I have written a manuscript (new title; Butterflies in the Belfry . . . Serpents in the Cellar), which I posted here about six months ago. Thanks to the help several who comment here I've re-worked it and will post the new improved manuscript soon (and link it to a new post). Pennyyak helped a great deal. Headless Unicorn Guy put me in touch with a professional copy editor who has helped a lot as did a few others. When I post the manuscript, it will still be something of an "Open Source" so you can still make suggestions for improvement.
I was finishing up the markups on the last two chapters and I've decided to re-post chapter Twenty here. The reason is, I think it tells (among some bad) a really good story of how I found the Church again after a couple of years wondering in the wilderness. This all happened twenty years ago.
Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar
So? The Christian Society
I am not a Church service person. I’m not saying that for any theological or philosophicalreason but as a personal preference. Many Christians truly enjoy the Sunday morning tradition. I’m probably the aberration. My attitude possibly dates back to my early upbringing when church service was a farce and only stood as an act of penitence.
I also don’t care for most church service music. I don’t like country and western twang, I don’t care too much for operatic falsetto. I also don’t care too much for music which has the purpose of working people up into a total emotionally frenzy, without much content, as some of the more contemporary Christian rock music does—with its eardrum-piercing, electric guitar squeals, hands raised in the air and eyes rolled back in the head. But this is simply my own personal taste. But give me a John Mayer, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Cheryl Crow, hey . . . even a folksy John Denver-sounding concert with good lyrics of honest seen-world experiences and true unseen world theology and I would be spell-bound for hours.
I don’t care much for Sunday morning preaching. After fifty years of church attendance, it is very difficult for even the greatest preacher on earth to preach something that is new and thought-provoking. The same would be true if I weren’t a Christian and I had sat for one hour for every Sunday for the past fifty years, listening to a motivational speaker. It doesn’t matter how good that motivational speaker was, it would simply get old after a while. However, I do love thought-provoking lectures from Biblical scholars and thinkers and I could sit in on a good lecture for at least two hours without the constant effort to keep my attention focused or checking my e-mails on my smart phone. I must have listened to hundreds of hours of such lectures on cassette tapes in my Walkman during my first couple of years after my rabbit-hole experience. I did pick our present church because the pastor teaches closer to this type of teaching than any other church on our island.
I do like interacting with people, even though on Sunday mornings that interaction is very superficial. But I deeply crave honest, Christian friendship and fellowship in the same way as a man crossing the
But I am sure that many people honestly enjoy Sunday morning church service. However, I wonder how many go, and imagine that they enjoy it because they believe that this is what God wants them to do . . . going out of guilt or penitence. I’ve talked to many teenagers and this is a common feeling that they are willing to share when they are being very candid.
I can remember a children’s Christian music cassette tape that my wife use to play in our old VW Vanagan when we were traveling the country raising support for our mission. Denise bought the tape from the performers at a mission conference that we attended. One song on the tape really bugged me. The title and lyrics were “Everybody ought to go to Sunday school.” Over and over the chorus rang out, with the same words as the title. The only reason given for going to Sunday school was “ought.” Maybe the lyricist meant something different than guilt manipulation but I’m sure many kids took it that way. Are we not surprised when eighty percent leave the church when they are old enough to do so?
At this juncture I must bring up the issue of semantics when I talk about the Church. What I hope to discuss in this chapter is the vision I have of what the non-Dualistic Church would look like. But I want to avoid the word “church” because, again, it is a word loaded with a lot of connotations and many of then have nothing to do with the original Biblical intent.
The Geek word in the new testament, which is translated “church,” is spelled (in English) ecclesia or ekklesia. It is a description of a people group and not any kind of institution. It simply means “those called out for a purpose.” A modern example would be something like Congress or even the Army. It is where people from all walks of life come together for a common goal. It is really very simple. Over time the word “church” has come to mean a place, a service or an institution, anything but a people group. You can not “go to church” in the Biblical sense, any more than you can “go to family” because ecclesia was never a location or an event. So the real church is about the collection of Christian people not a service, institution and certainly not a building. So I will be referring to this group, most of the time, from a more neutral wording of “Christian society.” I will just use CS for short. But I don’t mean to downplay the immense importance of the CS in God’s plan. It is the CS that is the bride of Christ.
