Recovering Fundamentalists Just another Site Host weblog Fri, 26 Mar 2010 10:50:30 +0000 en hourly 1 My Story – Christine Thu, 25 Mar 2010 00:00:00 +0000 Christine Whenever I feel the urge to testify regarding my former life as a born-again evangelical fundamentalist Christian, I head to my blog and throw a little piece of my former self onto my Hot-For-Jesus Former Fundie site. After over two years of blogging from both a satirical and serious angle about my Jesus days, I realize over and over again that no matter how much I write I have barely put a dent in my story. However, the testimony/story-telling helps me deprogram as my christian past continually loses its power over me.

Currently empathetic atheist with an appreciation for human wisdom whether pagan, christian, or buddhist (et. al), I grew up in a born-again household. We attended many, many churches, but were most comfortable among the Evangelical Free and Baptists. I’ll never forget the spurt of going up over the Canadian border every Sunday to attend a Mennonite Church. (wonderful people, btw)

I went forward and was baptized while in late elementary. I started singing for Jesus about that time and eventually became a camp counselor at a Baptist Bible camp, leading children to Christ. I faced doubts and strengthened my faith while at an Evangelical Lutheran college.

After college, I quickly left behind my English teaching career to pursue music and theater in the Big Cities. But there was a catch. I filtered every artistic endeavor through my belief system. More than once I turned down artistic opportunities because the message conflicted with my theology. I wrote and performed Jesus music because I truly believed that my talent/curse was to be used to praise him. Never one for witnessing to total strangers or even friends, I found my music gave me a way to tell of Christ’s love and salvation without having to interact one on one. I was semi-shy offstage, but loved being onstage. I was determined to use my gifts for the glory of God and thankful that he had given me a platform on which to praise him.

Then about 8 years ago, a veil lifted. I got in a car accident that woke me up to my priorities about Life. I left my faith behind almost immediately. There was little to no in-between stage for me, and I pity, and am in awe, of Christians who spend years and years agonizing over the “should I stay or should I go” question. I got out and have no regrets.

I know how believers respond to my leaving the faith. Who hasn’t heard the “you were tested and failed miserably” or “you were never a true believer to begin with” or “once saved, always saved?” The list goes on and on and on.

I blog about Jesus to help myself deprogram. I also encourage all de-converted to not be afraid to actively seek professional help or find a healthy support system of nonbelievers. After my accident, I knew I couldn’t go back to Solomon’s Porch, an Emerging Church I was beginning to Love. I knew I couldn’t explain why I no longer needed to be immortal to Chrisitan friends and family. I needed to talk and found a therapist who has been there for me when I need to talk.

A non-judgmental ear goes a long way. Never be ashamed to ask for help. There is no need to remain stoically silent, repress flashbacks or live in fear or pain. I know what it’s like to lose the sense of community that belonging to Christianity, a church, a family provides. Though my accident fast-forwarded the experience for me, I know what it’s like to experience vertigo while taking the leap from faith to solid ground.

Transitions and growth can be uncomfortable, but there is no need to be violent internally or externally to yourself. What I like about my yoga study is that I am constantly reminded that emotions and discomfort come and go – but I allow the struggle. The struggle is a blessing. I am alive. You are alive. It’s a good place to start.

I went from constantly censoring and double guessing every creative instinct to allowing myself to say pretty much anything I want. To some my attention to the sexual attractiveness of Jesus is pure blasphemy. I would like to say that being hot for Jesus is merely a shtick. After all, every good entertainer knows you gotta have a gimmick. But, honestly, though I’m quite familiar with the theology that questions Jesus’ historical hotness, I also want to publicly embrace with humor and honesty the fact that without a sexy god like Jesus, Christianity would have been SOL.

I could yack for many more paragraphs about “hottie Jesus eye candy and in-depth analysis of life before, during and after JC and company,” but everyone has a story to tell, and I’m glad to see people have the courage to talk about their lack of faith and what it was like to break up with Jesus. Thank you to the Recovering Fundamentalists site for creating a safe space for some of us to once again tell our story, chin up, loud and Proud.

