Category: church

More on Jeff Durbin who calls woke Christians “sluts” and “Marxists”

Regarding my last post, about the guy, Jeff Durbin, who says that so-called “woke” Christians are evangelical sluts opening their legs to Marx etc.: I’ve been googling him this evening to find out more about him.  He is a postmillennial theonomist; not quite sure what that means, because the sources I saw disagree and get all word-salady, but it seems to be a form of theocracy.  Here you can find more information about his ranting sermon, and that he is buddies with Doug Wilson of Christ Church–which the Spiritual Sounding Board and Wartburg Watch blogs have covered as an abusive, patriarchal church that covers up abuses and tells abused women to stay put.  Durbin himself is the pastor of Apologia Church in Arizona.  Along with a couple of clips, on the Protestia post you can also read some of Durbin’s words in the sermon:

So in light of these issues, BLM, LBGT, and the abortion issue, evangellyfish woke pastors – you say ‘homolust is not a sin,’ even though Jesus said sin begins in the heart. You say ‘we aren’t under the law, we’re under grace. We don’t need God’s stipulated standards of justice.’ Yet you throw up your Marxist communist fists shouting, ‘No justice, no peace!’ You swallowed the member of the Marxist denying what God says about our unity and identity in the Messiah, and you teach people that our identity is in our color. Shame on you. You deny God’s own word, accusing people of guilt for the sinful color of their ancestors. Thus, you invalidate the word of God for the sake of your woke bullshit.

…The woke evangelical whore is a slut who lies down in the middle of a burning city, spreading her legs to the rioters and looters, spreading her legs to Marx, Engels, Alinksy, and Soros. Only she knows the history. Marxism and Communism plunge nations into poverty. There’s no money in this for her, but she wasn’t looking for payment anyways. The evangelical woke slut is a slut whose behavior makes Cardi B’s WAP ( A filthy song whose acronym is ‘Wet Ass Pussy) look like performance art for preschoolers.

…Pray that God removes these pimps from the pulpit and fills it with prophets who will keep his bride pure and faithful.

People apparently complained about his cussing.  But it’s not the cussing that’s offensive: It’s the misogyny, racism and homophobia! My searches led to this article, which contains a video of Durbin explaining his views on abortion.  He believes that women who have abortions should be subject to the same penalty as someone who, say, murders her teenage child–which can be the death penalty.  If you watch it, you can see him and his friends with long beards, apparently “hipsters.”  They’re trying to look cool, and Protestia compares his manner to “Mark Driscoll and edgy Youth Pastors everywhere.”

So–Mark Driscoll, Doug Wilson–both names that ring bells because they’ve been all over the spiritual abuse blogs in the past decade.  Is Durbin another spiritual abuser? Pulpit and Pen would say yes.  They have a whole post describing Durbin’s tendency to tape-record conversations and then use them against people later, including a private confession.  Not only that, but his church has membership covenants, which the Wartburg Watch and many other sources warn against.  One person left the church, and when he tried to join a different church:

Rod Boyd was an attender but never a member of Apologia Church, and yet Jeff Durbin was insisting that Jesus Christ himself would condemn both Rod and Daniel on the Day of Judgment for not recognizing Apologia Church’s discipline upon a non-member.   Luke Pierson reminded Daniel that Apologia members who left for Daniel’s [church] plant were not being “faithful unto death” to Apologia, as required by their membership certificate.

The post also describes incidents in which a 12-year-old girl was getting “sinful” texts from a member of Durbin’s household.  It doesn’t go into detail, but it seems clear they were sexual.  A member of the household also engaged in “inappropriate behavior” with her at a sleepover.  The Durbins initially slandered the girl as a predator, until they saw the “sinful” texts.  It isn’t clear who the member of the household was; was it an adult, or one of the Durbin children?  Was it statutory rape, or was it typical consensual behavior between kids of the same age?  I don’t know.  But whatever it was, the Durbins were spreading lies about the girl.

