Category: Churchianity

CHURCHIANITY PART VII – an anonymous letter

Published May 23, 2009

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: Greetings all. It’s been about 6 months since my last Churchianity post — my how time does fly — but after receiving a rather potent letter from a reader, I think it’s high time to start up again. If you’re new here, you may wish to read Part 1 (or even Parts 1 – 6) before continuing.
Abandoned Church
I have written at length about the current (and continuing) unhealthy state of the modern-day Christian church. I am a Christian, but one who is both sickened and disheartened by the fact that the words “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are becoming synonymous with other terms like “fascist” and “crazy.” Over the past few decades, there has been so much emphasis on legalistic rules and hypocritical dogma within the church, that memberships and attendance have dropped like mercury on a cold day. This trend shows no sign of stopping.

I was reminded of this fact when I received the following letter:

Mr. Williamson,

I’ve read all of the Christianity VS Churchianity posts on your site and it is a very odd experience for me to see things I’ve only thought in my head in print. Wow. You do a great job, sir. Here’s a huge coincidence — I’m a recovering extreme Christian fundamentalist too! In fact, my husband and I both grew up in very strict Christian households and churches. His older sister used to beat him and his brothers with metal coathangers if she caught them watching or listening to anything that didn’t glorify God (and that included one of his brother’s original set of Beatles albums, which she tossed in the trash! We should be able to bring criminal charges against people that nutty). I’m not a preacher’s daughter but I am a Southern Baptist preacher’s granddaughter and I grew up with all of the typical rules and regulations, including my pastor’s peculiar pet peeve of not allowing anyone to celebrate holidays because they were considered glorifications of pagan festivals. No Christmas, no Easter. Don’t even talk to me about Halloween or Valentine’s Day. He didn’t even celebrate his own kid’s birthdays.

My husband and I were freaks from the get go because we went to college (“I don’t need no book learnin’ that doesn’t come from The Good Book”) and studied weird topics: History and English Lit for him, Neurology and English Lit for me (“Why does a woman even need to go to college? That might give her ideas above her station. She’s better off only studying how to be a better keeper at home. And why science? Science is just the playground of atheists.” Oh, don’t even get me started on this, I could go on for 200 pages). Of course, the thing about a good college education is that is makes you think, and that’s exactly what we started doing. We noticed that while we were listening to sermon/rants on the correct translation of the Bible (only KJV or you’re going straight and directly to hell), church attendance (be here every time the doors are open or you are going straight and directly to hell), and the evils of alcohol (take one sip and you are going straight and directly to hell!), we started noticing that there was one hell of a lot of hypocrisy going on undeterred and not a lot of useful Scriptural teachings that could help people out of the pits they were sliding into. We started researching, asking questions and, being the young and stupid people that we were at the time, thought we could change the way everyone thought by explaining to them that really, the Gospel was a lot more than determining if the book you’re reading glorifies witchcraft or not. You can imagine how well that went down. (Insert hysterical laughter here.)

By the time we fled that place, we were pariahs — people treated us like we had the plague and large sections of both of our families pulled long faces and talked to us about straying from the path and going out from us because they weren’t of us, etc … etc … The alcohol thing was a particular thorn in the flesh. Neither of us wanted to booze it up (I didn’t have a sip of anything alcoholic in my life until I was 25) but the discrepancy between the Bible’s attitude towards alcohol (my husband likes to say that Jesus’ first miracle was a beer run; we joke all the time about what type of wine Jesus turned the water into — I’m thinking it was a nice Merlot) and what we were taught about devil liquor really irritated us. And, of course, the more we tried to get people to see that the two didn’t jive and that it was just symbolic of all the other stuff being shoved down our throats, the more they assumed we just wanted to be lushes and were in the clutches of Satan. Whatever.

We left about five years ago, and finding another church has been damn near impossible. Our training makes it tough to go somewhere with electric guitars and drumsets and pastors in cut off jeans, even though we KNOW that that isn’t the criteria (“Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”), yet everywhere else is just various rehashes of what we broke away from. The kicker is that we have four children that I homeschool. Not only does everyone look at us and instantly assume that we must be Christian cultists (the idea that I might want to teach them how to think instead of having them turned into sheep by the public school system never seems to occur to anyone), but practically every homeschool group I join is, you guessed it, seriously fundamentalist. I had to leave one that didn’t believe in higher education for girls. Seriously. I’ve got three daughters — do they honestly think I’m going to turn my girls loose on the world as dumb as door knobs? And that God would approve of that?

My children know the Bible and they love the Lord, but I’ll tell you, sometimes I look at them while we’re cranking the ungodly Beatles or when we’re reading Harry Potter (gasp!) and I think, “You poor things, you have no idea what the hell is waiting for you when you get older.” All I can hope is that there are more of us out there somewhere. I’ve no idea where, but maybe we’ll find them someday.

