Tag Archives: Christian

Evangelism and Disabilities: A Personal Perspective

24 Apr
English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last fall, I received an email that raised an important question about Evangelistic efforts to people with disabilities.  The question was born out of some discussion about Young Life and it’s efforts in this area (Caperneum).

Here’s some of what they wrote:

” I apologize if this is a long e-mail.

Well I came across your blog when I was googling YL stuff. To give you a little bit of background, I recently graduated from a faith based college but I only spent two years there. It was quite a cultural shock since I was raised Catholic. This college didn’t have you sign anything, so there were a fair amount of non-believers at the school. Near the end of my last year, I was really thinking of writing some sort of book that highlights some of the bad stuff that goes behind the scenes and Christian schools/camps.”

“I also wanted to add a little bit of my personal experience in there as well. I also was raised with a disability (cerebral palsy to be specific) but its a very mild case of it. I also came to experience a fair amount of super fake Christians at the college as well. I personally think my disability had a lot to do with it. I’m not sure how much you touched on disabilities and Christianity in your blog, but I personally think it would interesting to explore the dynamic between the two. Since moving back I’ve been hesitant to join a church because of what I had experienced with the people at my college so it’s been a little bit of, well do I still believe in the “God” they were preaching at the college, and are all Christians going to treat me this way?”

First off, thank you for sharing a bit of your story and about your disability.  It’s a topic close to my heart because I have a child with a mental disability.  If you read early on, here at the ChristianAgnostic, then you may remember a series of posts called Staring Into the Abyss.  It was a three part series, chronichling the birth of my youngest and his struggle to come home from the hospital alive.  You can read them here, here, and here if you care to know more about his story.

While all ends well and he recovers to come home with us….it’s not the end of the story.  You see, right before he was discharged, my wife and I were informed that we needed to sit down with his doctor.  We assumed it was just to go over all the relevant details before sending us off unto the sunset for a happily ever after.

Instead, we were given a quick medical lesson on the dangers of Oxygen and the possible side effects of Cerebal Palsy.  For nearly two months, the only reason our son was able to survive was because of the feeding tubes and Oxygen pumps that helped sustain him.  What our doctor explained, is that Oxygen is actually poisonous over it’s normal 22% level and can cause permanent side effects and even brain damage (Cerebal Palsy).

This was quite a shock.  We assumed that we were out of the woods, and now, just as we are about to punch out and head home, we we’re being told that our son may have permanent physical and mental disabilities.  We were crushed.

One of the issues, was pyhiscal.  He was not responding normally to the physical check ups and his legs and arms were unable to extend normally.  We were told by a nurse that she doubted if our son would ever walk.  I couldn’t beleive my ears.  We had come all this way, cheated death three times, and now I was bringing a son home who would be in wheel chair for life?  Not that I wouldn’t have done it, but it was just such unexpected news and it hit us like a cement truck.

But wait, there’s more, said the doctor…not only is it possible that his physical abilities will be limited, but there was a large chance that he would suffer from mental disabilities as well.  We had heard of Cerebral Palsy, but he explained that it was a general term and that it could manifest itself in a wide range.  On the extreme range was a vegetable like mental state, on the mild side, disabilities like dyslexia or ADD might manifest as he grew up.

We were floored and tried to digest the news.  When I got home from the hospital, that day, I dropped into my bed and wept and moaned so loud, that my other children came running started crying too.  I tried to stop, I didn’t want to upset my kids, but I couldn’t help it.  I was in too much shock and overwhelmed by emotion.

As the Years Rolled On

In his first days home, my son had physical therapy sessions and was soon able to extend his arms and legs.   He actually began to walk before he was nine months old.  Yes, to everyone’s amazement, he was developing faster physically than most children that were born without incident.  His brushes with death didn’t slow him down and he soon began to walk, run, and climb.  In fact, he is so adept physically that sometimes we joke about the original prognosis that he wouldn’t even walk.

I am amazed whenever I see him run like a deer and remember back to that day we were told that he probably never walk!!!

But on the other side of it, we did notice that he seemed “off” to us.  He was slow to speak, and then when he did begin, it was almost a compulsive monologue of quotations from various cartoons he had watched.  We had him evaluated and he was diagnosed with Autism.  We’ll never know if the autism was linked to his early struggles for life (as an aside, I do not believe there is any merit to the idea that autism is caused by vaccinations) but the warning that he might have a mental disability was coming to pass.

Autism:What’s It All About?

For the last decade, we have become well acquainted with autism and it’s many forms.  For our son, he is very functional and is able to be in a normal classroom setting for 90% of his school day.  He does have some support, but it is more on the social side of things that he fluctuates.   He can be hyperactive and was a risk for running straight out our door, down the block, and out onto the highway.  It was scary because he was both fast and unaware at the great danger he was putting himself into.  Somehow, we managed to help him learn boundaries and some basic safety.

