Tag Archives: Vineyard

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.

Christian Bookstores-Part 2

29 Apr

I had promised to take you behind the shrouded mysteries of employers and employees of Christian Bookstores.  But the the comments after my last post,  made me realize that I had some more to say about it’s customers.

Biblereader is the one that asked about a very special breed of Christian Bookstore customer…..

The King James Only Customer

The KJV Customer usually will head straight to the Bible counter and begin to ask numerous questions about why you don’t carry a better selection of the King James Version.  When you inform Mr. or Mrs. KJV Customer that most people prefer to read an English translation that doesn’t require a Masters in Shakespearean English, they will launch into numerous  arguments to prove that the KJV is really the only Bible Translation that one should ever read.

One milder KJV Customer told me that  they had done a study (not sure who the they was she was referring to) and they found that the King James Version of the Bible was actually easier to read than any other Bibles.  Uhhhhh-no way Jose!  I grew up reading the King James and if there is one thing it is not, is an easy read.

Sometimes, I would cite some of the verses from the King James that I never understood, until I had read them in a modern translation.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

Psalm 23:1  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”

What the heck, why didn’t the Psalmist want the Lord as his Shepherd?  One customer accused me of being uneducated for not understanding what being “in want” meant.  I told this customer that a friend, who grew up in Great Britain , had told me that they had misunderstood the same verse in the same way.  Sheesh-if the English can’t understand proper English, than how can I?

1 Corinthians 5:7 “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump”

I wonder why that wasn’t on any t-shirts or bumper stickers in the store?  Maybe we could have named our store New Lump Christian Books.  What is a new lump anyway?  On second thought…..

Some of the verses just cracked me up, because of ye old English phrasing.  Who can forget this one?

John 11:39 “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

Ah yes….he stinketh Lord.  As did the King James Version, as far as I was concerned.  It’s just a translation people! Sorry, but once I got my High School fingers on the newly completed NIV, there was no going back.

“Creepy Guy Who Hits on You” Customer

Ok…so being a guy myself, I actually didn’t have any guys hitting on me ( at least, none that I know of).  But I had many younger female employees, ages 16-25, that would often have Creepy Guy linger around the store, and vie for their attention.  Creepy Guy would ask one too many questions, or start asking a female employee whether they were married or not.  Some of the girls would get invites to Creepy Guy’s church volleyball game or he’d ask them if they were going to the next big Christian concert.  There was something a little awkward and well, creepy, in the way they would always seem to be avoiding the male employees and be sharking the younger females.

My wife even got hit on by one of our regulars when she was 6 months pregnant and showing.  When she got over the shock and pointed to her belly, the guy laughed nervously and then asked out the girl standing next to my wife…..I think she chased him out of the store with a King James Bible or threatened to tie him up and play Carmen’s “The Champion” if he didn’t exit the store.   Anyway, I think many times, Creepy Guy, was just a lonely guy who was socially awkward and had run out of options at their church singles group.

Last but not least, was the shoplifter.

Shoplifter

This had to be the worst part of my job.  Dealing with a shoplifter always left me with a pit in my stomach and the shakes.  It got so bad, that we had to install a whole anti-theft machine at the entrance to the store.

One time, I caught an elderly woman trying to leave the store with a couple Amy Grant CD’s and the novel Joshua-by Girzone.  She started yelling at me and telling me that she was in a Bible study with my boss.  I called the police and she was arrested (never fun).  It turns out she had warrants out in multiple States for shoplifting.

Then there was my Vineyard thief.  Back in the day, when Vineyard music was pumping out the best-selling worship CD’s.  Our little Vineyard thief would come into the store on release day, and we’d be missing a copy within an hour of the CD hitting the shelf.  We never did catch our Vineyard worship thief, and the irony of someone stealing a worship CD always miffed me.

Lastly, there was the shoplifter who stole us blind, but their conscience had caught up with them.  One time, it was a couple in marriage counseling .  They confessed to their pastor, that they had stolen over $10,000 worth of merchandise from our store.  He made them call the owner and work out a payment plan.  That ended up being one expensive counseling session!

