As a Child, Rachel Was Taught to Fear Hell and to Date Older Men: The UPCI ‘s Calvary Gospel Church and a Fractured Gospel


Rumors of a Dark Universe: NASA

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”  ― Emma Donoghue, Room


 

I plan to write two more stories of abuse in the UPCI”s Calvary Gospel Church. The women who have come forward are the vanguards of a new movement to expose the abuses which are endemic to Calvary Gospel Church and the United Pentecostal Church International.They have started an anonymous support group, a couple of websites and are active in changing Wisconsin law to change the Statute of Limitations and to make clergy mandatory reporters.

Ww need to get behind these brave people who are willing to step into the public eye and discuss their pain in order to help others. It is also my opinion that we need about 30 more website to handle the number of stories that need to be told throughout the evangelical and broader Protestant community.

The following are Rachel’s words. If I insert a thought, I will label it as coming from me.


Calvary Gospel Church taught Rachel to fear lots of things and disobeying the pastor was considered the sin of witchcraft.

{Ed. note: Every woman who has spoken to me from this church emphasizes their overwhelming sense of fear that pervaded their lives as children and as adults. Not one of them ever used the word *grace *  to describe their experience in Calvary Gospel Church.

Also, all of them mentioned their profound fear of the Rapture. They believed that Jesus would come again at any moment. If, in that instance, they had done something like being mad at their pastor, they feared would be left behind. So, each and every moment was filled with the fear that one small misstep could lead to their banishment from heaven for eternity. The pastor and leaders were the ones who could declare them in or out and promoted that fear.}

I was born into the UPCI, specifically Calvary Gospel Church in Madison, WI in 1980. I had a lot of fear growing up. Hell was constantly preached over the pulpit. I was told as early as I could remember if I didn’t obey my pastor or those in authority, my rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft. 1 Samuel 15:23.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.( NIV)

It caused me early on to fear telling the truth about bad things I did or witnessed because then I’d be labeled rebellious. I saw kids labeled rebellious by the adults and those kids were treated horribly, so I learned to keep silent.

She lived in constant fear of the rapture since she worried she had been left behind.

{Ed. note: The church showed grossly descriptive movies about the end times. Some of them depicted people getting their heads chopped off. (Remember, these were children.) The church also supplied comic books which also illustrated frightening images of what might happen if they were left behind. Once again, I believe that this was a way to use fear to control people in the church. Showing these movies and comic books to little children is abusive, in my opinion.}

I was scared of the rapture as a child which started sometime before the age of 5. My nightmares started. I couldn’t find my mom one day when we lived on Stoughton Road. We moved off Stoughton around 1985. I thought she had gone up in the rapture with my whole family, so I went and hid in a neighbor’s closet to hide from getting my head chopped off. We were taught the only way to go to heaven after the rapture is to get your head cut off for Jesus. Needless to say, I fell asleep in my neighbor’s closet and my mom ended up calling the police to try to find me.

It was the fault of girls and women if men in the church had trouble with lust.

{Ed. Note: Sadly this sort of teaching is not limited to this church. My former SBC church had mother/daughter programs in which the central theme was “Teen girls cause teen boys to sin.” I remember an occasion in which the teen boys in the church were asked to respond to the problems they had when girls wore short skirts, etc. I started laughing because I had recently viewed a newscast which depicted women who wore outfits that kept their faces and bodies covered with loose fitting outfits. it showed men screaming and throwing things at women who accidentally showed their ankles since it was their fault if the men lusted after their ankles.}

I learned very early on that the lust of others was my fault. We weren’t allowed to wear slits in our skirts because if a man looked at the slit, his immediate thought would be what’s above the slit. This was taught over the pulpit. We were told to not dress in a way that would cause our brothers (men) to lust and sin. Again, I didn’t want myself or the kids around me to be labeled rebellious and shunned, so I kept silent about the lust and abuse out of fear that it was our fault.

Rachel was confused by a church friend who was her age. She felt her friend touched her inappropriately when they were 7 years old and she had no one to talk to about this.

{Ed. note: Rachel is aware that this may have been a simple case of typical childhood curiosity. However, it also could have been an outward manifestation of abuse that was going on in her home. Fear and silence was the name of the game.}

In 1987 when I was about seven, I was touched inappropriately by a church friend around my age. She asked to touch my privates and at the time I didn’t even know what she was doing because sex was not talked about other than to tell us it was bad outside of marriage. I knew what she did was considered bad, but not why or how bad. Bad equaled sin and all sin sent you to hell.

The girl who touched me touched others. I won’t name them because it’s their story to tell. Again I remained silent and didn’t tell out of fear. I often wonder if she was just being curious like kids are or if something horrible happened to her.

Rachel was accused of being a lesbian by a teacher for simply walking with another girl, linking arms. This led to severe depression and anxiety.

{Ed. Note:The children had no sex education. So they were left to try to figure out the confusing details. Was this naiveté on the part of the church or was it a way to help those who were sexually abusing the kids since the kids were given no clear guidelines on acceptable behavior? This approach leads me to wonder if the church was covering up sexual abuse by adults.}

I didn’t know what a lesbian was back then, but I was linking arms with a different friend at the church school and was asked by a teacher if we were lesbians. I said yes and the teacher became irate. She told us we needed to immediately go down the altar and repent. When I later found out what a lesbian was, I realized that my staying silent was the only way to deal with the confusion I was going through. If linking arms with a friend was bad, what would church people and my Christian school teachers think about a friend touching my vagina? I suffered severe depression and anxiety about people finding out because I knew I’d be punished and kicked out of school.

After I was touched, I became curious. Due to the church culture, there wasn’t a safe adult to ask questions of or have an appropriate discussion with about sex. Sex education was frowned upon and not taught in the Christian school. During an abstinence class where we signed a paper saying we wouldn’t have sex before marriage, I remember asking a youth teacher how far was it appropriate to go- was kissing ok, was hugging ok? He acted like I should already know the answers and frowned at me like I did something wrong. Church and school controlled everything we did, but he wanted me to guess what was ok before marriage. 

When everything else is looked at as a clear line between what is sin and what isn’t, I needed that clear line back then but was baffled when it wasn’t given. They told us exactly how to dress, even what color underwear to wear in the Christian school, but no answers about appropriateness during sexual encounters. In school they’d make us unbutton our shirts to check the color of our bra and if it wasn’t white or skin colored you got a detention. If being forced to show our undergarments wasn’t enough, and detention wasn’t enough, the teacher would talk about the girls who did wear colored bras as if they were sluts trying to get the boys attention. In a normal environment, girls just want to wear pretty things, but in ours we were sluts.

Rachel cannot remember some details of her childhood and wonders if something happened that she could not process.

{Ed. Note: This is a profound insight.}

I’m 39 years old and I still don’t understand everything I went through. I have chunks of time missing from my childhood memories and I sometimes wonder if something horrible enough happened to warrant my brain not wanting to process it.

Young girls were encouraged to hang out alone with adult men.

{ Ed. Note: This trend leads me to wonder if the church leadership knowingly encouraged this sort of behavior which causes me to be deeply concerned about the motives behind the promotion of such behavior. Were adult men covering up for one another? It’s happened in lots of churches. It’s what happened in the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches. I highly recommend that current and former members of Calvary Gospel Church and other UPCI churches obtain a copy of Jeri Massi’s book

 Schizophrenic Christianity:: How Christian Fundamentalism Attracts and Protects Sociopaths, Abusive Pastors, and Child Molesters

The parallels between the IFB and the UPCI are uncanny.}

Young girls, much older men and bizarre behavior at Calvary Gospel Church.

{ Ed. Note: This is very concerning. Church members apparently encouraged these *dating* relationships. I’m curious if members of the community outside of the church were aware of this behavior? Where was DSS and law enforcement? }

A lot of the young girls around me in church were allowed to hang out alone with adult men. It was treated as if we were all one big family and they were our uncles or mentors.

My older sister started dating a man ten plus years her senior when she was around 13/14 in 1988/1989. They went out on dates to Pizza Hut with other church folks. I was nine and sent as a chaperone. Our family was poor, so going out for pizza was a treat.

We’d also go alone to his apartment or one of his family member’s apartments alone. This man had my 13/14 year-old sister try on lingerie in front of us. Then they went off alone to the bedroom to do whatever a 24 year-old man does to a 13 year-old girl that tries on lingerie for him.

I recently asked my sister if she understood he raped her. She said she just wanted a way out of the abusive church and she saw him as a way to escape. It makes me so sad that we suffered in silence for so many years. She gave me permission to talk about what I witnessed, but has been through too much trauma herself to want to come forward.

Rachel’s relationship with a man 20 years older than her which started when she was ~8 years old.

Different but not so different, in 1987-1988 I was allowed to hang out with a church man 20 years my senior when I was around the age of seven to eight. It was a few years before my parents divorced so they were going through a lot. He’d take me out to the mall after church. I’d spend the night at his house. We hung out like best friends. He told me all about his life like we were best friends. He told me I looked like his daughter he lost custody of. I grew to love this man in the most innocent of ways. He’d tell me he loved me and I thought it was said like a dad would to his daughter. I looked to him like I’d look to a father.

When I look back, my relationship with this man really confuses me. He also acted like my uncle and would wrestle around with me on the floor, pin me down and blow air in my nose and mouth. To this day I rationalize it like he was an uncle/father figure, so it wasn’t strange, but then even my uncle stopped wrestling with me when I got too old for it. I didn’t have to tell my uncle, “Look, I’ve got breasts now. Maybe this isn’t appropriate.” With him, he still tried to wrestle with me during a visit when I was 16ish in 1996.

{Ed. Note: Rachel now understands that this man was grooming her.}

I now see what happened as grooming. If he hadn’t moved away, I’m fairly certain my story would have turned out like Debbie’s and other CGC survivors. There are way too many similarities in my story and the other sexual assault survivors for his behavior to not be brought into question. I believe he moved to California around 1991 and is now licensed as a pastor for the UPCI.

Rachel’s relationship with this man resumed when she was in her 20s when she realized that this friendship had a sexual component.

I believe it was around 2003/2004 when he returned for another visit. I was 23/24. I was in an abusive relationship and even though I was slightly uncomfortable around him, he still felt like a father to me. My family was away for the week, so he and I were alone in the house. I just needed someone to talk to, to process the abuse I was going through, so I poured my heart out to him. I cried. He hugged me and kissed my forehead like a dad would. We made a plan for me to get away from the abuse. He helped fix my life so I was grateful. He told me about his problems. 

I didn’t even realize he was looking at our relationship as sexual until he was leaving to go back home. I said goodbye, and he went to drive away, then he turned back, got out of the truck, ran back down the street, and forcefully hugged me. He told me he loved me but he couldn’t leave his wife. He started crying and left.

I thought maybe I had read the situation wrong and rationalized away his behavior as him just being eccentric. I knew if I said anything to anyone in church about it, I’d be the one in trouble for being alone in a house with a married man. I didn’t tell anyone about it until he visited again with his family.

I told my dad I was uncomfortable with him visiting and why. I was just told to not be alone with him. Even with his wife and family around, he was constantly grabbing at me and trying to hug me. I was so uncomfortable that visit, I vowed never to see him when he’d be in town again. It just baffles me that a man 20 years my senior couldn’t, or refused to see, how hurtful his actions were to me and to his wife. My family stayed close with him for a while, but had nothing more to do with him. I later confronted him about how strange his behavior was, but he denied it.

Rachel became involved in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend who raped her.

That wasn’t even the worst of the hidden abuse I suffered. I was raped by my boyfriend the first time I had sex. He was also verbally and physically abusive. I met him at church. I turned him down the first time he asked me out, but the minister he was living with convinced me to give him a chance. We started dating in 1997. I was 17 but very inexperienced because he was my first boyfriend. With dating him came a lot of confusion. As I wrote above, the church and school gave us very clear lines on how to act and dress, but not about sexual experiences. I guess they just expected us to never do anything until marriage. 

I wanted to be a missionary with all my heart, so I wanted to stay pure. I guessed that kissing was probably ok to do and so in the beginning I tried to keep it just to that, although I was still scared kissing would send me to hell, or I’d get kicked out of school, or be disqualified from missions work. I tried to set up boundaries, but with time he just kept crossing them. I’d get angry about it and we’d fight. He’d yell a lot, but as soon as I raised my voice, he’d throw me up against the wall while choking me or he’d pin me to the floor. If I fought back, he’d hurt me even worse and one time gave me a black eye, slamming my face into the floor. 