By the way, have you ever read anything by Garrison Keillor or listened to his radio show, The Prairie Home Companion? (It’s on Sundays on NPR.) He was raised a Lutheran and talks about the trials of being an Apostate so beautifully. In his first book, Lake Wobegon Days, he writes an extended footnote — 95 Theses 95 — in which he lists 95 things he was trained into by his religious parents that he believes has ruined his life. It is absolutely hilarious. Number 4 on the list is: “You have taught me to worship a god who is like you, who shares your thinking exactly, who is going to slap me one if I don’t straighten out fast. I am very uneasy every Sunday, which is cloudy and deathly still and filled with silent accusing whispers.” Number 31 is “Your theology wasn’t happy about the idea of mercy and forgiveness, which only gave comfort to enemies, and so, although you recited the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday, you remembered your debtors and managed to not speak to certain people! — a major feat when you live in a town so small and attend the same church as they, a true act of dedication. In your behalf, I still dislike the Bunsens. I have no idea why.”

Later in the book, he describes the main character quizzing his mother on why it is wrong to listen to pop music. “Because it isn’t sung by a Christian,” she replies. After which he asks her if its okay to listen to Mozart or Beethoven. Oh, those little grey cells, they can get you into a lot of trouble.

By the way, I was reading Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi last night and ran across this passage that I thought you’d appreciate:

“There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, ‘Business as usual.’ But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening. … These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush.”

I grew up around people who preached and argued and pontificated nonstop about picky points of religion while at the same time conveniently ignoring the abused and hurting people in their own congregations. My husband calls it the “be ye warmed and filled” syndrome.

Anyway, thanks so much.

Al Nonymous

Thank you, Al — for reminding me that I’m not the crazy heretic my own family has labeled me. Your well-stated thoughts have inspired me to get start up these posts again. Yes, the subject is controversial, and I do struggle to speak the truth in love while doing so, but this is too important to not continue. These articles have always been my humble attempt to be an advocate for those walking wounded whom the church have shunned and driven away (as well as a wake up call for those who do the shunning and the driving).

While some would probably argue that the examples you listed are extreme, even subtle versions of such have so seeped into the fabric of the church, that many no longer know the difference. And to that I say: God help us all.

More to come soon.

CHURCHIANITY PART VI – self medication

Published November 21, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: Here we go again with another Churchianity post — I’ve been trying to be a little more faithful in my upkeep of this topic. Depending on your background, some of these may sound a little more rant-like than carefully thought out, but I am making a sincere effort to focus more on the faulty dogma than those whom I believe are deceived by it. Again, you may wish to read Parts I – V before continuing.

Self-medication. Two words that can instantly bring to mind a vastly differing interpretation. While many who subside in The Bubble (see Part I for more on that) would associate any form of self-medication with Drug Addiction and therefore label it a sin, this is actually a term that can mean something as universal and simple as any substance or activity which makes the person involved feel better. My point is, we ALL self-medicate in one form or another. The only difference is dosage, frequency and the legality (right or wrong) of the substance or activity involved.

Self-medication can be something as simple as reading a book or watching a movie (to quote the tag line for cable’s Cinematherapy show: “Because movies aren’t just entertainment, they’re self-medication” — thanks, I’ve known that for a long time). It is not necessarily drugs or alcohol — sports, gambling, shopping, porn, even religion can be used as coping devices — yet even healthy and legal activities/substances can not only be abused but have long-lasting consequences. Those who prescribe and self-administer mass quantities of food or liquor experience clear and obvious results for their indulgence. Those who self-medicate with exercise (ah, endorphins … the human body’s natural opiate) reap a much more beneficial effect.

I’ll say it again: we all self-medicate in some fashion — usually the effect involves some form of escapism, by either a chemically-induced high (dopamine triggers are as different and unique as the individuals who seek them), an emotional rush (I’ve surely seen religious fervor whipped up into a froth), or something that is a potent distraction from inner turmoil. I’ve often jokingly claimed to have a Black Belt in distraction.

This is a world that hates to feel. The stock figures of our pharmaceutical companies will testify to this — we’ve been Prozac’d, Xanax’d and Ritalin’d into oblivion. I’m sure these psychotropic substances work for many, yet their misuse and over-diagnosis is scarily universal. How many people with long-buried emotional traumas are told by doctors that their depression and ennui are actually due to chemical imbalances and other biological causes? Anything to keep the pills rolling out and the money rolling in. Quick fixes are much more readily sought than (shudder) emotional excavation. And … just because a drug is prescribed by a physician and approved by the FDA, does NOT mean it is safe. Ask Heath Ledger.

Here’s a rarely-mentioned fact: shutting off your feelings for too long, will drive you crazy! It doesn’t matter whether your method is active, passive, edible, drinkable, legal or illegal … stanch your undesirable emotions too much and eventually there WILL be consequences. How many of the people walking the planet today are emotionally constipated time bombs ready to go off at any time? Know one? Been one? I have and I admit it — though I have spent much time exorcising such so I don’t NEED to self-medicate.