One influence of the Gnostics, which has had a continuing influence on American Christianity, is the personalization of the Christian faith. The Gnostics considered Christianity as a personal matter between you and your God. True Biblical Christianity is anything but that. In my attempts to point out the Dualistic influence of churches (with a small “c”) I am not attempting to devalue the CS.
If you go back and read the New Testament without wearing Dualistic glasses, you would see that the mandates for the CS form are very few if at all. There are historical examples of how they functioned in different areas. If you go back and study the CS in the Ante Pacem period (before the peace of
One of the few mandates that I do find is in Hebrews chapter ten, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So the opposite of “not meeting” isn’t simply meeting for the sake of meeting, but encouraging one another as the CS was meant to do. It is hard to encourage one another if we don’t know one another. It is hard to know one another when we live in a Christian society were we all pretend that we are much better than we really are and we don’t dare show a sign of weakness.
Good friends from every sort of Church denomination would argue with me until they turn blue in their faces about my oversimplification of the CS and about the great freedom of church form. Each friend promotes their own church form as the true Biblical structure.
We attempted to start a house church once. It was when I first had the sense that a truly non-Dualistic expression of the CS could happen. However I had a naive idealism that didn’t, yet, recognize the depth of the Fall of Adam. This was about half way through my personal journey and my thinking was not well developed yet. I thought I should find, or create the perfect church. While good Christian societies are possible, maybe even great ones, fallen people can’t produce perfect churches . . . but at the time I thought I could.
Although the fellowship was great in our group, and the teaching was better than I had seen in years, a few, well-meaning Christian friends were deeply troubled because we had taken our children “out of church.” The parents of one of my son’s friends said that he could not come to our house to play anymore because of this. They just couldn’t bring themselves to think outside the traditional church box. We weren’t doing it to avoid CS, but to have more of it.
We did eventually disband because we couldn’t sustain the group. The cockroaches of old and new sin within each family made it a group that could not reach critical mass. One family believed that we must following orthodox Jewish customs and laws in order to really please God. Another family thought that we should be hoarding food, guns and survival gear for the coming war with Bill Clinton, Janet Reno and the UN. So we obviously had to dissolve for irreconcilable differences. But these families were the only Christians in
I do believe, if it had succeeded, that our children, in some ways, would be far better off today. Through their youth group experiences over the years, they have been exposed to unhealthy Christian-Dualistic thinking including a disrespect of their intellectual questions and a lot of emotional dishonestly. Young people are very good about recognizing emotional and intellectual dishonesty. It is intuitive to them. This is why the eighty percent of children, who grow up in Evangelical churches, do not stay in them. The American Evangelical response to this hemorrhaging of young people is to make youth groups more entertaining. More trips to the water parks. More trips to the ski hill and Christian concert venues. While at the same time, in my experience, they create a thicker and thicker wall between their pretend Christian utopia and reality. Kids are naturally drawn to reality like moths to a porch light. If they can stand up in youth group and say, “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore,” and feel not only accepted, but having a very honest (not a chain of superficial evangelical clichés) discussion, they might consider staying in that particular CS.
When I was sitting in the Mexican restaurant with my good friend Ken, he was sharing that in his opinion, how paramount it was that Christians went to the right church, which taught the perfect doctrine. After all, his church had just excommunicated another church over an issue that was too abstract to even discuss outside their own heads in spoken words. Strangely, when I returned home from that trip to
I now think, what starts out as good intentions of finding the right CS becomes entangled with the economics of self-worth. The thinking goes, “My church is the better than yours just like my basketball team is better.” Therefore, we feel better when we go to the “better church.” We get that warm, fuzzy feeling deep inside that we are going to the church God wants everyone to, but we happen to be good enough or smart of enough, unlike the millions of other Christians, to have found the only correct one.