After awhile, I just gave up. I knew we had gone too far sexually to tell anyone about the abuse because I’d be labeled a slut or worse. I was raised to think lust was my fault, so even if I didn’t want it, I was to blame. Never once did I question if it was his fault or maybe he should stop when I told him to. I thought that rape had to seem brutal for it to actually be considered rape. I blamed myself for what happened because I probably could have fought him off. 

The night he raped me, I told him in the car on the way to his place that I didn’t want to have sex with him before marriage. When we got to his place, we made out like usual. When he started to take my clothes off, I cried. My tears didn’t persuade him to stop and I was shaking my head and crying the entire time. After he raped me, he left me naked and alone crying on the floor, and went to watch TV.

This relationship led to her developing a feeling of worthlessness since she was no longer a virgin. She ended up marrying her rapist who eventually went to jail for abusing her.

I felt worthless because I knew my life as I wanted it was over. I’d never be a missionary. If I told, I’d definitely get kicked out of the Christian school because I signed a character agreement that I’d follow the rules in and out of school. I’d be ostracized. I was worthless. My value as a woman was to be a virgin until marriage and then to have babies for my husband and follow his lead.

No one would want to marry me except him, which is exactly what happened. I got pregnant out of wedlock and the only way to absolve myself was to marry him. The abuse continued until one day he took his rage out on my niece instead of me. He left bruises on her head and neck. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to stop him. He went to jail for abusing her and I made the decision to leave him.

She now says that Calvary Gospel Church and the UPCI contributed to her lifetime of abuse but she is now beginning to heal.

I left the church for a while but was convinced I was still going to hell. I did tell a mother figure in my life, who was in church, about my abuse. She basically said she had been abused too, but decided not to leave God, as if leaving the UPCI organization was akin to leaving God. This mentality had me in and out of church. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I really began to see the lifelong abuse I had suffered because of this organization. I realized that Jesus would never have put up with that type of fear and control in his church. He would have called the UPCI out for living like Pharisees. He’d have been appalled at the level of child abuse. Having that new realization opened the doors to new possibilities and freedom to critically think about things. I want people to know there is life after leaving and you don’t have to put up with the abuse in order to go to heaven.

{Ed. Note: Rachel has bravely told her story, in the hopes of helping others who are experiencing similar abuse. She is an incredible woman who is willing to share the hard stuff so that others might be willing to share their pain. For those who would like to find out more about their support group. I placed the link at the beginning of the post.}

Thank you, Rachel. I am humbled by your transparency.


Comments

As a Child, Rachel Was Taught to Fear Hell and to Date Older Men: The UPCI ‘s Calvary Gospel Church and a Fractured Gospel — 224 Comments

  1. I’m just going to point out that Rapture fever was VERY common in the 1970s and 1980s, and it wasn’t just some churches. Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” was sold in the grocery store. I remember borrowing books on the end times from a charismatic neighbor. There was a lot of fear in the air. There were some very literal, strange movies about the Rapture shown at churches, such as “A Thief in the Night” and “A Distant Thunder”. (However, it took YouTube to bring to me the very odd movie called “The Burning Hell” by evangelist Estus Pirkle.) I know we passed around a comic book called “There’s a New World Coming,” which was based on the Hal Lindsey book. Some of you might also remember it:

    http://finkel.org/avi/revelation/

    My point is that it wasn’t just Pentecostals, there was a whole “thing” about the End Times during those years. I’ll spare you my reminiscences of who we thought the Antichrist was going to be.

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  2. Rachel, I am so sorry and sad for what you had to go through. I hope that you now know it was wrong, abusive and not in any way appropriate. I also hope that you have found support, counseling and, most of all, appropriate, respectful relationships. If there is anything anyone can do, please let us know.

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  3. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,

    My independent, fundamentailst Bapists, and Evangelical Free churches were really into this as well… I remember Theif in the night! …. and the song “ I wish we all been ready”….
    there’s no time to change your mind, the son has come, and you’ve left behind…

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  4. Jeffrey Chalmers: “ I wish we all been ready”

    Our church did not teach the Rapture, even in our unbalanced youth group. Nevertheless we teens all knew about the belief, and every single Thursday night we sang “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by heart, with descants. The song generally added to our fears about the end of the world, Hell, Satanists, cults, the abomination of desecration, communism, and premarital sex. It looks like a kooky mishmash right this minute, but I was desperate to keep everybody I knew from eternal damnation.

    Here’s the original Larry Norman version on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyOjmhqDGkM

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  5. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: My point is that it wasn’t just Pentecostals, there was a whole “thing” about the End Times during those years.

    Yes, I recall the movies and books. In the United Pentecostal Church, there have always been ministers who wish to use rapture/end-times beliefs to scare people, including children. It helps to keep some coming to their churches for fear of being lost. It’s just as much alive today in this organization as it was during the time you mentioned. I am quite thankful that I wasn’t raised in it and was spared being scared as a child. Some might be interested in this article: http://blogs.spiritualabuse.org/2016/07/21/the-rapture-scared-children/

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  6. Lois: In the United Pentecostal Church, there have always been ministers who wish to use rapture/end-times beliefs to scare people, including children. It helps to keep some coming to their churches for fear of being lost. It’s just as much alive today in this organization as it was during the time you mentioned.

    Ugh. I had miss-the-rapture dreams (thankfully, not for decades) but they were extremely unsettling and very, very real to me. I can’t imagine hearing that stuff for years and years. Do people even think of the mental harm they may be doing to kids and sensitive adults?

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  7. Rachel, Rebecca, Debbie, your stories are heartbreaking. Thank you for your courage in shining a light into these painfully dark places.

    As a mother of young daughters, this is making me think about what kinds of influences I want in their lives. I had kind of an odd upbringing in that my parents are moderate by evangelical standards (they’re egalitarian, mom worked outside the home, dad was a public school teacher, all us kids went to public school), but when growing up we always attended relatively conservative churches. Nothing to the extent of what’s talked about here with UPCI, but the end-times fear craze, purity culture/courtship, complementarianism verging on patriarchy, idolization of motherhood for women… That was all there.

    There was/is a lot of fear in the moms-of-young-kids small group at our last church, fear of the influence of public schools with their teachings on unBiblical evolution and the influences of “those” homosexuals (their words, not mine). I am coming to realize, however, that I’ve had to unlearn a heck of a lot more from church than I’ve ever had to unlearn from public school. And these things I’ve had to unlearn are mostly things that my parents would be surprised to know I’d ever been in alignment with.

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  8. That ‘Thief in the Night’ film also reached 1980s S African Methodism. I sat through it as a teen. Scary stuff, indeed. Even 10 years later, when I found myself alone at home not knowing where anypne was, my first thought was “It’s the Rapture!’

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  9. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Do people even think of the mental harm they may be doing to kids and sensitive adults?

    In 2011, a man near us erected yard signs proclaiming that the world was ending (Harold Camping’s prediction). This is the only time my earlier fear of the Rapture came in handy. Once word spread that I was the mom with special knowledge, several frightened kids came to ask me about this topic.

    When the big day came, a lot of kids and some adults spent time on the public sidewalk, watching the man not disappear and asking him pert questions. He yelled at people not to trespass,* and eventually retreated into his house. The scene was rather rude, but it helped the kids to discharge some fear and recognize that grownups can be fools.

    I would feel more compassion for the guy, but he was a heavily armed bully. It’s fortunate that he showed restraint.

    *Interesting that he was worried about property lines on the day of the Rapture.

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  10. oh my goodness…i had no idea some of this was happening to you and others when I was with you and your family in Madison. I had no idea this is how the UPC church raised young girls to think of themselves. I am so sorry I ddnt know. I am so thankful that you are able to feel your sense of worth now, despite the horrific years of abuse that started from birth. I love and care deeply about you, Rachel.

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  11. A theme that struck me in this account is the power of fear to control people.

    While the United Pentecostals are “out there” in terms of their relationship to historic orthodoxy, they share the consensus vision of personal eschatology. That vision is a powerful tool for control of people.

    1 John 4:18 comes to mind; this strikes me as a powerful indictment of those who employ fear as a tool to control the flock; they are actively working against YHWH’s purposes.

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  12. Rachel, thank you for telling your story. My heart goes out to you.
    Again, I’m so sorry for what you endured. I had forgotten a few of those things – the belief that of you miss the rapture that you’d have to be beheaded to go to heaven. I remember that now, and I used to fixate on having my head cut off. I was convinced I’d never be good enough to be saved, but I could still go to heaven of my head was cut off. How terrible to teach those things to children. The fear was encompassing.

    And having our underwear checked at school – how massively inappropriate.

    Again, I’m sorry. You are worthy and valuable and strong. ❤️

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  13. Whew! For a denomination that emphasizes “holiness living”, there doesn’t seem to have been much of that in this UPCI church!

    Thank you Rachel for your courage to share your story. Church leaders who control by fear will someday know fear themselves when they cross the threshold of death.

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  14. The adults that start attending UPCI services, never having grown up in the denomination, do they recognize the abusive undertow at some point?

    For those who survived the UPCI abuse, who was the person or persons that helped show you that your upbringing was wrong, extreme?

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  15. Friend,

    🙂
    After I wrote post, I looked up, and listened to, the very same you tube recording….. now I have that song stuck in my head…
    While I do want the “rapture” hysteria abuse to be put on the same level as the sexual abuse so often here on TWW, “rapture hysteria” was/is clear emotional abuse….. especially when leaders, such as Harold Camping and Chuck Smith predicted specific dates when the NT clearly says you can NOT know the date…..

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  16. Friend,

    The song would make a great teaching tool for adults, as a lead into teaching the book of Revelations. But for children and teenagers, I don’t think so.

    I’m trying to imagine you and a bunch of kids, in t-shirts, bell bottom jeans, or Sears tough-skin jeans, sitting around singing this song. It does have a sort of doomsday cult feeling to it.

    I didn’t know about Larry Norman until Eric Metaxis started to talk about him on his show.

    As others have said in this post, we don’t know the time and day of His return, I thought that was Matthew 24:50. But now I think I have the wrong passage.

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  17. Muff Potter: I hope to God the laws get changed in all States

    There should be NO statute of limitations on child abuse in any State. Additionally, the criminal cover-up/protection of abusers of women and children by church leaders should be treated more harshly by the legal system. God will.

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  18. Debbie McNulty,

    Do you know of any male molestation/abuse survivors from within the UPCI?

    Have any of the male children, that grew up in this denomination, perpetuated what they were raised in and later come to realize it was abusive?

    I’m 53 years old and still realizing even some of the tiniest of my behaviors come out of my abusive childhood.

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  19. Brian: The song would make a great teaching tool for adults, as a lead into teaching the book of Revelations.

    I’m not sure it’s safe for adults either. Last night my dear husband heard that song for the first time and found it rather disturbing. He’s been to four county fairs and a goat roping, and is not easily rattled. 😉

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  20. Friend,

    As an “antidote”, or at least an alternative point of view, to pre-occupation with current-day “signs of the times” and end-times prophecy, James Stuart Russell’s “The Parousia” may be useful. It has aged surprisingly well, and arguably anticipated developments in NT historical research by a century.

    OTOH, if one is strongly committed to dispensational system, it may be advisable to avoid this book; it might make one’s head explode. On that account, I avoid the subject when interacting with old IFB friends.

    For me, it was an eye-opener and a helpful indication that I don’t understand these ancients texts as well as I had previously thought.

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  21. Jeffrey Chalmers: Do “NOT” want “rapture hysteria” but on same level of abuse as sexual abuse

    I get what you are saying, but the rapture terror here included a teaching, to children, that people left behind will only go to heaven if their heads are chopped off. That message alone will traumatize a child.

    It’s also unlikely that rapture terror is taught without other abusive teachings and practices.

    People have a right to believe in the Rapture, but not to terrify children.

