Call it what it is: concentration camps. We are turning into Nazi Germany.

Despite having many friends these days, finding kindred spirits all over the place, and being far removed from the loneliness that made me feel dependent on ex-friend Richard’s friendship…there are times when I wish I could talk to him.  This is one of those times.

The news coming from the border keeps getting worse all the time.  One of Trump’s latest tweets (which I trolled) claimed that ICE will begin removing illegal aliens.  I saw this immediately after reading accounts that immigrants will soon be moved into military camps which can be blocked from media/Congress oversight.  And right after reading that some border guards have been using slurs for immigrants and calling them “subhuman” (you know, the meaning of Untermensch).  And soon after reading that the camps now being used can legitimately be called concentration camps.

As I tweeted to Trump,

Removed? To go where, exactly? Concentration camps? Are the death camps next???

The reason I’d want to pick Richard’s brain on this is that he himself was a border guard down there back in the 90s, and he–saw things, did things….This left him a shell of a man, along with at least one of his colleagues.  In the comments under Trump’s tweet, MAGAts are praising Trump and cheering what he’s doing–while I keep reading about the abuses and squalor these people are being subjected to.

It makes the blood run cold.

These are not criminals (they’re asylum seekers).  And even if they were, it’s still inhumane.

These are men, women and children.

But Richard–despite his other questionable stances that made my husband and me wonder if he had a heart (like saying “oh well” to the suffering his political ideas would bring on poor people)–was very much against abuse of immigrants.  He felt guilty for things he did as a border guard.

People these days casually say “shoot ’em!”–but this was the policy for a while, 20 years ago.  To tell border guards they can shoot women with children on sight, or to have citizens cheer on the idea–It’s disgusting.

I hope that Richard has not changed his mind about that.

Thoughts on the Mueller Report and Amash

Yes, I’ve read the Mueller Report.  I just finished it a few days ago, and now I’m reading some underlying documents published in the Washington Post’s e-book of the report.  It’s quite clear that Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment.

This is not the Bible or the Constitution, subject to interpretation based on your conservative or liberal leanings.  This is written literally, with legal analysis.  Mueller clearly lays out a number of incidents and whether or not they are obstruction (usually “yes”).

Also, he makes clear that he found no proof that the Trump campaign actively participated in the Russian hacking and influencing of the election–something which, also, the Mueller Report proves happened.  HOWEVER, some members of the campaign (Trump is up for question as well) tried to benefit from that.  They and the Russians were indeed in contact–and one Trump person even passed over polling data to the Russians.  Usually their efforts failed because of ineptitude etc.

Just as Trump’s attempts to obstruct also failed because people refused to follow his orders.  But you know, under the law, *attempting* to commit a crime and failing is still a crime.

The Trump Tower meeting was a setup by the Russians.  They lured in the Trump campaign with promises of dirt on Hillary, but they really wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act, which upset Russia and led to their ban on Americans adopting Russian children.  (That’s where that “we just talked about adoption” thing came from.)

Mueller also made clear that his lack of indictment of a sitting President is only because the DOJ has this as a policy.  He also responded to one of the president’s lawyers, who argued that investigating a president is unconstitutional because it affects his ability to govern.  In a long and detailed explanation, Mueller argued that it is indeed constitutional to investigate a president.

Mueller also gave potential motives for Trump to try to obstruct the investigation, especially since he didn’t seem to actually be involved in colluding with the Russians.  Basically, that Trump fears what ELSE will come out, crimes committed by him and his family.

But don’t take my word for it–Read the report for yourself and see.

Trump has been behaving more and more like a guilty man all the time.  The more he fights to keep his finances and other activities under wraps, the more his actions scream that he has something to hide.

Do you really doubt this?  Trump has been a known shyster for DECADES.  This isn’t some figure of sterling character–This is Donald frickin’ Trump.  His malignant narcissism is no surprise.

He’s always been an icon of greed and self-worship.  None of his actions can be presumed to be for anybody’s interest but his own.  None of his promises to his supporters can be trusted.  It’s all for show, to bind them to him.  He weaves a spell over people just like narcissists do, then when their lackeys wake up to the truth and act against his interest, he turns on them like a wolf.

None of this is a surprise to those of us who have studied narcissism for years, so every time the press has acted surprised at his actions, I’ve thought, “You’re kidding, right?”

I’m also curious what Howard Stern, longtime friend of Trump’s, has to say about him now, after kind of defending him in the beginning.  He just came out with a new book, and says,

“Now here he is sitting in the Oval Office and flying around on Air Force One,” Stern writes in the introduction. “Two years into his first term, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality…[B]elieve me, I’m as shocked as you are.” –Quoted in Daily Beast

He told Trump he couldn’t endorse him as President, and hasn’t heard from him since.  In a New York Times interview, he says Trump probably didn’t actually want or intend to be president–that it was probably a publicity stunt.  As most of us have already figured out, Stern traces Trump’s narcissism to his overbearing father.

And in the middle of all this, I discover a TEA Partier who I can actually like and respect, even if I wildly disagree with his policies: Justin Amash.  Here’s a man willing to stand up to everyone in his own party and be condemned by them, so he can tell the truth: that Trump has done actions worthy of impeachment.

Other Republicans and TEA Partiers–even Lindsey Graham, who used to be more of a truth-teller–have been closing ranks and showing no signs of actually reading the Report.  Or if they have, of trying to downplay it and pretend that it says what it doesn’t actually say.

McConnell is obstructing justice by refusing to give even bipartisan bills a hearing, while Graham uses a common tactic of narcissists and abusers: shouting down the whistleblowers.  The closer the Democrats get to the truth and justice, whether about this or Kavanaugh, the louder Graham shouts and screams and berates.

Which makes us wonder if the Russians have something on Graham, too.  McConnell’s home state, Kentucky, is getting a new factory from Oleg Deripaska, one of the oligarchs named in the Mueller Report.

History will not be kind to the Republican Party of our era.

That is, assuming the fascists don’t take over and make the history books say “all praise the GOP.”

But the GOP has been doing a lot to stir anger lately.  They seem to have forgotten that a large part of the country does not agree with them, that angry citizens turn into active voters.

This could tip either way: People keep expecting a “Reichstag Fire,” or fake crisis that Trump/the GOP use to fool the populace so they allow Trump to take ultimate power.  That’s what the Nazis did.  (Something like that also happened with the Patriot Act years ago, though that crisis was real.)

Or the side that sees through the GOP gaslighting and refuses to be fooled, could rise up.  We see signs of that as well, in the justice system, the voting booth, and House Democrats–though some feel they’ve been dragging their feet.

