Sunday, May 25, 2008

But The Teaching Is So Good...

A friend has said this recently, after returning to the church I left: "I know he made some mistakes, but I have to go there. The teaching is so good." This makes me cry. It is a wedge pushing that friend and I apart. I don't want to hear what he is preaching and she doesn't want to hear that he is dangerous. It is a huge ugly elephant in the room with us that overshadows any other attempts at conversation.


Now I understand that my friend is very sick (physically) and the preacher teaches on healing. I don't have a problem with teaching healing. I believe that God heals. He's healed me more than once. :-) It isn't about that. It is about the subtle twisting of Scriptures - it is about the slipping of the strychnine into that nice, pure refreshing looking water. It is about using the Bible and promises of what you can get if you do things just so to control people for your own purposes.

Now, this friend knows what 'mistakes' this pastor made (predatory mistakes). But it appears that she is so afraid that if she gets away from this teaching, she will get worse, physically - be unprotected... she seems afraid. She seems to be still under his spell. This makes me angry and sad at the same time.

In this context, I decided to watch an installment of his TV program the other night. I haven't watched (or heard) him preach since I left 15 months ago. By the end of the 28 minute segment, I was actually cussing at him. Hmm... a strong reaction. So I thought I would share some of what he said...

He was in the middle of a series on the importance of the local church. He has taught series on this before... many times. Most of what he said was said in angry tones - almost yelling at times - with a condescending "what is the matter with you people, why aren't you getting this" attitude. He often had the attitude that if you disagreed with him, you were simply being stupid. He would occasionally make a disparaging statement about those who had left or were going to a church that did not teach what he taught and smirk - aren't we the smart ones...

So what did he actually say? His beginning text was Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (KJV)

He then said, "There's power in the local church." He emphasized this several times. Then he said, "If you need healing, it's in the local church. In James it says, if any are sick among you, call for the elders of the church." He then smirked and said, "Of course, it helps if the leaders believe in it." The congregation laughed - right on cue. He followed with that by saying that if the church you're in doesn't believe in healing, you might want to find one that does.

Now he goes off into why it is imperative that you be in a local church. What he said here is where I first felt the urge to cuss. He said, "It is not enough to simply go to church and sit there. You have to plug in." Now, after 7 years of attending this church, I know what he means by 'plug in.' Join the H.E.L.P.S. team and do whatever we tell you to do. I am not coming from the point of view of what they call a 'pew warmer.' I was in leadership - had about 10 people in my departments that I was responsible for training and overseeing. 

Hmm... that brings a few tears. They are wonderful people - dedicated - worked so hard. The privilege of watching some of them come out of their self-conscious shells and begin to have confidence in themselves and their ability to help. Damn, I miss some of them and I wish I could tell them to run as far from him as they can.

Now he does something that I have come to recognize as a classic shock tactic. He stops in mid-sentence and looks at the congregation and says, in a very imperious tone, "Do you love Jesus?" They respond loudly, "Yes!" He says, "Do you really love Jesus?" Again, they respond, "Yes." He says, angrily, "John said that if you loved Him, you would follow His commands." He then holds up his Bible and points to the text in Hebrews and says, "If you loved Jesus, you would obey this command." The implication is that if you are not 'plugged in' to your local church (preferably HIS), you don't love Jesus.

He then goes into how important the local church is again - on the theme of the church being the only place where you can tap into God's power. He used the analogy of a wall in a building. The power is available, but unless you 'plug in' to it, it does you no good. So, if you are not, 'plugged in' to the local church, the power is not available to you and it is your own fault if nothing works for you.

The next thing he said that stuck out to me was, "Where would you rather be - in your local church where you are surrounded by people who love you and will protect you or out 'there' where there is nothing but demons and people who hate you?" I cussed again. In 7 years here, I was not surrounded by people who loved and protected me - I was surrounded by people who tolerated and discarded me - scolded me and used me and in the end abused me. But do you see how this works to build a sense of isolation between the congregation and the outside world? If you are not here, in the safe, warm comfort of this local church, you will be in the cold, dark, dangerous world where everyone will be out to get you. Yikes!

Then he talked about the damage that is done to the local body when a member just walks away - unplugs. I have heard him talk about this before. He talked about it the day I sat in his office for 2 1/2 hours explaining to him that I was walking away. 'Don't you dare walk away or you will be responsible for your brothers and sisters missing out on what they should have had if you were where you belonged.'

