Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Way, The Truth or the Life? A Perplexing Gospel, Which One to Share?

This is going to be one of those difficult postings. It is difficult to find a handle on which to grasp it, so I can make sense of what I'm trying to say.

I find myself in the situation of not knowing how to feel or think when a wayward relative or friend (meaning no interest in God at all) decides to turn to, or return to, the Evangelical world. Of course I want them to know God, the God who is there and I want them to pattern their lives around the way that God says that life works best.

But it doesn't answer the question. In my old days, it was a no-brainer. If a relative (talking here of siblings, nephews or nieces) joined an Evangelical church it was always a time of rejoicing. I can clearly remember when my niece (raised by my sister as a pure heathen) joined this very fundamentalist church. I was so happy that she had "come to know the Lord." But she has been involved with this church now for two decades. It is run by a famous TV evangelists. She is now on his staff and travels the world with him. How exciting.

But even today, I tuned into his program for a minute. My niece is behind the camera. I couldn't stand it. It was horrible. He was using intensive mind and spiritual manipulation to get people to send him $300. He is very, very rich with at least one (but I think two) private jets. He has several mansions. So was it a good thing that she went from no spiritual interest to being in this cultish mess? I'm not so sure and would probably feel better if she were an intellectual agnostic . . . or even a self-proclaimed atheists. Why? Because she may have more hope of finding the truth than she does now.

I'm thinking about this because yesterday my mother told me that my sister (this niece's mother) had "rededicated her life." Of course to my dear-ole (and I mean this with love) Baptist mother, that is a very good thing. But again, I'm not so sure.

This sister lives in the world of glamor and pretend. We are talking plastic surgery, fast cars, lots of rich men suiters. This is a world of pretend, and when she rededicates her life (as she has before) it is part of this complex script. To hard to explain here. I would, however, feel better if my sister became obsessed with the writings of some great (and truthful) author, say George McDonald, and never visited one of these bleached-blond, lots of make-up Southern Baptist churches . . . do you know what I mean? I think I'm saying it is about sincerity.

It would be very, very hard for me to go out on "evangelism" like I use to. I now know that 90% of what I would be doing would be recruiting people to a subculture of Evangelicalism. What I really want for them now, is a sense of the true God who is there.

Please don't take me wrong. I'm not opposed to them going to a church. But I think I would feel better if my sister (or her daughter) was going to a Catholic church, something total new to them . . . because it would seem more sincere. But, the fact that my sister was raised in Baptist-pretending culture, when she goes back to it (usually for a couple of months when she is in crisis) I am dubious about the significance of it.

The same applies to some of my own kids. I would not be happy if they went from agnosticism (as a couple might be right now) into an Evangelical church. My wife wishes that they were part of Campus Crusade or the Navs. I don't because I know it would me them giving up their brains.

So, how do we pray for the lost? Maybe I'm not making any sense but my mother was a little shocked when her "religious son" (meaning me) was not excited to hear that her wayward sister had rededicated her life once more. Maybe this time it does mean something.

11 comments:

Eagle said...

MJ...hope this won't offend you. But the concern you express about evangelicalism is how I feel about Christianity. I'd be concerned about the harm, the mind games, guilt trips, manipulation, etc..which comes out of so many parts of the Christian faith.

That said I'd love that person...because when the fundy faith implodes, Christians will drop that person like a rock, want nothing to do with that person, and their life will be scarred. It's simple...but Christians really don't get it...they don't know how to love. For them it means that you have to convert, do it quickly, fit into their program, sign up for a mission, sign away the mortgage, and then sign your life away to a million and one church programs.

But regardless when this gets nasty I'd love her, because others will not.

BTW...I'd stay away from Campus Crusade. I'm a survivor here..if your children get invovled they will become brainwashed clones. When I was in Crusade it was nothing but evangelism, defend creationism, avoid logic and view education with skepticism, create a bubble away from the others, etc.. Its all run by the staff director who runs his own ship with little accountability. Kind of like a mini fundgelical kingdom that worships Bill Bright. I wish I could go back and erase that part of my life, I really do. But if I were your son..I'd stay away from Campus Crusade for Christ like I'd stay away from cancer.

