Religious Belief: Christian,
Comments: I am writing because I read some questions from another person about the Pentecostal religion. My husband is Pentecostal, I have tried to be involved but I am very open to many religions and do not believe that they are all right. Now like you answered in one of the question the spouse will either go to the church or there will be friction. There is definitely friction and it didn't start too much until we had our ceremony in Aug. We have been married since last January. I don't feel as if I can belong to that faith, to me they are very judgmental. My husband will not even try out other churches. Can you give me any advise?
Thanks for writing edwardtbabinski.us. Keep in mind that I'm not Dr. Phil, so my advice may be even sketchier than his. Above all, remember that communication is not something anyone should take for granted because it's never easy between any two people, it's an art, and it takes patience and practice, and failures in communicating what you personally believe to be true to another human being are common. But pick yourself up, take a break, and be willing to take it slower later. Listening is key also, because we often hear what we want to hear, or pick on points that the other person does not feel are weak, or can't bring themselves to admit are weak, especially to you. And that person thinks you are just trying to tear them apart and grow increasingly defensive. I think in a discussion, especially between spouses, both people ought to try and start by trying to discover what beliefs and feeling they hold most in common, what they both believe most centrally about life and love, and then see how you both can accommodate everything else you feel about each other and feel about each other's beliefs. Keep the central shared things most central, and go back to them if things get difficult in the boarderlands.
And if you love someone and they love you, chances are you can find plenty of solid common ground to both stand on, and then you can learn to tred relatively peaceably over the remaining ground that is not common between each of you, though to get to that point maybe be a bit of bumpy road involving disagreements and subsequent forgiveness. Learning to disagree and then later forgive is also part of the process of a relationship. It's like learning how to heal, emotionally, in the presence of another person who also is hurting at times.
From your email it appears that you either work at or attend (address ommitted by webmaster)-- University, a Jesuit institution, so I assume you either attend there, maybe even have a Catholic background, or that they hired you to work for them. You mentioned wanting to try other less judgmental churches, so I assume your husband is not a Catholic though there are Charismatic Catholics who speak in tongues and believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit just like Pentecostals do. I assume he is a member of a non-Catholic Pentecostal denomination. Correct me if I'm wrong, but his Pentecostal church might even believe that the baptism in the holy spirit is an important even vital sign of salvation, and without it, your salvation remains a bit doubtful. Some Pentecostals feel that way--while some non-Pentecostal Protestants suspect that Pentecostals speaking in tongues are deluding themselves or even demon possessed. And so it goes, Christian judging Christian.
You both might also have differences of opinion over what constitutes proper or fulfilling worship. Some people are into contemplative worship, the quiet inner light of the Quaker's worship service for instance. While Pentecostals tend toward rousing music and physical movement. Catholic worship features slow paced movements, kneeling, and the repetition of prayers and ancient christian creeds in unison. Catholicism also depends on grasping God via a contempative eye, via stained glass images, statues, colored body length robes and scarves, fancy altars, and fluttering candles and incense, and and even-toned sermon. So they specialize in things that grab your eye, sights, and also some smells as well. While Protestants are grabbed more by the sight of relatively faster moving objects, preachers strutting back and forth on stage like caged animals, choirs bouncing up and down, not a lot of visual stand-still art in Protestant churches, they stress hearing words above all, words spoken loudly and from the gut, and key lines repeated ad infinitum. Catholics repeat prayers during their services, but Protestants repeat verses or parts of verses, over and over again as if repeating them hammered them into a person's skull, or as if they were flinging out darts to poke Satan in their audience.
Here's some opinions from writers about different forms of worship:
"A devotee on her knees in some abysmal and mysterious cathedral while solemn music echoes, and clouds of incense come down the wind, and priests in luxurious, operatic costumes busy themselves with stately ceremonials in a dead and not too respectable language--this is unquestionably beautiful, particularly if the devotee herself is attractive. But the same devotee aroused to hysterical protestations of faith by the shrieks and contortions of a Pentecostal preacher, her knees trembling with the fear of God, her hands clenched as if to do combat with Beelzebub, her lips discharging hosannas and hallelujahs--this is merely obscene."
"The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned--we were in a state of grace and the rest were heathens. Our hymns were loaded with arrogance--self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty, and what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day."