 

Froggie Loves Kitty

Late last summer, a gray tree frog fell in love with our cat Creamsicle.  She’s a beautiful cat, but I never thought she’d inspire cross-species desire:

Froggie Loves Kitty 1

The frog looks and sounds like this:

 

Here are the Facebook posts I made about this last year:

Aug 28, 2018: Last night, a tiny gray frog (tree frog?) hung around on the [living room picture window] windowsill for hours. Kitty went nuts. Once, the froggie even leaned against the window [his “hand” up against the window, very casual-like] and stared at the kitty. Another time, when we were ignoring it, it made some loud chirps. I guess kitty made a “friend” (though she’d try to eat it if not for the window in between).

Sept 4: Froggie’s back, staring into the window at the cat.

Sept 5, after midnight: Froggie chirped at us again, his little throat bubbling up, so I could confirm: This is a gray tree frog.

Sept 5, afternoon: Looks like Tree Froggie left a big present on our windowsill last night. 💩

Sept 6: We found Froggie hanging on the screen last night by the usual window. Kitty went crazy, batting at the window until he hopped onto the sill. (The window was closed.) The noise he made the other day while looking at the cat–that’s a tree frog mating call. I may start calling him Kermit for his inter-species crush.

This is actually unrelated, but another cute sight from Sept 6: Saw a fox on the trail today, playing in the sun, rolling around in the dirt, lying in the sun. But he saw me and off he went.

[Which reminds me of what the local newspaper posted on Facebook recently:]

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=527621554431071

Sept 8: We haven’t seen Froggie for a couple of nights. The kitty keeps looking, too. The mowers came through Thursday, so I really hope they didn’t get him.

Sept 12: We haven’t *seen* Froggie for a while, but we keep hearing that chirp nearby.

Sept 15: Froggie’s back, and oh, is Kitty excited.

Then fall/winter came and Froggie went away, hopefully just to hibernate.

But now I keep hearing a familiar sound around the house….Could it be Froggie?

 

Don’t treat introverts like this

For a moment, I wonder if any other cultures in the world expect so much openness toward complete strangers.  It feels unnatural.  A person can’t be best buds with everybody they meet.  You have to be around them longer than a few minutes before you can open up.  You don’t really know what kind of person they are, or if you have anything in common.

While you’ve decided in ten minutes that I’m generally morose and must be taught to open up and be the life of the party, or that I’m the one making the hubby reserved–Well, you know nothing about me at all.  You sure don’t know the hubby, either.  He acts his own way, and I have nothing to do with it.  If I’m not bubbling over in laughter ten minutes after meeting you, it’s because nobody has said anything that funny, NOT because I have no sense of humor.  I’m also very shy.  It’s a natural trait, one I was born with, and one that can’t be eradicated or changed.

It gets particularly annoying to have people you’ve just met try to force you into laughter, or “jokingly” insult you, when your entire life, people have abused and otherwise mistreated you for being quiet, shy and introverted.

When people would corner you and scold you for not being “more lively.”

When guys would scold you for not being more playful/extroverted, and refuse to date you because you’re shy and/or introverted.

When an ex called you a “party pooper” as one reason why you’re a horrible person so he’s not coming back to you, even though you had always been playful and witty with him.  An ex who, by the way, turned out to be an abusive narcissist who can’t settle down with one job or one woman.  And you wonder if it’s because some creeps did nothing to make you feel comfortable at a party, and then talked about you behind your back, and the guy you liked turned it into yet another reason to scold you for acting “wrong.”

When people comment so often on your quietness in social gatherings that you started spending less and less time in social gatherings over the years.  That you have written thousands of words on the subject and posted them online.  So you have long since stopped the polite smiling and laughing you once did when people commented on you not talking.

When a couple abused and manipulated you because of your naturally quiet and introverted ways, so you had to break up with them, then spend years trying to undo the abuse and gaslighting they did on your head–while they stalked you online.

Then you go to a party and people bully you for being quiet and not bubbling over with laughter with people you just met who haven’t said anything particularly funny yet.  And get all amazed when you do laugh at something that actually is funny, as if you never do it.  When the truth is you laugh often and easily.  It’s just not funny for people to make personal remarks and try to force you into laughter when you don’t feel like it.

It’s just the way we are.  And no, we can’t change it.  We don’t particularly want to, either.  Because this is our natural state.

And no, it isn’t funny.  It’s not a joke.  We won’t have a good time.  In fact, you’ve just turned an enjoyable party into a horrible ordeal.

We aren’t sitting here waiting for somebody to tell us we have to smile or laugh or jump around or talk, and then we will just magically start doing it.  IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY.  We’re not trick ponies.

Seriously, crap like this makes an introvert turn into a hermit even if she/he wasn’t one before.  We may be polite to you to avoid a scene, but we will quietly seethe.

It’s obnoxious and rude to treat us this way.

F*CKING STOP IT.

 

Abusive Ex: Blame it on him, not mental illness

I previously wrote about this here, here, here and here.  New information has come to light to explain a few mysteries.  I intend to put the contents of this post at the end of the “Epilogue” chapter in my college memoirs.

If you’ve read the previous posts, you can skip the next few paragraphs.

In summary:

My abusive ex Phil–who manipulated, controlled, emotionally and sexually abused, and sexually assaulted me back in college–has mental illness.

I was his first wife, not legally but spiritually; this only lasted for several months, until he tired of me, having blamed me for his behaviors.  Because it was not legal, he had no trouble breaking it off and then moving on to someone else immediately.  (We’re talking maybe a week later.)

Then his next, legal marriage, only lasted for about ten years, ending 12 years ago.  In all those years since, he has not remarried–but was about to in July of 2018.  In those years since, we also became somewhat friendly again, with apologies exchanged, and communication via social media.  So I learned about his new fiancée through his Facebook.

But the following August, she revealed that Phil is severely mentally ill.  She said he has Bipolar II, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and other disorders which she did not name.

Her description of him as “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” and her friends’ descriptions of him as this wonderful human being, threw me for a loop because of how he treated me.  But she was beginning to see that “other Phil” that I had known–and said the illnesses were to blame.

They broke up; she said it was a combination of her not wanting to be treated the way the “other Phil” treated her, and him wanting to deal with his mental illnesses on his own.  She said he was on suicide watch.  She was supposed to be there as his friend, but then he “ghosted” her and she felt hurt.

New information:

Well, now she has revealed something else.  I’m not sure when she found out about it (November?), but recently she began posting memes about narcissism, liars, and the kind of man who has a string of “soulmates” who they wooed in the same ways with the same words–then tossed aside when they got bored.

