If you are one of the faithful chances are you have listened to sermons. In fact it is quite possible you have heard thousands of these. A sermon is
” a religious discourse delivered in public usually by a clergyman as a part of a worship service”, or “a speech on conduct or duty” according to Merriam Webster. Note that this says nothing about how sermons are created.
Sermons are created by the church leader, be it Priest, Pastor, Reverend, or whomever. In the Quaker faith for instance any member can deliver a sermon, but in other forms of the Christian Faith such sermons are restricted to certain officials, and the criteria one needs to meet to be allowed this privilege can be very diverse. Only those the church deems worthy may deliver sermons. A modern street preacher is delivering a sermon from a soapbox as well, to an audience not of the faith or church.
Churches teach prospective leaders how they are to write sermons properly. Each sermon must conform to the doctrines and core beliefs of that church or denomination. When I was a young man people did not label themselves as Christians, they used a more specific term, that of their denomination. Family friends were not simply Christians, they were Baptists, or Catholics, or Methodists and so forth. Believers of my mother’s generation were much more aware of the differences between their denominations and took a certain amount of pride in belonging to one sect or the other, based upon that sects core beliefs.
This change to simply calling oneself Christian came about in my life. It began in the seventies with the rise of the Moral Majority in the wake of Roe V Wade. Jerry Falwell asked Christians to set aside their petty differences, (which are not petty at all), and to unite in order to end the abomination of abortion as well as working in the political sector to create a more Godly nation.
In this wise Christians began to unite over political issues they agreed upon, and began to pay much less attention to what they actually believed. Assuming since the others were christian and had similar political views, they must believe as they did. This same willful blindness is now the root cause of why Christians often feel other Christians are not “real” Christians, because they follow a different doctrine and dogma. Many believers do not even know what doctrine their church supports.
There are literally thousands of differing denominations of Christians, with differing core beliefs. Each church, denomination, or sect insists that any sermon written adhere to the core tenants of the faith of that group. Should a Priest give a public sermon which does not adhere to that sect’s doctrine or belief he can be reprimanded or fired. They can even excommunicated from their chosen order, which of course is a sentence to hell; removal from the book of life itself in some sects.
So let us assume you or I wanted to write a sermon. First we need to select a topic. Religious holidays are always about that holiday and it’s meaning to the church. Topics on other days however, are open to anything. We can write a sermon about any topic we see fit. For most good leaders, this will be something directly affecting the congregation. For other leaders it will be about their own agenda, how they believe personally as long as their own belief lies within the bounds of the sect.
New sects and denominations have been founded because a leader wrote sermons which conflicted with their denomination and was forced to leave. People who had heard and believed those sermons would follow the leader and a new sect would form. This same divisive effect is what drove an emperor to unite the hundreds of diverse christian sects in the Roman Empire into a single Church with a single text. This is the birth of the Roman Catholic church and the Bible all Christians still read today, with changes and editions of course, again to suit the sects core beliefs.
Now suppose we choose a common Christian sermon topic like love. As the writer we decide what it is we want to say about love, and there are many things to choose from. We could write about how God wants us to love our fellow man, about how God loves us, about how God’s love is greater than our own, or whatever we think most pertinent for the congregation or the point you seek to make. It is all up to the church leader.
Once we decide on our theme, we begin to write. Sermons are essays about God delivered as a public speech. In essay writing the “stool” approach is the valid method. To support a stool you need at least three legs. More legs on the stool only make it stronger. Each leg of the stool in an essay is an independently verified fact, these facts are used to support the claim of the essay. Not enough supports and your essay will fail to convince others of your claim, too many and your message gets lost in the supports you used. The best essays have three to six legs, strong but not overwhelming.
The same method is used for sermons, with a vital difference. Facts are not the supports in a sermon, instead Bible verses or quotes from other religious leaders are used in place of facts. So in our hypothetical sermon on love we would take a lot of quotes from the Gospel of John, Psalms, and Proverbs, as these books of the Bible have the best verses on love.
The Bible is composed of 66 separate books about God, reality, ancient history, stories, legends, and poetry. The Bible itself is used as if it were one complete book, instead of the collection of books which it is. So if our sermon is “God is Love” we are then free to jump all over these various books and use quotes from these books as facts to support out assertion that God is love. We are also free to ignore any other passages which might tend to refute this assertion. Thus we give our sermon supports which are not truly supports, but read like they are.
In reading written sermons you will find a great use of the ellipse (. . .). In speech an ellipse is just a long pause, longer than a comma and shorter than a colon. An ellipse however indicates that the comment is out of context, that more was said about this in the quoted document, either . . .before, or after . . . It indicates you are not getting the whole story. If an ellipse is used for quotes from a single text it can simply be a way to shorten the length of your support. A shortcut to the meat of your issue. Used as it is in sermons however that ellipse (. . . ) could include 50 or more separate books of information omitted to make a point you chose.
This is a lie of omission, failure to include the whole truth, in order to bolster the case for the assertion the writer is making.
This is disingenuous. An ellipse is considered as a true representation of what a text communicates, only shortened. However used as they are in sermons I could write “In the Beginning . . .Satan . . .created Adam” and have a “true” statement. Such a misuse of the ellipse and the essay structure allows churches to say almost anything about God, and use the Bible as the support.
It is because of this ability that churches restrict what sermons can say. They must fall within the core beliefs of that particular sect. The ability for various sects of Christians to say and believe things as different as “All gays deserve stoning” and “God loves Gays just like everyone else” is a direct result of this misuse of essay writing in the form of sermons. Believers trust the writer and see the Bible as a single work and not the tome it actually is, so it seems to make perfect sense to them. This is often compounded when the believers see the Bible as a perfect authority from God.
If faithful people hear sermons from the pulpit which they do not agree with often enough, they are likely to change churches thinking that Pastor has it wrong. They will then attend another church where the sermons more closely resemble what they believe themselves. Perhaps they will attend no church at all and simply read and interpret the Bible as they see fit, creating “Me-ism”, a church of one, with its own dogma and beliefs.
In this way sermons are propaganda. They are written with an intent to convince listeners of the message the writer, not of God. They are not interested in facts but in trumpeting their interpretation of the faith. There is no truth in a sermon.
All sermons are claims, based upon the selectively chosen parts of 66 books bound into a tome, which are in themselves unproven claims. Purporting a claim, supported by more unproven claims, with no evidence, to promote your personal world view, is propaganda. The purpose of the propaganda can and does vary greatly, but it is all propaganda.
The use of sermons to spread “God’s Word” does nothing of the sort. Sermons spread the words and ideas of the writers of sermons, not God. If you say “well God inspired them” you have not done away with the problem. Each and every church leader believes they are inspired by God too, even though their messages do not match.
Sermons have been used to both support and decry Slavery, equal rights for blacks, Chinese, natives, and women and even many acts of violence. Just a few weeks ago an online preacher named Joshua Feuerstein created an online sermon calling on good Christians to punish people who worked at planned parenthood. A listener to such rhetoric from the pulpits and media led a pro-life man to savagely end the lives of others in the name of Jesus.
I have never been able to grasp why God, the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Perfect Mind; would choose to use this as his preferred method for delivering a universal truth necessary to the survival of his own beloved creations. Such a God would not be a propagandist. Were God to prefer such a method then he would not appreciate truth, nor is he interested in communicating truth to his followers. Sermons belittle the very definition of God in this fashion.
Christianity was born with sermons. Jesus preached sermons. Long before there were any written words on Christianity there were sermons. None of these sermons uses evidence or facts, they use claims to support other claims, and interpretations to support other interpretations, and always of the writer or speaker, who claims to speak for God. It is a house of cards unable to stand the slightest breath of wind. The Bible is not enough. Religions require sermons to spread what they believe.
To me, sermons are very strong evidence the entire religion is utterly man made.