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Archive for June, 2010

Taking The Log Out

Andrew Marin of the Marin foundation reminded me of something we all need to do….to ask forgiveness of those we may have hurt in the name of ministry. He and his group went to the Gay Pride parade to minister…not with tracts…not to “witness” to people…but with t-shirts that said “I’m sorry”…signs that said” I’m sorry for the way the church has treated you”. What better show of love than that? Its something we all need to do before we go one step further.

How many of us have belonged to churches that had practices that were unloving to some people?

How many of us have personally been unloving to people in the name of ministry?

How often have we been judgemental of people?

Have we told anyone they were going to hell?

Have we told anyone they had to change to be loved by God?

Have we told anyone that God hated them?

Did we minister in a way that demanded obedience to what we said?

Thirty odd years ago, I was involved with a deliverance ministry. We were harsh …we were cruel. We saw the worst in everyone rather than the best. We were elitists…we felt we had it all together and the “rest of them” didn’t. It was spiritual abuse at its worst…and I was one of the main perpetrators. Yes, I was a new Christian and didn’t know any better. Yes, I was acting out of obedience to my elder…and yes, in that process I was being abused by being put into ministry as a new believer and before I had grown and had my own issues healed. But I’m still accountable now that I know better. Forgive me if I hurt you…I thought I was doing what was right.

Those of you to whom I have sent this …if you know where any of the others are, please forward it to them. And please, look at your own lives…seek out those you may have hurt by doing what you were told or by doing what you thought was best at the time. Again…forgive me.

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I Cried

Chicago had its Gay Pride parade  yesterday. Along with the hoopla, the drag queens, people dancing on floats, there are THE CHRISTIANS. Oh yes, there are Christian groups in the parade…I’m not talking about them…I’m talking about the ones who arrive at the parade, thinking they are on a mission from God, with signs, bullhorns, and tracts…all, of course, telling the GLBT community they are going to hell. This makes me sick…really sick. God loves those people just as much as He loves anyone. Its been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in my life.

Today, I went on facebook and saw that Andrew Marin, the man who wrote “Love Is An Orientation” , had posted pictures from the parade. His group, The Marin Foundation, was a presence at the parade. They wore T-shirts that said “I’m sorry” and carried signs that asked forgiveness for the way the church has treated the gay community. He focused on our sin…not theirs. He opened a door for dialogue. The Christian church has sinned grievously against the GLBT community. Its time we all asked forgiveness from them and started loving them. They’re people just like us. When I saw Andrew’s signs I cried…it was about time.

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Freedom of Religion

After my last post, someone on facebook made a comment that got me thinking. What if the people from the local mosque took to the streets to pass out tracts promoting Islam? What if they took to the city streets with bullhorns? Suppose they turned up outside your church on Sunday? What if it were the Hare Krishnas or Wiccans or Scientology or Eckankar? Suppose these same people went into our poor neighborhoods to evangelize and to help them with a better life? Suppose people came from Africa or Iran or Puerto Rico or India to evangelize and to teach people their culture? You’d be outraged wouldn’t you? How dare these people come to OUR country/city/neighborhood with their crazy beliefs and customs! But wait!…Isn’t that what Christians do? They attempt to impose their beliefs on anyone who will listen. They violate the space of others in the name of religious freedom.

Are you willing to at least realize that anyone has the right to their beliefs and if you have the right to proselytize, they do also? That an athlete has the right to wear an appropriate verse from the Koran on his uniform if someone can wear a verse from the Bible? That if you have the right to a public prayer meeting that the others do also? Have we overdone this freedom thing to the point that the Westboro Baptist church can picket with signs that say God Hates America? Or is this OK because they call themselves Christians? I wonder what would happen if Muslims carried the same type of signs? What I’m hearing from people, is that religious freedom to them is that Christians have the right to do anything they want, including having hate rallys, and that everyone else needs to keep their mouths shut and keep a low profile.

