Quotable letter to the editor

September 10, 2010

I don’t tend to read our local paper, but the other night at the atheism lecture, someone from the audience mentioned a letter that had been printed by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that was sure to get seen and talked about. It’s about the new cathedral being built in town but doesn’t stop there.

While the faithful bask in the glory of the new Roman Catholic cathedral, they see hope, comfort and a deep and personal connection to God.

What I see is yet another monument to a 1,500-year-old criminal organization.

In 1962 the church issued Crimen sollicitationis.

In case your Latin is as bad as mine, that means the crime of soliciting.

Catholics should ask themselves how they feel knowing that a portion of their donations went to ensure the relocation and sanctuary of child rapists for the past 50 years, or to silence or compensate the victims (the ones who weren’t excommunicated)?

How do they accept the fact that the Pope lies to an entire continent, telling them that use of condoms increase the chances of getting AIDS? How do they feel when their infallible moral leader says that ordaining women is “grave” a sin as sex abuse?

I think it’s called “compartmentalizing” and everybody does it to some extent. At that philosophy lecture it got mentioned that munitions workers who are making stuff that will eventually blow up a lot of innocent people, including children, can still go home and make love to their wives and hug their kids. They manage to separate those parts of themselves so work never interferes with the home zone and vice-versa. I think Catholics are probably adept at doing the same thing. They won’t believe in zombies but they’ll accept the risen Christ, after all. They may protest against unfair treatment of women in other venues, but under god’s roof, god’s word is still law for those who believe strongly. They can ignore the paradox of that, I guess, where the rest of us wind up shaking our heads.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church acts like a band of misogynist, homophobic, sexually repressed adolescents. The fallacy that they provide any form of moral guidance is laughably absurd. This organization has proved repeatedly that it has no moral authority.

It could easily be argued that nobody should have been looking at institutionalized religions as moral compasses in the first place, but it’s been a habit to do so hundreds of years, allowing them to have so power over states and laws and humanity. It’s a hard habit to kick, too, even though it needs kicking. One good quote I copied off the presentation the other night was one from Voltaire: “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” Clearly the Catholic church has that power.

When will there be enough palaces? This thing will cost $28 million? Build a small non-faith school, build a homeless shelter, or expand the size of the food bank.

That’s a good point. Weblocal lists 200 churches for Saskatoon and it might even be missing some. There are all kinds of places of worship already available. Why do we need another when there are so many better ways that money could have been spent to improve social conditions in this city? Are there really so many Catholics in this city and area that they’ll even manage to fill every pew? And then what happens to all the other Catholic churches in town if most of their congregations migrate to this monstrosity?

Many of us are tired of having all this faith on display in our open, multicultural, multi-faith society.You can worship God from home.

Brent Pollard

People can worship their gods at home but I don’t begrudge them their desire for community connection while they do that instead. They may as well be in the churches than let them all sit empty and ripe for vandalism. I don’t care about the fact that there are churches. I don’t care if people want to spend their days and nights and weekends worshiping in churches. I only start to care when those same people try to make everyone do it or try to influence governments into catering to their whims like they are somehow more worthy of money or dominance or rights than any other group. That is why the push for a secular society is so important. It is more fair to everyone and a good compromise in a multicultural, multi-faith city like this one. Nobody should be above anyone else in terms of what ideologies are most worthy.

One good thing about Christianity

August 30, 2010

Just a note ahead of this – now that the sun is up later and later every day, I’m finding it harder and harder to drag my butt out of bed early enough to do a day’s worth of posts before work. I’ll have to get into the habit of writing for the next day after work instead, I think. Otherwise posts will be few and far between.

Anyway, onto this one. Alternet has an article up about hipsters and church attendance and whether hipping up a church is worth the effort to keep them interested. The weird thing is the question posed: will hipsters ruin Christianity?

Isn’t that a laugh and a half?

While McCracken does leave a small window of potential for a “positive, proactive” Christian version of hip, he ultimately views all that is “cool” as a threat to Christianity and misunderstands the movement’s desire for relevance as vain, self-absorbed, and insincere. A closer look at one community in the “hipster Mecca” of Williamsburg, Brooklyn reveals the complexity of the relationship between church and cool, individual and community, faith and rebellion, authenticity and imitation, truth and relevance.