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  22. “It is also my opinion that we need about 30 more website to handle the number of stories that need to be told throughout the evangelical and broader Protestant community.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    dee — you have earned yourself a worthy platform through hard work and diligence. it’s taken years of doggedness. You are read by many, many others.

    what if you lent your platform in a bigger way?

    what about a franchise, so to speak (although i hate the word franchise in this context).

    A series of other websites under the Wartburg Watch / Dee Parsons ‘label’, so to speak (although i hate the word label in this context). Same logo, imagery, format, etc.

    seems to me it would give a huge boost to attracting readership for new websites starting from scratch, from nil.

    i can imagine the enormity of what i’m suggesting. i can imagine you might want to go back to bed right now.

    but…. just ruminating on what is the shortest distance between 2 points….

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  23. Friend,

    I can honestly say that as bad as the sexual abuse was and other abuse within the UPC the rapture theology had the biggest and most negative impact on my life. Thief in the night came out in 1972 and I saw it when I was still a toddler. Our church showed it every year and as more films came out in the series they were added. It was sort of like a revival week where you bring your friends and family and your friends often are very young to view these films in hopes that they will get saved. I spent my whole childhood looking over my shoulder and being worried about not being good enough and being left behind. I was constantly concerned with whether or not I had some unrepented sin hiding in some corner of my heart. It made it impossible to have a normal childhood. It made it impossible to take risks and be curious about the world the way children should be because I was never sure if something was a sin or not so it was better to just not explore the world.

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  24. elastigirl: what if you lent your platform in a bigger way?
    what about a franchise, so to speak (although i hate the word franchise in this context).
    A series of other websites under the Wartburg Watch / Dee Parsons ‘label’, so to speak (although i hate the word label in this context). Same logo, imagery, format, etc.

    I know what you mean, but that’s the answer to the question: What would Driskle do?

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  25. “Not one of them ever used the word *grace * to describe their experience in Calvary Gospel Church.”
    ++++++++++++++

    it’s funny (well, i expressly mean ‘not funny’? is that irony? i should know this)

    “grace” — such a nice word. a sweet word. a truly lovely word.

    ha, in christianity it means “YOU’RE GUILT-EEEE! Guilty as sin! You’re gross. Filthy. A worthless piece o’ ship”

    i’ve been in different denominations, very different from each other.

    ‘grace’ was always and only about God somehow managing to tolerate interacting with creatures as horrible, revolting, and goblin-like as us human beings.

    really, is there any other context for grace in in this silly religion of ours called christianity?

    be honest — in all the sweet, hearts-&-flowers language dripping out of christian culture, is this not exactly how deeply negative the concept of ‘grace’ is in christianity?

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  26. elastigirl: ‘grace’ was always and only about God somehow managing to tolerate interacting with creatures as horrible, revolting, and goblin-like as us human beings.

    Well, quite. The most bitter, hate-filled, vindictive, unforgiving character in all of existence is the “christian” god. He/she/it hates us for being born, and has vowed to raise all humanity from the dead in order to throw most of us into a fiery hell that burns forever, fuelled by his/her/its never-ending rage. Actually, of course, such a monster would be incapable of emptying itself, being found looking like a human being – and a servant at that – nor of becoming obedient to anyone or anything. And it would be utterly incapable of being obedient to the point of dying the ultimate loser’s death, alone, defeated and despised.

    The well-known bit of scribsher to which I alluded above is remarkable, not just for what it says about Jesus of Nazareth, but for what it says about the things God (the Father) thinks are important.

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  27. Debbie McNulty: I was constantly concerned with whether or not I had some unrepented sin hiding in some corner of my heart.

    Oh, that is so sad.

    An Orthodox Jewish colleague once told me that Christianity is harder than the the 613 laws of Judaism, because Christians have no way to assure themselves that they are pleasing God. Judaism to him was achievable.

    I think he was pointing out a problem of teaching rather than an inherent flaw of Christianity. Some Christian groups go out of their way to sow doubt and torment in their members. But people deserve assurance of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. We deserve to live in joy that we recognize as joy—not in misery that has been labeled “joy” by the pastor.

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  28. Debbie McNulty,

    I remember being kind of shocked the first time I saw Thief in the Night, at the age of 12, but I think because – due to an emotionally abusive home – God was so close to me it never occurred to me that I might be ‘left behind’. I also remember thinking, ‘Where in the heck does it say that in the bible?’, cause I actually read my little illustrated KJV bible. I was old enough, and my relationship with God strong enough I was able to quickly laugh it off as silliness. Which is why I had no interest in reading Jerry Jenkins’ rehash, even if I once went to church with him.

    I cannot even imagine such things being shown to small children. What pastor or parent, even if they believed such thinking, would allow a small child to be so traumatized? Unreal. But then, it is only one step beyond the entire eternal conscious torment in a lake of fire thinking many of us were weaned on. I recall the first time I heard someone suggest that this may be a false man-made idea; I was like ‘Yes, I knew it!’

    IMO, if your image of God leaves you terrified and horrified, there is something amiss in your image of God – no matter where you learned it.

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  29. I am sorry this happened to you Rachael. I am from Wisconsin so this really hits close to home. I am glad Wisconsin is making it mandatory for clergy to report child sexual abuse. In the editor’s comments there was talk of women dressed modestly from head to toe, but abused by men for accidentally showing an ankle. I saw a Muslim woman at the grocery store dressed in the headscarf and shapeless dress, but she wore open toed sandals with bare feet. Probably the only way she could stay cool. Some guys were staring at her feet while talking about foot fetishes. Women can’t win in this modesty straight jacket put on us by so called religious men Christian Muslim or otherwise. Very sad.

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  30. Friend,

    My emotionally abusive sister, who admitted she didn’t have the Bible in any format (she attends some megachurch) used false Christianity to try and control her kids. She threw around words like “sin”, ” Satan”, and “hell”. She did such a great job (sarcasm) that she pushed them into agnosticism and new age religions.

    When I confronted her with Bible verses to support what I was trying to communicate to her, she would turn on the word slinging machine.

    It’s not always the doctrine at issue. Sometimes it’s the presentation of it, used as a control mechanism by an abuser. 🙂 🙂

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  31. elastigirl: ‘grace’ was always and only about God somehow managing to tolerate interacting with creatures as horrible, revolting, and goblin-like as us human beings.

    really, is there any other context for grace in in this silly religion of ours called christianity?

    be honest — in all the sweet, hearts-&-flowers language dripping out of christian culture, is this not exactly how deeply negative the concept of ‘grace’ is in christianity?

    My pursuit of that question led me down an unexpected path: Eastern Orthodoxy. They have a very different view of God and humanity from what I was taught growing up as a protestant. I have not been able to become EO because of what I view as an overly complex and legalistic practice (at least as practiced by the local parish where I live). Still, their theology and anthropology are the best I have found anywhere. I recently ran across this interview with Brad Jersak: https://www.nomadpodcast.co.uk/brad-jersak-orthodox-way-n165/.
    The actual interview starts at about 8:40, but the answer to your question starts at about 19:00 and only lasts a few minutes. Jersak’s conversion to EO might be a bit unique since he started with a group that is considered in the liberal fringe of EO.

    I post this not as a way to push anyone toward EO, but to show that there is very old and widespread way of viewing these things that is very different from what we’ve been told we have to believe.

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  32. “Young girls were encouraged to hang out alone with adult men.”

    “I didn’t even realize he was looking at our relationship as sexual until he was leaving to go back home. I said goodbye, and he went to drive away, then he turned back, got out of the truck, ran back down the street, and forcefully hugged me. He told me he loved me but he couldn’t leave his wife. He started crying and left.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    boy, this sure reminds me of

    “A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.”–Voddie Bauchaum

    what in the world… what are these people thinking?

    have they overspiritualized everything to the point they’ve turned their brains inside-out like a paper cup?

    (actually, i can think of many christians whose brains must look like this due to their goofy & crazy convictions and conclusions)

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  33. Nick Bulbeck: The most bitter, hate-filled, vindictive, unforgiving character in all of existence is the “christian” god.

    Actually, this view of god taught in much of Protestantism is actually more like Moloch than YHWY – requires human (child) sacrifice to appease its wrath, and literally cannot forgive with the sacrifice.

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  34. I’m appalled at these stories- at the absolutely shocking level of abuse that was dished out by so many people. It’s not a church, it’s just evil. I’m so, so, sorry for what you have suffered.

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  35. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “I post this not as a way to push anyone toward EO, but to show that there is very old and widespread way of viewing these things that is very different from what we’ve been told we have to believe.”
    ++++++++++

    thanks! i’ll definitely give it a gander.

    old, ancient… really appealing to me right now.

    i think what’s been bothering me for years about evangelicalism is how seemingly untethered it is from anything other than itself. so new you can smell the warm plastic of it!

    it’s kind of like McDonalds religion.

    McDonalds sprung up sometime in the relative recent past. now, no one can imagine a time when there weren’t McDonalds. no one can imagine not having a McDonalds within 5 miles. no one thinks about what life was like when there were no McDonalds.

    i’m being weird and overstating things, & hope i’m communicating at least a glimmer of what i’m seeing.

    really sick of the small little box (evangelicalism) that’s purveyed as the thing that all the cool people have. if you don’t have this then you must be so out of touch and a complete nobody. in fact, just ignore everything else, it doesn’t matter, we left it in the dust long ago.

    (extemporization mode: on)

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  36. Friend,

    One caution is that because the book was written for a prior generation, the contemporary scholars whose work JSR interacts with in the presentation of his arguments will probably be unfamiliar. This gives the book a “dated” feel.

    One thing that I found a bit grating was that at times JSR’s tone toward contemporary advocates of alternative views has a triumphalist, or even “bullying”, feel to it.

    (OTOH, by the standards of Luther, JSR is positively irenic!)

    But his readings of NT eschatological texts are for the most part very persuasive, and very encouraging for those raised in the fear of “being left behind.”

    I was surprised to notice that my copy had an endorsement blurb by none other than that 20th century icon of American reformed-dom, R.C. Sproul. Sproul was impressed by JSR’s arguments that Jesus’ “second coming” prophecies were fulfilled in the 1st century. Sproul thought that this was a useful apologetic for the truth of the NT.

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  37. Wild Honey:

    As a mother of young daughters, this is making me think about what kinds of influences I want in their lives…

    There was/is a lot of fear in the moms-of-young-kids small group at our last church, fear of the influence of public schools with their teachings on unBiblical evolution and the influences of “those” homosexuals (their words, not mine).I am coming to realize, however, that I’ve had to unlearn a heck of a lot more from church than I’ve ever had to unlearn from public school.And these things I’ve had to unlearn are mostly things that my parents would be surprised to know I’d ever been in alignment with.

    I had a sort of similar situation, my parents are more egalitarian in practice than they’d like to admit, they both work, I went to public school, and we always went to very conservative churches that weren’t super healthy (a lot of the things in this article about the church’s stance on sex and being female sound a lot like what I was taught). I also feel like I’ve had to unlearn some things that were really drilled into me growing up in those churches, and I’m a new mom so I’m now super anxious about my son being taught things that are untrue and will create unnecessary hardship for him, or even hurt his faith in his adult life (along with all the other things you have to be anxious about when you’ve got an infant). Have you found any useful tips yet on navigating” all that while maybe not losing quite all of your hair?

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  38. elastigirl: old, ancient… really appealing to me right now

    “This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the old, ancient paths: ’Where is the good way?’ Then walk in it and find rest for your souls.”(Jeremiah 6:16)

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  39. Wild Honey: I’ve had to unlearn a heck of a lot more from church than I’ve ever had to unlearn from public school

    Indoctrination vs. education. One expands your mind, the other constricts it. I’ve had to unlearn most of what I learned in church in order to see spiritual things more clearly. My Christian experience became so much better when I began to allow the Holy Spirit to teach me rather than mere men.

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  40. A good question to ask of any theology is what is its root.

    Some have God creating us and all that follows to show His glory. Run. Run for your life.

    Others have God creating us and all that follows to show His love. Excellent!

    We have found these roots in reformed churches, including Lutheran and arminians (all broadly reformed little r, not Reformed.) We have seen both roots in some Catholic parishes and in EO folks we have known. Ditto Baptists. So you may not be able to tell by the label.

    Broadly speaking if Jesus is preached, probably a love root. If the sermons are beat the sheep sermons, probably a glory root.

