Response: 5 Deadly Sins of the Church

Image for 5 Deadly Sins of the Church Series

Today I finished Hollywood SDA’s sermon series, 5 Deadly Sins of the Church. I’m grateful that the church posted them and has kept them available to those of us who aren’t local but still enjoy learning with others.

1. Patriarchy + Heterosexism (video): I was so glad to hear Trisha distinguish between loving people for who they are and loving people despite aspects of themselves. This is something I’ve been learning to teach by example, and thanks to the curves of my life and the communities around me I’ve had a lot of practice.

I’ll be happy to listen to the presentation again but do not see what some people have found so offensive about her thoughts. Given the thumbs up-to-thumbs down ratio and the wild viewing numbers for that video compared to the rest of the series, my hunch is that thumbs-downers have reacted to the topic and the implications they see in it but have not yet engaged the actual content and the people represented in it in an open, dialogic way.

2. Racism + White Privilege (video): I appreciated Jin complicating the common white/black binary. Wish he’d been able to speak more about how racism flows from sexism: it was a provocative idea. Great points on how demonizing Those People leads to fear + bigotry, and how it’s more our psychology than our reasoning that blocks intimacy with Others and is the root of social prejudice.

I nearly retweeted Jin’s line about minorities snacking on the crumbs of white privilege instead of choosing a different way to engage a dysfunctional social order (I still might tweet it!). There’s a lot to be said for an oppressed group absorbing messaging that harms them and using it to police themselves or attempt to control others. For du Bois this was linked to the “double-consciousness” of “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Freire also tackled the tie between an oppressed people and their oppressors’ values in his pedagogy books.

The last 10 minutes re. sullied reputations and crucifixion was almost prescient for the Hollywood community and I wonder how much of that foresight was conscious.

3. Nationalism + Militarism (video): My perspective on Maury’s talk is skewed in part because I’m not an American, I lean pacifist, and the Seventh-day Adventist denomination’s recent apathy about war, combat, and the attitudes that nourish them is really uncomfortable for me. I’m curious how American citizens respond to this message, and have bookmarked the book Maury suggested (Theology for a Nuclear Age).

I struggled with the “redemptive violence” frame for war, though I understand that redemptive violence is a common way of looking at, say, the crucifixion of Christ or how God might resolve “sin.” I agree with Maury that “war no more” is the target but do not see redemptive violence among men or from God as a viable way to get there.

4. Consumerism + Ecology (video): I enjoyed Ched’s comments on a rounder way to engage Sabbath. I’d never thought to consider it the 1st commandment rather than only the 4th though I knew it preceded the Sinai story. I have come to treat it as a ritual answer to our programming to grasp for more rather than live “enough.”

Something Ched can’t do from his perspective but which I hope more Adventists do from theirs is to wrestle with how the Adventist lineage can inspire more engagement with this world as it is (i.e. ecological responsibility) instead of less engagement ahead of apocalypse. If one text were enough to settle this, Revelation 11:18 might be it. But one text isn’t enough and we need a more comprehensive model: the church’s apocalyptic bias will probably not go away but it can be channeled such that it doesn’t produce fatalism or passivity.

5. Classism + Wealth Privilege (video): This is a topic I think about a lot because of where I live and my place in this society. The apostle James’ teachings on partiality are important—and I actually think they cut in both directions: they address the comparative rich (us) looking down on the comparative poor and the comparative poor (us) making assumptions about the comparative rich. I grew up and went to college in two hyper-class conscious societies, and I see how class consciousness binds everyone who participates in it, not merely the rich and not merely the poor. Income and wealth may grant us certain kinds of options, but they can also constrict our vision in other ways. I do agree that wealth grants out-sized influence in this culture but I don’t see this or any other privilege as one-dimensional.

Blessings and love to Trisha, Jin, Maury, Ched, Ryan, and the Hollywood SDA community. Thanks so much for sharing!


4 thoughts on “Response: 5 Deadly Sins of the Church

  1. Scott MacLean Arany

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and blessings! The Hollywood Church really appreciates such thoughtful engagement. I’m the designer working for Hollywood who made the art for this series.

    If you’re interested in reading some of the reasoning held by the folks who were troubled by Trisha’s sermon, you can read that here: [link removed by site owner]. Just a warning: the author’s tone in that post is highly confrontational and rude. The comments are rough too, but there are a few rare moments of grace in them. That’s what I’d hope for in dialogue between diverse and diverging theological position: recognizing each other in love and care rather than accusation and dismissive confrontation.

    When all else fails, it’s up to us to love as Christ.

    1. mackenzian Post author

      Scott—thank you! The art was wonderful and fit each message very well indeed.

      I totally agree with you that sound dialogue is rooted in love, care, and recognition.
      So you’ll notice that I removed the link to the post you mentioned: it doesn’t meet those standards! I think Trisha’s request on March 31 is valid and I’m respecting it with reference to that article.

      More broadly, I do recognize the fear triggered, but find those fears linked more to worldview conflicts (I have seen the article author explain his worldview and critique others’ on a few sites now) than actual engagement with the moment or the people involved. Use of certain terms as a shortcut suggest to me that dialogue is not really the goal; confirmation/validation is.

      Something I didn’t say in my post, Scott: what struck me when I reflected on the whole series is that every speaker spoke in his or her own voice. The styles were so different. The patterns of interpretation and sources to quote and narrative style were different. As a congregation you have built a space of mutual growth and accountability where those voices and others can be heard, not edited down to the same register but heard as they are. From here it sounds like good music.

      Thank you again for commenting here. Please give my love to the web team and congregation.

  2. Ryan Bell

    I echo Scott’s thanks for engaging with the series. There is only so much we can do and trying to piece together five different speakers was challenging, but as you say, I think it did a great deal of eye-opening, which is what I was aiming for. Ironic that it was the last series I was able to construct. I’m glad I got it done.

    You are so right about Jin’s prescient comments. I had not discussed with him my situation at all, though he and I have later talked about it. I remember so well his line that we must get a lot more unpopular. Done and done! 🙂


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