Archive | July, 2012
31 Jul

Ok…forget my rule about never posting about Young Life again….it seems that I can’t seem to escape the fact, that this blog seems to get most of the hits and comments concerning my thoughts on Young Life. If you read this blog and could care less, then go back to your coffee and I’ll catch you on another post.

For the many others that stop by, only for information on Young Life, welcome.

I’ll continue to post over at Young Life Watch, but will reblog posts here, from time to time. I can’t seem to wean the one from the other….oh well, I tried!

Young Life Watch

The following is a quote from a forum on the Cult Education Forum Website.  You can read the whole thread here.  On page 4 of the thread, the moderator for CEF has this to say about Young Life and it’s lack of policies concerning parental consent:

biggun223:

No one here has said that Young Life is a “cult.”

Campus Crusade for Christ and Youth for Christ, are examples of evangelical religious organizations that have chosen to identify their religious agenda within their names.

“Young Life” has not.

I have interviewed both Young Life leaders and members.

I have received serious complaints from families about Young Life. The organization caused these families serious problems. The families would not have approved of their child’s involvement if fully informed from the very beginning (initial contact with their child), but they were not informed. They only found out when their child was profoundly influenced…

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Blogger Sued by Former Pastor Wins in Court

27 Jul

Back in June, I posted about Julie Anne Smith. You can read that brief post here.

She had been sued by her former pastor, Chuck O’ Neal, of Beaverton Grace Bible Church.  Pastor O’Neal had claimed damages of $500,000, after Ms. Smith posted a negative google review about her former church and the authoritarian style of the pastor.

The court has found, that Julie Anne was expressing her views in a public forum and that it was protected as Free Speech.  A real victory for bloggers seeking to shed light on abusive practices in the church.

You can read more here and here.

In a true stroke of poetic justice, the judge has ordered that Pastor O’Neal pay for Julie Anne’s legal costs and attorney fees.

Special thanks to The Wartburg Watch for keeping me up to date on this story.

American Winter: New Documentary from the Gantz Brothers

26 Jul

Normally I write about my loss of faith and ask questions that I was afraid to ask as a believer.  Today, I just want to highlight an upcoming documentary about the plight of struggling families.  A topic, that I think, is important to all people, regardless of whether you are religious or not.

The documentary is directed by Harry & Joe Gantz.  The Gantz brothers are best known for their Taxicab Concessions (HBO) and for their recent TV drama The Defenders.  American Winter follows struggling families in the Northwest that have fallen out of the middle class and are struggling to survive.

Here’s the trailer.  Full length film is scheduled to release this fall.

Spiritual Abuse Stunts You Emotionally

19 Jul
Gitarrenverstärker JC 120

Gitarrenverstärker JC 120 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a family member who has struggled with alcoholism for over 2 decades.  Of the many things I’ve learned about alcohol and drug abuse, one is that it stunts a person’s ability to grow and mature mentally.

So if someone began abusing alcohol at age 16, many times, their mental and social skills will not progress until they emerge from their substance abuse.  Even though Uncle Johnny is 42 years old, emotionally he’s still equivalent to the insecure, fearful teenager he was when he started drinking.  That’s why so many who have abused drugs struggle to reconnect socially after years wasted in the twilight zone.

Spiritual Abuse is No Different

While I never abused drugs or alcohol, I was in a spiritually abusive church for over a decade.  After finally realizing I was in a bad place, it took at least 10 years to come to any sense of normalcy for me, my family, and my career.

Along the way, I’ve often been frustrated at my lack of ability to connect socially.  Sometimes I am too quick to assume a personal relationship and I bowl people over by being too blunt or over-sharing personal experiences without really sensing whether someone really wants to hear them.

I’ve been frustrated at how I’ve lost almost two decades denying myself the chance to develop skills or careers.  In the past, I was too busy trying to “build the church”, or “reach out to the lost” and felt selfish about taking time to continue my Classical Guitar studies.  I have a lot of talent, but I’m really no better a musician than I was 20 years ago.

I sold so many belongings that I should have kept.  At the time, I assumed God would see my sacrifice and be there as I gave time and money to causes I thought were spiritual and everlasting.  Now I wish I still had my Roland Jazz Chorus amp to make the music that I love.  I wish I hadn’t sold off all my valuable baseball cards to pay for a missions trip with Campus Crusade.  The many hours of free labor I gave to church and para-church ministries while my own family struggled.

The time I let my boss (at the Christian bookstore) bully me and demand I quit my second job, because he worried that other businesses in the area would think he didn’t pay his employees enough money (he didn’t).   The time I let a pastor guilt me into leading worship for many more months than my schedule allowed…all the while hoping and praying that God would see my sacrifices and have mercy on me and my family.

Hoping that I was building an eternal reward, by denying myself in this life.

Right Back Where I Started

At times I’m angry at the years lost.  Other times I’m just sad that I passed up so many great opportunities, both professionally and personally, because I thought I was serving a greater spiritual purpose.

