Mel's Former Fundamentalist Story
by Mel Emurian 09/23/2000
You had mentioned to me before that you would be interested in reading the story of my exit from evangelicalism. I am including it as part of this email, not knowing whether you would be able to read it as an attachment. Thanks for your interest!
THE DEPARTURE OF MEL EMURIAN FROM EVANGELICALISM
Sorry that this is a bit impersonal, but it saves me the aggravation of doing separate names on each copy. I will get right to the point. I can no longer accept the biblical Christian faith that I once believed. My life's journey has been a long and rough one at times, but I was in no way prepared for the harsh realities of the Christian ministry. The treatment that my family and I have had to endure in the name of God has been nothing short of brutal. Oh, not brutal in any sort of physical way, and not brutal as with some forms of persecution from those antagonistic to Christianity, but brutal in the damage done to the soul. Were the perpetrators of this cruel treatment those hostile to Christianity, it would not have affected me so deeply. Sadly, the perpetrators have been and are fellow Christians. These Christians include those in the pew, former friends, fellow clergy, and other leaders. No, not everyone has been so harsh, but more than is acceptable to me. This mistreatment resulted in my having serious doubts about the validity of evangelical Christianity and the biblical understanding of God. As such I began to read other viewpoints, and now see evangelical Christianity in a new light. For me to reconsider it would be akin to an African-American reconsidering Jim Crow. I do want to stress that not all evangelicals are cold-hearted, indifferent, and rigid. Some are kind, concerned, and considerate. But there are way too many that are hard-line, and sometimes it seems that all of them are that way.
I entered the ministry in November of 1988 with high hopes of serving God in that capacity and bringing increase to his kingdom. The church I served was the Kingsborough Presbyterian Church in Gloversville, New York. Things were going along well when in July of 1989 I contracted CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome). This was not diagnosed until a year and a half later. All I knew at the time was that after having the flu I could only sleep 3 to 4 hours a night. It doesn't take long under those conditions for depression to set in and mental impairment to take place. Some in the congregation understood, but others held me to a standard that I could not live by. Key fellow presbyters thought that my problems were all in my head, and that I just was not cut out for the ministry. The attitude was one of "how dare I, a pastor, need a great deal of encouragement and uplifting." So there I was, essentially alone, in a difficult situation with peers who were tired of hearing my struggles at presbytery meetings.
About a year after I contracted CFIDS, the church went through a split. Among others, we lost our pianist, treasurer, and two Sunday school teachers. The reasons for the split revolved around me not being Calvinistic enough (I was a five-point Calvinist at the time, but I believed in such horrible things as love of the self (love your neighbor as yourself) and practical preaching. I was supposed to believe that to love the self is a sin and that all preaching was to be primarily doctrinal, with an emphasis on the doctrine of Christ), and the way I was dealing with an abused woman (my approach was supposed to be distant and aloof. After all, I was the pastor). Of course no split is without its "love letters". "In love" I was told that I was a heretic, an Arminian, and perhaps unsaved. The letters were very hurtful. Other clergy in the area were quite willing to take those that left, with no questions asked. In one case, a pastor believed the things said about me without any attempt at verification. After this the church rebounded somewhat, but never fully recovered. This was a very painful time for Cheryl and me. Several of the people that left had been good friends, and their loss was difficult for us, especially considering their change of heart toward us.
With all of the stress, even though I was now on medication, my condition slowly deteriorated. People started leaving the church, discouraged with the church and with me. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Finally, in June of 92, I resigned from that particular ministry, hoping to rest and recover.
The next several years were better. My health improved and I worked the interim ministry circuit. My first interim ministry began in the fall of 1993 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Gloversville. At the time, I was still a member of the presbytery in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the denomination to which the Kingsborough Church belonged. My taking the interim position at Emmanuel did not please the presbyters, and at a presbytery meeting (which I was unable to attend) it was decided that I was an affront to the Kingsborough Church congregation in doing so. I was told that if I was going to minister at a Baptist Church, I should do so in another town. Prior to taking the Emmanuel ministry, I had discussed it with the elder at Kingsborough, and he had no problem with it. Later I learned that no one from the presbytery had contacted the elder prior to the meeting, to see what his take on me taking the Emmanuel ministry was. That was it for me, and so I resigned the presbytery and joined the Conservative Baptist Association (CBA).