(Some time ago, she re-posted a Facebook post he made about her: He listed all the things he loved about her.  The wording was the same as a list he made of all the things he loved about me.)

As she put it, he “checked out” months before August 2018, with “promiscuity” that put her “health at risk.”

So he cheated on her.  (I wonder if he still believes birth control is evil?)  Even this one, could not tame his inner beast.  Even this one, he tired of and threw away.  If she could not, then no one could.  She no longer speaks of his mental illnesses being to blame for his bad behavior.

And I can’t say I’m overly surprised: This same guy told me he wouldn’t be able to control himself over the summer if I went back home without him, which is one reason why I wanted him to stay with me at my parents’ house.  This guy would praise the physical attributes of every girl he saw out of the house, and every woman he saw on TV inside the house, and say he wanted to take them into the back of his van–then call me possessive or jealous for being upset.  This guy would tell me he wanted a harem, and which girls he wanted in it (including his brother’s fiancée), and then call me jealous.  But when I found myself falling for a nice guy in my friend-group, Phil became enraged with jealousy and then tried to force me into confessing my little crush to the guy.

If even Doris was not enough for him, then nobody can be.  If even she no longer excuses his behavior because of mental illness, then I have no reason to.  Earlier I wondered if a person with Bipolar and FAS can be excused for abusing and otherwise mistreating another, because that “isn’t really him.”  But it was really him.  It’s not just an illness, but Phil’s character.  Phil is a narcissist and to blame for what he did to me.

It also says that I am not to blame.  I still get little “time bombs” going off in my head when I hear or read something that reminds me of Phil saying I did something bad.  I start thinking, Was I really the one in the wrong?  But this tells me there’s no way I could have brought better treatment on myself from him.  Now there is somebody else, without my input, coming to the conclusion that he is a narcissist.  He hurt somebody else even while she still thought he was wonderful.

 

Spiritual Abuse in EFCA: Review of Once an Insider by Amanda Farmer

Spiritual Abuse in EFCA: Review of Once an Insider by Amanda Farmer 3

(I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from the author.  I am not being paid for this review.)

Amanda Farmer’s book Once An Insider, Now Without A Church Home: One Couple’s Faith Crisis Due to the Infiltration and Spread of Authoritarianism, Calvinism, Complementarianism, and Covenants in the Am Evangelical Church is available on Amazon here.  The book description states,

This is the story of one couple’s faith crisis after realizing the church they have spent 25 years serving as leaders in has made subtle but profound changes over the years. It is their journey from being trusting followers of Jesus to questioning everything about their faith. Who is really following the Bible? Who is really interpreting the Bible correctly? This is a personal memoir that follows the changes in the American Evangelical Church as it becomes more popular to embrace Calvinism, Authoritarianism, Complementarianism, and Covenants and the effect this can have on one’s faith. The story illustrates the pain of going from being an accepted member of a church – from being on the inside – to realizing that the leadership desires that you leave the fellowship.

My first impression is that this book is well-written.  I’m pulled in right away to the author’s story, and several similarities:

1–She comes from a strict denomination, Mennonite.  My church (Nazarene) let us wear pretty much whatever we wanted to–short hair, makeup, pants, shorts, etc.–but wouldn’t let us drink, dance, go to movies, that kind of thing.  Meanwhile, I heard that our churches in the South were a lot like the Pentecostals, restricting your appearance along with your behavior.

2–Her husband Gordon comes from the same denomination as mine (LCMS), and she, like me, did not convert to it because she’d been raised to believe her own denomination’s view of Scripture is correct.  Meanwhile, he did not want to convert to her denomination, either.

3–Which–same as with us–led them to search for a denomination that would serve as a compromise where they both could feel comfortable.  And–same as with my husband and me–they felt the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) would suit, because of a freedom in belief and practice from strict rules or legalism.

4–Just as with us, their first experiences with the church are good, full of wonderful experiences and growing closer to people, making friends, getting more involved in the church.  Some of my best memories are from that time.

5–And also–same as us–this couple never heard of John Piper or Neo-Calvinism, until long after their influence had begun, and had come to their church.

At the time they start attending the Evangelical Free Church in town, while their church believes in male headship, women are still very much a part of the church life, teaching and ministering, and have leadership roles as well.  In fact, the contributions of women are respected.

When a Calvinist preacher is hired for their church, they don’t know at first that he is a Calvinist.  He is charismatic and beloved, and the author and her husband become close friends with him–same as our experience.

Then in 2008, according to a quoted blog post by an EFCA pastor, the EFCA Statement of Faith is changed to make room for Calvinist/Reformed doctrine.  Before, it leaned toward Arminian dispensationalism, but now there are a lot more Reformed pastors in the denomination than there were in 1950.

Wayne Grudem’s book on Systematic Theology (PDF here) is introduced into the church via a weekly Bible study required for the elders.

Grudem, along with John Piper (a neo-Calvinist theological superstar), helped to edit Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism and co-founded the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  While in some circles their theological writings are praised, in some others they are accused of bringing spiritually abusive doctrines into the Evangelical churches, while also trying to put women “back in their place” (ie, the kitchen, as they obey their husbands and keep quiet in church).  For more information on this criticism, see blogs such as Spiritual Sounding Board and The Wartburg Watch.

Calvinism didn’t use to be so big in Evangelical churches, but in the last few decades, “neo-Calvinism” has been spreading and taking hold in churches all over America.  Wikipedia traces it to 2006, but it (and the works of Piper) hit my EFCA church much sooner, maybe around 2002.

Like many of us, Gordon, an elder, is not familiar enough with Calvinism to recognize what the change in the Statement of Faith would mean, or what the introduction of Grudem’s ideas would mean.  He is of “simple faith.”

Pastor Travis, over time, starts making more demands on the people, starting with the elder board.  Prayers led by the elders or other men in church have to follow a particular formula, which leads to nobody wanting to lead prayers.  The elders have to attend a particular leader training course in order to be elders, which introduces “servant leadership” and “shepherding.”

(The Shepherding Movement has been rife with spiritual abuse.  It started back in the 70s and was very controversial; even Pat Robertson compared it to Jonestown.  It sounds like it died out for a time because it was so abusive, but now here it is again, re-emerging in the 2000s.)

And then Pastor Travis insists that they jump into the next church building project without any sort of planning, trusting God will provide, because this is the “biblical” way to do it.  With that, he goes on an 8-week sabbatical–which also raises a red flag for me, because that’s when our own EFCA pastor came back preaching John Piperism.