"This is not piety, this oft-respected bowing of one’s head; this bustling to temples/churches; this kow-towing and tear-jerking, this deluging of affirmations and re-affirmations, vow on vow. True piety lies rather in the power to contemplate the universe with a quiet mind."
I don't know if the above quotations or anything I wrote above might help you and/or your husband to understand that different people have different senses and appreciations of different forms of worship. I am also reminded of something written recently by the Evangelical historian Mark Noll about differences in the Christian world:
THE EVANGELICAL MIND
We who are in pietistic, generically evangelical, Baptist, fundamentalist, Restorationist, holiness, “Bible church,” megachurch, or Pentecostal traditions face special difficulties when putting the mind to use. Taken together, American evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to careful and constructive thinking remain substantial. These barriers include an immediatism that insists on action, decision, and even perfection right now, a populism that confuses winning supporters with mastering actually existing situations, an anti-traditionalism that privileges one’s own current judgments on biblical, theological, and ethical issues (however hastily formed) over insight from the past (however hard won and carefully stated), and a nearly gnostic dualism that rushes to spiritualize all manner of bodily, terrestrial, physical, and material realities (despite the origin and providential maintenance of these realities in God). In addition, we evangelicals as a rule still prefer to put our money into programs offering immediate results, whether evangelistic or humanitarian, instead of into institutions promoting intellectual development over the long term. These evangelical habits continue to hamper evangelical thinking. We remain inordinately susceptible to enervating apocalyptic speculation, and we produce and consume oceans of bathetic End Times literature while sponsoring only a trickle of serious geopolitical analysis. We are consistently drawn to so-called “American Christianities”--occasionally of the left, more often of the right--that subordinate principled reasoning rooted in the gospel to partisanship in which opponents are demonized and deficiencies in our friends are excused… Capitulation to disembodied ideals of spirituality incapacitates our struggling band of novelists and poets. And far too many of us still make the intellectually suicidal mistake of thinking that promoting “creation science” is the best way to resist naturalistic philosophies of science. When it comes to the life of the mind, in other words, we evangelicals continue to have our problems…
Evangelical higher education in North America remains a fragmented enterprise, both nourished and impeded by the sectarian character of American religion…
Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, members of Holiness movements, seeker-sensitive churches, dispensationalists, Adventists, African-American congregations, radical Wesleyans, and lowest-common-denominator evangelicals have great spiritual energy, but they flounder in putting the mind to use for Christ. On the other side, Lutherans, Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, the Reformed, and the Eastern Orthodox enjoy incredibly rich traditions that include sterling examples of Christian thought, but they often display a comatose spirituality.
This picture is, of course, a generalization…
Mark Noll [Professor of History at Wheaton College--Billy Graham’s alma mater], “The Evangelical Mind Today,” First Things, No. 146, Oct. 2004
This highly emotional branch of evangelical Christianity reportedly is growing so fast that it numbers half a billion adherents worldwide. But Pentecostalism is, in many ways, outside the mainstream of Christianity, with its speaking in tongues, predicting the end of the world, getting “slain in the spirit,” aggressive faith healing, strong anti-intellectualism and distaste for theology. If this particular expression of Christianity wins the day, it will only be at the expense of a vast gulf opening up between religion and the academy. That seems like a troubling prospect meriting consideration.
Karl Giberson, review of The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, “Science & Theology News”
Loresa Goodly filed a lawsuit in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, in November for injuries she incurred just after she had received the Holy Spirit at a tent revival meeting and passed out on the floor. Moments later, another woman received the Holy Spirit and fell on top of Goodly before ushers could catch her, breaking three of Goodly’s ribs.
Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, Nov. 18, 1995
THE MANY FACES OF BENNY HINN
After different occurrences of televangelist Benny Hinn’s famous antic “slaying in the Spirit,” during which crowds of people fall over, one young girl’s leg was badly injured and an elderly woman died from complications following a broken hip.Her family sued for $15 million; Hinn settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Hinn has been fooled more than once during his crusades by hired actors who pretended to be handicapped, then pretended to be healed--despite Hinn’s past promises not to televise healings until they had been medically confirmed. Other people who really were sick had been pronounced healed and were televised as such. Reporters discovered, in case after case, that no one followed up on them and that none of them had really been healed. This included a half-dozen AIDS patients, several deaf or blind children, a quadriplegic teen and a woman with cancer, who quit her chemotherapy and died two months later. Reporters could not find a single verifiable healing, although in one chilling interview, a woman with multiple sclerosis serenely announced that she had discontinued her medication because she believed, thanks to Hinn, that her healing would arrive at any moment.