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Sowing and Reaping

A friend sent me one of those forwarded e-mails. This wasn’t one of the if you don’t send it to ten people in ten minutes things…it was one of the political-religious alarm sort. It was all about the Muslims taking over the country…the danger of terrorist attack. The American Christian churches have sown the seeds for this to manifest. Why are we so surprised? Because we pray and preach and think self-righteously?

The Christian church’s goal is to convert everyone, therefore eliminating all other religions. Some Muslims wish to eliminate Christianity.

The Christian Church uses scare tactics to convert people. They show films about the horrors of hell. At Halloween they build horror chambers with demons to scare people. This is a form of terrorism.

Hate is being preached from pulpits across the country every Sunday…hatred towards gays, abortionists, political leaders, other religions.

There are pastors who are asking for the death of the president from the pulpit.

There are churches who picket and bomb abortion clinics.

There’s the Westboro Baptist Church with their gospel of hate.

As long as pastors are preaching against people or groups of people… as long as hatred is being fostered in churches… as long as fear is being used as an evangelistic tool…we will reap the harvest of terrorism and hatred.

Its time…its way past time…for the love of God and ONLY the love of God to be preached from the pulpits in this country. Hatred and fear have no place in the church. Lets clean up our own act before we criticize the Muslims.

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The Spiritual Path

Stepping out on ones own, away from church, away from leaders who tell you what is right and what is wrong, is a very scary thing. It’s also courageous. It’s in this place, this solitude, that we find out what we really do or don’t believe. Now I’m not talking about someone who decides they’ve had it with church and all that God stuff and just goes their merry way. I’m talking about the person who has a strong faith in God but who is sick and tired of having everything filtered through whats allowable in a particular church. I’m talking about a person who is seeking TRUTH…unfettered from anyone else’s opinion.

The first thing that happens, after you rant and rave for a few days(or weeks or months) about how dumb the church is and how much of it is bondage and how pastor so and so should go sell used cars or something, you settle down and try to figure it all out. Who/what is God?… Can we trust the Bible?… Who/what is/was Jesus ?… What does accepting Jesus really mean?…Did Jesus really live?…What about heaven?….Hell?…….What do I believe?…WHAT do I believe?…What DO I believe?…What do I BELIEVE?…WHAT DO I BELIEVE???? It is at this point that we leave religion behind and embark on the spiritual path. If we just go through an intellectual exercise, all we’re doing is exploring our theology…but…if we contemplate these issues…take them into deep thought and silence…we will encounter a Presence… Now, I know all the arguments the church gave us…be careful…you don’t know what that Presence is…you’re probably deceiving yourself…blah, blah, blah…if you go into the silence contemplating a spiritual truth or asking a question, the Presence you feel is most likely God. You have come this far…you know if something doesn’t feel right. When you encounter this Presence, you’ll probably know it…you just didn’t know what it was. You’re apt to say “is that you? you mean you were here all along and I didn’t know it was you?” The Presence will be with you more and more often and you will go through the rest of your questions and it doesn’t matter if you can put your thoughts into words because the Presence is there and somehow you know that all is well because all the answers lie in this Presence which is indefinable, imperturbable, and all encompassing… Your journey has begun.

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Personal Beliefs

When we belong to a church or a denomination, we are given a statement of faith…a statement of what we are to believe to be part of a particular group. If we have questions about these beliefs we are given answers which are backed up by scripture. During our tenure with a particular organization, all of the teachings, all of the books recommended to us, all of our bible studies, are with this statement of faith at the center. It seems reasonable…and because we are given proofs from scripture, we accept the statement of faith. We are told that other denominations are in error…that their belief in Jesus is ok, but their belief in…fill in the blank…is error. Thus, spiritual elitism is born. It all comes down to who is right and who is wrong…who is saved and who is not. There is no room for personal growth or personal belief…once you become a member of the XYZ church, you are bound by its standards and statement of faith.