One of the most impressive things about Christianity is its adaptability. It is very much whatever people want it to be – if enough people want the same thing, a church is built. If enough churches want the same thing, the schism becomes an official version of the faith. Catholic, Protestant, whatever flavour of Protestant within there, or whatever newfangled thing gets invented to rework the old ideas – it’s remarkable, really. This adaptability is what helps keep it from buckling under, too. For all the old, unchanging, traditional ways to view that religion, new groups keep popping up all the time to challenge that, to rewrite it for people today, to make it as relevant as possible for people today. That churches even want to attempt to lure the hipsters in by becoming as hip as they can – I think that’s a big deal. The willingness to change, to be what the people need, to anticipate what people are going to want — that’s power. That’s savvy ingenuity. That’s how butts hit seats.

Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye, runs one of these hipster church organizations, called Revolution.

Revolution’s motto is “Religion Kills,” and the church has offered a telling apology on stickers and in online advertisements: “As Christians, we are sorry for being self-righteous judgmental bastards. Revolution NYC: A church for people who have given up on church.” To Bakker, religion is dangerous because of its rules and regulations and lack of emphasis on personal belief. “It’s like going to work,” he told me several years ago. “We need to agree to disagree because right now there’s a war within the church and innocent bystanders are falling victim. Grace provides freedom from that.”

Bakker is something of a visionary, here. He’s looking at the bigger picture and he sees a need to open things up, I guess would be a way to put it.

“We take the secular avenue instead of the Christian one,” Bakker says, explaining that his method is to form real relationships, be normal, become part of the community, inspire people to make change happen. The days of fire and brimstone are a thing of the past to such groups because, as the director of a Manhattan-based artist ministry says, “that just wouldn’t fly in a post-Christian city like New York.”

More groups should be taking this road. These are the people who are going to change how people view Christians. The Jerry Falwels and Westboros of the religious world will never appeal to everyone and hopefully groups like this would be willing to stand with atheists and denounce those buggers as the shit-disturbers they really are. They do nothing good for anyone. All they do is divide us.

I don’t have a problem with Christianity, per se. I have a problem with what people do as Christians in terms of behaviour and ideology against groups of people they don’t approve of. Be Christian, but be Christian for yourself, not so you can lord it over those whose lives go another way, you know? That’s where I’m at these days, at least. Other days I’d like to see religions go the way of the dodo. Today I’m magnanimous.

Cash crisis for Crystal Cathedral

April 8, 2010

This just in: businesses expect to be paid. Promptly.

Robert Schuller’s church is being sued.

Three businesses, including an equipment financing company and two television stations, have filed lawsuits against the Crystal Cathedral stating that the megachurch owes them more than $2 million for services rendered.

The lawsuits were filed in February and March in Orange County Superior Court and are a continuation of the Garden Grove megachurch’s financial problems. Last week, several vendors who provided services for the cathedral’s “Glory of Christmas” pageant said the cathedral has yet to pay them.

Among the vendors are Kristina Oliver, who supplied camels, horses and sheep for the pageant; wardrobe manager Juliet Noriega; drycleaner Bruce Johnson, who cleaned the actors’ costumes; and Carin Galletta, whose public relations firm provided publicity for the pageant.

Yes, I’m sure camels don’t come cheap and I doubt buck-a-yard cotton/poly blend was considered for costume supplies. They’re also in the hole for a lot of electrical equipment and the loans they took out to cover those purchases. According to the article, they stopped payment a year ago and the attorney for PNCEF LLC, an Indiana-based equipment finance company, states that litigation is considered “a last resort” but the companies involved ultimately decided it was necessary.

Sheila Schuller Coleman, executive director of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, issued a statement last week that the church needs “an influx of new gifts to be able to honor” their current accounts payables with vendors. She also said that the cathedral would organize a meeting to talk face-to-face with vendors about getting them paid.

So, they’re begging for money and support from their fans. I’m thinking that if they’re this bad at managing money, they shouldn’t be allowed to ask for any more. Cut off some allowances. Ground some people. Make them return all the stuff they couldn’t actually afford to buy on their own.