In no way am I saying all self-medication is bad — in fact, sometimes it’s downright necessary.

When I was nineteen — impressionable, troubled, and damaged by years of emotional and religious abuse (to name a discreet few) — I was “adopted” by a couple of neighboring families who were much more world-wise and rough-hewn than anyone I had ever met growing up in The Bubble. The kind of people whom the church demonizes for their seemingly wild and rebellious ways. They weren’t quite bikers (although one of them had recently settled-down from such), but they were certainly cut from a different cloth. Though I had been warned that such long-haired, leather-wearing, rock-listening, tattoo-sporting, beer-drinking, pot-smoking hippies were damn-near evil incarnate, I quickly discovered these people were actually salt-of-the-earth types who would do anything to help a brother or someone in need. They were more genuine, loving and unconditionally accepting than most of the people I knew in church. (If you’re wondering if this experience set in motion the plot of my novel, you are correct.)

I’ve made no bones on this site that my two favorite methods of self-medicating are movies and marijuana. Shocked? Those of you who have wondered what the category This Site Is 420 Friendly means should dig a little further to find out. There is a post in there by the same name, which features an excerpt from Christian author Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz. In it, he describes the season that he and another Christian colleague spent living amongst a group of hippies in the woods. What he discovered was, to him, quite startling, but it’s something I’ve known for a long time: people who partake of this particular herb are generally more relaxed, genial and pleasant to be around than the (often-not-always) uptight, finger-shaking, Bible-thumping individuals who judge and condemn them without a hearing. I will repeat here what I stated there (though I strongly encourage you to check it out) — When even a Christian author notes that Jesus’ command to “love one another” was more readily found amongst a bunch of hippies in the woods, than within his church, something is profoundly wrong.

Certainly safer and more conducive to a calm, genial atmosphere than ire-fueling alcohol, this simple plant has been demonized through decades of political (and religious) propaganda. When actually, the far-reaching medical benefits of this plant (anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, relaxant, sleep-aid) are certainly safer than their much more physically addictive and liver-destroying alternatives. More about this can be found in the documentary here.

Have I gotten off subject? Not at all. My point here is NOT to run a commercial for the legalization or de-criminalization of this country’s marijuana laws — those are actually coming around as more and more politicians and doctors are seeing the truth behind age-old propaganda.

My points are two-fold:

ONE: (and this one is directed toward the church) Stop demonizing individuals who choose grass as their self-medication of choice. Give some of these stoners your time and compassion and you will find some of the kindest, friendliest, most giving and good-hearted people you’ve ever met. They are also very diverse — yes, many wear sandals, weave macramé, wear tie-dye clothes and hug trees, but just as many are intelligent, college-educated, book-reading, God-fearing professionals. Just because they choose something a little different to make them feel better does not mean that they (we) are devil-worshipping pagans from which your children need to be guarded at all costs. They are God’s children, just as deserving of His love and grace as those within The Bubble. Do not forbid them welcome — love them, accept them, get to know them — you might be surprised what you’ll find.

TWO: ANY self-medication carried to extremes is not a wise thing to do. This is not a moral issue — this is a heart issue. Shut off your heart too much and there will be consequences. Shut off your heart too much and even a Christian will not be able to give God the ONE THING HE DESIRES: Intimacy.

Some Christians who have read these Churchianity posts have gotten what I’m trying to say (even if I do seemingly attack the individual rather than the faulty dogma — I’m working on it). Others have taken great offense at my words. This one will probably be no exception. Let me add that I have seen many “Christians” use church and the Bible like a narcotic. The distinction is this: If your religious activities cause you to shut off your heart and not have COMPASSION for the struggling, lost and hurting people of this world who self-medicate a little differently than you do, you are using religion like a drug. Period.

God looks at the heart — always has, always will (there is a lot in that statement regarding Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace, but I will save it for another post). He knows our traumas and turmoil, our bitterness and resentments, our relationship and trust issues from abuse. He knows our hurts and motivations for pain relief. He also knows what love, compassion and empathy we carry. Often, there is a potpourri of all of these things. God does not condemn us for self-medicating. It is human nature to want to experience pleasure rather than pain. He roots for us to trust Him so we won’t have to rely on more temporal remedies. (In case I haven’t made my point, I think self-medication is more about degrees of and reasons for use than the black-and-white conceptions of the church). God loves us despite our performance, behavior, or reliance on Band-Aids that often make this cold world a little more bearable. The grace of that statement is a far better reason to abstain (or at least cut back) on those things which, if overused, keep us from experiencing His love. Certainly more so than judgment and condemnation.

Just something to think about.



For more great songs, see the aforementioned post, This Site Is 420 Friendly.

UPDATE: While many of these Churchianity posts have garnered some very interesting comments, none more so than this one. Read on below … if you dare. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Continue on to Churchianity Part VII — an anonymous letter.

