It is filled with biblical literalism, bad theology, and reinvented history. Couple that with the innuendo, lies, and faulty logic used to describe the United Church of Christ in this document and you have one of the most effective tools used by these zealots to create the intended impression that the UCC is no longer a legitimate denomination.
This document has taken many forms and gone through many revisions (again, each church is coached to make it appear as though the work and the research is their own), but the basic style of "The Matrix" is almost universal.
There is an opening page with a title that will read something like: "Positions on Critical Issues." Of course, all the critical issues are ones chosen by the radical right, most of which have been employed as wedge issues over the years.
A grid follows, and at the top of each column in the grid will appear the following (or something very much like it): Issues (column one), Scriptures (column two), Historic Faith (three), Our church (usually the name of the church), and UCC (five).
Down the far left side of the page will be listed all the key issues that they believe have the potential to divide the congregation, phrased in just the right way. For example, in the Matrix circulated this spring at our church in Napoleon, MO the first issue is "Sanctity of Life". As you read across the grid, you see YES written in the column under the heading "Scriptures;" YES under the column marked "St. Paul's" (the name of the church); and NO under the column marked UCC.
And there it is in black and white for all to read: the UCC does not uphold the sanctity of life. Months of research have purportedly gone into this work - so who would question it? And who in their right mind would want to belong to a church that did not believe that life itself was sacred?
The basis of this particular claim is substantiated in the documents by such flimsy evidence as: an ad purchased in the Conference newspaper of the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the UCC reads in part "Embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged, not criminalized:" "the UCC website has abortion rights articles;" and a quote from our long-time nemesis Mark Friz that begins "Our conference has done nothing to take a stand on the sanctity of human life." On such evidence churches are told that the UCC does not uphold the sanctity of life.
This is a disgrace. It is a breech of covenant when this occurs WITHIN the United Church of Christ, as well as a breech of ethical behavior when perpetrated by activists WITHOUT the UCC.
Other claims made in these various matrices are the following:
The UCC does not believe in the Cross of Jesus;
The UCC does not recognize the authority of scripture;
While the UCC approves of the use of inclusive language - the Bible, tradition, and local the selective local churches in which this material is being distributed do not;
The UCC does not believe that the Mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel to all the world;
And finally, my personal favorite - and one that will take a whole new article to write about - is this one:
The UCC promotes and approves of Goddess worship.
Each of these claims is ridiculous and cannot be substantiated; yet attempts to do so are made in the documents that are distributed with the same kind of flimsy arguments already seen when we looked at the claim made about the sanctity of life.
Typically, these documents are handed out preceding a vote to leave the UCC, and more often than not little time is afforded those who would choose to take issue with the claims being made.
But one church did respond by asking for the time to refute the claims. I will write more about them soon - I just this week received the 65-page document they produced to respond to what some recognized as frivolous accusations. The church is St. John's UCC in Bem, MO - a place where activists from the right have been attempting a takeover for over a year; where the pastor has already been chased off; and where some members are finally standing up and defending their history, tradition, and denomination.
The matrix works as a tool for the radical right because it names the agenda so clearly and succinctly - and for the simple minds who can't absorb anything deeper than a single statement, and upon whom subtle arguments about polity and metaphor are often lost, and who have already proven receptive to the notion that to be liberal is to be evil - the matrix can be used to finish off work that had begun months, if not years, before.
It is a particularly deceptive tool that uses faulty logic and depends on very narrow theological assumptions to feed and fuel the anger it is intended to exacerbate.
And it only further demonstrates what we have been writing about all along: these zealots will do whatever it takes, say whatever needs to be said, and write whatever they think they can get away with while showing no remorse, no awareness of covenantal relationship, and no compunctions about fabricating half-truths, slandering, and destabilizing otherwise healthy congregations.
The Matrix | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
The Matrix | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)