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...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Example Of The Arrogance That Fosters Religious Abuse...

Today, when I checked my email, there was a comment to my last blog. There was something about it that bothered me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it... so I posted it and tried to respond to it in the comments. But...

As the day wore one, I was more and more unsettled about even having the comment there with a link back to the person's own site. Then I realized what it was that bothered me about the comment. It smacked of the same religious arrogance that I left behind in the church. So, I have decided to post the comment and discuss it in this format. Here it is:
"I have to say that I belong to one of those religions who hears the Protestants say that we aren't Christians. It absolutely infuriated me that any religious group feels they have the monopoly on Christianity. I'm trying to get over the anger because I know that isn't Christlike. But we do believe in Jesus Christ, and we look to Him as our source of salvation. Our views about certain points of doctrine might be different, but our feelings about Him remain.

I have been reading many blogs lately by people who say they have given up on organized religion. What I hear from them is that when they go to church, they feel nothing. I know what they are missing. I have the answer. I can explain it in great detail, but I know most people won't except my explanation. So the best I can do is say to them as Jesus said to those who questioned about where he had come from, "Come and see.""
Hmm... if she had stopped with the first paragraph, there would have been no issue. But she didn't, so... I will get into what I see in this comment, but first here is my initial response that I posted as a comment after hers - trying so hard not to offend or be snarky...
"Hmm... I don't know what your answer is, but if it is belonging to another organized religion, umm... not what I'm even talking about. I am not unfamiliar with the LDS. Whether they are Christian or not is not even the issue in this... Frankly, if I am tired of the legalistic rules-based religion I have seen, the LDS is just as bad as the rest. It is not about what the individual people believe, it is about the attempt by religion - in general - to control the way people think - and what they do... and the abuse that flows from there."
As my comment indicates, this commenter is coming from an LDS perspective. I know this because I went to her website before I posted her comment. I could get into a whole side journey about the LDS and Christianity, but I do not want to turn this blog into a debate on Mormonism.

The real issue I have is with what she said in the second paragraph. Like I said, if she had stopped with the first, that would have been great. But she didn't and here is what I see - a reflection of the attitude that abuses those who disagree. Do you see the contradictions between the first and second paragraphs? 

First of all, no where in my blog have I even addressed my views on Mormonism, let alone accused them of anything. Granted, I have a book recommendation on my sidebar that was written by a former Mormon. But that is not there for it's religious abuse content. It is there for its biographical story of one woman who survived sexual abuse as a child - how she survived and how she overcame. I found it very helpful.

I do not think I have advocated that one denomination has a monopoly on Christianity. I have no power to decide whether someone, no matter who they are, believes in Jesus as Christ or not unless they tell me what they believe (even then, they could be lying ;-)

She makes the point that she doesn't like how others claim to have a monopoly on Christianity. Then, in the second paragraph, she claims she does. How? 
"I know what they are missing. I have the answer."
Ah. But that is not claiming to have superior knowledge. (Note the sarcasm) Hmm... in the second paragraph, she claims to know the truth that all these other churches don't. She claims that she can explain in great detail but most won't accept her explanation. Really. Does anyone else see this as arrogant? 'I have the secret. If you come to me, I will share it with you. But you won't like it.' BLECH! 

Then she compares this (what she has just stated) with Jesus being questioned about where He came from.

This attitude -  the one that says, "I have all the answers that you don't. I know better than you do. I'll explain it to you if you're smart enough to listen." - - - ARGH! This is the attitude in which religious abuse flourishes! It is condescending and does not draw, it repels. 

In the second paragraph, she is exhibiting the very behavior she claims to be infuriated by in the first paragraph. Perhaps part of the reason I recognize it is because I used to be that way, too. *double sigh*

So that is my take on this comment. If anyone sees it differently, I am open to reasonably civil comments. ;-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So what, exactly, is it that God wants from us...?

I think we have all wondered this, if we haven't exactly voiced it out loud. It seems that no matter which denominational background you come from, you get a set list of things in answer to this question. What is it that God wants from me?

So, I went to a Catholic mass tonight. It's something that I've had running around in my thoughts for a month or more, so tonight, I went. To understand why this is a big deal (some of you have probably already stifled a gasp ;-), I guess I need to explain what I was taught growing up. The denomination I grew up in never came right out and said it from the pulpit (at least not that I remember hearing), but they talked about it among themselves - and maybe it was mentioned in Sunday school or asked in Bible class - Catholics were not Christians they were heathens and worshipped idols. Some thought they might even be the Antichrist. They were dangerous. Stay away from them. It's kind of funny, in a very sad sort of way. Many of them were taught the same things about us...