I certainly don’t want to diminish the eminent importance of sound doctrine, the historical precedent of church form and structure. Doctrine is very important and form has its place. One of the best functioning church meetings I ever visited, when looking at the mandate to encourage one another, was a house church in
I eventually gave up on my hope of finding the ideal CS and returned to the more traditional church. I’ve been somewhat of a misfit since. When the pieces started coming back together for me, post-rabbit hole experience, I vowed in my heart that I would never live in the veneer Christian world again. But it has been very tough going . . . and quite lonely.
For one thing, I vowed to refrain from constantly speaking in terms of the supernatural. For example saying, “My car wouldn’t start, I prayed and pumped the gas and twice and it was a miracle . . . it started! God did it!” Of course if it was clear that God decided to do things differently from working though His wonderful natural system, if He did step into the playground and give a piggy-back ride, I wouldn’t hesitate to boast about that. I mean if my car didn’t have an engine, but I prayed and it started and ran continuously (without gas) for years, I would call that a supernatural work of God.
I also decided that I would try my best to keep my cellar door, at least, ajar. I knew, because of the roaches in my own soul and the tempting lure of the economics of self-worth, that I would not have the courage to keep my cellar aired-out all the time. Unfortunately, you just can not live consistently that way.
But, within the walls of the traditional church, I didn’t give up on the hope of finding honest fellowship and good teaching. The closes thing I have been able to find to Biblical fellowship within the traditional church is the small group. But even small groups have been so influenced by Dualism; it is hard for people to be honest and open.
Speaking honestly within the traditional church is sometimes extremely difficult. When we first got back from
I was also still very confused as I had barely started my journey to understand what ailed my faith. It was tempting to push those unattractive attributes deep into the cellar and slam the door closed and play the church game again . . . just so I could have friends. It is very hard to have good Christian friends when you are honest about where you are in life, angry, confused, depressed and doubtful.
After resigning our post in
I was looking forward to meeting Norm. He did return after a few weeks. He was a very confident, type A Christian who knew all the answers . . . at least the Evangelical cliché version of them. But he did not like questions, not any of them. He seemed repulsed by me every time I approached him honestly. When I said, “I’ve having some serious doubts right now,” he literally became angry but with a sarcastic dimpled smile, “Yeah, good for you . . . so you think you have the right to doubt God, but God never doubts you!” All his answers were bumper sticker material.
During this most difficult time of re-entry, as I was attempting to take my family back to church, I finally reached a point that I couldn’t stomach it any longer. We tried many churches, but it was the same facades and the same clichés in each one . . . something like a KFC franchise serving the same three-piece-original recipe box in
“Hi, are you folks new to town or just visiting?”
“We are new.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Uh . . .
“Uh . . . no. . . we were, uh, missionaries.”
“Missionaries! Praise God that must have been a blessing.”
“No, it was hell.”
At this point, the person would either, quickly make distance between me and them or give a cliché response, “You must not have trusted God, because God never fails.”
I was always amazed with such comments because I hadn’t said anything about “God failing.” I wasn’t trying to make any theological statement about God’s sovereignty. I was just being honest about how I felt in my emotions. However, the person, consistent with the Dualistic view, felt obligated to hastily make a connection of my state of mental health to some significance in the unseen realm. “You didn’t trust God,” was like a spear into my chest. It was frustrating and painful to spend years working so hard for something, giving up so much, and then being diagnoses on a whim by a complete stranger. I had not trusted God? Is this what this was all about? Hmm. When I had given up my high-paying job, lived for a year in a van with my two kids and pregnant wife, then we went alone to the huge city of
I think the lowest point came when we were visiting a very large evangelical church, whose ranks had been growing by leaps and bounds under the guidance of a charismatic pastor, named Paul. One Sunday morning I was sitting on a pew in the vestibule and Paul came in the door and had a seat next to me. He looked at me, in the eye, and smiled, “Hey Michael. How’s life treating you?”
Not recognizing that it was only a shallow greeting, I answered sincerely, “I’m very depressed right now.”