    The glory root preaches a God who is the worst of narcissistic abusers. The second a God who will never give up pursuing His beloved creatures. The glory crowd revels in hell and punishment. The second sees Christ as suffering all to do all to be sure His people avoid that hell and punishment.

    One has a God that could fairly be described as abusive. The second a God who may use pain, sorrow, discipline, and suffering as part of our cleansing IF necessary, not just to show He can. Good human dads do not put up with their kids being hate filled bullies harming others, so discipline and punishment do have a role.

    Before someone blasts me as unbiblical, that Bible says God is love. Not a wishy washy anything goes cosmic genie in a bottle, but a truly loving on our side not gonna give up on us taking care of us God.

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  41. Max,

    ““This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the old, ancient paths: ’Where is the good way?’ Then walk in it and find rest for your souls.”(Jeremiah 6:16)”
    ++++++++++++

    sounds like things you absorb.

    as opposed to, like, Clint Pressley’s “99 Steps Toward Manhood” where you cross things off a list he put together in order to please God.

    –don’t wear thongs
    –get a job
    –don’t drink tea
    –learn to tie a tie
    –know how to use a lawn mower
    –have a good work ethic
    –don’t lie

    …apparently I’m more of a man than many of Clint’s friends

    (although i wear flip flops and drink tea, like the very unmanly christian bale and tom hardy)

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  42. Samuel Conner: But his readings of NT eschatological texts are for the most part very persuasive, and very encouraging for those raised in the fear of “being left behind.”

    From what I have read so far, I agree. As always, going to the Greek takes effort but clears things up and makes it harder to concoct nutty theology based on a glance at a favorite translation.

    He seems to assume that Christianity was supposed to replace Judaism; that does not fit with my own ideas about Gentiles being grafted on. He also emphasizes Jesus’ disgust with His generation, while delicately omitting some causes. My view is that Jesus disliked private sin but had a stronger detestation for hypocrisy and oppression.

    I mention *my own very special views* because too many church groups convince children that God hates them. Jesus directed his love toward the young, the old, the poor, the sick, the voiceless. His wrath, I think, focused more on the cruel and powerful.

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  43. Mega Moose: I’m a new mom so I’m now super anxious about my son being taught things that are untrue and will create unnecessary hardship for him, or even hurt his faith in his adult life (along with all the other things you have to be anxious about when you’ve got an infant).

    Congratulations to you!

    My hard-won advice: just love your child, and your child will understand Christianity through your love.

    Bad experiences drive people away from church. The right theology makes no difference if the place makes people miserable.

    I love scholarship… but other love matters more. 🙂

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  44. Muff Potter: Like I’ve commented before, I hope to God the laws get changed in all States so that these jackals (who prey upon young girls) have no place to take cover and hide anymore.

    Yup. What I would also like to see happen is the age of legal marriage raised to 18. I believe only one state currently has this. Right now, if your parents or a judge sign off on the marriage, in some states you can get married as young as 13. I’ve seen stories from women who were married off to their abusers as young teenagers. Teenagers, who are still essentially children should not be forced into marriage.

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  45. Nick Bulbeck: Well, quite. The most bitter, hate-filled, vindictive, unforgiving character in all of existence is the “christian” god. He/she/it hates us for being born, and has vowed to raise all humanity from the dead in order to throw most of us into a fiery hell that burns forever, fuelled by his/her/its never-ending rage.

    I had a guy tell me that fertilized human ova that fail to implant in the uterine lining (believed to be approximately 50 percent of all fertilizations) would be judged by God and sent to heaven or hell based on God’s sovereign determination. *blink* And we’re supposed to be happy about it, because this is all for God’s “glory.”

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  46. elastigirl: i think what’s been bothering me for years about evangelicalism is how seemingly untethered it is from anything other than itself. so new you can smell the warm plastic of it!

    This is exactly how I feel. So I naively thought that I could investigate church history and find the right way to believe and worship. Instead, I found a much more complicated history than I had imagined. For example, I could not find anything from the early writers that looked anything like the mythological house church that many today seem to be seeking. In fact, the early church looked much more Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox than I had hoped for. It left me despairing that the legalistic hierarchy won. I hear some people saying we need to reject all of that “post-Constantine” practice, but the pre-Constantine practice does not look that much different from the post-Constantine. But if we reject it, I don’t know what is left of Christianity, because it was that hierarchy that canonized the New Testament and codified the major points of what it means to be a Christian. If we throw out the hierarchy what keeps us from also throwing out the NT?

    But when I dig deeper I find that amidst all of the politics and hierarchy there was also a stream of non-institution servants that worked within the institution, who appeared to have preserved the core essentials. Such as the desert fathers who rejected the friendliness of church and state. I also found that the early church was dogmatic about a few things, such as the Trinity, dual nature of Christ, etc., but left quite a lot of freedom to disagree in other areas. There appeared to be much more opportunity for unity back then there is today in modern evangelicalism, where minor points have become essentials.

    For those who are reasonably happy with their faith tradition, I highly recommend they avoid digging into church history because it will mess with your head. But for those who are frustrated with where Christianty has led them, there are people from the early church who felt exactly the same. There is no shortage of writings to read from – the problem is choosing where to start because they were prolific writers.

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  47. Mega Moose,

    “Have you found any useful tips yet on navigating” all that while maybe not losing quite all of your hair?”
    ++++++++++++

    i know you weren’t asking me, so this is totally unsolicited. but here goes:

    resist perfectionism

    and all the should’s

    -the godly mom’s house should always be perfect

    -godly kids should always respond with 1st time obedience

    -godly kids should never make any behavioral mistakes

    -godly moms should not raise kids who make behavioral mistakes

    -godly kids happily eat their vegetables

    -godly moms raise kids who never complain about food or anything else

    -godly moms only feed their kids the most nutritious foods on the planet

    -godly kids should be outgoing and should be leaders (not everyone is outgoing or a natural leader)

    -godly kids should grow up keeping sexuality in a denial box until their wedding night

    godly kids are ideal in every way or else they are not godly
    godly moms raise godly kids who are ideal in every way or else they are not godly

    resist it all, and things like it.

    enjoy & appreciate your kid(s) for all that they are, ignoring the ideal projected by the institution. relax about adolescence, and what is normal is not an ungodly slippery slope.

    (extemporaneous mode: still on)

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  48. Friend: Congratulations to you!

    My hard-won advice: just love your child, and your child will understand Christianity through your love.

    Bad experiences drive people away from church. The right theology makes no difference if the place makes people miserable.

    I love scholarship… but other love matters more.

    Thanks! Well, I do love him, so at least we’ve got that going! And you are right, Christ told people to love each other, so hopefully if I’m doing my best to act Christ-like he will get the picture. That makes me feel a bit better, you can get really caught up in having so much responsibility over an entire little human!

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  49. elastigirl:
    Mega Moose,

    “Have you found any useful tips yet on navigating” all that while maybe not losing quite all of your hair?”
    ++++++++++++

    i know you weren’t asking me, so this is totally unsolicited.but here goes:

    resist perfectionism

    and all the should’s

    -the godly mom’s house should always be perfect

    -godly kids should always respond with 1st time obedience

    -godly kids should never make any behavioral mistakes

    -godly moms should not raise kids who make behavioral mistakes

    -godly kids happily eat their vegetables

    -godly moms raise kids who never complain about food or anything else

    -godly moms only feed their kids the most nutritious foods on the planet

    -godly kids should be outgoing and should be leaders(not everyone is outgoing or a natural leader)

    -godly kids should grow up keeping sexuality in a denial box until their wedding night

    godly kids are ideal in every way or else they are not godly
    godly moms raise godly kids who are ideal in every way or else they are not godly

    resist it all, and things like it.

    enjoy & appreciate your kid(s) for all that they are, ignoring the ideal projected by the institution.relax about adolescence, and what is normal is not an ungodly slippery slope.

    (extemporaneous mode: still on)

    Oh, I’m totally happy to hear from anyone with good wisdom for me! 🙂

    And yes, the teachings you can find in some churches on sex are something I especially worry about. I want him to be able to have a healthy, happy adult life in every facet, including that one. What I was always taught created quite a mess there for me. I hope my husband and I can find a way to teach him about healthy sexuality when that time comes, even though I’ve got work to do on myself there still.

    All those other points just make me remember myself as a kid, and I can tell you that I did NOT like vegetables and I let absolutely everybody know about it. And I liked to hole up in my room for days at a time with my books, games and drawing and have never had any desire to be a leader, so there’s another strike! 🙂 But God loves us carnivorous introverts as much as anyone else, so I have no problem with my son following in my footsteps there.

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  50. Brian: Has anyone from the UPCI denomination, outside of Michigan, come forward with similar experiences?

    Does the UPCI relocate their pastors when they come under scrutiny by local authorities?

    These stories Dee is sharing come from Wisconsin, not Michigan. Having operated my website since 1997, I have heard of many cases of sexual abuse across North America, with the majority of them having been unreported. Calvary Gospel Church in Madison, Wisconsin stands out because of multiple cases coming from the same church and due to it happening for decades. I’ve heard similar regarding Landmark Tabernacle in Denver, Colorado. Again there are reports of decades of unreported abuse. I have a series of articles on these cases that to date has 24 installments. I could sit at my computer and write for an entire month and probably wouldn’t catch up with all I need to write. http://blogs.spiritualabuse.org/2018/02/03/the-united-pentecostal-church-and-sexual-abuse/

    The UPCI as an organization, does not move ministers/pastors around. They are not like the Catholic church or Methodist church where the organization has a say in where they are to pastor. Each church in the UPCI is considered autonomous. They do have churches that take the extra step to legally affiliate, which means they must adopt UPCI by-laws and the church must have as a pastor a UPC licensed minister.

    Having said that, I have heard of cases where pastors have covered for their son. I have heard of many cases where the pastor has told a church member to not go to police. I have heard allegations that Landmark demanded people to not only leave the church, but also the state. That seems to be how they handled at least some sexual abuse cases. One man later went on to receive his license in a different state. Another man retained his license for years.

    Sometimes the UPCI will revoke a minister’s license. This has happened upon arrests and convictions of different things. But all one of their licensed ministers have to do is resign their license and the UPC cannot do anything unless there has been some kind of crime against them, such as stealing/embezzlement.

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  51. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “I hear some people saying we need to reject all of that “post-Constantine” practice, but the pre-Constantine practice does not look that much different from the post-Constantine. But if we reject it, I don’t know what is left of Christianity, because it was that hierarchy that canonized the New Testament and codified the major points of what it means to be a Christian. If we throw out the hierarchy what keeps us from also throwing out the NT?”
    +++++++++++++++++

    lots to think about in your comment.

    starting here… my initial thought is that since Jesus had such an impact, writings concerning him and the OT legacy (these are just the descriptives that popped in to my head) would not have gone into oblivion. they would have eventuated somehow into something.

    turns out they eventuated into what we refer as the NT.

    it could have happened differently, with a different result. although i think the general ideas would have been similar.

    we simply make do with what we have.

    it’s not the periodic table, in which things just ‘are’ — H is hydrogen, O is oxygen, He is helium.

    whatever eventuated from ancient ‘scripture’ is inherently a murky, watery representation of what happened and what the writers’ intent was. how can it not be?

    we do our best with it all. i think it’s wise to take what has been codified with a grain of salt. i think there’s plenty of room for interpretation on lots of matters.

    our conclusions are our own, regardless of what al mohler, cs lewis, the pope, father ignatious josiah, or any of the very old guys in fancy pointy hats think.

    chances are the main points will all be pretty similar, anyway.

    you know the creation of adam by michelangelo? i wish he had painted one where God is coming towards Adam, instead of being pulled away. that’s the main point we all agree on. well, Jesus factors in, as well.

    really rambling now.

    sorry — i through all my thoughts up at the wall and had hoped something more cohesive would have stuck.

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  52. Wild Honey said:

    Wild Honey: I am coming to realize, however, that I’ve had to unlearn a heck of a lot more from church than I’ve ever had to unlearn from public school.

