A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Episode 3: Question the Pastor, Capitol Riots and THEOLOGY?!

March 18, 2021 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 3
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Episode 3: Question the Pastor, Capitol Riots and THEOLOGY?!
Chapters
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Episode 3: Question the Pastor, Capitol Riots and THEOLOGY?!
Mar 18, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
Simon Doong and Lee Catoe

Questions for the Week: 

  • My pastor said something in church that I don’t agree with. What should I do? Is it wrong to question my pastor?
  • I witnessed the riots at the Capitol in January and was shocked to see signs saying Jesus saves and mentioning faith, as people looted and stormed the building. How did we get here as a nation? 

Special Guest:
So Jung Kim, Associate for Theology, Theology, Formation & Evangelism PC(USA)

Guest Question:
I have heard about this term “theology”. What is it exactly? Why does it matter to someone who is not a pastor? How does it affect/impact our lives outside of church activities? 

Resource Roundup:
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Show Notes Transcript

Questions for the Week: 

  • My pastor said something in church that I don’t agree with. What should I do? Is it wrong to question my pastor?
  • I witnessed the riots at the Capitol in January and was shocked to see signs saying Jesus saves and mentioning faith, as people looted and stormed the building. How did we get here as a nation? 

Special Guest:
So Jung Kim, Associate for Theology, Theology, Formation & Evangelism PC(USA)

Guest Question:
I have heard about this term “theology”. What is it exactly? Why does it matter to someone who is not a pastor? How does it affect/impact our lives outside of church activities? 

Resource Roundup:
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

 

00:04 – Simon Doong

Hello, and welcome to a matter of faith a president podcast, the podcast where we respond to your questions and comments on issues of faith, social justice, and church life. Don't be afraid to write in and ask your question. Because if it matters to you, it matters to us. And it just might be a matter of faith,

 

00:22 – Lee Catoe

Whether it be faith in God, faith in others or faith in yourself. We are brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and unbound the interactive journal on Christian social justice for the Presbyterian Church, USA. I am your host, Lee Catoe.

 

00:40 – Simon Doong

And I'm your host Simon Doong. 

 

00:42 – Lee Catoe

Without further ado, let's dive into today's questions.

 

00:45 – Simon Doong

So Lee, our first question today is about questioning your pastor. It reads, “My pastor said something in church that I don't agree with. What should I do? Is it wrong to question my pastor?” What do you think Lee? Is it wrong to question your pastor?

 

01:04 – Lee Catoe

If you asked my mother, she would say yes. But since you asked me, I do not think it's a problem to question your pastor. I do think in the Presbyterian Church pastors are empowered to be very prophetic. Pastors are empowered with the pulpit to kind of say what they think is, is the word spoken in that moment and where the spirit moves. But often times those things that are said from the past or are not always something that the congregation will agree with, whether that be in a good way or in a bad way. And I do think that we have cultivated a culture within the church, that pastors are kind of put on a pedestal and they are given this power that is often or sometimes abused, or is sometimes lorded over a congregation, and many times you don't feel like you're empowered to question your minister. And I think in many times, that that is the case. But I do think the more we question each other specifically as a reformed tradition, one of the pillars of the Presbyterian Church is that we are reformed and always reforming and without questioning, without challenging without really asking those questions and wanting to investigate more. I do think that we won't be a denomination that progresses and reforms, as we are the tradition that claims that so I do not think it's wrong to question your pastor.

 

02:49 – Simon Doong

Yeah, I'd agree that it's not wrong to question, the question, your pastor or a sort of faith leader, asking questions is really good. And if someone says that you shouldn't be asking questions, I would think that that's actually more problematic. If someone says no, that's not appropriate, or how dare you question, because I think, for any one figure to have authority over faith and people's relation to faith, I think that that's very dangerous. And part of the faith journey is about asking questions. I think that's part of how you live your life is how you navigate and deepen your faith and your relationship with God. And sometimes you find answers in that journey. But I think actually, what you find is you actually just find more questions, or sometimes you refine it, and you find better questions to ask. And sometimes that starts just by someone saying something, and you're like, I don't know how I feel about that. And I need to sit with that and think about why. And if you, you know, if you have a question, talk to your pastor about your concern with what they said, and have that conversation, because you might be surprised and very satisfied with the answer that they give and their response, you might be disappointed, or you might be upset as well. And either way, whatever, however it works out you know, think about why that is and why that matters to you. I know that there have been people in my life who I really appreciate it. And I was like you are way more knowledgeable about scripture than I am. And about theology in general, I don't agree with your take on this issue or about this particular perspective. And I had to sit there and think about why and that was a growing moment for me. And I know that there are other people, you know, who go through the same thing. And so it's not wrong to question understand why you're questioning. And if you feel comfortable to have that conversation. Go ahead and have it because you might be surprised, you know, how it how it turns out. So yeah, don't be afraid to ask questions.