I felt like this was a fair statement because it was during the period that I was seriously being besieged by the choice to commit suicide or not—feeling so hopeless that suicide might be the only road out of the perpetual swamp, which I found myself in. I was, indeed, begging for help. So, I think I was being honest when I said I was depressed. The thin, tall pastor with the dark Hungarian hair just smiled . . . and did not speak another word to me.
In a few moments we were seated in the huge auditorium along with five hundred fellow churchmen and women. After a lively choir performance, Paul took the podium, looked out over his congregation and almost the first loud words that, literally, came from his mouth were, “I’m sick and tired of Christians telling me that they are (then using a very prissy voice) depressed. It makes me sick to my stomach! Do we serve a depressing God?”
“No!” came the cry from a few deacons in the front row.
I have never felt so alone and desperate as I did at that very moment. I knew that Paul, or maybe no one, cared a damn about me. Maybe they only cared about their ability to score religious points with other Christians. The inaudible answer screaming in my ear was, “Do it . . . hang yourself. It really is hopeless!” I think the most distressing thing at that time was realizing that this was the world I had been living in for fifteen years.
Before my fall down the rabbit hole, I would have reacted toward someone like me, the same way that Norm did or Paul. For a Christian to suffer or fail had to be their own, new sin. History in the seen world must have a spiritual meaning . . . or no meaning at all.
About that time I lost contact with Norm as he abruptly ran off, leaving his wife and eight children, with a nurse who was twenty years his younger. He had apparently been having an affair with her for some time. Maybe that was why he was so offended if I tried to open my own cellar door. He had some real monsters lurking down in his own. But he had thrown a nice braid rug over his trap door that led downward. But in the midst of my despair, eventually there came a glimmer of hope that went by the simple name of “Dave.”
Denise was doing every thing that she could to help me and she insisted that I not give up on the Church. We went to a new one, a Christian Missionary and
That afternoon, I sat with Dave and the pastor for three hours over a Whooper and fries as huge soft snowflakes tumbled out of the grey sky and onto windshields of the cars in the parking lot. Through the birch trees, which lined the highway, you could see the whitecaps of a tremulous
I had been back in the states for six months and Dave was the first person to ask about our experience . . . I mean sincerely asked. I didn’t hesitate to begin telling our story. I thought the saga had been pushed down, inside a can, so long and so hard, that if I took the lid off, it may not come out very easily, as if it had solidified. But it did come out, slowly at first, but then it began to flow out like hot honey, then hot oil. Hot oil gave away to a bust of boiling water, like an
Dave was a stocky man . . . about forty years old and the pastor, ironically also named David, was about twenty-eight, thin and five-foot seven at best. I will never forget stocky Dave’s face. He sat like a statue, in a good-listening way, with his chin set firmly on his two fists, resting on his elbows. After about forty-five minutes into the story, I saw the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed. It was like I just had ten years of therapy rolled into a nanosecond. What was it? It was simply a huge tear . . . a sincere tear . . . tumbling down Dave’s silent face and dripping off his cheek onto his fist.
Until that point, I assumed that Dave, like everyone else, wasn’t even listening to me. I guessed he was daydreaming . . . off fishing somewhere out beyond the whitecaps. With the sight of the tear, I froze in confusion, followed by a strange kind of delight or at least a relief. I became so choked up that couldn’t speak anymore, but I could cry. The dams burst in my own eyes and for the first time I began to sob uncontrollably until my French fries became a blur and soggy. It may have been the first time I had cried in fifteen years. Real men, especially Christian men don’t cry. I hadn’t cried at my friend Daniel’s funeral and how could I? After all, even his parents were so godly that they didn’t cry.
But that day, I finally had an ear and that’s all I had wanted. I didn’t want the “answer,” or a cliché or a Bible verse. I knew all the Bible verses. I didn’t want someone just listening to the first sentence out of my mouth then interrupting, trying to make meaning out it by connecting it to something in the unseen world . . . God teaching me a lesson, or being my fault because I had not been obedient. I didn’t want someone glancing at their watches within five seconds of the story.