The megachurch has put various properties up for sale, laid off employees and suspended its Easter pageant this year. The cathedral has scaled down its “Hour of Power” broadcasts viewed by millions worldwide.

Charles said there is still “a lot of interest” in the retreat center from prospective buyers. He said the Chapman Avenue office building, which houses the “Hour of Power” offices, is also up for sale, but so far, there have been no takers.

Cathedral administrators say they hope to bridge a $55 million budget deficit with the sale of the Rancho Capistrano and Chapman Avenue properties.

Well, good luck with that.

The OC Register also reports on a woman named Judy Hatch who has come up with an idea. She’s planning on starting a fundraiser to pay off the vendors and will ask for a dollar from anyone interested in actually helping those families make ends meet. She’ll bank what she gets in donations and put the money towards those unpaid bills.

At least that way people know where their money’s going. I mean really. Camels?

Would you attend church if you could rate it and get paid?

February 9, 2010

It started with a Craigslist ad and ended with a website designed solely to rank church experience. What makes it interesting is that it was set up by Jim Henderson, a former pastor, and marketed toward unbelievers.

“When people go to church they go out to lunch afterward and they dish about the sermon, the music, whether the pastor was boring that day,” Henderson said. “We’re just a vehicle to let people do in public what they already do in private.”

Barry Crane, lead pastor at North Sound Church, says he’s using the service because Christianity has a brand problem.

“It’s terrible to say, especially coming from me, but a lot of people these days don’t trust Christians. This isn’t to turn us into some supermarket of religious goods and services. It’s to open ourselves up, to see if we can regain some lost trust.”

So far only 40 churches in Washington have been rated on the Web site, not enough for it to reach a critical mass. Henderson says 30 more have expressed interest in his paid ratings services, which can range from $250 (for two visits by raters plus a written report) on up to $2,950 (for a weekend-long focus group between “outsiders” and church members, moderated by him).

I wrote about this last year, too. A fellow in Denver was doing something similar as a consultant. I don’t see anything wrong with this method. Maybe it’s not polite to complain but if nobody complains, then nothing changes and sometimes things really do need to change. It’s probably a hard thing to admit in a place still using a two thousand year old storybook like it was uttered by an invisible magic man in the sky just yesterday, but still.

Is a church’s worth determined by the number of butts in pews, or something else? If a congregation is being treated more like a cash cow than an audience, isn’t that going to affect their experience and expectations? If it barely interests the regulars, how is someone brand new at the service going to feel about it? If the regulars are insular, how will they treat an outsider? I think it’s a good thing that churches are willing to risk a bad review to find this stuff out.

What matters more at Crystal Cathedral, layoffs or Easter?

February 1, 2010

The once-prosperous megachurch has had to cut fifty jobs and wants to sell the property they worked on, the Rancho Capistrano retreat. From the L.A. Times:

Charles said the church’s revenue sank 27% from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009. Anticipating a drop in 2010 revenue, he added, “If it maintains, that would be fine, but we don’t have a crystal ball, so we are cutting.”

Sorry, I can’t help but ask where their god is now. I just love the crystal ball reference, like they’d be willing to resort to magic and new age frippery to ascertain their chances of survival. Funny that he didn’t say they’d be praying for help instead. More proof that a church is just another business, I guess.

The church, founded by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller more than 50 years ago, lost members in the wake of a family feud after he retired. His son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, succeeded his father, but stepped down in 2008 after disagreements. His sister, [Sheila Schuller Coleman] is now the church’s leader.

Charles said the church surveyed its members last fall to see if the dispute had caused a drop in contributions. “We found out it had no effect. It is the economy. We have a lot of older, retired people,” he said.

Retired people who are perhaps more worried about their own future survivability to care about funding a glass castle of materialism? Money woes means cuts to the entertainment budget, too. The Glory of Easter pageant has been canceled for this year and the new leader appears to be heartbroken:

Coleman said she had tears in her eyes when she heard the board’s decision to temporarily suspend “The Glory of Easter,” the pageant that depicts the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ with flying angels, special effects and a live animal parade.

I wonder how much tickets were costing to attend that and I wonder how much money was required to make it fly in the first place.