I could go on and on about his unique struggles and talents as it relates to autism, but I’ll leave that to move on the question of Evangelism to folks (like my son) that have a disabilitiy.

In my son’s case, another effect of his autism is his extreme literal thinking.  He struggles mightily to understand metaphoriocal speech and exxageration.  Forms of speech that you or I might instinctively know were just examples, he might take as literal truth.  The other struggle, is that once he has an idea in his head, very often he can not rid himself of it without flying off the handle emotionally or having a “meltdown” as we call it.  Any parent dealing with an autistic child will know exactly what I mean by this.   It is extremely frustrating and takes great effort and patience to help him move beyond his current thoughts or expectations.

This scares me when I think of how he might try and apply the Bible and some of it’s sayings.  What would happen if someone told him he needed to read the Bible and obey it’s teaching?  How would he react to Jesus when he says to cut off your hand or foot if it causes you to sin?  

To you or I, we may try and reason though such a saying. But to my son, his disability can hamper his reasoning skills and get him stuck on a horrific thought with lasting consequences if he follows through with literal obedience.

I’ve rambled on and have many more thoughts on the subject…but I would seriously like to hear from folks that have disabilities and how the Evangelistic efforts of Christians have affected them or their loved ones with a disability.

Thanks again for the emails and the awesome question!

 

 

Pastors, Porn, and the Myth of the Moral High Ground

19 Mar
Billy Sunday (1861-1935)

Billy Sunday (1861-1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since leaving the Christian faith, one of the questions that has yet to be answered for me is this…

“Why is God so bad at making people good?”

I say this without malice or tongue in cheek.  I say it as someone who was drilled with the idea that a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of God’s word led to a Godly and abundant life.  But I found this to not be true.  For all the talk of morality and the need to make a stand as Christians, especially on issues of sexual purity, the Christian church is full of failure and hypocrisy on issues it proclaims as central to Godly living.

According to Ben Witherington, in a post on pastors and porn, over 50% of all pastors admitted to using internet porn.  Many of these same men (and sometimes women) are proclaiming changed lives and moral living, and yet they can not practice what they preach.  They are just as human and just as interested in human sexuality as the guy next door.

Shaming Those Who Admit It

When I managed a Christian bookstore, I saw firsthand the awkward and heavy-handed way that many Churches dealt with those who admitted to viewing porn.  In one instance, a customer of mine was fired as a worship leader when he confessed that he regularly viewed porn.  He confessed to the elders of the church, and in return for his honesty,  was fired and shamed until he left the church in humiliation.  Not to mention, the shame and embarrassment that surrounded his wife and kids once the gossip, I mean prayer chain, kicked into full swing.

In a twist of irony, about a month after he was run out of the church, I discovered that my boss was using the computers at my Christian Bookstore to view internet porn.  It was ironic, because he was one of the elders of the church that fired this guy.  When I confronted him about the porn pop-ups on the computer, he pretended not to know what I was talking about.  When I showed him the viewing history and the porn images that would upload, he still did not confess.

I went home that night and wrote him a letter, telling him that I knew he had been using the computers for porn.  I also told him if that he didn’t come clean, I would go to the elders of his church and report my concerns.  Within seconds of reading my letter, he was fearfully confessing his porn usage and practically begging me to not tell the elders at his church.

I really had no desire to put him through the ringer, considering he already had told his wife and would only face condemnation from his church.  I accepted his apology and let the whole matter pass.

The Moral Low Ground

I won’t belabor my point, but when it comes to sexual purity, as defined by Christian morals, the church in America has absolutely no moral authority.  The amount of hypocrisy concerning sex, porn, etc…is almost laughable.  But it’s not funny, because the church, while holding the average Christian to extremely high moral standards, and condemning those who fail, often times allows its leaders to wallow in the moral low ground in their own lives.

In my own life,my best friend’s wife committed adultery with a worship leader at my old SGM church.  He was soon divorced, but the worship leader convinced his wife to  get marriage counseling outside of SGM so he could maintain his “Godly” image and continue leading worship.

There was another friend who led worship and eventually became pastor in the Vineyard.  He was a regular user of internet porn and seemed to just give up at trying to overcome it.  So much for the Spirit filled life.

I could list a dozen more, but you get the point.

The hypocrisy of so many church leaders telling people to do one thing while being unable to follow their own advice is staggering.  And until the church quits condemning those who do not follow their views on sexuality, this hypocrisy will contine to erode any shred of credibility it may of had in our culture.