When a new member joins the church and becomes Amanda’s subordinate (she is church treasurer), she senses a new dynamic: He starts going around her, leaving her out of discussions which require the input of the treasurer.  Eventually he resigns; later on, he becomes chairman of the administrative council, only to resign in disgust from there as well.  His reason: because she is a woman and he feels it is disgraceful for her to be in a position of leadership over him, or in any leadership role.

When she protests to the pastor, he reacts in anger, saying this is biblical–that women are allowed input, but men are to be leaders–that this is somehow “equal.”  She notes that decisions are now being made by male leaders without even the input of the congregation.

Men in the congregation are now beginning to feel like very few are “qualified” to be elders.  After years of faithful service to the church, Amanda and Gordon are both made to feel like their contributions are not valued and like they’re being judged unworthy.

And I have to note that in my Orthodox church–about as conservative as you can get, with many practices that haven’t changed in centuries, and a strict adherence to doctrine established well over a thousand years ago–it doesn’t get this extreme.  Here, a woman can serve on the board, be treasurer or parish president, read the Epistle and other Bible readings in services, serve at the altar and in other capacities during the service, etc.  It also never got this extreme in the Nazarene church in which I grew up.  So why is it so anathema for women to do this in an EFCA church now–especially when the EFCA did not use to be this extreme?

Finally, Amanda and Gordon discover that Calvinism–which they’d never heard of before this–has infiltrated the church.  It makes Gordon feel destined for Hell, and to Amanda the Calvinist god seems like her abusive father.

This is why many of us have rejected Calvinism and Reformed theology, running away screaming, not calling it “good Reformed doctrine.”  I had heard of Calvinism when we attended the EFCA church, but didn’t know a whole lot about it beyond predestination.  Like us, Amanda and Gordon are horrified at this concept of a god who uses people as tools for his own glory, and chooses that most of them will be damned.  Like us, they also look on in disbelief as others in the church welcome the words of John Piper as if he were a prophet.

They also soon discover that most of the people in the church haven’t even heard of Calvinism!  I wonder what kind of religious training and schooling people are getting these days in the Evangelical churches, because what I didn’t hear about in church, I learned about in school from literature and history.  I knew Calvinism was to be avoided, even though I didn’t know all the tenets.

The flock also has not heard of shepherding or membership covenants, which the leadership team wants to introduce.  As with shepherding, membership covenants have been recognized as abusive for many years (I read about them around 2005 when researching spiritual abuse).  But the people don’t know, they trust their pastors as the voice of God, and the practice keeps spreading throughout Evangelicalism.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge –KJV, Hosea 4:6

Pastor Travis also introduces a version of the Bible I’m not familiar with–ESV–overseen by Wayne Grudem.  The RSV already had an update, the NRSV, but the ESV is another update of the RSV.  It was released in 2001, but has had several updates since then which arguably make the Bible seem more patriarchal (such as, removing “sisters” from “brothers and sisters,” even though I found evidence that the latter is correct).  By late 2006, I was no longer Protestant, so this translation never made it into my church or studies.

Amanda and Gordon begin to get the strong impression that they’re seen as “troublemakers” for not agreeing with the new Calvinist direction of the church, and–after 25 years of being heavily involved in it–that the pastors and elders would be glad to see them leave.  They’re told that they should “submit” to the judgment of the pastors when they disagree.

Their alarm increases when the church elders and pastors decide to implement a membership covenant–especially the parts about submitting to their guidance and not leaving the church until discipline issues are resolved.  They suspect that this part is added because the pastor couldn’t stop a woman from divorcing her abusive husband, and then leaving the church because he tried to discipline her over it.

In reviewing the proposed covenant text, I agree–This sounds like the spiritual abuser’s dream!  If you agree to it, you sign away your right to disagree with the teachings of the elders/pastors, or even to leave the church–unless you go to another one just like it.  You pledge yourself to support the church in every way, including with your finances (note that), and your butt has to be in the seat regularly.  You pledge to help evangelize, so hey, more people get brought in to the cult church.

There’s a part about indulging in “freedoms” that would jeopardize someone else’s faith, so I suspect that everything from the occasional cuss word to drinking an occasional beer to listening to Rob Zombie to playing Dungeons and Dragons could be verboten.  Supposedly this just means you can’t do it around a member who doesn’t like it.  But how do you know who does and doesn’t?  Will you be disciplined if a sensitive church member overhears you talk about going to a Goth club?

You also have to go along with church discipline, not just for yourself, but “admonishing” others as well.  And if you violate or neglect the covenant, you will be disciplined.

Since only death releases you from the covenant (or going to a church just like it), you are–essentially–trapped in this church.  Whether it is binding legally, I can’t say.  But someone who signs such a covenant is likely to feel that it is spiritually binding, and fear the wrath of God if they violate it–just as many Christians fear the wrath of God if they divorce an abusive spouse.

Amanda openly brings up her concerns in a congregational meeting.  Her bravery makes others willing to speak up as well, so she finds many people disagree with the covenant proposal.  But these people are shot down (by the pastor’s wife!) as being mostly women who should be submitting to their husbands–while men don’t feel safe giving their opinions, either.

All of Amanda’s concerns are valid, but the pastors dismiss her and her concerns as divisive; they accuse her of being bitter.  They gaslight her.  A series of attempts at discussion–in which she feels like they just want to shut her up, and when she gets yelled at like her father used to do–leads to her and Gordon no longer attending, intending to eventually leave for good (after her daughter’s wedding in the church).

The leadership team strikes me as narcissistic and spiritually abusive.

A leadership team commentary on the covenant says that members are not to bring civil lawsuits against each other.  On the one hand, I can agree with not suing each other over stupid stuff.  For example, the threat of my ex-friends (also Orthodox) to sue me for libel–for speaking out about their abuse of me–would be forbidden under such a clause.

The farther we go, however, the exercise of control and potential for abuse grow stronger.  Tithing (at least 10%), regular church attendance, reading the Bible–all are part of the covenant’s stipulations.  As are discipling others and evangelizing: things which are considered the “personal responsibility of every Christian,” and include one’s family and others “in our sphere of influence.”  This basically sounds like forcing everyone in the church to become annoying, trying to convert everybody they know no matter if it’s welcomed, or if it suits the personal abilities or gifts of each member.

For me, for example, this would be impossible, because even when I believed I was supposed to do these things, I couldn’t do them.  I was too shy–and it wasn’t as if I could just go out and make new friends if I scared off the ones I had with all the preaching.