Hinn has also claimed--each time on record--that
1) He conducted services in a hospital overseas and healed so many people the place nearly shut down (a reporter checked up on this and the hospital categorically denied it).
2) Someone videotaped him raising a man from the dead in Guyana (this was also refuted and ultimately retracted by a ministry spokesman).
Information drawn from The Many Faces of Benny Hinn (a video and book of the same title that summarizes a host of investigative reports on Benny Hinn), produced by The Door Magazine. “Even the most credulous, faithful followers of Benny Hinn would be hard-pressed to explain why so many national TV newsmagazines and local stations, from Chicago to Orlando to Dallas to Sydney, Australia, keep uncovering the same damning facts year after year.”
--Gregg Hartman (www.christianhumor.about.com) See also Matthew Barry, “Adventures in Faith Healing,” Freethought Today, March, 1998
THE LARGEST CASE OF CHILD PROSTITUTION IN U.S. HISTORY
Reverend Tony Leyva, Pentecostal TV-evangelist who used to wear a Superman costume and carry a Bible, nicknaming himself “Super Christian,” and who was in the Guinness Book of World Records (for four years) for preaching the longest known sermon (72 hours straight), and who was hired by a Georgia television station to replace Jimmy Swaggert’s show, was arrested by the FBI, along with three of his fellow fundamentalists, on charges of transporting boys across state lines for the purposes of prostitution or criminal sexual activity. Reverend Leyva railed in public against “filth” and “smut.” In private he sodomized more than 100 church boys, and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 1989.
Mick Echols, Brother Tony’s Boys: The Largest Case of Child Prostitution in U.S. History
THE DEVIL HAD “GOTTEN INTO THEIR THINGS”
Police in Vinton, Louisiana were surprised when a driver wearing only a towel got out of a car, then got back in and sped off. They were dumbfounded when the car hit a tree and disgorged 20 people wearing nothing at all. There were fifteen adults in the interior of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am and five children in the trunk. The driver of the car, Sammy Rodriguez and his brother, Danny, both said they were Pentecostal preachers. They made statements that the devil was after them. And their hometown, Floydada, Texas, was going to be destroyed if they stayed there. They fled Floydada in five cars, but wound up abandoning four of them, along with the family’s clothes, pocketbooks, wallets and other belongings because “the devil” had “gotten into those things.”
Associated Press, “Cops Chase Car With 20 Naked Passengers,” Aug. 20, 1993
YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER, OOPS, I MEANT, “A SINNER”
An unemployed maid and mother of seven burned a winning $60,000 lottery ticket because her minister at an Assembly of God church in Fortaleza, Brazil, said her plane would “sink in sin in hell” if she went to claim the prize money. “Destroy the ticket--the devil’s work--to save yourself from hellfire,” Preacher Wagner said, as the congregation chanted, “Burn, burn, burn.” So Maria Banoiza Nascimento returned to her one-room shack (where she lived with her unemployed husband and her four seriously ill children), and burned the ticket. Then, for good measure, she burned her identification card and her children’s birth certificates as well.
Associated Press, 1995
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
GARRISON KEILLOR REMEMBERS AN ARGUMENT HIS UNCLE HAD CONCERNING “SPEAKING IN TONGUES”
One summer night Louie and Mel set to over the issue of speaking in tongues, Louie arguing that this manifestation of the Spirit was to be sought earnestly, Mel holding that it was a miraculous gift given to the early church but not given by God today. I forget the Scripture verses each of them brought forward to defend his position, but I remember the pale faces, the throat-clearing, the anguished looks, as those two voices went back and forth, straining at the bit, giving no ground--the poisoned courtesy (“I think my brother is overlooking Paul’s very clear message to the Corinthians…,” “Perhaps my brother needs to take a closer look, a prayerful look, at this verse in Hebrews…”) as the sun went down, neighbor children were called indoors, the neighbors turned out their lights, eleven o’clock came--they wouldn’t stop!
“Perhaps,” Grandpa offered, “it would be meet for us to pray for the Spirit to lead us,” hoping to adjourn, but both Louie and Mel felt that the Spirit had led, that the Spirit had written the truth in big black letters--if only some people could see it.