I was a little unsure of what to expect. I had been in a Catholic church before, but not alone and not for no 'auxiliary purpose.' And it was not big deal. In the end, I have realized that just like every other denomination I have encountered, they have some 'spot on' truth, some whopping doctrinal fluff, and there are some very sincere followers of Christ in the pews next to some very sincere followers of traditions. I know, I know, there are some things that are very different from the protestant churches. Big surprise. That's the reason there ARE protestant churches. But before I get back to what I learned tonight, I have to say that I have seen a good number of various protestant 'believers' who put their faith in their church/denomination to save them, not Christ.

Okay. Back to tonight. There was a lot of ritual. No surprise there. Traditions, though, are simply that. Ritual. Trappings, not substance. The substance is what I was there for. The message that the father gave - that was what has had me thinking all night. In a nutshell, it was this - he asked the question, "Who is God for you?" Then he talked about the fact that, above all, He is a God of relationships.

Hmm... that is a familiar strain - I have heard it much over the 15 months since I walked out of the church I had been in. Relationship is more important than ritual. That has been the theme - it is all about the heart. God is a God of relationships. This is something I Absolutely agree with.

I can hear some possible 'yeah, buts' coming. So, I will share what I have seen this past year and a half...

Hmm... whether you are Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Charismatic, Word of Faith, Methodist, Lutheran or what ever, your denomination has a list of things that are 'the way things are done.' If you want to please God, you will follow this list - you will do what we tell you... God (seriously) help you if you disagree with the 'official steps' to being a 'good Christian.'

What I see is that no matter what background you come from, there is a list, compiled by men, that give the '1, 2, 3' steps of Christianity. Come to our church, do what we tell you, agree with what we preach, don't question the 'tenets of our faith' (translation: what the head office says is God's word), and you will get the good seats in heaven. If not, well... you MIGHT make it, but do you want to risk it? Works, works, works. Blah, blah, blah.

You know what? This is what I have found - what He has said...
"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?" Genesis 3:8-9 (Amplified)
From the beginning, He had a relationship with Adam. God came down to earth and walked and talked with Adam.
"And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham [My friend and servant] what I am going to do, Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed through him and shall bless themselves by him?" Genesis 18:17-18 (Amplified)
Hmm... God called Abraham His friend... He had a relationship with him. He actually came down and talked to him.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Mesos returned to the camp, but his minister Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the [temporary prayer] tent." Exodus 33:11 (Amplified)
Hmm... as a man speaks to his friend.
"Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:18 (Amplified)
Hmm... Come here. Talk to Me. I will fix it all if you let Me...
"Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God with us." Matthew 1:23 (Amplified)
He came back to earth as a man... to restore the relationship that Adam severed... to be with us, on a personal level.
"God's Message: "Heaven's my throne.
     earth is my footstool.
  What sort of house could you build for me?
     What holiday spot reserve for me?
  I made all this! I own all this!"
     God's decree.
"But there is something I'm looking for:
     a person simple and plain,
     reverently responsive to what I say.

  Your acts of worship
     are acts of sin:
  Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox
     is no different from murdering the neighbor;
  Your offerings of worship,
     no different from dumping pig's blood on the altar;
  Your presentation of memorial gifts,
     no different from honoring a no-god idol.
  You choose self-serving worship,
     you delight in self-centered worship - disgusting! 
  Well, I choose to expose your nonsense
     and let you realize your worst fears,
  Because when I invited you, you brushed me off.
  You did the very things I exposed as evil,
     you chose what I hate."

  But listen to what God has to say
     to you who reverently respond to his Word:
"Your own families hate you
     and turn you out because of me.
  They taunt you, 'Let us see God's glory!
    If God's so great, why aren't you happy?' 
  But they're the ones
     who are going to end up shamed." Isaiah 66 (Message)
Hmm... this could fit a lot of church services I have seen... It is SO not about following ritual...
"For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father!" Romans 8:15 (Amplified)
"And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, (Father)! Father!" Galatians 4:6 (Amplified)
He is my Papa God... relationship...
"Now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God - let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin. So lets' walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." Hebrews 4:14-16 (Message)
Hmm... that was part of the point - God becoming human to understand what it is to be human - to restore relationship...
"God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun" Romans 8:29-30 (Message)
"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you." Revelation 3:20 (Message)
So, where I am at - what I have learned this past year and a half is that it is all about the heart - getting the heart in the right direction and being in a relationship with Him. To be in a relationship with Him, you have to get to know Him. We can do all the little rituals and follow the 10 steps to Christian faith and whatever... At the end of the day, we must be in relationship with Him - know Him...