I was at Emmanuel for a little over a year and a half. Overall, the work there went fairly well until near the end of my time there. Two deacons at the church would go to Florida for the winter, and during the last winter I was there, I preached a series on divorce and service in the church. Sadly, my more liberal view on that issue upset one of the women in the church, and she called the deacons in Florida and complained. When they returned, I was not Pastor Popular with them. One was upset that I had stirred things up by preaching on such a touchy issue. The other (and I still can see this clearly) pounded his fist on the table and essentially accused me of being too forceful in pushing my views on the subject. A third deacon sided with them while two younger deacons sided with me. After the meeting, I called the CBA New York State Director and sought his advice on whether I should resign or not. It is my belief that once a majority of the leadership in a church is against you, your ministry in that church is over. We agreed that it would be best if I resigned (I was not forced to, it was a mutual decision), so I did. Fortunately, some good came out of it in that my resignation shocked the deacons who were opposed to me, and they said that they would not accept gossip against a pastor again. I accepted their apology, and we went our separate ways.
My next interim was at Trinity Reformed Church in Rotterdam, New York, where I served from October of 1995 until June of 1996. This church was evangelical, but part of the more liberal Reformed Church in America. I was there just over eight months, and I found it to be the best church that I had ministered in. There wasn't a lot of quarreling, and when there were differences, I found it easier to get people to compromise. I left that interim when a permanent pastor was hired. It was so good to leave on good terms.
Immediately after this I ministered for about a year at New Covenant Community Church in Johnstown, New York. The work there was OK. Nothing really bad happened, but I really did not fit in that well, in my own estimation. After just less than a year, the church hired a permanent pastor and my work there was finished.
That brings me to where I am currently, the Living Hope Baptist Church in Gloversville. Like Emmanuel Baptist, this too was a CBA church. My ministry began in May of 1997. The previous pastor had been gone for about a year, and a young interim served until I started. The church was small, but in a very large building. It was a congregation of 20 in a building that would hold 1200. Obviously something had to be done, so I took my time and eventually convinced the folks to move from the building to another more suitable location. The church had also developed a bad reputation over the years (mainly due to church splits - it was so bad that a local attorney gave me his condolences when he heard that I had become the pastor) and so along with the move I encouraged a name change to give us a fresh start. All of this went well, and we moved to our current location in January of 1998. At that time, our name became the Living Hope Baptist Church (formally we were the First Baptist Church). We did not lose one person through all of these changes, so I knew I had a good group of folks to serve and work with.
As we were preparing for our changes, I approached CBA state director Peter Mason about the possibility of getting some support from the two other CBA churches (Emmanuel Baptist and the Baptist Church of Northville) in the area. We did not want financial help, just several families to help us in areas we were weak in, such as children's Sunday school. Peter Mason encouraged the pastors of the other churches to help us, and that was the end of it. I finally had to approach one person myself (this was either the late winter or early spring of 1998), and not long after she began working with us, that turned sour. I will have more on that later. These two churches had a combined attendance of 300 - 350 people, but they could not help us, a church of 20. Whether you are an evangelical Christian or not, I hope you see that there is something wrong with this picture. In fact, experience has taught me that those reading this who are not evangelical Christians will have more of a problem with this than those who are. I have found the attitude of many evangelical churches to be what I call "ecclesiastical Darwinism". That is, survival of the stronger, larger churches.
Things were going along well when I learned that my secretary, Michelle, was having marriage problems. She and her husband Chuck were members of the church, and she had begun to open up to Chuck with her concerns as to how he was treating her after I had preached a series on the responsibilities of men and women in the home and in the church. He was manipulative and emotionally abusive, and knew how to use a Bible to keep his wife under foot. Well, abuse is one of those things that I do not tolerate, and next to physical abuse, abusing someone in the name of God is anathema to me. Michelle was also a good friend from the Emmanuel days, so I stood with her. The church did also, with no opposition.
