Posts filed under ‘conservatism’

where we came from

This is the first post in a small progression to get to “where we are now.” “Where we came from” is probably covered in a composite of many posts here, but I don’t think is summed up in one place. This is a bit rambling, so please bear with the length.

The church we used to attend is a conservative, evangelical, charismatic church. A part of a denomination of sorts in reality, though it doesn’t call itself that. The organization is also characterized by a relatively high degree of authoritarian leadership. The pastors are accountable to others at their level and higher in the organization, but not to the congregation in any degree.

Some other characteristics…

Patriarchy, but the group calls it  “complentarian.” Meaning the roles of men and women are different, but “complementary” to each other. Which is a reaction to feminism and egalitarianism. Normal for conservative evangelicalism, but elevated to an exceedingly high level of importance.

Biblical literalism/inerrancy: Par for the course in conservative evangelical theology, and little different from fundamentalism in this regard.

Reformed theology: aka “Calvinism,” with a heavy emphasis on “penal substitutionary atonement”.

Charismatic: A belief in gifts from God exhibited among Christians; prophesy, tongues, healing, words of knowledge, etc. The group claims the distinctive of combining reformed theology with charismatic beliefs. Though the group over time has placed far more emphasis on “reformed,” to the point where “charismatic” is largely in the background.

We stopped going to the church in 2008. At that time I stopped agreeing with the doctrines, having questions in a place where there was no room for questions. It was harder for my wife, who had to deal with both the strains of my changes in belief and the potential for strains with her relationships with people she cared for (and cares for) deeply. To the degree that I questioned the churches system, I was seen as a danger to my wife holding the “right” beliefs. Any significant divergence from the church’s doctrines was seen as dangerous, and my wife was encouraged to “hold fast” to those doctrines. Needless to say, it strained our marriage, and I don’t know what things would have looked like if we had stayed there longer.

I have come to see many aspects of the church as cult-like. There may be a fine line between “cult-like” and a cult, but I don’t think it matters that much. How many cult-like behaviors does a group need to exhibit in order to be considered a cult? I asked my wife at some point if she ever wondered if we were in a cult. She didn’t think so at the time, understandably, and the question itself caused her concern.

The organization had enough problems that a couple of “survivor” blogs were created, where people who felt hurt by their experiences could interact. I was shocked when I read them, finding some validation in the idea that, “I’m not crazy, other people think this way too!” My wife was initially concerned with them being frequented by people who had some bitterness, partaking in gossip. Which to a degree is true, though I felt it was outweighed by the benefit of bringing things to light.

But something strange happened a year or two later. There was a crisis of leadership in the organization, and a whole lot of bad stuff was revealed. Which from an entirely selfish point of view was good for our marriage, because it supported some of my concerns about our involvement with the group, which were still issues between us even though we had already left. It enabled us to be on the same page more, rather than me coming across as only critical (which granted I can be), and her often being on the defensive.

I won’t link directly to the blogs or the organization, but here is a link to a post by a blogging friend who was at the same church I was, though we didn’t know each other at the time. He describes some of the cultish behavior in better detail. “Christianagnostic” on, How Smart People Get Sucked into Cults

So we left, and are glad to have left, and the emotional ties to our experiences there, both good and bad, are fading, and we are in a much better place, both figuratively and literally.

July 7, 2012 at 2:55 pm 9 comments

prop 8 overturned

Al Mohler seems to be the go-to-fundamentalist in many Christian circles today. He has an article in Christianity Today decrying the overturning of Proposition 8 in California yesterday. Below are some quotes from the article, along with my comments.

“On page after page, Judge Walker …declares the evidence and arguments put forth by the defenders of Proposition 8 as lacking in any rational basis”
And the rational basis is what? The defenders of Proposition 8 had their day in court, they had their witnesses take the stand to make their case. And the judge found that, yes, they were indeed lacking a rational basis for their opinion. This statement only attempts to persuade based on rhetorical skill, and nothing else.

“A single unelected judge nullified the will of the voters of California as expressed through the electoral process.”
Isn’t that an established purpose of federal judges, to rule on the Constitutionality of legislation? I am not a scholar of our government, but that is my basic understanding.

“Until this verdict, such language had never appeared in a decision of a Federal court. If gender is no longer “an essential part of marriage,” then marriage has been essentially redefined right before our eyes.”
This is true, but wasn’t that true one time of race relations in the United States? It would have been true then, just as it is today. But that doesn’t make it wrong, just (perhaps) unprecedented.

“The central institution of human civilization suffered a direct hit, and its future hangs in the balance.”
That is true only if Mohler believes marriage is defined by governmental rules. But of course he would say it is defined by God as expressed in the bible, right? If so, what factual impact does this statement carry?

If one is to assault gay marriage from a religious perspective, do it from a religious perspective, and within religious institutions. The legislation in question is part of a culture war and a religious issue, but not a case of judicial incompetence or injustice.