This video, by a Mormon who had issues with Durbin, reveals that Durbin throws around the word “Marxist” even when you’re talking theology he doesn’t agree with, and is very abusive with people he argues with.  He says at the end that Durbin and James White are manipulative liars with questionable moral character and judgment; he says their behavior (such as saying women should get the death penalty for abortion) is not normal; and that he suspects more people will start coming out with stories about them.

It is very concerning to see “pastors” such as this coming out with abusive language toward people in the churches who dare to have different political views than their own, who dare to look into the issue of systemic racism and consider whether homosexuality is truly sinful.  Basically, Durbin and others like him are setting themselves up to be the arbiter of what is the correct view to take on everything, including patriarchy, white supremacy, and LGBTQ+.  And if you disagree, they call you a wolf, say you’re antichrist, say you’re in sin, call you a “slut,” accuse you of “homolust,” call you a Marxist, and say that you need to be “disciplined” if you won’t take their “correction.” And they do it all with hipster beards and tattoos.

Hate is filling our churches as Trumpism takes over

What’s going on right now has a lot in common with the early 20th century German church.  I do my research and see lots of parallels.  Yesterday I discovered one of these hate-filled preachers named Jeff Durbin is saying crap like the following:

He’s calling me a slut who opens her legs to Marx, Engels, Soros….  I’ve seen clips of other videos he posts, and they’re full of hateful tirades against people he doesn’t even know because they disagree with him.

And this is hardly the only guy.  Some googling and reading of blog posts reveals a whole lot of pushback in the churches to people they call “woke” and “social justice warriors.”  They sound like Nazis with their patriarchal white supremacy, which includes derision for those who support gay marriage (like Durbin here, who uses the term “homolust”).  I don’t just see this on Evangelical websites, but on Orthodox ones as well.

You go into comment sections, you watch videos, you read news articles, and you’ll find a lot of people saying that these people are in “sin” and need to “repent”–and if they don’t, that they need to be tossed out of the church!

I’ve read the Bible numerous times.  I’ve studied the words of Christ.  I know what Christianity is, and this ain’t it.  It is the spirit of antichrist–yet they say *we* are the spirit of antichrist.

Trumpism is taking over everything: the GOP, the church.  It’s a poison that keeps spreading.  He didn’t start it by any means, but he’s given them carte blanche to say these things openly.  These are dangerous times; I study history, and I’ve seen what this leads to.  These were all Nazi beliefs: patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia, anti-Semitic theories (such as Illuminati, New World Order, and the constant slander against George Soros).

The Nazis promised the churches that they would bring back “Christian” ideals, that they could pray in schools again, etc.  The German church embraced Naziism the same way that the modern churches are embracing this anti-woke philosophy.  They were so deluded that they saw Christ in the Nazis.  Let’s not make the same mistake.

Don’t force me to share a common spoon during COVID

First the American archbishop said that we should use separate spoons.  Then regional metropolitans, including ours, began to direct their parishes that no, we will NOT change any communion practices.  When people praise these metropolitans, I think, “You’re praising people for making it impossible for people like me to take Communion for a year and a half; you’re praising people for possibly condemning thousands to contract COVID.”

Yet GOARCH has published articles (see below) explaining that sharing communion spoons is NOT the unchangeable from-the-beginning Tradition people think it is.

Meanwhile, I’m stuck knowing that established science is FACT–confirmed by experiment and reproduction of results, not subject to what you think about it–and how disease spreads.  Social distancing–wearing masks, not kissing the icons, not wiping your mouth on the communion cloth, no coffee hour, sitting apart–seems all for naught if you stick a spoon in your mouth that somebody else just had in their mouth.  That’s the way germs spread!  In an article I link below, Fr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas writes,

Some who wish to retain the common spoon believe it is sufficient to teach the communicants to tilt their head back and open their mouth wide, so that the priest may drop or pour the sacred elements into the mouth of the recipient. The aim of this method is to avoid touching the communicant’s mouth and lips. However, this model is not fail-safe; it does not guarantee the desired outcome.

