Archive | August, 2012

What to Do When Young Life Converts Your Teen?

27 Aug

When I went to Young Life as a teen, my parents were fully aware of the Evangelical nature of Young Life and it’s desire to convert and disciple teens into their version of Evangelical Christianity.  My own involvement caused no tension with my parents or their religious convictions.

When I was a senior in high school, I invited a girl friend to Saranac Lake.  She went and converted to Young Life’s version of Christianity.  This did not go over well with her family who was Roman Catholic and felt that my girlfriend had been preyed upon by Bible thumpers.

Her family was always kind to me, but they let it be known that they were unhappy with the decision to let their daughter be involved with Young Life.  But at that point, it was done and she continued to be adversarial towards her parent’s church and faith.

Recently, two comments have been left on the Is Young Life a Cult?-Freedom Responds post, expressing worry and one asking for advice.  I do have some thoughts, but I’m certainly not an expert and wanted to highlight their comments.  Please feel free to respond to our worried and Janet’s concerns and what you think they might need to do.

worried left this comment:

So, My question is what to do next? My son is now 18. He has gone to several young life “get togethesr” over the past couple years. It was fun to him & many of his friends also attended. He just graduated high school and a couple friends talked him into going to the camp at Rockbridge. First thing that threw me off was they take their phones from them as soon as they get there. He went there as a free spirit excited about just having a good time before college. He came back six days later praising the camp, letting me and everyone else know (via social networking) that he excepted Christ into his life and that he is a changed man. He’s acting strange and I just don’t like any of it…What now? What happened there? Six days and my son is a totally different person, praising God & praying for me …lol. I want to support my son in every way but something just doesn’t sit right with me.

and Janet recently added this comment:

Worried, I’m having the same fears about my daughter. She started going to a “church” at our high school, which I considered cultish itself. They even allowed her to get baptized at age 17, without us knowing or our consent. I found out about it on facebook! The thing is, she was baptized in a catholic church when she was a baby.
She started going to more and more young life and church related meetings, camps, etc.. She even started reading the bible all the time, and she doesn’t read books ever!
Now, she just started college and of course, not knowing anyone, the young life people she had “met” through twitter and facebook over the summer, swooped in and became her best friends in just a day or two. These over the top Christian kids are the ONLY one’s she’s become friends wtih. The only organizations I see her expressing interest in are Christian organizations – Campus Crusaders, Young Life, etc. And I’m afraid that she’s going to even give up the one thing she absolutely loves – volleyball, because the practices and try-outs are the same night as young life leader training.
I’ve told her that I don’t want her to go to college, just to spend her time at the high schools, recruiting kids for young life. We’re paying out-of-state tuition for her to attend the “school of her dreams”, and little did I know that it would turn into a religious pilgrimage. If in fact she does give up the volleyball, which she’s wanted to play in college since she started playing in middle school, I don’t know what I’ll do. She’s already missed a lot of the freshman fun things to do (a ventriloquist, etc.), because of deciding she’d rather go to a young life barbecue. She went to 4 church events (all wanting to bring college kids to be as one with Christ), in the first 3 days……
When I’ve asked her about friends, she talks about the young life people and how “nice” they all are….
I’m really worried. I don’t know what to do or how to talk to her without her rebelling and becoming even further entrenched. :(
I’m not paying for college – especially out of state tuition – for her to go to church!
Any advice is greatly appreciated. I’m at a loss and worry constantly about it. :(

Help!

The Powerlessness of Prayer

24 Aug
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  The reason why…because of God’s lack of answer to prayer.  In all honesty, God really does not answer prayer in the way it’s promised in the Bible.  The Bible claims that God cares for you and me and wants to answer our prayers.

Matthew 21:22 plainly states

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

But this does not seem to be true.  Millions of Christians have believed that God has the power to save and heal, have begged God to do so, and he has not done it.  Babies have died, beloved parents and relatives have wasted unto death, while God ignores the prayers of those who have asked him to heal those whom they love.

I know many will object that maybe God had a different idea, or maybe we just didn’t believe enough.  But I think, that deep down, even the most earnest Christian does not really believe in prayer as described in the Bible.  They might think God will tip the scales a little more in their favor, maybe send a specialist doctor to save the day.  But most have asked God to heal cancers, only to see the cancer prevail.  Lord knows I’ve pleaded for babies that still went to the grave and left their parents in dismal grief, despite my many prayers.