 

04:51 – Lee Catoe

I do think that it is important, with leaders in the church to really cultivate that culture in their church as well. I think that in many churches, if that doesn't exist, to go a little deeper to, to really figure out what that looks like. I know a lot of a lot of leaders in the church now are really asking those questions about relying on kind of one leader, a charismatic leader, or someone who has been the pastor of a church for a long time. And I do think it does get dangerous. And I don't think it's sustainable. I don't think it's sustainable to rely on the power of one person, or the opinion of one person, because that person may not be there after they get done with their job, or yeah, they have another calling. And I do think, how do we cultivate culture in the church? That is a communal understanding of theology, and church, which I think is more biblical than, than anything. I mean, Jesus spoke in riddles half the time, and answered a question with another question most of the time. And I don't think that Jesus really gave concrete answers on a lot of things. There are some things Jesus did give concrete answers on. And I think those things are the things that you can't really argue against, like love of your neighbor, and healing the sick and being there for the marginalized. But I do think that within history, we have seen the domination of power in the church. And this little question, questioning a pastor can be traced back to that we have seen it in history that a group of people, a small group of people, mostly white men, and European men, were the ones that made the decisions in the church and had the power in those places. And the more we questioned, the more we crack that culture. The more we bring the minister down from the pulpit, I've always had problems with pulpits being elevated, and high up, as it places a pastor above the congregation. And we're even seeing now architecture within the church that is changing, whereas the minister is on the floor with the people and I won't preach at a high pulpit, I want  if that is the case, I kind of always asked if I could get a lectern brought so I can preach from the floor. So I do think it is a broader and deeper question about our leadership in church.

 

07:54 – Simon Doong

It does, it does also make me think about the, you know, what you're talking about, about this sort of power dynamic that often exists. And the role of the pastor in a congregation and in a community is the pastor a, you know, as a pastor is simultaneously a member of the community. But I think that sometimes when we hear of pastors as being sort of shepherds of a faith community, you know, what does that mean? That doesn't mean that they're, they may be guiding, but they're not directing specifically all the time. It's not, it’s not that they're not telling it only do it this way, think this way, go this way. At least I think, ideally, in the reformed tradition, we would say that the pastors shouldn't be doing that. And so I think that, you know, if, if there's this question about, I feel like I'm being told to think that this is the only way, then maybe there's a conversation also to be had there about what is the role of the pastor in the congregation and in the community. Because I think most pastors should welcome conversation and questions about things they say about their interpretations. And yeah, about things like that. So yeah, this question definitely gets to sort of larger questions about the role of pastors and leadership within the faith community.

 

09:13 – Lee Catoe

Yeah. Have you ever had a pastor that was I don't know that did that like dictated over a church?

 

09:21 – Simon Doong

I haven't had a pastor. I without getting into too much detail. I did. I had a Bible class in middle school. It wasn't Presbyterian, it wasn't a particular denomination. But there was sort of one, there was a specific sort of way of thinking and interpretation, particularly with regards to certain social issues that I didn't agree with and I remember I, I wrote in a response to a Bible class question like I you know, I think this way about this, and I got an I got a reply on the, on the forum when I got it back that said, “Come see me after class”.  It was multiple times one was for a social issue and one was about “when did you know Jesus? When did you come to know Jesus” and I wrote down, you know, I feel like I've known Jesus ever since I was born. You know, as far back as I know, I just remember grew up reading the Bible, you know, this is middle school. And I came up after class. And the teacher said, and I really respected the person, you know, totally, we got along great. And they said, “You can't have known Jesus, since you were born. Jesus is someone you come to know. There's a moment there's a time.” And I didn't exactly agree with that, mostly because I was like, “how can you dictate to me or tell me what my relationship to Jesus and God is?” I recognized the importance of sort of arriving at an understanding of having a relationship with Jesus. And so my response to the initial question wasn't written with the idea of like, oh, I've always known Jesus, because of like, some superior thing. It was just innocently, as far back as I can remember, I've been a Christian, I don't remember a time when I wasn't. Yeah. And so that's just an example of like, a difference in sort of theological perspective between someone and obviously, I was like, you know, I didn't like fail or anything. But I remember thinking, “am I going to fail this class?” just because I have a different understanding of my relationship with God. Yeah. Have you ever had that had that experience?