Charles said suspending “The Glory of Easter” has been an “emotional issue” for staff and hundreds of volunteers who help put the show together.

“But it is a very costly production and advance sales were down,” he said. “It was a business decision that was extremely tough to make.”

Also according the O.C. Register, they’re having trouble unloading the property – the retreat office building and all the land it sits on.

The sale of the office building fell through, and selling the 150 acres in Rancho Capistrano is contingent on what happens to the retreat, he said.

“The city of San Juan Capistrano has imposed a lot of limitations on us regarding what we can do with that land,” Charles said. “That and the real estate market have posed a serious challenge in terms of selling the property. But we want to sell it. We’re not going to give it away.”

Philanthropist John Crean gave it to them in the first place, and more.

Dr. Robert H. Schuller officiated [his funeral] along with the Rev. Robert Richards, Crean’s Lutheran pastor for many years.

“The church you’re sitting in, the Crystal Cathedral, would not be here without John Crean,” Schuller said, recalling a $1 million donation that helped get the world-famous house of worship built.

I guess that’s the trouble with relying on generous people to get ahead. Maybe they got greedy. Maybe they got too big. Maybe they made some bad money decisions, bad management decisions. Why did that house of worship have to be world famous anyway? Anyone can pray to god in a field, so why fund the building of something like this in the first place?

I hope the people who are now out of work find replacement employment soon. It’s probably a terrible time to be looking for work. I hope for the best.

Church offers tattoos to willing parishioners.

November 30, 2009

Or “Faith Sleeves” or whatever. Still, it’s an interesting way to bring the word to people. I wonder if they charge for the tattoos or removal services or do it all gratis. The article isn’t clear on that.

Gold Creek Community Church is attempting to be hip, fresh and current with today’s body art culture.

The Mill Creek, Wash., church is not exactly staid — booming 20-minute rock sets launch regular sermons — yet the pastors acknowledge this series was pushing societal norms.

‘We’ve said from the start that we are not advocating tattoos — nor discouraging them,’ said pastor Larry Ehoff.

‘We think of it as amoral. It’s neither immoral nor moral, it’s just the choice of a person.’

Too bad these guys and the rest of the religious world couldn’t pull back and let more choices be up to the person, not up to what a church claims is moral or immoral. Sure, people are going to make some of poor choices. Such is life. If churches were run less like strict, domineering parental units and more like compassionate friends offering shoulders to cry on, maybe fewer people would rebel from that lifestyle. I think there should be more acceptance of the differences, and less judgement when people want to live another way. Everyone would be better off, I suspect.

And they had the gall to pray again? Blasphemy!

October 6, 2009

Coral Ridge is news again this week because, lo and behold, the new flock of the recently established Church Nameless did not return to the fold like prodigals. No collecting of little lost lambs happened. Yes. These hundreds of people chose to pray their own way AGAIN! this weekend instead of turning back in shame and asking forgiveness for ever doubting Coral Ridge’s version of the Word.

Even worse than that? They did it all in the middle of a park! They prayed like Adam and Eve for crying out loud! In the middle of Nature! Damn them! Damn them all to hell!!

Normally I wouldn’t visit a story again so soon, but as soon as I saw how the Miami Herald went so far as to call them defectors in the headline and “dissidents” in the piece itself, the idea just kind of came to life. I mean really, Herald. Bias much?

I don’t follow politics all that closely, but isn’t defection a term usually reserved for those kinds of ideological rebellions? Like how Italy flipped the bird at the Germans back in WWII? Or, like those five dancers from the Warsaw Ballet Company who got to Canada and refused to go home. It wasn’t because Canada’s so awesome. It is awesome, but I’m sure their desire to stay here had far more to do with how shitty life was back home and not even prayers from the Pope himself would change their minds. (Not that he was in Warsaw in 1987 for that reason, obviously. He was there to remind everyone once again how evil atheism is because a tasteless cracker’s existence is proof that Jesus also existed.)

I find it kind of amusing how bizarre this winds up looking, but I suppose people who think of church as home, and think of congregation as family, it’s probably heart wrenching in some way to find themselves suddenly separated from their loved ones and will never see them again. That wall’s just so high, you know…they’re lost forever behind it…

Which reminds me – The twenty year anniversary for the fall of the Berlin Wall is November 9th. A Festival of Freedom is planned for the celebration.