That passage from Revelation was written to a church - Christians. I guess going to church and being a 'Christian' or even being saved does not mean you have a real relationship with Him. That's what He wants. It is what He has wanted from the beginning. 
"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life - to God! - is vigorous and requires total attention.
     Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don't be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
     Knowing the correct password - saying 'Master, Master,' for instance - isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience - doing what my Father wills. I can see it now - at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I'm going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'" Matthew 7:13-23 (Message)
Hmm... strong words. It is not what we do, it is who we are that matters. And who we are comes from relationship...

Will having a relationship with God - with Jesus - with the Holy Spirit - be easy? Yes and no. It is easy to come to God and ask. But there will be hard things - letting go of religion - letting go of what people think - letting go of what we have been taught - sometimes, letting go of friends or family. Hmm... yeah, it can be hard. And yet, the more you get to know Him, the more the hard stuff isn't hard, somehow. Yes, it hurts sometimes, but there is comfort in the pain - strength - peace. 

The more we know Him, the more we begin to truly know ourselves. Not the selves we thought we were - were taught we were - no... the selves we were made to be - by Him - before the first words of creation were breathed.

Hmm... so, I guess were I am at is laying aside the lists of thing to do that have been handed to me by men (or women ;-) and trying to get to know Him well enough to know what His plan is. Man, what He has planned for us will blow our minds, it is so far beyond what we could even imagine. My loving Papa, my God, has been telling me one thing consistently - over and over this past year and a half: "Relax and trust Me."  He's got my back. He has me in the palm of His hand. He's not letting go. I am His and He will make me stand.

Man, I wish I could convey in a very real sense what it is to begin to know Him....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grace & Freedom & Worth & Such...

So... I was watching a TV show online last night. It was an episode of 'Numb3rs' called 'Atomic No 33' It is about a 'Christian' cult that gets poisoned. I was a little cautious - not sure how they were going to treat the subject. They treated it well. The thing that stuck out to me was an interaction between one of the regular characters - Dr. Flienhardt - who is a spiritual astro-physicist who has made some interesting spiritual journeys through the show... and is all about peace... He meets one of the head ladies at this 'church' and the sparks fly. This church's doctrine considers science evil. She accuses him of being in league with Lucifer. He loses his cool and gets in her face. He really struggles with his feelings on this... Then, through a conversation with another character, realizes that he has been acting toward her in the same 'bigoted' manner he was accusing her of. Then, he says something that has ended up on the sidebar of my blog - something he recognizes as the essential thing in spiritual dialogue... "Separating the ugliness of the dogma from the sincerity of the faith." Hmm... I'm really glad my Papa God is an expert at this!


I decided to go back a look at some of the things that let me out to where I am now. The last few months I was at my former church, a friend and I began (prompted by the Holy Spirit, 'cause I didn't consciously know that it was even a problem!) praying for freedom. And this last 19 or so months, He has been doing just that. I came across some letters written between my friend and I on the ideas of freedom and worth (all in the fall of 2006)...

Letter 1: (on worth)

As I keep thinking about this [worth] . . . hmm . . . our worth is not determined by our physical condition - looks - the outward. Our worth is not determined by our emotional condition - fears - dreams - scars - pains. Our worth is not determined by our experiences or accomplishments - what has been done to us - what we have done. None of these things have anything to do with our worth.

The worth of something is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it . . .

So what was the price paid for us? In light of that, what are we worth?

Our worth to other people will vary. Some will consider us worth more than money can value (like the worth of a true friend). Others will consider us worthless . . . maybe because they are not able to see past the surface . . . maybe because they are focussed inward.

But to God, our worth is determined by what He is willing to give for us . . . 

Consider - God knew how we would be, what we would do - to each other - to ourselves - to Him - before He ever breathed the first Word of creation. And yet, He still chose to create us - knowing we would reject Him - kill Him . . . 

Our worth to Him . . . hmm . . .

Worth versus worthy . . . we are not - of ourselves - worthy of His Grace - His Mercy - His Love - His Life . . . but Love is not given - Mercy is not given - Grace is not given - Life is not given - based on worthiness . . . real love is not earned - it is a gift . . . we are not worthy - He has made us worthy - we are worth His life to Him . . . without that life, we are not worthy to be in His presence . . . paradoxes . . .

So when we look at each other through the eyes of God, we see great value. Hmm . . . when we look at ourselves through God's eyes . . .

He sees us the way He meant us to be . . . the way we really are . . . He sees us finished - complete - perfected in His Love.

