My Habit of “naming names” on this blog…

I have decided to take a different approach on this blog when it comes to naming names. Up to this point, I felt that I needed to name names to give more credibility to the points that I was trying to make. I think that I, and possibly others, experienced a kind of therapy from knowing exactly about whom we were talking. In spite of this personal benefit, I have changed my mind on this issue. I will continue to critique any/all published materials like books, articles, Cds, tapes, Mp3s, sermons, etc., but I will try not to name names anymore. I now admit how this kind of practice can descend so quickly into a “he said/she said” kind of scenario or an unhealthy feeding frenzy of repressed feelings against certain people. 

Here are my reasons:  

1-When I name a name on this blog, the other person is not there to defend himself or herself or to give their side of the story; in that sense it is unfair for me to name names. Sure, we know that many “lurk” or have their staff members do the same, but most do not want to engage in trying to defend themselves personally in this kind of environment. 

2-I have taken more to heart the Mt. 18 Protocol of Jesus which begins with: “When your brother sins against you, go to him in private…” I don’t know how I am going to honor these words of Jesus perfectly because I have literally boxes full of notes of wrongs and offenses against leaders, but I will be thinking and praying about how I can work this important exhortation more into my daily life. (I am open to any ideas along this line.) 

3-Several years ago, I promised a couple of the pastors in the church system I like to criticize on this blog that when I wrote my book on spiritual abuse, that I would not mention any of their names. Even though this blog is not strictly a “book,” I feel that I may have been violating this promise in spirit. 

4-My motive for naming names has been to confront a church system that I feel has gone wrong in many ways. I now feel that I can accomplish my main purpose without always doing this. My naming of names may have hurt some people’s reputations unnecessarily. (This last point brings up the whole idea of whether I owe any of those I publicly criticized an apology; I will wait on the Lord about that one.) 

5-I have found that the Lord has sovereignly involved me in situations (even one right now for which I covet your prayers!) in which I confront pastors about their wrongdoings. Because of these types of sensitive scenarios, I think that I will feel better in my heart if I drop using names. (Honestly, I’m getting filled with so much ammo against pastor/leaders that I don’t want to get into the habit of it spilling out automatically all the time. I want to follow the approach that, as far as I can tell, therapists take when they publish a book using all of their clients’ examples – but with all the names changed.) 

6-I personally know many pastor/leaders besides the ones “on the hill.” As I continue to share, I would like any readers to know that what I write is not necessarily going to be about the church “on the butte.” 

In light of these reflections, I will be systematically going through all of my previous articles and striking out the names wherever possible. I felt to change the names in my Tacoma Dome story awhile back and now feel peace about changing the rest of them. Again, at least for right now, I feel that I can still accomplish my goal of exposing spiritual abuse in pastors and churches by keeping my focus on the general biblical principles involved instead of naming individuals.   

If you disagree with my decision, I will understand. I ask, nevertheless, that you try to have patience with me as I continue to struggle with the many deep and personal issues involved with truth-telling on this blog; especially since, from the beginning, I have chosen to post in my own name.

 

Who would have thought?

Detox Church Group has this to say: 

Davie Said,

"I have found that dialogues on BLOGS are generally unproductive and unlikely to effect any change on either side of those ‘dialogues’. In fact, discussing in ‘abstract’ topics that are rooted in actual personal events and experiences tend to not be helpful."

What exactly is your expertise on blogging?

Contrary to your comment, this Blog has been one of the most helpful forums for those of us in our town who dared to disembark from an authoritarian Pastor Cult church. It helped us see that we weren’t the crazy ones, going against the status quo of what has become the Church today, that indeed there is a community of Christians who actively engage their minds as well as their spirits, and seek to know the meaning of the Scriptures.

If not for this blog, I personally may have given up on Christianity completely because 95% of what I had seen represented in the Christian community around me or if I ever glimpsed Christians on TV, proved to be (and still is) an embarrassment to me and I cringe to think I was a part of that. Not so much because of pride, although that could be lurking in me, but because it doesn’t echo the Spirit of Christ we see in the Bible. I could have easily walked away if what I was seeing was all there was going to be (i.e. Is this IT?? You’ve GOT to be kidding!). But the Blog, along with the healthy, non-dysfunctional, non-authoritarian, non-pastor cult church I am attending today with a few close friends and family, has helped me see that Jesus really IS who He represents Himself to be in the Bible.