CHURCHIANITY PART V – show business (1)

Published November 11, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: Given my circumstances, I’m probably too stressed to be writing a Churchianity post right now and may end up sounding angry and bitter … ‘course, when have I let that stop me? Just because one is bitter doesn’t mean one’s points aren’t valid. I know full well how some of these posts sound — perhaps after I’ve gotten enough out of my system, I will do a Churchianity post on BITTERNESS. How does one walk this line? When Jesus was exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he didn’t exactly exude sunshine and rainbows. Let’s see how this goes. If you’re new here, you may want to read Parts I – IV before continuing.

There’s no business like show business like no business I know. Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow. Nowhere could you get that happy feeling, when you are stealing that extra bow! There’s no people like show people, they smile when they are low. Even with a turkey that you know will fold, you may be stranded out in the cold. Still you wouldn’t change it for a sack of gold, let’s go on with the show!

At least that’s how I’ve always felt about it. I did a fair amount of stage work years ago, learned early on that TV was a great escape from a too-often hellish reality, and ever since seeing Rocky and Close Encounters as a kid, have had a passion for cinema. Big surprise there, huh?

And yet, growing up in church, it was common practice to demonize anything outside The Bubble, especially when it came to show business. No matter the medium — movies, television or music — most everyone I knew in church was bent on making sure that films (especially those rated “R” — gasp!), TV shows (they didn’t call it The Boob Tube for nothing) and records (flat, round, vinyl discs which played music while we cleaned our dope on the cover) were exposed for the Satanic tools they were. Hollywood Babylon, don’tcha know?

There is so much to discuss, I think I’ll break this down.

MUSIC
When I was a teenager growing up in church, the pastor brought in a team of “experts” to talk to our youth group about the demonic influences that were prevalent in popular music. (Now, as a writer who deals directly with spiritual warfare, let me state here that I DO BELIEVE in angels and demons, and that they each carry out the orders of their respective and not-so-respective Commanders In Chief. I would simply argue that their places of work are way outside the box of Bubble-thinking. Angels regularly work in dark areas, and demons love to infiltrate churches.) Some of the musical artists that they told us were influenced by Satan were no-brainers. Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and, of course, Led Zeppelin (among many others).

This was during the back-masking craze and, while I do believe some of those reversed recordings were demonically influenced (those live Zeppelin recordings were downright eerie), many of them were simply for comedic effect or marketing. (I may do a separate post on this later.)

What upset me most was the utter demonization of artists like John Denver — whose tree-hugging, New Age, touchy-feely, Rocky Mountain High, pot-smoking ways made him an easy-if-unexpected target of this Onward Christian Soldier lynch mob. If an artist dared mention anything about believing in one’s self (as opposed to God), or enjoying worldly pleasures (as opposed to Heavenly) or anything remotely sexual (like that slutty Olivia Newton-John who dared to want to get Physical), they were fair targets for this Bible-wielding firing squad.

The most perfect example I can give here is the utter condemnation of Pat Benatar in 1980, for writing and releasing a song called Hell Is For Children. She was (at least in my church) tarred, feathered and burned at the proverbial stake for daring to suggest such in that title. Of course, no one ever bothered to get beyond the irony of the provocative title and actually listen to the lyrics:

They cry in the dark so you can’t see their tears,
They hide in the light so you can’t see their fears,
Forgive and forget, all the while, love and pain,
Become one and the same in the eyes of a wounded child.


(CHORUS) Because Hell, Hell is for children,
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess.
Hell, Hell is for children.
And you shouldn’t have to pay for your love,
With your bones and your flesh.


It’s all so confusing, this brutal abusing,
They blacken your eyes and then ‘pologize.


Be Daddy’s good girl and don’t tell Mommy a thing,
Be a good little boy and you’ll get a new toy,
Tell Grandma you fell off the swing.


(repeat CHORUS)

Obviously, this is a song about child abuse. In an interview with Portfolio Weekly, Benatar explained: “I was living in New York when we wrote it and the New York Times did a series of articles about child abuse in America. I came from a really small town on Long Island and I had no idea that this existed, not in the little gingerbread place I came from. I was stunned. It affected me so much. I was moved by the articles. Whenever that would happen I would write. I said to Neil [Giraldo, her husband and guitarist], ‘I want you to do something to the music that it sounds like pain. I want the intense pain that’s happening to these children in the notes,’ and so he did and it turned out just great. It became an anthem. I always wonder if other people have lofty intentions. I didn’t. [However] we started a foundation for abused children.” Benatar continues to donate the song’s royalties to child abuse causes.

Point made? Let’s move on:

MOVIES
I love ’em. Yet the condemnation of this medium by “Christians” is one that cements my alienation from others of like faith. Do I need fellowship with other believers? Of course, I do. But this one issue is damn-near a deal breaker (‘course, so is heinous and unnecessary language like that).