Just some thoughts

Letter 2: (on worth)

Reading Mark 14 today and right off the bat - perceptions of worth...

"3-5 Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While He was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. "That's criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year's wages and handed out to the poor." They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

6-9 But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could - she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly."

10-11 Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the cabal of high priests, determined to betray him. They couldn't believe their ears, and promised to pay him well. He started looking for just the right moment to hand him over." - Mark 14:3-11 (The Message)

Hmm . . . the woman expressed her perception of Jesus worth . . .

Judas Iscariot expressed his perception of Jesus worth . . .

They were both with him every day in ministry . . knew him very well . . . 

One saw inestimable worth . . . 
the other . . .

Perceptions . . . hmm . . .
Letter 3: (on freedom)

Now I'm reading romans 10 . . .

"The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it's not so easy - every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story - no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

     The word that saves us is right here,
       as near as the tongue in your mouth,
       as close as the heart in your chest.
It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God - "Jesus is my Master" - embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"" Romans 10:4-10 (The Message)

Hmm . . . if we fall into the trap of thinking we have to keep the Mosaic Law - the Old Covenant - in order to be righteous, we cut ourselves off from the righteousness given as a gift through Christ. Tragically, this cuts us off from all righteousness because no matter how meticulous we are, we can NEVER fulfill the Law by our own efforts . . . 

"For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written,The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith." Romans 1:17 (Amplified)
"I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior :faith expressed in love." Galatians 5:2-6 (The Message)

Hmm . . . powerful words, no?

Freedom - Law fulfilled by Christ - us in Christ - Law fulfilled in us . . . free . . .

Letter 4: (on freedom)

Another note . . . another passage . . . more understanding on freedom . . .

"So, then, if with Christ you've put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? "Don't touch this! Don't taste that! Don't go near this!" Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice, They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they're just another way of showing off, making yourselvs look important." Colossians 2:20-23 (The Message)

Rules . . . Law of Religion versus Law of Love . . . love your neighbor as yourself . . . this will, sometimes, cause you to not partake of something or do something that you have perfect liberty to do in order to not cause someone else to stumble because they do not yet see . . .

Peace . . . calm . . . stable . . . unshakable . . . love . . . fearless . . . patient . . . perceptive . . . wisdom . . . God in us . . . free . . .

Hmm . . .

Letter 5: (on freedom)

So . . . we need to quit trying to please God with our efforts or even think that we can . . . we do not have the ability to please Him - it is not in us . . . anything we do for Him is Him in us . . . quit trying to be the 'good Christian' and just surrender . . . quit trying so hard and just surrender. So simple . . . not works . . . grace - the Blood . . .

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 
    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love wit which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:1-9 (NKJV)

We had nothing to do with earning our salvation and we have nothing to do with keeping it . . . 

HE drew us - HE convicted us - HE chose us - HE saved us . . . not us . . . at all . . . we just surrender . . .

"So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." John 19:30 (NKJV)

He didn't say, "To be continued..."

"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last."" Revelation 1:17 (NKJV)

He is everything . . .

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before HIm endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)

He even is in charge of our faith . . .

"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 (NKJV)

Wow . . . 

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV)

Hmm . . .

"So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives, you've et sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!" Romans 6:15-18 (The Message)


"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

Hold on to your liberty! FREEDOM!!! FREEDOM!!! FREEDOM!!!

Law and works are the opposite of grace and mercy.

     LAW                                       GRACE
     Follow the rules                    It is a free gift
     See your sin and shame       God accepts you as you are
     Consciousness of sin             Awareness of righteousness
     Do or die!                               Embrace Jesus and live!

"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells, for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find." Romans 7:14-16 (NKJV)

We are not capable of making ourselves good enough to please God - ever - by any means . . .

His greatest pleasure is when we allow Him to do the work . . . enter into His rest . . .

We must quit trying to subdue our own sins . . . we are not able . . . give them to Jesus and let HIM do it!

"He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast our sins into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:19 (NKJV)
"For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure." Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)
"For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:30 (NKJV)
"Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly  I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:34-36 (NKJV)

We CANNOT solve our own problems . . . we CANNOT clean ourselves up . . . if we could, why would we need Jesus?

" So he answered and said to me, "This [is] the word if the LORD to Zerubbabel: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," Says the LORD of hosts" Zechariah 4:6 (NKJV)

Hmm . . . quit trying and surrender . . . let the Spirit of God do what He wants . . .

I haven't fully got this yet, but I am seeing the light dawning . . . do you see it?

Not striving and straining and stressing to do it right . . . no . . .

Saying, "God, I sinned - forgive me - cleanse me - subdue my iniquities in Jesus name - I plead the Blood over them - thank You."

So simple . . . do you see?

Excitement . . . His yoke is easy and His burden is light indeed . . . WE don't have to do the work!!!! Just surrender . . . 


Current thoughts...

"THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [ the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (Amplified)

Freedom. I think, if I had known 19 months ago, when I began praying for freedom, where that would lead, I might have balked - cutting things loose that I thought were permanent - learning that it is okay to say no, even to parents and pastors. It is still a work in progress - I think it will be until we die. But for now, I am working on letting go of the guilt and the anxiety that I am 'getting it wrong.' Of course I am. One of the things God has been saying to me through this whole process is, "Relax and trust Me." - said with a smile, not a frown. And He has been teaching me how to do that. I am a long way from it, but I am closer than I have ever been. 

"Then he said, "How can I picture God's kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use? It's like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it."" Luke 13:18-10 (The Message)

So... it is a process of growth - the kingdom grows within us. By the hand - the Spirit - of God. Teaching me - leading me into the freedom to live... learning to live my own life, not on the terms of men, but on God's terms.

"And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free." John 8:32 (Amplified)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Some Thoughts & A Poem

I was going to do a post on my thoughts on freedom and what we are worth, but I just can't quite get enough steam up . . . maybe it isn't done cooking yet. ;-) 

I will do that one soon. But tonight, I decided to post some thoughts that I had last fall on living outside the religious box and a poem I wrote last fall. (Gulps, this is a little scary!)

A quote from my journal from september '07:

I have been feeling a little uncertain lately - concerned whether I was drifting too far from religious things - getting off course. (I know, it seems to be a theme with me through this whole growth thing.) Anyway, I was driving and thinking about it and thinking about *the people in my former church* and how they seem, to me, to be stuck in a religious box. Then an answer to this unspoken question came:

Not everyone wants or can even handles life outside the religious box. The box gives them a feeling of security and stability and even purpose and they cannot handle life outside of that. Some will come to the place where they can handle it, some won't. Even among those who reach the place where they can handle it, some will not WANT to. It's a whole different ball game outside the religious box... kind of like the difference between being on a sailing ship and steering the course, relying on the wind and currents, but safe in the structure of the ship - securely anchored to the surface of the earth, versus floating on the wind itself, up in the air, riding the currents and letting Him steer...

Hmm... whether you are on the ship or in the air, the Wind-Breath-Life-Spirit of God are guiding - directing. But on the ship, you have to deal with the under-currents, cross- currents, just-plain-currents of the water - the earth - that pull and push and can cause you to drift or lose your bearing. In the air, these currents can't affect you - cannot even reach you... so, strangely enough, when you are in the air, floating on the Wind alone, it can SEEM like you're drifting without purpose or direction when you are not. And when you stay in the safety of the ship, trusting it to get you to your destination, you can get completely off course and not even know it... Hmm... the ship can sail "off the edge of the world" with you on it and you helpless... if you are in the air, the "edge of the world" is irrelevant...

And here is the poem I wrote the same day...

I walk through the corridors of Time
My time - All time
Images come at me
Flare up - linger - fade
I am no longer moved by them
History - mine - all
Past - Present - Future
The same
I am unmoved - keep walking
The images - events - cannot reach me
I am beyond them
Beyond Time
The images continue to flare - recede
Flare - recede
They will continue to do this intricate dance
Until Time stops - comes to an end

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sometimes, Life Just Hurts...

Hmm... I had planned to blog on several topics - submission, shepherding, women in leadership, fake love, sterile churches... but I can't seem to get up any steam tonight (or the last several nights, for that matter) to use the Bible to prove this idea or that. Don't get me wrong. I believe that we should know and use the Bible to guide our beliefs - probably. ;-) I've even left a few passages in blog comments here and there the last couple of days. But... tonight I am not in a mood for it. What do I feel like doing? Crying. Yelling. Talking to someone who won't judge or misunderstand. Asking if anyone really cares. Hmm... What about? Well...

I have spent a lot of time the last week or so reading a lot of different blogs. Some are really great. I've added a couple to my sidebar. Some are ... well. I am tempted to leave comments that tear their theology a new one. But no. That would be using the same fire that is making me angry. I see people fighting in an aggressive, condescending - almost vicious manner someone whose theology upsets their perceptions of how things should be. And then won't leave it alone. Seems to be hell bent (yes, I chose that phrase purposefully) on trying to browbeat a repentance/concession. All over what I perceive to be a doctrinal difference within a broad denomination. 