This infuriated Chuck, and he accused me of interfering with his ability to work out his marriage problems. (Previously, I had met with him and explained to him what I saw as the problems, and he said he would work on them. But it did not take long for him to fall back into his abusive ways.) He tried to turn the elders on me, but that failed. Then he went to CBA state director Peter Mason. To say it mildly, this is where the dung hit the fan, so to speak, and as a result our church withdrew from the CBA in May of 1998.
This is what happened. Mason received the accusation (without two or more witnesses - a biblical requirement) that I was interfering in the marriage, and Chuck left a message on my answering machine saying that I was to meet with him, Mason, and another CBA official named Andy Alexson. Mason also called me and said that I was to have no further contact with Michelle, and that she should step down as secretary. I refused. I also refused to be at the meeting, because I knew what Chuck was up to. Peter Mason had the meeting anyway, and then called our head elder, Ted Perham, and was rough with him over the situation. He told Ted that we were not a true church but only playing church. He also said that I was a smooth talker in order to discredit my views on the matter. Enclosed is a letter from Ted to another local pastor regarding the way he was treated by Peter Mason. By the way, the pastor did not respond to Ted at all. All of this is bad enough, but it gets even worse. It seems that Chuck overheard this phone conversation, or he was briefed on it at a later time, based on a letter he wrote to Michelle. Enclosed is the letter. Is this what Christianity has become?
Whatever went on during that meeting, Chuck came out of it ready for bear. In his writings to Michelle and to other people, he has called me a "cult leader" and our church a "cult". He also sent letters with misleading information and out and out lies to my in-laws and to Cheryl, both at home and at work. Depending on whom he was talking to, he accused me of adultery. He even went so far as to file a police report accusing me of molesting he and Michelle's then seven-year-old daughter. Obviously, he wanted me out of the picture, and he hoped to do this and gain leverage in his court action to get custody of her with the accusation. Fortunately, the interviewing officer saw through him and no charges were placed. He also failed in getting custody.
When Chuck finally settled into a local Assembly of God church, Ted and I went to meet with the pastor so he would be aware of what his actions had been concerning our church and me. We told him of the molestation and adultery accusations, as well as the name-calling. The pastor seemed as if this was hard for him to believe. We were glad that at least he now had been made aware of the situation. Sadly, nothing was done. Chuck is now a member of the church, and somewhat active in it. Strange isn't it?
Leaving Chuck behind, now I want to bring up Marcy Stearns. She is the one that came from Emmanuel to work with us. Being that neither Emmanuel nor Northville Baptist provided help for us after our needs were made known to them, I approached Marcy to see if she would teach our children's Sunday school for one year. After the year was up, she could choose to stay longer or go back to Emmanuel. She agreed, knowing the situation with Chuck and Michelle, and began to work with us in late April. Then she discovered that Michelle and I worked alone at times. (I thought she already knew this). On a Sunday after church she and her husband Russ, who rarely attends church services, approached our head elder and gave him the "above reproach" argument against it. Then that afternoon Russ called me and gave me the same argument. In essence, I was not to be alone with Michelle, ever. There was no regard for the impact of that on her or her daughter. My image was everything. He did push several of my buttons during the conversation and I said some things to him that I should not have said. The next day I apologized to him. Then Marcy tried to convince me to never be with Michelle alone and when that failed, she quit with no notice and returned to Emmanuel. There she was welcomed back and we were not contacted so we could present our side of the story. All of this occurred in June of 1998, about a month after we withdrew from the CBA.
Marcy had been my friend and she and Cheryl were best friends. Not any more. Marcy hurt Cheryl, Laurel, and me very much. Laurel cried when she learned that Marcy had quit. She didn't do our Sunday school children any favors either.