Then he actually touched on the idea that - whoa! - maybe you were hurt by a local church. His advice? "If you have been hurt by a church, get healed!" This was said with a very flippant and annoyed tone - a tone that said 'get over it!'

So, in this particular installment, there was probably a larger dose than usual of strychnine. Instead of 10 - 15%, it was maybe 50-60%. But the sad thing is, the congregation was listening intently (the camera would pan to them periodically). I saw some old friends. And I heard the amens and the cheers. Yes, cheers, for what he said. 

So, thinking about how enthusiastically the congregation was listening to this and thinking about what my friend said about the teaching being sooo good, maybe it isn't strychnine - maybe it is some form of mind control drug. Whatever it is, if you keep listening to it, the spell this man weaves becomes stronger and stronger. I was under it at one time. It is scary what you will accept when you are there. I wish I could share with you exactly what he has done (and quite possibly is still doing) - for legal reasons, I can't. But this friend knows what he has done and to whom. And she still feels that his teaching is more important than that.

And therein lies the biggest problem I have encountered. People who believe that the 'message' - the 'image of the organization' - or even (sadly) 'what I am getting out of it' - is more important than a few incidents where a few people got hurt. What's the big deal, anyway? Just maintain the status quo - people come, people go...

Meanwhile, those who were used and discarded - left bleeding on the side of the road - very nearly did not survive. And no one in the 'local church' cared enough to inquire - to help. No, the message is not 'sooo good' - it is very, very bad...

19 comments:

traveller said...

Your friend needs you more than ever in her life as difficult as it may be with the elephant in the room and the wedge her feelings create. May Father give you the strength and courage to continue to be the true ekklesia to your friend.

CZBZ said...

What a coincidence to read your post tonight right after reading an interview with Pema Chodren that left me, well...what can I say? Uncomfortable? Disconcerted? Nauseated?

You can read the link here: http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/Ypema.htm

I'm not criticizing Pema since I appreciate her writings about Buddhism; but after my experience with narcissistic people (especially gurus), her interview gave me pause. You'll know what I'm talking about if you scan through the article to the section about Trungpa Rinpoche's sexual dalliances with students.

The idea, the very IDEA that a human being is a 'superior' sets everyone up for self-deception and abuse. And maybe no one is more self-deceptive than the guru him or herself!

I appreciated your comments about the church leader exploiting people's fears and isolating them from the outside world. What gets me is that he's very aware of what he's doing...

You're in a tough place. If you speak your mind to your friends, they'll resist hearing what you have to say. I'm guessing you've already been through it and that's what makes it so hard because we don't want to see our friends abused but there's not much we can do.

Maybe in time, they'll renew their friendships with you but what's so sad is that they're in for a lot of pain before they'll break themselves free. And you know that. And that's why it makes your heart grieve.

Once again, great post, Katherine.

Hugs,
CZ

Katherine Gunn said...

Traveller & CZ~

Thanks, guys. ;-)

((Hugs)) to you, too, CZ.

Tyler Dawn said...

Oh gosh sweetie, did that bring back memories. Sometimes when we are gone for a few years we forget just how evil it can be.

I am praying for you and your friend sweetie. I can't even imagine how difficult this is for you :(

Katherine Gunn said...

Tyler Dawn~

Wow. Thanks. *hug* :-)

Trekin4JC said...

In my church that my husband pastors we strive to teach people to hear God for themselves and to be equipped in the word. Christians need to be thinkers and not followers and accepters of everything a person says no matter who that person is. We must read the Bible and know God for ourselves and use the Bible as a standard by which we judge teachings. The Spirit of God is to lead us in all truth. The ministers are to equip the church so that they become mature and basically put themselves out of a job. I love Morningstar Ministries slogan that the church is to build the people not the people used to build the church. We have to care about the people more than the ministry.

Trekin4JC said...

I would suggest Bethel Church in Redding the ministry of Bill Johnson and his team of pastors for good solid teachings on the supernatural.

