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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, July 15, 2016

Religion and Dreams

Over the past week, I've been working on a series of stories about the great divide in the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. The warring factions are unable to even agree on why they are fighting, which makes me suspect some of them must be Irish. Anyway, it's very nice to see a religious dispute that involves no altar boys.

It's been an education. As a lousy Catholic, I know little about Protestants except that they are all doomed to burn in Hell.

Mark Twain once said, "You never see any of us Presbyterians getting in a sweat about religion and trying to massacre the neighbors."

He obviously never visited the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem,.

I wrapped up the story last night, but it will publish in The Bethlehem Press. When it does, I'll link to it or run the stories here.

I now know the difference between a Session, Presbytery and Synod.

All of this research clouded my mind last night, and I had a strange dream. I dreamed I was covering a preliminary hearing, and Danny Spengler, the former County Solicitor, was representing the Defendant, an attractive woman.

Spengler walked into the magistrate's office, went into a side room, and came out dressed in all of the vestments of a Catholic priest. He walked into the courtroom carrying a large crucifix. Instead of a dais for the judge, there was an altar. Danny walked up, genuflected, and began singing in Gregorian chant, "My client is innocent."

Standing next to me were local DAs John Obrecht and Rich Pepper.

"I never saw anything like this before," I observed.

"Happens all the time," said Obrecht.

"That's right, BO!" echoed Pepper.

He likes to call me BO for some reason.

I think I've had enough religion for awhile.


Anonymous said...

the Dutchman would've made a great priest

Anonymous said...

Make mine a Mormon.

Anonymous said...

Religion - What an immense waste of human time and endeavor. To this day, it continues to drive hatred and death over matters of the supernatural.

Anonymous said...

The Non-Religious are now the largest voting block, which continues to show religion's decline, and further divides the country. Less inclusive religions are what lead the divide being seen at First Pres.

Anonymous said...

If I write a descriptive yet in descriptive narrative of LCCC is the local Vatican will it be published in your opinions online?!)$ If so please let me know as shitslinging and my narrative of the triboro doesn't even come close to that particular stench?!)
Imagine all three together times infinitum and the oder is so repulsive even the most technical gasmask can't stop the smell of that particular banker?!)$
RE:publican redd no party affiliation

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't even understand your question. Look, I think we've all had enough of the gibberish. From now on, post coherent thoughts. I have been more than patient. I had decided to let you post one comment per thread, and told you, and you start making multiple comments anyway. If you can post coherently on MM's blog, you can do it here.

Jamie Kelton said...

The Presbyterians are simply another protestant church. If it's members don't like the positions of the church on gay marriage, which I suspect this is mostly about, there are plenty of other protestant churches to attend.

Personally, I can't tell the difference between a Lutheran, a United Church of Christ, a Presbyterian, or an Episcopalian..

Anonymous said...

I'm joining the First Church of Unity PAC.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I asked my father (the long-suffering Treasurer of a local UCC church) about the difference between UCC and Presbyterian. He told me they were essentially the same with the key distinction being that Presbyterians actually have some money.

Anonymous said...

So the majority of the Bethlehem First Presbyterians are failures as they are not able to "pray away the gay"...

Who are the most influential in the Bethlehem church? Any prominent business leaders/owners?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Out of redpect for the individual religious beliefs, I decline to name any person in this debate unless they want to be named.

Anonymous said...

Sad that so much hate and bloodshed throughout human history has been porompted by religion. In the US I generally decide on who to vote for based on how few times they claim God told them to run or they mention their Faith in God in their base attempt for votes.

Agnostic md Proud!

Anonymous said...

So md, religion kills? Guns kill? Motor vehicles kill? Heroin kills? Alcohol kills? Sex kills? Then I re-read your sentence, humans kill!

Anonymous said...

Religion gives the weak minded an excuse to kill on a grand scale. World history is replete with religious destruction. Anon 5:32 makes a good point.

Dave said...

We saw again the power of religious hate in Nice France. Nearly 100 dead, many many more injured and crippled in the name of Allah.

RH Pepper said...

Yup, it still happens all the time, BO.

Scott Armstrong said...

It is of course bigoted to dislike/mock/stereotype people because they have faith. One may argue the merits of certain faiths, ponder the issues that divide them and yes laugh at their rituals and beliefs. It is all say easy. Yet, it is wise to remember that everything on this earth is corrupted by us/ humans/ the worlds occupiers. We are the ones who make religion look stupid.
Is there a bigger skeptic than me? Doubt it, but I don't miss mass if I can help it. When my secular friends ask me about this I say I have come to understand that the only idea more absurd the a divine being is to think there isn't one. To accept the notion that life/existence is a mere cosmic accident seems absurd. Can the heavens be constructed on such?

Anonymous said...

Well, faith is a strong belief ABSENT proof. So it's not bigoted to "mock" those who have faith. It's realistic.

And btw, I don't mock the faithful sheep...I just quietly feel sorry for them.

Scott Armstrong said...


I honestly feel sorry for you. That being said; if you are content with your position then go with it. I am sure you don't give a rats ass what I think.

Hey! It's Friday! Run with that!

Scott Armstrong said...

It's Miller time. Love it!

Anonymous said...

Just accept human life Scott, no need to feel sorry for me/us, to each his own... I do value all opinions, all opinions matter... your's too. The evil that is upon is, is unreasonable.
We can clamour about here and many other outlets/conversations peacefully and under the anon umbrella without consequence/bloodshed. Life is good and goddamitt it's a beautiful sunset here in the Lehigh Valley, isn't it?

Scott Armstrong said...

You bet!

Anonymous said...

Not a betting man, to each his own

Bernie O'Hare said...

Agreed. The First Amendment means exactly what you say.

Anonymous said...

Freedom from Religion as well. The salve of the powerful to enslave people since the beginning of human history. So called holy men have made sure the masses are controllable by fear of eternal damnation. No wonder it is called the opiate of the masses.

Anonymous said...

Religion truly is the 'opiate of the masses' and history has shown that believers are poorly educated and lack intelligence. However, there are (sadly) some people who need fairy tale and fantasy in their pathetic little lives, not to mention how well most religions support the hatred and intolerance already coursing through their veins.

You simply don't find misogyny, racism and pedophilia flourishing among the non-believing community.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:43 -

Really? So modern day despots like Kim Jong-un, Hun Sen and Raul Castro are regular attendees at Sunday mass?

Anonymous said...

Raul Castro is a catholic who attended a Jesuit school.

I have not read any stories of pedophilia being supported, aided and abetted by Hun Sen or Kim Jung Un, like it is in the catholic community.

What IS interesting is that ideologically, they are all far right wing. Conservatives, in other words.

It's very challenging to have an intelligent discussion with religious individuals, because they show up at the table unarmed.... It's like trying to explain colors to a blind person.


Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:59

I hope you realize that George W Bush killed more women and children civilians than all of those individuals combined.

He claimed that 'god told him to do it'.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:08 -

Kim Jong-un is a Stalinist ruling the last hard-line communist dictatorship on the planet and you say he is far right wing conservative? How so?

You are free to have whatever views about those that believe. However, your views don't make you morally superior or more intelligent as you (and Anon 8:25 if that is a different person) think. Arrogance and condescension are not very effective ways to try and prove that you are.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to know that Bernie has a series on the goings-on at First Pres. The Morning Call had a series of articles on developments there, but another point of view would be interesting. First Pres of Bethlehem has a long history, was a very prosperous congregation of local movers and shakers from industry -- Bethlehem Steel-- and other pursuits.

John Calvin, the founder of Presbyterian type Protestantism, was not a cuddly guy, and we Irish generally hate the Presbyterians for centuries of oppression, though my thoroughly Irish Catholic husband was a member of First Pres for many years...he loved the music led by Greg Funfgeld (did I spell the man's name right?). Go figure.

The other flavors of mainstream Protestantism, the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Methodists...all have their different beliefs and practices around a common core of Christianity in rebellion from Rome. The Episcopal forebears in the Church of England started it all because Henry the Eighth wanted to divorce his wife and get a new one, and the Pope wouldn't let him. So he took England out of The Church, and started his own, aptly named The Church of England. Then Martin Luther got into Reformation mode and nailed his theses to the church door listing grievances against the Pope and the way things had been going in The Church, and we had...Lutheranism. Of the two, the Episcopalians retained the closest thing to a liturgical practice, and I know almost nothing about the Methodists, so cannot comment.

Over the years, the elites in the Episcopal Church have decided to "fix" and "improve" and "modernize" various aspects of belief and practice, all of which led to the utter decimation of that denomination, and to wars over property similar to what is going on in the Presbyterian territory today. Which leads me to believe that issues of marriage and ordination of persons who prefer same-sex relationships are less the focus at First Pres, ultimately, and more a particular instance of a larger problem. I suspect it is that same old same old, a bunch of elites who are convinced they know what is best for us. Everywhere you look, there is a current rebellion against that phenomenon.

Anonymous said...


Do you think he's a liberal? Let's see. He's a misogynist, is homophobic, xenophobic and a racist, who supports isolationism and nationalism and puts the military above the education, health and well being of his citizens.

The man could fill in for Priebus on a seconds notice, except he's considerably more intelligent.

There are many well researched and supported studies that show that religious belief correlates with diminished intelligence.
You not liking those facts doesn't make them arrogant or any less valid. In fact, debating research without providing any of your own actually proves the studies to be right.


Kenneth Briggs said...

Unfortunately, a church crisis that deserves sober thought often serves to unleash a torrent of religion bashing. Debates over religion's validity are fair game, of course, but in this case the focus is on a conflict that exists everywhere in this society so religion is only a particular setting. The issue at First Presbyterian is familiar to religion bashers and non-bashers alike: whether active homosexuals, bi-sexuals and transgendered people have a moral and legal right to marry one another and, in the church's case, should be allowed to be members of the clergy. The majority vote (there are questions about its legitimacy) says NO on both counts, (as would many of the bashers I suspect.) A substantial minority disagrees. Since the parent denominations approves non-heterosexual marriage and ordination, the vote is essentially a Brexit choice: leave the denomination with which it's been related for a very long time, or try to work things out. As matters stand, the England surrogate has chosen to exit its Presbyterian denomination. Lots of members decry this and question the basis of the rejection of the church's decision against change. Meanwhile, church leaders employ all sorts of evasive and euphemistic language to avoid admitting that homosexuality is really the crux of the matter. Though Presbyerians have an excellent tradition of scholarship, First Presbyterian leadership has never made a well-argued Biblical case for their action. They resort to shall Bible analysis. Societal and church trends are strongly in favor of accepting non-heterosexual so, on practical grounds, First Presbyterian is running against the tide of history. Perhaps that's justifiable, but the "leave" forces haven't proven it to my satisfaction. Like the religion bashers, they're long on emotion and short on reason.

Anonymous said...

No, it's because of religious meddling in politics that it's a social issue. For those of us who care more about the Constitution than they do the bible, it's a complete no-brainer.

Equal rights for all.

Marriage is a civil matter, not a religious one. Sure, you can have one in a church, but it's the governments blessing that makes it legal, not gods. The SCOTUS has already made a determination on same sex marriage. You lose.

If the church wants to play politics, they can start paying taxes. Until then, they need to start following the laws of this land.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that now you have some whacko claiming that kids in the Arts and Theater are sissies? What the Hell is wrong with people? This is part of the problem with religion in general. All religions are based on a judgment of someone or something. Until people use their own brains and realize they are being manipulated you will l have stupid comments like the sissy one and the extreme views of so many.

In the 21st century in America we still have this nonsense. This from the people that scream about law, yet then want to impose their religious law on people? Amazing.

Freedom Please!

gsmith said...

Am I the only one who refers to this as "Prexit?"

Kenneth Briggs said...

Wonderful. You have the patent on it.

Daniel Spengler said...

Bless you, Bernie. But I only play a priest on TV.

Dan "The Mad Dutchman" Spengler