Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How Can You Know that God is Really There?

A more specific question is how can we know with certitude that the Christian God is there? To answer it simply and honestly, you can’t. This is a stark contrast to what Evangelicalism teaches.

Traditionally there have been three approaches to the solution of this question. I would call them the 1) Aristotlian, the 2) Kierkegaardian and the 3)point of despair.

In the Aristotlian view, you can reach certitude through logical deduction. But, the problem with this approach is that Aristotle himself considered reason has the highest (and infallible) of human senses. He advocated that pure truth could be reached through reason alone.

The Catholic Scholastics and a few other Christian movements adopted the Aristotlian view . . . but I don’t think it is the true Biblical view. The true Biblical view is that we are fallen and not one part of our being has been spared . . . including our logic.

Jeremiah 17:9 (New International Version) says; “ 9 The heart (center of the soul, mind) is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” So it is a vain hope that we can reach complete certitude through fallen reason. But this does not mean that reason is useless. Just like a fallen creature (who’s creativity is also fallen ) can still create beautiful art, a fallen person can come very close to truth through reason alone . . . but never certitude.

The unfortunate response to this inability to reach certitude through logic has lead some Christians to take the Kierkegaardian view , that the Christian concept of faith requires an illogical step. A more modern, American Evangelical interpretation of that would be expressed in the statement that I heard a Christian girl make in our philosophy class debate (on whether or not Christianity is true). She said that she knew for certain that God was there, and He was the Christian God, because she had a “God-shaped void in her life that he filled perfectly when he came into her life.”

I think that this gal, in 1976, almost quoted word for word the script that she had heard in a Billy Graham movie “Time to Run." This anti-rational approach is even far more unreliable than reason. Although Evangelicals will call it a “God thing” it is really (if we are honest) an emotional thing. The Christian, who “feels” that God is there is no different from Shirley MacLaine saying that she can “feel” the presence of some ancient Ican god channeling through her. They each speak with total confidence.

With the failure of these two approaches, some Christians end with the third path . . . despair.

In Tomlinson’s book, Post-Evangelical he points out that one major difference between the Evangelical and Post-Evangelical is that the later can accept the notion of uncertainty. I think, if we are truly honest, we must understand that in our fallen state, we can not know with certitude that God is indeed there. But we can know, of the options available, that assuming that He is there is the best alternative.

When I say assuming, I am not speaking of some type of existential leap into the dark (against all reason) nor am I speaking of Faith, as a the same type of leap. The Biblical concept of faith is not about believing against the face of no evidence. It is a moral choice to trust. I assume that the Christian God is there, because of the inferiority of alternatives and apart from that, I can CHOOSE to trust him with my life.

The way that I personally came to grip with this, after my personal disillusionment with Evangelicalism and my flirtation with my old agnosticism, was doubting completely. See my posting “Doubt Boldly.”

In the same way that Descartes did, I pursued my doubts all the way to the silence of my bed, in the middle of the night. I thought . . . therefore I knew, with much certainty, that I was there. Next, I knew with some certainty that I was personal (being a person and not just a carbon-based machine). I mean, I started pinching myself and as I felt the pain I considered that I was there and awake. Some in secular psychology would call this “self-awareness” and consider it as a phenomena of the neurons of the brain. But if we are rational, but respecting the limits of reason, we must know that we are more than a carbon-based machine. It is feasible that everyone around me is a carbon-based machine, but in my heart of hearts I had the (rational, not emotional) intuition that I was a person.

Francis Schaefer speaks of the fact that the impersonal (universe that came into existence spontaneously) can not give rise to the personal. I could go on, but I strongly suggest that you read his book The God Who is There.

So I had my faith deconstructed for me, when I discovered that much of Evangelicalism was a farce, and then I went to the next step of re-constructing my belief and my faith.

But as a Post-Evangelical, I can live comfortably with the notion that I can be somewhat confident, but without certitude. I can also act in the moral choice of faith without certitude. I don’t have to lie about it anymore (as most Evangelicals are taught to lie).

I want to explore this much more later.

Added: 01/31/08

I really do try to limit the size of my posts . . . but there is so much to say. Before I leave this subject for now, I did want to add a couple of thoughts.

While I realize that some other pilgrims may be tempted with systems such as Islam or Pantheism I have not. As much as I don’t care for American Evangelicalism it seems the be the lesser of farce (compared to other religions).

The real temptation for me has always been a materialist-atheistic position. I think this is true because I work in science. Most of the atheists that I’ve been around are in this intellectual purgatory, where they accurately observe some of the silliness of Evangelicals (TV Evangelists, Christians often lying about miracles) they too live in a farce. They live their daily lives as if a deity does exist. They can not live consistently with what they say they believe and that’s what I mean is that they don’t doubt enough. They don’t allow their doubts to take them to the edge of despair.