 

11:31 – Lee Catoe

I remember growing up, and I was always raised Presbyterian, but I was raised Presbyterian and the rural south. And I never really heard, I never really experienced it within the church, because we had you know, Presbyterian ministers who are steeped in the tradition and Presbyterians do believe that we are not that we don't, we don't have altar calls. We don't we don't have that theology that says that, that are that we have a choice and, and accepting salvation from Jesus, we already we believe that that happens, and that we were we have been given the grace from God, and that our lives are lived to glorify that and to do justice in the world and to love as kind of a glorification to God for this grace, and I hope that I got that theology correct. But I'm on the periphery of going to church, we would go to youth rallies that the Baptist churches would put on or, and we would go to concerts, you know, contemporary Christian concerts and things like that, whether you did have altar calls, and it was a very different experience, that this is how you should be living your life. This is who Jesus is, you need to accept and you need to come down, and we are able to do that for you, we are able to save you. And it was very much a kind of power over way of doing church and it scared the bejesus out of you. And it was scare us to to go into that space and, and get I've tell everybody all the time, I've been saved about 20 times. Because you were you were just kind of scared to do to do otherwise. And I've been I've been reading a lot about how religion and the Bible have affected history, specifically in the Civil War era, where the word of the minister was the word of everything. Because religion and the Bible were so integrated into society and culture. And these ministers on both the north and the south side, what get in their pulpits. And that was it was a declaration it was you did not question this because this was the word of God. And this was what we should be doing, whether they were preaching for slavery, or they were they were preaching for abolition. It was it was a very dictator way of doing church. And now I do think, you know, we should be saying flat out that racism and slavery and white supremacy is wrong, and that should not that should be no question. But hearing ministers and, but and reading about ministers, who got up into pulpits and proclaimed that the word of God really did validate slavery, and there was no questioning that like that is the power that it has. Now, I think some of that power has dissolved, probably because of that. But I do think that it is a it is a dangerous game. When we're when we're not allowed to kind of permeate that pastor role, and to kind of crack the culture a little bit for a more communal space. So I have experienced that. But it's also it's not new. This has been happening. I mean, it's been happening since the inception of the church. I mean, look at the Popes of history and, and the Doctrine of Discovery and all these things. That that really speaks to this question, too. But those youth rallies, I'll tell you, or something else.

 

15:31 – Simon Doong

Nice. Yep. Yeah. It's interesting how those moments where you have those sort of bigger questions, and how that, you know, I think they they do provide an opportunity to deepen your faith and ask more questions and better questions. So let's not stop asking good questions.

 

15:51 – Lee Catoe

Well, speaking of good questions, shall we move on to our next question? Yeah, let's do it. And it’s a good question, all right. Somebody asked, “I witnessed the riots at the Capitol in January, and was shocked to see signs saying Jesus saves, and mentioning faith as people looted and stormed the building. How did we get here as a nation?” That's a big question, Simon. How did we get here? How did we get here.

 

16:18 – Simon Doong

Well, I think first of all, the riots demonstrated just a very clear divisiveness that has exists. And I guess I should say, division that exists within the country, a division that was, you know, has been for lack of a better word played upon by the former president with both his actions and his rhetoric, and that his actions and rhetoric in a way weaponized or took advantage of people who felt vulnerable or threatened by just by the change in this specific circumstance. It was also by, you know, telling people that the election was stolen, or that it was rigged, or there was fraud, despite there not being evidence, you know, in multiple investigations, that, that there was no fraud with root. So I think you have you have all of those factors at play. And then with regards to people mentioning faith, as they participated in the riots, you know, and looted and stormed the Capitol, I think that there's a question there for those folks specifically. And for anyone, you know, how was storming the Capitol, and you know, in putting democratically elected leaders at risk, and looting, you know, a historically important place that is a symbol of democracy? How does that demonstrate your faith? How does it demonstrate a commitment to justice and freedom and equity and equality for all? Because if you're convinced that your faith calls you to do that, do you want to I wonder, what is your faith in? And where, where is? Where does that come from? And I think that that's a question to wrestle with. And I also want to just say that there's a difference between I think, what we saw in the capital riots, and righteous anger of say, Black Lives Matter protests, which were majority peaceful. And I recognize that that's another sort of another topic. But I do want to say that there is a difference between rioting in support of someone who'd been supportive, a leader, who refuses to accept defeat, and majority peaceful, righteous anger and protest, to bring about change in terms of bringing about justice and equity and equality. So yeah, what do you think, Lee? How did we get here?

