You know what the biggest perk in Christianity’s benefits package is? The “Forgiviness” Card. The Forgiveness Card is a guarantee that no matter how bad of a person you are, how much of a socipathic monster; no matter what you do to others, and to the people that trust you…absolution is just a prayer and a “my bad” away. Granted, that doesn’t change the Earthly consequences of your actions, but it always makes you feel better.
The people of Montgomergy, Alabama just got a heady lesson in the power of the Eternal Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, when they found out that the pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church not only had full-blown AIDS…he’d been spreading it to members of the congregation.
The first half of the news came from the mouth of Pastor Juan Demitrius McFarland himself, during a very public and emotion sermon on September 14th. During this sermon, the pastor of 23 years admitted that he’d been a heavy drug user during his tenure, and had contracted HIV in 2003. By 2008, the HIV had become full-blown AIDS.
At first, the church was very supportive and sympathetic, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Until, over the next couple of sermons, he gradually revealed that since 2008, he’d been regularly banging female churchgoers, in the church building.
All while knowing he had full-blown AIDS.
Oh, and he also stole a whole bunch of money from the church.
“Who does this to people, and you are the leader?” asked one churchgoer. “Who does this?”
Actually a better question might be who wouldn’t do this, knowing they had the Eternal Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card? All it requires is a bit of prayer, a “my bad”…and some confession couldn’t hurt. Confession just like the one he gave from the pulpit. Well, at least Pastor McFarland feels better…maybe it’s part of his “unique scriptural insight.”
The others of Montgomery…not so much.
The extent of the Pastor’s disease-spreading is unknown, and likely will remain unknown for quite some time. Only those members of the flock who engaged in communion with the Shepherd know that they did, and we may never know how many of them contracted HIV from McFarland. At least one church member has privately admitted to another that she was among the number. That anonymous member told WBTV:
“I’m hoping by doing this interview that she will see that she can come and talk to someone and her name or whatever will not be revealed. And maybe she can have some peace by coming forward and not the shame that goes along with it.”
Yes. Peace. Confess your sins. It worked for the Pastor.
The Church’s deacon Nathan Williams, a 70-year member, just wants to look forward and get things back on track:
“Our moves are going to come directly from counsel. We want peace and we want to do things right, legally. We are not looking to hurt him. We are looking to get the church back. That’s our theme: Get the church back. We want the church back. That’s it.”
Speaking of “legally,” other members of the congregation aren’t quite so Christ-like in their forgiveness. Said one:
“I believe that he should be put on trial. Go to court and let the judge decide if he should go to jail or not. We tend to sweep things under the rug, especially if they’re the leader. It’s like oh, no, please let’s not get this out but I think after this that they will have more discussions on HIV and AIDS.”
Lemons and lemonade.
And this churchgoer is right…McFarland should go to jail for his crimes. Jail, that is…not prison. In Alabama, the only thing he could be charged with would be knowingly spreading a sexually transmitted disease, a Class C misdemeanor carrying a maximum of three months in county jail. Alabama does not draw distinction in charges for deadly and incurable STDs like AIDS. Not that it matters much.
Likely, McFarland’s confession, coming six years after coming down with full-blown AIDS, was probably his last. Unless we miss our guess, his illness has probably taken a turn for the worse, and this is tantamount to a deathbed confession. So, off Pastor McFarland will be, having cashed in his Eternal Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, shuffling off the mortal coil of guilt and responsibility, lying down to his eternal peace.
Meanwhile, here on Earth…an actual jail is up one empty bed, and the morgue may be down a few full ones.
Watch a local report on the story below: