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SpongeBob Receives 'Unequivocal Welcome' from United Church of Christ

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  • umcornet
    See SpongeBob Goes to Church (a photo diary) at: http://www.ucc.org/news/r012505.htm SpongeBob Receives Unequivocal Welcome from United Church of Christ By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2005
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      See SpongeBob Goes to Church (a photo diary) at:
      http://www.ucc.org/news/r012505.htm

      SpongeBob Receives 'Unequivocal Welcome' from United Church of Christ
      By J. Bennett Guess
      United Church News
      Monday, January 24, 2005

      CLEVELAND -- Joining the animated fray, the United Church of Christ
      today (Jan. 24) said that Jesus' message of extravagant welcome
      extends to all, including SpongeBob Squarepants - the cartoon
      character that has come under fire for allegedly holding hands with a
      starfish.

      "Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob," the
      Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said,
      only partly in jest. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

      For that matter, Thomas explained, the 1.3-million-member church, if
      given the opportunity, would warmly receive Barney, Big Bird,
      Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, any who
      have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment
      rather than Jesus' offering of grace.

      The UCC's welcome comes in the wake of laughable accusations by James
      C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, that the popular SpongeBob
      and other well-known cartoon characters are crossing "a moral line" by
      stressing tolerance in a national We Are Family Foundation-sponsored
      video that will be distributed to U.S. schools on March 11, 2005.

      Later, an assistant to Dobson called SpongeBob's participation in the
      video "insidious."

      Thomas said, on the contrary, it is Dobson who is crossing the moral
      line for sending the mistaken message that Christians do not value
      tolerance and diversity as important religious values.

      "While Dobson's silly accusation makes headlines, it's also one more
      concrete example of how religion is misused over and over to promote
      intolerance over inclusion," Thomas said. "This is why we believe it
      is so important that the UCC speak the Gospel in an accent not often
      heard in our culture, because far too many experience the cross only
      as judgment, never as embrace."

      Dobson, despite his often-outrageous viewpoints, is arguably one of
      the most oft-heard religious voices in popular culture today. Through
      his Focus on the Family media empire, Dobson produces daily
      commentaries that appear widely on television and radio stations
      across the United States, often times as "public service
      announcements."

      Meanwhile, the UCC's recently released 30-second paid television
      commercial - produced to underscore the denomination's belief that
      Jesus didn't turn anyone away - has been rejected by two major
      television networks for being "too controversial."

      "Resistance to our message is formidable," Thomas says, "because we're
      cutting against the prevailing grain of a society that is afraid of
      the stranger, suspicious of difference and easily seduced by narrowly
      defined theological boundaries."

      The 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ, with national offices
      in Cleveland, has almost 6,000 local churches in the United States and
      Puerto Rico. It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational
      Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

      For more information on the "We Are Family" children's video, visit
      http://www.wearefamilyfoundation.org
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