Here’s to hoping that we not only remember to be compassionate – to others and to ourselves – but to remember to laugh out loud at our former selves.
Christine Vyrnon

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My Story – Rachel Weston Tue, 23 Mar 2010 20:44:45 +0000 Rachel Hi my name is Rachel. I live in the Midlands in England. I was brought up in the Bretheren church originally. My dad was (and still is to this day) a pastor of an evangelical church.

The church I knew for the first ten years of my life was very formal. Head coverings were worn by woman and girls and skirts and dresses were “the norm”. It was very boring!! I remember hearing a lot about satan, hell and damnation. We were not permitted to buy anything on a sunday. If a couple so much as kissed on the television, it was immediately turned off! and the cinema was prohibited! It was a very strict religious upbringing.

I used to go round telling the other children at infant school they would all go to hell if they didn’t accept Christ (but quickly realised it was not the best way of winning friends!!).

When I was about ten my father started his own church. This church was much more lively but had its own set of problems. They talked about the “gifts of the holy spirit” constantly and deliverance.

I was a very troubled child as had encountered a lot of sexual abuse from a young age (this however, was nothing whatsoever to do with my parents). As a result of this my young head was quite “messed” up and my behaviour changed and I became quite disruptive at school. I was moved to a private girls school and my parents began to think my change in personality was due to demons. I was exorcised in the hope this would put an end to my problems. However, it made things far far worse. I was a very angry child. I was angry with God, angry with my father and angry with the world. I began drinking from the age of 12 and realised this was an temporary escape for me. I now have a drink dependancy.

When I was around 18 I made the decision to join YWAM. I think this was partly to be accepted by my parents and partly because it was an excuse to travel (I went to Africa trying to “save the world”)
When I got back to the UK I discovered such hypocrisy in the church including church leaders in adultery and sunday school teachers molesting children and I made the decision to abandon my faith as I felt there were better people “outside church”. My relationship with my parents was never without its problems but from thereon it took a “turn for the worse”. Although I had rejected christianity I often suffered nightmares and thoughts about dying and hell. I felt partly relieved I had left but I still suffered the scars of indoctrination.

Years passed. I met my husband, had my children and then 3 years ago my husband lost his parents suddenly. I was vunerable and my dad wrote me a letter telling me I was “playing russian roulette with my soul”…..I now realise this was emotional blackmail but at the time felt saddened by my mother and father-in laws death and was confused. I ended up being “drawn back” into the doctrines of my youth. I went on an Alpha course (I don’t know if you have them in the USA – it is a introduction course to the christian faith ). I went with an open mind but ended up in debates with pastors and teachers over the bible. I noticed many discrepancies and there were things that just didn’t make sense to me. One lady told me to disregard all my questions and “just accept Jesus”. The problem with this that I simply couldn’t…..and if I did, I would have been lying to myself!!

In my mind there are two types of people in these churches. They either tend to be born into the church from birth or they have had huge problems in their lives. These can include alcoholism, drug abuse, child abuse etc… Sometimes people are just lonely and because they have no family and friends they are drawn to these churches because they are desperate to “belong”. It is quite sickening.

I have no intention to go back to the religion I was brought up in but am plagued by fears of hell, demons and dying. I have two children. They are 11 and 8. I have raised them to be freethinkers. If they choose to follow a religion one day that is their perogative. However, I refuse to indoctrinate them as I have been. It has caused me nothing but grief and heartache. Fortunately Marlene is counselling me via skype and is helping with to finally face my “demons”. However, my demons aren’t the ones I thought they were (as in spiritual entities connected to satan) but rather emotional scars from being fed this utter rubbish!!!

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My Story – Steve Smallwood Thu, 18 Mar 2010 08:00:00 +0000 Steve Smallwood My story begins in the suburbs of Central New Jersey in a Methodist church. My parents started going to church when I was young, and that dictated alot to me while I was growing up. Both of my parents are very educated, and I have the utmost love and respect for them still to this day. I always went to church and never really questioned The Good Book, and even when I saw pastors and people in authority misuse their power, I still kept believing and not questioning. We went from a Methodist church, then to a Baptist church for 2 years when I was in Junior High, and then I started going to a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. The church we went to was run like a business, and the whole principal is that in order to get into heaven, you need to share your faith with others. I never felt comfortable with that because I never liked trying to convince people to believe the same things I did. It made me feel like a salesman, not a spiritual person.