Atheists also long for personal significance. If they work in the scientific world, it is a more’ of that subculture to be a thinking atheists. There is a long, historical reason for that.

But if atheists would take their doubts all the way to the end, they would realize that they must live in a way to reflect the atheistic reality that they; 1) Are impersonal blobs of organic chemistry 2) can have no value, 3) can have no meaning, 4) can have no morals 5) can have no beauty, and 6) their person-ness is simply an illusion (of biochemical reactions).

But atheists can not live this way, even for a day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Really, Really Good News

To restate the “raison d'être” (reason for being or purpose) of this blog is not to create a militant vantage point, on which to cast down fireballs of criticism of the “franchised church,” or even Evangelicalism. Neither is it to persuade those happy with the status quo to be unhappy. It is my feeble attempts to create a smooth place in the vastly confusing Evangelical Christian world for those of us who have suffered some sort of disillusionment.

While there are excellent, well thought out and written blogs and other web pages on this matter, I have chosen to write simply for two reasons. First, I don’t have the time to write the deeply theological and philosophical treatise. If you notice, although I try not to be sloppy, that I do have typos and this is the fruit of my haste. If I do not write in haste, often between patient visits, then I would not have time to write at all. The second reason I write colloquially, is that I don’t think the reader has time to read a well-written treatise. If they do, there are other web sites that they should explore, along with this one.

I want to also restate my expertise and perspective . . . in summary. I am not an ivory-tower theologian. I too am a pilgrim. I started my life deep within the Bible-belt in Tennssee. I got involved with a very intense Evangelical group as I was graduating from high school (The Navigators). I spent four years in college with them and then went to an intensive (monastery-like) program of “discipleship” and training to be staff. I went on staff and then became a missionary to one of the most difficult places on earth (the Moslem world . . . in the Middle East). There I suffer a devastating disillusionment with Christianity (when I had a “The Emperor is wearing no clothes” event). It was when I came to the enlightenment of my boss’s dysfunctional behavior . . . and then my own (and we both thought that we were "godly"). Read more about it in my posting below “The Year of the Rabbit.”

My expertise in this matter is that I became consumed with trying to understand what happened with me. I studied for over a decade. I intensely studied scripture—cover to cover. I studied history, philosophy and psychology (although I already had a degree in psychology). I don’t think I have all the answers but I have enough. I have enough that I’ve gone ahead of you and cleared out a place in the woods where you can rest.

Now the purpose of this posting is to act in balance to the negative things I’ve posted. Maybe (and sadly) it came about after reading other Christian blogs (see my Disney Land Christianity posting). While I do not believe in “smiling” Christianity, I do want to point out, that if you really listen to what I am saying, there is more real joy in these posts than anywhere else within Christendom.

If you listen to the most popular preacher in America today, Joel Osteen, you can see why his message is so popular. I want to do an entire posting on his phenomena later. It is the same reason that Norman Vincent Peale’s message hit a cord with his hearers (and I went to one of his talks once). But I think their version of the Good News is a little like giving alcohol to an alcoholic rather than food. The immediate result is positive (good feeling) but in the long run, solid food would do more good for them.

The good news that you will hear me allude to, over and over, is the simple gospel. Jesus’ blood has covered all our sins, our faults, our short-comings, failures, poor judgments, mistakes, criminal acts, bad feelings, mental illnesses, lack of skills, lack of money, lack of good looks, lack of discipline, lack of perfection, lack of success, bad attitudes, emotional baggage, rage, psychosis, and I could go on for ad nauseum. But you already know that . . . but you don’t really KNOW that.

I know that you don’t’ know (I sound like Donald Rumsfeld don’t I?) because none of us fully know the essence of the gospel.

Almost every protestant church would agree with this impression of the Gospel, Jesus alone, but in reality, American Evangelicalism teaches something else. It is Jesus plus strings.

The strings get emotionally mixed up with the gospel and with our false concepts of sanctification. We say, come to Jesus and you are saved, his righteousness covers you in the “Justification arena” but not in the practical arena. Just listen to the verbiage in Christian circles, sermons, music, and interactions with other Christians (especially around group prayer or Bible study). Listen to concepts such as “God pleasing,” “I’ve disappointed God,” “God is mad at me,” “There’s a barrier between God and me,” “I failed God again,” and this too could go on and on.

Throughout the history this attempt of reconciling God’s grace with God’s judgment has been very difficult for the Church. The best example, in my opinion, is Luther. His revelation, after spending his years trying his best to earn God’s good pleasure, not trying to win salvation (although one could argue about that point) was when he realized that it was GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS, not his own. This was a huge breakthrough. But, as much respect that I have for Luther that even he never fully understood how good this news is. Read more about him at:

I know that this posting is getting long, but I must get to my point.

