Tag Archives: Christ

Young Life Tactics-Cultic or Legit ?

16 Apr

Eric asked a good question that I didn’t want to get lost in the comments of Is Young Life a Cult .

He asked

“does Young Life employ cultic tactics, or do cults and cultish organizations instead use legitimate techniques and manipulate them to accomplish what they want to do?”

The short answer, is that Young Life employs tactics common to cults in many (not all ) instances.  Of course, this is just my own opinion. But it is how I see the issue.

Befriending a vulnerable demographic (teens who are minors) without consent and without being up front about motive is cultic. It’s similar to the tactics of the Boston Church of Christ and Amway.

Friendship, enmeshment, and then indoctrination.

It’s a cultic tactic no matter how you slice it. It doesn’t mean that you or other leaders are not good people or that you don’t really love teens (I’m sure you do).

But, it is dishonest if you are not upfront with someone about your motives for befriending them (in Young Life’s case-to share Christ’s love and present the Gospel from an Evangelical/Fundamentalist perspective).

Young Life & The Problem With Nice People

14 Sep
Shiny happy people

Shiny happy people (Photo credit: Donna Cymek)

This was my response to Allie, from a comment she made concerning Young Life.  You can read the original post and comment here.

Allie-

Thanks for your comment.

There’s a few things you’ve said that are not accurate and a few issues that I’ll try to clear up.

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. You’re worried about her meeting “nice” people?

Would you prefer her getting plugged into a crowd that smokes pot, plays beer pong, and sleeps around?

Let’s talk about nice people. Of course we all want our children to grow up and be nice and hang around with nice people. But there’s one thing you are forgetting. Many people will be nice because they hope to gain your trust to their advantage. They are nice because they have an agenda.

Cults do this, it’s called love bombing. I’ve met very nice folks who wanted to be my friend, only to find out they wanted me to be their Amway down-line. I’ve met nice people who want me to join the Jehovah Witnesses. I’ve met many nice people, who in the end, their main reason for being nice was to try to gain my financial support.

Nice doesn’t guarantee safe. I know this first hand. Nice people are great, if they are truly nice. Nice people with an agenda are a whole other ball of wax.

Young Life has perfected the art of being nice with an agenda. They are intentionally nice so that can try to win a hearing for their version of Evangelical Christianity. They may be the nicest, most well-intentioned people on the planet, but it doesn’t change the fact they have a very specific agenda.

Young Life’s mission is not to make people “Young Lifers”. It’s about getting them plugged into a church if they want a relationship with god. Most people who go to Young Life know NOTHING about god at all.

I’d have to half disagree with this statement. I’ve known quite a few Young Life staffers and volunteers, on both coasts. While they certainly are committed to introducing teens to Christ, many of them are less than enthusiastic about church.

I’ve had many a Young Life leader express disdain or frustration about their churches. Some have expressed that the only reason they go is because it’s the proper thing to do, kind of like eating your vegetables. This attitude isn’t universal, but it is prevalent.

My other problem with your statement, is the idea that most who go to YL know nothing about God. I’m sure there are some, but many grow up in a family that attends church. They might not be in an Evangelical church, but saying they know nothing about God is not a fair characterization, in my opinion.

Young Life is a volunteer ran non-profit organization, no body has any “Rewards” for having more kids at their Young Life.

This is simply not true. Young Life has over 3,000 paid staff, according to glass door.

http://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Young-Life-EI_IE26139.11,21.htm

According to Charity Navigator, Young Life had revenues of $238 million and it’s CEO, Denny Rydberg, was paid $370,333 (that’s his yearly salary).

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4791

There is plenty of money flowing. You might only see the volunteer leaders, 95% are unpaid college students, but that is not the whole story. I was shocked, when as a volunteer leader that spent all my spare time and money doing club and contact work, I learned that Denny Rydberg was making more than a quarter million a year.

And just for fun…..

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!

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.