    Yep. Totally can relate to you there. I don’t know if I’ll return to church in the future or not, but if I did my eyes would have to be constantly wide open for false teaching. It gets so tiresome after years of dealing with movements, fads, winds of doctrine, popular teachers bringing back old heresies in different forms, controversies that supposedly were settled centuries ago, and denominational governing bodies that do little to nothing about any of it. It’s enough to make a person wonder if there even is one true(st) form of Christianity anywhere, or if we’re just all on our own to figure things out. And that’s not even counting all the scandals involving gross sin among church leaders, so many of which could have been prevented if other ecclesiastical authorities had been doing their jobs.

    Isolation from other believers has historically been seen as a bad thing, yet it also has the effect of walling the individual off from so much garbage out there. Is it better to be a sinner avoiding other sinners? If not, what does one do about discernment fatigue in the face of never-ending, competing interpretations of the Bible as well as wolves in the Church? Maybe the “Jesus and me” folks were on to something.

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  53. elastigirl,

    “you know the creation of adam by michelangelo? i wish he had painted one where God is coming towards Adam, instead of being pulled away. that’s the main point we all agree on. well, Jesus factors in, as well.”
    +++++++++++++++

    and i sure wish eve featured in the painting.

    very hard to find personal inspiration in that one, especially with no fig leaf!

    (it’s a big deal to be left out of language and imagery for things that in theory are inclusive)

    (i put the can of worms on the table, we’re looking at it… i don’t think i opened it)

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  54. elastigirl: sorry — i through all my thoughts up at the wall and had hoped something more cohesive would have stuck.

    Nothing to be sorry for. Your words are more cohesive than Christian history.

    All of my life as an evangelical I was told how important it is to get it right. But now, after diving into Christian history and more ancient theologies, I am beginning to believe that God is much more loving and inclusive than what I was taught. I am convinced that he cares much more about how we treat others than he is with doctrinal precision (I now hate thet term: doctrinal precision).

    A few weeks ago one of my sons sent me a FB post from John MacArthur that one of his friends shared: “If we truly are to be like our Savior, we must both proclaim truth and condemn error in precise and unambiguous language.” My son’s reply on FB: “The existence of parables in the synoptic gospels sort of renders this quote unambiguously ironic in precisely the way it was not meant to be…”

    If we follow Jesus’s command to love God and others, I am pretty sure it will work out well for us in the end, even if our theology is an imprecise and ambiguous disaster.

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  55. elastigirl: “A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.”–Voddie Bauchaum

    Baucham’s assertion causes my creepo-meter to needle into the red.

    Is he even aware that save for his followers and hardcore dudebros, most men, Christian and non, get the same uneasy vibes?

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  56. Mega Moose,

    My oldest is only four, I’m still trying to figure it out, too! I’m relieved others have jumped in with their thoughts. My parents did a lot more things right than they ever did wrong; their choice of churches is just one area where I’m not entirely sure I want to follow the same path they went (and maybe is something they’d do over if given another chance, I haven’t asked, honestly).

    About the anxiety, for me it is helpful to remember that you’re in it for the long haul. You plant a seed and water it and keep watering it and pull out weeds and water it and pull out more weeds and fertilize and water water water weed weed weed and FINALLY something sprouts. Then you keep watering and weeding and fertilizing and it grows. And you keep watering and weeding and fertilizing and maybe it spouts a flower and maybe the flower gets pollinated… You get the idea. Just keep doing what you know is working and keep learning from mistakes (both yours and others’) and adjust going forward, and along the path of 20 or 40 or more years you’ll hopefully be rewarded with glimpses of the beautiful soul and strong character of your son.

    About sex and being a girl… Yeah, I get it. And I don’t know. Emphasize character, I think, and respect for the dignity of all people regardless of gender, race, physical/mental ability, etc. Check back with me in 20 years, and I may or may not have the same answer 🙂

    About unnecessary hardship and things hurting your son’s faith… Loosing my first baby to a missed miscarriage, when I had done every stinking thing by the book (I even gave up lunchmeat), taught me how little control I really have. As a recovering control freak who was raised in mildly legalistic churches, that was a really hard lesson. The truth is, while you certainly have a lot of influence, your son’s faith is ultimately between him and God. I have dear Christian friends from very broken, abusive, drug-filled homes who found Jesus in spite of their upbringing. And I know faithful Christians who’s adult children simply aren’t. And it’s really scary to let go of that control, and it will be heartbreaking if it all “goes wrong,” but that isn’t your burden to bear. Easier said than done, I know.

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  57. Max: Indoctrination vs. education. One expands your mind, the other constricts it.

    Yes! The encouragement of questions and critical thinking. I love John 1:1. In the beginning was the logos, the word, but also the teaching, the reasoning and logic.

    Whenever someone tells you to not ask questions, you kinda have to ask why.

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  58. Friend,

    I’ll echo Friend’s sentiments about love. I have never doubted that my parents love me, even when I’ve wondered if they were maybe disappointed at a particular something. I did walk away from the church for a while (because of bad experiences with other Christians), then came back (because of good experiences with other Christians). Then had more bad experiences with other Christians, so who knows where this will end up in the long run. But I think loving Jesus and loving people is, at the end of the day, the more important part.

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  59. elastigirl,

    You forgot that godly babies sleep through the night at 8 weeks old with never a regression in sight, and godly toddlers are potty trained completely in 3 days.

    Yes, that whole comparison game is of the devil, especially when combined with the ever-present and never-subtle guilt trip.

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  60. Wild Honey,

    “And I know faithful Christians who’s adult children simply aren’t. And it’s really scary to let go of that control, and it will be heartbreaking if it all “goes wrong,” but that isn’t your burden to bear. Easier said than done, I know.”
    ++++++++++++++

    well,…. regardless of the status of their faith, if your child (whatever age) is a responsible human being, a good citizen, honest and kind, don’t miss it. you will have every reason to celebrate and be proud as punch.

    my son wants nothing to do with church (which has nothing to do with how he views God, which he is very private about — it’s between him and God). there are some who pity him and pity me, are so disappointed in him and sad for us.

    i set them straight. “How dare you! Shame on you!”, I sort of said (can’t remember the words, exactly, but that was what got through).

    “I’m dam proud of my kind-hearted, hard-working, honest son and you should be, too! Quit counting the angels on the pinhead and acknowledge the excellent human being that’s right in front of you! Whose heart is breaking because he feels your disappointment in him.”, i sort of said (i’m sure i didn’t say dam [sic] for their sakes, although it was the right word).

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  61. Wild Honey: Whenever someone tells you to not ask questions, you kinda have to ask why.

    Anything you are taught in church should be tested by your own personal study in the Word, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you. It’s OK to ask the Lord “Why?, What?, How?” … but if you ask an authoritarian pastor that, he will rip you a new one.

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  62. Wild Honey: Whenever someone tells you to not ask questions, you kinda have to ask why.

    As a young whippersnapper, I once challenged a “pastor” in a Bible study about his teaching on a certain subject. He responded angrily “You dare to question me; I’ve been to seminary!” My search for truth, just not his version of it, must have really bothered him since I became the subject of his next Sunday morning sermon (though not named) … it was my last Sunday there.

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  63. Max: He responded angrily “You dare to question me; I’ve been to seminary!” … I became the subject of his next Sunday morning sermon

    You did right to leave.

    By contrast, I recently told a preacher that I disagreed with him about a point he mentioned in passing (why a particular person left the faith, and the possible role of abuse in the decision). He said, “Thank you! Sounds like you know more than I do about that. I’d love to hear more.”

    So I emailed him. He wrote back within hours, appreciating the new information and detailing his own views about prevention of abuse in churches.

    That particular preacher is an illustrious seminary professor. Yet he listened to me, a mere woman in blue jeans, speaking without her husband’s permission.

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  64. Friend: You did right to leave.

    That was when I was in my 30s. By the time I reached my 50s, I could spot charlatans a mile away. By the time I reached my 70s, pulpit deceivers shook in my presence. Gray hair doesn’t always equal wisdom, but it helps. During my Christian journey, I finally reached the point where I am “handicapped on all sides, but not frustrated; puzzled, but not in despair, persecuted, but not standing alone: knocked down but not knocked out!” (2 Cor 4:8-9). But, along the way, I have been pulled through so many church knotholes than I can count.

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  65. NJ,

    “Is it better to be a sinner avoiding other sinners? If not, what does one do about discernment fatigue in the face of never-ending, competing interpretations of the Bible as well as wolves in the Church? Maybe the “Jesus and me” folks were on to something.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    discernment fatigue… a few thoughts

    perhaps let gut instinct do more of the work? i think it’s generally reliable. A God-given resource.

    is it sermon-fatigue (whether spoken or written)?

    i think sermon after sermon after sermon is simply a bad model. it’s tiring being on the receiving end. it is not time well-spent.

    and the world needs yet another christian guru and his/her books and articles as much as it needs a box of florist vases.

    i think there are plenty of silly and totally unnecessary things to eliminate in christianland that run the discernment mechanism hard and heavy, like all the junk that accumulates on our computers and slows them down.

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  66. elastigirl:
    Wild Honey,

    “And I know faithful Christians who’s adult children simply aren’t. And it’s really scary to let go of that control, and it will be heartbreaking if it all “goes wrong,” but that isn’t your burden to bear. Easier said than done, I know.”
    ++++++++++++++

    well,…. regardless of the status of their faith, if your child (whatever age) is a responsible human being, a good citizen, honest and kind, don’t miss it.you will have every reason to celebrate and be proud as punch.

    Completely agree.

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  67. Friend: the gimlet eye from the pew

    I have not only given some pulpiteers piercing stares from the pew, but in their face rebukes. There is nothing in Scripture which says preachers are exempt from reproof and correction by the Body of Christ (“touch not my anointed” is overworked). See something, say something! I’ve even had a couple of preachers thank me for pointing out their aberrant teaching and unrighteous living … but it was years later after they got over themselves.

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  68. Shadowfax: My journey since leaving TVC has led me to The study of Eastern Orthodox as well.

    One of my favorite quotes was from Einstein: “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

    In theory, EO views church as a hospital, with the Eucharist being the “medicine of immortality.” But in practice, one cannot receive the medicine without first jumping through a lot of hoops. In my case, I asked the priest (a protestant convert) if one can ease into prerequisites such as fasting. His answer was always something along the lines of “what don’t you understand about the importance and ease of fasting?” But I have found other EO teachings that make it much easier to ease into it. It seems to depend on the local priest. I heard of a joke among EOs that say we should all be ok at the final judgement as long as God is not a convert to Orthodoxy.

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  69. NJIt’s enough to make a person wonder if there even is one true(st) form of Christianity anywhere, or if we’re just all on our own to figure things out….
    Isolation from other believers has historically been seen as a bad thing, yet it also has the effect of walling the individual off from so much garbage out there.Is it better to be a sinner avoiding other sinners?If not, what does one do about discernment fatigue…

    Just verbal processing…

    I wonder if it’s a both/and, and not an either/or. Healthy, loving community can help us feel not so alone in trying to figure things out. But community can take a lot of different forms, not necessarily today’s evangelical church. I have a group of former co-workers, all 25+ years older than me, who I’ve found to be valuable sounding boards when trying to process things. A couple of them are evangelical Christians, others are Catholic or dones/nones. Sometimes an outsider’s perspective and questions can help me get a better perspective on my own questions.

    But I don’t think isolation is always a bad thing. Calling it a “sabbatical” can make it more palatable. Taking a break doesn’t mean giving up, it just means you’re taking a break for your own mental and physical health and recharging. Jesus would withdraw from the crowds periodically. I think it’s unreasonable to expect that we would never need to.

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  70. Mr. Jesperson: Talk about a lying, cheating, narcissistic, white-washed septic tank! The outlaw Larry Norman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5Vc5G1gXTA

    I watched the clip. Wikipedia says Larry Norman experienced a brain injury in a plane accident in 1978. Was he a bad guy before that, or did his behavior deteriorate afterward? He does seem to have had a big ego early in his career, and made money by selling a terrifying and not indisputably Biblical belief (1969 song, 1972 movie).

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  71. Ken F (aka Tweed): I am convinced that he cares much more about how we treat others than he is with doctrinal precision (I now hate thet term: doctrinal precision).

    I agree. For so many years I was so caught up in doctrine. I loved to read, study and debate it. Then my world blew up, and now I am happily confused and unsure of what I believe. I am free to think, ponder, engage with the most radical ideas, and am content that I do not have to have all the answers. The biggest problem was when I was persuaded that one church/pastor did.