My point is that all humans, and Christians are no exception, are deeply driven by the desire to be significant (see my posting about the Essence of Human Behavior). This is a natural longing that I believe that God put in us at our creation. Of course all of our significance has been tainted by the Fall and our own sin. But we don’t realize (or if we do realize it is so brief it is like the micro, nanosecond creation of a sub-atomic particle in an atomic accelerator). So on this side of the cross, we still feel inadequate and continuously strive for adequacy. But the good news is that we don’t have to strive any longer. If we accept the righteousness of Christ, we MUST ACCEPT it fully. I am perfect in God’s eyes. When he looks at me he sees Christ. When I do bad things, he still sees the righteousness of Christ. Can you get that? I mean, if you look at porn, God sees Christ. When you fail your kids, God sees Christ. When you are irritated, God sees Christ. When you don’t have some fantastic ministry going, God sees Christ. At this point you should feel (if you are really listening) a huge burden lifing from your shoulders. You should start to float above the room.

Now the reason that the Church has not wanted you to know this, is that throughout the ages, the false information has been very useful to the church. Just look at the dark ages, the Church manipulated people with their constant feelings of inadequacy. It was called penitence then (and the Church got rich off of it).

But modern Evangelicalism is no better. The present church uses guilt all the time. The best example is the penitence of “going to church.” If you are not giving enough to him (as one pastor was saying on TV this week) you are "stealing from God." There is much more I want to say here but I will move on.

So to beg the question, and the fear that’s been used since the reformation, is that if the masses really understood how saved they were (not just “justified for Heaven” ) but constantly and totally approved by God . . . even after your most hideous sin, God is still smiling at you and saying “This is my beloved son with whom I am well please.” God leaps over you with joy . . . just when you get done lying or stealing or masturbating. This my friend is the good, good news not, as Joel Osteen would say, “You can be a better person next year than this year.”

Okay, next you think about . . . what I am saying opens the door for “cheap grace.” Hey, first of all grace is FREE. But if you mean that this gives us the license to sin up a storm . . . then you are starting to see how wonderful grace is. But, at he same time, you are failing to see how harmful sin is to your life here and now. God didn’t give us his law because he was a “control freak” in the same way that a dictator would say, “salute me when I enter the room or I will execute you.” God gave us the law for OUR good, as his loving gift to us. If we understood the law, that our failure in it makes us dependant on Christ and by obeying it we live a higher quality of life, then we have the proper motivation to do what it says. I would like to write much more about the real reason that we shouldn't sin.

More later.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Disney Christianity . . . Land of Fiberglass Rocks and Plastic Flowers.

With the weather too cold to spend much time in my wood-working shed, I came into the warmth of our roaring fire last night. With some time on my hands, I spent an hour or so exploring the electronic world of Christian Blogging. Cruising the electronic rivers of 1's and 0's for about an hour and I made some pleasant . . . and not so pleasant discoveries.

First of all, the Internet is so vast that you can find Blogs on everything imaginable . . . and a few things that I had never imagined before. People really do barbecue aardvarks? The same is true in the Christian world. The majority of Blogs, of course, reflect the majority of Christian sentiments. But you can find Christian Blogs on the edge, pastors declaring themselves to be the new Messiah, Taliban-type Christians and Christians against Wal-Mart (which is, according to them, the kingdom of Satan).
But I do bump into some like-minded folks, but most of these like-minded folks, unfortunately, are of the separatists mentality rather than the reformers. What I mean by separatists are the Donald Miller-types. Don’t take me wrong. I am a great fan of Donald Miller and his books. I plan on doing a posting just about him and his following. But I feel a little sad that he, and his generation X and millennium generation people feel that they are anti-franchised church people. In other words, I share the same observations and gut feelings as they do . . . but I just wish that the church could adapt to their rightful concerns so they have other options than becoming isolated. That is one Biblical mandate that I do accept . . . that we are not to be isolated, freelance, Christians but part of a community.

This view is not about guilt manipulation. I’m not saying that I’m better than the anti-franchisers. I’m not even saying that their problem (not being involved with any Church) is sin. I’m just saying that I think they are going to miss a meaningful part of the Christian experience here on earth.

With that said, and I will come back to that later, I wanted to focus on the things that the Donald Miller group and I do agree with, and that is the “mainstream” Blogs out there. Again, I think that these Blogs mirror the American Christian society . . . where the majority of Evangelicals would feel very comfortable with them . . . while they make me want to throw up.

In the virtual world, there are Blog malls, where many Blogs put up their “storefronts.” I was even thinking about staking out space in one of those. But as I walked down these, the nausea in the pit of my stomach intensified. I couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling or thinking, but I do know if Donald Miller, or maybe the majority of young Christian people were to walk with me, they would have felt the same.