Whenever Jesus wanted to make a point, how did he do it? He told stories. Movies are simply a medium for doing the same. And yet, I have been chastised, judged a heathen, and ousted from family and church for daring to express a passion for something so worldly and immoral.

A quick look at many Christian-themed websites which offer film reviews is likely to feature ad nauseum lists of every “offensive” thing:

Three d**ms, two b***hes, one f**k, br**st flashed, positive portrayal of a homosexual, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and general godless shenanigans.

No wonder this world has such a low opinion of Christians — especially when they see us keep a self-righteous tally of trifling things like Cold War accountants. Who put Stalin back in charge?

Really subversive movies like Forrest Gump, As Good As It Gets, and Titanic are raked over the evangelical coals. I know “Christians” who refuse to watch those films for reasons that make their “faith” seem utterly “fascist.” The kind of “Christians” who refuse to watch a Nathan Lane movie (funniest actor working today, IMHO) because he’s gay. Or see a Tom Cruise film because he’s a Scientologist. (Don’t agree with his religion? Don’t judge and condemn him — PRAY FOR HIM!) Who refuse to watch shows like Friends or Smallville (two of my favorites) because … who knows? Who will, if watching movies with teens in the room, sit with a finger quivering over the fast-forward button, waiting to zip through anything remotely titillating. (Again, I have much more to say here, too — but I think I will save it for a Churchianity post on Sexuality, and the not-so-subtle message such actions scream to kids: SEX IS DIRTY! That little bit of evangelical propaganda, carried to extremes, is a gift that just keeps on giving.)

My point is, Christians who spend so much time fretting over the content of music and movies accomplish only one thing, and it is NOT furthering the Kingdom of God. All such “majoring in the minors” does is make Christians look prudish and unintelligent, make God seem like an unapproachable, fun-killing despot, and alienate the walking wounded of this world from hearing history’s most important Message. If Christianity’s most fundamental rule, Love One Another, was followed as stringently as some of these evangelicals attack popular culture, this would be a very different world — those most in need of God’s unconditional love, grace and acceptance would find it.

I am already running long with this post and haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what I would like to say. Maybe another Churchianity post could be called Show Business (2). Would that be too confusing?

What are your thoughts? Given the title of the category where I file these posts, Christianity VS Churchianity, am I spending too much time on the latter rather than the former? The negative rather than the positive? I can only do what my heart (and God) compel me to do, and right now I feel I must address these more unsavory aspects of the church simply because I don’t hear anyone else doing it. At least not anyone who is also still trying to hang onto their faith. As someone who loves God but is obsessed with pop culture (and boy, are there pros and cons to that mixture), I am doing the best I can.

Do you have similar stories? Tell me about them. All comments are welcome.

ONE FINAL NOTE: To be fair, the film critics at Christianity Today offer thoughtful and intelligent comments on all manner of cinematic fare, including those films waaaaay outside The Bubble, R-rated and otherwise. Two recently released Christian films (House and Billy-The Early Years) were even given middling reviews and harshly criticized for keeping films of faith in the slough of mediocrity.

Trying to be balanced, folks — I know all Christians don’t practice Churchianity. I just wish they had a church near me. Belong to one? Let me know.

Continue to Churchianity Part VI — Self Medication.

CHURCHIANITY PART IV – marriage and divorce

Published November 5, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: It’s been months since I last put up a Churchianity post (May 2008), but something tells me it’s time to start up again. These controversial articles have generated (mostly) positive responses and I stand by everything I have written — although I’ll be the first to admit some of my posits and theories need … tweaking. Before continuing with this article, you may want to read Parts 1 – 3.

Given that the divorce rate in this country is about fifty percent, with no discernible difference between atheists and those of faith (some studies show that evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rate of all), I think it’s time to address this issue head on.

Since we know that God created marriage (Genesis 2:24), hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that this union of man and woman is to be a picture of our relationship to God (1 Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 5:31-32), how can such statistics be true? According to the Bible, the only legitimate reason for divorce is “marital unfaithfulness.” While too many churches define this term as meaning only infidelity, I personally think that’s pretty short sighted. What about violence? Alcoholism. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of spouse or children? If the atmosphere is dangerous, personal safety and common sense are to be regarded over rigid interpretation of biblical law — the believing spouse is not bound under such circumstances. As I’ve stated repeatedly in previous posts, God cares more about the heart than anything else — and I’m going to go there again in this article.

If Jesus is The Way (make no mistake, I believe that HE IS) and Christians are supposed to be the most loving people on the planet (key term here: supposed to be), than how come our marriages are just as likely to fail as those who don’t believe in this Savior?