I honestly can’t remember what happened after Dave’s tear and the tears that followed. It really didn’t matter. I don’t know what he or David said that day and maybe they said nothing at all. But I do know that the moment prior to that dinner at Burger King on Skyline drive in
Years later, when I was over the depression, my faith was restored and I had moved past the finding the perfect CS phase, we were back with the traditional church. However, I was still determined to make the traditional church a better CS. I became the director of small groups. My own small group, six or seven families meeting together in our home for five years, became one of the best expressions of CS I had seen since my early days of college.
But even within that context it was still very hard to remain transparent and honest. As our group had jelled, I came up with the idea of moving to the next level. The women had taken two weekend retreats together and it was a great success so I thought that I could reproduce the experience with the men. Women are naturally more open to sharing their hearts because, frankly, men are far more insecure when it comes to the economics of self-worth.
I rented a remote national forest cabin in
The cabin was very rustic, simple logs on a concrete slab. It had one large bunk room and a kitchen with a wood stove area. There was no running water but a pit toilet out back whose seat hovered around zero degrees all winter. There was a real danger of your buttocks sticking to it if they were damp so you had to tuck pieces of Styrofoam under you before sitting down. With the outside temperatures dipping below zero, it was a struggle, even with a roaring fire, to keep the interior of the cabin above forty degrees.
But it seemed like the perfect ending to the perfect day. With just a candle or two burning, most of our light came from the flicker of the open wood stove. We pulled up chairs in a semi-circle around the warm fire with our mugs of coffee or hot chocolate.
Looking around the semi-circle, the glow of the fire reflected off the faces of each of my buddies, with their torsos blending into the shadowy background. We started off telling a few funny stories, and then I decided to take a chance and to move the fellowship to a deeper level.
I looked around and asked, “So . . . what’s really happening in your lives?”
I knew from Denise’s report that during the women’s retreat, some opened up about personal struggles such as significant issues within their marriages. This is what I wanted to accomplish, a gentle opening of the cellar doors . . . not to be nosey, but to give us a chance to live more honestly and help one other slay our dragons.
Time passed and no one shared. Then I noticed that the bold, fire-reflecting, faces seemed to be pulling backwards . . . like the heads of tortoises into their shells. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to be the one to share . . . so was everyone else. The longer I gave it, the deeper the heads retreated. Soon there were only slits in their shells through which you could only make out the reflection of yellow, beady eyes.
I took a deep breath, opened my own cellar door and went spelunking. I took my flash light to the darkest corner that I could find . . . and there stood a Basilisk. I put a collar round his neck and led him to the door and into the light of the flickering fire for heart-wrenching show-n-tell.
“Here’s something that I’m struggling with.” I took another deep breath. “Once a year I have to go to continuing medical education meetings for a week. Now days, it seems like every hotel has” . . . another sigh . . . “adult movies on their TV. As soon as you turn on the set, the beginning menu starts enticing you to buy a movie. Being alone in the room for a week, the struggle is immense. I figured out that I could go down to the lobby and tell them to turn off the adult channels . . . but . . . like an alluring ghost, the next morning they would reappear. I hated those weeks of struggle to avoid them . . . and having watched one.”
I looked around and the shells were close so tight, that no eyes were still visible.
“Guys, I need your help. I need someone to hold me accountable.”
Still no response, so I had to ask, “Doesn’t anyone else struggle with this?”
Some of the tortoises had their shells clamped tight, but I could make out the eyes of my friend Brad, directly across from me. His shell slowly opened so I gave him more time.
“Well,” Brad finally said, “I have the same problem.” Then he sipped his coffee and looked down at his feet as many other shells started to pop open. Brad opened his mouth to continue . . . but then came a loud sigh from beside me. I hadn’t notice but Charles, had his head out all along and now his neck was really sticking out.
“This is disgusting!” He exclaimed. “How could a godly man even be tempted with this filth? This conversation is becoming unedifying.”
