Category: religion

Time to turn the tables: Conservatives do NOT define Christianity!

I’ve been seeing a lot of crap online lately about Christians having to follow a certain conservative-defined set of beliefs.  I’ve been complaining about it on Facebook and Twitter; I’ve been feeling abused, traumatized, and very, very tired.

So yet another conservative (Matt Walsh this time) is shooting his mouth off about what “Christian” means and saying,

I don’t care how you feel about Trump, if you’re a Christian you cannot support Joe Biden. The fact is that Joe Biden supports and will impose policies that contradict the moral tenets of your faith at the deepest levels. The same cannot be said for Trump. And it’s that simple.

(I replied, “NOPE.  Conservatives don’t get to dictate to us what “Christian” means.  They’re backing a monster.  I’m sick of people saying you can’t be “Christian” if you’re a Democrat.  I’M DONE.”)

And the other day I learned about a pastor saying that people in his church who are “woke” need to be subjected to Matt 18 church discipline, with excommunication a possibility.  Then there’s a poster on The Ancient Way forum–who I remember from when I posted there between 2005 and 2010?–saying this:

Well, as far as whether kooks are dealt with appropriately, I’d say it’s the general problem of people entering the Church and thinking their own ideas to be the mind of the Church, and refusing correction from the consensus of Holy Tradition. Many walk around with all kinds of ideas out of whack with Tradition. Some think divorce from other churched Orthodox and remarriage to be perfectly fine and necessary, others that same sex sexual relations or other sexual relations outside of holy matrimony are not sin, still others that women ought to be priests, some hold that the words of Christ on some issues today are not relevant, a few do think that interracial marriage is somehow bad, and even more think that a majority race ought to be prosecuted if not persecuted for imagined “privilege” and alleged inherent unconscious racism, all ideas that were never taught by the fathers. This refusal to be corrected by the Tradition of the Church constitutes sin, a failure of obedience, humility, and submission. Anything we say, including me, should be subject to such correction. —rusmeister

(I remember this person.  I saw him as a fanatic 15 years ago, too.  He’s the one who yelled at me when I came to the forum asking for advice after witnessing Tracy abusing one of her kids.  It shocked another poster, who privately messaged me with resources if I needed them.  Rusmeister is an American convert always praising Russia and dissing everything Western–and, by the way, he said that blacks have no right to complain about how they’re treated because he sees REAL oppression in Russia. 🙄 )

Then there’s the Ayn Randites who say screw poor people, screw the old, screw the sick, take off your masks and just let them all die: It’ll siphon off the excess population and be great for the economy.  (You’ll find such a person, Matthew Harvey, in the comment section here.)

Then there’s the multitudes of conservatives acting all butt-hurt because the rest of the world doesn’t want to follow their Archie Bunker ideas anymore of what makes good TV or comics or movies or books.  Maybe we got tired of how women and minorities were being portrayed.  Maybe we got tired of fat jokes and wife jokes and dumb women having to be rescued.  DEAL WITH IT.  The culture has moved on.

And don’t forget how, for many years now, we’ve been called libtards, Demoncrats, feminazis, accused of having a mental disease, because we refuse to let money-grubbing fat capitalists tells us what’s best for us or the environment.

Then there’s the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories–Illuminati, QAnon, New World Order, Soros, etc.–which all come straight out of the Nazi playbook.

Plus there’s a multitude of forum posts, tweets, blogs, placards, bumper stickers, TV shows, magazines, articles, etc. etc. etc. telling us that “Christianity” means “vote for the GOP so they can make abortion/homosexual marriage etc./whatever we don’t like illegal!”

You know what?  You can shove it all.  I’ve read the Bible so many times I can’t even count anymore.  What you’re pushing is NOT CHRISTIANITY.  It’s your own Pharisaical, man-made Christianity.  There is no truth in it, only oppression, only white patriarchal dominance.

I’m sick of people like this telling me what “Christianity” means and–every time somebody tries to point out that Trump is the opposite of Christian–saying that Dems, Biden, whoever, is in favor of abortion.  That’s just whataboutism, ignores all the realities of the issue, and takes the focus off the real atrocities being committed in the name of Christ by an antichrist named Trump.  So we’re supposed to forget all about the kids in cages, the poor being oppressed, people losing their healthcare, women losing their hard-won rights, minorities and immigrants and LGBTQ+ feeling frightened, because Biden doesn’t believe in the government getting between a woman and her doctor and conscience?