On the opposite side, I was very drawn by the desire to help others. I was always drawn by the story of the good samaritan, where a total stranger would help an adversary not for their own benefit, but because it was what God had wanted. For all the ridiculous hypocrites I met, I also met a small handful of people who’s lives were truly lived with the conviction that if they believed in God, then they should live it. These people, though all different, all exhibited some of the same qualities. It was because of these people that I made the decision to be a pastor. At least that’s what I thought I wanted.

Once I started attending bible college, first in Georgia and later in New York, I realized a few things. First off, I had no real focus to study the Bible in depth, and as a result, my biblical studies grades were atrocious. I also figured out that I would make a lousy pastor. The person I had become by the time I was 25 was years apart from the person I was at 18. After graduation and some time in the workforce, my mentor and one of my pastors invited me to California with him to help with a church plant. I liked California upon visiting, and decided a change from The Garden State would be nice. I’ve since left that church, which isn’t doing much at all currently.

So what brings me to agnosticism and borderline atheism? I’ll tell you. I started questioning things. I stopped believing the myth that God would always be there for me. Rotten things happen to everyone. That’s inevitable. It’s human nature. We all have the capacity for good and evil. Belief that we were created by some higher being stopped making sense to me. Science started making more sense. I got tired of feeling guilty by my alleged “sins”. I had fallen hostage to a dogmatic set of beliefs brought to me from others, but they were just ideas that can’t be proven. I don’t want faith without proof. I don’t believe that Jesus was crucified for my sins. I think Jesus was murdered unjustly by corrupt people who wanted to hold onto their power. Jesus’ life, not his death, were the true meaning of Christianity. However, Jesus wasn’t the only one to preach this message.

All in all, I’ve seen the good side of religion and the bad side. I’ve been feeling as of late that religion is outdated and that we can do better. I don’t want to have my life dictated by words in just one book that’s supposed to be holy, but was still written by normal men. I’ve let go of my guilt and embraced more logic than I have before. And I have to tell you…it feels great. And the best part? I can still give a damn about my neighbor without feeling any guilty about coercing them into what I believe.

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My Story – Michelle G. Lyerly-Wiener Mon, 15 Mar 2010 23:24:08 +0000 michelle g. lyerly-wiener Where to begin? Long story… Really long story. I’ll give you the shortened version.

I was raised Southern Baptist, but there was one problem- I never felt saved. I was also sent to Christian school from the time I was 3 years old. When I was in 6th grade, my parents sent me to an ultra-fundamentalist Christian school (Independent Baptist)- It was so different from anything I was used to, even though I well-acquainted with the hellfire sermons. That year, they showed us the infamous “Thief in the Night” series, and my fear of hell and the Second Coming multiplied exponentially. -Nightmares, waking up in cold sweats, etc.

My first year of college was right around Y2K, and I was dating a guy at that time who was obsessed with the Second Coming. He attended a small house church that turned into a doomsday cult in its own right. I still don’t like to talk about that period in my life, but have written about it at length in my book “Fundamentally Misguided.” No one intends to get sucked up into these things, but when you’re raised that way, that’s all you know. I still have nightmares from time to time about those experiences.

Recovery has not been easy, but my saving grace has been my studies. I have two masters degrees in the theological field, and even studied overseas with the WCC. I am thankful for these opportunities in my life, and do what I can to speak out on the issue of Religious Recovery. I have spoken on these issues before and am always happy to give talks when asked.

I recently authored a book that aided in my own recovery. It is entitled “The Brimstone Legacy,” ( about a fictitious school called Brimstone Biblical Academy, losely based on personal experience. Writing this book was so healing, and I am working on a sequel. It was fun to be able to joke about these experiences that scarred me for so long. – Growing up, you couldn’t just joke about these things!

