Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Does it Mean to be Spiritual (or Godly)?

I watch another Dateline episode about a pastor behaving badly. It caught my eye for a couple of reasons. For one, it all took place about three islands south of me. Secondly, in the promotions for the episode they showed an interview with a woman who kept saying, “But he was such a spiritual man.”

In case you didn’t see it (and I will put a link to it if you want to watch it with the title of this blog entry) it was about a Christian child prodigy. Apparently when he was a small boy, he either was injured or very sick and his father was rushing him to the hospital. His father prayed, “God if you save my son’s life I will dedicate him to Your service.”

The boy lives (unfortunately . . . I know that sounds cruel but just wait and see the damage he does). From an early age he was destine to be a pastor. I can’t remember his name while I’m typing this so I will just call him “Don.” I will refer to his wife as “Marry.”

Eventually Don became the youth pastor of a fast growing charismatic church. He was well liked. He married a local gal, Mary, who people deeply admired.

Probably the first strange thing that happened was that he started a marriage counseling “ministry.” In that ministry, he eventually started meeting with just the five wives (the husbands were not invited to come back.) He became very close to each of the women.

He started to confine in one of the women (I will call her Doris) that he was loosing interest in his wife because she had gained a few pounds (maybe 5-10). This was bizarre because Don himself was very fat. Then Doris began to prophesize that God was telling her that He was going to take Mary home and then she, Mary, would be with Don.

Mary was okay with that . . . assuming it was God’s will. She even told her parents that God had something big in store for her that would mean her death.

Doris told Don during their next meeting that God said that Mary was going to die on December 14th (I think). That night when his wife was still a live Don called Doris and was crying, “It didn’t happen. Why didn’t God’s will come true?”

Doris answered, “Well, sometimes God wants you to carry out His will.”

On December 27th Don’s house burned down with Mary in it. What a horrible death. (Later he would confess to Doris that he put a plastic bag over her face and killed her before he set her on fire. So maybe he was a spiritual guy, you know doing God’s will with compassion).

Then, within two weeks of his wife’s death, Don was having sex with all five of the women he was counseling. He simply told them that God wanted them to sleep with him to comfort him during his loss. Yes, Doris was one of the women he was sleeping with. I think it was when she found out about the others that she went to the police with the “rest of the story.” By that time, the death had been ruled an accident.

Lastly, when Don’s mother-in-law, that is Mary’s own mother, came to visit, Don persuaded her to sleep with him too. Sick.

Only one of the five ladies volunteered to be extensively interviewed by Dateline (although the mother-in-law did give a few comments). Let’s call this woman “Rose.”

The interviewer looked at Rose and said, “You are a strong Christian woman. You believe in marriage. You believe that adultery is sin. So, how were you so willing to have sex with this pastor?”

She said something to the effect, “He was such a spiritual man. He said that this was God’s will and I believed it.”

Here is my point. So I stand by my view that we Christians have a screwed up view when it comes to “godliness” or spirituality. I say this as someone who was considered “godly” by myself and others. It is a farce. I stand by my statement, “You should never trust a godly person.” Actually we should never trust anybody . . . in a naive way. I agree with Philip Yancy who basically says that there is virtually nothing different between the most godly person and the most evil (in his book, What’s so Amazing about Grace.)

We can respect one another. We can honor one another as tremendously valuable creatures in God’s image. We can even do the both for non-Christians as well as Christians. But when we start trusting someone because they say (or others say) that they are godly . . . then be careful.


Anonymous said...

Doris told Don during their next meeting that God said that Mary was going to die on December 14th (I think). That night when his wife was still a live Don called Doris and was crying, “It didn’t happen. Why didn’t God’s will come true?”

Doris answered, “Well, sometimes God wants you to carry out His will.”


(Note that Doris didn't squeal to the cops until she found out SHE wasn't his One and Only. But then, who are we as mere mortals to question the ways of the Uber-Godly Pneumatics?)

keo said...

What happened to the "Religiosity n Relationship" post from April 2? I see it in my blog reader, and laughed out loud twice! "I'm not a cowboy."

Anonymous said...


In my abusive marriage to a minister, I did so many things...because he said that God had said to...

Some people have an extra-ordinary amount of power (charisma/influence, or whatever the word is). They are incredibly influential. You know those people, who are born with a certain charisma... Most of the time, it just makes for a fun person to be around, or a great leader...but if the charisma/power is of the twisted variety, not so much.

A friend of mine was saying that people with certain kinds of mental illness can be like that, too (the sociopath, the NPD, etc), because their minds are out of whack, and so that power gets projected in very destructive ways, because it is a charisma that is out of control. My husband was a very powerful man. He was so influential at our church, and also over me (and church doctrines that train women to be passive respondants make it all the worse).

I'm not justifying those women. Not at all. Just trying to explain how easy it is to fall prey to someone with that much power radiating off of them. It's almost hypnotising, once you fall under it.

Now that I'm out, I recognize it so easily and can't understand how it took me so long. But church people still don't. It's very odd. The psychiatric professionals have been able to clearly spot it and say, in no uncertain terms, that there is a SERIOUS problem with that man. But because his conversation is peppered with numerous Bible verses and references, the church people generally don't see anything but a man of God. The church is a perfect setting for powerful-but-twisted people. It is almost as if we have been purposely taught to be gullible and trusting and easy to manipulate.


MJ said...

Keo, it was probably one I wrote on an impulse and then later felt I went over the line and sounded too extreme and deleted it. It can be the difference between before a cup of coffee (when I write rawly) and after a cup, when I tend to write more gently. I can't even remember what that post was about unless it was the one on Good Friday.

MJ said...

Anonymous, I know that I seem to pick on pastors a lot, but they are the best example because Christan society considers them "most godly."

I can remember when what I was told by godly people flew in the face of all logic, yet falling for the "godly" statements.

When we were college students we were sometimes manipulated with extreme guilt to give money to support certain staff. Things like, "Only you can choose to spend that $5 on yourself, by buying that lunch, or you can give it to the Lord's work, helping to keep people from hell's fires (sounds like the medieval Catholic church that Luther faced).

So then we would give away our last dime, literally going hungry (missing many meals a week) to give to the staff guy.

Then you go to the staff guy's house and it was a $500,000 upscale home and he would be out cooking steak and lobster on his grill. It didn't make sense to use, but this is what the godly man said and to question the godly man was to question God himself.

Anonymous said...

"When coin in Staff Guy's coffer rings..."

keo said...

Want me to send you a copy of your deleted post? There's some good stuff there that you might want to recycle.