Tag Archives: Faith

It’s Just Not That Way For Me

14 May

It’s Just not that way for me

The truths you hold self evident,

the things you believe, but can’t see

 

I used to hold my eyes shut so tight, raise my voice

and howl at the night-thinking I was being a light

 

But I was deceiving myself, and was deceived

Almost everything I was taught, thought, and believed,

didn’t hold up to honest scrutiny

 

Believe me, I tried to make a square peg fit

I tried to rationalize away all the beliefs that contradict

 

But it’s just not that way for me

I once was blind, and now I see

that faith was the blinding force

 

Keeping me in darkness, superstition and fear

keeping me in a perpetual state of uncertainity

 

But now….it’s just not that way for me

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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

When You Lose Your Faith

30 Sep
Death

Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

This is a re-post of something I wrote for Reverie Slice last October.  Just thought I’d post the full text here as well.

 

I think when we lose faith, faith in God, faith in an institution, a book, a person…it hurts.  As Gerald Sittser has said, “All loss is loss”.  No matter whether it’s a relationship, your cat, or a loved one.  Losing something you loved hurts, including your faith in God.

For me, I’ve had to come to grips that in one sense, I will never totally be over the loss.  I will always have a certain amount of unease between myself and believing friends and family.  I will always feel the loss of community that was once church.  I’ll never have what I once had, in quite the same way.  It’s gone…forever.

Loss and hurt is something we tend to avoid at all costs.  When I was younger, I imagined myself living to be a hundred years old.  My thinking was, if I could eat right, take care of myself, and live a good godly life-then I could put the inevitable loss of life on the back burner.

My faith in God was another way to try to avoid the reality of loss.  I mean, if God was just collecting all my friends and family for a big party in the afterlife, then why did I have to feel so bad about their deaths?  Death wasn’t a time of sadness, but a mere interruption of our eternal existence that was to be reunited after my own death.  I believed this with all my heart and even felt that showing emotions such as sadness or tears were signs of weakness and lack of faith.  Needless to say, for someone who was very emotional, trying to keep any emotions hidden from sight was an enormous effort, and depressing at times.  I didn’t feel safe crying, let alone crying in front of another human being.

I was only 18 years old when I got my first taste of death.

Pop-Pop

My Pop-Pop was a kind old likable soul.  He wasn’t a central figure of my life, but he was someone I always loved and enjoyed being around.  We would be at his home for almost every holiday and it was a great time to be together with all of my cousins.

Sometimes Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop would visit us on our Jersey Shore vacations and he would let me pepper him with questions about the good old days.  It never occurred to me that someday Pop-Pop might get sick and die, it was if I couldn’t even believe that death would ever visit me and my loved ones.  But like all gambling houses, the house always wins in the long run.

Sickness and the Smell of Death

I was just finishing up my first year of college when I got the news that my Pop-Pop was sick.  He had suffered severe heat attacks but always recovered to the point of drinking and smoking again, this time would probably be no different…right?

My mom called me and asked if I wouldn’t mind staying the Mom-Mom to help her care for my Pop-Pop.  I told her I wouldn’t mind and jumped in my car to travel the 15 minute drive to my grandparents home.

As I walked in the front door, I smelled it for the first time.  That smell that can’t be washed off and disguised no longer how hard my Mom-mom tried.  It was the smell of death.

Pretending Not to Notice

As I settled in for the weekend, I did what I always did when confronted with uncomfortable reality, I pretended.  I told myself to ignore the smell and just act normal.  I spent most of my time reading Utopia by Thomas Moore and being ready to help my Pop-Pop get out of bed to go to the bathroom or to go to the couch to watch TV.

At nights, I tried to sleep, but I was restless between trying to ignore the death in the air and being ready to help my Pop-pop get up and go to the bathroom.

On one of these trips he nearly fell over and I grabbed him and steadied him.  He thanked me and sweetly told me how he would have fallen over if I hadn’t been there.  I shrugged off the compliment and acted as if I did this sort of thin all the time.  A couple of days later, my time of helping out was over and I went back to my life at college.

What I didn’t know was that I would never see Pop-Pop alive after those moments.

A Funeral Without Tears

Within a week from my time with Pop-Pop, he was dead.  I don’t even remember the official cause of death.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything except ask for the essential info about the upcoming funeral.  I told no one about the loss and I continued life for 2 or 3 days as if nothing had occurred.

On the day of the funeral, I traveled to my parents home and made the journey to the Catholic church 2 blocks over from where he used to live.  It was a sunny, warm fall day and I sat through the mass, emotionless.  Imagining to myself that somehow withholding my tears was an act of mature faith.

At one point I approached his open coffin, looked him in the face and stoically accepted that death was finally here.  It was here to stay, but somehow faith would shield me from the grief.  I turned and walked away as we prepared to carry Pop-Pop out of the church and drive him to his place in the earth.

At the gravesite, I played an instrumental guitar piece I had written as a farewell to a man who loved music, but never truly mastered any instrument.  Most everyone was crying and hugging me.  But I was stiff and cold towards the show of emotion.

It would be over a week before I actually cried and admitted the sense of loss that ached in my chest.

The Wonder Years

If you’re gasping at how emotionally immature I was, you’d be right to be surprised.  The depth of my emotional immaturity was great.  But I’ve overcome many my fears about loss and I’ve learned to live in the wonder of life itself, while knowing that life can not last forever.

So while loss hurts, I no longer deny that it hurts.  I no longer feel obligated to keep my tears from flowing or my heart hidden and locked away for only God to see.

And loss of faith has been no different.  It has had it’s share of hurt.  But instead of denying it, I’ve learned to embrace the loss and let it teach me about what I really find true and worthy of my time.

And here’s what I’ve found….when you lose your faith, you regain a sane perspective about life and the one’s you love.  I’ve found that I no longer feel an urgency about God and his will.  Instead of striving to know God through church and quiet times,  I strive to listen and love my wife and children.  I look at them and know that I will not have them forever.  But until that day when there is no strength in my bones and breath seems like a burden, I’m going to love and enjoy them for the wild, crazy people they are.

My hope is that when I leave this world, they will sit and weep, laugh, and curse me for the person I was and the person I wasn’t.  I hope they will feel the freedom to let their emotions flow and say to each other the things that need to be said, lay me to rest, and say goodbye with deep affection.

In short, I’ve found that when you lose your faith, you get back your life.

A life that has no guarantees and can hurt like hell, but a life full of wonder, surprises, and adventures that can only be lived with eyes wide open, instead of a life spent holding back and waiting for death to truly begin to live.

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.

Joe Paterno and CJ Mahaney: The Parallels of Peril

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

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

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Patern...

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

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

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

About Joe Paterno, Freeh had this to say:

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

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

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

Putting Public Image Above People and The Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 4th of July…and a Short Video on Open Mindedness

3 Jul

I hope you’re having a great July, so far!  I’ve been busy with baseball games and work.  I haven’t had as much time to write as I would like.  More stories soon…I promise.

No big posts today.  I hope all my friends on the East Coast are staying cool and have their electricity back.  Otherwise, you’re probably sweltering hot and the last thing you’re doing is reading blogs.

Came across a clever video about being open minded and the importance of critical thinking.   Enjoy, and have a safe and happy 4th of July!