Oh, it gets even better. That September we found out that Marcy had had contact with Chuck earlier in the summer, enough so that he subpoenaed her to appear in court on his behalf concerning custody. There were also several comments in the spiteful letters he sent to my in-laws and Cheryl that could have only been learned through Marcy. When the court date arrived in September, those from Living Hope that went to support Michelle saw Marcy sitting with Chuck's brother and wife in the waiting area and heard them discussing me in a negative light. All of this, my dear readers, was done using the "the Lord wanted me to do it" argument. As for Emmanuel's pastor and church leaders, their silence shows me that they had no problem with any of this. I should add that in May of this year, Marcy, along with her four children, left her husband and moved in with her parents who live over an hour away.
Please understand, I do not spend time alone with women with reckless abandon. But I have no problem being alone with one whom I trust, especially one that is going through a difficult time and needs all of her friends and her support system in tact. And I will not let what other people might think be the supreme concern in the decisions I make. There are without any doubt much higher values that come into play. Grace, love, and compassion are among these.
It must not go unmentioned that several other evangelical pastors know of my struggles and yet have not reached out to me. Back in June of 1999 I wrote to Pastor Rick Klueg of the Baptist Church of Northville, explaining my situation to him. He was head of the local evangelical pastors' fellowship at the time. In his response he was more concerned that I did not take Peter Mason's counsel and that our church had withdrawn so quickly from CBA than anything else. I responded, clarifying our reasoning further.
I also explained to him the Marcy Stearns situation, and how Emmanuel took her back into full communion and fellowship without contacting us. He had previously sent out a letter to all of the pastors in the fellowship and included a paragraph on the discouragement some of the pastors were facing. He mentioned how we needed to be more encouraging to one another. Here is the pertinent paragraph from the letter I wrote to him: "Further, there is the matter of Marcy Stearns. You wrote in your letter to the pastors about discouragement in our ministries. Cannot you see that what Marcy Stearns did to us would be discouraging to me and the church? Being so, is it right for her to be accepted back into fellowship at Emmanuel without their leaders at least hearing our side? I think not. If we are going to talk about encouraging one another, that kind of thing should not happen. Consider also that Marcy must believe that what she did was all right, being that she was accepted back into full communion and fellowship at Emmanuel. Seems to me that we are teaching others that it is fine to discourage other pastors and other churches."
Sadly, I have heard nothing from Rick Klueg since. I should add that back in the Kingsborough days I suggested to the pastors fellowship that we should each make a covenant that we would not take people in from other churches without contacting the leaders at the other churches first. Only one pastor liked the idea. His church had lost a number of people to other churches without contacts being made. More recently, the new Free Methodist pastor was telling me that he suggested a similar thing at the pastors' fellowship. He got nowhere either. I hope, my dear readers, that you understand how this makes evangelicalism look.
Another pastor that knows of my situation but has remained silent, at least to my face, is Peter Ellis of the Emmanuel Baptist Church. He's the one that told me that my TV show "Life Issues" was bringing great harm to the cause of Christ. He was more of an isolationist and expected that all pastors should be like him. Wrong! But that is the way it is too often in the evangelical camp, you are supposed to think right down to the nth degree on doctrine or else it's "lets lord it over the conscience" time. There is a contemporary evangelical song about freedom that goes something like this: "...freedom, freedom is in Jesus, or it's just another wall." That really is a bunch of bull. Too many evangelicals want to enslave you to their unique way of thinking and acting. Actually, it is the evangelical faith that is just another wall!
Anyway, Peter Ellis's silence, as well as Rick Klueg's, speaks volumes to me. Perhaps they are afraid that I will refute their arguments, especially with me being such a "smooth talker" and all. Or perhaps they see me as a threat, and hope that if they ignore me I will just go away. (Obviously they don't know me very well.) Ultimately, to me it says that they really do not care, especially with what they believe about eternal life and eternal punishment. It's not that they would convince me to see things their way, but at least touching bases with me would show me that they care. Then again, that is not the way the evangelicalism works. I do not want to play along with the program, and so I am expendable. You see, with evangelicalism, if you don't play, you are just a thing to be discarded. You are hardly a recipient of love.