I then noticed that as soon as I had started sharing, Charles had started thumbing through his Bible. Now he held several places with his fingers and he started to read. “Job said in Job 31:1 that he had made a covenant with his heart to not look lustfully at a girl. Those movies are all about lust . . .”
Charles continued on for fifteen minutes with a mini sermon with multiple verses about the evils of sexual sin, as I watched the tortoises pull in their heads and close their shells. Brad not only retracted his head but his legs . . . and his tail.
Maybe the concept of lusting never crossed Charles’ mind anymore now that he was a “godly man” . . . but again, Norm would have reacted the same way. Norm could have given the same mini sermon . . . while the night before he had slept with his little nurse girlfriend. But how would the CS be better served? Having the cellar doors open or nailed closed with stacks of Bibles on top holding it down? The closed-cellar churches certainly look a lot better, nice and clean and organized. The open-cellar churches can get pretty messy.
I’m not talking about a situation where we speak boldly and constantly about our most intimate sins. I have seen that happen before, though rarely. Sometimes we, in order to get attention, can be a constant public confessor. In that case, trying to look like the humble sincere Christian, we seek to improve our Christian self-esteem. That is not what I’m talking about.
But, the true CS must be a very safe place. We are not called out from the world because we are better or live better or have more value, but because our miserable sin, in God’s eyes, has been erased once and for all. If we really believed that, then walking into any church setting would give us the incredible safe feeling of re-entering our mother’s womb. We would sense God’s total acceptance as exhibited by other Christians.
Instead, the church setting can be one of the scariest places on earth. I deal with a lot of patients with pseudo-seizures, anxiety disorders and panic attacks. One of the most common places for panic attacks to occur is in the middle of church services. Most people feel the least accepted in the middle of church service. I know that growing up it was a tremendous act each Sunday morning putting on our best church clothes and faces.
But the church should be a real sanctuary from critical judgment. It should be the first place that people think of to run to when they are in a crisis, even if that crisis is a mental health problem or a direct result of their new, personal sin. After coming to this place, I went back and read the Gospels again. I noticed how Jesus made sinners, with open cellar doors, feel compared to the sinners who had their cellar doors nailed shut (white-washed walls in other words).
A great CS is a place that when, even a mature Christian walks up to you and says “I’m depressed,” or “I’m in the midst of an affair,” or “I’m molesting my children” or “I hate my spouse,” that we don’t look at them with horror on our faces and run away, throwing verses over our shoulders at them as we are on our way out the door . . . but we reach out with a smile and a hug and say, “I want to hear all about it. Let’s meet at Burger King today.” This would be a genuine smile, not happy about the sin or the pain of course, but happy that they have opened their cellars and have given you the honor of entering their Cellars with them, two friends side by side, swords in each hand, to fight the terrible dragons, like in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
When we, as Christians, don’t recognize how many cockroaches still inhabit our own souls, we are very vulnerable to allowing our psychological economics of self-worth be expressed as godliness. In 1976, while I was an undergraduate student and while I was still new to the faith, I became a self-proclaimed ambassador of the Holy Spirit. I actually thought that I would spend that year stamping out sin wherever I found it. This included in my own life.
To address my own sin, I had a large chart on my dorm room wall where I tracked my days without sin. The behaviorist psychologist B.F. Skinner had a daughter, Susan, who became an expert in tracking human behavior. I used one of her charts to track my sin. Yeah, it was pathetic. But worse than that, I was on the constant lookout for sin in others. If I heard someone say an angry word, I would immediately call them on it. If someone said “darn” I would point out that it was a substitute for “damn” and therefore equally sinful. If someone told a story, I would go over the facts to make sure they were not lying. Of course, stories about supernatural works of God were the exception and were even points in the positive column. I would never question such miracles because doing so was equated with questioning God. I didn’t make a lot of new friends that year.
After my rabbit hole experience, I sometimes noticed the same attitude in other Christians and I find it most unappealing. I’m perplexed why no one killed me back in my undergraduate days.