I’ve tried that, only to have the altar server tell me to close my mouth on the spoon.  And my mouth is small, according to my dentist; my jaw has TMJ; I simply can’t open wide enough.  The priest nearly always seems to dribble the wine all over my face, and now they say they don’t want us to wipe our faces on the cloth.  If there is some “special” way to receive that avoids all this, I’ve never been taught how to do it.  I greatly miss the communion cups I grew up with.

It feels like many in the church insist on sacrificing health for the sake of “tradition”–and will end up killing many of us, while this disease spreads without any sort of vaccine or reliable treatment expected for another year.  Even for those who survive, yes that’s most people, but we don’t know yet what all the long-term repercussions will be.  We’re already seeing the body adversely affected in other ways, in children, the young and healthy, middle-aged, and elderly.

I do know that many times I’ve come home with some kind of illness that somebody at church had.  How do you KNOW it didn’t come from sharing a spoon with them?  You’d have to do an actual experiment using the scientific method to prove this.  Has anyone ever done this?

Before COVID, I shared the spoon because I could count on my vaccinations and strong constitution to keep me safe from dying from something spread at church; not this time.  This puts us in the same camp as the Evangelicals who went to church during the shutdowns saying they’re “covered by the Blood”–and then they got sick with COVID and many died.  We have many stories of churches around the world holding services or other meetings during COVID, only to have large numbers of the congregation get sick and even die from it.  Obviously, God is not miraculously keeping these people safe after not following health guidelines.

During the Spanish Flu of 1918,

In the deeply pious Spanish city of Zamora, for example, the local bishop defied the health authorities by ordering a novena – evening prayers on nine consecutive days – in honour of Saint Rocco, the patron saint of plague and pestilence. This involved churchgoers lining up to kiss the saint’s relics, around the time that the outbreak peaked. Zamora went on to record the highest flu-related death rate of any city in Spain, and one of the highest in Europe. —The Guardian

This Thing isn’t over yet, and a second wave is expected.

Catholic churches have changed their practices to reflect the COVID risk.  They’re the closest church to us in theology and practice, and even they are taking this seriously.  The Protestant churches I was in as a young person, all had individual cups with grape juice in them.  Only the Orthodox are forcing people to share a spoon to commune, with some people making it a litmus test of faith to browbeat those of us who don’t think this is safe.  It’s not HOW the communion is given to us that is the absolute unchanging Tradition-That-Must-Never-Change: It is the elements of the communion, the bread and wine, that are important.  Everything else is subject to change.  Remember that when people started doing this, they didn’t know about germs.

From this article by Fr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas, I’m surprised to learn that the Orthodox church hasn’t even been doing this for 1000 years.  The practice used to be more like the Catholics, with bread distributed into the hand and then the chalice offered by the deacon.  In fact, using a common spoon was initially seen as an Innovation, which is frowned upon in Orthodoxy.  He writes,

The method by which Communion is administered is purely functional. It serves a practical purpose. Thus, as warranted by needs and circumstances, a local Church in its collective wisdom and authority is free to adapt, modify, and manage the method by which Holy Communion is distributed. Whatever method a Church chooses, the single most important concern is that it does not violate any dogmas and that it is appropriate; that it upholds and maintains the dignity of the sacred act of communing.

We learn from St. Nikodemos that during plagues priests were known to use arbitrary methods to administer communion to the sick and dying.[7] In a comment on canon 28 of the Penthekte Synod, he chides the clergy for using unsuitable methods to deliver Communion to the sick. He recommends a more appropriate method. He writes: “Hence, both priests and prelates must employ some shift in time of a plague to enable them to administer communion to the sick without violating this canon; not, however, by placing the holy Bread in currants, but in some sacred vessel, so that the dying and the sick may take it thence with tongs or the like. The vessel and the tongs are to be placed in vinegar, and the vinegar is to be poured into a funnel, or in any other manner that they can that is safer and canonical.”[8]

St. Nikodemos’ brief note is significant in two ways. First, he insists the vessels used for Communion be sterilized with vinegar, a popular disinfectant from ancient times. This is an acknowledgment that the vessels or instruments used for communing could be contaminated by dangerous parasitic microbes. Second, he insists that the instrument be fitting for the purpose.

In the past forty years several worldwide deadly epidemics, AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and MERS provoked fear among the people. Presently, the world is experiencing another more frightening global threat: the pandemic coronavirus or COVID-19, a contagion with lethal force which has upended all social, economic, political, cultural, and religious norms. People are justly apprehensive and frightened. The disease has already infected millions of people and claimed the lives of thousands globally. As with the preceding epidemics, the highly contagious coronavirus has many people wondering and questioning the continued use of a common spoon for Communion.

The real fears, reservations, and apprehensions of the people should not be dismissed with an air of superiority or a call to greater faith, as if the act of communing is void of human considerations and the limitations of the created order. People want to feel safe, listened to, and protected by their Church. They do not want to be exposed to unnecessary risks, nor should they be.

Statements like, “the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, and the medicine of immortality,” or “the Eucharist is a divine remedy, a divine medicine,” may be true. But they are not sufficient to calm the fears and concerns of the faithful. People are not questioning the sacred character and identity of the Holy Gifts but the reliability of the instrument by which the Gifts are offered to them.

Orthodox sacramental theology, distinguishes between what is mystical and what is physical. The divine realities in each sacrament are distinct from the material elements by which they are mediated. We believe and confess that the eucharistic Gifts—the bread and wine—are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ through the prayer of the Church and the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. The change, however, is mystical and not physical. The bread and wine preserve their natural properties and qualities and are bound to the natural laws of their kind.[9] The mode by which the transformation of the Gifts takes place remains a profound mystery. But we know by faith that the change occurs, so that Christ may become our food in order to impart his life to us (John 6:56).

The communion spoon is an imperfect material object. It does not share in the incorruptibility of the risen and deified Body of Christ which is really present to us through the eucharistic elements. On its own, the spoon is simply a spoon, a utensil. Its dignity is derived from its use as the instrument by which the Body and Blood of Christ is offered to his people. Long ago, it replaced an older venerable form of communing. The use of a spoon to commune the people was an innovation.

From my Twitter last night and today:

ARGH–The Archbishop says to allow separate spoons, but our Metropolitan won’t let us do that. Even the Catholics aren’t doing this. >:(  ”

I guess I’m not taking the Eucharist until a vaccine comes out. I had held out hope that our Metropolitan would be sensible after the Archbishop directed the use of separate spoons.

And to be frank, I never did like the practice of sharing spoons. I have to avert my eyes to not get grossed out, have to block out from my mind where it’s been. I’ve always wished we’d do separate cups, like I grew up with.

I believe in science and the scientific method. I cannot believe that something is safe from contagion just because a religious leader tells me it is or that I have to have “faith.” We saw Evangelicals say they’re “covered by the blood” and then get COVID. Same thing.

The right keeps dismissing us as being “afraid” of COVID, of acting with “fear.” It’s not fear: It’s recognizing how disease spreads, and acting to prevent that. Sharing a spoon with a sick person makes you sick.

Fact: I have come home from church with an illness countless times.

In listening to the Archbishop’s comments about this, I am very relieved to find out that my views on sharing a spoon–not just during COVID, but generally–are actually very common among, as he termed it, the “younger generations.”

People have been condemning the archbishop lately for everything he does.  Whether right or wrong in other issues, I really don’t know (though I’ve heard some rumors).  But his support of hygienic practices during COVID is Correct, and his marching with the BLM protestors is Correct.  Supporting the closure of churches during COVID is also Correct, because churches are a prime spot for disease to spread during pandemics.

If you doubt this, just read the history of the Spanish Flu.  People complained back then about churches being closed, same as now, and when they defied the orders, the Spanish Flu spread rapidly through the congregation and lots of people died.  Science is not subject to your belief system; it is the way the world works.  We’re not supposed to test God by handling snakes to “prove” that He won’t let us get bitten.

WTF is wrong with this country lately?  Refusing to wear masks and even yelling at people who do?  Being safe from disease didn’t use to be a partisan issue!  Lately it seems like you have to check your brains at the door regarding illness if you’re a Republican–and also in some branches of Christianity.

BTW, yeah I know I haven’t posted here about the protests going on the past couple of weeks–but my Twitter is a completely different story.  I’ve been following the BLM protests and posting about them on Twitter and on Facebook.  If you want to keep up with my political retweets and rants, best to follow me on Twitter, where I’m much more active than I have been on my blog lately.  There’s just too much going on all the time, and I don’t have the time to blog about everything.  On Twitter, I can just share something or make a quick comment and get back to the multitude of tasks I have to do every day (like the housecleaning which I’m *supposed* to be doing right now).  So follow me here.

Update 6/8/20:

Eastern Orthodox priests from Russia, Belarus, and Georgia also have argued that sacramental wine contains strong alcohol in which diseases perish.

But most medical experts reject that premise.

They note that the very strongest fortified wine contains no more than 20 percent alcohol — and that most wine contains around 12 percent alcohol.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the ethyl alcohol found in hard liquor can destroy less aggressive viruses. But it says ethyl alcohol should be at a concentration of 60-80 percent in order to be potent against influenza.

The Federation of Hospital Doctor Unions in Greece — home to one of the oldest and most influential branches of Orthodox Christianity — has also weighed in on the spoon debate.

It warns that no exceptions should be made to state health warnings “for religious, sacramental, or metaphysical reasons.” —Source

Also see this letter from an OCA priest about the current situation.

Update 8/14/20:

Just today I saw these guidelines from the CDC which confirm this is a dangerous practice:

Who needs to quarantine?

People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months.

What counts as close contact?

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you

So basically, if you shared a spoon at church with someone diagnosed with COVID, you should now quarantine for 14 days!  And if you get the rest of your household sick, you’re isolated from work etc. for even longer than that:

What if another household member gets sick with COVID-19? Do I need to restart my quarantine?

Yes. You will have to restart your quarantine from the last day you had close contact with anyone in your house who has COVID-19. Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and you had close contact, you will need to restart your quarantine.

 

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.

 

Our church in schism: Russia vs. EP

I’ve waited to write about this as I gathered information on what it means, and as I waited for my priest to get his instructions on how to proceed.

The schism between the Russian Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch is very grave.  While here in the Diaspora, we’re half a world away from this and have nothing to do with it, we still are affected by it.

There are many repercussions in America to being told that Russians can no longer commune or share any other sacraments with those under the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP; includes the Greeks in America).  The following is taken from how my priest explained it, along with my own thoughts:

Here, we are of a minority faith, so the members of all the different Orthodox jurisdictions come together.  Maybe we have Greek churches, Russian churches and the like, but we also have Pan-Orthodox churches and services, such as an annual Vesper service in this region.  And a Russian is welcome to come into a Greek church and commune, and vice versa.  Which is especially necessary because many communities have only one type of Orthodox church for miles around.  I read about churches which have members from all over the place: Russians, Greeks, Serbians, etc. etc.

The schism is not because of dogmatical differences, as my priest says, but because of two hierarchs disagreeing.  It’s the biggest schism since the Big One in 1054.  He sees it as a great tragedy.

The EP, from what I understand, has not broken communion with Russia, though Russia has with him.  My priest says that Russians are welcome in our church, even if they don’t take communion with us.

The trouble is that Russia has said that its members are not allowed to share any sacraments or even services at EP churches.   And ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) supports the actions of the Russian patriarch and has also separated from the EP.

In my own church is someone from the Crimea who loves our church.  She’s too far from churches of her own jurisdiction to go there often.  A few weeks ago, she could come to our church without any hindrance or feeling like it’s a sin.  Now, she’s being told she can’t.  Not by US–we tell her we want her to keep coming, and Father will also let her keep coming–but by Russia.  And her mother.  Our church members told her this is men arguing, and that what matters is what’s in her heart.