These Coral Ridge people have no idea how silly they are, getting worked up over a church division. Do they not realize just how free and lucky they are?

Leave a church to start another one? Nononono..

October 3, 2009

That’s not the way to get help, people! Nonononono…

Ah well, they can if they want to. Seems folks at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church have been having a holy feud over who’s going to lead them, and neither one of the choices is the warrior Jesus.

The action by the unhappy members at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church was the culmination of a feud between loyalists to an evangelical luminary, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, and his replacement as pastor, the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham.

The new congregation met for its first service last Sunday, and organizers said more than 450 people attended. The people who formed the new congregation had lost a Sept. 20 vote to fire Tchividjian. Organizers of the still unnamed church said nearly all of their attendees had been among Coral Ridge’s roughly 2,000 members.

Coral Ridge said it’s not worried about maintaining its membership after the departures. About 200 people enrolled in a class for new members after Tchividjian took over in March.

Still, the move is a dramatic split. Kennedy’s daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, joined many longtime Coral Ridge members, including church elders, the organist, choir director and hundreds of choir members, in deserting the congregation they helped build.

So what’s the deal with Tchividjian, besides a nearly unpronounceable last name?

Under the leadership of Kennedy, who died in 2007, the church was a forerunner to modern evangelical megachurches, a fiercely conservative voice on social issues including homosexuality and abortion, and a powerful political voice.

Tchividjian, 37, took over earlier this year. While he has shown no sign of theological differences with Kennedy, he has rejected politics as the most important force for change, and his sermons have not focused on divisive issues. Meantime, he cuts a far different image, forgoing the type of choir robe Kennedy wore during services, and sporting spiky hair, tan skin, and sometimes a scruffy beard.

Oh, he’s “different.” You know, Jesus was different…

Bill Aschraft is an elder at Coral Ridge and he’s just glad it’s another church they’re starting. Yes, they haven’t become baby-eating atheists. You can heave a sigh of righteous relief over that, certainly.

Ah well, whatever. Churches seem to pop up all over the place like mushrooms, don’t they…

Quotable exchristian

September 28, 2009

It’s by no means a recent post at exchristian.net but still, when it comes to a discussion about religious institutions and money, the topic is eternally interesting. Tyrone Williams starts by quoting a Ray Stevens song I’d never heard before, Would Jesus Wear a Rolex™ (On his Television Show)?

Instead of “What would Jesus do?” let’s ask them, “Would Jesus Wear A Rolex™?”

Considering all the injunctions in the bible to be POOR — how the love of money is the root of all evil, and how difficult it is for a RICH man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and blessed are the poor (in spirit?) for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven –- one must question the sincerity of today’s filthy rich church.

“Jesus” was so poor that he had no place to lay his head. He lived off the land and the charity of his followers. He owned no lands, no home, and no donkey. Yet today’s Christian in contrast owns MUCH. Diamond mines, TV and Radio stations, huge tracts of land, airplanes and Mega Church facilities are but the tip of the wealthy iceberg of the church. The wealth of the Roman Catholic Church exceeds that of many countries.

And, Williams reminds readers, it’s all tax free. I like this line, too – “If this “carnal” world belongs to the devil and his children, then why are Christians so hungry for the devil’s playthings?”

Oh, Flying Spaghetti Monster! Save us all from hypocrisy, Ramen.

Laughter is contageous, but is it evil?

September 26, 2009

I was thumbing through a book at work yesterday (edit Tuesday 29th Sept – Connected: the surprising power of a social networks and how they shape our lives by Nicholas A. Christakis) and came across a fascinating bit of what the hell. Fortunately, I don’t need the book in hand to write about it, thanks to the internet.

It was Tanganyika in 1962, but we know it now as Tanzania. An epidemic of bizarre school-closing proportions broke out in January of that year, after three students shared a joke and then found they could not stop laughing. Their infectious hysteria (laughter, agitation, crying) spread through the school within weeks and by March ninety-five of the 159 students were affected. They closed the school for a couple months but the same thing happened again when they reopened in May, affecting 57 kids.