Then I read the comments on a variety of other blogs. I find that even amongst encouraging words, there are those who are more concerned about theology than why the people who are commenting are disillusioned with the way things are - what it is about the church that has hurt them. So, maybe I just need to rant a little. (Maybe not... but here we go...)

So, you want to know why I am not keen on going to church anymore - why I, in point of fact, don't care to ever be involved with one again. Okay. 

The very first pastor I had (we're talking the first 4 years of my life) was held up to me by my mother all my life as a wonderful pastor who was an answer to prayer. So here is what that pastor was like. He was trying to get in the pants of at least two (that I know of) teenage girls in his congregation. In these two instances, he failed, but to even try... And he succeeded with a couple of married women in his flock. Yeah - great - answer to prayer. The only good thing I can say about this time was that I did come to know Jesus. This is the only reason I survived what was to come.

If you've read the posts under the 'my story' category in my sidebar, you know that I was molested by an older cousin from the time I was 7 until I was 12. What I didn't put in there was that I think I was molested when I was around 2 - while we were going to this church, but the memory is shadowy and I cannot pin it down. When I was 7, after the major molestation began, we were going to a church (my third) where my mom played the piano and taught Sunday school and my dad was a deacon. And the teaching I had received in Sunday school and heard from the pulpit and at home from family convinced me I was going to hell - the one thing that was a surefire ticket was the one thing I had done - adultery - sex outside of marriage. Big word for a 7 year old. I never told anyone what was going on. The potential (I believed sure) consequences of that were too horrible to contemplate. So I was desperate for God to accept me back - to forgive me. I would go to the altar on Sunday nights and just cry and beg God to fill me - I would be at the altar sobbing. The ladies in charge of the altar didn't know what to do with me. No one ever asked me what was wrong. Now, as an adult, if I saw a child going to the altar regularly and sobbing, I would be concerned - I would inquire...

Throughout this 5 year period, during which we went to 3 different churches (we moved a lot) under 4 different pastors, I learned to hide in the light. I had nightmares of going to hell. I was afraid the rapture would happen and I would be left behind. I was afraid of God and of church. And no one noticed anything wrong. Well, that's not entirely true. I have found out that some noticed something , but chose not to inquire. Not that I would have probably told anyone anything anyway....

My uncle was a pastor. He loved it. He was a very kind man. The denomination he served in treated him like shit. He's in heaven now, but I think of how he was abused by the denomination and it still brings tears.

When the sexual abuse finally stopped, we were attending a church with a pastor who loved the people - loved God - was not eloquent or flashy, but he was real and he was loving and compassionate. And he was nice to some people that didn't fit in the congregation. They had long hair and wore jeans and loved God and didn't fit. So the 'church ladies' (just a handful of women who thought they knew best) got together and ran him out. Actually, he decided to resign to prevent a church split. Noble. Futile. The seeds were already planted. The next pastor - well, I can actually have a little sympathy for him now. I didn't when I was 15 - 16 years old. But he came into his first position as a pastor in the middle of a church falling apart. And he helped it along in that direction nicely. There were a lot of crazy things going on at that time - church splits are never pretty. At the ripe old age of 16, I walked away from church in disgust and didn't think I would ever go back. 

But the emotional damage was not healed or even acknowledged. It was stuffed and every effort was made to forget all about it. I almost succeeded. Over the next 21 years, I went to a few church services, but they never grabbed me. I was hungry for a place of warmth - of welcome - of rest and safety. I never found it. 

Then I 'came back' to God. Really, in retrospect, what I did was decide to really throw myself into this church/religion thing and find what I was looking for. I thought I had, for a while, but oh my, what a mess the church is in.

I spent 7 years attending my last church. Four of those, I worked in the H.E.L.P.S. - 3 of those in the office - 1 1/2 of those as a leader... Through that entire time, no one ever really reached out to me. I have never gone to a church, in fact, that was more cold and forbidding. But I believed it was where God wanted me (and I still do, but that is another story). But I would try so hard. I would sit in my car after services and just cry. Needing comfort - counsel - someone to actually care. I had a lot that needed dealing with, but no resource available to help. In the end, I was spending 50+ hours a week volunteering at the church - belonging to 6 departments - leading in 3. And still, I would sit in the empty building, or in my car in the parking lot and cry. No one saw me or cared to. It was a very superficial place.