Hope T. said...

MJ and Eagle, You both make sense to me! There may be a few churches (considered liberal by most) that make helping the downtrodden and poor their main priority but I assume these churches are few and far between. Most are looking for an "increase in their ministry" (code words for $$$).

Thank you Eagle for the warning about Campus Crusade. I have recently become very concerned about that organization because my husband and I have given them thousands of dollars over many years in support of a close relative of ours works for them. Of late, I have been led in my own mind to call into question the ethics of Campus Crusade. I don't think they are on the up and up about finances and where donations are going and I honestly don't know anything about their "tactics" of evangelism. In addition, I thought they treated my relative very poorly at first (including gross psychological manipulation) and "used" this person for their own ends. My relative is way too far into it to leave now but I wish to stop giving money to this "cancer(!)".Can either of you, Eagle or MJ, point me to information about the deceptive practices of Crusade, financial or otherwise? It would be much easier if I could just speak openly to my family member and get answers but I fear it would cause a family rift.

Anonymous said...

But the concern you express about evangelicalism is how I feel about Christianity. -- Eagle

That's because the majority of your experience with Christianity was experience with Evangelicalism.

And Mormons -- though their theology differs considerably from mainstream Christianity, much of their behavior and attitude is the same as Evangelicalism. (After all, Mormonism originated in the same time, place, and mainstream culture as Revivalism.)

When I was in Crusade it was nothing but evangelism, defend creationism, avoid logic and view education with skepticism, create a bubble away from the others, etc.. Its all run by the staff director who runs his own ship with little accountability. Kind of like a mini fundgelical kingdom that worships Bill Bright. -- Eagle

And don't forget "Wretched Urgency" desperation prosletyzing in any and all encounters outside Campus Crusade.

Or the fact that Campus Crusaders usually had NO friends or associates outside of Campus Crusade.

I was on the fringe of Campus Crusade in college (Cal Poly Pomona, 1975-78). After having been in one cultic-in-all-but-theology situation in Jr College, I recognized the signs and stayed on the fringe. Bill Bright started out as a salesman, and I've never been able to figure out how his "Multiplying Ministry" concept differs from an MLM pyramid scheme. (Including the "Wretched Urgency" to sign up everyone you encounter.)

But the Navigators (where Christian Monist burned out) were worse. Their rep was "More Campus Crusade than Campus Crusade" Jesus-bots, with the addition of having the highest burnout and flunkout rate of anybody on-campus.

Headless Unicorn Guy

jmj said...

Say, if you are sitting on an airplane on a long overseas flight. The person next to you engages you in conversation before you even take off.

During the trans-Atlantic leg, they bring up the idea that they have been agnostic for most of their lives, but are starting to read the Bible. They have become intrigued with some of the stories and would like to know more about Christianity. The plane is preparing to land and the two of you will go your separate forever. How do you give them direction? When they ask, "which is the best church if I decided to try one out, or the best organization?" What would you say?

I find Evangelicalism complicated these days, as I try to fillet the true Christianity away from the sub-culture that may or more likely, may not be good for them.

beakerj said...

Dear JMJ,
I'd still say L'Abri. They are mostly moderately reformed (not that that's a huge issue to me), but so good with real questioners & those who just don't fit in evangelicalism, esp. American evangelicalism. They will take each person who comes very seriously indeed.
I'm very very fortunate that despite parts of my faith being in meltdown after my Mother's recent death from cancer the church I go to kind of grew out of the work of English L'Abri. People have been unbelievable, so loving & caring, so able to deal with my pain & bewilderment, I have some true soul friends who love me no matter what state my walk with God is in.

@Eagle: I see your posts on a few sites & my heart always goes out to you for the pain you feel. I just wish you knew the Christians I know.