The girls sent home from the Kashasha school appeared responsible for the spread of the epidemic. Within 10 days of the school closing, laughter attacks were reported at Nshamba, the home village for several of the Kashasha girls. 217 of the 10,000 Nshamba villagers, mostly school age boys and girls, were afflicted.

A further outbreak occurred at Ramasheyne girls middle school on the outskirts of Bukoba, close to the homes of other Kashasha pupils. This school closed in mid June after 48 of the 154 students suffered laughter attacks.

This crazy business went on until June of 1964 in schools and villages all over the Lake Victoria area. In the end, they resorted to quarantine measures to keep the crazy from spreading any further. It petered out eventually, and as far as I can discover it hasn’t happened there or anywhere else since.

Scientists searched for toxic gas or a virus in the blood of the afflicted that might have caused the laughter epidemic but found nothing that could offer an explanation.

The laughter spread along the lines of family, tribal and peer association with the closer the relationship between victim and witness, the more likely it was the witness would become infected.

The conclusion drawn was that it was of psychogenic, hysterical origin.

Wild, eh? My cousin and I could have been terminal cases when we were kids. Any time we had a sleepover, we’d just get a flash of a glimmer off our eyeballs in a darkened room and have to bury our faces in the pillows to stifle the giggles. It was so insane, and yet so hilarious. Tanzania, 1962? Not so funny.

Strange as that is, I came across something even weirder than that. A commenter at Scribal Terror (who had quoted from Discovery News) mentioned the Toronto Blessing that occurred at Toronto’s airport church, in January of 1994. It’s also called the Toronto Phenomena. Wikipedia seems to have the only article not written from a theological perspective (God/Devil did it!), so I’ll quote that first.

The blessing has become known for ecstatic worship, including what is known as falling or resting in the Spirit, laughter, shaking, and crying. “Holy laughter” was a hallmark manifestation and there were also instances of participants roaring like lions and making other animal noises. Leaders and participants claim that these are physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. One TACF teaching, the golden sword prophecy, has been spreading among charismatic churches.

TACF is shorthand for Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, the church where all this happened. The “golden sword prophecy” occurred on the third anniversary of these events, when one of the pastors, Carol Arnott, flung herself to the floor of the warehouse and gyrated wildly for 20 minutes like she was having an invisible sword fight. She also did a lot of yelling about who’s sword it was (God’s I’m guessing) and later “annointed” anyone who wanted the same saving she appeared to have had. Pastors at other churches that might still wish to perform “The Sword of the Lord” or “the Warrior Anointing” can also hold their hands above their heads like they clutch swords and bellow at the top of their lungs with some kind of god-inspired warrior cry. Sounds … fun. Yeah. More wiki:

Some Christian leaders were enthusiastic about what they saw as a renewal in North American Christianity, while others saw it as hysteria and spiritually dangerous. Critics referred to it as “self-centered and evil” and cited the strange manifestations as warning signs. Others defended the blessing as historically rooted in earlier revivals and as having positive effects in the lives of participants.

I will of course quote a critic now, even if he is a man of god. At least we’re both in agreement over how ridiculous this is.

I read an article by a woman who had the experience of making animal sounds. She tried to defend the practice, and her conclusion was that God’s intention is to strip His ministers and His people of “their dignity,” just as Jesus was stripped of His dignity on the cross. It may be true that man stripped Jesus of His dignity on the cross, but that is hardly a base for deducing that God will strip His people of their dignity

Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes also about the leader/founder of Toronto Vineyard (as it was called then) who was later invited to Israel to show the interested people there how to achieve similar results (the laughter, barking/baying nonsense, etc). He arrived the very day Yitzak Rabin was assassinated. But, rather than cancel, or at least postpone the revival, they went through with it. So, while much of the country was crying or quietly mourning the loss of their leader, a group of devotees was working their way up to some silly holy giggle fit of hysteria instead. Way to show you care, people.

Even if I allowed my experience to be a criteria for determining truth, this, alone, would have finalized in my mind the tragic error and ungodly origins of this phenomenon. It made some of my friends sick to have observed this. In my case, it made me sick only to hear about it. This should show how far away from the will of the Lord this whole experience is. But, again, the final criteria must be the Word of God.