Most Christians have lived long enough to know that prayer will not save the day…it may bring a little relief, kind of like meditation or silent centering, but it will not result in God’s miraculous intervention in the Biblical sense.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

We’ve all heard of the Christian parents that withhold life saving medical treatment for their children.  They trust God will heal, so they pray, wait, and watch as their children die or are seriously sickened from a condition that could have been prevented by human intervention.  Instead, they obey the Bible’s teaching to seek God for all their needs.  And in the end, many end up at a graveside, a court room, and some will even see the inside of a jail cell.

Why?

Because they took the Bible at it’s word about prayer.

But most Christians see this as extreme and would never do this to their children.  When the rubber hits the road, we say a prayer, but we pay a visit to the doctor.

Worst Case Scenario

Imagine an even more agonizing situation.

Imagine you are a middle aged mom whose elementary schooler has not returned home on time.  After ten minutes past the normal time your child arrives home, you wander next door to confirm that the bus is late.  When the neighbor’s child answers the door, you begin to worry.

Your neighbor confirms that the bus arrived on time, but your child was not seen exiting the bus.  A quick call to the school sends you into a panic. Your child was not seen at school all day.  In fact, the voice mail you ignored this morning was your child’s school calling to confirm that your child was sick and at home.

You slump to the floor sobbing as your neighbor dials 911….

Freeze Frame

Pausing this imaginary nightmare, ask your self this question.  Do you believe in the power of prayer to locate your child safely?

In other words, would you just call the prayer chain at church and trust God that he would lead you to your child?  What if the detective at the police station said they weren’t going to send out a description of your child, instead the officers were going to pray and wait on God to lead them to your child…would you really be ok with that response?

Of course you wouldn’t…you would be doing everything in your power to bring your child home again.  You would want to know that every stone in the county was being turned over in search of your child.  You would talk to anyone willing to listen and get the word out that something more precious than gold is lost and needs to be found.

This scenario reveals that when it matters most, prayer does little to no good when facing real world problems.  It doesn’t heal children who are sick.  It doesn’t save relatives that are dying.  It doesn’t bring children home who have been kidnapped or run away.

In short, prayer has no real power to change reality.

David Barton-A Victim of His Own Success

19 Aug
English: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, founder...

English: Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I first heard David Barton speak at a large Calvary Chapel in the late 80’s and again in the early 90’s.  At the time, this fast talking, historical quote wielding teacher persuaded me that most of America’s founding fathers were Evangelical Christians.  That the United States was suppossed to be a Christian nation, and that liberals had scrubbed our Christian roots in order to promote secular humanism.

I assumed that what he said was true and it fit nicely with my own belief that Christianity should play a more prominent role in public life.  It wasn’t until I started to read and study history that I realized that much of what David Barton was saying was misleading.

One example from Barton that stands out, was his claim that most of the founding fathers had attended seminary.  At the time, it blew me away that so many of our nations leaders were seminary trained.  It seemed a convincing argument that our Christian heritage as a nation was being diminished by omission.

The only problem with his claim (as I found out years later) is semantics.  While it’s true that most of the founding fathers attended seminary, what I didn’t know was that most colleges or higher learning institutions were called seminaries.  In other words, the common usage just meant a school.

So if I was alive in the 18th century and attending seminary, it might have been a seminary for architects and have nothing to do theology.  For whatever reason, the word seminary has come to mean a school for Theological training in this day and age.  But at that time, it meant nothing more than a school of higher learning.  A detail that Barton omits and allows his listeners to assume that most founding fathers attended Theological seminary.  Which would be incorrect.

After coming across my own suspicions about Barton’s claims,  I was always curious to see his rise to prominence.  First as a speaker and self published author, then to hosting his own radio show, and finally to some prominence within political circles in his own state of Texas and some Federal officials.  Even appearances with Glenn Beck and featured in Time magazine.

But it seems that Mr. Barton has become a victim of his own success.  After years of flying under the radar, he hit it big with a publishing deal with one of the worlds oldest and most prominent publishing houses, Thomas Nelson.  Publishing a book on Thomas Jefferson titled The Jefferson Lies.

The book was supposed to show that Jefferson was actually an Evangelical Christian and that most of what we’ve been taught about him is untrue.  In a twist of irony,  the only lies exposed by the book have been the lies Barton has been telling.  The overwhelming response, even by Christian Historians, is that Barton’s book is full of unsupported claims and outright falsehoods.  So much so, that Thomas Nelson has recalled the book and put it out of print.