    I no longer concern myself with doctrinal precision. I could not care less whether the orthodox doctrine of the trinity is accurate or not. I am pretty sure there will be no entrance exam at heaven’s gate, and if there was, it would not be over man-made concepts.

    I plan to remain marvelously free to believe that God is good, loving, faithful and just, and any doctrine that says otherwise is just plain wrong. If someone wants to burn me at the stake for that, so be it.

    One of the other wonderful things about knowing that you don’t know everything is that you can be much more gracious to the rest of mankind who are in the same boat. We are all just doin’ the best we can with what our little minds can grasp, and if we can love and assist one another along the way, I think our heavenly Father will be pleased.

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  72. elastigirl: “If we follow Jesus’s command to love God and others, I am pretty sure it will work out well for us in the end, even if our theology is an imprecise and ambiguous disaster.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    that’s pretty much my thesis statement.

    Count me in.

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  73. Brian: campy

    Small children watching it would not know that, though. I guess the more terrifying Rapture movie of the era was If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? In more recent years, the custom has been to surprise families with screenings of The Passion of the Christ. So brutal.

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  74. Max: My search for truth, just not his version of it, must have really bothered him since I became the subject of his next Sunday morning sermon (though not named) … it was my last Sunday there.

    Yup, been there! Only in my case it was after I left; the CEO / head speaker made a very pointed anonymous reference to me that contained a string of accusations, none of which were true.

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  75. Friend,

    I think You are being a bit unkind Mr Jesperson. Larry Norman was challenging the church long before the Jesus People wandered into town and, as you’ll know, his albums were banned by Christian organisations because they were too worldly and the Devil’s music”.
    I came across this email he sent to Ed Stetzer in 2004 which explains who he was and what he did and why.
    I probably won’t call you because it’s 11:30 at night and you only need written permission, not a quote.

    I’ve been very touchy about my lyrics in the past, and I’ve usually refused to give my permission. Especially when people want to use me as an example of rebellion. I never thought of myself as a rebel. I was operating as a satirical surgeon; trying to remove an ugly cancer from the church: The dogma which proclaimed that dance, modern music and the theater cannot be used by God because it is wholly profane.

    Because I believed that God created all things in life, including the arts, then that meant that all things BELONGED to God. Christians had an obligation to reclaim the arts for the church. They are not the possession, nor the invention, of the secular realm.

    But in aiming to set the arts free from a scriptural doctrine, I’ve been very disappointed to see the direction which this liberty has taken people. I don’t see a balance in the exposition of most of the CCM artists’ music, unless it is a bank balance.

    And while there is nothing wrong with the artforms themselves, I can only agree in silence many times when Christians accuse the CCM industry of being ungodly in its presentation. It makes me sick to see the tattoos and facial piercings and hair colors. It reminds me of what Babylonian worshippers may have looked like. In our times, some tribes in Africa still stick bones and plates in their nose and lips and New Guinea wildlings remind me of the Cornerstone Festival on a hot day. This is not what Christ died on the cross for.

    This is not an older but wiser man rising up in me. I felt this precision was required when I first launched my assault against both the proscriptive church and the sybaritic pop culture. There has to be a balance in living a spiritual life in the material world. And only God can show each person how to live. We must die daily unto self and live unto God.

    The praise and worship music industry has become just as hedonistic in its excesses. Instead of seeking God’s face, which would tell us to feed the poor and actively help our neighbor, we have petitioned His hands. Heal me. Touch my soul. Bless me. Benefit me. We forget to do His will, and instead ask Him to do ours.

    The popularity of the Prayer of Jabez is enthusiastically misinterpreted inside our greedy Western religious culture. And our praise and worship music are very often about us and I more than about Him. And we are continually making promising. I will worship thee, I will follow, I will lift up my hands.

    I will, I will, I will. It seems much more sincere and effective to simply do, than to promise that you will, and then not do. If it is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and if week after week the poor go hungry and die in other countries when Christian organizations like Compassion are already in place to feed, clothe and educate more young people but for want of wider Christian support … do we actually follow God by simply attending a church and vowing that we will continue in this hypnotic worship which never penetrates the veil and from which we cannot seem to waken?

    If you can accommodate the lyrics … accept the punctuation. And omit (that) or leave it in parenthesis … you certainly have my permission to use my lyrics.

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  76. Lowlandseer: I came across this email he sent to Ed Stetzer in 2004 which explains who he was and what he did and why.

    Thanks for finding that. I assume that everything after that sentence is Larry Norman’s email to Ed Stetzer. Seems to me that there is condemnation all around in the name of Christ: Christians condemn Larry Norman, and Larry Norman condemns everybody he has ever seen on TV or in National Geographic. (As a gratuitous aside, I note he scorns hair color while sporting a remarkably blond coif.)

    I disagree with this if Norman means it exclusively: “Christians had an obligation to reclaim the arts for the church. They are not the possession, nor the invention, of the secular realm.”

    I agree with this: “Instead of seeking God’s face, which would tell us to feed the poor and actively help our neighbor, we have petitioned His hands. Heal me. Touch my soul. Bless me. Benefit me. We forget to do His will, and instead ask Him to do ours.”

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  77. Lowlandseer:

    It makes me sick to see the tattoos and facial piercings and hair colors. It reminds me of what Babylonian worshippers may have looked like. In our times, some tribes in Africa still stick bones and plates in their nose and lips and New Guinea wildlings remind me of the Cornerstone Festival on a hot day. This is not what Christ died on the cross for.

    Uuuhm… I’m new here and I don’t want to be disrespectful or sir the pot already, but doesn’t this seem pretty off-base? I don’t like being part of controversy, but I will feel worse if I just let that stand, I think.

    Unless I’ve totally misinterpreted your meaning here, it sounds a bit hateful, and Jesus died for everyone. Even people with tattoos and weird hair and piercings in unapproved places. These people from Africa you’re talking about are not just their piercings. They have thoughts and cares and loved ones just like all other people. It’s not okay to compare people at a rock show to other people with cultural practices you don’t understand to make them sound like savages. Neither are savages, both are just as human as you and Jesus loves them just as much as anyone else.

    Unless what you meant by “This is not what Jesus died on the cross for,” you meant that Jesus did not die for these things because they are not actually sins. In which case I’d agree.

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  78. Mega Moose: Unless what you meant by “This is not what Jesus died on the cross for,” you meant that Jesus did not die for these things because they are not actually sins. In which case I’d agree.

    Great comment!
    And I agree, they are sins only in the minds of people who can’t handle human diversity in its many colored angles.

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  79. TS00: For so many years I was so caught up in doctrine. I loved to read, study and debate it. Then my world blew up, and now I am happily confused and unsure of what I believe.

    We seem to be treading similar ground. Do you find, as I do, that it is hard to find fellow travellers? I find them here and there, but none where I live in the deep South. I still investigate doctrine, not so much out of a desire to be right, but to see if there are other Christian traditions that make more sense than what I was taught. Along the way I have stumbled across some healing viewpoints.

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  80. linda: The glory root preaches a God who is the worst of narcissistic abusers. The second a God who will never give up pursuing His beloved creatures. The glory crowd revels in hell and punishment. The second sees Christ as suffering all to do all to be sure His people avoid that hell and punishment.

    Your comment is very good.

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  81. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “Do you find, as I do, that it is hard to find fellow travellers? I find them here and there, but none where I live in the deep South.”
    ++++++++++++++

    i suspect there are many who feel as you do. Perhaps with less developed thinking

    this is only my speculation and it could be totally offbase, but i imagine that churchgo-ers in the south/deep south feel less free to question things about christianity even to themselves. (than they would in other parts of the country)

    or maybe this is old news.

    i bet you could find them. advertising something somewhere, with a provocative but kindly-worded question. even if it’s a clandestine get-together at a back table at an Olive Garden restaurant.

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  82. Brian: The adults that start attending UPCI services, never having grown up in the denomination, do they recognize the abusive undertow at some point?

    I joined in my 20s. I would say the majority of people don’t notice it at first. You then are slowly indoctrinated and led to believe the pastor is over you, knows better than you, you don’t question or come against him, etc. Then if you do notice something, you learn to rationalize it away- God will take care of that; if the pastor is wrong, God will speak to him, etc. The fear of leaving and being lost/backslid is a great motivator. We had “the truth,” the “whole Gospel.” Where will I go if I leave? All mainstream churches are out of the question. It has to be a Oneness Pentecostal church. In many areas, those are few and far between.

    For me, it finally took working at the church daycare for the second time and having crap happen once again that slowly helped me to see some and leave. It’s one thing watching stuff happen with others who ended up leaving (and then only hearing the pastor’s side and blindly believing it), but it’s different when it hits you and your KNOW what actually happened.

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  83. Brian: Do you know of any male molestation/abuse survivors from within the UPCI?

    For myself, I haven’t heard of many cases of child sexual abuse involving boys in the UPCI. I do know it has happened and I think it is harder sometimes for males to come forward and regarding their abuse. I know of a case in Denver, Colorado (another UPCI church) where one minister assaulted several boys. There was also a man who wrote about his too close encounter with another UPC minister who he later found had been convicted and must register as a sex offender. He blogged about it some time back and later removed the three posts, but they are archived here: https://web.archive.org/web/20180529073339/http://itsgonnacatchupwithyou.blogspot.com/

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  84. Brian: The movie “The Thief in the Night” has the same campy feel as the first Billy Jack movie “The Born Losers”.

    LOL- Are you a Billy Jack fan? 😉 It was a fairly big deal when I was in high school- that and The Trial of Billy Jack. Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend, do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpet blowing come the judgment day….

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  85. Friend: Wikipedia says Larry Norman experienced a brain injury in a plane accident in 1978. Was he a bad guy before that, or did his behavior deteriorate afterward?

    I watched the whole movie in a time past. It includes fellow former label mates such as Randy Stonehill and the Daniel Amos band members. According to Randy, who was in high school when he first met Larry, who is the one most responsible for his music career, Larry was “the greatest liar he had ever met” from day one which was long before then. Stonehill was born in ’52, so that means he had to meet Larry in the 60’s. If you look at Randy’s wiki you will see that his first wife later married Larry. Guess how that happened? The documentary talks with the guys who found Larry answering Randy’s door early one morning half dressed with Sarah in the background not fully dressed. Randy was out on the road on tour at that time. That caused the breakup of Larry’s record label and a quick divorce from Randy so Sarah could marry Larry. Larry was every bit as much of a snake as anyone that Dee has written about here…

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  86. Lois: I joined in my 20s. I would say the majority of people don’t notice it at first. You then are slowly indoctrinated and led to believe the pastor is over you, knows better than you, you don’t question or come against him, etc. Then if you do notice something, you learn to rationalize it away… We had “the truth,” the “whole Gospel.” Where will I go if I leave?…

    It’s one thing watching stuff happen with others who ended up leaving (and then only hearing the pastor’s side and blindly believing it), but it’s different when it hits you and your KNOW what actually happened.

    Yes. If it was more obvious, it would be less easy to get caught up in.

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  87. Hmm…interesting afternoon. I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and came across a movie called “Left Behind.” Normally, I would roll my eyes and move along. But it wasn’t the Kirk Cameron one that came out 15 years ago. This one came out in 2014 and stars Nicolas Cage. So I decided to see what it was, in light of the discussion about rapture movies.

    For the record, I was raised on rapture theology – Late Great Planet Earth, etc. And yes, our AofG church had an ‘outreach Sunday night’ where they encouraged the kids to invite their friends (I did) to come watch “Thief In The Night.” Followed by pizza and fellowship at our house. Fun times…. *smh*

    So I watched this movie and wasn’t 5 minutes in and knew it was the same basic thing as all the others. I went ahead and watched the whole thing…and there were twinges of the old unease: “what if I’m not ready?” Sigh. Our pastor used to say, “What if Jesus comes and you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be (like a movie theater or bowling alley). The implication was you would be left behind because you were not pure enough, weren’t obeying the church rules….

    So…a couple of thoughts as I watched this movie and saw the way that they portrayed the Christians at the beginning:

    * They portrayed the Christians as zealots – I was hopeful for a few minutes that they were going to show these guys weren’t right… But no. That was the only way the Christians were portrayed (including the pastor who got left behind because he didn’t believe what he preached)…implication (I remember this thought from old) – if you’re not zealously zealous, you’re not ‘good enough.’