I bold that which I will come back to at the end of all this. Carry on reading.

People all over the world went to these things (to do all this. Click that one. I’m serious.) Later, a church in Darbyshire, UK, also took these revivals to heart and tried to duplicate the god-giggle-connection over there. Names were altered in this witness’s report of what went on when devotees who’d been in Toronto were invited to share their experience.

We both prayed before we went to the meeting that God would protect us from anything not of him, and had an open mind on the subject. We sat there listening to the speakers, all of which had been to Toronto. One speaker related how he had been on all fours roaring like a lion. Another said of how he had seen many controversial things, things that had upset him, “But” he said, “I won’t tell you about those, I’ll just tell you the good things.”

I thought that was so unfair of him as it denied us the chance to judge for ourselves. All the speakers said that they hated the first meeting there, and wanted to run from it, but they had to put their fears and hang-ups aside, in order to receive the blessing.

Later on, the speakers went through the whole routine. Soon the pastor’s wife and others fell to the floor, stricken, but the writer and her husband remained seemingly unaffected, no matter how much pushing and hugging and praying went on to get them to join in.

I was prayed for three times and felt absolutely nothing. I felt so empty, so alone, like I wasn’t really there, I wasn’t a part of it. Sebastian and I seemed to be the only ones standing. I walked into the ‘Ladies room’ in tears. I prayed, “Lord, why aren’t you with me? Why have you passed me by? What have I done so wrong that you don’t want me?” After praying, I went back into the meeting and stood at the back, just watching.

Interesting how her first assumption is that something’s wrong with her, eh? Not something wrong with the whole lot of them. An actual fear that her god doesn’t want her because she won’t moo like a cow and wiggle on the floor like everyone else.

Yeesh. There’s a lot more to her story, but you can read through that yourselves. I want to conclude this with another bit from Fruchtenbaum (but I’m adding breaks to make it easier on the eye).

one defense I have heard many times is, “How could this not be of God when they focus so much on Jesus?” But how does one know that they focus so much on Jesus? It is based on what they say verbally as you constantly hear them saying, “Praise the Lord,” or “Praise Jesus,” or some similar-sounding phrase. It is constantly repeated and what the Bible-based observer must realize is that this is merely a formula, much like those who recite a mantra in eastern religions. There is nothing concrete there.

Just verbalizing the name of Jesus over and over again does not, by itself, prove anything. In fact, it fits this verse quite well: “and with their mouth and with their lips 2 do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me” (Isaiah 29:13b). Their heart is far from God in reality for the same reason: they have learned to fear God on the basis of man-made experiences, rather than on the basis of the Word of God (20:13c).

They follow man-made doctrines and repeat constant phrases someone trained them to repeat, believing that this constant repetition is what makes them spiritual. As a result, more time is spent seeking further experiences than on actual study of the Word of God in its own context.

I’ll just point out that I’m quite sure the whole of the bible is a man-made doctrine. Inspired by a belief in a god, sure, but men wrote it and more men translated it, and more men began to interpret the words to fit their own agendas and belief systems and entice more men and women into looking at the words their way. This is what allows these charismatic churches to be a laugh a minute while the Roman Catholics across the street solemnly promote holy mystical cannibalism.

And each side completely believes they’ve got it right. They’re reading the so-called words of god every day and still they can conclude that.

Study it in context, Fruchtenbaum writes. How? Most people can’t read ancient Greek or Hebrew, nor do they all have an encyclopedic knowledge of what the world was like back then and what knowledge and experiences led to the telling of these stories in the first place. All they’ve got is their most loved translation of a much translated book. And for some of them their only experience of ancient history comes out of there anyway, all that one-sided propaganda selling an image of a people that isn’t necessarily accurate or even remotely true. Most people don’t have a clue how many hundreds of years lie between the days described in Exodus and Paul’s letters to the Romans. And you can’t go by the book itself to tell you — Matthew and Luke don’t even agree on how many years a generation might be. One says 25, another says 40. Job gives a different answer, and Chronicles says something else entirely.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Forever in contradiction, that is.


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