Then, well, this pastor couldn't keep it in his pants, either. Left a string of broken and discarded women on the side of the road. Through all this, he preached on integrity and honor and marriage and faith and all the while did not even come close to practicing what he called on the congregation to practice. They seem to truly believe that even God is more concerned about how his church appears than in what the truth is. 'Love covers.' Not unrepented sin, it doesn't! The Love of God does not cover blatant evil practices. Love covers stumbling and falling and getting back up. Love does not cover by pretending that everything is fine - no problems here - we're all fine.

All this in the backdrop of doctrinal teachings (in all the churches I have been in) that emphasize a list of 'regulations' that must be followed in order to be a 'proper' Christian - which, if not followed, will lead you to hell - or least to an inferior shack on the wrong side of the tracks in the backside of heaven - if you're lucky. The church painted for me a picture of a Father God who was perpetually ticked off at us, ready to punish us for the least infraction, full of judgement, short on mercy unless you really earned it - by being properly repentant and humble and groveling and poor and ... eww. So I have spent the whole of my life feeling like God was mad at me - barely tolerated me - and then, only because He had to.

I met Jesus at a very early age. I was already talking to Him - laid hands on someone and asked Jesus to heal them (which He did *smiling* He's great that way) - when I was 2 years old. That was what kept me from being destroyed. Jesus was there (even though sometimes I didn't know it at the time). I was never afraid of Jesus. He protected me from His Father's anger. I never perceived Him mad at me. Only God. 

Through all my life - in an out of the church - the church has never had anything to offer me that was helpful below the surface. They did not want to hear what had happened to me. They did not want to help me. They wanted me to conform and fit in and be happy, just like they were happy. Couldn't do it. They did not want to deal with people that had real problems that were messy and needed long term commitment.

In the year before I walked away from this last church, there was a young man who had started coming. Had had addiction problems. He was uneducated. But he had found out that God loved him and he was hungry for truth. After a few months, he stopped coming. I wondered where he was. Prayed for him. One night, he showed up and he was unkempt - unwashed - tweaking on meth - and he had a glow about him. While getting ready to light his meth pipe, God showed up and talked to him. He was glowing with the love of God. Everyone ignored him. I went and said hi - listened to his story of God's mercy and grace - hugged him - told him I was glad to see him.... he never came back before I left.

The pastor decided to get on TV - and succeeded. So they started instructing the ushers to seat the well dressed and well behaved people in the front and make sure the unpresentable ones were seated in the back where they would not be picked up much by the cameras. 

All I see right now (family included), looking back over the years, is hypocrisy - phoniness - and pain. So, why would I want to be a part of that? I go to a church and I hear the 'buzz words' and the Christianese and it almost makes me physically ill. Hmm... as with my family, my church has abused me. I am mourning the loss of what should have been - in my family and my church. And so I want to cry - over the pain I have and am feeling. Over the people that have been damaged - some beyond wanting to even have to do with God anymore. And meanwhile, I see people squabbling over theological hairs (I've been guilty of it myself) and talking in cliches and jargon and wondering why no one takes them seriously. And those who do not know that Jesus is alive shrug and shake theirs heads and call us crazy and hypocritical and can we blame them? We won't even listen to what they have to say.

Does the church really care that it has hurt me? That it has hurt many? I don't know - and that makes we want to sit and cry... 

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Woman's Place & Other Thoughts...

What is the Biblical view of a woman's place? This is something that has been percolating in me for several weeks. There are all sorts of doctrinal things on this subject. Many of them claim that women are innately - created - inferior to men.  This is where tonight's thoughts begin...

Hmm... The King James translation of the Bible refers to Eve as Adam's 'help meet' (Genesis 2:18, 20). Various other translations use these terms: helper, helpmate, companion, partner. In the religious circles I grew up in, this was interpreted as meaning that Eve was created for Adam's benefit - maybe even as his property. Yes, there are people teaching this still.

I was reading the comments on Adventures In Mercy and someone (actually 2 someones: Sandy Hovatter & traveller) mentioned that the original Hebrew word used in these verses didn't mean that. Hmm... So, I decided to investigate. Here is what I found.

The Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:18, 20 to describe Eve is 'ezer.' According to Strong's Concordance, this Hebrew word is used in the following verses: a) Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14 and Daniel 11:34 to describe groups or nations that Israel, mainly, were leaning on instead of leaning on God; 2) Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:7, 33:26, 29, Psalm 20:2, 33:20, 70:5, 89:19, 115:9, 10, 11, 121:1, 2, 124:8, 146:5, and Hosea 13:9 to describe God's relationship to Israel. In the Genesis verses, it is translated meet (KJV), while in all the other verses, it is translated help (KJV). 