At the time I thought I was running the race to be embraced and rewarded by The Father.  But in reality, I was serving other people and their dreams while mine got pushed to the back of the line.

I find myself exactly where I was 20 years ago, unsure of how to navigate middle age, because I never got much of a chance to live life and grow through my experiences without someone telling me to question my heart and lay down my desires to some higher purpose.

But that’s what abuse does to you, it freezes you.  It stifles and chokes you and tries to convince you that you’re moving forward when all you are doing is sinking,  sinking into a hole that is harder and harder to climb out of the longer you’ve stayed.

Joe Paterno and CJ Mahaney: The Parallels of Peril

13 Jul
English: CJ Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grac...

English: CJ Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Patern...

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno on the sideline during warmups prior to the 2006 Homecoming game versus the University of Illinois on Friday, October 20, 2006. Taken by me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The newly released report by Loius Freeh paints a damning picture of Penn State and Joe Paterno.

According to Freeh,  when Penn State officials first learned of possible abuse by assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.  They concluded a quick investigation and then buried it to avoid bad publicity for the school and the athletic program.

About Joe Paterno, Freeh had this to say:

“The facts are the facts,” Freeh said. “There’s a whole host of evidence here and we’re saying the reasonable conclusion from that evidence is that he was an integral part of this active conspiracy to conceal. I regret that, based on the damage it does, obviously, to his legacy.”

The document detailing the reported incidents is over 200 pages long.  A brief summary tells us that the first accusations of sex abuse with boys as young as 8 years old, first occurred in 1998.  Three years later, more incidents were brought to Penn State officials but subsequently went unreported to the police. Sandusky was advised to not bring children onto campus, but the Athletic Department (including Paterno) advised Penn State’s board to allow for Sandusky to get counseling and not report the incident to the proper authorities (Police and Child Welfare).

You can read a more detailed report here, that includes links to the actual Freeh investigation report.

Putting Public Image Above People and The Law

One of the big disappointments, is the apparent lack of concern for the actual victims of Jerry Sandusky.  Joe Paterno and Penn State’s board seemed more concerned with their school’s reputation than with doing the right thing.  They put the public image of the school above the law and did not report the incidents to the proper authorities.

This same dynamic (putting public image above the law) has been reported in multiple sex abuse/ child abuse incidents in Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).  In many cases, families of the victims were told to forgive the abuser and accused of being bitter or divisive if they objected.  Often times victims families were advised not to speak about the crimes committed against their children.  In many cases, SGM pastors advised parents to NOT call the police and did not inform their congregation of the abuse that had occured.

I won’t go over specific cases in detail, but you can read Noel’s Story here,  and exCLCer’s story here.

At the helm of SGM and CLC church, where many of the alleged abuses occurred, was CJ Mahaney.

Much like Joe Paterno, it appears that CJ Mahaney would rather ignore the law and assist abusers instead of taking a lump for the victims.  It seems, that the price of bad publicity was a price that CJ Mahaney was not willing to pay.

Much like Paterno, CJ Mahaney seems more comfortable with coddling sex abusers than dealing honestly with the victims of those crimes.

An unfortunate legacy for both men, who have been admired from afar for decades, but in the end, will go to their grave with the knowledge that they did not go the second mile for innocent children. Children that deserved better than to be raped and then ignored by those with the power to help.

Stand Over There…And I’ll Throw Rocks Over Your Head

9 Jul
shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame

shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame (Photo credit: sillydog)

I was five years old and my friend Nate, who was only four, came over to my house to play.  It was summer time, and we found ourselves bored, with nothing much to do in my front yard.

We were hanging out around a recently planted tree that was surrounded by mulch and a ring of medium to large rocks.

An Idea is Born

As I looked down at the rocks, an idea was  born for our next round of fun.  I picked up a  heavy rock and surmised that if Nate stood about ten feet away, I should still be able to throw the rock over his head.

“Hey Nate!” I yelled over.

“Yes” Nate shouted back.

“Go stand over there, ” I pointed to about 10 feet away.  He dutifully moved to right where I pointed.

“I’m going to throw this rock over your head!” I shouted across the yard.

“Ok” said Nate, without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.

As Nate stood his ground, I picked up a large rock and heaved it with all my might.  I distinctly remember that I was 100% sure that the rock would simply sail far over his head, and that my superior rock throwing ability was about to be confirmed.

As the rock flew through the air I stood in awe…but then something happened.  The rock begun to descend sooner than planned and  it hit Nate square upon his mouth.

Shock, just utter shock descended upon my five-year old mind.

Shock, just utter shock is what I saw on Nate’s face, as he stared back at me.  It seemed like time stood still as we stared at each other, both shocked at what had just transpired.