As a kid, I already had a lot of trouble making friends and finding somebody to date, partially because of the shyness, but possibly also because my religion forced me not to act like the other kids.  I wouldn’t listen to secular rock or go to movies, and told my 7th-grade science teacher that I couldn’t read that passage out loud because it was about evolution.  That kind of crap probably helped take a big chunk out of my social standing.  Imagine what it would’ve been like if I tried to convert everybody I knew.

Yeah, that’s what this covenant would force on a whole church full of people: a requirement to be obnoxious to everyone you know, while also giving a chunk of your income whether you could afford it or not, and going to church as often as possible.

Then comes a requirement to submit to the leadership team.  Even the elders are to submit.  The church’s means of protecting against error and oppression is to elect “biblically qualified men to join the elder team.”  But–what about confrontation when a leader is in error?

Then comes the discipline section.  On the one hand, sometimes a member will abuse others and will need discipline for that.  But many people are disciplined for trivial reasons in these “covenant” churches, such as disagreeing with the leadership or having a different view of whether something is sinful.  And this covenant would force such people to stay inside the church.  It’s made very clear that a member is not to leave the church for any reason except for 1) death, or 2) to go to another church just like it.

I believe the covenant proposal was ultimately shelved, but Amanda writes here that

The church we left is now proposing constitution changes that allow discipline for being “threatening to the testimony of the church” or being “divisive to the body”; both very vague nebulous wide-open in interpretation statements.

Even after Amanda and Gordon finally leave the church, they still struggle with existential questions caused by Calvinism: Are they saved, does it matter what they believe if God saves whomever he wants to, is it worthwhile sharing with friends about a faith that is so bleak?

I recall reading about a similar struggle in Harriet Beecher Stowe when she was only a little girl; her father was a prominent Calvinist preacher, big on predestination.  She’d stare into a mirror and wonder if she was damned and couldn’t change that.  This is one reason why I rejected Calvinism–and here it’s happening again with somebody else, just like with Stowe.  And of course, Amanda and Gordon wonder how Calvin could both be Spirit-filled and murder people who disagree with his theology.

Amanda also notes that 1 Corinthians 11 is dismissed in modern-day Evangelicalism as “culturally driven and not applicable for today”–except, of course, for the bit about man being the head of the woman (so she’ll submit).  Even in the fundamentalist church in which I grew up, the parts about women submitting to men were also dismissed as culturally driven, back in the 80s.  But for some reason, neo-Calvinists are especially obsessed with making the wymmenfolk shut up and submit.

I also note that, after leaving the church, Amanda and Gordon have very familiar feelings–that they are afraid to connect again somewhere else, afraid of it all happening again.  I felt this after breaking off a destructive, narcissistic, abusive friendship.

I also felt the same way she did, when the other party made no attempt to fix the problems, but instead dismissed it as our decision to break off the friendship, and then simply let go of us without even trying to hold on to us.  When that happens, you feel like the other party never actually cared about you to begin with.  Amanda and Gordon feel that, after they’ve been a part of this church for decades, the leaders don’t care if they stay or go.

My husband–the one in our case who tried to confront our Calvinist pastor–felt dismissed and abused by the experience; for a while he was sensitive even to the style of music being played in our next church.  We got nervous when the pastor went on “sabbatical.”  A church-wide disagreement about a dismissed secretary became cause for alarm.

I don’t believe there was anything actually abusive about the next church we went to, but these feelings did not diminish until my husband went back to being Lutheran and I went to an Orthodox church (no Calvinism or weird Protestant trends there!)  Lutheranism had nothing to do with the Calvinist vs. Arminian debates, while Orthodoxy actually condemned Calvinism, pronouncing “an anathema upon anyone teaching that God predestined anyone to evil or Hell” (Wikipedia).

In conclusion, this book is a good description of what’s happening in churches today, the cult-like practices which are spreading through Evangelicalism.  Hopefully it will save some readers from getting trapped by such a church.

 

Sexual harassment allegations against SEO and tech rockstars

For the past several days, I’ve been watching real-time evidence of a narcissistic culture in the SEO Industry.  These are the people who help your website draw in more visitors; one of the so-called “rockstars” is Joost de Valk, founder and CPO of Yoast (company which provides a popular Wordpress plugin while also educating website owners on and helping with SEO practices).  He has also just been appointed Marketing and Communications Lead for Wordpress.org.

I first heard of the story on the WP Tavern, a Wordpress blog, here: YoastCon Overshadowed by Twitter Storm: Joost de Valk, SEO Industry Leaders Called Out for Objectifying Women

From what I can gather, a few people have been posting and tweeting to bring attention to allegations against De Valk and other “rockstars” which they say have been ignored for years now.  The allegations include sexual harassment and treating women like sex objects.

They pulled out a few tweets that sound bad, but which the intended recipient says was not harassment.  The trouble is, however, that the whistleblowers are now being harassed online, called trolls, while in the WP Tavern comments, many people–mostly men–are scolding them and saying it’s not an issue.  One–a man–even wrote:

OMG…
Imagine a world where no men or women have any sex on their mind. One does not need to be a rocket engineer to conclude mankind would die off in about 40 years. And you beggars are programmers.

If there did not happen anything physical it is OK until anyone involved says it would be too much for her. Even if there happened anything physical is also OK until it was consensual.

So go and find a real issue please!

By the way there are women who hardly ever get noticed by men, i am absolutely sure that case hurts way more than being noticed.

UGH!  There are so many things wrong with the above quote.  First of all, the idea that it’s okay as long as it’s not physical–That reminds me of my ex-friend Richard saying that online harassment of me wasn’t “real” and I was being “ridiculous” because it upset me.  Then, basically saying that it’s worse to NOT be harassed because you’re not pretty enough.

UGH UGH UGH!

Along with this is a total disregard of the fact that the allegations go way beyond a few questionable tweets from years ago.  The independent news website The Overtake went more in-depth than the Tavern did, posting an article with the following:

The SEO-industry’s history is one steeped in gender prejudice, the objectification of women and sexual harassment.

One woman who was afraid of being identified said she had been ostracised and lost friends after calling out senior executives in SEO for inappropriate behaviour. Another described being pushed out of a company after refusing to visit strip clubs. The Overtake has also heard about incidents of alleged groping, sexual comments and other inappropriate behaviour, including rumours of a serious sexual assault in 2014 which was allegedly covered up.

A now-deleted review on job rating website Glassdoor mentioned an incident where a woman says a company CEO put her in a situation where she appeared semi-naked in front of colleagues against her will. The Overtake has seen the review but we have chosen not to reveal further details to protect the victim. –Giada Origlia and Katie Wells, Gaslighting–abuse–cover up–#Metoo is finally spilling out into tech

I’ve also been following the Twitter feeds of a couple of women in tech who are also speaking out about this, confirming that it’s not just something that a few guys made up to make the SEO “rockstars” look bad (an accusation which I’ve seen repeatedly).  The women are speaking of an atmosphere in which they’re passed over for promotions and their contributions minimized because they are women.

And on the Twitter feed of one of the male accusers, I found this thread.  On the feed of another accuser, I found this, linking to a Reddit post which read:

I have been at events in Germany where it’s happened. I’ve heard even worse reports from women at events in Germany where it’s happened – literally illegal, sexual assault stuff, and with no recourse and no followup. Until a few years ago, I was like you and would say “I haven’t seen that at all,” but when I started asking questions and paying deeper attention, I saw it everywhere. It’s heartbreaking. –Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz

A blog post from 2017 speaks of a “coding rockstar” who harassed and groped the writer.  She was told to report him, but like many women, did not feel comfortable doing so.  So then in 2017 she heard him say in a tech talk at a conference,

He started his talk with disparaging comments about women and their role in tech. He followed that up with a derogatory anecdote that his girlfriend’s job was to “do him.” He did not stop there, he went on to attack the group I work with, calling us whiny and making fun of our efforts to make websites more inclusive to people with disabilities. He mentioned (more than once) that he could care less about making his project more accessible to others. –Carie Fisher, There are Weinsteins lurking in every profession–including tech

After reading these posts online, the comments in the Tavern become especially egregious.  I see so much gaslighting and trying to shut down the conversation, trying to shut up the whistleblowers.  I’ve made a few comments myself, trying to alert them to how bad this looks to outsiders, but I’ve been completely ignored.  (Ignore the woman–You mean, like they’ve been doing to the women who are victims of this harassment?)

But no, in the Tavern and in comments to the whistleblowers on Twitter, men (and one or two women) have been, basically, calling it a big nothingburger.  While the whistleblowers and victims have been speaking out and saying it is indeed something and they won’t be ignored anymore.

And the allegations are hardly a revelation–The following was written in 2013, and I’ve seen videos of SEOktoberfest (now yanked from Youtube) proving this is true:

There is no doubt that the technology sector is more than averagely sexist. The reasons for this are multitude and too complex to explore in this blog post, but suffice to say that the technology sector – and the digital marketing sector, as a subset of the tech industry – is infused with a laddish attitude and enjoys pervasive and embedded sexism.

I find this rather unpalatable. I think the tech industry needs more women, and more participation from women. We shouldn’t abide by companies and conferences using objectified women as enticements and attention grabbers. We’re not stone age cavemen any more.

…Some conferences use booth babes – or even Playboy playmates – as enticements, and whenever you see such a prehistoric mentality on display you should strenuously avoid the conference and let the organisers know their backwards approach to marketing ensures you will never participate in their event. –Barry Adams, Fighting Sexism at Digital Conferences

Considering what I’ve seen on gaming forums online, I suppose it’s not so surprising: After all, when I was dipping my toe in such forums in the mid-00s, I saw lots of sexism, lots of “raep” jokes.  That’s where I got the harassment I described above, which Richard dismissed as “not real.”  That’s where you find a lot of techies, the ones who are likely to go into the industry.  And then they wonder why there are so few women gamers or techies….

 

EFCA church we left in 2004 has dipped into extremism

(This is being crossposted with the blog by Wondering Eagle, who writes on issues in Evangelicalism and, particularly, the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA).  My post is a bit longer.)

In the older sections of my website, particularly the theological pages and my conversion story,  you will find many writings about and references to a church my husband and I went to for several years around the turn of the century.  This church was the catalyst for my religious searching and eventual conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

My husband and I came from different backgrounds–him Lutheran, me Nazarene–so for years we searched for a church that would make us both feel comfortable.  We went to the local EFCA church starting in 2000.  It met in a middle school auditorium, and had about 200 members.

We were there for quite some time, even getting involved in different ministries.  I began helping in the youth group, and loved it.  I was happy being in this church.  My husband (“Jeff”) made friends with the pastor.

I saw little warning signs of extremism way back when we first started there, such as a group who went to witness to a palm reader at her place of business.  But I hoped it was just a few people like that.  Overall it didn’t seem extremist.

Jeff had some trouble with the tithing talk and Evangelical doctrines, and we were a bit uncomfortable around the hand-waving, but we felt we had found a home.  I got used to the contemporary music, and began to like it.  Before, I often had trouble getting out of bed on Sunday; with the Evangelical Free Church, I was encouraged to get back into the Sunday church habit.  I didn’t want to miss a sermon.

Each year, the pastor and several of the teens and adults went to Russia to evangelize.  They helped with a church plant there, or an Evangelical Free church which had been recently started by missionaries and was headed by Russians; they also helped with a church camp.

I didn’t know in those days that the Russian Orthodox Church feels like its toes are being stepped on by all these Protestant missionaries, that they want to rebuild their own church, which was persecuted by the Soviet authorities for so many decades.

I imagine the church that produced so many martyrs during Communism would be upset to hear what my pastor said in church one day after returning from a Russia Team trip: “I visited the Russian Orthodox Church.  It’s not Christian.  It’s full of idols and paganism.”

He used this as an example of how bleak the spiritual atmosphere supposedly is in Russia after Communism.  This must have been in 2003 or 2004; even then, when I had no thought of becoming Orthodox, I knew what he said was wrong.  I knew very little about Orthodoxy, but I did know that people in this Evangelical church sometimes judged other Christians wrongly.

Lutherans were not considered Christian unless they had a “born-again experience”; Jeff resented that.

We had a boy in our youth group who was brought in by some of the teens and eventually had his own “born-again experience”; then we considered him a Christian.  I knew nothing about his background, just what I had been told about his conversion.  When his parents resisted his going to our church and youth group, I thought maybe they were atheists or Pagans who hated Christians.  To my shock, I heard they were Catholic–in other words, that this kid was already a Christian from a Christian family.

As for Jeff resenting the attitude toward Lutherans: He never had a conversion experience, because he was raised in the faith and always believed it.  How can you “convert” to a religion you’ve always been a part of?

What probably made it worse was that there was a former Lutheran in the congregation who felt he wasn’t a Christian until he converted to Evangelicalism.  Once, this person gave me a book, meant for recent converts, to give to Jeff, because somehow he got the idea that Jeff had just had a “born-again experience.”

Another time, the usual sermons were put on hold while the congregation took a series of lessons on how to convert people.  I believe it was the Contagious Christian series.  Some people left during this time, feeling the church had “lost its focus.”

Jeff didn’t like the constant emphasis on going out and doing things, and people constantly “encouraging” him to join the Russia Team or the Cuba Team.  He didn’t feel led to be a missionary, since he did not know those languages, did not like Russian food, and had trouble dealing with people.  He felt like the church members were seen as tools, rather than people who needed to be healed and built up themselves before trying to evangelize other people.

I was raised hard-core premillennialist.  But sometime in 2001, I used several study Bibles–one of them the Oxford Study Bible–to read Revelations.  To my surprise, premillennialism did not make as much sense as the historical or metaphorical interpretations.  I began to lean toward amillennialism.  But premillennialism was part of the Statement of Faith for the Evangelical Free Church.

Shortly after 9/11, the pastor said that most of the people who died that day had gone to Hell because they weren’t Christians.  This pronouncement horrified me.  Even before this, I began wondering if people went to Hell when they weren’t Christians–not because they rejected God, but because they believed truth and deity to be more present in their own religion than Christianity.

What about a Muslim woman who knew something about Christians, but was taught that Islam was correct and Christianity was for infidels, and went through her whole life–all its joys and sorrows–believing she was doing right?  What about Pagans who were kind and loving?  What about agnostics who just weren’t sure?  What about atheists who didn’t reject God necessarily, but just didn’t believe one existed?

What about the Final Judgment, when Christ divided people based on how loving they were, rather than what religion they followed?  I felt like a heretic for thinking this, even though I later discovered that Orthodoxy read the Final Judgment the same way I did.

To become full members of the EFCA, you had to sign a statement agreeing to all the points in the Statement of Faith.  These were considered the essentials; on everything else, you could disagree.  Jeff and I both, though we disagreed in which points, were not in full agreement with the Statement of Faith, so we never became full members.

In 2002, some big tithers had left the church for various reasons, some disgruntled and some simply moving, leaving the church in financial straits.  Once, there had been a building program, which the pastor disbanded due to disagreements between committee members; now, we started going from one building to another because we couldn’t afford our own.

The pastor began preaching heavily on tithing: It must be 10% gross, given to the church, with charitable donations coming afterwards, no matter what your financial situation, or else you just don’t have enough faith.  But we just couldn’t give any more.  The pastor also said that if you couldn’t afford the tithe, there were people in the church who could come to your house, look over your finances, and help you figure out how to do it.  This sent up alarm bells.  The tithing talk began driving people away.

The pastor went on sabbatical and did a lot of reading and praying.  When he came back, probably early in 2003, everything changed.  The tithing talk still came up often, but now there was a new focus.

The pastor must have been reading a lot of books by John Piper and Rick Warren.  He began preaching “Cat and Dog Theology,” which used the supremacy of God doctrine which Piper, a Calvinist, has been spreading in Evangelical circles.  To us, this was strange doctrine, which we had never heard of before.

Coming from Calvinism, it says that every single thing God does is primarily driven by a passion for his own glory–even the Cross.  We knew this was wrong, that the main reason for the Cross and other things was love, though we had no materials besides the Bible to back us up.  I mentioned the supremacy doctrine to my parents, who agreed that it was wrong.

We didn’t want to de-emphasize glory; we merely felt that this strange new theology was over-emphasizing glory at the expense of God’s love for us and everything else in the faith.  All churches we ever attended said that Christ went to the Cross out of a passion not for himself, but for love for us, our salvation.

Now this love for us, this salvation, seemed more like a side effect which just happened to go along with glorifying God.  We could imagine giving God the glory, but could not imagine God primarily seeking glory for himself, like a warrior-king from Beowulf.

The image of the Loving Father was diminished, replaced by a deity that did not seem to care about fairness, justice or mercy, so long as he was glorified.  Don’t grieve for the death of loved ones, don’t pray for their healing, because you don’t know what purpose God has for their suffering or even death.  Don’t pray for your own needs.

Cats believe we’re saved from Hell; dogs go further, believing we’re saved for the glory of God (which figures greatly into the Calvinist predestination doctrine.)  Some people are born to be killed for the glory of God.

Basically, this deity causes death and suffering so he can be glorified.  The doctrines about glory were pounded into our heads every week for months.

And yet the pastor seemed to wonder why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology.  We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Jeff tried to speak to the pastor about it, but felt bullied into agreeing with the glory theology.

We had gone to classes and I had scoured information on the church’s theology, and there was nothing in there about Calvinism.  I thought they were pretty lenient about theology.  We didn’t know Piper was Calvinist, just that this new theology sounded “wrong.”  This got me searching the Internet trying to find out where it came from and how to counter it.

I do recall there was a lot of activity between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist,” or that our churches could actually be sharing doctrines.  We did not know we were in a church that was becoming Calvinist, since I always thought that Evangelicals were by definition Arminian, that Calvinism was in the strict old-fashioned churches such as the Puritans and the old Presbyterians.

We did not know much about Calvinism, or that all the weirdness we were hearing came from it; all we knew about was the big Calvinist doctrine most people knew about, predestination.

The pastor did once say that the Holy Spirit works on us to bring us to faith, that we don’t do it ourselves, which was a new doctrine to me, but didn’t set off any alarm bells.

John Piper believes this to be a wonderful doctrine, because God’s grace saved us with no regard to who we are; to those of us who are not Calvinist, however, it has terrible implications for those who do not come to faith because God did not choose them.

The pastor began complaining about churches with too many “programs.”  This meant that, for us, all our programs were disbanded or put on hiatus.  No more Sunday School; no more worship team; no more songs which seemed to be about our reaction to God rather than focusing on God.

We now had one worship leader with a guitar, while a PowerPoint setup showed nature pictures.  Doing worship this way wasn’t “wrong,” but it was yet another way that the church was being entirely changed from what we were used to, and that people were being told to stop doing what made them happy.

In early 2003, the youth group was disbanded for lack of money to pay the youth pastor, and the youth pastor essentially fired.  It was so distressing that at least one of the kids cried.

I had helped in the youth group for nearly 2 years, and it had become my life, possibly a calling.  These were my friends.  My weeks revolved around youth group and going to leader meetings.  The youth pastor was my friend and gifted with his work; I loved the antics of the teenagers, especially two of the older boys who were also youth leaders.

The other youth and adult leaders, Jeff, and I tried to get the group back together, but with little success.  The kids started going to other youth groups, and one even said, “I thought we didn’t have a youth group anymore.”

It was now early 2004.  It took me a long time to get over the loss of the youth group.  I resented the pastor for firing the youth pastor.  Fortunately, the youth pastor found new positions; he believed God wanted him to head a new ministry for young adults, which he did for the next several years, and after that he moved on to other ministries.

A thriving Sunday School was one thing which first attracted me to this church.  Now that we had a child of our own and would need it, there was none, and there were fewer and fewer children, as parents began taking their kids to churches which had Sunday Schools for them.

The pastor also began taking scripture out of context to make points (“proof-texting”), heavily using paraphrases, and using various translations–apparently whichever one fit the point best.

Jeff wrote a letter to the pastor about the supremacy of God doctrine and some other things (the church was still losing members–gone from nearly 200 in 2000 and 2001 to about 40 or 50 in 2003), but felt ostracized after that.  We moved to a different church in June 2004.

To this day, we’re still skittish at the words “glory” and “glorify,” afraid of encountering Calvinism again.  Jeff feels the Evangelical Free church was spiritually abusive, especially since it took him a while to recover from it.  Even when he’s in a church and hears the same songs the E-Free church began singing before it turned Calvinist, he fears that church will start going in the same direction the E-Free church did.

And yet, I’m glad we went through this experience, because without it I never would have had an inkling that American Evangelicalism is suffering from great sicknesses: Not only is there materialism and pop Christianity in the churches these days, but bad theology keeps going hither and thither.

By the way, on May 2, 2007, I discovered on the EFCA website that a new Statement of Faith was in the works.  It went into far more detail than the vague 13 statements we were familiar with.  According to page 13 of the third draft revision (no longer available on the Web), “Throughout this Statement, we affirm that God’s glory is the ultimate aim of all God’s works in creation, revelation, and salvation.”

This Calvinist theology was nowhere to be found in the original Statement of Faith; it was not mentioned in the New Member classes; we never heard it in the sermons until the pastor introduced Cat and Dog Theology.  So, essentially, it seems like bait-and-switch.

Has the denomination changed its views in the past several years for whatever reason–reading John Piper, following Evangelical trends of bringing in Calvinism?  Or has the denomination always believed this way, but kept it under wraps for whatever reason?  Supposedly, you could be Calvinist or Arminian in an Evangelical Free church, but the supremacy of God doctrine tilted it toward Calvinism.

In any case, if the old Statement of Faith had been as clear as the third draft revision of the new Statement of Faith, we never would have stayed in the Evangelical Free Church for so long.  Rather, we were given to understand that outside of the 13 vague statements in our version, there was plenty of freedom.  That would have meant freedom to reject the pastor’s supremacy of God doctrine.

We heard in the summer of 2005 that the E-Free church was dying, with so few members they didn’t know if they could get another pastor when that one left.  Around that time, the ad for the church stopped appearing in the newspaper.  In the 2007-2008 phone book, the church’s listing no longer appeared.  For years I thought it was completely gone, especially when another EFCA church moved into town and began to thrive.  (Why have two of the same church in a town this small?)

But a few years ago, I discovered it still exists, under new leadership now, and finally with a building.

I’m not sure what to make of it, because–according to its website–the new version of the church has some very restrictive rules for members, and has changed the names of some Christian holidays to match Old Testament counterparts.  I have also discovered an Internet review from 2012 which says, “Full of religious fanatics masquerading as christians. Stay far away. And, don’t drink the Kool-Aid!”

On their Facebook page is pictures from 2017 of a protest outside of an inter-denominational celebration of Reformation Day.  It included various churches from the city–such as Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans–in order to bring them together.

The Facebook timeline of one of the people in the pictures includes anti-Catholic rants, particularly when he discovers what the celebration is for.  This guy is one of those megaphone street preachers outside of abortion and in-vitro fertilization clinics, who fills Youtube and Facebook with rants and videos about the people who argue with him on the street, clinics, the Catholic view of salvation, etc. etc.  He’s from Illinois, but he was there, participating with our former church at the protest in Wisconsin, presumably as an invited guest.

A flyer in one picture says “Still Protesting.”  In among actual sins–lying, extortion, greed, etc.–are listed homosexuality and unbelief.  In another picture is a picket sign which reads, “Catholics, thank you for being so pro-life, but why worship with those who cannot have salvation?”

And in the post which includes those pictures, someone asks, what are you protesting?  The response: “The errors of the Catholic Church….It is the 500 [sic] anniversary of the Reformation. October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. Some today want to say the reformation is over. Unfortunately, the divide actually has become wider.  So we are still protesting. Pro= go forth publically.  Test-ing = To test and give witness.  We declare unashamedly still Salvation is the free gift of God.”

So–They’re protesting another Christian church, one which happens to have similar values, during an inter-faith celebration of unity, simply because they don’t agree with their doctrine or with the other denominations hanging out with them.  And saying that they “cannot have salvation”–i.e., that they’re going to Hell because they don’t agree with Evangelicals on how to be saved.

In a PDF posted on the website, I also find an emphasis on male leadership of the church, not just in pastoral positions, but restricting women from any leadership or teaching of men.  Also, according to this PDF, women are to submit to husbands and be quiet in church, learning from men.

In fact, from another page on the website, a couple must meet all sorts of high standards in order to be married in this church, so high that they would not have married Jeff and me.  One of the stipulations is that a couple “conforms” to the “Biblical teaching on the roles of male and female”!  Another is that “Both the man and the woman must be living out consistent Christian lives of worship, growth, giving and outreach.”  How do they define this?  Is it a set number of church visits in a month?  Tithing 10%?  Going on mission teams?  It all seems very intrusive on the life of a couple, who must be allowed to figure things out for themselves.

Poking around on the website, though the leadership has changed, some names I recognize are still there, and the old pastor is still involved.  So these changes are a continuation of what we saw all those years ago–and now it gives me cultish vibes which I never had there before.

For example, I remember the pastor doing a series on wifely submission around 2001 or so, and women and men not being permitted to counsel each other privately.  But I don’t recall restrictions on women teaching men, or such strict rules on who the church will marry.  So what we saw back then, has been taken to extremes in the years since.

This makes it very clear to me that, despite the guilt and depression I felt when we left this church, we dodged a bullet.  Yeah, the Orthodox church has its own issues.  But just as the EFCA as a whole does not appear to be extremist like the church I describe above, neither is Orthodoxy.  My home church is not extremist, for example.

When we went to the above EFCA church, I felt we could be more moderate, and I knew others who were also moderate–several Democrats, in fact.  (Also, in those days I was much more conservative than I am now, with Protestant views of theology.)  But these new revelations tell me that things have changed significantly in the years since we left.  Maybe all the moderates were winnowed out by the preaching on tithing and glory, leaving extremism behind.