The thought of Uncle Louie speaking in tongues was fascinating to me. Uncle Louie worked at the bank, he spoke to me mostly about thrift and hard work. What tongue would he speak? Spanish? French? Or would it sound like gibberish? Louie said that speaking in tongues was the true sign, that those who believed heard and to those who didn’t it was only gabble--what if he stood up and said, “Feemalator, jasperator, hoo ha ha, Wamalamagamanama, zis boom bah!” and everyone else said, “Amen! That’s right, brother! Praise God!” and I was the only one who said, “Huh?”
Garrison Keillor, “Protestant,” Lake Woebegon Days
A FORMER PENTECOSTAL ON “SPEAKING IN TONGUES”
Anyone interested in the phenomena of “speaking in tongues” should try a google search (www.google.com) on “glossolalia” and read about some of the scientific studies on the subject. Or you could try going to the Discovery Channel’s website and searching there on the term. I recently saw a documentary featuring a linguistic expert who has studied people speaking in tongues all over the world in many different religious settings. He said that it is all gibberish, not anything akin to a genuine language, and that it is also all remarkably similar in tone and sound. He played examples from several Christian groups, some voodoo and vodoun practitioners, and some Hindi festivals and some Polynesian religious rituals. The sounds were all remarkably similar in their use of vowels and consonants but none of the examples fit the definition of actual language. His theory is that the similarity is accounted for by the human subconscious producing certain sounds when an individual is in an auto-hypnotic state. [My theory is far simpler, you let some air out of your mouth and start repeating the first nonsense syllable your tongue naturally forms, rolling it over and over again on your tongue, until another syllable is added, and keep repeating them as more syllables arise, as they will, naturally. Anyone can be taught how to do it without “auto-hypnosis.” I can still speak in tongues just as I did as a Christian.--E.T.B.]
I used to pray in tongues when I was a Pentecostal. I can do it now anytime, on demand, it was just freeing the subconscious and spouting whatever gibberish came into my head. If this was truly a “gift from God” I certainly would have lost the ability when I gave up Christianity and became a Witch.
For the last 20 years, between 7 and 9 percent of Americans have spoken in tongues--but almost the same percentage said the practice is evidence of demonic possession.
Bernard Katz, “Quoteline and Commentaries,” The American Rationalist, July/Aug. 1998
Michael Trofimov pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of his father. Trofimov, who had recently joined a religious group, was found was his hands around his father’s neck “speaking in tongues and screaming for God.” His uncle said, “He was a good young man and then he started going to these [religious] meetings.”
Chuck Shepherd, John J. Kohut & Roland Sweet, More News of the Weird (1990)
True story: A young Pentecostal girl dared her girlfriend in church to shout out some nonsense syllables just to see if someone would stand up and “interpret the tongue.” So the girl shouted, “coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola” and a church member promptly stood up and “interpreted the tongue” as a message from God.
Years later, I read that when the Coca-Cola company tried selling their brew in China, they discovered that the Chinese symbols that were pronounced, “Coca-Cola,” meant literally, “Bite the wax tadpole.” So maybe you can get a “message” out of “coca-cola, coca-cola, coca-cola,” albeit a stuttering and meaningless one.
As a former tongue-speaking Christian it wasn’t the repetitive nature of many of the syllables I spoke that raised doubts. It was the fact that people in our group would sometimes “speak in tongues” a long time yet the “interpretation” could be quite brief. Or they would “speak in tongues” briefly and the “interpretation” came out long-winded. Folks who loved the King James Bible naturally “interpreted tongues” in Elizabethan English, while those who loved other translations of the Bible delivered less Elizabethan-sounding “interpretations.” And the messages received via this miraculous discourse were as trifling as the simplest cares and woes found in the Psalms with which everyone in the congregation was familiar--as if God didn’t have anything more relevant or specific to say to us. Yet it seemed to me that if God was going to give people miraculous linguistic and translation abilities, He’d have found far better uses to put them to.
CONVERSATION CONCERNING “SPEAKING IN TONGUES” ON THE “EX-TIAN” LISTSERV:
Rob Berry: I’ve heard that a trained listener can tell the difference between a New Yorker and a Southerner speaking in tongues, so the “tongues” spoken by an individual reflect the normal language of that individual. And a Japanese person speaking in tongues is not going to have any “L”s in their babbling.