According to one of the polls that verify such sad statistics:

1. Christians are generally younger when they marry the first time.

2. Christians are less likely to have pre-marital counseling than non-Christians. (This one I don’t believe.)

3. Christians tend to view their faith as protecting their marriage from divorce.

4. Christians are more likely to be ignorant about the problems that can develop within a marriage.

While at least three of those ideas are sound, I would add that marriage in the church is too often viewed as a cure-all. Naive “Bubble-mindedness” is demolished by harsh reality. It is a state rushed into before premarital sex rears its ugly head. And the marriage certificate is given a talismanic quality rather than considered just a piece of paper — like confusing flag and country, or God and the Bible.

Consider these points and questions:

Are non-married couples like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (25 years) or Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon (20 years) living in sin? These Hollywood super couples have accomplished what 50% of all married couples (including Christians) have not — maintained a happily monogamous relationship for over two decades without the assistance of a piece of paper. Are they living a sinful lifestyle or are they exemplifying what a healthy relationship should be? Just asking — their longevity screams that they’re doing something right.

Is the civil ceremony what makes a marriage sacred? It can’t be — it’s a man-made ritual. Adam and Eve never had a marriage ceremony or certificate, but they were considered to be married in God’s eyes. In regards to this, too many “Christians” put the emphasis on The Law rather than The Heart. (Which is what I’ve been trying to say in all of these Churchianity posts — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I’m working on it.)

While adultery (as in Thou shalt not commit adultery) is defined as: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband … is pre-marital sex addressed in the Bible? To answer that question, one needs to define the term ‘fornication,’ which, according to the dictionary is: consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other. There is some controversy over whether or not the term fornication in the Bible is an accurate translation. Regardless, God’s analogy of marriage: The two shall become one, is at the heart of the matter.

Which brings me back to the Kurt and Goldie question. After a quarter century together, the law considers this a common-law marriage, but what about God?

When half of ALL marriages end in divorce, something is very wrong. I think it has more to do with the health (or sickness) of individuals — their issues and neurosis, their baggage and ability to put someone else ahead of themselves. In a narcissistic society (and we are), true selfless love is a rarity. And narcissism is an equal opportunity affliction, just as likely to be found in church as anywhere else. In fact, when it is found in church, and has the stench of religiosity about it, it is beyond repulsive (but you already knew I felt that way). The repression, isolation and legalism that is prevalent in today’s churches, MUST be a contributing factor to the church having at least an equal (and possibly higher) divorce rate. Where love and forgiveness should be preached, the rigid rules of Churchianity instead breed shame, guilt and neuroses — none of which are conducive to a healthy personal life much less an interpersonal one.

Divorce, while hated by God, is a reality. And yet, even Jesus let a woman who’d had five divorces wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. He was severely criticized for this, but He put His reputation on the line to defend her. He saw her for what she was: a wounded soul in desperate need of compassion.

Yet a woman with five divorces, “living in sin” with a man who was not her husband, would be shunned in most churches today, by self-righteous hypocrites who repel more wounded souls than they attract. People who care more about appearance and legalistic rules than the wounded condition and faulty motivations of someone’s heart.

I feel like I’m repeating myself here, but there are some who refuse to get this message of mine about the poison that is Churchianity.

We are, all of us, looking for love — quite often, in all the wrong places. Obviously, God wants us to start with Him. I have a lot I could say here about TRUST … but I think there’s enough for a post of its own.

So … what constitutes a marriage? Is it a ceremony? A piece of paper? Or is it the condition of the hearts involved?

Just trying to think outside the box here. Or The Bubble, if you will.

I don’t have all the answers folks — but I do have lots of unorthodox questions. And I just thought I’d throw some of them out there to see what comes back. Oh, they loved me in Sunday School when I was a kid … NOT!

Do you think I’m screwed up? Well-intentioned but bitter? Tell me.

More Churchianity posts coming soon — on topics like Sexuality, Self-Medication and Show Business. Oh yeah, and that one on Trust.

Your comments are welcome — let me know what you think.

Continue to Churchianity Part V – Show Business (1).

CHURCHIANITY PART III – profanity in context

Published May 4, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTEThis is Part 3 in an ongoing series attempting to shed light on the heresy-proclaimed-as-gospel ingrained in the modern-day Christian church. I am a Christian, albeit one who is profoundly disturbed by such theologically twisted, pulpit propaganda. If you are new here, please read CHURCHIANITY PART I and PART II before continuing.

Remember George Carlin’s infamous seven words you can’t say on television? I won’t repeat them here … not because I’m prudish (I’m not), or worried about offending someone (you know me better than that), or that I’m afraid I’ll disappoint God (disappointment connotes an expectation not met, if God is Omniscient, he cannot be disappointed). No, my point is that for decades – especially since the advent of electronic media – there has been a moral code of what is acceptable language and subject matter for public broadcast. In recent years, television producers have certainly pushed that envelope, and the FCC has adjusted accordingly. For good or ill, we have come a long way since Lucy Ricardo couldn’t use the word “pregnant,” Jeannie couldn’t show her belly button, and Rob and Laura Petrie had to sleep in twin beds.