Why have I decided to convert to Judaism? Well, I can assure you my husband is not the primary reason. I think I have been going in that direction for a very long time. (my hubby just gave me an excuse!) I still believe in the God of the Hebrew Bible, but I realized that I could no longer handle Jesus. All my life he had been treated as a god, and in many ways, he was above God. This is in violation of the First Commandment. (“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”) My whole life as a Christian, I felt my prayers were being re-routed and now I know exactly why! Through Judaism, I don’t have to go through an intermediary deity, and that for me is so comforting!

I had to be honest with myself- I held out as long as I could with Christianity and could take it no more. Jesus just isn’t for everyone! – Besides I don’t believe he ever wanted to be worshipped; he was trying to point us beyond himself to something greater! In my opinion, it is the fundamentalists who have it all wrong, but they want you to think it’s their way or the highway. It’s still hard living in the Bible Belt sometimes, because if you’re around them long enough, they can be so convincing, but I’ve learned you have to stay grounded in who you are.

Well that’s my story. I hope whatever your story, you find healing in your own journey. That’s what its all about! You have to find your own path, I am convinced. I am only one person, but I hope recounting my story has helped. We all need to keep speaking out, because there is some very real damage that has been done, and it’s not right!

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Indoctrination by Authoritarian Religion Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:14:19 +0000 Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dr. Marlene Winell speaks about the abusive effects of indoctrination by authoritarian religion. Keywords: ex-christian, fundamentalism, ex-fundamentalism, recovery from religion, spiritual abuse, toxic religion, free thought, freethinker, atheism, secular, humanism, deconversion.

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Evolution Made Easy Fri, 12 Feb 2010 19:08:12 +0000 Rob Steiner

The Theory of Evolution

Natural Selection

Human Evolution

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Lesson IV: Don’t Be Deluded by the Last Days Thu, 11 Feb 2010 00:31:37 +0000 Michael Camp Part 4 of “I Survived the Christian Right: Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home”

As a brand-new believer in 1979 I tended to accept the pre-tribulation Rapture view that the Bible predicts Jesus would return a second time before a period of tribulation, to whisk believers up to heaven and leave unbelievers behind to face seven years of apocalyptic trials. After reading several critiques of this view, I realized it was farcical and unbiblical[18], not to mention highly manipulative the way preachers or authors—Hal Lindsey in the 70s and 80s and Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) today—use it to “persuade” people to come to Christ, or else. Despite this, like the majority of evangelicals, I still believed the return of Christ was in the future and possibly eminent, given the state of the world.

Then around 1999, the preterists[19] entered my life; the likes of R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry, ironically conservative evangelicals who introduced the notion that everything that Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was fulfilled between 64 and 70 AD.[20] They also viewed the speculation around the return of Christ as madness[21] and the book of Revelation as written prior to 70 AD;[22] hence its predictions were not speaking about thousands of years in the future.

Their reasoning was refreshing. They cried Bible abuse by dispensationalists and the bulk of evangelicals in the widespread unreasonable belief that Jesus spoke of two events in the Olivet Discourse: a coming calamity on Jerusalem within a generation, and then in the next breath about his return to earth 2000 years in the future. After reading the preterists, I reread all those prophetic verses and suddenly they made perfect sense.[23]

What I didn’t expect was to come to believe these preterists weren’t going far enough. Considered “partial preterists,” they still believe in a future return of Christ at the time of the resurrection. But for this position to stand, there must be two second comings of Christ, one in 70 AD in judgment on Jewish Temple worship and one at a future resurrection. But this view is problematic because the New Testament does not speak of two second comings at all, or more accurately, a third coming. I found myself agreeing with the “consistent preterists,”[24] who say that all the prophecies about Jesus returning occurred at or before 70 AD based on a rational reading of the New Testament and first century historical evidence.[25]

Imagine that for a moment. Jesus has already returned. The drama is over. There is no need to unmask the mystery or fear the Antichrist, let alone shape American foreign policy around the return of Christ and the end of the world.

Get on with the business of saving the planet and promoting social justice in the world without secretly believing it will all be for naught in the end.