David O. Miller: Actually this is true only for those Japanese who have never studied English. Those who have, consistantry have “L”s whele the “R”s berong and “R”s whele the “L”s berong. And that could totally change the meaning of the babbling couldn’t it? Obviously, “uga-bali-raka-fulu” and “uga-bari-laka-furu” are two entirely different things, right?
A MINISTER CRITICIZES HOW OTHER MINISTERS SEEK TO DRIVE PEOPLE TO DESPAIR
(The ‘Methodists’) demonstrate to secure, contented, happy mankind that it is really unhappy and desperate, and merely unwilling to realize that it is in severe straits it knows nothing at all about, from which only they can rescue it. Wherever there is health, strength, security, simplicity, they spy luscious fruit to gnaw at or to lay their pernicious eggs in. They make it their object first of all to drive men to inward despair, and then it is all theirs… The church must stop trying to act like a “spiritual pharmacist”--working to produce acute guilt, and then in effect saying, “We just happen to have the remedy for your guilt here in our pocket.”
Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison [Bonhoeffer is a famed moderate Christian minister who was imprisoned by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler. His books, including, The Cost of Discipleship have been praised and read by Evangelical Christians.]
Evangelical Christianity = Being made to feel sinful and guilty for not having felt sinful and guilty, in order that one might experience release from sin and guilt; Like donning lead boots and walking about in them until totally exhausted in order to have the exhilarating experience of taking them off again.
Conrad Hyers, Once-Born, Twice-Born Zen [Hyers is a moderate Evangelical Christian and former Chair of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College]
IS THE HEART OF MAN DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS AND DESPERATELY WICKED?
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught, “If you see a woman and lust after her, I say that you have already committed adultery in your heart.” In other words, even if you don’t commit adultery “in the flesh,” you’ve committed it just by lusting after someone. Now suppose you see someone in need, who could use some cash or a kind word, and you yearn in your heart to give it to them (but for whatever reason are unable to give it to them). Does that mean you have “already committed charity in your heart?” Think about it. If a lust-filled yearning (not the act of sex, but just the yearning), is evidence of how bad the human heart is, then what about the yearnings people feel to help and support one another? Might they not be an indication of goodness in people’s hearts?
Gandhi, the famous Hindu peace-activist, taught that people should seek out what was best in their own religions and hearts. Even Jesus put a positive spin on “the heart” when he taught that “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45 & Mat. 12:35), and when he taught that people ought to “Love God with all their heart,” (Mat. 22:37). How is that possible if the “heart” is “wicked and deceitful above all things?”
No doubt the “wickedness” of the “heart” as depicted in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 17, verse 9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”) applies to some people at some times whenever they act deceitful and wicked, especially when they are at their lowest and weakest points. But to take the book of Jeremiah’s exaggerated ancient Near Eastern way of speaking, and bake it in an oven until it becomes as dry and hard as a brick of dogma, and make that brick a cornerstone of your theology, well, to do that takes a “heart” relatively dry of compassion and fair appraisals of others’ beliefs and actions.
CHRISTIANITY CAN MAGNIFY HARMLESS ACTIONS INTO DEADLY OFFENSES
One of Christianity’s chief offenses is not that it has enlisted the services of bad men, but that it has misdirected the energies of good ones. The kindly, the sensitive, the thoughtful, those who are striving to do their best under its influence, are troubled, and consequently often develop a more or less morbid frame of mind. The biographies of the best men in Christian history offer many melancholy examples of the extent to which they have falsely accused themselves of sins during their “unconverted” state, and the manner in which harmless actions are magnified into deadly offenses.
Chapman Cohen, Essays in Freethinking
In the days of my youth, ministers depended on revivals to save souls and reform the world. The emotional sermons, the sad singing, the hysterical “Amens,” the hope of heaven, the fear of hell, caused many to lose what little sense they had. In this condition they flocked to the “mourner’s bench”--asked for prayers of the faithful--had strange feelings, prayed, and wept and thought they had been “born again.” Then they would tell their experiences--how wicked they had been, how evil had been their thoughts, their desires, and how good they had suddenly become.
They used to tell the story of an old woman who, in telling her experience, said, “Before I was converted, before I gave my heart to God, I used to lie and steal, but now, thanks to the grace and blood of Jesus Christ, I have quit ‘em both, in a great measure.”