Without going into details about how it came about, Ted and I had a meeting with Peter Mason and Andy Alexson in June of 2000 to discuss a number of concerns that I had with Mason over his handling of the above situation. When I asked him why he received an accusation without two or more witnesses, he interpreted his actions with Chuck in such a way that he believed he had not done so. As for saying that we were not a true church, Mason didn't remember saying it. He did remember the smooth talker comment, and said it was intended to reference my very persuasive abilities. I thanked him for the complement, although he did not intend it as such. Mason also said that he did not suggest that Michelle step down as secretary, but that I was not to be alone with her. Yet Michelle, Ted, and I heard him say that she should step down.
It was obvious to me that Mason and Alexson were primarily concerned about image - God's image, their image, and the image of the CBA. They were concerned about what things "looked" like. In fact, Alexson went so far as to tell me that I was overly loving. Fine. I would rather overly love than be overly rigid, overly strict, overly legalistic, and overly image-conscious...well, you get the point. Mason also pointed out that our withdrawal was cultlike (sound familiar?), in that the church and I had no one to be accountable to. Well, what other options did we have, considering that our side was not being heard?
Ted and I also brought up the letter Chuck had written where he detailed certain parts of the phone conversation Mason had with Ted. Alexson was present with Mason when that conversation took place, and they both said that Chuck was not present at that time. However, as you can see, if he wasn't present he certainly was briefed about the conversation. Yet both Mason and Alexson denied any collusion or aiding and abetting Chuck. I even asked if it were possible that he could have listened in on the phone conversation without their knowing it, and they said that this was not possible. Something is clearly amiss, and I believe that I have legitimate reason to smell a rat.
Near the end of the meeting, Ted asked as a point of clarification whether we would have been disassociated by the CBA if we had not taken Mason's advice, and Mason said that it was possible. But in the phone conversation referenced above, Ted had been led to believe that we would in fact have been disassociated. Mason never apologized to us and in no way tried to understand our point of view. Ted had said to me that he found it odd that after we withdrew from the CBA, there was no attempt to meet with us to hear our side as to why we took such an action, or to see if we had misunderstood Mason's position. It really showed that they were glad to be rid of us.
Let me emphasize, ministry is tough when some in your congregation turn on you in the name of God. But that is small potatoes as compared to your peers doing so.
I sincerely believe that I have genuine concerns with the way that I have been treated in the ministry. It isn't about me being too sensitive and thin-skinned. Something is really wrong with evangelicalism!
All of this has led me to reconsider my former beliefs about the Bible and God. Over the years of ministry I have wondered how evangelical Christians could be so mean and unconcerned in the name of God, especially considering some of the teachings in the New Testament which revolve around love and concern for one's fellow man.
I was reading an article by Dan Barker, a former evangelical pastor who is now an atheist. When a similar thought was posed to him, he answered with something along these lines - "Look at who they worship." My dear readers, he is right. The God of the Old Testament was vengeful enough and cruel enough to justify the meanness and indifference that many of those who worship him today are guilty of. You see, the grace of Christ isn't enough. Step outside the boundaries that others expect you to stay within and you are done, unless of course you repent and step back inside those boundaries. You must think the way they want you to think, and act the way they want you to act. And not just in the core teachings of the faith, but in the interpretations and principles that man has added to those teachings.
Back while I was in Presbyterianism, there was a heavy emphasis on doctrine, and as such you had better be correct with your doctrine. With the Baptists however, although there are certain doctrines like believers' baptism where there is no give and take, there is a greater emphasis on practice. You are freer to think, but not to act. So, for example, while broader than the Presbyterians on things such as God's sovereignty in salvation, they are stricter in things such as alcohol consumption.
Yet what both groups have in common is the placement of the "divine stamp" on what they believe, and there is little hesitation to manipulate you with it in order to get you to get with their program. And if you don't, well, you become expendable. You can expect to be called names, looked down on as inferior, mistreated, shown little respect, slandered, ignored, and ultimately rejected. In other words, your soul, that inward and immaterial part of you that makes you a special human being, gets trampled and spat upon.