First of all were the “rules” of the mall. All Bloggers had been sanctified by the “mall security” before they were allowed to post there. One electronic mall proudly claimed, “We are family friendly.” In the fine print, that you would have to sign on to before you posted on any of the Blogs, is that you: 1) Agree with a long and precise Biblical doctrine; 2) That you would not post anything “unbiblical.” Since I believe that the Bible is true, then none of the truth that I would post would be unbiblical . . . but I knew what they meant. They meant that no one would post anything that was in disagreement with their precise interpretation of the Bible in 2008, in their American -Evangelical, Republican subculture; 3) That the poster would not use any “inappropriate words” and that also was open to their definition; 4) That no one would post any angry words; 5) That all posts would be “uplifting.” Making the reader feel good. I could go on and on, but I think you get my drift.

I admit that the majority of Evangelicals would see nothing wrong with this “sanctified” space for “Christian Blogging.” But many of us do. And it reminds me of a story.

After college, a friend of mine got a job at Disney World in Florida. Having a degree in some kind of interior design (and he wasn’t gay either) this job was a dream job. But after two years, living and working on the Disney World “campus,” a strange psychological phenomena began to over-take him. He lived in a fake world made up of fiberglass castles and rocks, silk and plastic flowers and where all the humans were fictional characters behind masks. Some of these people, say Peter Pan for example, found it difficult to come out of character even after their shift was done. It was surreal, somewhat like the experience that people have when they spend hours gaming online in virtual worlds.

My friend had to quit his dream job, go visit some real, stone castles in Europe . . . smell some real flowers in the field and meet real people again . . . or he felt like he was about to go insane.

When I look down one of these Christian Blogging Malls, to me it is looking into a surreal—but fictional—world. I heard about a Thomas Kinkade (the mass-producing artist that my sister, the real artist, hates) village in California. They were reproducing a village based on Kinkade paintings. These paintings are idealized American life, small towns where clean white churches and everyone smiling. I saw a program on 60 minutes about this Kincade village and guess who was moving in to these surreal homes? It was “born again Christians,” by the fiberglass buggy full.

This feeling of nausea was best expressed in an old (and hard to find) book by Franky Schaeffer, titled Sham Pearls Before Real Swine ( Wolgemuth & Hyatt; Brentwood:1990). The real issue, in my opinion, is the desire and the belief that we can live in a perfect world. Again, I think it is the mis-understanding of sanctification and not understanding the depths of the Fall of Adam (where there is no-escaping the Fall). Also, the issue of Platonic
Dualism, where there is an Idealized spiritual world that is better than the real world.

More later.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The House Church Experiment - And Its Ruins

When I was first recovering from my brush with theological death (where I almost reverting back to my old atheism or at least agnosticism) I attempted for fit back into the local church. I really couldn’t stomach it. Fake miracles, fake emotions . . . the whole nine yards made me ill. I tried to fit in for about five years, doing things like becoming the “Deacon of Small Groups,” but still, I could not make a difference . . . trying to pour new wine into old skins never seems to work.

It was at this disillusioned juncture that I started considering the House-Church concept. It was not a flippant decision. I mean I spent a year studying the Bible, looking for guidelines for church form. I read book after book (on the house church movement), listened to lecture after lecture on the theology of church forms.

Next I visited, what was considered at the time, to be the premiere house-church in America. I spent most of a week with them.

I returned home with a vision. My next step was writing a 30 page paper on the church doctrinal statement and the guidelines for structure (elders, pastor-teacher etc.)

I did not know personally of anyone who was also interested in this concept, so I ran an ad in a local paper just stating that a house-church was forming and interesting parties should call me.

One by one, people came out of the wood-works and we met each couple (or single) for one on one time, usually over dinner.

When I had an agreement of about five families (they read my paper and supposedly accepted it) we started to meet.

Now there is no way to truly know people by a few contacts and having dinner together. Based on our previous conversations, I really though that we were on the same page. But, it really takes months for the truth about ourselves to come to the surface. Now as you read the following, you are allowed to smile or chuckle. I mean it is tragic, but also a comedy. I can laugh about it now . . . with some sadness sprinkled in.

So here is a group of five couples, each disenfranchised from the traditional church forms. However, I was disenfranchised on the culturally-liberal side (different from theologically liberal). The others were leaving the church on the opposite side, the church not being culturally or theologically conservative enough for them. I will explain this in another posting, but what I would call their position would but Dualistic-Gnostic (only the unseen is important, and God speaks truth to them on a personal level, a secret truth that no one else has.) Actually I really think what is wrong with American Evangelicalism is this extra-Biblical Gnostic-Dualistic influence and I will also explain that late.

So here I was entering a pact with a group of people who were more Gnostic-Dualistic than even traditional Evangelicalism. I was still a bit naïve, still at a point in my journey when I thought that you could really find, maybe not the perfect, but a very good church experience. I will describe the orientation of the other couples and you can see why the house-church failed (I actually disbanded it after a year).