Then…blood begun gushing down Nate’s face from his lip. It had been gashed open by my misfired rock and he was now bleeding all over his shirt and white shorts.  As the pain of his injury overtook him, he screamed and cried as he ran into my house to seek assistance from his mother.

The next few minutes are a blur, as I was vacillating between the shock of learning that my rock throwing abilities were not up to snuff and the thought that my injured friend my was probably going to get me in trouble.

My Mom stormed out of the house with a mild scolding, along with the unanswerable question of  “What were you thinking when you threw that rock?” coupled with “Were you trying to hit Nate with that rock?”.

The truth is, I had no intention of hitting him and I was having a hard time explaining what I was thinking, because I was still in shock over my poor estimation of my arm strength.

Unfortunately for Nate, our rock throwing adventure ended our play date prematurely, as he got a trip to the Doctor for seven stitches and I got a trip to my bedroom for a grounding.

It wouldn’t be the last time in my childhood that I had a hair-brained idea involving rocks…but that’s for another day.

And the Point of all of this?

Besides being a perfect example of why children should be taught to think about their actions before running headlong into adventure, it’s also an example of what happens when we believe ourselves to be infallible.

You see, the same mindset of my five-year old mind, is very similar to the many ministry leaders and pastors I have known in my life.  They are similar in that often times, they overestimate their abilities and in doing so put others at risk.

An infallible mindset never considers the question of  “what happens if I am wrong?”.  And this is dangerous.

Some Examples

“You have marriage trouble, no problem, set up an appointment I’ll explain to you the Biblical way to save your marriage.  Never mind that I’m only 28 years old and have only been married for 15 months.  Not to worry,  I’m a pastor and I graduated with a degree in Biblical counseling.”

“What do you mean your husband is ignoring you?  It may mean that you’re not submitting enough.  He hit you?  Well he wouldn’t have just hit you unless he was very frustrated with you and your behavior.  Here’s a book on submission.  We’ll read it together and I’ll meet with you weekly so that you can begin to have a Biblical marriage again.”

“You’re having financial troubles?  Can I ask you a question?  Do you tithe?  Have you considered that maybe you’re having financial troubles because you’re not tithing to God’s House?”

“What do you mean you’re having suicidal thoughts?  That’s demonic…think of your children and family and the sort of testimony that would be.  You need to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day.  Then the Joy of the Lord will be your strength.  You don’t need counseling, you need the Holy Spirit.”

I could go on with more examples, but I think it suffices to say, that many a Christian leader has overestimated their ability to help counsel people who are in serious trouble.  Often times with disastrous results.

Pastoral Disaster

I witnessed this first hand, as a pastor (who was also my neighbor) counseled a couple who’s twin babies were facing almost certain death.  As their health deteriorated in the hospital, my pastor friend encouraged the couple and their church to pray harder for healing.  One church member had even prophesied that the twins would live (which would have been a medical miracle) and the church encouraged the couple to blog, so that God’s goodness could be shared with the world (since they were 100% sure the babies would be healed).

Rock to the face…the babies died, the church was in shock, and the pastor was unprepared to deal with the crushing disappointment that his counsel had caused.  The couple left the church and was understandably angry.  Other members left the church.  Some of the elders remained but told me that they didn’t think that God answered prayers.  The whole church was bleeding like Nate’s gashed lip.  All because they had adopted an infallible mindset at the behest of the pastor in my neighborhood.

A couple of times during this episode, I had actually tried to convince this pastor to consider, if what he was doing was wise.  I even asked him, what he would do if he was wrong.  He didn’t seem to know, but he also seemed pretty sure that he wasn’t going to have to worry about being wrong.

After the deaths and funeral,what surprised me most, was how this pastor was more in shock that his counsel had not worked, than he was in grief over the loss of these dear children.  He was just like me at 5 years old, completely confounded that he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought.

So the next time someone tells you to “just do this” or “just pray that” to solve your problems.  Remember, people aren’t always as good as they think they are…

Just stand over there and I’ll throw a rock over your head, if you don’t believe me.

5 Jul

Ok…I promise this is my last Young Life post over at the Christianagnostic. Still getting an unbelievable amount of hits from searches for “Young Life Cult” or similar type phrases and trying to move the discussion over to Young Life Watch. Not sure it’ll work, but here goes…

Young Life Watch

I think it’s important to highlight instances of area directors that have been convicted of sex abuse with minors and molesting teen boys.

Does it make all of Young Life staff guilty of similar offenses?  No and I’m not equating all staff with these few men that have been convicted.  But I do want to point out the fact, that such abuses have occurred.  Especially since they involve  area directors.

Area Directors are paid full time staff.  They are responsible for recruiting and training volunteer leaders.  Usually run at least one Young Life club in their area.   And are responsible for organinzing Young Life weekends and weeks at camp.  Many times, area directors will be a camp director for 1-3 months of the summer.

All this to say, Young Life area directors affect a lot of people and are in constant contact with teens through club, weekends, weeks, and…

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