Tag Archives: Christianity

Dear Christian: Stop Tithing (and other assorted advice)

9 Jun

Dear Christian-

I know you think I’m just out to poke holes in your faith.  Sometimes I feel that way, but mostly I hate seeing good people, who happen to be Christians, taken advantage of by dishonest clergy who are only out for themselves.

Tithing

Tithing simply means a tenth, and it is a term used in the Old Testament for offerings of cattle, grain, food, and sometimes money.  These offerings of a tenth (10%) were used for the sacrifices of the Temple in Jerusalem and for special feasts throughout the year.  It acted like a type of National tax that funded the Governing bodies of ancient Israel.

As a Christian growing up, I was consistently taught that Christian were supposed to tithe to their local church, just like the Israelites.  I accepted this teaching at face value and began tithing in my late teens.  Once in my early years of marriage I faced some daunting financial situations.  Talking to my pastor at the time, his first question was whether I was tithing.  I told him we were tithing and he seemed pleased and instructed us to keep tithing-even though we were in dire financial straits.

After many years of tithing, I decided to study the topic myself and was surprised to find that tithing is not taught in the New Testament.  Not once are Christian believers commanded to tithe. I also realized that in ancient Israel, the tithe was more like a tax than a donation to a local body of believers.

Non-Profits

Some Christians I knew had come to similar conclusions about tithing, but still felt obligated to give 10% of their income to good causes (missions, feeding the poor, etc…).

The problem I’ve learned, is that many non-profits have loose accountability, and many of the funds can go to expenses totally unrelated to the cause they claim to represent.  So while you may feel good about giving to a poor child in another country, in reality, much of your donation may be going to the overhead of running a non-profit instead of helping out those in need. Not to say that there aren’t good non-profits out there-but do your research before turning over your hard earned money.

Take Care of Your Finances First

My own opinion on finances, is that you should always be able to take care of your own obligations before giving or tithing. What good does it do if you give money to the poor and then end up poor yourself?

Final Observation

It has been my experience, that church leaders who preach a hard and fast rule on tithing are abusive.  They typically are quick to line their own budgets with conferences, expensive offices and church buildings, multiple family vacations, and are often content to preach about giving to the poor and not much else.

If you care about where your money is going…then don’t give to these sort of people.

In my opinion-stop tithing….   Best Regards-CA

CA’s Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church

13 May

Ok…it’s not scientific by any stretch of the imagination.  But here’s my Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Wait for it………….

You are attending an abusive church if you do not know the salary of the Senior Pastor.

Seriously, if your church does not publish an annual budget including the pastor’s salary, then run for the door.

Here’s the caveat, some churches may not publish the specific salary, but are more than willing to share specifics when asked by members or at an all church finance meeting.

But to my point, if you can not find out this information with relative ease, then you are most likely dealing with leaders who are not trustworthy and are abusive.  You’ll here all sorts of excuses as to why this information is not disclosed, but I’ve never heard an adequate reason to withhold this information from the people whose generosity has provided the church with it’s financial resources.

Without transparency, there can be no accountability.  And where there is no accountability, abuse is ripe.

So there you have it….don’t make say I told you so by ignoring this

Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Peace-CA

Young Life Search Phrases

26 Mar

I find the list of search phrases people use to be revealing.  When it comes to Young Life and the people who end up on this blog, the search queries reveal what sort of information or concerns they have about Young Life.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of the searches that end up here:

 

Is Young Life a Cult?

What is Young Life?

Young Life Reviews

Young Life Issues

Denny Rydberg Salary

Is Young Life Bad?

Young Life Cult or Religion

Young Life Beliefs

Banging My Young Life Leader

What happens at Young Life Camp?

Young Life camp rape

Can a Young Life leader still lead if they had sex?

Young Life Leader sexual abuse

What Church is behind Young Life?

Young Life views on Homosexuality

Young Life cliques

 

As a point of reference, the phrase “Is Young Life a Cult?” or some variation is by far, the number one search phrase that brings people to this blog.

 

YoungLife pushed my son to suicide

17 Feb

Some of you might have read Mechanic Dude’s comments here at CA and picked up on the sad, sad story of his son’s experience with Young Life. Here is the whole story from the perspective of a grieving father who believes his son was pushed to suicide because of his involvement with Young Life.

Young Life Pushed My Son To Suicide

This is the story my son told me before his death at just 17yrs old. I have left it raw and emotional. The Young Life Organization is a Christian youth ministry with a special focus on public schools. In fact they are practically non existent outside of the public school system and their elaborate summer camps, usually located in very scenic and expensive areas of the US.

My son attended a public high school in Reno NV. My first knowledge of YoungLife was when he asked if he could go out with a friend that had a car. He said that he was older and a very nice person from his high school. At just 15 yrs. old I was skeptical and wanted to meet this person. A very young looking person shows up at the door and assures me he is a safe driver and that they were just…

View original post 1,708 more words

Reddit Young Life Thread

20 Nov

Interesting discussion about Young Life on Reddit.  You can see the whole thread here.

For the most part, the discussion mirrors much of the discussion that has happened here at the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch.  It vacillates between those who attended and think it was fine, mostly positive to those who didn’t like the tone or hypocrisy of some Young Lifers and their beliefs.

The comment I found most similar to my own experiences is below.  It’s interesting, although I attended Young Life over 20 years earlier than this poster, the dynamics and methods they describe are almost identical.  The bolded sentences are my doing, otherwise, this is the post in its entirety and unedited.