In my lifetime, and I’m 71, I’ve heard that  the following things would send you to hell: eating meat on Friday, parents sending children to public school, reading a book or seeing a movie that wasn’t on an approved list, playing on Sunday(other than in the summer when my mother wanted to go to the beach), missing church, going to a church not in “our” denomination, wearing slacks, wearing makeup, wearing jewelry, piercing your ears,smoking, drinking, dancing, playing cards, playing the lottery, going to secular colleges, dating out of your denomination, marrying out of your denomination, getting divorced, listening to secular music…you get the picture…and all of those were treated as if they were the unpardonable sin. So now, you are bound by a canned set of beliefs and a canned set of behaviors or you are doomed.

Somewhere along the way, some of us decided to explore…to question. I remember having a bookcase in my bedroom with books that no visitor could see. These weren’t even non- Christian books!…they were books with different viewpoints…different theologies, but I still had to hide them so no-one would dare know I was questioning. And some of the sacred cows of the church became clearly false and some of the things that had been glossed over became important…vitally important. I discovered that we had mainly a religion ABOUT Jesus rather than the teachings OF Jesus and that the difference was huge. It was time to KNOW Jesus…to know what He taught or at least know what was attributed to Him. It was time to immerse myself in the red letters and to form my personal statement of faith. My personal statement of faith is still evolving…I am no longer able to rattle off a series of statements and say that I know that I know that I know that THIS is the truth and any deviation from it is a lie. My relationship with the Creator, Maintainer, Sustainer of the universe is beyond words and beyond a statement of faith. My relationship is no longer with a book but is validated by the book. The teachings of Jesus point the way to the Christ in me and allows me to ask that the Kingdom be manifest in my life and that God express Himself in me, through me and as me. We are the only hands and feet He has. We are to serve Him and only Him. Instead, we have served our churches and built the golden calves of church growth, Christian entertainment, and evangelistic scorekeeping. Instead, we need to follow something that Mother Theresa taught…”see Jesus in people and be Jesus to them”. It’s as simple as that!

” Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom 12:1

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Those of us who have left the Institutional Church, or IC as we call it, are inclined to express its shortcomings loudly and clearly, but we fail to mention the good things it did for us. Yes, we suffered abuse…yes we were expected to keep our own thoughts to ourselves and stick to the agenda we were given. We were told what to believe. We saw those in authority involved in scandalous behaviours…we found organizations that stood by the perpetrators. But in those same institutions, we found our callings…our thirst for studying scripture…our longing for righteousness and justice. Until we forgive those institutions and their representatives, we cannot be fully free outside them. We still live in the bondage of the abuse we suffered until we make peace and forgive.

In the organization I began in, I found my calling. My gifts were discovered and encouraged. I was allowed to grow, albeit too fast. I was never allowed to be a baby Christian once the gifts manifested. This is also the place I was abused. Without the messed up structure of the place I wouldn’t have known who/what I was…another place would have stifled me…so even though this particular ministry and its director was a source of intense pain, it was also the catalyst for intense healing…and for this, I am thankful. Each of us who has been hurt in an IC  has also been given the opportunity to heal from a major issue in our lives. It has been the IC that has given us what we need to survive outside of it. It’s a total paradox…we needed to leave when we did, but if we hadn’t been in it we wouldn’t have the scriptural knowledge, or the leadership skills to survive outside it and remain believers. Churchianity is a sham, by and large…it’s totaly disfunctional…but without it I wouldn’t be who I am. I’ve spent years of plowing through the pain… I’ve seen several more churches in various states of dysfunction…I’ve had my own organization come close to devouring me whole…but I give thanks for the opportunity to grow in spirit and in grace and to be able to find my way in my search for the Kingdom. If we can survive church and all it brings with it and come out the other side whole, once we put the pieces back together, we are well on our way to living in the Kingdom because it means that we have learned to forgive and to seek God and to follow the Christ within.

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