Beyond the FCC’s regulations regarding popular media, however, the church has much more stringent rules regarding such. According to them, George Carlin was woefully short sighted in only listing seven words one can’t say on television … or in real life for that matter. This was never more evident than in the creation of the TV language filter — a device that has always been rather disturbing to me. I understand the concern of parents in wanting to protect their children from a rain of unwanted words varying in length from four letters to twelve, but this machine dictates morality with zero consideration of context. And, as I will prove in a moment, context is everything.

Another disturbing development came earlier this decade with the creation of a company called CleanFilms — a “Christian” video rental company that edited DVDs to remove profanity, nudity, violence, crude language and other unwanted content. Gee, I thought we were decades beyond the kind of censorship they had under Joseph Stalin, but … I guess not. Not long after going into business, CleanFilms was sued by many Hollywood studios for copyright infringement. I am pleased to inform you that, due to the courts ruling, CleanFilms is no longer in operation.

Beyond language in media, however, there is a stigma in the church where nothing even resembling a curse word must ever be uttered. Perhaps they are heeding Ephesians 4:29, which says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up …

I say, let’s fine tune our definition of “unwholesome talk.” If you skip down a verse or two, 31-32 adds, Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

From that, I would define “unwholesome talk” as anything with HATE behind it. Which means many of words the church have labeled as VERBOTEN, are just fine. Sometimes they’re the best ones to describe what one is feeling. Ever hit your head on something and cry, “Shit!” As long as it’s not happening to you, it’s funny. Even God thinks it’s funny. Because there’s nothing hateful in it. I mean, honestly, which is worse to say?

I hate you!

or

I fuckin’ love you, man!

Those notorious F-bombs are in fact the world’s greatest, and most diverse, modifier. Signifying something extremely good or extremely bad. Again … CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!

The church’s stigma of making such innocent words as darn, dang, or damn something deserving of eternal torment in h-e-double hockey sticks is pretty sick. When it comes to language, what the church should be promoting is GENUINE EXPRESSION from a GENUINE HEART – regardless of the emotion or the words. If you read my first CHURCHIANITY post, I related a story where, after some horrendous therapy, I screamed at God every filthy foul word I could think of. His response to me not only proves my point, but was life changing.

Offense at honest expression — including those words the aforementioned TV filter would have bleeped out — is a welcome mat for hypocrisy, emotional constipation, and putting on a fake face rather than a real one. It also (and I’ve said this before) is a form of Churchianity that repels more lost souls than it attracts. To those “Christians” reading this with whom I’ve struck a nerve here, I say, Stop majoring in the minors! Stop making us look like prudes because you think holiness has more to do with adherence to manmade rules, than being genuine and honest. Words are only as harmful as the intent behind them.

As for blasphemy, the commandment which states, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” has been misinterpreted for eons. It does not necessarily mean someone exclaiming Jesus Christ or Goddamn it! (although, again I think context needs to be taken into account … is this a bleat of hate or just frustration?) Theologians have told us this verse actually means, Don’t make a vow to God and break it. Don’t say, I swear to God. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

I’ve got another definition for blasphemy … how about calling yourself a Christian and not treating others with the same grace, mercy and compassion that Jesus shows us? Now THAT’S taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Stifling honest expression, and the myriad of colorful words which help, is promoting hypocrisy. For people who talk about the truth setting them free, I see way too many things that fly smack in the face of that. Too many things that promote falsities rather than genuineness, lies rather than truth. I am not suggesting we should all walk around talking like sailors and truck drivers (no offense to them), but I am saying sometimes honest expression requires a vocabulary with a little wider palette.

Do you agree?

Or do you think I’m full of bull poop?

Leave a comment.

Continue to Churchianity Part IV — Marriage and Divorce.

CHURCHIANITY PART II – tithing

Published April 12, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTEI’ve put off following up Part I of this series too long. This is a sensitive and controversial subject matter, so … if you’re new to this site, or subject, please read CHURCHIANITY PART I – a rant before continuing on with this article. Though my intent is to speak the truth in love, my bitterness at the unhealthy state of the Christian church, and the heretical bullshit many have proclaimed as gospel for ages, makes this a precarious line to walk. May God bless my efforts …

In my previous post regarding Churchianity, I pointed out that the modern-day church has scores, if not hundreds, of man-made rules that must be adhered to if one wants to not only belong to a church, but (according to them) have a relationship with God. I further pointed out that if one believes the Bible, there is actually only ONE rule to Christianity: Love one another.

I would like to address a few of these aforementioned “rules of the church,” that to my way of thinking, are more bondage in Christ than freedom in Christ. I am also going to divide them up into different posts so that they are easier for you to digest and for me to write about — I can be longwinded.

CHURCH RULE #1 – TITHING IS A REQUIREMENT OF CHRISTIANS

Does God bless those who give from their heart? Of course he does, but to say it is REQUIRED is to say what Jesus did on the cross is not enough, you’ve got to buy your way into His Kingdom. That is a spit in the face of our dying Savior.