Bill and Faith. Faith really wore the spiritual pants in the family, which isn’t a big deal. But she (and she eventually convinced some of the others) that she was some type of prophetess. I had heard that she was a good Bible teacher, but that insidiously evolved into God was speaking through her, to God was speaking directly to her. This was a secret knowledge (think Gnostic here) that is not in scripture or anywhere else. Not only did she begin to demand the “pulpit” but she also started circulating material among the others that, I think was bizarre. However, I was the only one, and my own wife was no exception, questioned what she was teaching.

The premise of her teaching was Satan was alive and well, and strong . . . implying (in my humble opinion) stronger than even God Himself. Satan was behind every bush and “oppressing” Christians at every turn. The materials suggested that demons entered your house through such things as house flies (hey, I’m trying to be serious here), sneezing and sexual intercourse that isn’t in the missionary position with the man on top. I could go on and on. But just like the challenge that the early church had with the early Gnostics, if she said that she was speaking only what God told hr, who was to question her . . . but me. I quickly found myself on the short-end of the stick as the other house-church members believed her (manipulative) ways.

Next I introduce John and Grace. They came to the house-church because they knew Faith from a previous Church of God. John and Grace had moved from Montana. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the Montana “Freemen” but John was actually involved with that group (outside of Glacier National Park). The best way I can describe them is a splitting image of the Taliban . . . but Christian instead of Islamic. I’m not embellishing here. John had a long, Taliban-type beard. He force his wife to have her head covered. He abused his wife, in the name of God, the same way that the Taliban abuse women. He forbade his wife from speaking to any other man, even in church. She could only speak to other women if he witnessed the conversation. She was not allowed to drive. I think he “spanked her” (not a kind of foreplay) but out of husband discipline. I know, very, very sad. What was even more dangerous, was that he was collecting weapons for the coming war with Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. It’s okay to laugh here . . . but you can still feel sad, especially sad for Grace.

He also didn’t believe in birth control. He also believed that most doctors (especially if they did breast exams or pelvics) were perverts and should executed. So his wife never had pre-natal care and did home deliveries with only John there to help.

Being extremely Dualistic (if you haven’t noticed the Dualism yet) he only allowed the Bible in his house. He burned all other books, art etc.

I had many long talks with John. But every time I spoke to him, he would beat Grace again (in the “name of God”). I wanted to report him to the police, but a social worker made it clear, that unless the victim brought charges, there was no case. I tried to speak to Grace to leave him or bring charges . . . which led to more beatings in the name of God. He, being disgusted with us unspiritual people, packed up and moved back to Montana to be with his fellow Montana Freeman.

Next meet Mike and Laurie. They were Messianic-Christians. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. They expressed that they had a heart to reach the Jews. I didn’t know that there were any Jews around. I asked them how many Jews lived in our town? They answered, “There was one . . . but he had moved away.”

We soon learned that what they meant by being Messianic-Christians, was Christians who (in this feeble attempt to become godly, in this eternal quest of significance) believed that we should put ourselves back under the strictest Jewish law. Eat only kosher foods. Celebrate only Jewish holidays. Wear Jewish clothes. Etc,. The problem was, they considered themselves as “more spiritual” than the rest of us because they were following these laws. So if they were on a higher spiritual plane, then they should be the ones to lead the group.

I guess they were on a higher plane. After our church disbanded, Mike ran off with a co-worker and the last I heard he was living with this young girl.

There was another couple that visited, who had some serious mental heath issues, disguised as usual (as if all of us didn’t have some mental health issues). The were in conflict with the church that we had attended and I think they wanted us to join in their crusade to fight that church for a (messy) finanical problem that they had been involved with. Icould go on.

I shouldn’t feel so bad that our house church failed. The “Ideal” house church that I had visited, the “best one in the country,” also fell apart. Part of it become a cult . . . following an over zealous leader, who considered himself God’s messenger. The others became disillusioned.

So, I still think a house-church could be good. But, they have to leave behind the baggage that has haunted the mainstream Evangelical church. This Gnostic thinking (God has only given me the truth). There has to be the humility that we are deeply, deeply fallen and should not be trusted by others or by ourselves. We must know that we are covered by the blood of Christ, not covered by being Jewish, or being a “prophet” or any other self-assured means of self-righteousness.

More later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CRAZY FOR GOD – can we be too honest?

I recently finished Frank Schaeffer’s book Crazy for God. I really, really enjoyed reading it for several reasons. For one, I am a great fan of LAbri and I know some of the characters in the book. The other reason, and it took some contemplation to figure this out, is the deep level of honestly struck a cord with me.

My greatest pet-peeve with Evangelicalism is its dishonesty. I’ve tried to peel back layers of the façade, like layers of an onion skin, but with each layer that I remove, I see myself loosing more Christian friends and becoming more and more isolated.

Frank Schaeffer takes this purging of the masks to a far deeper level than I had ever imagined doing myself, leaving the only the raw core and little else. I don’t know how he mustered courage to do this. How, I ask myself, did he handle the rejection and alienation of people he loves (family and friends)? With his blatant discontent for the Evangelical mainstream, I don’t think it bothered him to loose the rank-n-file Evangelical.

But the thing that makes such brute honestly so refreshing is the realization that we are all mortal. I still carry the highest regard for LAbri and their founders. The things that Frank says, only reinforces some of my secret suspicions (regarding the personalities of Francis and Edith Schaeffer). But I still love them. They still have made a major impact on my Christian life and it is even more encouraging to know that they are made of the same stuff as I am . . . human flesh in all its glory and disgust.

When I was living in the Navigator Evangelical “utopia,” the onion was fat, with layer upon layer of facades of godliness. Any breach in the outer (think of the thin, brown, outer-most layer of an onion) it was scandalous. The reason was that we thought (and all Evangelicals think) that holiness or godliness was obtainable by us mortals. To support this myth, we all pretended to be godly. Since all my roommates, and the other men and women in the Navigator training center appeared to be godly, I had to too. One breach in this façade and the whole construct of our theology of sanctification (practicing X, Y and Z and you will be godly and rarely sin) would start to crumble. Read my posting “The Year of the Rabbit” and you will see that is precisely what happened to me.

I can remember a conversation with a dear friend in the Navs. He was upset that one of “his men,” (that is a young Christian in one of his Bible studies) had gone with some other guys to see “The Cheerleaders.” This was an R-rated movie, basically to sexually stimulate young men visually with beautiful women. It wasn’t X and I doubt that there was even much nudity. When he told me that, my 23 year-old state of perpetual horniness came to the surface and I smiled and said, “I’ll like to see a movie called "The Nav Girls." We had some very attractive women in our ministry at the time. Well, this made my Nav friend very angry with me. What I said was blasphemous! I am willing to bet, that our relationship was never the same, even after all these years. He is now Navigator staff and has very little respect for me.

But I can remember that day, with deep guilt after he reacted so strongly, trying to figure out what my sin was. I knew that I was being honest. I would love to have seen the Nav girls parading around in bikinis or in their underwear. Was I the only man in the Nav group that had those feelings? I was terrified that I was . . . that secretly I was hideous.

But now, looking back, I am sure that I only expressed verbally what all of use warm-blooded men desired. It didn’t mean it was open season on lusting for the girls, or even seducing . . . or worse. But also I learned that day, that you must suppress honestly at all cost . . . because I figured I was the only evil one and I had to hide it.

Crazy for God has gotten mostly positive reviews from the Christians who have posted on Amazon. I think why his brute honesty (including his horniness), the fact that Francis and Edit were NOT perfect. That Francis wanted to hang himself at times (which I too have considered) tells me, that I am not to be ashamed and to hide, that we are all on the same page, made of the same flesh and covered by the same blood of Christ.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Gift of Insantiy

In my humble opinion there is no other area in which the Church has failed its members (and the public in general) than in the area of mental health. I could make this discussion very complicated in looking at the historical roots of the understanding of the soul and psyche (which were the indistinguishable to the Greeks). But, I will try to make this brief and simple.

In its earliest, formative years, the Church struggled with the influence of Dualism –both from the Greek Platonist and other sources. The main tenet of this type of Dualism is its application. As I’ve alluded to before is that this form of Dualism divides good from evil, important from unimportant, worldly from spiritual along altitudinal lines. The major division (as it comes to our own persona) is that the physical is of this world and the soul is of the heavenly. I really don’t think you can support this from scripture.

The way that this has been applied to mental health is, the soul is all that matters (and really all that is when we speak of a persona). The physical brain doesn’t matter. Personal experiences don’t matter. Mental illness (from an Evangelical perspective) is a moral issue . . . the mentally ill person’s own, active sin. The reasoning goes, if you are depressed, then you are in sin because people who have their eyes on Jesus, or people who pray right or believe right are joyous and smiling all the time.

I remember, while I was still under American-Evangelicalism’s spell, when I first heard about a blood test for depression I laughed out loud. “Depressed people are in sin and it’s that simple,” so I thought.

But that’s the great travesty. Mental illness is pandemic. It is pandemic because of not only personal sin (which has a minor role in most cases) but “old sin” that is the fall of Adam. In a fallen world, there are brain-genetic flaws that make some people prone to depression, anxiety, even psychosis. This brain flaw is becoming better and better understood in modern times with the help of such things as functional MRI and PET scans (that show abnormal brain function). So there is a place for medications in mental illness, just as there is a place for insulin in people who have diabetes (and pancreas has a flaw).

The problem with Evangelicalism is that when they consider mental illness as a personal moral failure, those who suffer from mental illness, also suffer from a huge amount of false guilt and low self esteem (I’m bad because I’m depressed). That’s sad. The other thing, is that we are all mentally ill because, as the result of the fall, none of us behave appropriately in the emotional arena.