The myth of the moral high ground has been shown for what is, a Christian ideal that is not followed by those who supposedly are leading others  to it.

17 Mar

I was wondering how long it would be before former homeschoolers started speaking out about the restrictive and sometimes abusive control that many have experienced. I guess it has started….

Homeschoolers Anonymous

For the media: 

Former homeschoolers rally against abuse

March 16, 2013

A group of former homeschoolers are joining together to bring awareness to, and healing from, different forms of abuse in extreme homeschooling subcultures. The organization, Homeschoolers Anonymous (HA), is being coordinated by former homeschoolers across the United States, including California, Louisiana, Oregon, and Washington.

According to recent surveys, approximately 2 million children are taught at home in the United States. The total number of home-educated kids doubled between 1999 and 2007. While some are being homeschooled in non-Christian families, the National Home Education Research Institute claims almost three-quarters of those 2 million children have conservative Christian parents who aim to pass on their moral and religious values to their kids through home education. This makes religion the primary motivating factor behind this form of education.

HA’s creator is R.L. Stollar, who was homeschooled from K-12 and currently resides in…

View original post 748 more words

Musicman’s Story Part 1

14 Nov
SGM

SGM (Photo credit: AJC1)

First off, I apologize for neglecting the blog this last month.  A couple of car problems and a whole lot of overtime have kept me away.  I’ve had quite a few new readers and I promise to address some of the topics you’ve raised.  Thanks in advance for your patience as I catch up with you all!

A few weeks back I promised to post my SGM story.  Here’s the first of three posts I wrote for SGM Survivors back in 2008.  As the lawsuit against SGM unfolds,  I wanted to share a little of what we saw during our almost 10 years among SGM.  

A couple of notes,  I wrote these posts as a Christian and I’ve kept them unedited to reflect my thinking at the time.  Secondly, I make reference to PDI, which was what SGM was known as before they changed their name.

 

I started attending a SG church (PDI) while still in college. I mostly attended the Sunday services since they did not have a college ministry. I found myself drawn to SG because I had begun to experience the Holy Spirit in a new way, but was wary of the other Pentecostal/ Charismatic churches I had tried. Having become a Christian at a Presbyterian Church, I was still leery of what seemed like emotionalism and a loosey goosey approach to scripture. I found PDI to be upbeat in it’s worship and a more serious tone in their preaching, and I liked that a lot.
During my last couple years of college, I invited or transported many different friends and friends of friends to come and check out my new church. Many of which are still there today, and a majority of them are pastors or leaders within SG as a whole.

It was after getting married and joining a care group that I began to know more about SG and it’s particulars. I began leading worship at our care group and quickly became good friends with our leaders. My wife and I really looked up to this other couple because we were struggling to figure out this crazy little thing called marriage. Most of the time, this couple showed genuine concern and love to us and made us a part of their lives and family.

It was also at this time that I attended a small men’s group where extreme prodding into the men’s lives were the norm. We were often chastised in front of others and grilled about our sins. Confessing specific sin in very specific detail was the norm. At first I found it exciting and addicting-it was like a drug to hear someone bare their soul and sin for all to see. I was amazed at how some of the older men could seem to sniff out and sometimes even tell someone what their problem was (pride, lust, weakness in leading our wives, etc….) men would cry, I would cry. It seemed so real, and to some extent, I think some good may have come from it.

But there was a dark side that emerged later-I realized that 2 of the “older men” who pretty much lead our discussions and sin sniffing missions, were not being open about their lives. They were willing to go after (even to the point of very stern rebukes) other men but they themselves had become almost silent about their own lives. I even confronted one of the men, asking why he would always talk about someone else’s confessed sin, but never his own. I don’t remember his exact reply, but I remember being dissatisfied with his answer. The other one would always confess (in excruciating detail) some lustful thought he had about some women’s breasts at a train station, etc…but would never talk about his wife or kids or things close to home. I felt like he was being evasive about real issues. This wasn’t the tipping point for me, I just assumed that this type of behavior was not the norm.

It was later that I found out that the 2 men leading were very much in conflict with each other and that some of the others in our group, were cheating on their wives. But at the time, there was a lot of puffed up talk on how this was leading us to be God’s men, men above the others, this was “Biblical” fellowship, we were building “community”, blah, blah blah….makes me sick to think that we were avoiding God while we so boastfully applauded ourselves for our “radical” commitment.

As much as I had some doubts about what was happening in my men’s group, I still had drunk deeply of all that our pastors said upfront about “the local church” and the commitment to be about the Lord’s business in the proper church structure. So my wife and I signed up to be on a church plant-we were about to enter “alternate reality”

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.

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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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.