Davida said...

first off, thanks for your comments on my blog!! i heart comments. ;-)

secondly, i have to say when i read "He was in the middle of a series on the importance of the local church," my palms started sweating and i sorta didn't want to keep going. it was so weird to read that stuff. i used to 100% agree with it. now i can see how warped it is. the local church is our source? oops, what about Jesus? i'm all for fellowhip, but have had my fill of the holy huddle mentality. WE have the corner on the Christianity market. if you REALLY love and want to serve god you will be with us. not THEM. blech indeed!! it has been difficult for me since i left my previous situation, yet i see god's grace in it.

thank you for your post and your blog...i will be reading more. :-)

Katherine Gunn said...

Trekin4JC~

Thanks for stopping by. :-)

It's interesting. My ex-pastor would encourage reading the word - even had a daily plan we were all supposed to be following - but if you didn't agree with his interpretation of what they meant... but then would say that if you didn't read the Bible and study it out for yourself, it was your our fault if you get led down the primrose path. Kind of told us what he was doing, gign't he? ;-)

As to the church in Redding... if I'm ever there, I may check it out.

Katherine Gunn said...

Davida~

Thanks for stopping in. Yeah, I love comment, too.

Hmm... yeah, it was interesting to watch him after a year and a half of not seeing or hearing him. This is stuff he has always taught - to keep people afraid to leave.

Stormchild said...

Hi Katherine

Lots of food for thought here.

I've seen this too, many times. Family, friends, co-workers; at church, at home, at school, on the job.

He/She is a major jerk, abusive as all getout, but...

"The teaching is good..."

"He/She is a born leader..."

"He/She really speaks to my situation..."

Translation:

He/She is telling me what I want to hear; I don't have to face or consider unpleasant, provocative, or disappointing information when I listen to Her/Him. As long as that continues, I don't much care what He/She actually does.

This is often completely unconscious. And when desperate, or desperately ill, people fall into this trap, it is almost impossible to reach them without feeling heartless; because you are taking away their dream, and giving them only reality in return.

You aren't 'giving a stone when they ask for bread'; you're 'giving bread, when charlatans offer angel food cake'.

The bread, of course, is the staff of life; the cake is filled with empty calories and ultimately very unhealthy. But it tastes so sweet.

Katherine Gunn said...

Stormchild~

Thanks for the input. Good analogy. I like it.

Hugs,
Katherine

Tyler Dawn said...

ROFL over stormchild's response -- made me think of the donuts in the fellowship hall!

Cinder Ella said...

"But The Teaching Is So Good..."

Sad. I've watched friends continue attending a church they knew was severely flawed. It hurt. It was frustrating. It was sad. I watched people work and strive and give all they had but never grow, never be spiritually nourished.

But the teaching was so good.....no, but it did provide a certain....something. Entertainment? Emotion/feeling? Purpose? Comfort (even in the abuse)? Familiarity? An Answer?

It's disturbing to watch people follow a bad leader even when they're aware of the badness. I feel for you and your friend.

Katherine Gunn said...

Tyler Dawn~

*Smiling* - Yeah, I remember those...

Ella~

Thanks. Sometimes, time will bring about the clarity they need (that I need, too ;-).

Sue said...

"Where would you rather be - in your local church where you are surrounded by people who love you and will protect you or out 'there' where there is nothing but demons and people who hate you?"
+++++++++++++++++++++++++

How surreal, reading those words, because I would completely, and utterly, reverse the two places, controlling pastor place and the world, and that would be much closer to my experience of how things really are.

This fearmongering just makes me puke

Katherine Gunn said...

Sue~

Yeah. I cussed at him while I watched. And you're right, in my experience. In fact, just tonight, I went to dinner (spur of the moment) with my mother (I know, glutton for punishment - but separate cars gave me an escape) and an old friend from the 'good old days' at the church we went to when I was little.

We talked about a lot of different spiritual things. The religious lingo and doctrinal stuff was heavy. I reached my I'm-done-with-this point and left. The interesting thing is, fear showed up in my house tonight for the first time in a long time... I know how to deal with it, but it makes we wonder were it came from - that free floating, non-specific, something's-not-right kind of fear. The kind I lived with for so long growing up. Kicked it's butt out, but I am curious as to whether it hitched a ride on the religious atmosphere....

Sue said...

Mmm, yes I wonder if it hitched a ride on the atmosphere? That would have to be one of the heaviest atmospheres, apart from real draining critical people, wouldn't it?

Good that you recognised it though.

Katherine Gunn said...

Yeah, seeing more clearly is a good thing. ;-)