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Dr Warren A. Candler

Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South

The Cook Or The Book - Which?
by Dr Warren Candler
From "Current Comments on Timely Topics", Cokesbury Press, 1926

IN a recent issue of one of the religious papers of the Middle West appeared this skit:

The early Church prayed in the upper room. The twentieth-century Church cooks in the supper room. Today the supper room has taken the place of the upper room; play has taken the place of prayer, and feasting has taken the place of fasting. There are more full stomachs than there are bended knees and broken hearts. There is more fire in the range in the kitchen than there is in the pulpit. When you build a fire in the church kitchen, it often, if not altogether, puts out the fire in the pulpit. Ice cream chills the fervor of spiritual life.

The early Christians were not cooking in the supper room the day the Holy Ghost came; they were praying in the upper room. They were not waiting on tables; they were waiting on God. They were not waiting for the fire from the stove, but for the fire from above. They were detained by the command of God, and not entertained by the cunning of men. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, not stuffed with a stew or a roast.

O! I would like the cooking squad to put out less gravy and more grace; less soup and more salvation; less ham and sham and more heaven; less pie and more piety; to have less use for the cook and more use for the old Book; to put out the fire in the kitchen and build it on the altar.

Of course, this piece of keen satire is an exaggeration, as such writing always is. Most churches are not open to such criticism. Upon the power of prayer the people of God rely now as always. Miracles of saving grace are wrought daily in the churches by the Holy Spirit. Christianity in the United States is advancing, not declining.

Its progress, whether judged qualitatively or quantitatively, is encouraging. While worldliness and wickedness abound in the land, there are multiplied thousands of faithful men and women who walk with God and serve the Lord in the beauty of holiness. But while all these statements are true, the writer of this skit points out a tendency which is all too prevalent in some quarters, and which deserves the satirical treatment which he gives it.

Many churches seem to have lost faith in the spiritual forces to accomplish the objects for the achievements of which they were organized, or to have renounced altogether those objects. They appear to be more concerned to draw crowds into their places of worship and to entertain the gaping multitudes which they attract than to save souls or to please God. They seek to serve ends of recreation rather than purposes of religion. Thus they dishonor Christ and damage his cause.

Places of worship by solemn dedication are "set apart from all unhallowed or common uses, for the worship of Almighty God." To bring into them all sorts of diversions and assemblies is nothing short of their profanation.

Against such profanity Jesus twice manifested the most burning indignation in his repeated cleansings of the temple. The evangelist informs us that he drove out of the temple those whom he found selling oxen and sheep and doves within its sacred precincts, and that he overturned the tables of the money-changers and poured out their money, saying to all the profane intruders into the holy place: "Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise." (John ii. 16.)

On no other occasion in our Lord's earthly ministry, as recorded in the Gospels, do we find him exhibiting such indignation.

Nothing else seems to have provoked him to such display of holy wrath. His conduct approached almost to an act of ejecting by force those who were profaning God's house by perverting it from "a house of prayer" to a place of "merchandise," making its altars counters for the coins of covetousness.

But the men whom the Master drove from the temple could have offered in defense of their conduct far more plausible excuses than can those who profane churches today by unseemly proceedings and performances in them.

Many people came to the feasts at Jerusalem from afar; not a few from overseas. They could not bring with them oxen and sheep and doves for their offerings. They were reduced to the necessity of buying them in the city. They brought with them foreign coins, which had to be exchanged for current money. Hence, the traders in the temple could say that by serving the convenience of worshipers they were promoting worship. Such a defense would have been truly but a sorry pretext; for profanity can never inspire piety.

But such a plea would have been far more plausible than any excuse which can be made for the invasion of Christian Churches of the twentieth century with all sorts of irreverent things. For this modern profanation of places of worship there is no conceivable extenuation whatsoever.

At bottom it proceeds in many instances from the same motive of covetousness which inspired the traders in the temple at Jerusalem. Money is needed for the Churches which the members will not give from liberality inspired by faith. Hence all sorts of devices are adopted to inveigle it from others. The traders in the temple were making money for themselves, while the traffickers of our day are trying to save themselves from giving to the service of God money which they have already made.

Some forms of irreverence are brought into the Churches, however, not for money, but out of the common lust for entertainment. The "movie" shows and theatrical spectacles are closed on Sundays, or they are considered to be not altogether proper diversions on the day of rest and worship. Hence, some wish the Churches and Sunday schools to supply what is wanted, and this unholy demand creates the profane supply.

Some preachers yield to it and become mere sensational stage-players, injecting into their pulpit performances dashes of sentiment more or less religious in order to disguise the utterly worldly nature of their pseudo-preachments.

The Sunday school, a most valuable institution which is designed for religious instruction, may easily degenerate into a place of amusement in which musical programs and kindred things displace the work of teaching and learning the word of God. Children and youth may thus acquire in the Sunday school habits of irreverence which they carry into the services of the Church, or, what is perhaps worse, they may imbibe an utter distaste for worship altogether. Some Sunday schools may now be found that tend strongly to diminish attendance upon the preaching of the gospel and the ordinances of the Church. The tragedy of such misuse and perversion of the Sunday school cannot be easily overstated.

Prevalent irreverence and the decay of the worshipful spirit tend to impair morality and engender social disorder.

The Churches should give themselves to calling the people back to God; but this they cannot do effectively if their temples are turned to uses which divert human hearts from God and fix them upon fun and feasting. The words of King Solomon are quite applicable to many in our day and should be heeded: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God." (Eccles. v. 1.)


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