And from the evangelical perspective, why not? If God in his vengeance could order such things as the slaughter of the Amalekites, right down to the nursing infants (1 Samuel 15), why not try to crush the soul of a person who doesn't get with their program? So you see, it is not too difficult for the evangelical to legitimize his actions. All he or she has to do is find some place in the Bible where God is pretty rough. Besides, the evangelical is to be holy as God is holy isn't he? Ludwig A. Feuerbach wrote "Wherever morality is based on theology, wherever the right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established." He is most certainly correct!
The mistreatment that my loved ones and I have endured has shown me that the God of evangelicalism is not worthy of worship. It offends my sensibilities as a human being to worship a deity that would order the slaughter of infants (contrary to the bumper sticker I have seen, the God of evangelicalism is hardly pro-life), or stand by and watch while his people use him to abuse and mistreat others who are supposed to belong to him, and do absolutely nothing about it. As a parent myself, if an actual child of mine or someone claiming to be a child of mine mistreated my daughter in my name, I would immediately do something about it as any loving father would. Yet the God of evangelicalism, who is supposed to be a loving heavenly father, does nothing, or acts in such an unclear manner that those who need to get the message do not. No, the God that I have been shown since I have been in the ministry is not a God that I want any part of. He is rigid, unmerciful, distant, untrustworthy, unloving, a betrayer, indifferent, unconcerned, a slanderer, and mean-spirited.
I have had it. I am tired of being told how to live, what to think, and how to pastor. I am tired of having people's own principles and interpretations from the Bible held up as the standard to which I must adhere. I am tired of the Bible being used by evangelicals to oppress, manipulate, and control people in the name of God. I am tired of evangelicals laying the pain that they inflict on others at the feet of God saying, "The Lord wanted me to do it". It is time that they start accepting responsibility for the pain they cause! The mistrust, the bitterness, the lack of grace, and the callused indifference to me, my family, my friends, and my church wear me down. As such, I renounce what evangelicalism is and have stepped outside of it forever.
Have I fallen away from the faith then? Evangelicals would have to answer yes. Yet it seems that the only stumbling blocks evangelicals are willing to consider are the ones put down by those who are too libertine. They do not want to see that being too strict, rigid, and callused can also be a stumbling block in the lives of others. Please understand, I suggest my own stumbling from the perspective of the evangelical Christian. I do not believe that I have in fact stumbled. This painful journey has had a positive influence on me, in that my eyes have been opened so that I may indeed see the light.
In my search for what is true I have read a number of books and articles with differing points of view on Christianity, theism, and atheism. When you are an evangelical, doing such a thing is considered taboo, unless you have someone to help you interpret any opposing viewpoints in evangelicalism's favor. For me, after what I have been through, I have seen that the search for truth must not be limited by any religious dogma. If the dogma is legitimate, it can withstand any other viewpoint.
I began by reading Robert Price's "Beyond Born Again: Toward Evangelical Maturity". It is an excellent read for those who realize that evangelicalism isn't it, yet do not want to jettison Christianity altogether. Price does a good job exposing the fallacies of evangelicalism, and does so tastefully.
I have also read "Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists" by Ed Babinski. It contains the stories of over two dozen fundamentalists who left that way of life and found fulfillment in other approaches. Some became moderate to liberal Christians. Others became agnostics, while still others became atheists. Some sought out alternative spiritual beliefs. I related to many of the contributors, and found their arguments compelling. There is an excellent part in the book entitled "Fundamentalism's Grotesque Past". Here Babinski exposes the persecutions and killings done by the evangelicals of yesteryear in the name of God. For example, in Saxony in 1536, the Protestant reformer Melanchton prepared and Martin Luther signed a document demanding the death penalty for the denial of any article of the Apostle's Creed. And both Luther and John Calvin, with the aid of the Bible and supposedly with wisdom from the Holy Spirit, advocated the persecution and/or massacre of witches, unbelievers, blasphemers, Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, and others, without mercy. If these Christian leaders lived today and had the power, you who are reading this and who don't think like they do would be sentenced to death - in the name of the God of evangelicalism, of course.
Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong is the author of two books I have read. Both "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" and "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" are interesting works from a man who refuses to ignore the Bible's problems or deny the realities of the experiences of life in one's search for who or what God is.
The book that I am currently reading is Edmund Cohen's work "The Mind of the Bible Believer". It is a fascinating book that gets into the psychology of evangelical belief and exposes the mind-control techniques found in the Bible and used by evangelicals. I am finding this one especially eye-opening, and Cohen is helping me understand just why so many evangelicals are rigid and unloving toward other Christians who think differently than they do.
You may be wondering how I can still pastor a church with this change in beliefs and with where I will end up still in doubt. For me it is simple really. I love the people that I pastor, and while I do not expect their journeys of faith to be identical to mine, I want them to see that God is so much more than just one system of thought. I also want them to see that God does not carry a #1 driver so that he can tee people up and drive their heads 350 yards when they step out of line. I am so tired of seeing people question whether God is punishing them because they are going through difficult times. Some of the deepest despair I have seen in people occurs when they think God is making their lives a living hell because they haven't toed the line.
I want the folks I pastor to see that grace and love are to be central in their walk with God, and not peripheral to it. I want them to be unlike the local evangelical man who convinced a woman that God didn't want her to take her medications, with the tragic result that she committed suicide, or the evangelical who laughed when another evangelical threatened to "snap my neck". I want them to see that while people are not perfect, they are to be treated with dignity and respect. They are not to be used, abused, and considered expendable, for one cannot love God without loving his neighbor.
So where am I going, having experienced all of this? I believe that life teaches us many lessons, and that we ignore them to our own peril. Those lessons, if we listen to them wisely, direct our course and assist us in being better, more complete persons. We are growing up and in so doing we leave behind that which we have found to be false, destructive, and limiting. I believe that I am better equipped to be a positive influence in people's lives and to contribute my gifts and abilities toward making the world a better place.
Now, as for God and who he is, I am in a period of transition. I don't see myself becoming an atheist, because I don't believe that evangelicalism defines God. If that were the only choice, I would be an atheist! But I am searching for truth by broadening my horizons and by reading many different viewpoints. There really is nothing to fear in doing so.
As for evangelicalism, without intending to put anyone down, I believe I have grown beyond it to something more mature and humane. To remain in it would for me risk turning me into that which I abhor. The following paragraph of mine illustrates that plainly. "I was once a compassionate Christian. I never clobbered those who differed with me, but preferred to coexist with them and emphasize what we had in common while agreeing to disagree on the things with which we differed. Now I see that I had the wrong approach in dealing with other Christians who differed with me. The name of the game is to view them as adversaries with whom I must practice a scorched earth policy. After all, God at times did this with his adversaries. I must also see them as things to conform to my way of thinking and acting, and discard them if they refuse. I am much more at peace now that I am doing God's will and protecting his name from all those sinful and misguided Christians. And whom do I have to thank for my newfound attitudes? Evangelical Christians - former friends, fellow clergy, and zealous leaders. Their godly example has helped me see the light." It is so sad, my dear readers, that things are this way.
Things do not need to stay this way though, and while I realize that there is little hope that evangelicalism will change for the better, I am eager to do my part. I do want to reach out to those who have been hurt by evangelicals and give them hope for a better life. And although I am quite sure that I will be accused of being vindictive (those doing so not wanting to face the truth), I want to expose the faults of evangelicalism and help people from the outside to see what they would be getting into if they chose to get involved with it. This would not only help those people, but just maybe would help the evangelicals to clean up their own act. I don't believe the incentive will be there unless they begin to have some serious image problems. I will use my people skills, my writing abilities, and my on-air talents to get the message out. Simply walking away from it will solve nothing and will be of no help to anyone.
For those of you who are evangelicals and want to stay that way, I encourage you to address the kinds of problems that I have shared with you. You have some serious injustices to address, and I can only hope that you will address them. For those who are not, the next time the evangelist comes knocking on your door, ask him about the hurting, the persecution, and killing that has been done in the name of Christ. Ask him how he can worship a God who would order the slaughter of nursing infants. Get him to explain to you the bait and switch, where he will try to bait you with your supposed need for God's love and grace and then when you bite switch you to laws, rules, and principles ad nauseum. To you I say, please watch out for that hook. It really hurts!