 

18:50 – Lee Catoe

Oh, well, I think we've always been here. And I do think we do need to go back. I am a person of history. And I love I've read a lot of books, just about history, specifically Civil War era. And a little bit before that, because I'm not saying that this that this wasn't rooted before that because it was it was rooted white supremacy. And racism was rooted way before the Civil War. And it was rooted. Then like papal bulls that came out and said, whenever you go to another land, your job is to really spread the face but also spread Western civilization. So if you were a person who did civilization differently, if you were a person of color, if you were someone that white Europeans saw as inferior, which they did because they develop the doc, a doctrine that said, our civilization is higher than yours are because we are European. We are higher than you are. And the and the human race. And so it goes way deeper. But I think specifically in this country, we never, we never really dealt with the root cause of all this. And that is white supremacy we we kind of dealt with, I think slavery is a symptom of white supremacy. But the focus was on slavery, the focus was on, we need to end slavery. And then they separated the two racism was talked about by a lot of black leaders of the time. And they knew it was all connected. But there are a lot of abolitionists who were white supremacists. I mean, in some ways, Abraham Lincoln was it was it was not something that people touched really. And, and I think because of that, we haven't dealt with it at all, because it was something that I wasn't at all so focused on. And so it's always been here. And then the church, as I said earlier, was a huge instigator and racism and white supremacy, if not one of the instigators of it because church was so ingrained in society, church and the Bible, the Bible was the most read book, it was the most like, published book. And it was the one thing that houses had, every house had a Bible, everybody that learned how to read, read the Bible, read from the Bible, that's how they learn how to read. And it was it's so engrossed in society, within speeches within just everyday rhetoric that it influenced, it was the pusher for white supremacist culture, it was the pusher for to validate slavery, it was the pusher for all these things. And so this Jesus, that marched into the Capitol has always been whitewashed has always been, you know, within that realm of rhetoric and violence, when it comes to these to these events that happen. And I am, I will always convinced that we've always been this nation, we've always been a country that has feel what is fueled by white supremacist culture,

 

22:30 – Simon Doong

I want to touch on something that you brought up about the role of the church in, you know, perpetuating the themes and the, you know, in perpetuating, you know, white supremacy and things like that, because something that is interesting about all this is that, you know, you see that sign that says Jesus saves amidst the banners and signs being raised as people are storming the Capitol. And it's so interesting, because in the same Converse, I'm not saying it's the same people that or that say this, but in a similar conversation, people say, oh, like church shouldn't be involved in politics. And then when I see that, as people are storming a symbol, a place that is a symbol of democracy, I'm like, well, someone clearly thinks that their faith called them to do this. How is that different from when people say, their faith calls us to love our neighbor, and to stand up for the marginalized and the oppressed and participate in a Black Lives Matter protest? I think that there's a question there for people of faith to think about if your faith is calling you to action, what kind of action? Is it? What is the message behind it? What are you standing up for? Because, you know, this question about faith and politics protest? That's a question that people really need to be thinking about, and they need to wrestle with. 

 

 

23:55 - Simon Doong

And joining us today as a special guest, so john Kim, the associate for theology, from theology formation and evangelism for the Presbyterian Church, USA. So Jung is here to give us some responses to some questions about theology and how it's relevant for us, even if we're not pastors. So Jung, the floor is yours.

 