When we use leverage, critically evaluating others in order to boost our own feelings of self-worth, we must add measurements. God only gave us a few guidelines for living well. It is hard to keep score with only a handful of basic rules, so we create more and more, in order to create a graded system for establishing our own self-worth and for comparing ourselves favorably to others. This is the psychological basis for legalism.
During our wonderful five year small group in
Being polite toward our new visitor, I didn’t say anything. In a moment, Barb began to share. She had been a long time member of our small group . . . and like me, tended to fall off the shame side of the narrow path. She was always very hard on herself, especially when it came to her weight. She may have been forty-five pounds above her ideal weight, according to
I honestly couldn’t take it anymore . . . first with Aaron’s rules about beer boxes and now Barb’s self-imposed condemnation for eating a piece of birthday cake. I spoke up with some emotion, “For Heaven’s sake . . . where does God tell us not to eat birthday cake?”
Aaron, with his two percent body fat frame chimed in, “God hates gluttony!”
“Gluttony . . . is eating one piece of birthday cake, your own son’s birthday cake, gluttony? Is having a beer box, even if they were your own, on your curb the same as being drunk? You know Christ hated legalism as much as any sin.”
Aaron seemed puzzled by my comment then added, “You talk like you think legalism is something bad. We need to code to prove our obedience and love for Jesus and to prove that we are different from the world!”
But are non-Christians more attracted to the CS if the CS has more and more mores for separating themselves from non CS members? I think not. Lastly I want to look at this last area of how thinking non-Dualistically would have an effect on the way in which we relate to the non-Christian world, and our efforts to bringing them into the
After my rabbit hole experience and recovery, I re-entered the Church as a changed man, often feeling like I had been transported from a distant planet, or at least a different culture on our own planet. I call it a deformed to reformed experience. My old system of thinking was shattered or deformed and a new or reformed thinking took its place. It has been a constant struggle for me to fit in with American Evangelicals while holding tightly to my ideals, my self-imposed moratorium on spiritual dishonesty. I occasionally do run into others, who—like me—have had some type of rabbit hole experience that has changed their whole world. I’ve met women whose “godly” husbands ran off with the church secretary. I’ve met people whose children were violently killed and the Evangelical clichés didn’t resolve anything for them. Sometimes they take the wide path of becoming silent zombies, not expressing what they think or the confusion that still reigns in their inward kingdom. It is only in brief moments of very private conversation do I sense this harmony between us.
But more unique than my story, or the stories of the other deformed—then—reformed people, are these unique Church creatures whom have never lived in the fantasy land above the rabbit hole. I’m not sure how they did it, but they never bought into the American Evangelical subculture. They, like the lone trailer still standing after a tornado, never seemed to be influenced by the Dualism that has saturated the Church for two thousand years. I call these people the “Spared Ones.” You find Spared Ones in almost every church. Even in my little Bible belt church, there were some women and a couple of men who were like this.
The Spared Ones have no hesitation about speaking truth, even when it goes totally contrary to the mainstream Christian thinking, or makes them look very unspiritual. Throughout Church history, there must have been these refreshing saints. By their nature, being against the flow of Church history, they were usually ignored at best.
One of them, in my humble opinion, is the nineteenth century Scottish novelist George MacDonald. I wish I could say that I’ve read all his works. I’ve only read a few but Denise has read them all. C.S. Lewis has said that he never wrote a book without quoting MacDonald. He seems to have this rawness about him. Knowing that he did endure personal suffering, he could have been the deformed-reformed person rather than the natural Raw Christian. Maybe there was a time in his early life when he too conformed to Evangelical Dualism and its cultural mores. I honestly don’t know.
However, the true Raw Christian will tell you if they are having a bad day. They will not pretend that all events were orchestrated by God to teach someone, somewhere patience. They do not despise the cosmos or their own flesh, but deeply appreciate God’s creativity and glory in every thing He’s made . . . including the “nasty people” who are not Christians. These Raw Christians, something like Christ himself, are not offensive to non-Christians, but are attractive to them. Both of these groups give me great hope.