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias is quoted as saying "We search for thrills here and there and when each thrill is consummated our emptiness intensifies. The reason is that we are more than just empty. We are, in fact, broken." While I know Zacharias believes what he says, my experience is very different. I have never felt so empty and broken as I have at the hands of rigid, indifferent evangelicals. The truth is, too many evangelicals contribute to the emptiness and brokenness of people, and as such are a part of the problem, not the solution! My story proves that, beyond the shadow of any doubt.
Blessings to you and yours,
Dear Rev. Klueg,
Mel has given me the liberty of reading your letter, of June 07, to him and responding to all or any part of it as I choose. The paragraph concerning our abrupt withdrawal from the CBA concerns me and the church body more directly so I have decided to respond to that portion.
It was either our abrupt withdrawal or an abrupt dismissal. We choose to withdraw and save the CBA the embarrassment of terminating our membership. The verdict was in and the sentence already decided before we were even spoken to. Mel, as a pastor, would have to abandoned one of the members at a time when he was most needed. If we had taken the advice of the CBA our church would be non-existent. For myself, I was accused of being weak, not willing to accept a confrontation. It has always been my belief that the Christian society was to help and uplift one another. My experience has been quite the opposite. The greatest damage comes from within the church. The secular world has no concern for the church, but when the church starts judging it's members through the eyes of the world can destruction be far behind.
That seems to have been the situation.in our case. An accusation was made with no witnesses, no justification. A judgement was made that would have destroyed a church and damaged the lives of several individuals because of appearances and the perception of above reproach~ in the eyes of the world.
Thank God, He looks at the heart. I believe that the hearts of those accused is, and has been, in the right place. A full knowledge of the situation, and a close relationship has proven that to be true. At the time the full truth was not sought. The accusation was received from an individual that is still accusing us of practicing witchcraft, being a cult and putting Ideas into the mind of his spouse. We responded to a members request for help and offered advice to both parties with the hope of keeping the marriage intact. Unfortunately this wasn't accepted by the other party. It was all his way or nothing. Perhaps when all this is over the truth will be known. We took the steps we felt necessary to keep our church intact as I am sure you and your board would have done. What God has in store for us only He knows. We do not believe that the destruction of a church and individuals that truly believe in Him is taught in His Word. The Christianity that is taught in His Word certainly wasn't extended to us.
Ted Perham. Elder
June 18, 1999
Dear Michelle, Here are some answers to you various letters,
Matthew 18:15 ¶ "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shalt hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. I DID
Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. YOU HEARD - I heard Thats two - Then the Letters are proof- then there PASTORS Mason and Andy. There is David, Tom also asked Mel to get away (nicely) How many more do you need.
Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church, but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.
I think this was mentioned to the church by the letters and my letter. Mel was force to quit before being booted by the Conservative Baptist. I sat in Pastor Masons office and heard your heathen say on the answering machine I have talked it over with Cheryl and I've decided to resign, I then heard the message (Sunday) that the "church" voted to withdrawal from the CBA. Not only did he remove you from this home, he then takes a church as cover, the coward. If the ~'church" would have heard ALL the testimony, they may at that time, not have been so quick to keep that heathen. Heck, his own denomination considers him "checkered." So I think this Holy Joe attitude is somewhat over doing it.
Pastor Mason called Ted at work and asked if the church now supported adultery. Pastor Mason then asked him if he realized he was messing with the church of Jesus Christ. Do you know what Teds answer was, "well the church will close down if Mel leaves" that is almost funny, Pastor Mason then told him the "church" was already dead. If the spineless "waiters" would have upheld their sacred obligations this would not be happening. But, they are not obligated to me, even in this, they will answer one day to the person who put them there!
And while your at it, ask Ted what I wanted to start the healing process - That Mel get away from you and you be counseled by the older woman.