Well, while the cold winter lasted, while the snows fell, the revival went on, but when the winter was over, the boats moved in the harbor again, the wagons rolled, and business started again, most of the converts “backslid” and fell again into their old ways. But the next winter they were on hand again, read to be “born again.” They formed a kind of stock company, playing the same parts every winter and backsliding every spring.
I regard revivals as essentially barbaric. The fire that has to be blown all the time is a poor thing to get warm by. I think they do no good but much harm; they make innocent people think they are guilty, and very mean people think they are good.
Robert Ingersoll, “Why I am An Agnostic”
Many Christians who can’t even get members of their own family to agree with them on trifling matters are currently seeking to evangelize the world and tell everyone “what’s what.”
An evangelical Christian once told me, “Only Jesus Christ can save man and restore him to his lost state of peace with God, himself and others.” Yeah, sure, and only new Pepsi can make you feel really happy, and only our brand is better than the competition, and only our country is the best country. It is truly amazing to me that people can utter such arrogant nonsense with no humor, no sense of how offensive they are to others, no doubt or trepidation, and no suspicion that they sound exactly like advertisers, con-men and other swindlers. It is really hard to understand such child-like prattling. If I were especially conceited about something (a state I try to avoid, but if I fell into it...), if for instance I decided I had the best garden or the handsomest face in Ireland, I would still retain enough common sense to suspect that I would sound like a conceited fool if I went around telling everybody those opinions. I would have enough tact left, I hope, to satisfy my conceit by dreaming that other people would notice on their own that my garden and/or my face were especially lovely. People who go around innocently and blithely announcing that they belong to the Master Race or the Best Country Club or have the One True Religion seem to have never gotten beyond the kindergarten level of ego-display. Do they have no modesty, no tact, no shame, no adult common sense at all? Do they have any suspicion how silly their conceit sounds to the majority of the nonwhite non-Christian men and women of the world? To me, they seem like little children wearing daddy’s clothes and going around shouting, “Look how grown-up I am! Look at me, me, me!”
There are more amusing things than ego-games, conceit and one-upmanship. Really, there are. I suspect that people stay on that childish level because they have never discovered how interesting and exciting the adult world is.
If one must play ego-games, I still think it would be more polite, and more adult, to play them in the privacy of one’s head. In fact, despite my efforts to be a kind of Buddhist, I do relapse into such ego-games on occasion; but I have enough respect for human intelligence to keep such thoughts to myself. I don’t go around announcing that I have painted the greatest painting of our time; I hope that people will notice that by themselves. Why do the people whose ego-games consist of day-dreaming about being part of the Master Race or the One True Religion not keep that precious secret to themselves, also, and wait for the rest of the human race to notice their blinding superiority?
Robert Anton Wilson
YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS
Many evangelical Christians boast that they have a “personal relationship” with Jesus. What makes it so “personal?” Well, they say, we have the words attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels. But there are so few of them, a couple thousand. You could fit all of Jesus’s words into a small 16-page booklet. And they are subject to interpretation.
Well, they say, there are “answered prayers.” But again, that is a matter of interpretation, because no matter what happens, an evangelical Christian interprets it as “Jesus’s will,” even when bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
Whenever I have a “personal relationship” with someone it does not consist of a few thousand words spoken two thousand years ago, recorded accurately (or inaccurately) by someone else, and which require interpretation from third parties for me to “truly” understand them (especially when the third parties disagree concerning the meaning and intent of those words).
Neither should a “personal relationship” depend on me having to interpret the results of every prayer uttered. And the range of interpretations covers every conceivable outcome: “strongly positively answered,” “weakly positively answered,” “strongly negatively answered,” “weakly negatively answered,” or even, “try again later when you have more faith.”
Question: What’s the difference between a trained psychologist and a born again Christian?
Answer: A trained psychologist can read a person like a book, but a born again Christian reads a book like it’s a person.
CONVERTED OR ADDICTED?
Psychotherapists will tell you that in dealing with an addict, you have to understand that the person’s primary relationship is with the drug.~ The drug has the ability to control the addict’s thinking to a remarkable degree, and you must understand that any relationship you may feel with the addict is a distant second to the one they have with their drug. The most devout Evangelical Christians are open and unabashed about this. Their “relationship with Jesus” as they use the term, is the primary relationship in their lives. There is even a scripture that goes something like, “Not unless you hate your mother and father can you be my disciple,” and, “Who are my mother and father? But he who hears and words of God and does them.” Jesus even suggested to one disciple that he ought not return home to help bury a dead family member, instead he ought to “Let the dead bury the dead.” In other words, Evangelicals stress that one’s love for Jesus ought to be so strong that relatively speaking, one’s love for even close family members, must not compare. You may love your mother but you should love Jesus so much more that in comparison it’s like you hate her. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like a drunk’s love for the bottle?