August 5, 2010 at 9:45 pm 4 comments

sign, sign, everywhere a sign

We live in an area of the United States originally settled by German Mennonites. There is still a large Mennonite population here. German, or actually Pennsylvania Dutch, was still commonly spoken in the area through the 1950’s. I don’t know that much about the Mennonites, at least not as much as I should living here. My own heritage is partly Pennsylvania Dutch, though not Mennonite.

As with many other Christian denominations, there is a wide spectrum of churches, from liberal to conservative. Old Order Mennonites, a conservative group at one far end of the spectrum, are similar in many ways to the Amish, forgoing many modern conveniences and embracing older, traditional ways of living. On the other end of the spectrum, many Mennonites are quite progressive and modern.

Mennonites have a long tradition of working for peace and taking a strong anti-war stance. The Mennonite Central Committee, a service organization of the Mennonites, performs relief work and invests in sustainable community building all over the world, and are well know for their work in the field of appropriate technology (which is one of my pet interests).

So that’s a brief background. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are Mennonites, or are of Mennonite lineage, and they all are good people, every last one.

This post was really created for the photographs included below. They were all taken within a five minute radius of our home. I am guessing someone in the region manufactures them. I don’t know if it is just a Mennonite endeavor, though it would seem to be, from the location of the signs.

Click on the images to see them full size.

This sign is across a small road from a Mennonite church, but I doubt they placed the sign there themselves. I suspect the verses inserted in these signs can be swapped out, but I’m not sure. Are you rejecting Jesus?

"Perilous times shall come."

Here is the other side of the same sign. Like most of these, it has a strong emphasis on wrath and judgement.

Here is a second sign, next to the larger greenhouse sign. The Mennonite owners of the business seem a conservative group. The men always wear button up shirts, and the women wear long dresses and head coverings.  I had thought all these signs contained harsher messages, until I noticed this one when I photographed it. Also note the statement concerning the day they are closed, near the bottom. The signs clearly express a desire to preach to the world around them.

"O Lord I am poor and needy."

"With my whole heart I sought God."

I took this picture out my car window while stopped in the middle of a road, which resulted in the camera shake.

"The Lord shall keep you from evil."

This sign is in the front yard of a house. There is sign at the corner of the property advertising toys and crafts for sale. Some of the merchandise can be seen on the small table next to the yard sign.

"The broad way leads to destruction."

The toys are more visible in this photograph. I think it is an interesting jux-
taposition with the message on the sign.

There are a couple more signs I know of in the area, one a bit farther away, and one I can’t remember the exact location. I may add them to the post at a later date. What bible verse would you put up in your yard if you were to do so?

July 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm 14 comments

stress and controversy

I have been writing posts lately, just not posting them. And once a post sits for a little bit, it often describes thoughts or feelings I no longer have. And as such they seem disingenuous or perhaps fictional. So therefore no posts here lately.

We have been attending a New Church which is more progressive than the Old Church we previously attended. Actually, we attend a subgroup of the church which meets at a different time than the main body. This group is generally more progressive than the rest of the church, a bit postmodern and trending toward Emergent. The leaders are very comfortable with people of other faiths and beliefs, not needing things to fit into the black and white categories which is often the case in evangelicalism.

I’ve been commenting recently on a blog run by this group. They have broached some interesting and difficult (for the evangelical church) topics; gay marriage, evolution, and an article by a secular humanist critiquing Christianity. I have been very impressed by the intelligent and nuanced conversations, both from the more liberal and more conservative commentators.

Most of the commentators that is. Not surprisingly there are several who are more fundamentalist in their views. And unfortunately as is often the case, they tend to be the loudest voices, making statements that tend to close down dialog and conversation. Unnecessarily divisive in my opinion.

I think that most people, myself included, have a relatively limited capacity to deal with people with differing opinions. We are willing to be regularly nudged a little this way, or a little that way. But the larger shifts are often too difficult to handle unless absolutely necessary. I think that is why the adversarial commentators react the way they do. That, and maybe they have also been conditioned by the evangelical culture to think it is a good thing to “stand firm” in their opinions rather than listening to challenging ideas with an open mind. Yeah, I know, if you open your mind too much your brain will fall out…

I think the divisions in these discussions are generally better understood as studies in sociology than as a spiritual fight between light and darkness. The spiritual fight excuse gets brought out way too early, and is often brought up because the person is unwilling to contemplate their own faults in a conversation. It seems a cop out. Conversely, from the secular side, the mind of the Christian (or traditionalist) is too often called into question, with statements to the effect of, “Nobody with any sense would believe that superstitious religious nonsense.”

Having the same limited capacity, I unsubscribed from the blog and the comments yesterday. I try to remain open-minded, and be nudged a bit this way or that. But it is not worth it to me to go around feeling angry or stressed about what I read. And I know I am too quick to anger in those situations. In the end, we all tend to find fellowship with people who are more or less like-minded, and we all run the risk of feeling persecuted by those with differing opinions. But we don’t need to be completely locked into those mind sets either. And yes, I have peeked back at the blog since I first drafted this. A new post is up about Jennifer Knapp’s interview with Larry King, how exciting!

You can read a transcript of Jennifer Knapp’s interview, or watch the video if interested.

…and video part two,
part three,
part four

April 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm 7 comments


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