Here’s a quote from World Magazine about Barton’s book

Richards emphasizes that he and the scholars he consulted about Barton are politically conservative evangelicals or Catholics. They largely agree with Barton’s belief that Christian principles played a major role in America’s founding, but Richards argues that Barton’s books and videos are full of “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.”

Seems that Barton’s long run may be winding down.  And I’m glad…not because I don’t like what he’s saying (I used to).  I just think people claiming to care about truth, should tell the truth.

Is that too much to ask?

Claude: Criminal, Christian, Calvinist….

14 Aug
John Calvin

John Calvin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Prison to Praise

I was around ten years old when Claude came to live with us.  Claude had been discharged early from the State Penitentiary for good behaviour.  He had been sent to prison for armed robbery and theft.  While in prison he became a Christian and had been discipled through our church prison ministry.  My dad helped disciple him and sponsored him to be released to early probation.  During his first few months of probation he lived with me and my family.

Those first months were supposed to help him get back into society and give him time to find a job ,without the pressure of rent and bills.  It also gave Claude time with his new wife and to go to church and meet his brothers and sisters in Christ that had helped him through his prison sentence and his journey to a new-found faith.

Claude didn’t just become a Christian, he fully immersed himself into the historical roots of my Presbyterian church and became a full-fledged Calvinist.  His ability to espouse this nuanced theology was on display whenever he spoke publicly about his criminal past and his new life in Christ.

Claude was the perfect poster boy of what a new life in Christ is supposed to look like.  From a hardened street criminal to a soft-spoken family man.  If anyone doubted the power of God’s love…Claude was the closest thing to absolute proof you could ask for.

Calvin and Claude Celebrate Thanksgiving

A few months after Claude’s release, he and his wife moved out to a nearby town.  His wife was working, but Claude was still struggling to find a job.  Not an uncommon plight for someone with a long rap sheet.  We didn’t see them much after they moved, but we did get an invitation to hear Claude speak on Thanksgiving, at a nearby Presbyterian church.

I was excited to see Claude again and to find out how he was doing.  The service was typical Presbyterian, but with a little more liturgy than my own church.  When it was time for the sermon, Claude was introduced and he wowed everyone with his stories of neglect and crime.  And how he had been rescued and transformed by the Gospel.  I noticed that Claude had geared his testimony to the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP).  He would tell a little of his story that would demonstrate each aspect of Calvinism.

He even took a jab at Arminians, claiming that Jonah must have been an Arminian and that’s why the whale spit him out (I didn’t realize ocean creatures could detect good doctrine through their taste buds-who knew?).  When he was done speaking, there was a crowd after the sermon that wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him for his new found faith.  It was a happy moment for Claude…

Trouble Brews

A few weeks after Claude’s sermon, I noticed my parents on the phone.  They were speaking in their concerned voices.  I made out from their side of the conversation ,that they were speaking with Claude’s wife.  She was upset and frustrated that Claude seemed to no longer be taking an active role in finding a job.  She wanted to be a supportive wife, but she wasn’t sure what to do.

These calls seemed to happen on a weekly basis.  I asked my Mom about it, but she assured me that they were just having normal struggles as a new couple.  Being that I was only ten and had never even kissed a girl, let alone been a couple, I assumed that all would end well for Claude.  After all, he was a Christian now.  God would help him to do the right thing.

It was weeks before I would hear anything else about Claude.  I quickly forgot about the whole thing and returned to my world of Beatles records and baseball cards.

Final Phone Call

I still remember the last time I spoke to Claude.  He called collect and I accepted the charges.  Claude asked me how I was doing and I told him I was fine.  He sounded nervous and he asked me if my Mom was available to speak.  I told him to hold while I trekked upstairs to tell mom that Claude was on the phone.

When I told her Claude was on the line, she looked worried and then did something that she has never asked me to do, before or since.  She asked me to lie and tell him that she wasn’t home.  I was confused, but did what I was told.  Claude now sounded desperate, and pleaded with me to make sure my parents called him back.  I hung up the phone and then turned to my mom to find out why she had made this strange request.  Why did she have me lie to Claude?

Mom sat me down at the kitchen table and began to explain that Claude was back in prison.  I couldn’t believe it…what happened?  Was it just a mistake?

No, this was no mistake.  Claude had taken up crime again.  But this time, he wasn’t just stealing, he had also raped a woman during a robbery.  The testimony at trial was that he had a metal pipe and told his victim he would sprinkle her blood across the snow if she didn’t let him have his way.  He was a monster, a raping, stealing, lying son of a bitch monster.

