Dallas Church’s Sermon Series on Dangerous “Isms” Includes Atheism and Judaism

The Greenville Avenue Church of Christ near Dallas, Texas recently distributed flyers announcing their summer sermon series in which, every week, “pulpit minister” Shelton Gibbs III will tackle “Dangerous Isms.”

For example, they’re going to talk about the problems with Pessimism, and Materialism, and Judaism, and Alcoholism, and Emotionalism, and wait-a-minute-let’s-back-up.

As you can imagine, people are very upset that Judaism made the list.

“We’re not here to criticize or be antagonistic toward people and to beat them down,” [Gibbs] said. “There’s no threat. The people in the community should not feel a threat.”

Joel Schwitzer, regional director of the American Jewish Committee Dallas, said he thinks the church had no ill intent. But it’s the effect that counts, he said.

To put another religion in the same class as alcoholism or materialism, pessimism — certainly, while the intent may not have been to be provocative or antagonistic as the minister stated … that was the impact,” Schwitzer said.

It’s a fair criticism. To list genuinely harmful things like alcoholism alongside different flavors of the exact same thing you do (“Judaism,” “Islamism”) is bound to provoke a response from those communities.

Atheism is on the list, too — well, technically, “Atheisim” — but no one seems to be raising a fuss about that one. They should. The less religious a nation is, the better off it tends to be in areas like equality, women’s rights, education, and life expectancy. They’re also less violent… or should I say less dangerous?

The point being, there’s a difference between saying you disagree with other religions (or non-religion) and suggesting everyone else is a threat to you.

It’s not like he ran out of options, either. Somehow, racism and sexism didn’t make the cut. (Why not? Gibbs said “there are only so many Wednesdays in a summer.”) I suppose we should be glad feminism isn’t on there.

Another reason this is unusual is because, while you might expect this kind of rhetoric from a Baptist pastor or some other conservative church, this flyer comes from a predominantly African-American church.

The sermon series begins next week. As of now, there are no plans to change it.

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