    * I’m embarrassed I bought this narrow interpretation, even as an adult, I used to be like that.

    * I was struck by the arrogance involved in the evangelical mindset that thinks their own narrow view of scripture interpretation is the only possible one and that God is so legalistic and punitively angry that He would cause death and mayhem – and that people enjoy watching and knowing they won’t be one of those suckers that has to go through the tribulation.

    Hmm…and I still struggle with a bit of unease that I’m ‘living dangerously’ by even questioning….

    And God is love.

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  88. Lowlandseer,

    I found a link to a playlist documenting the Outlaw Larry’s Norman’s issues going back to his famous band in the 60’s: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaSmYOhNPYIS9HwSI96S-x1Z2uMCpdEBQ
    If what is said by all these many different people is to be believed then nothing Larry ever has said publicly can be reliably believed. I will leave it up to you to decide. I think the evidence and testimony is very damning. Larry was every bit as evil as other so called leaders well documented here. He is just before this blogs time. Larry was certainly a narcissist with very machiavellian habits. Lying, cheating, manipulating, adultery and stealing are not Christian ways.

    I would also note that I was not critiquing the music style. I own a dozen Stonehill albums and just as many Daniel Amos/Swirling Eddies albums. I am currently listening to Neal Morse who is incredibly gifted and I love his honesty. As opposed to perhaps some other comments, it is not about externals as to the way that people look, but about what they actually do. Is someone acting like a disciple of Jesus or more like the Devil?

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  89. Jeannette Altes,

    …oh, and the closing credits song was a cover of Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” So they covered that base, too…

    +++++++

    I remember as a pre-teen / early teen being afraid of missing the rapture. With all the sexual abuse going on, how could I possibly not be ‘left behind.’

    One Saturday afternoon when I was about 11, I had fallen asleep on the couch. When I woke up, the house was empty and the car was in the drive. I panicked for a few minutes until I saw my mom and sister outside across the street…

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  90. Lois: Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend, do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpet blowing come the judgment day….

    Omigosh, another one from our youth group hit parade. Blecchhh. 😉

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  91. Jeannette Altes: * I was struck by the arrogance involved in the evangelical mindset that thinks their own narrow view of scripture interpretation is the only possible one and that God is so legalistic and punitively angry that He would cause death and mayhem – and that people enjoy watching and knowing they won’t be one of those suckers that has to go through the tribulation.

    There is a segment of Protestantism that believes god must eternally display his wrath in order to fully show his glory. Here is an en example by John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/doesnt-the-cross-display-gods-wrath-better-than-hell
    This means that god cannot be fully glorified without having eternal evil to punish. And it makes him dependent on evil.

    This kind of mindset reveals a belief a non-infinite god. If they really believed he is infinite they would immediately recognize that his glory cannot be diminished by anything, and that he has no need to punish people eternally just to get his jollies.

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  92. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Ken, I always find your comments right on. It is a pretty lonely journey, as even most of my family thinks I have become a hell-bound apostate. I have one lifetime best friend who is on the same journey, but from across the country; picked up a few correspondents online, but still hoping to find someone(s) in my own back yard.

    Yes, I now study the teachings and ideas that were once ‘forbidden’. But I don’t have to fit them in the ‘right or wrong’ box anymore. It’s okay to just ponder, and keep an open mind. I’m not from your neck of the woods; I hope we both find fellow travelers to make the journey a little less lonely.

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  93. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Good insight. We cannot, in any way, diminish His glory and He does not need evil to punish. When put that bluntly, it really shows the absurdity….

    There’s another aspect I’ve realized – and I don’t think most realize they’re doing it – and that is basic dualism that says God and Satan are equal opposites…and our choices tip the balance one way or the other. Yikes! There is no ‘equal’ with God, either alike or opposite.

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  94. Jeannette Altes,

    What really helped me in my escape out of fundagelical religion with its cruel and petulant god, was Emma lazarus’s poem — The New Colossus –:

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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  95. Friend: Nevertheless we teens all knew about the belief, and every single Thursday night we sang “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by heart, with descants.

    Did you sing it as a crowing triumph, or (as Larry Norman did) a tragic lament?

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  96. Jeannette Altes: For the record, I was raised on rapture theology – Late Great Planet Earth, etc.

    How much of the damage is still there, 40+ years later?

    And yes, our AofG church had an ‘outreach Sunday night’ where they encouraged the kids to invite their friends (I did) to come watch “Thief In The Night.” Followed by pizza and fellowship at our house. Fun times…. *smh*

    Yeah. I heard horror stories about youth group types who got freaked out (up to PTSD) because of forced viewings of Thief in the Night as warmup to the Altar Call.

    When I was in-country, Thief in the Night was THE Big Thing; I took one look at the hype and figured I didn’t need the Sanity loss. Around 20 years later I saw some clips of it on a PBS series dealing with the Christianese Subculture market. My reactions to the three clips (my exact words at the time):

    1) “That’s Thief in the Night? Looks more like Manos, Hands of Fate…”
    2) “Where’s Joel and the Bots?”
    3) “AAAAAAGH! WE HAVE MOVIE SIGN!!!!!”

    I kid you not. The clips looked like something you’d see on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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  97. Jeannette Altes: Our pastor used to say, “What if Jesus comes and you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be (like a movie theater or bowling alley). The implication was you would be left behind because you were not pure enough, weren’t obeying the church rules….

    That makes Jesus sound like the killer in a slasher movie, where the young couple having sex in the back seat are the first to die. (Tip for surviving a slasher flick: Stay Celibate. NO Sex.)

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  98. Jeannette Altes,

    “I remember as a pre-teen / early teen being afraid of missing the rapture.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    i was very concerned for my stuffed animals.

    My plan was to put all 32 of them in a big bag right by my bed, and to hold on to the bag with one hand as i slept. as soon as i felt the first sensation of being yanked upward, i was going to make sure my grip was real tight on my big bag of plush pals. that way they could all come with me!

    come to think of it, that was also my plan if every our house caught on fire. my treasures were ready to go with me.

    it’s weird, how i equated the 2. rapture and catastrophe. both very frightening prospects.

    32 stuffed animals as my treasures… i must have been extremely young. seems crazy now, to infuse a very young child’s mind with something as life-ending as the so-called rapture.

    yes, leaving planet earth and my physical body, my home, my bedroom, everything that meant something to me was a life-ender at age 4 or any age.

    ….what were the adults thinking…

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  99. elastigirl: ….what were the adults thinking…

    It’s hard to say….maybe the non-narcissist adults were afraid of their kids being left and, you know, when all else fails, scare them into making it.

    I didn’t expect that song to affect me as much as it has tonight. When I was still neck deep in the cult church, I had DC Talk’s album with the cover of “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” I hadn’t listened to it in probably 15 years. Yeah. Couldn’t get through the whole song. Has to turn it off. It caused a mix of anger and anxiety….

    Larry Norman, Chick Tracts, and Hal Linsay, oh my!!!
    Can I please click my heels and leave Oz now?

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  100. You know, thinking about how frightening this teaching was (is), and think about the levels of fear, it wouldn’t take much mental instability for this to push someone over the edge. People will do remarkable things from a fear of being rejected as not good enough. I know that, as a child, when I wasn’t worrying about my own status, the thought of ANY of my friends or family not ‘being ready’ caused me great distress. And that will make you say weird things to people. Sigh…

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  101. Headless Unicorn Guy: Did you sing it as a crowing triumph, or (as Larry Norman did) a tragic lament?

    Try (at your own risk) to imagine 150 teenage boys and girls sadly warbling 2-part harmony. One time the youth minister told us we weren’t allowed to sing one of our songs because it just dragged along. So we put more energy into it, though the material was not peppy.

    I’d say half of us believed in the Rapture and all of us were scared of it.

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  102. Headless Unicorn Guy: They actually used “One Tin Soldier” as a youth group hymn?

    Yes, with a beautiful blond girl strumming the guitar.

    A typical meeting started with lots of basketball and frantic running up and down the hallways to discharge energy. Then we sat on the floor in a big room, where we performed skits and sang motion songs, and moved toward the dirges. At “sharing time,” everybody talked about family arguments, drunk parents, bad grades, and “unsaved” relatives and friends. Lots of praying out loud (“Lord, help Annie’s friend stop making out with boys”). Then the youth minister would give a reading and sermon, usually about evil: cults, witchcraft, satanists, commies, etc.

    So today I’m wondering if all the basketball and running around was our strategy to prepare for the terrifying sermons.

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  103. Friend,

    You provide additional reasons why the American church needs to desperately rethink its youth ministry model. Don’t look for guidance in the New Testament, however. There you will find that older saints were instructed to mentor young folks, not unproven 20-somethings fresh out of seminary.

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  104. Lois,

    Late 1980’s Jr. High choir, we sang that song.

    Seeing the second through last Billy Jack movies as a kid, they didn’t make sense to me. Then, a couple years ago I saw the first one. The scenes of Billy in the loan officer’s office and Billy at the biker’s hangout were triggered when I was watching A Thief in the Night.

    I actually enjoyed the first Billy Jack movie.

    I can see where the ATinN movie was directed to children, where the preteen girl started screaming after she thought her family was raptured.

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  105. Max: older saints were instructed to mentor young folks, not unproven 20-somethings fresh out of seminary.

    It’s helping me to learn just how extreme and poorly run our youth group was. The youth ministers were still in seminary. Guess that’s better than no training at all. They were supposed to be young enough to relate to us, but were also paying their dues. Incompatible notions.

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  106. Jeannette Altes,

    My mother was bipolar. The rapture teachings had a Trumatic affect on her mental illness which in turn had a dramatic affect on my childhood. She was obsessed and always worried about the rapture and in time theology. It was a staple in our home and only turned up the volume on what the church and my school was constantly teaching us about.

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  107. I’m just now catching up on this. It’s all terrible. What a mess.

    I just wanted to mention this “In school they’d make us unbutton our shirts to check the color of our bra and if it wasn’t white or skin colored you got a detention” because it’s so bizarre? Is this a thing? I try to vaguely match things to my outfit. Confusing and weird controlling crazyness.

    On the rapture stuff, my mom still talks about it and it’s all I can do not to roll my eyes.

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  108. Jeffrey Chalmers: predicted specific dates when the NT clearly says you can NOT know the date…..

    This is why I never took any of it seriously. A lot of people claiming to know when it was happening, but ignoring that very specific bit from the bible. I guess it probably saved me trauma because I’ve been rolling my eyes at it since childhood.

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  109. TS00: I’m not from your neck of the woods; I hope we both find fellow travelers to make the journey a little less lonely.

    I think my problem here is I am not from this neck of the woods either. I was born and raised in the Pacific NW, have travelled extensively in the US and overseas, and my wife is from Europe. By now I am much more comfortable with bluntness, but am living in a culture where bluntness is considered rude. It must be a fallout of “The Late Unpleasantness.” Bless their hearts…

    It would great if you and I and a few others could find a way to chat about this stuff in a coffee shop or a bar somewhere. As a bonus, we might even be able to disturb some twittering “pastors.”

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  110. Debbie McNulty,

    The teaching could mess up people who didn’t have mental issues going in….

    My mom was a narcissist and one of her ‘areas of expertise’ was religion / the Bible. The rapture theology of Hal Linsay, et al, appealed to her dual sense of being, a) special in her own right, and b) wanting to see all the ‘stupid’ people suffer. Loads of fun…

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  111. Muff Potter:
    Jeannette Altes,

    I can only speak for myself, but when I learned to breathe free (like Lazarus’s poem) the feeling was like no other.
    And I knew then that I could never go back to the crushing slavery of fundagelical religion.

    Yeah….I still wrestle with it some….I had the realization a few years ago, while in therapy, that my deepest fear was: my mom would be proved correct and that in order to be right with God, I would have to do what my mom said.

    This was a huge realization and speaks volumes about my childhood. It is mostly gone….but still flairs up from time to time (like last night). But freedom leads me forward.