Just months after standing in front of the church and busting Arminian theology, he was now raping and stealing his way across the Philadelphia suburbs.  I was shocked and frightened that I had actually lived under the same roof with the man.

Lessons and Questions

I can’t say I have a wealth of lessons from this experience with Claude.  But I do know one thing that I learned.  Doctrine doesn’t mean you are living a good life.  You can quote all the saints and reformers you want…I don’t care.  Meaningless in my book.  Show my what you believe by your actions, not your esoteric theology.  I couldn’t care less.

Piper, Grudem, Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Peter Pan….I don’t give a rip.  Claude taught me that you can articulate a complex theology and still be a rapist at the same time.

One of the questions that Claude’s story leaves me, is this….Why is God so bad at making people good?

I mean, scripture teaches that we are new creatures in Christ.  We have the mind of Christ and the righteousness of Christ.  But how can that really be true when people like Claude can claim Christ and still rape and steal?  I just don’t understand how Christians can claim that faith makes all the difference, when it clearly does not in so many instances.

In the end, neither Christ nor Calvin could help Claude.  One thing I know, there are victims of his crimes that wish he would rot in hell.  I can’t say that I blame them.

Young Life-How the “Cult of Cool” Crushed a Teen’s Faith

7 Aug

I was a Young Life volunteer leader for 5 years.  As a leader, we were encouraged to go after the “leaders” at our school.  The kids that everyone looked up to.  The ones that led the pack. Decades of ministry experience showed that if you could get a “leader” to come to Young Life, their followers would come as well.

In High School, the “leaders” are almost always the popular kids.  Kids with good looks, talent, or charisma.  In other words, they were cool.  I’ve dubbed Young Life’s method of targeting popular kids the “Cult of Cool”.  Meaning that there is an unhealthy emphasis on reaching “cool” kids and making sure that Young Life and it’s leaders are “cool”.

I know, I know…cool kids need to be loved too.  And I’m not saying that they shouldn’t.  But there are some unintended consequences that follow when you focus on cool.  One of them, is the kids that aren’t as cool, feel left out or marginalized.  For a ministry that claims to love all teens, it sure seems that the “cool” ones get most of that love.

You’re free to disagree (as I know many of you do), but I want you to understand how that played out for one Christian family whose daughter attended Young Life.  Here’s a brief summary from randall’s comments that I don’t want you to miss:

Young Life crushed the spirit of my younger daughter. She was “heavy” in High School, and some of the “top students” they target didn’t like her. So, after being involved and going to the former Soviet Union, she was told she could not be involved any longer. She has never recovered from the disappointment.
Are they a cult? I don’t know. Are they cold, insensitive and cruel? Without a doubt.

Responding on another post randall added this:

I don’t believe it even for a second. My daughter was/is still a victim of YL.

It wasn’t fun for my daughter when she was told she couldn’t participate because the “other” kids didn’t think she fit in (she was overweight and not part of the “popular” crowd). When we approached the Leader, she had no answer; she just walked away.

More recently, he shared this:

You should take the time to read my comments from previous discussions. I am still dealing with a brokenhearted daughter who has turned her back on Jesus because of  Young Life.

Stop drinking the Koolaid…

I highlight what Randall has shared because I think it’s important to see what Young Life did in the case of his daughter.  She was a normal Christian kid, willing to travel overseas to share her faith.  But because she was overweight and didn’t “fit in” (read-not cool like us) the Young Life leader asked her to not come back to Young Life.

This is where the “cult of cool” can lead you.  Instead of showing love and acceptance, this Young Life leader showed shallowness and conditional love.  And that is a far cry from the mantra that Young Life exists to show every kid the love of God.

In the end, Young Life not only crushed this girls spirit, but they shipwrecked her faith.

I know this may sound odd from someone who no longer has faith.  But it’s wrong to treat families this way.  Randall was raising his daughter to be a Christian, and Young Life’s “cool” version destroyed it.

It may be a sin to bore a kid, but it’s even worse to destroy their self-esteem so that your club can stay “cool”.

 

PS from Randall-

It is not my desire to destroy Young Life. I hope that, if they read these comments, that real change will come and that everyone would be welcome. Ministries that “target” certain types of people (young or old) almost always damage those who “don’t fit in.” I’ve seen it and personally spoke with those who have been ignored because they were in the “target group.”

I pray that para-church groups will realize that they have responsibilities not to offend the least of these and respond accordingly.