Hmm... so the word used is not a subservient one - unless we are prepared to take the position that God's role with Israel was subservient! The image I get from this is one who stands with - not behind, not sits under - stands with someone and helps them.

This reminded me of Romans 8:26 where Paul tells us that when we don't know what or how to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us. The Greek word used here is 'sunantilambavnomai' (a transliteration). The only other place in the New Testament where this word is used is in Luke 10:40 where Jesus is visiting Mary and Martha and Mary is sitting at His feet listening to Him teach while Martha is cooking. Martha asks Jesus to tell mary to 'help' her in the kitchen. Jesus response will have to wait for another post. ;-) (Although I will comment that he did not say that a women's place was in the kitchen!)

The meaning of this word is 1) to lay hold along with, to strive to attain with others, help in attaining; 2) to take hold with another. Hmm... the image this brings up in my mind is of a friend coming up along side me - shoulder to shoulder - and helping me lift - move - do - something I am unable to do on my own. This creates an interesting image of what Eve's role to Adam was meant to be - and what woman's role to man is supposed to be. Not a piece of property, not a slave, not even a servant - a helper, a partner, someone like him - of his kind.

In those same comments, something else was said that helps with this image... no Scriptural reference, just ponderings. :-) One gender was not enough to fully represent God - it required two.

This stirs up in me the controversy about whether women should be allowed to teach or lead in the church. The verses used to back this up are in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34. Okay, but what, then, do we do with the verses where women are in roles of leadership in the church, as in Acts and commended by Paul? (Acts 21:8-9, Romans 16:1) Hmm... in Romans 16:1, the King James translates the word servant, but the Amplified translates it deaconess. I looked it up in Strong's and guess what? It is the same word that is variously translated throughout the New Testament, referring to men, as deacon, minister or servant - often referring to Paul or one of the other disciples. So the woman referred to in Romans 16:1 Paul calls a deaconess on par with himself...

What is the point of this? Just that I think the patriarchal teaching in the church may be a bit unscriptural. Women and men are equal before God (Galatians 3:28). I think a lot is summed up in comparing the King James with The Message in 1 Timothy 2:11-15...

King James Version:
"11 Let the woman learn with silence with all subjection. 
  12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, not usurp authority over a man, but to be in silence.
  13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
  14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
  15 But withstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness and sobriety.

The Message:
"11-15 Don't let women take over and tell the men what to do. They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else. Adam was made first, then Eve; woman was deceived first - our pioneer in sin! - with Adam right on her heels. On the other hand, her childbearing brought about salvation, reversing Eve. But this salvation only comes to those who continue in faith, love and holiness, gathering it all into maturity. You can depend on this."

Some will say that the Message reflects modern bias in the culture. Hmm... And the King James Version did not? A few points to think about... 

The King James was translated for the purpose of 'fixing' perceived doctrinal problems found in earlier English translations. Hmm... how many of you have heard that the King James is the best word for word translation of the Bible? Amazing what a little historical research can do to one's theology. ;-) 

The language the King James was translated into was the same English that Shakespeare used - the KJV was finished in 1611 - Shakespeare wrote from 1592 - 1613. The English language has shifted a lot in 400 years. The meanings of words shift over time. There are many places where words are used that we no longer use and the meaning has become obscure. 

Worse, there are words that we think we know the meaning of, but over time, the meaning has changed. This happens all the time. It is part of the way languages form. For instance, 100 years ago (and even 50 years ago), the word 'gay' meant 'happy, carefree,' etc. The 1890s were called the 'gay 90s' and it had nothing to do with one's gender preference. Now, it means homosexual. That's quite a shift. (In listening to some kids I know, it seems this word is still shifting in meaning...) Another example is the word 'uptight.' In the 60s, one of its slang meanings was 'excellent.' That meaning has been lost, making Stevie Wonder's 1965 hit 'Uptight, Everything's Alright' sound a little strange now.

I guess what I am saying is that maybe we should use caution in deciding what a translation means or in hanging our theology or doctrine on a single translation. Translating with a bias toward a particular doctrinal idea is probably almost a given. So, at the end of the day, we must rely on the Teacher - the Holy Spirit - to help us sort it all out. 

I strayed pretty far afield here, perhaps, but I think this ties in with how to avoid spiritual abuse. The more we seek a personal living relationship with the Creator of the Universe, the Living Word, the more we will understand what the Bible actually means - and the less vulnerable to being spiritually manipulated and abused we will be.

I'll end this with a quote from one of my favorite authors:
"It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. We must not use the Bible as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts can be taken as weapons." C. S. Lewis