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  112. elastigirl: i imagine that churchgo-ers in the south/deep south feel less free to question things about christianity even to themselves

    I’m not sure that I would say that…I think it’s more of a cultural thing obviously. But there are definitely different people, thinking different things. Perhaps Ken’s approach is off. If he is coming off abrasive or condescending that would not work so well. I found when i lived up north I got some condescension leveled at me as a southerner and I did not like that or those types of people.

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  113. Jeannette Altes: The rapture theology of Hal Linsay, et al, appealed to her dual sense of being, a) special in her own right, and b) wanting to see all the ‘stupid’ people suffer.

    “The rapture theology of Hal Lindsay” =
    An Escape Fantasy followed by a Revenge Fantasy with Cosmic-level Vindication for The Right People (guess who?).

    Atlas Shrugged for Christians, flattering fanservice and all.

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  114. Jeannette Altes: You know, thinking about how frightening this teaching was (is), and think about the levels of fear, it wouldn’t take much mental instability for this to push someone over the edge.

    And if they’re over the edge to begin with?

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  115. Lea: Perhaps Ken’s approach is off. If he is coming off abrasive or condescending that would not work so well.

    I have a question and an observation:

    Have I been abrasive or condescending here on TWW. If yes, am I getting better or worse?

    In nearly 12 years living here, not one person has told me that I am abrasive or condescending. So if I am in fact abrasive or condescending, it proves my point about the southern culture being avoidant. I get along extremely well with people at work. It’s the church culture here that baffles me.

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  116. Brian: taking choir as a class, we sang the theme for the Billy Jack movies.

    Ha, that would not have happened at my school. Choir sang show tunes. Math class sang Tom Lehrer:

    Pollution, pollution,
    You can use the latest toothpaste,
    And then rinse your mouth with
    Industrial waste!

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  117. Ken F (aka Tweed): a coffee shop or a bar … twittering “pastors”

    Yep, that’s where you will locate the New Calvinist “pastors” in my area … you sure the heck won’t find the young reformers visiting sick folks in hospitals and nursing homes. They tweet their lives away through the week over a cup of joe or local brew, to emerge for a while on Sunday to preach a culturally-relevant sermonette following an entertaining praise and worship time … minus real preaching, praise and worship of course.

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  118. Lea,

    I’m sorry, Lea, for how i worded that. after i posted my thoughts, i wasn’t pleased with how they sounded. it was condescending.

    i’m contrasting things with where i live — where nobody wants to be associated with a christian church. it is a social liability.

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  119. Ken F (aka Tweed): In nearly 12 years living here, not one person has told me that I am abrasive or condescending. So if I am in fact abrasive or condescending, it proves my point about the southern culture being avoidant.

    Why are you trying to prove a ‘point’? Cultures are different, that’s not good or bad it just is.

    I spent years on the east coast and am rather fond of directness but I loathe condescending people. I cannot say how you come off in person, but if you are running around lamenting the people won’t have ‘deep thoughts’ with you that is my first impression honestly.

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  120. elastigirl: it was condescending.
    i’m contrasting things with where i live — where nobody wants to be associated with a christian church. it is a social liability.

    Thanks, I get that. It is different here…being a liberal can be a social liability 😉 That is of course, depending on where in state you live.

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  121. Debbie McNulty: My mother was bipolar. The rapture teachings had a Trumatic affect on her mental illness which in turn had a dramatic affect on my childhood. She was obsessed and always worried about the rapture and in time theology.

    I’M NOT SURPRISED.
    The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay (any minute now…) and its corollary Christians For Nuclear War (any minute now…) did a real number on my head when I was in-country in the Seventies. Had flashbacks like a Nam Vet with PTSD for over ten years.

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  122. Friend: Headless Unicorn Guy: They actually used “One Tin Soldier” as a youth group hymn?

    Yes, with a beautiful blond girl strumming the guitar.

    “One Tin Soldier” was almost THE type example of the Important Message Folk Song of the Sixties. In retrospect, very pretentious.

    “Billy Jack” itself was the second of a series of three or four movies, and the only one of the series to actually make a hit. Not a bad movie, decent storytelling, good hero, but very much a thing of its time. Maybe the fact it fit so well into its milieu of time and place was how it became a hit — good timing, right on the pulse of the counterculture of the day but with enough general-audience appeal. (Don’t discount the role of Dumb Luck in silver screen success.)

    I understand the movies in the series after “Billy Jack” (and made with the money from “Billy Jack”) were truly awful. Beyond Sequel-itis Awful. Like BJ’s success had gone completely to the maker’s head and ended up as his Great Pretentious IMPORTANT MESSAGE propaganda.

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  123. Max: to emerge for a while on Sunday to preach a culturally-relevant sermonette following an entertaining praise and worship time …

    In the words of the prophets Emerson, Lake, and Palmer:

    “WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS
    TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS!
    WE’RE SO GLAD YOU COULD ATTEND!
    COME INSIDE! COME INSIDE!

    “NEXT UPON THE HILL
    IN OUR HOUSE OF VAUDEVILLE!
    WE’VE A STRIPPER IN A TILL!
    WHAT A THRILL! WHAT A THRILL!

    “AND NOT CONTENT WITH THAT
    WITH OUR HANDS BEHIND OUR BACKS!
    WE PULL JESUS FROM A HAT!
    LOOK AT THAT! LOOK AT THAT!

    “COME INSIDE! THE SHOW’S ABOUT TO START!
    GUARANTEED TO BLOW YOUR HEAD APART!
    ROLL UP! ROLL UP! ROLL UP!
    SEE THE SHOW!!!!!!!!”
    — “Karn Evil Nine: 1st Impression, Part 2”, 1973

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  124. Lea: I cannot say how you come off in person, but if you are running around lamenting the people won’t have ‘deep thoughts’ with you that is my first impression honestly.

    What it sounds like you are telling me is whatever isolation I feel here is entirely my fault.

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  125. Ken F (aka Tweed): sounds like

    I’ve been accused of having an overactive harmony gland, and it pains me to see disputes here. The issue on TWW is not primarily about where we live. Tone is always hard to interpret online. We all have our own sacred beliefs, and it can take bravery to share them. Everybody (except occasional trolls and zealots) helps everybody else gain new insights. Today I hope for peace and an end to pain in the corner of the Kingdom we are building together.

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  126. Brian:
    Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Just an FYI:

    Because of his work with book of Revelations, Hal Lindsey was able to get onto Coast to Coast AM w/ Art Bell and share the gospel.

    That’s not much of an endorsement.

    The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay (which superseded all the others) gave me PTSD symptoms for years.

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  127. Lea: Thanks, I get that. It is different here…being a liberal can be a social liability That is of course, depending on where in state you live.

    I couldn’t care less where a person hails from.

    I’m interested in the common ground we may have.

    It’s much better that way (my opinion), because when people discover that they like many of the same things on a gut level, there’s far less time to fuss and fight over stuff that don’t mean jack-$#it.

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  128. for the record, i myself have less developed thinking on the topic at hand than Ken F.

    everyone’s on a journey of knowledge and understanding, all with areas they’ve advanced significantly, and other areas where they’ve advanced a little, and some areas not at all. it’s impossible to tackle it all, due to lack of time, influences in one’s life/environment, etc.

    that’s what makes the back & forth, the give & take, of good conversation so satisfying. it’s so great to learn and be exposed to things not yet considered.

    i’m sure i’m echoing the general thought, here.

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  129. elastigirl: that’s what makes the back & forth, the give & take, of good conversation so satisfying. it’s so great to learn and be exposed to things not yet considered.

    I remain amazed with all the great info I have found from all the various people on this site. It’s been a great place to get exposure to different viewpoints in a way that does not become toxic. I have been greatly blessed by this site.

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  130. Friend: it pains me to see disputes here.

    I don’t think this is aactually a dispute between Lea and me. The two of us have a pretty good track record of misunderstanding each other, and I think this is nothing more than another misunderstanding.

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  131. Lea: Do you have friends, and they just aren’t ones who want to talk about this or do you feel isolation in general?

    Surprisingly, I actually do have friends. But that is not really the point. What I miss here is finding people, friends or not, who are interested in discussions along the lines of topics that come up in various comment threads here. I have tried different approaches and by now have pretty much given up. At my old church, it was like false advertising – they said they wanted to talk about things like this until I brought up what they considered the wrong answers. Getting accused of being a heretic time and time again is not such a fun experience. I finally had to leave because I could not force myself to color inside the lines just to keep the peace. In my current church I mostly just make small talk, and otherwise pretty much sit on my hands. I occasionally make mention of some theological topics but get almost no interest, so I go back to sitting on my hands. I do have some friends who like to discuss this stuff, but they all live pretty far away from me.

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  132. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    My ‘northerner’ sister spent some years in the deep south, and, despite being the most kind, compassionate person you can imagine, never felt at home. Extreme frankness is a family characteristic, even if she is more gentle than I. 😉

    I would love to have a mind-enlarging support group – coffee shop, bar or anywhere! I’m too liberal for my former conservative fellows and too conservative for others. (Haven’t been persuaded that there are an unlimited number of genders, but frankly don’t care to know the details about others’ sex lives.) I refuse to be locked into a theological box anyway. No longer sold on the institutional church setup, so would prefer a C.S. Lewis type of pub club (not restricted to males). May be dreaming. Thankful for you and others here.

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  133. Friend: I’ve been accused of having an overactive harmony gland,

    You are, as usual, gentle and kind. You remind me of a dear sister, who sees the good in everyone, and desires nothing more than peace, harmony, love and justice to reign. She’s my role model. I’ve got a long way to go. 😉

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  134. TS00: I’m too liberal for my former conservative fellows and too conservative for others.

    Believe me you’re not alone.
    I rankle some conservatives to the point where they wanna’ go to war over it, and I also raise the hackles of progressives who’ll simply dismiss me as a relic from the past.

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  135. elastigirl,

    I remember reading in a Christian magazine the story of a girl who was taking a nap when her dormitory was evacuated for a fire drill. She woke up and wondered where everyone was. She actually believed her friends were raptured and she was left behind. She was relieved to find out the rapture didn’t come and even laughed about it later on. I laughed too because I thought this story had to be an urban legend. I didn’t go to church much as a kid so I wasn’t indoctrinated with these kinds of teachings. Now all these years later, it is scary to see how much this teaching really traumatized little kids.

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  136. elastigirl: it’s discouraging that one’s religion looks so silly and destructive from the outside.

    Yes it is.
    Much of Christianity is a fear based religion (Muff’s opinion).
    Jesus loves you, but only if you (generic you) believe a certain way.
    And if you don’t believe such and such a way, you’re gonna’ go to hell when ya’ die.

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  137. elastigirl,

    Well, I don’t think the rapture theory is necessarily silly and destructive in itself. As an adult, I studied the Bible verses and came to the conclusion the rapture may be biblical. I just think how people especially little kids are taught this by scare tactics and unnecessary obsession with it. I don’t live my life fearing it like the Boogeyman under the bed, but I would probably think differently if indoctrinated with these teachings as a scare tactic to keep living in fear from the time I was a child. I just find all the trauma associated with this teaching a tragedy.

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  138. the evidence for the hypothetical rapture is too scant, abstract, and the concept too extreme to be a serious tenet of christianity. christianity can’t help but look ridiculous. it belongs in the curious & ponderous category.

    (too tired to be anything but blunt at the moment — sorry for that, lily rose)

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  139. elastigirl: the evidence for the hypothetical rapture is too scant,

    IIRC one of the key “Rapture” passages is Jesus’ remark in Mt 24:36ff that likens the “coming of the Son of Man” to the Flood of Genesis 6.

    A point that I have rarely heard remarked is that the analogy in this text seems to be to being “taken away” in wrath at the time of the coming of the Son, in the way that most of the people were swept away (and died) in the Flood.

    IOW, “being left behind” in Mt 24:36ff is a **good** thing. To be “taken away” is likened to drowning in the Flood. After the passing of the Flood, Noah and his family were safely “left behind”.

    But for me the question is mostly academic, as my thinking tends toward Preterism.

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  140. Muff Potter: Believe me you’re not alone.
    I rankle some conservatives to the point where they wanna’ go to war over it, and I also raise the hackles of progressives who’ll simply dismiss me as a relic from the past.

    When you’re taking friendly fire from both sides, you’re probably on the right path.

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