[18] DeMar, Gary, Last Days Madness: The Obsession of the Modern Church
[19] Preterists believe biblical events were fulfilled in the past as opposed to futurists, who believe they will be fulfilled in the future.
[20] Sproul, R.C., The Last Days According to Jesus, and Josephus, The Jewish Wars
[21] DeMar, Gary, Op. cit.
[22] Gentry, Kenneth, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation
[23] e.g. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this generation shall certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Matthew 24:34 and “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 1:1
[24] J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia, and
[25] Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius. They cite occurrences of false prophets, famines, earthquakes, wars, and astronomical signs leading up to 70 AD that match what Jesus predicted.

<< Go to Lesson 3: Leave Churchianity

Lesson 5: Don’t be Seduced by Political Power – Coming Soon >>

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My Story – Lori Wed, 10 Feb 2010 20:54:36 +0000 lori Fear was a central emotion growing up in a large devout Catholic family in the upper Midwest. I learned to be afraid of the devil, hell, sins, priests, and even my thoughts. All of these fears originated in church, in catechism and at home.

I was afraid of dying with a sin on my soul, because of how hell was described to me as a child in church and in catechism. Fire, intense screaming, and pain were words associated with hell. I was afraid for babies who might die in childbirth before being baptized. In catechism, we were taught how to do an emergency baptism if a priest was not available and someone was dying without having been baptized. I was afraid to miss weekly church even when sick. I was afraid I’d receive communion before confessing a mortal sin. I was afraid I might “hear the calling” to be a nun and would have to answer it, even if I didn’t want to. I was afraid of breaking one of the many Catholic rules.

During the night, I was afraid I might see a spiritual apparition. I was afraid of being possessed by the devil. I was ashamed of my sinful thoughts. I was taught that thinking “bad thoughts” related to anything sexual, jealousy, anger, and above all – doubt – were sinful.

There were so many rules and sins to remember that I was afraid of whatever I wasn’t doing, and I was afraid for whatever I was doing.

I now know that religious conformity and control are achieved through fear. It’s not surprising that people stay in the fold. It’s easier and safer to conform, and a “small” price to pay given the alternative: fear of hell for eternity. Even though there was so much control imposed, I felt so out of control at the same time. The “euphoria” of going to church was more of a relief that I didn’t have to worry about going to hell if I died that week. I am sad that I was entrenched in a church and family that didn’t want questions, actively averted answers, and as a result, supported exclusionary, ritualistic, elitist, and narrow thinking.

When I was in junior high, I wrote in my diary that I felt so lucky to have been born a Catholic, because if I had been born Lutheran, I wouldn’t have known any better. I learned to pity other religions, because they didn’t have “the best.” The elitist attitude was taught directly in catechism class, and subtly at home. For example, if a Catholic married a non, there would be disapproving messages, clearly saying s/he wasn’t good enough and they should not settle. If the partners didn’t convert to Catholicism, they had to promise to raise children Catholic. There would be effusive praise for those who converted for a Catholic partner, indicating they found a much better religious choice.

Later in life I asked a brother if he had ever searched out other religions, to compare and learn, and perhaps find something better. He scoffed, indicating he already knew he wouldn’t find anything better. Then he caught himself and what he said. Elitist to the core.

Even though my journey of leaving the fold took from high school through college, I remember the exact moment of when I started to leave the fold. As a curious 10th grader, I asked my Mom a few random questions about our Catholic practices, especially about holy days. She couldn’t answer them, and reacted with quizzical expressions and disapproving messages for even raising those questions. This surprised me, because I thought as a consummate Catholic, she would most certainly have these basic answers. From then on, I questioned more things, and the lack of answers told me we were “robot Catholics.”

Breaking away is most difficult after one starts to question. You really don’t want to leave the fold. It’s really scary to step out of a safe, controlled and accepting religious environment, especially in a big family where approval is king. You try desperately to get the answers so you can say, “There, that’s it! Now I understand.” But the more I questioned, the more muddled the answers. In college, I spent an afternoon in a coffee shop with a cousin who is a priest, a fairly modern one, whom I thought would settle my uneasiness. These questions weren’t about the mysteries of God, but more about being a Catholic. But still the same…more questions, more irrational answers, more doubt. I don’t expect religion to be irrefutable, but it should be consistent and sensible. I found neither in the Catholic church. I found the rules to be “of man” and not “of God” and mostly “of fear and control.”