Because we Christians have considered mental illness as a moral failure, it is disguised under fake “fruits of the spirit.” But we are all screwed up in the head . . . but completely covered by the blood of Christ.

When people cover up their mental illness themselves (rather than by the blood of Christ) then they are more prone to social dysfunction of the greatest degree.

Here’s an example. When I was a student in college and involved with the Navigators, one of the student leaders (and I too was considered a student leader), I now know is not only gay, but has a very serious personality disorder. Personality disorders is an official type of mental illness and it is complicated. It involves both genetics and early life experiences.

Now that I work in medicine and have had many patients with personality disorders, I recognize it in David very clearly. He tormented me during my college years. He was obsessed with me (sexually) and manipulated me constantly to be his “best friend.” If I resisted his sexual advances, he would make life hell for me in a very manipulative way. He would go to all the girls in the ministry (and us guys wanted to impress the cute girls most of all) and start sharing with them how I had “wounded his heart” by being mean to him. I was too ashamed to tell the girls in the ministry that I had awaken in the night to find David trying to perform oral sex on me and the he gave me the creeps.

But if you tried to oppose David in any way, he was a master at lying and convincing people that you had sinned against him. He is now a leader in the Navigators. He has never apologized for his sexual advances and, as far as I know, has never come out of the closet. But if I were to mention this to the Navigators, I am sure he would convince them that I had made the whole story up.

But my point is, we should expect each other to have effects (in our mental health) from living under the fall. When we mask it, then this great deception can occur.

If you read my posting “The Year of the Rabbit” you will see that when I discovered my own mental illness, anger, depression, anxiety . . . as well as that of my “Godly” leader (anger, personality disorder) that’s when my whole Christian world collapsed around me. I had been led to believe that if you do “x” amount of Bible study etc. that you virtually erased the effects of sin from your life.

Okay, long enough in this posting. But the theme you will start to see is that the cornerstone error in modern American Evangelicalism is this issue of extra-Biblical notion of Dualism and how it has been historically applied.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Constant Gardener

A Blog is like a garden . . .requiring constant attention . . . otherwise it becomes stale. I’ve failed in my previous attempts at Blogging because I am just too busy. I’m trying to make an effort to keep this one going. It isn’t like I don’t have enough to say . . . there’s plenty. Each time I sit down to write, I have to consider which, of a thousand things do I discuss today.

I again spent some time searching the Blogosphere, looking to see if someone else is meeting this exact need . . . and there’s not. If there is, I haven’t found them yet. I’ve listed some links that I think are interesting and good. Some of them are more scholarly than I intend to be here. I mean, I could be scholarly. I do have a book manuscript about what went wrong with American Evangelicalism (that I researched for two years including traveling to the heart of the Renaissance). But if I had to write at that level with each posting, this garden would wilt under the sun. It just takes too much time.

But the niche of this Blog is between the mainstream Evangelical scholarly people (as excellent as they are), the radical “burn all the churches” Emerging Church people and the strictly satirists. Speaking of the satirists, I re-discover The Door yesterday and spent some time reading it. It was refreshing to see that other Christians can look at the nonsense of Evangelicalism, talk about it, but not see themselves as cynical – liberals.

Again, this Blog is to be a quiet, smooth place in the wilderness where I want to confirm your disenchantment, in a positive way. To tell you that you are not crazy. That Evangelicism is a farce at times . . . but God is there and there is a way to relate to him (and fellow Christians) honestly. As I’ve said before, I don’t have all the answers of how us, disenfranchised, survive but I have a lot of the answers.

I do not garden in real life, but my wife does. Last year I tried to start my first garden. While my wife does it roughly (coming from a farming family), she doesn’t depend on neatness. So I built this wonderful, raised bed, garden. I planted great crops. I watered it and watched in sprout . . . then all heck broke loose. Work consumed me as did my kids and home repairs. The next time I went out, there were more weeds than crops. I cleaned them up. Then, weeks later, my wife informed me that my garden was “going to seed.” It was true. My wonder Swiss Chard, and mixed greens, tomatoes etc were rotten or wasted because I wasn’t there to harvest them.

Well, I hope to make this Blog different. In the future I want to explore more of the true Biblical view of mental illness ( I have a lot to say about that). And to discuss survival techniques when you feel completely alone within the Christian world . . . caught between wanting to have Christian friends and a place to belong . . . but wanting to be honest.

More later:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Daystar-Den of Iniquity

We have only basic cable and I’m glad. I don’t have a lot of discipline and if I had the history channel or the likes, I would watch way too much TV.

One channel (that collects dust) is the Daystar Channel. It collects dust because I simply can’t stand TV Evangelists. Some people might say that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. But, the whole business (and it IS a business) of TV Evangelists is so despicable that it would be hard for a decent, truthful, pastor to be on TV . . . but it could happen. But it is like saying we don’t give a club of child molesters or terrorists the benefit of the doubt.