Many time we’d get an anonymous letter, confessing their crimes and promising to send money for all the items they stole.  And if you want to know one of the most popular items stolen from our store….the Bible.  And it was almost always an expensive leather-bound Bible that would be swindled.

Nothing like feeding your faith, with a copy of God’s Word that you obtained while breaking the commandments.

Tithing and The Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….

11 Apr

I was in the middle of my brief tenure as a Vineyard worship leader, at the last church I would ever attend as a member.  We were a few weeks into the new year and my pastor called me to discuss the church.  We agreed to meet at Starbucks to go over the upcoming schedule and events.

Later that day, we met up for an overpriced cup of joe and some conversation.  After talking kids and politics, we finally begin talking about the new year for our church.  I had some minor suggestions for developing the worship team, but beyond that, I was interested in hearing what my pastor had in mind.

He began talking about the current crunch financially that the church was facing.  It was before the housing bust and stock crash, but the pinch was beginning to hit a lot of families and giving was down, the church was in the red most months and was beginning to dip into savings just to cover it’s weekly expenses for pastors and facility costs.  I asked how the church had gotten so far behind in the budget.  He told me that they recently had moved locations (a move instigated by my pastor) and that it increased their expenses  by 20%.  I gulped when he told me that number.

“You committed the church to a twenty percent increase in expenses?” I asked.

“We did…I figured our new location would bring in more families and giving would go up to cover the costs” he said.

“If my boss told me I needed to increase my sales 20% with only the same customers, I would have told him he was crazy.” I replied. “Unless God specifically told you to do this, how could you have done this without letting the congregation know?  It just lacks wisdom..” I continued.

It was at this point that he pulled out the silver bullet from his bag of pastoral tricks and told me “Well, I think we just need to teach people to give…I’m planning on a 6 week series on giving and tithing.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Old Testament tithe was an offering of 10% of all sorts of grains and foods that were given to the Levitical priesthood to provide for offerings, feast days, and for consumption by the priests and sometimes the poor.  But the one thing tithes were not, was money.  But this hasn’t stopped many a Christian pastor from insisting that his congregation tithe (give 10%) of all their money to the church.  Even using ominous verses from Malachi, which warns that those who do not tithe are robbing God.

And now my pastor was suggesting he needed to hit our little congregation over the head about tithing, because HE had decided to obligate the church for 20% more money than was typically given to the church.  I wasn’t buying it.

He asked what I thought about the idea for his upcoming sermon series…I flat out told him that I HATED the idea.  First off, because tithing is not even taught as a requirement for Christians and that secondly, it seemed to me that he was using tithing to guilt trip people into giving more money for a decision in which they had no say.

I literally thought he was going to jump out of his skin.  He looked both angry and panicked that I was not going to have his back on this.  He began to desperately try and convince me that Jesus mentioning the tithe in Matthew was justification for teaching it to the church.  I countered that Jesus mentions it in passing to those still under the law and that he used it as a negative example.  Hardly the wringing endorsement that justifies using it to cover up his own financial follies.

I don’t remember all the specifics of our conversation after this point, but I do remember that it was tense and that my pastor decided he was still going to teach on giving, but maybe do a little research on tithing.  But there was one more thing he wanted to discuss….two services.

Even though we didn’t fill out the church with one service, he figured more people would come if we had two services.  Again, it seems that the decision to go to 2 services was based on the hope of growing the church quick, to help cover the bills.  It seemed that very little thought was given to the fact that the worship team and many other volunteers would now be doing double time on Sunday morning.  I didn’t like the idea, but I held my tongue.  I had frustrated him enough already and two services was not a given at this point…

I am sad to report, that he did go ahead and beat the sheep with his tithing and giving series.  He also laid out the church financial crisis without ever taking any responsibility for the decision, and he did finally get his wish of two services.

He decided to begin two services on Easter Sunday.  So, he fished his wish.  But he also lost a worship leader that Sunday….it also happened to be my last Sunday as an active church member.  It will probably be the Last Easter Service I’ll ever attend….