Past Young Lifer here. I was really involved in the program back in the early 2000’s when I was on the tail end of a really religious upbringing. I’ve been an atheist for over 10 years now, but I look back on this experience as a mixed bag of pleasant experience as regret.

Young Life was meant to be really open and fun and unlike most traditional church groups, they knew how to not freak people the hell out with a heavy handed approach to faith. Basically, it would be weekly house party (albeit a really, really tame house party) at somebody’s place where kids would hang out, maybe smoke cigarettes in the front yard, play Frisbee, chat, flirt with the opposite sex,etc. Then everyone would head inside. A bunch of guys with guitars would lead the group in singing popular songs (lots of Goo Goo Dolls and U2 back then…. mostly any song about heartbreak, feeling alone or lost). There would be some sort of group game and then a 3 minute talk about how people sometimes feel lost and without purpose (these talks would slowly build on each other throughout each semester and ultimately culminate in a big reveal that there just might be a God out there who loves you and can make you feel better.) There would always be a super strong push to get kids to sign up to go to one of their summer camps.

What Young Life provided was a safe place for kids to have fun and be vulnerable with each other. For teenagers, that is a valuable commodity. It worked really well.

As a kid who grew up in the church, I already knew what the message was. I already knew what the summer camp was trying to do. I realized that this was just a watered down version of what I’d been doing my entire life, but I could see that it honestly seemed to be working on getting numbers up – it seemed like good marketing.

And so I was 100% bought it.

That’s when a few of my more fervent friends invited me to join in to a group called “Campaigners” – and this is where Young Life starts to get a bit weird.

Campaigners would meet at 6am every Monday at the Young Life Leader’s house. We’d sing Christian Praise songs, read scripture, eat bagels – normal youth group stuff. But then we would start talking about who we wanted to bring to the next group, how we should talk to them, why it was important to save their souls. It was mapped out to a creepy level of detail: Jake and I have the same class down the hall from you. I’ll start a conversation about plans for Wednesday in that class and then we’ll bump into you in the hall and we’ll ask them to come with us to the next Young Life. Someone else will ask them later that same day. Maybe a 4th person would contact our target as well – all with one very clearly stated rule: never give away that this was all planned. Unpopular kids looking for friendship and approval were very, very easy targets.

Once they came with you, your job was make sure they had the best time ever. You introduced them to all of your friends. You hung out with them afterward. You took them on family vacations. But then you’d check in Monday morning and report how all of this was going to your fellow Campaigners who would make sure they stayed on the hook. Each week at the open function, they’d be really encouraging them to go to camp this year. They’d bring photos of last year and all the cool stuff they did and tell them that they have to go. And for horny teenage boys, pictures of their crush in a bikini is usually about all it took.

So flash forward to summer camp each year, there’d be a mix of about half Campaigners and half non-religious friends up at a camp in Minnesota with sailboats, zip lines, the best food I’ve ever eaten, disc golf, games, music classes, attractive members of the opposite sex who didn’t have to act church-y, campfires, non-religious sing along….. It was basically a week of pure bliss. And each night after a somewhat ambiguous talk about needing “outside” help, they’d leave you alone for an hour with your thoughts. And in retrospect, it’s crazy how effective that is. You plant an idea and then give someone a quiet moment where that is the last thing in their mind- and then it grows. Kids were converting in droves and I felt like I was part of something important.

Unlike my super creepy church youth group that was all talk, Campaigners was like the Christian SWAT team.

But at the same time, this is the group that ultimately made my faith unravel because they made me see that to be an effective evangelical, you really had to get to know and love the friends in your life – and knowing meant listening and actively engaging. Those things have to come before your agenda. But if the whole reason you’re making friends is to serve an agenda, does that really even count as a friendship? If you are getting together weekly to chit chat about that person’s spiritual progress when that particular topic has barely even come up with them – it’s some fucking spy movie shit and your personality starts to rip. As I got to meet people outside of the flock, I began to realize that when we sang songs about being lost and genuinely bonded in our heart to heart talks that I felt every bit as lost as they did – that the cure we were pitching was every bit as empty as the drugs, drinking and pre-marital sex the prudish church had always been warning about.

We were just teenagers. Everybody felt lost and disconnected. The magic of Young Life wasn’t Jesus – it was creating a safe place where it was okay to be vulnerable.

These days, I’d be really wary of sending any kid off to a camp like that because it is run by really, really smart grown ups who have a pretty good system for indoctrinating kids. These guys are just as good at marketing as any other corporation in our country. Pretty girls in bikinis don’t have anything to do with that brand name t-shirt, but dammit I’m going to buy it because I don’t want to be alone and feeling ugly. Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with zip lines and being vulnerable with close friends, but I want both of those things and if this summer camp can make me feel this good – who is to say it wasn’t Jesus the whole time?

The whole thing was such a mind-fuck – on one hand pleasant, on the other hand just a giant trick that I helped perpetuate.

If I could recreate the Young Life experience I had and remove that religious component, we’d have something capable doing real good in the lives of teens. But that’s the shitty part: it’s hard to do much of anything without hidden agenda. If you aren’t “fixing” troubled kids, if you aren’t helping people see the light – then what you are doing is just a waste of time.

On some quiet days, I’ll sit and think about my time with Young Life – wondering if there isn’t some way an atheist can crack that experience and re-tool it to help kids grow up to be the healthiest versions of themselves instead of fucked up by religion.

So how about it reddit, anybody want to open a summer camp with a highly elaborate system of trained teenage counselors who make it their business that all the forgotten kids in their school feel safe and loved.

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!

 

 

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).