Many in my large family (which is now nearly doubled with Catholic spouses) cannot accept that I have left the fold. Even after 25 years, it’s very cult-like in their subtle and not-so-subtle ways. They seem to think they have every right, being from the “one true religion” to impose and enforce their beliefs on others, especially those who have left the fold. I’ve been invited to coffee so that “my faith life” can be questioned. I’ve been cornered in hallways to say they’re “worried about my soul.” When they come to visit in my home, they impose their prayer time. I’ve been shamed, blamed and defamed. I get e-mails asking me to pray a novena for this or that, even while knowing my religious views. I am ridiculed for my liberal thinking. It’s very passive-aggressive and self-righteous. I am an outsider in my own family.

Whenever there’s a problem, my family primarily turns to prayer and going to church more often. “Pray for him/her” is the standard call to action. When someone heals from an injury or illness, it was “our prayers were answered!” Never mind they were in the best of hospital care, not on some deserted island. When a baby dies, it “must be God’s will…we’ll never understand.” Prayer as the universal fix teaches people to be passive. To me, prayer without action is merely wishful thinking; the same as taking a prescription for depression without seeing a counselor too. Action needs to be part of the solution. When there was clearly child abuse within a sibling’s family, over many years, instead of calling the authorities, we visited their family priest. He basically told us to “look the other way” and “pray for them.” Funny, we prayed but the abuse continued. My greatest regret is letting fear, the sibling’s anger, risk of disapproval by the family, and our learned passivity from our Catholic upbringing step in the way of doing what was right.

I was taught that if you prayed, went to church, and abided by all “the rules,” you met God’s expectations. The central question for me in this scenario is: If you are doing those things out of habit, fear, and control, whom do you think you’re fooling? To me, it’s more important to participate actively in helping others in large and small ways. I believe that when we die, we will become part of a universal eternity, one energy. That’s very different from what Catholics are taught. When I reflect on what I wrote in my junior high diary, I now write how lucky I am to have become a clear-thinking, strong, loving adult who is not dependent upon the fears and bondages of the Catholic church. I’m free.

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Lesson II: Beware of Bible Abuse Tue, 09 Feb 2010 00:49:07 +0000 Michael Camp Part 2 of “I Survived the Christian Right: Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home”

With some notable exceptions, most evangelicals I know primarily read the Bible devotionally, meaning they read it in a superficial way without regard to the conditions of history, culture, genre, or its own literary context. They also believe it is the infallible Word of God and expect God to speak to them personally through its message. I read the Bible this way for years. But I gradually learned a valuable lesson. Although harmless on occasion, a predominantly devotional approach to Bible study inevitably leads to Bible abuse—handling scripture in a way that the original author did not intend and the original audience would never recognize. Although it is mostly done unintentionally, I find people abuse the Bible in three ways.

Misinterpretation – The most common form is when people take verses or passages out of their literary context, for example, the practice of citing isolated verses to bolster a doctrine. In other words proof-texting without checking the full context. That’s why we should “read the Bible like drinking beer, not sipping wine.”6

Another form of this is practicing poor exegesis and hermeneutics. Exegesis is ascertaining a passage’s original meaning through understanding its historical and cultural background.Hermeneutics is deciding how to apply a passage to our modern circumstances. Without doing the hard work of both of these, it’s easy to misinterpret what the Bible teaches.7 Passages are applied with a wooden literalism, which causes a host of problems, including dogmatic teaching on divorce, tithing, the eminent return of Christ, and sexuality, to name only a few.

Applying Strict Authority – Despite the fact that the Bible does not claim to be inerrant8, fundamentalists and many evangelicals insist it is. When I visited L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in 1984, I studied this doctrine and concluded there was little evidence to support it. Gradually, I came to believe that the Bible is not a set of timeless maxims to be obeyed to the letter. It never claims to be the Word of God, only that Jesus is the Word come down from God and the Jewish prophets spoke the word of the Lord. When every isolated verse or passage is applied with equal authority, the phenomenon of Bibliolatry results.9

Moreover, the evidence supports the notion that parts of our modern Bible were added by copyists and go beyond the original manuscripts, which we don’t have.10 One example is the controversial passage in I Corinthians 14 often used to justify the suppression of women. It states women should not teach but be silent in church and in full subjection to men. Yet the evidence is strong that Paul did not write these verses but later copyists added them.11 The Jesus Seminar makes this mistake in the opposite direction when it dogmatically concludes portions of Jesus’ sayings are not genuine based on subjective opinion, not on manuscript evidence.12 These discoveries reveal how our modern Bible can still contain divine inspiration—and powerful lessons rooted in godly wisdom—without every part of it being the Word of God or wholly free from human error.13

Mistranslation – There are several places in the New Testament where the English word chosen in most popular translations is almost assuredly not correct. I will cite several of them below. Our modern English translations are not as accurate as we think and should not always be taken at face value.

Read the Bible in its own historical, cultural, and literary context. Don’t worship it.

[6] N.T. Wright

[7] See Fee, Gordon, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

[8] Countryman, William, Biblical Authority or Biblical Tyranny?

[9] Bible worship; see Thatcher, Adrian, The Savage Text: The Use and Abuse of the Bible, page 4.

[10] Ehrman, Bart D., Misquoting Jesus

[11] Fee, Gordon, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, and Erdman, Op. cit., page 183.

[12] Wills, Gary, What Jesus Meant, page xxv.

[13] Wills, Gary, What Jesus Meant and Countryman, William, Biblical Authority or Biblical Tyranny?


Lesson III: Leave Churchianity >>

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Lesson III: Leave Churchianity Mon, 08 Feb 2010 20:26:06 +0000 Michael Camp Part 3 of “I Survived the Christian Right: Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home”

Lesson 3: Leave Churchianity

Surprise! Jesus didn’t found an institutional church.[14] For that matter, he didn’t found a religion either. He also didn’t expect his followers to set up a Christian version of the synagogue, let alone create a parallel Christian universe where microbrews are banned.

When I worked on a church planting team in Malawi, Africa in the 1990s, I studied the early church and began to realize how unbiblical our modern concept of church is. I came to see that professional salaried clergy, a clergy-laity distinction, meetings in buildings, church budgets, hierarchal leadership, and legalistic requirements, such as tithing, were not present in early Christianity. Frank Viola and George Barna make the case that most of these elements of church were borrowed from pagan culture.[15] That doesn’t make them necessarily evil, just not based on the original, and not the model for Christian fellowship. The word translated “church” is the Greek ecclesia, which simply means “gathering” and does not denote an institution. The same word is used for a “mob” in the book of Acts.[16]

Evangelical churches routinely espouse modern church membership and active involvement as God’s only way of building the Kingdom and creating mature believers. I recently heard a pastor describe his love for the institutional church in terms normally used for ascribing worship to God.

Undoubtedly, there are churches that are healthy places to grow spiritually, but my experience also reveals how prevalent spiritual abuse is found in fundamentalist and evangelical churches. One could argue that the doctrine of the institutional church is largely to blame for abuses. Why? It promotes churchianity—the practice of making belief in Jesus largely focused on the habits and demands of the institutional church (doctrinal purity, religious behavior), rather than on God’s love. Churchianity encourages authoritarian leadership, which is at the core of spiritual abuse. It also doesn’t encourage people to think for themselves. Blind compliance is sure to follow. “Evangelicals are enamored with power and control. That’s why numbers and measures are so important to evangelicals, and why compliance is next to godliness.”[17]

Don’t put up with churchianity.

[14] Wills, Garry, Op. cit. page 78.
[15] Viola, Frank and Barna, George, Pagan Christianity, page xix.
[16] Wills, Garry, What Jesus Meant, page 78.
[17] Mike Yaconelli, in The Post Evangelical by Dave Tomlinson, page 28.

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