09, 2006

for 10 JUL 06: PREACHER'S PET?

So have you made up your mind yet, in the Georgia Primary races? One e-mail to us over the weekend wondered if the persuasion was going too far:

Last Sunday, a very close friend of mine came home from church outraged! She told me how disappointed she was in pastor Carter of the Cannon Baptist church. After introducing Ed Harbison to his congregation, Pastor Carter told his congregation that it doesn't matter who else is on the ballot, because as far as he is concern there isn't anyone else. " You will vote for Ed Harbison". I couldn't believe my ears, so I called another of my friends to verify this story. Sadly, it was confirmed.

Let's keep the politics out the pulpits. Pastor Carter, wasn't you in the newspaper a while back for another inappropriate act?

I'm sorry to inform this writer that Pastor Carter may have committed yet another "inappropriate act" Sunday. He took the weekend off, and had a guest preacher....

This e-mail about the Columbus State Senate race demanded a personal investigation on my part. Is a church pastor endorsing candidates? Could the pastor or the candidate be victims of bogus rumors? And why isn't "Cannon Baptist Church" located near the Cannon Brew Pub?

A quick check of the phone book led to the conclusion (confirmed by the writer in a Sunday correction) he really meant CANAAN Baptist Church, across the street from Fort Middle School. So we drove there Sunday morning, sacrificing a fairly good Wimbledon men's tennis final - and realizing the service might last long enough to make us miss the World Cup soccer final as well.

The parking lot was full at Canaan Baptist Church. So if Pastor J. Harold Carter had endorsed Ed Harbison for State Senate the prior Sunday, it had NOT sparked a noticeable protest. In fact, the only fliers on car windshields as I walked in promoted another slate of candidates - dishes from the China First buffet.

(I should note I saw NO cannons on the grounds of Canaan Baptist Church - so as religious scholars would say, that makes it non-cannonical.)

The sanctuary was full, so I stood in the lobby of Canaan Baptist Church as the guest minister from Alabama began his message. I could have sat on the edge of the empty baptismal pool in the lobby - but some of the ushers were sitting there, and it felt a bit like the 1950's all over again.

Canaan Baptist Church apparently had no printed bulletin for the service, so I had to ask several people who the speaker was. Trouble was, a couple of the ushers didn't know. They're too busy helping people find seats to hear what anyone at the pulpit is saying.

A church hostess in red informed me the speaker was NOT Pastor Carter. It was Sam Cyrus, possibly from Tuskegee. I'll take her word for it - even though he borrowed from an old Three Stooges cartoon a couple of times, and called himself "Get Out of Town by Sundown Brown."

Sam Cyrus's Sunday sermon (say that three times fast) was about the "Highway to Holiness." But before that as I walked in, he mentioned something about how "crop rotation saved the South." Maybe this explained the change of preachers for the day....

Sam Cyrus wondered aloud how two groups of people can read the same Bible, yet "one group prospers" while "one group is oppressed." He seemed to conclude the answer lies in having dignity. Some people would have declared the answer is pure and simple money.

Was it only coincidence that a light went out above the pulpit when Sam Cyrus made a comment against African Methodist Episcopal churches? He said they only want 15-minute sermons -- but it seemed to me Cyrus didn't go much beyond 25.

Sam Cyrus never mentioned any names of politicians during his message - but he did bring up the Kenneth Walker shooting, saying people should demand justice. "If it happens to Walker today, tomorrow it could be you," Cyrus said. Hopefully someone told him more has happened to the Sheriff's son since the Walker shooting than to anyone else.

But the Highway to Holiness made a curious detour, when Sam Cyrus told worshipers they should be unashamed of their skin color. He suggested the Garden of Eden was located in Africa, and God put something in the skin of people living near the equator to protect them from the sun. How he explains people in the Philippines and Venezuela, I'm not sure....

"The DARKER! YOU!! ARE!!!" Sam Cyrus emphasized, jumping with a stomp on the platform as he said each word. It was almost enough to make an audience of white teenagers head for the pool with no suntan lotion.

The Canaan Baptist Church service ended with no mention of any political candidates, and no Pastor to question about the prior week. So I asked a few random worshipers if J. Harold Carter had ordered people to vote for Ed Harbison -- and everyone said he did NOT. But if these are the same people who couldn't name the guest preacher....

State Senator Ed Harbison shows up frequently at Canaan Baptist Church, I was told. But one worshiper said when it comes to ordering people in how to vote, Pastor J. Harold Carter "doesn't make comments like that." There are probably dozens of Baptist ministers who wish they could - but they'd risk losing tax-exempt status.

A couple more brochures were on windshields, as I returned to my car. One was paid for by the Mark Taylor for Governor campaign, "Taylor for One Georgia." It noted Taylor has endorsements from all sorts of African-American lawmakers and leaders - which almost makes you wonder why a man who wants "One Georgia" would bring up their ethnicity.

I'm sensitive to this issue of ministers endorsing candidates from the pulpit. The Pastor in the congregation I attend said during an October 2000 service, "Let's all hope George W. Bush wins the election." I stayed away the next week, because of that comment - which means fellow members would call me just another Protestant.

But based on what Canaan Baptist Church members told me Sunday, this may well be a case where people are spreading election rumors which are WRONG. That would NEVER happen in a Columbus campaign, of course - or as Mayor Bob Poydasheff and Judge Bobby Peters would tell you, at least not successfully.

We noted here two years ago the campaign of Pastor Joseph Roberson for the Muscogee County School Board. He was elected - but the candidate for Sheriff which he semi-supported on the day we attended was not. So perhaps there's too much concern about ministerial endorsements. After all, their preaching hasn't stopped all sinning yet.

(And as for "politics in the pulpit" - do Pastor Prather Powell's opponents for Columbus Council plan to attend his services with hidden tape recorders?)

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION is doing what I haven't seen anyone else do - take a poll on the State Senate race. Are you for incumbent Ed Harbison, challenger Reginald Pugh or "none of the above?" And before you ask: no, I'm too busy blogging to start a write-in campaign for me.

Our most recent B.B.Q. (no, we never planned it that way) closed Sunday night, with 62.5 percent of you in favor of fire trucks parking in fire lanes on non-emergency calls (5-3). So be thankful those lanes in front of the supermarket entrances aren't reserved for organized crime bosses.

One person left a comment during this question asking, "If my cause is good enough can I park in the fire lane too???" I've seen a few drivers who already do this - it's called a rainy day.

The commenter continued: "Their [fire] trucks will be noticed if it is in a parking space. It does not have to be up there blocking the store." But what if a real emergency breaks out, while firefighters are collecting money or buying groceries for chili night at the firehouse? The seconds spent moving around the truck could mean the difference between medium and blackened steaks.

Now other things which blocked our view momentarily on Sunday:

+ Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah revealed he helped gain the release of Columbus-born music producer Dallas Austin in the United Arab Emirates. We never would have imagined it - hip-hop down the Hatch.

+ Oxbow Meadows held its eighth annual live insect show, featuring a cricket-eating contest. These wireless phone companies will do anything for publicity....

+ East Dublin, Georgia hosted the 11th annual Redneck Games. If you can hurl a hubcap a long way there, you might be a Power Frisbee candidate....

+ Instant Message to Captain D's on Macon Road: What is this new dish you're offering on your sign - a "PERMUIM Catfish?" Is that how they say it in Vietnam?

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. (Whether is was the most accurate one is debatable.) To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

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