I never wanted to give up on Christ. He’s the sane one, the beautiful one, the all-loving one who listens and really cares about the condition of my heart and life. Who I want to give up on are Posers who use His name to do strange and controlling things to the people they have been entrusted with. In fact, I’ve pretty much written those types off. I have no room in my life for them anymore. My friend said it best the other day that they aren’t on the same team as we are. They aren’t allies, comrades, brethren who are slightly tweaked in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, because of their evil and controlling behaviour, who they resemble most are the enemies of Christ.

We’ve individually come to the conclusion that the boundary line has to be drawn and these types are not our types and we don’t want to be associated with them ever again. There can be a forgiveness but forgiveness is no cause stupidity and letting the Takers take all again — some of these people are sociopaths cloaked in their Religiousness and most of the church is too gullible to even see it. And the world is sitting by watching God’s people being duped over and over again. Why would they want to come to Christ if that’s what is going to happen to them??

Thank GOD for these voices on the Blog and in the Normal Church who are helping undo the damage done. By pointing back to the simplicity of the scriptures and the grace of God and what Jesus accomplished on the cross, it reminds us not to return to slavery again (Gal 5:1). David Mackin’s comments have been extremely helpful as well as others who have gone through similar strangeness — in our case beginning with borderline abuse that grew into blatent abuse, but in some of their cases extreme abuse. Also, the HUMOR of some of the other Bloggers has been most helpful, even if it is sometimes irreverant, because it lightens us up and helps us not take ourselves quite so seriously.

 Thank you Detox…we greatly appreciate your comments.

Rick Warren’s Calling

Two years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating piece for the New Yorker on how Rick Warren built his ministry.

Reading it, I found myself both dismayed and impressed. Warren does not shy from asking his congregation for money, but he seems to actually put that money to good use.

In the wake of the extraordinary success of "The Purpose-Driven Life," Warren says, he underwent a period of soul-searching. He had suddenly been given enormous wealth and influence and he did not know what he was supposed to do with it. "God led me to Psalm 72, which is Solomon's prayer for more influence," Warren says. "It sounds pretty selfish. Solomon is already the wisest and wealthiest man in the world. He's the King of Israel at the apex of its glory. And in that psalm he says, 'God, I want you to make me more powerful and influential.' It looks selfish until he says, 'So that the King may support the widow and orphan, care for the poor, defend the defenseless, speak up for the immigrant, the foreigner, be a friend to those in prison.' Out of that psalm, God said to me that the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. That changed my life. I had to repent. I said, I'm sorry, widows and orphans have not been on my radar. I live in Orange County. I live in the Saddleback Valley, which is all gated communities. There aren't any homeless people around. They are thirteen miles away, in Santa Ana, not here." He gestured toward the rolling green hills outside. "I started reading through Scripture. I said, How did I miss the two thousand verses on the poor in the Bible? So I said, I will use whatever affluence and influence that you give me to help those who are marginalized."

Perhaps I'm succumbing to the cult of Rick Warren, but after reading this article, I'm kind of on board with the guy.  While I find myself cringe at the thought of him telling his congregation they need to give more money, and while there is a certain convenience to finding the one Bible verse that tells you, you need to be MORE wealthy and powerful, Rick Warren does appear to be using his influence to benefit others. And that's a good thing.

(Oh, and off topic, but I found this article on Rick Warren via an article Gladwell wrote on ketchup. It is the definitive work on ketchup, and one of the best essays I've ever read. )

Quick Question

Since a lot of the readers of this blog consider themselves to be Evangelical Christians, I have a couple of quick questions:

Do you consider Mormons to be Christians? And secondly, are Mormons going to heaven?

I know growing up in the church, I was taught that Mormonism is a cult, but I wonder if views have changed now that Mormonism is so much more mainstream. I ask this question, because the likely Republican Presidential candidate is a mormon, and I wonder if the Evangelical base will rally behind him like they did George W. Bush.

The neo-liberal Christian

CNN.com has an interesting article profiling Christian author Donald Miller. The article leads to this comparison of Christianity: 

Some experts say Miller and authors like him are in sync with a generation of young adults who very much believes in God, Jesus and the basics of Christianity, but are struggling to balance their conservative Christian upbringings with a culture that embraces a go-along-to get-along philosophy.