One day I was flipping channels and as I crossed the nasty plain of Daystar I saw a lady (later I found out it was Joni Lamb) saying something about David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam serial killer). It caught my attention because I have some (remote) connection to David.

When I was in college, at the University of Kentucky, I was involved with The Navigators and a good friend in the Navs, Jim, had been David’s roommate and best friend when the two of them were in the Army at Fort Knox. Jim had told me the story that David was a faithful Navigator disciple, receiving Christ, memorizing Bible verses, going out on evangelicalism BEFORE he went on his terrible killing spree (if you have forgotten the horrible details rent the DVD “Summer of Sam”). My friend Jim, took David to the airport in Bowling Green, Kentucky, after David finished his Army commitment, so he could fly home. Jim said that the last thing that David said, as he was boarding the plane, was “I’m going to go and turn NYC upside down for Jesus!” That summer he murdered several young lovers before he was caught due to a parking ticket.

Now Joni Lamb’s show had a sensational story about David Berkowitz “Coming to the Lord.” So you can see why I left my TV on that dusty channel long enough to listen to the details.

They had a pastor, who is working with David at a state prison in NY. The pastor tells the story of how another inmate led David to the Lord (this was years after David was a “good” Navigator disciple). In David’s fabulous testimony, he “had never seen a Bible until he was in prison.” What? Never seen a Bible before? How in the hell was he in the Navigators for four years, memorizing scripture, going out on evangelicalism etc and had never seen a Bible . . . except a “Satanic Bible.”

To make a long story short, I contacted Joni Lamb . . . who put me in contact with the pastor in New York . . . who spoke to David in my behalf. He asked David about my accusations (that his testimony was sensationalized and not true). David admitted to the pastor that he indeed had “accepted Christ” with the Navigators and worked with them in the Army, but those were confusing times and if he added it to his story now, it would only confuse the listener.

I hope that David’s story of conversion is true . . . this time. But, the way that Americans idolize anyone (and Christians are the worst to do so) I have fears that David is being held up on Daystar, Focus on the Family even the Gideon’s (who say that their NT Bible in prison was the first Bible David ever read . . . which is NOT true) use his testimony.

But since that day, I’ve listened to a few other televangelists on Daystar and I find it nauseating. They are just like all the other infomercials . . . obviously deception. They have these sensationalized ministries; of healing (I think I saw Benny Henn on Daystar the other day). Yesterday, looking for something besides football, I heard a pastor introduce his guest on his show a man (hmm who just happened to write a book) on how “God not only wants to heal you, but will guarantee you will NEVER be sick again if you follow the plan in the book.” PUKE! Lying for Jesus is the worst kind of lying.

So, where is the most evil place on earth? Is it within a satanic group that does sexual rituals and takes drugs and even cabalism? No. I really think it is things like Daystar and other flakey Christian ministries. Just look at the historic Jesus. Who did he despise? It wasn’t the whores, thieves and murderers. It was the religious people who WERE LIEING in the name of God!

Do you see the great evil here? I mean, when you tell lies wrapped in the gospel, then people find out that they are for-profit lies, then the gospel becomes for them a stumbling block and their souls are lost. That is the great sin.

How did we did get to this point of the Idiocracy of Christianity? I think several things are at play are too complicated to discuss in full here. I suggest the book Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. It is a great historical book that looks at the way that modern American Evangelicalism has turned its back on thinking and education. It started happening in the late 1800s when education was wrongly blamed for the culture turning away from Christianity.

Mixed into that recipe is the End Times consumption that has been endemic in Evangelical circles since the 1800s (second Great Awakening). If Jesus is coming back next year, why the hell am I studying? This is exactly what happened when I was in college and involved with the Navigators. I was literally told (in Dualistic terms) that my “secular studies” were worldly while studying the Bible was spiritual.

The last great failure is the mis-application of the verse “Judge not least you be judged.” This mis-quoted (and almost the most quoted within the Bible belt) because the smoke and mirrors behind which Evangelicals could get away with murder.

The best example that I can think of is our Sunday school director (when I was growing up) was molesting boys left and right. He molested my brother. But absolutely no one did anything about it for 30 years because it was “judging a brother” to accuse the monster of his sins. Everyone looked the other way (as not to be judgmental). The same was true with our pastor who was screwing a co-worker behind his wife’s back and everyone knew it (for 40 years) but “whom am I to judge,” as they would say.

The damage is that this is the very pastor who told us, as teenagers, that we should be caste . . . while at the same time he had a mistress. Do you see, when people find out that the church is a farce, they leave and never come back. This is the great tragedy.

Look how Jesus handled things (before there was an American Evangelical sub-culture). He judged the “righteous” and had great mercy for the sinners outside the church. American Evangelicals do the opposite. They throw stones at abortion clinics, protest gay parades . . . but smile and look the other way at crap like Daystar . . . but judge not least you be judged. Give me a break.