And we’re just one church.  Just the thought of how many people this is going to affect, all the disruptions it will cause in the Diaspora, people who can no longer commune with their own families (ie, Russian married to Greek), people who no longer have a church to go to, breaking of Pan-Orthodox events…. When the split happened, I read on an Orthodox forum about someone who was supposed to be a godfather in a few days.  Now all of a sudden, he couldn’t do it.  Imagine the scramble to find a godparent, and after the parents had already decided they wanted him to do it!  Imagine the honor which was ripped out of his hands.

As one person said last week after the service: And they wonder why church attendance is dropping!

 

Explaining the pentagram on one of my site headers

Just now I was looking at my site on the large-screen computer in the basement.  I usually use a laptop, and wanted to know if it looks the same….

One of my new site headers, on the large screen, showed a big, bold inverted pentagram I hadn’t noticed before on my small screen.  Okay, I thought, this is an old German building–It can’t be Satanic, can it?

I got the picture from public domain and didn’t know what it was.  A little Googling turned it up.  It’s actually a medieval church, the Marktkirche, and the pentagram symbolized epiphany at that time: Marktkirche

 

 

Reblog: The Adoration of the Konvertsky

From Second Terrace’s The Adoration of the Konvertsky:

I will deal more ethically with the reflexive irony. How go the konvertsky — that famous (or infamous) influx of unlikely American Anglicans and distraught establishment Protestants, and even more unlikely mishmash of “free church” Evangelicals and Charismatics — that immigrated into that patently odd jurisdictional ambiguity of the American Orthodox Church?

I hope that the majority of those who have left their own heterodox “Ur” and entered the Orthodox nave of Canaan have stayed. I hope that they and their families have continued along the eternal path of becoming, and have tasted the first fruits of theosis. I hope they have learned of the Church’s tradition and “theoria,” and have become wise in responding to the foolhardiness of this contemporaneity. I hope they have become adept at fighting the passions, and fending off the feints and wiles of the loathsome powers.

…There are, as you might expect, anecdotes, as far as data is concerned. I am aware of several narratives of ex-protestants who tell stories of disillusionment after five to ten years in Orthodoxy. The first apprehensions of beauty have worn off, and the frustration of relationships and disappointments have set in.

Other, more extreme, narratives include the exposure to egregious ecclesiastical misbehaviors. Some converts have seen Bad Things — and some of these converts have had Bad Things done to them. Some of them have seen persons in the Church not only ape the patterns of the world (“world” in its negative, not John 3.16, sense) — but have seen churchmen actually surpass the world in worldly behavior. Some converts have seen the Church replicate the marketplace DNA, having given religious preference to the term “entrepreneur” and have adopted the management-by-objective procedure and newspeak of corporate America.

…You take Communion differently now, and Chrismation is a one-way seal. You never experienced those things before — but the other part of deification is a providentially-ordered sequence of burden-bearing and grace-sharing. The disappointments from other people are such that God has elected you to bear that particular burden, and to bear His Grace to those particular people.

Yes, they hurt your feelings, but in our hurt feelings is His strength made manifest, and through our hurt feelings do we find the sufficiency of His Grace.

The entire blog post is here; it goes into the various kinds of converts–from the former Evangelicals and fundies, such as me, to former mainline Protestants–and various reasons why we can get disenchanted with Orthodoxy.  It includes the political right-wingers and left-wingers.  It goes into reasons why we should stay put and work on our own judgmentalism (wherever we fit on the spectrum of converts).

Reblog: What Christians Get Wrong About Sexual Abuse

At many conservative Christian colleges, identifying what the victim is responsible for becomes a central part of how administrations interact with them. Counseling processes and disciplinary actions all have a common bent: What do you, the victim, need to repent of? Where are you at fault? While this line of questioning is probably well-intentioned, it is based in a lie that abusers would love for us to continue believing: that victims are complicit in their own abuse.

It is absolutely vital that Christians do the hard work of earnestly evaluating how our beliefs about sin and redemption can create opportunities for abusers. Creation, Fall, Redemption—that is the glorious story of our faith. But Jesus also called for us to be as “wise as serpents,” and the New Testament is filled with pleas from the Apostles not to be deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

–Read the full post by Samantha Field at What Christians Get Wrong About Sexual AbuseRelevant Magazine