Too many preachers throw up Malachi 3:10 when their bills are high and offerings are low. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” We need to remember this was an Old Testament message to pre-Messianic Jews. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that tithing is REQUIRED.

Jesus does say in Luke 11:42, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”

I love that verse — it kind of sums up what I’ve been saying all along.

Jesus does not say there that tithing is a requirement. That statement was also spoken before the crucifixion when all the rules changed. After that sacrifice, we are no longer under ANY law — including one that says you must give ten percent of your income — but rather under grace. That in itself is a better reason to give than any law could ever demand.

Few New Testament verses touch on this topic. But 2 Corinthians 9:7 says – Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Not reluctantly or under compulsion … it doesn’t get much more complicated than that, folks.

I say … Woe to those evangelists and ministers who preach to their congregations that they should “plant your financial seed and get your miracle!” “Blab it and grab it!” “Get out your checkbook and show God how much you love Him!” “God says give ten percent or else!” Those who preach such heresy are worse than the money changers Jesus threw out of the Temple. They are manipulating God’s flock for financial gain. They are not furthering the Kingdom of God, they are hindering it — making the Good News sound like a Bad Joke.

Is it good to give to your church? Sure, as long as you’re giving out of a generous heart and not because you’ve been made to believe you’ll burn in Hell if you don’t. Or worse — that you can turn God into a vending machine that needs the bill acceptor fed before miracles can be produced. You might also ask yourself if your church is actively fulfilling The Great Commission (not just preaching at, but welcoming ALL to your sanctuary without judgment) and not rotting in the vacuum of The Church of the Bubble Dwelling Pharisee.

Sorry if that sounds harsh … it’s just where I’m at, what I believe and what I’ve experienced.

When Jesus walked the Earth, the only people he could not abide to be around, were the religious leaders. He was constantly calling them on their hypocrisy and self-righteousness … until they killed Him for it. Jesus hung with the rabble, rejects and ragamuffins. I dare say, if Jesus was here today, you probably wouldn’t find Him in church. He’d be right where He was before … with the broken ones. He’d be in back alleys with prostitutes, in basements with drug addicts, in hospitals with terminal AIDS patients. He would be with the hurting, lonely and outcast; those who have been ravaged by life and (all too often) rejected by the church. He would leave the 99 sheep in the pasture, to seek out that one lost sheep who needs Him the most. (For a beautiful example of this, check out an earlier post called Modern Day Magdalene).

He would not be concerned whether or not that lost sheep promised to give Him money. Contrary to what many churches have preached for centuries: There is no pre-nuptial agreement for the Bride of Christ.

Do you agree? Disagree? Your feedback is welcome here — post a comment.

I promise the next Churchianity post will not be so long coming.

God bless.

Continue to Churchianity Part III — Profanity in Context.

GEORGE CARLIN ON CHURCHIANITY

Published February 27, 2008

George Carlin is hilarious. I’ve always thought so. I may be one of the few Christians in the world to hold him in this regard, but we’ll get to that. From his hippy-dippy weatherman in the 60s, his infamous Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television in the 70s, A Place For My Stuff in the 80s and beyond, he deserves a ranking between Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor as one of the most influential comedians of all time. Back in 1975, he was also the first host on the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live.

I’d dare say no other comic has such a mastering of the english language as Carlin. He meticulously hones his words and phrases, meter and timing, until his sentences are sharp enough to cut. Then, with the finesse of a swordsman, he wields his comedy like a foil. Indeed, sometimes he has so badly offended his listeners as to forever alienate them. His brazen honesty, unapologetic stance, scathing exposés, political incorrectness and refusal to steer clear of even the most sacred cow have always been part of the old hippie’s charm. I aspire to that kind of NO BULLSHIT policy.

Over the years, Carlin (who died in June 2008 at age 70), became increasingly bitter and nihilistic. Especially when it came to religion. Many Christians have cursed and denounced him as everything from a heretic to evil incarnate — never more so than since his routine regarding The Invisible Man in The Sky (posted below). However, there is really very little in the routine that is that wrong. These are merely the articulate musings of a bitter ex-Catholic, who has grown as sick and tired of the legalism and hypocrisy of the modern-day church (including Protestantism) as I have. I just hung on to my faith is all.

The video below is entitled Religion is Bullshit. If you find that statement heretical, stop and think about the fact that Jesus thought so, too! He was constantly calling the Pharisees on their bullshit and they killed him for it. Also, if you are a Christian easily offended by language, watch the video anyway and consider that CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING! (See CHURCHIANITY PART III for much more on that.) If you watch it and are still offended, don’t curse George Carlin, PRAY FOR HIM! This is simply an intelligent man’s bitter response to the guilt and condemnation that the church laid on him as a youth. Shame on them.

God bless him, God save him, I still love him.

GEORGE CARLIN — RELIGION IS BULLSHIT