"People like Donald Miller are speaking almost like a prophet of a new age and describing the landscape in a way people who feel comfortable in that landscape really couldn't articulate before," said David Kinnaman, a researcher for The Barna Group and author of "Unchristian."

Critics call Miller's works casual and glib and that he strays from biblical truths when he downplays homosexuality and other sins.

One such critic, Shane Walker, says Miller presents Jesus as a "nice fellow who meets one at the campfire and swaps stories." He forgets to remind readers that Jesus is also a judge and avenger who "wants to save you from his just wrath," according to his review for "Blue Like Jazz" , an organization designed to help local churches re-establish their biblical bearings.

There is a tension among current Christians leaders on how Christianity is going to be shaped over the next couple of decades. You can see the old conservatives struggling to maintain their influence, while a younger generation, pushes the Faith left. 

However, for me, I don't really fit in either group.  I'm not a fan of Republican Christianity, but I also feel that Faith and Religion have to offer you something more than a just a good feeling.  I don't want to go to church just to be told I'm special and God loves me. I know that already. I want to be challenged to sacrifice myself for others. And frankly, I don't see that type of honesty anywhere.

Self Help Christianity

Good Magazine has a profile of Joel Osteen with some fascinating insight into Osteen's ministry:

It's the Bless-Me Club," says Dr. Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, an interdenominational seminary with a Wesleyan heritage. "It is self-help, and that kind of message plays very well in America. It's the opposite of the message of salvation, which is that you are saved by grace from God. Joel Osteen is preaching the psychology of self-worth. There's nothing wrong with a strong sense of self-worth, but it doesn’t have to be linked to material success."

And of course, the article discusses Joel's business acumen:

Joel is a very good businessman,” Paul Osteen says. “He’s surrounded himself with people who are very good at what they do. …He oversaw a $100-million renovation to the Compaq Center; it takes some business savvy to do that.”

I have no problem with preaching a positive self-help message. It's just, I don't need church for that. I can feel good about myself after watching two hours of American Idol.  And again, it doesn't seem that Christ had such a feel-good life. He ended up dying on a cross. I just can't see Christ preaching this message:

The reason [Osteen is] so popular is because of the spiritual infantilism of America. Not just spiritual, the infantilism of American culture,” Anthony says. “And he feeds the Paris Hilton, Britney Spears culture. It’s all me. Benefit me. What can I do for me? How can I feel better? What can I do about me? How you can get the best of your life? It’s all me-centered.”

unChristian

There is a new book out called unChristian that sounds quite intriguing. (Mostly, because it backs up all of my beliefs on Christianity.)

Here is the central thesis of the book:

Kinnaman, president of the Barna Institute, was inspired to write this book when Lyons (of the Fermi Project) commissioned him to do extensive research on what young Americans think about Christianity. Lyons had a gut-level sense that something was desperately wrong, and three years of research paints exactly that picture.

The generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered. Rather than simply try to do a PR face-lift, Kinnaman looks at ways in which churches' activities actually may have been unchristian and encourages a return to a more biblical Christianity, a faith that not only focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it.

I have not read the book, as I usually only read books when I am stuck in an airport with nothing to do. However, in my four years in DC, I have met quite a lot of young Christians who group up attending a fundamentalist church.  And while many of them still identify with Christ, they do not identify with the church. 

If you want to reach the Future Tithers of America, then you are going to need to make the church more about doing something than just avoiding sin.  In my mind, in today's church, holiness is overrated, and compassion is underrated.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr

I give you the modern day, Martin Luther King Jr. My hero and yours,

Barack Obama!

(Oh yeah, I'm not giving up. If JP and JoeBib can write 8000 words on the meaning of Matthew 8. Then I can spend a few words discussing Obama!)

Here is a great story from Obama's speach at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta!

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

I really encourage you to read the whole thing. Even if you don't agree with his policies, you have to admit, he is inspiring!

Call to Renewal

Here is a great speach on Faith from our next President:

And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship — the grounding of faith in struggle — that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today.

Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

I'm pretty sure I have a man-crush on Obama.