There's no fight like a church fight.
And there's no way the result of a lawsuit by breakaway Episcopalians is going to faith-heal wounds inflicted by the fighting words of this local, legal, moral, theological - and utterly personal - conflict.
The civil trial over that suit resumed Monday in St. George. At stake is more than $500 million in church property, along with names and trademarks, of the Charleston-based Protestant Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina.
Holy long green. It takes a lot of collection-plate passing to reap a half billion bucks.
It also takes a lot of nerve to dissolve a long-standing union - a challenge packing particular historic pertinence in this cradle of secession.
And it would take a lot of space to print all of the letters to the editor we've received about a continuing Episcopal civil war that isn't limited to our community and state.
The pace of those often-bitter missives picked up again two weeks ago after a story by Post and Courier colleague Jennifer Berry Hawes. That article began:
"The local Episcopal bishop has given priests in the diocese permission to perform a rite blessing lifelong same-sex relationships, adding another spark to the fiery debate taking place in denominations nationwide."
Colleague Abigail Darlington adds this sort-of-related news in today's paper: The Alliance For Full Acceptance, a local group dedicated to equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks, is auctioning off an all-inclusive, $45,000 Charleston wedding, valued to the highest-bidding LGBT couple (see more details on Page A3).
So when can polygamists bid on lavish nuptial bashes where they can tie the knot(s) in this popular wedding destination?
Onward sacred soldiers
Ecclesiastical feuds have triggered wars throughout our self-righteous kind's vengeful history.
At least our Holy City Episcopal schism apparently will be resolved in court instead of on battlefields.
Or will this case ultimately be decided by a much higher judge?
Meanwhile, the Holy Land is again the scene of martial mayhem in yet another renewal of the Jewish-vs.-Arab archrivalry.
And while the scourge of the faithful's overcooked furor is most menacingly personified these days by Islamic radical zealots slaughtering - or at least trying to slaughter - innocents in the name of Allah, self-proclaimed Christians have shed plenty of blood through the ages in the name of religion. too. That includes Catholics killing Protestants and vice versa.
But we're blessed to live in a land of religious and social tolerance - including increasing toleration of gay marriage by many of us conservatives.
Freedom of religion shares the First Amendment with freedom of speech. That gives David Bessinger, son of Melvin, a constitutional right to print the Ten Commandments on the drink cups at his "Melvin's Bar-B-Que" restaurants in Mount Pleasant and James Island.
However, as Tim Scott learned the hard way long before he became a U.S. senator, the First Amendment doesn't give Charleston County Council license to display the Ten Commandments outside its chambers.
Back to Melvin's Bar-B-Q: Those two restaurants also feature Christian themes in their dining rooms.
Just don't expect to see Melvin's displaying this biblical admonition anytime soon:
"And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
"Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:7-8, King James Version)
So yes, you can still pig out on pork at Melvin's.
Now test your faith in your knowledge (answer at column's end): Why don't Halls Chophouse, TBonz, Outback and other beef-eating emporiums display religious material?
Crossing the aisle
Back to Episcopalian vs. Episcopalian:
We who grew up in the Methodist Church should probably stay out of this religious ruckus - especially those of us who haven't been in any church in a long time except for funerals and weddings.
Still, Episcopalians, Methodists, backsliders and everybody else would be better off if they heeded the wisdom - and the reconciling power - of Jesus' Golden Rule:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12, King James Version)
Then again, this far less exalted Golden Rule intrudes when more than half a billion dollar bills are on the line:
"He who has the gold makes the rules." (Origin disputed)
Answer: Separation of church and steak.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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