24:15 – So Jung Kim

Hello, Simon. Hello, Lee.  Thank you so much for inviting me to this new venue of your ministry of matter of faith presby podcast for the audience out there. My name is So Jung Kim, and I'm Associate for theology at the office of theology and worship. I'm also doing my digital Ministry of a vlog called everyday God talk. And I cannot wait to invite either Simon or Lee as our God talkers at some point. I'll try to answer your questions about theology as best as possible. But please know that this is not the only final answer, but I believe that this will be a good start of our many more conversations down the road. So here are the questions you gave to me, “I have heard about this term theology. What is it exactly? Why does it matter to someone who is not a pastor? How does it affect and impact our lives outside of church activities?” What good questions! Well, here's my two cents. Not everyone is theologian, but everyone can be theologian theology in its Greek roots could indicate theos and logos, God and words, theology has got words then cover any words related to God, or as some theologians, including myself would simply put it God talk this good income, pass any of our talks about with two or four gods. This may include prayer teams, preaching, sermons, and biblical narratives. However, when it comes to the area of theologian, an expert of this academic discipline, theology requires some in depth analysis of those words and languages related to God. In this sense, there are many kinds of theology based upon the way we understand the words and languages related to God. First, there are those who critically analyze the words related to God based upon their socio-political locations or racial ethnic sexual gender identities. For examples, liberation theology, postcolonial theology, decolonial theology, black womanist, feminist, queer, Asian, Indian, Korean, Asian American, Native American Latin American who had Hispanic theologies and so forth. Second, there are those who present the words related to God based upon their ways of interpreting and arranging the texts for examples, systematic theology, fundamental theology, dogmatic, biblical, constructive process, public, political, contextual, missiological, comparative inter religious, intercultural, pastoral, practical liturgical, liturgical theologies, and so forth. Third, there are those who can template the words related to God based upon their denominations, ecclesial identities and faith communities for examples, Reformed theology, Presbyterian theology, Methodist theology, Lutheran theology, Roman Catholic, Jesuit, orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Armenian orthodox, evangelical, Pentecostal, ecumenical, and Muslim theologies, and so forth. There are many emerging areas of the ology which I could not mention here. The point is when it comes to analysis and interpretation, theology as an academic discipline requires some level of training and expertise. Why should lay people then care about those? Well, we have medical doctors and many medical fields of expertise. But we as ordinary people still care about health right? For example, COVID-19 is going around, but we need to know about what it takes to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Also, we have lawyers and prosecutors and judges, but we as ordinary citizens need to know about the law just to function as a civil person in this society, right? Likewise, even though you are not a pastor, if you speak any words or use any language is related to God. We already care about theology, and we need to know about theology and our pastors can be experts and proponents of some theologies. But their ministry deals with more than those are pastors surely have literacy in theologies so that they can offer the best pastoral care and response to you. But not every ordained minister is necessarily a theologian. There are in fact, many theologians who are not ordained minister of words and sacraments. There are also theologians, why not Christians nowadays, seminaries not only trained pastors, but also lay people to become either theologians, practitioners or scholars. In many areas, many of us might identify ourselves more of biblical scholars or activists for examples who graduated from the seminary. Again, not everyone is theologian, but everyone can be theologian and today I invite you to become a theologian with me. Thank you so much. See you!

 

30:00 – Lee Catoe

Thanks So Jung, that was very helpful. And I hope anybody who is listening can get a lot from that. Because, yeah, theology is a really weird word to understand. And so that was really helpful. So thanks again to So Jung, for answering that for us. So now we are coming to the time in our podcast where we highlight resources. And we want you to know kind of what we do. And so my co host, Simon, from the peacemaking program of the pcusa, is going to talk a little bit about what he does and what the peacemaking program does. So Simon, take it away.

 

30:43 – Simon Doong

Yeah, thanks, Lee. So the Presbyterian peacemaking program has my favorite slogan for the for the work that we do is transforming cultures of violence into communities of peace. And the way that that we try to live into that is by primarily through education and awareness building. We do that in a variety of ways. I think that one of the major things that we do is that we offer we take Presbyterians to the issues. So in the we bring the issues to Presbyterians so that they can learn about them. So for example, through our international Peacemaker program, we bring international peacemakers folks working in areas of conflict and poverty and seeking justice. We bring them to the US to meet with Presbyterians to talk about their work or with the mosaic of peace program, and travel study seminars we take we take Presbyterians and bring them to key regions and areas in the world to learn about the issues to those local places in the case of mosaic of peace that is the Holy Land in Israel Palestine. In the case of travel, study, seminars that can be any number of locations throughout the year. And so we offer that we offer those opportunities, we also bring educational opportunities to Presbyterians. Most recently, we just wrapped up a webinar series on gun violence called standing our holy ground. And so through these various methods, we are really trying to build awareness and then also partner with other ministries within the pcusa particularly our advocacy groups and our partners that through World Mission and things like that. And so that's sort of how we operate. I think a guiding resource that people could always turn to is the commitment to peacemaking, which was established in the 1980s to help Presbyterians live out and guide their peacemaking, witness and social justice ministries. And so if people are interested in that, or in the peacemaking program, you can learn more at Presbyterian mission.org backslash peacemaking and we look forward to hoping that you will join us on one of our many educational and awareness building opportunities, whether it be travel study seminars, mosaic of peace international peacemakers, or any of our webinars or other learning opportunities. We look forward to seeing you and hoping that you'll be joining us soon.

 

33:09 – Lee Catoe & Simon Doong

This has been the matter of faith podcast brought to you by the Presbyterian peacemaking program and unbound. If you would like to submit a question for discussion you can do so at fate podcast at Pc usa.org. We look forward to hearing from you see you next time. Thanks everyone. See you next time.

 

33:36 – Lee Catoe

Thank you everyone for checking out episode three as a matter of fate oppressively podcast. Remember to subscribe using your favorite podcast platform of choice

 

33:49 – Simon Doong

And give us a five star review. It helps our podcast channel out and helps us bring more content like this to you. We look forward to seeing you next time.