‘Cold’, so Lady Whiteadder rightly asserted in the theologically sensitive television series, Blackadder, ‘is God’s way of telling us to burn more Catholics’. Sadly, such theological insightfulness as this is lost on today’s politically correct ‘Christians’. Nothing like a good heretic roasting to warm up a chilly winter evening.
But there is a ray of hope. Inquisitor Jim West, for example, keeps talking about reintroducing church discipline for the Baptists, which has got me thinking. The traditional method of church discipline has tended to focus either on the environmentally friendly method of burning to death, or the slightly more lenient approach of public humiliation and the command to ‘leave and don’t come back till you’ve repented’.
While I’m obviously, naturally, all in favour of both of these golden oldies in most cases (‘saved, but only as through fire’ - and it can helpfully function as something to grill your sausages on), isn’t it time for the church to be more creative in its disciplinary methods?
- For example, why not suggest to the sinner the option of non-stop ‘Chinese burns’[Fn 1] until they recant? ‘So you won’t see differently, Gerald? OK. OK. But for now, it’s just you, me, and a time of pain’. Heretic looks confused but Pastor ominously closes his office door and calmly notes: ‘No, nobody is coming to rescue you now’. Pastor rolls up offender’s sleeves, and applies Church Discipline.
- Or perhaps an arrangement involving the threat of weekly prayer meetings with the extreme-charismatic-demons-everywhere fringe of the congregation would serve to bring forth the fruit of repentance?
- Or what about a day of forced listening to loud and especially tacky Christian Rock music? That would work with me.
- Then there is the possibility of suggesting the old schooldays classic of lines: Tell them to write ‘I will not be a stinking heretic Beelzebub loving sinner again’ a thousand times. Write ‘I was wrong, the pastor was right; I’m reaping what I sowed, and I was told so’, ‘I’m ugly, the Pastor is handsome, and I’m in league with the devil’, or ‘I deserve to be burned alive. No more demon shagging antics for me’ etc.
- While on the school discipline themes, why not send the offender to ‘face the wall’ for a whole service, with a ‘heretic’ hat on.
- We could pull out the eyelashes of the offender – one for every sin: ‘Not being paying you tithes either, eh? OUT comes another’.
- A favourite idea of mine is to suggest we keep on jabbing the ‘funny bone’ of their elbows for half a day (each home group on a rota, taking it in turns to poke).
- Or what about this for a real horror of a threat: Force the offender to read the entire ‘Left Behind’ series - until they recant. Goodness, there are so many possibilities to explore, especially in our ‘postmodern’ congregations.
Failing all of these we still have hundreds of years of church practice and wisdom to put into practice, i.e. burning and drowning. But it would be best to ‘deny everything’ when it comes to the questions of snooping police officials.
But what suggestions could you make that would profit a revival and reformation of ‘church discipline’ in our congregations? Any ideas?
[Fn 1] A Chinese Burn: ‘A basic form of causing physical pain that is usually experienced for the first time in infant school. It invloves gripping the top of somebody's forearm with both hands then rotating the hands in opposite directions, thus stretching the skin. Tolerance to this increases with age, unless a meathead tries it and mangles not only your skin, but your muscles, ligaments and bones also’ - from the informative Urban Dictionary. See here for a picture of the effects of a Chinese Burn, but make sure no children are around to see it.