@the Christian Monist: such a scary place to be when you feel your loved ones are heading towards some kind of spiritual disaster, right where you'd hope they'd be safe. As for Campus Crusade etc,the main thing I know about them is that a female Mentor or Team Leader put the moves on a female friend of mine when she worked for them. Messed her up for a while.
I've taken time off church youth work for now, but how we've dealt with our teenagers
& university students couldn't be less like this. We've pushed them to ask questions, pursue their own relationships with God, & not let anyone cookie cutter them. As a result they've become uncomfortable with anything so prescriptive & impersonal. Generally speaking.I'm hoping we've innoculated them.
Apols for a long first post - I'd actually like to talk re.anxiety disorders sometime because I'm a struggling agoraphobic...not many Xtians confess these things!

jmj said...

I was about to mention LAbri, but at times I sound like a LAbri groupee.

beakerj said...

@ JMJ Praise where praise is due though...I'm sensing that the truthfulness they've always displayed (imperfectly, but genuinely) is spreading, people are breaking out of situations & theologies that are glib & surface & impose uniformity. May it continue!

Johan said...

I'm actually reading the Unspoken Sermons by George MacDonald at the moment and wow is it healthy for the soul.
Every page is like a breath of fresh air.
Definitely recommend it.

Eagle said...

@ Hope-

Yes Campus Crusade can be slippery and have questionable ethics. Some of their evangelism techniques are misleading. I've heard people complain about that...being told one thing (ie a social event...) and find out it was some type of outreach where someone will share their testimony. The other concern is that they place a great ammount of pressure on people to do missions trips, join Crusade staff, etc.. . I knew one guy who went to their Christmas conference in Minneapolis who was pissed beyond belief because they did a "millenial pladge" to committ people to sign up for missions work for a year or longer. Here is how it worked...you had no idea it was coming, and then you had this long, drawing out session of passionate worship (ie girls crying , guys on the floor( and then when people were emotional and not thinking straight they challenged people to go overseas for a year.. (rolls eyes..) Lovely decision making process. I've heard other former members wonder if it was a cult.

As for questionable financial techniques that depends. Baptists defend CCC and you will be hard pressed to get them to criticize them. I'd find or talk to former staff member who tried to do it but it didn't work out. And of course CCC will have its defenders.

When I was involved Bill Bright was almost worshipped. People would be like, "Hey read God:Discover His Charachter" and then there would be another one which would be suggested.

Again Campus Crusade is toxic, poisonous, and harmful. Looking back I would consider it a cult. After being in the LDS and then fundgelicalism..I have to tell you that I'm weary of myself becuase I went from one cult to another.

Anonymous said...

I've heard people complain about that...being told one thing (ie a social event...) and find out it was some type of outreach where someone will share their testimony.

i.e. Bait and Switch.

With the switch being Testimony and Altar Call or Appeal for Money. The former was practically a trademark.

Here is how it worked...you had no idea it was coming, and then you had this long, drawing out session of passionate worship (ie girls crying , guys on the floor( and then when people were emotional and not thinking straight they challenged people to go overseas for a year.. (rolls eyes..)

Just like a con game. Standard high-pressure sales tactics. Long setup and buildup to get the marks into the proper mood, then turn on the guilt manipulation. Maybe a couple shill "volunteers" to start the ball rolling and let the bandwagon effect to the rest. Nobody wants to be branded Lukewarm (TM) or Not Really Christian (TM).

I was not surprised to learn Bill Bright's background was in Sales & Marketing.

Anonymous said...

Addendum to my previous comments about Campus Crusade:

Something else about Campus Crusade was its attitude and intensity varied from campus to campus and from year to year.

For instance, at Cal Poly Pomona in 1978 I first heard of the game "Killer" (AKA "The Assassination Game") from Campus Crusade contacts -- it was apparently very popular among the CCC staff (some of whom were gamers; this was before the Satanic Panic fixed Witchunters-General sights on D&D).

However, the CCC chapter at Cal State Fullerton was just the opposite, more Navigator than the Navigators. When I D&Ded at Fullerton on weekends, we had to keep an eye out for CCC "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing" infiltrators. In a sneak preview of the later Satanic Panic, CCC there was very hostile to "Dungeons and DEMONS and The Occult". (We had one gamer who BSed a lot about his Psychic Powers; we'd steer noobs into a game session or two with him to flush CCC infiltrators. It was a wild and crazy time...)

Headless Unicorn Guy