We’re supposed to back down and say “Oh, I’m sorry, you know best, I don’t” and let you keep dominating the discussion?  We’re supposed to let you keep defaming the name of Christ?  We’re supposed to let people like this continue to smear mud all over Christianity just as they have for hundreds of years?  These people are the reason why non-Christians hate Christians!  They are the reason why we don’t get more converts, why so many people are instead leaving the churches in droves!  They see the hypocrisy and want no part in it!

It’s time to fucking turn some tables over.  It’s time to stop letting the conservatives dominate everything.  It’s time to stop being polite.  They DON’T define Christianity.  They don’t even know what it is.

This also kind of relates to another issue: A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted,

Someone else’s post on a totally unrelated incident re: abuse and shame turned on a light bulb for me: Even though I myself published on my site my stories of abuse, I still get uneasy about “exposure.” Why is that? Because the abusers made me feel ashamed, and it still lingers.

Basically, in a private forum, there was a discussion about someone who posted their abuse story, and whether it was the right of other people to share it.  Someone noted that abusers so shame their victims that they still fear exposure, even when they know what was done to them was wrong.

It explained to me why I get nervous about people reading the many abuse stories I’ve posted here, even though they are public.  You’ll note that I don’t use my real name; I also get very protective about my real name on Twitter, where a group of trolls occasionally tries to “out” me.

That’s because my many abusers tried to shame me, make me feel like it was my fault they treated me that way.  It still lingers, still comes out when I see trolls or abusers going through my site, still occasionally makes me want to take all the stories down off the Web.

But this is all part of the Shame culture perpetuated in conservatism: It permeates everything, from your sexuality, to your beliefs, to your thoughts, to any deviation from the accepted dogma on any issue, whether religious or political or social.

Shawn, for example, shamed me because he had taken in himself the patriarchal Purity culture idea that the woman is responsible for stopping a man from whatever he wants to do.  So even though it was always his idea, and I always let him lead, he turned it into MY character failing, MY fault, MY disgustingness.

Phil shamed me for not letting him be right in everything, for not letting him have his way in everything.

Tracy shamed me for not following a strict code of behavior from the oppressive Purity culture; she and Richard shamed me for not following the extrovert’s code of behavior.

All of them are WRONG.

I have no reason to be ashamed because other people abused me.  That is all on them.

I have no reason to be ashamed because I don’t fit somebody else’s idea of what it means to be a Christian.  I have my own mind, my own heart.  I can think for myself.  I can reason.  I don’t have to submit to anyone else’s ideas.

Time to turn some tables.  DON’T YOU SPEAK FOR ME.

 

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.

 

Some groups think Trump is the Messiah?

So I’m checking out the blog of a fundamentalist who claims that Trump is indeed the Antichrist at the End of the World–not sure whether to believe, but curious how he counters objections and explains his points.  Then I come across this:

But nevertheless, Orthodox Jews do believe their messiah will be Jewish and of the house of David – which is true of the True Messiah, Jesus. But they do not recognize Jesus, and so they still search for their Jewish messiah, a false christ, the Antichrist. Please watch my video.. https://youtu.be/F-UxKCzsURI – This video observes that some Orthodox Jews are searching Donald Trump’s ancestry to find a link to King David. –Brother James, Misconception: Antichrist Will be Jewish and Not a Gentile

The video led me to this article in the Christian Post: Some Rabbis in Israel Believe Trump Could Be Messiah or His Forerunner, End Times Author Says  Lots of crazyness is there; especially note this:

“We would say the second coming is about to happen, but their messiah is going to be a false messiah. He’s going to be the anti-Christ, right? I also don’t believe Donald Trump is the antichrist. So I think the smart ones in Israel are looking at him right now, saying, he is God’s, what we would call, John the Baptist. He is God’s messenger. When he takes over in January there is a 5777 countdown to the appearance of the messiah,” Horn added.

The Jerusalem Post reported last month that Shas Chairman and Minister Aryeh Deri said Trump’s election could herald the coming of the messiah due to the blow he expects the next president will strike against the “non-Orthodox Jewish hold on the U.S. government.”

(So–If Trump is the forerunner, could the messiah be–Putin?)

Some groups think Trump is the Messiah? 1

I checked the Jerusalem Post link and did a little googling, and there is indeed such a person as Deri making such claims about Trump.  Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been doing everything he can to benefit from friendship with Trump, which has been fulfilling his wishlist.  Netanyahu has been playing into Trump’s narcissism, even naming a Golan Heights settlement after him.  ABC News reports an Israeli group is selling a special-edition Trump coin.

From Henry Siegman’s What my escape from Hitler’s Germany taught me about Trump’s America:

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has presented itself to the world as an avatar of democracy and guardian of the moral truths the world needs to learn about the Holocaust. Yet its governmental leaders and a majority of its Jewish citizens—led by its prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu—have fully embraced Trump (as well, in some instances, as the authoritarian leaders embraced by Trump).

Giant posters and photographs of Trump were recently plastered on the streets and public places of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Declaring “Trump is a friend of Zion” and “Trump Make Israel Great,” they expressed adoration of the man who doubled down on his insistence on the moral equivalence of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and the Americans who took to the streets to express their abhorrence of these racists and anti-Semites.

So I don’t know how pervasive a belief in Trump as the messiah/forerunner actually is in Israel.  But there are certainly groups pushing the idea.  And to see a malignant narcissist such as Trump–one of the worst people this world has ever produced–viewed as a messiah is frightening.  He has a lot in common with, say, Hitler or Nebuchadnezzar.  Many of us see him as far more likely to be the Antichrist at the End of the World.  Or at least one of many antichrists which have popped up throughout history.

Meanwhile, I keep finding various accounts that some Evangelicals don’t bother fighting climate change because they see it as the End of the World rapidly approaching–meaning Christians finally triumph over their enemies.

Whether you believe or not that the Bible truly prophesies the End of the World, complete with plagues and the Beast (Antichrist) and one-world government etc., many people do believe and behave accordingly.  And we have several facts in front of us.

One is that climate change is real and is already leading to catastrophe around the world: erosion, fires, mass extinctions, floods, extreme heat, extreme storms, etc.  People are already losing their homes and being forced to move because of it; animals and other creatures are also on the move.  I’ve seen reports that farmers know very well that climate change is real, because they’re being forced to change their practices.  With or without prophecy, climate change could lead to the End of the World if we do nothing about it.

Another fact is that some groups of people are venerating Trump for various reasons, making him into a god.

No matter what you believe about biblical prophecy, these are very dangerous factors that could turn the End of the World into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fight back, not sit back and allow this to happen because of our own stupidity.

 

Trump, Putin, and the Antichrist

I was raised in premillennial dispensationalism during Rapture Fever. I’ve tried to set that all aside and be more amillennial, after much study and becoming Orthodox–but those alarm bells keep going off these days.  Many people have been wondering if Trump is actually the Antichrist, if maybe it’s time to take those End of the World predictions seriously after all.

It even trended on Twitter a while back, not seriously but jokingly–though some people pointed out alarming prophecies that sounded like him.  Shortly after, I tweeted that Trump can’t be the Antichrist if he gets impeached.  But then he said we were pulling out of Syria, and I tweeted that I take that back because here he goes and sparks Armageddon: His actions allowed captured ISIS members to escape, and Turkey and Putin to get what they wanted in Syria–along with one of our military bases.

However, Putin seems a more likely contender for the Antichrist, with the Russian Orthodox Church as his Prophet.

Trump may be too much of a puppet of other nations to be the Antichrist, too easily manipulated by Putin, Erdogan, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, etc.  Putin’s definitely smarter than Trump, and he’s got the Russian Orthodox Church in his pocket (the Prophet).  The last two patriarchs are rumored to have been KGB agents.  The church blesses nuclear weapons, and separated from the rest of us when the Ecumenical Patriarch allowed the Ukrainians to form their own church separate from Russia.  Putin’s tentacles have been reaching all over–all documented as truth, and not conspiracy theories, by intelligence agencies of various countries.

He’s even got members of the GOP doing what he wants, along with Trump.  We see signs of this in both the Mueller Report and the Ukrainian debacle, along with reports in the news of politicians being benefited by Russians, Saudis, and others.

(Such as, McConnell is accused of allowing the end of sanctions against companies owned by an oligarch named in the Mueller Report–so that one of those companies could build in Kentucky.  Also, a group of aides and former officials are accused of working around Congress in a potentially illegal deal to get nuclear power to Saudi Arabia–and fill the pockets of many.)

GOP House members have been pushing conspiracy theories that are confirmed by government officials (particularly Fiona Hill in the latest Impeachment Hearing) to have come straight from Russia’s propaganda machine, his cyber war to turn the West against Ukraine and weaken NATO.  The biggest proponents of these conspiracy theories in the hearings included Nunes and Jordan, trying to shout down and ridicule and silence witnesses and House reps who told the truth.

Through Trump, American Evangelicals are falling into Putin’s trap as well, supporting Putin’s own tool to bring down our democracy.

As an amillennialist and preterist, I believe that the events commonly attributed by dispensationalists to the End Times refer to events that have already happened in history, either before or after the apocalyptic books (Daniel, Revelations) were written.  Also, that several events referred to by Jesus happened in AD 70, when Jerusalem was besieged with devastating results.  (Josephus describes the horrific events, complete with cannibalism.)

But the Bible also refers to antichrists not as a one-time event, but as a spirit that continually emerges.  A good run-down of the various interpretations is here.  My studies, including of Orthodox interpretation, have led me to believe that the prophecies refer to things that have happened, and things that will continue to happen.  I thought we didn’t hold to any part of premillennial dispensationalism, but some Orthodox sources say the prophecies refer to the End Times as well.

So you can say that Antiochus Epiphanes was an antichrist.  Nebuchadnezzar was an antichrist.  Caligula was an antichrist.  Hitler is the most obvious antichrist of the twentieth century, with the state-supported church as his prophet, bringing the whole world into Armageddon, then finally defeated.  But he’s certainly not the only one even of that century.  Soviet Russia was full of the spirit of antichrist.  Communist China is also filled with the spirit of antichrist.

Trump is shaping up to be an antichrist of the 21st century, throwing our government into disarray, systematically setting himself up as a dictator until nobody is left around him but sycophants and justices who’ll do what he wants.  The great irony is that Evangelicals, after spending decades warning us of the Antichrist, didn’t recognize him and are now worshipping him, becoming his Prophet.

But there are many people in power now who qualify as an antichrist: Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Erdogan, Orban; the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is certainly shaping up to be one.  Trump is doing his best, but we still have the workings of democracy trying to get him in check.  But are any of these the Antichrist at the End of the World?

That one can’t be answered until it happens.  However, there are some significant elements now in the world that make it possible: Climate change, for one.  We’re getting countless accounts from scientists warning us that the clock is ticking and if we don’t make drastic changes, we could soon see the end of human life on Earth.  This has been going on since the Industrial Revolution, but never faster than now.  Yet governments keep ignoring the warning signs because their fat cats don’t want to lose money.  Another element is the computer age.  Putin has been infiltrating the elections of various NATO countries not with the military, but with the Internet.  He’s found it easy to manipulate millions through Twitter bots, not just in America but in the UK and probably other countries as well.  There are ridiculous, unfounded rumors of body counts around the Clintons, but there are actual body counts piling up around Putin.

But then again, throughout history, antichrists keep meeting their end.  They all die eventually, after all–often prematurely.  Hitler met a spectacular end–like the hand of God–that led to the destruction of Nazi Germany and the deaths of many of the people in charge.  Kingdoms and empires are strong for a time, but always fall eventually, sometimes thanks to people rising up and fighting back.  We may still turn climate change around.  Trump is most definitely going to be impeached; there are many reports of his health deteriorating, and if enough people speak out, the GOP Senate could very well change their minds about removing him.  Putin could meet his own end in one way or another, or we NATO countries could finally win the cyber war.

Ever since my teens, I’ve seen various predictions of the End of the World from Christian “prophets” who turned out to be wrong.  I don’t want to say we are definitely heading into the End Times only to find out nope, wrong again.  Maybe, like every time before, the antichrist will fall but the world will keep turning.  But we do need to keep an eye out for the spirit of antichrist, and take care not to fall into his trap–whether he is “an antichrist” or “THE Antichrist.”

Update 12/30/19: This is not specifically an “endorsement” because I haven’t checked out the site/videos yet.  But here’s somebody who is convinced that Trump is the Antichrist: Brother James Key

Update 6/23/20: Benjamin Corey, a “former fundie” who starts out planning to make light of the whole thing, ends up, as he puts it, “unsettled” by what he finds in biblical prophecy, here.  He updated his post a few weeks ago; things have happened since he originally wrote it that are alarming (such as COVID-19 and events during the BLM protests) and add more support to the idea that Trump could be an antichrist–or even the Antichrist.

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!