It may be helpful when trying to have a relationship with a believer to remember that you and their relationship with you means very little to them compared to their need to continue in their thought addiction. In fact “true believers” may happily sacrifice a relationship with their own spouses or children should those family members refuse to convert, or become “unbelievers.” In such cases the “true believer” feels they are making the ultimate sacrifice in “serving God rather than man.”
Evangelical beliefs may promise you comfort, security and power just like the ads for alcohol link its consumption with sexiness, sports activities, and a rippin’ good time, but the promises in both cases often grow sour as the addict grows more hardened and insistent.
Some people have an instant “conversion” to alcoholism.~They take their first drink, or have their first good drunk and understand (in the words of a very young alcoholic client I once had) “This (drinking) is what I was put on this world to do.”
For some people their religion is an illness they are trying to recover from and the recovery process is more difficult than recovering from alcoholism.
HOW DIFFERENT ARE MOST “CONVERTED” PEOPLE?
Were it true that a converted man as such is of an entirely different kind from a natural man, there surely ought to be some distinctive radiance. But notoriously there is no such radiance. Converted men as a class are indistinguishable from normal men,
By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry ideals with which an inferior intellect may inspire him, a saint can be even more objectionable and damnable than a superficial “carnal” man would be in the same situation.
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
Jack Kelley, an Evangelical Christian and star reporter with USA Today, resigned in January after admitting he fabricated many of his sensational stories covering war and terrorism. His admission of guilt came after USA Today’s investigative team found major fabrications and plagiarisms in Kelly’s stories. The same Jack Kelley told Christian Reader magazine recently: “God has told me to proclaim truth,” and, he teaches at the World Journalism Institute, whose mission is “presuppositional reporting” from an “unapologetic Christian point of view.”
E.T.B., based on an article in Christianity Today
HOW TO SPOT CHRISTIANS
One Sunday afternoon my cousin and I were eating at a restaurant. He paused, and started pointing at people. “He’s a Christian … He’s a Christian … So is she and she and that other guy.” I asked how he was so sure. His reply? “I was a hard-core Evangelical Christian for a few years, remember? It’s not hard to see once you know what to look for. Look for someone who looks like they’re wearing clothes just a little bit nicer than they’re comfortable in, that have a smile on their face. It won’t look like a happy smile, it’ll look kind of contrived and forced, like they’re trying to convince themselves they’re happy and rich.”
Two evangelical Christians at the door: May we come in and share some good news with you?
Me: Don’t you mean, “May we blatantly disregard your privacy for a few minutes in order to further our own personal goals?” Tell me, which denomination do you belong to, and when was it founded? That’s Protestant, isn’t it? I bet the Pope has rings older than your denomination. I bet your denomination numbers a couple million at most. Catholics number far more. In fact, if you added up every member of every Protestant denomination on earth, the Catholics equal or exceed that number. You say that’s a logical fallacy, truth is not determined by sheer numbers? That’s what all small denominations say. Heck, maybe you’re knocking on doors because you’re bored seeing the same faces in church or you fear your heaven won’t have enough folks in it to form a decent choir. I have a hot tip for you, you’ll be happier if you seek out people whom you admire--and things you enjoy--on an individual basis, rather than try to pour yourself and the whole world into a “one size fits all” religious Jello mold.
I believe part of the appeal of the evangelical religion is for offering certainty, not faith, certainty about what is doctrinally correct. I think one of the dangers of religion is to believe we have got God all buttoned down. I believe just the opposite. I believe in the freedom and mystery of God that doesn’t allow us to be certain but allows us to be loving. To put it in street talk, I look more to how people live than what they say they believe.
Rev. Albert Pennybacker
[Pastor in Lexington, Kentucky, and head of the Clergy Leadership Network, a new, cross-denominational group of liberal and moderate religious leaders seeking to counter the influence of the Religious Right and to mobilize voters to change leadership in Washington. http://www.clnnlc.org/]
Evangelist = A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary