Thursday, March 13, 2008

Maybe Congregationalists Can Bake Cookies For IRS

Post by Colin McEnroe, as found on the Courant website. h/t to Rev. Sherry Taylor for passing this hilarious post along.

One of the real accomplishments that Barack Obama can now cite is getting Congregationalists in trouble twice in one week.

This is not easy to do. Congregationalists, one of the two major components of the United Church of Christ, are extremely boring and fair and so blandly good-hearted that they rarely get into any interesting fixes.

Let's be honest. If you were starting your life over and you wanted to spend it in a really interesting religion, you'd be a Mormon, which is an extremely colorful and cosmologically fascinating religion with special underwear. It's one of the few religions where, if you're a little bored in church, you can fix that really fast by reading more about your own religion. You're bound to trip over some interesting fact that will perk you right up, such as the idea that Native Americans were actually Jewish.

Your other alternative is Scientology, which is also entertaining but much more expensive. It's like the difference between Harvard and the University of Michigan. They're both great schools, but one is a lot cheaper and has better sports. Is there even one great self-acknowledged Scientologist athlete yet? Chick Corea would be a great name for, say, a pitching coach, but I don't think he is one.

Back to the United Church of Christ, a faith that rests on five essential tenets: 1. Fairness. 2. Outreach. 3. Tolerance. 4. More Fairness. 5. Not Getting Carried Away.

Connecticut was, in fact, founded by the people we would eventual come to think of as Congregationalists, although they were thought of by the now-extinct local tribes as Kehunk-kehunk-kehunkets. (Literally, "people who cough on us.") Some of the early famous Connecticut Congregationalists were Ellsworth Adams, Oliver Huntington, Oliver Ellsworth Adams, Abigail Huntington Oliver and Huntington Ellsworth Adams Oliver-Adams.

Connecticut was — and this is true — the last official American theocracy. Congregationalism was not disestablished as the official state church until 1818. Today's Congregationalists would be horrified to think that they ever had any more power than anyone else and are probably, right now, working on 5,000-word resolutions formally apologizing to Quakers and Anabaptists for the historic injustices they — if they were not so boring — would have perpetrated on those poor religious minorities.

This week, we learned that the IRS is investigating the UCC because of Obama's speech in Hartford last summer. The inquiry began following a complaint by someone whose name has been blacked out in all IRS records, so I guess we'll never know who this "Hxxxxxy Cxxxxxn" is.

Actually, the complaint was most likely filed by the guy who runs "UCC Truths," an organization and website for lapsed UCCers, heretics who dissent from the church's leadership and publish items such as "UCC Hierarchy Uses Neurosurgically Altered Monkeys to Make Cheap Sensible Shoes." Actually, no, they don't. UCC Truths is easily the most fair-minded and polite and boring apostate group in the history of religious dissent. It says on the website: "Any employee of the UCC national office or leaders of any of the UCC Conferences are welcome to submit their own commentary which will be posted, unedited, at the top of the site, at any time." If Martin Luther had been a Congregationalist, he would have nailed the "95 Other Possible Ways of Looking at Things" to the church door in Wittenberg.

I attended Obama's speech last summer, and it does not surprise me to learn, now, that the UCC had studiously read up on the IRS rules about this kind of thing and had instructed the 10,000 people in attendance that they were not allowed to bring buttons or signs or banners with such obviously political sentiments as "We Love You, Barack." The only thing allowed was cookies. You're going to think I'm making this up, but Connecticut UCCers home-baked 14,000 dozen cookies for this convention as part of a diabolical Congregationalist plot they called — again I am not kidding — "Extravagant Welcome." (If the cookies didn't work, they had, I was told, a last-ditch apocalyptic backup plan involving soft cushions.)

The UCC was also carefully monitoring Obama's speech and was prepared, according to a UCC official on my show this week, to cut his sound if he got too political or broke any other rules.

Really, sending the IRS after these people is like having the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms kick down the door of a bunch of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons.

The other form of trouble involved Minister Louis Farrakhan, who is not, technically, a member of the UCC but is a mildly insane person running the Nation of Islam. In recent years, Farrakhan has helpfully alternated between using phrases like "wicked and false Jews" and calling upon leaders of all religions to "end the cycle of hatred."

Farrakhan claims to like Obama, and Obama belongs to a UCC church where the pastor has occasionally said nice things about Farrakhan. This seems to fall short of a direct connection, but it was very upsetting to two other people on stage at the Democratic debate Tuesday night — Hxxxxxy Cxxxxxn and an oozing, swamp-based life form that had murdered Tim Russert and claimed to be him.

Obama himself has denounced Farrakhan but had neglected to reject him. Or maybe it is the other way around. By the end of the debate Tuesday night, Obama had agreed to renounce, denounce, reject, abjure, disavow and repudiate Farrakhan. Ushers were scouring the premises for a thesaurus to see if there was anything else he could do.

I hope I haven't offended any members of the UCC with this column, but if I have, I know they will write letters to the editor denouncing but not rejecting me. And the letters will be very fair. And point out some of my good qualities, too.

You can hear Colin McEnroe's talk show weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford.

For daily commentary, read Colin McEnroe's blog at

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