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Is there a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about ? If so, here’s your chance. If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about , please leave your request in the comment section. Any subject…ask away.

Doing this from time to time helps me understand what is important to the readers of this blog. I have plenty of subjects to busy myself with, but I would love to hear from you,

Thanks in advance for helping me improve  this blog.

A Load of Old Shinto by Peter Lockhart

vivian bullwinkle

Vivian Bullwinkel, a survivor of the Bangka Island massacre

Peter Lockhart blogs at The Naked Emperor: Why Religion is Bollocks. He is the author of The Naked Emperor: Why Religion is Bollocks and currently resides on a sheep station in Western Australia.

Recently I have been reading a lot about the Second World War, and especially Japan. Of course, to discuss any aspect of that war in a blog is a flea bite out of an elephant of a subject.

Other than the fact that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was similar in so many ways to the attack on Darwin Harbour just 10 weeks later, mostly because of complacency and stupidity, both attacks by the Japanese caught the Americans and the Australians, asleep at the wheel. The Pearl attack and the Darwin attack were done by the same group of Aircraft Carriers commanded by Admiral Nagumo.

In both attacks, the early warnings were ignored, the element of surprise was maintained, and the damage was severe. Darwin was important strategically after Singapore fell to the Japanese just four days before the first air raid, and it seems, only the Japanese understood that. The raids on Darwin were done in order to disrupt and degrade the efficient functioning of the important port.

What struck me most of all in my recent reading, was the role the Shinto Religion played in the Japanese war machine in the hostilities, which Japan began in 1931.

The Shinto Religion is a good example of just how we cannot just lower our guard with fanatics of religion, or the teachings of the religions, as they can and do cause untold problems for millions of people.

One thing I admire about the Japanese is the fact they do everything whole heartedly. I was born less than 9 years after the Second World War, and I grew up with stories of the brutality of the Japanese. I had teachers who were POWs on the Burma Railway, who were in fact angry and bitter, even cruel, because of that experience. My mother also had friends who were former POWs of the Japanese.

However, as a grown man, I had the honour of meeting and discussing the subject of the Japanese with Vivian Bullwinkel.

Vivian told me she was still afraid of the Japanese people because they had not changed. Vivian was one of 22 nurses marched into the sea by the Japanese and machine gunned down. She survived by feigning death.

The Bangka Island massacre is just one of countless atrocities committed by the Japanese during the hostilities from 1931 to 1945. The question I ask: how can anyone do such things? The answer is of course, Religion.

The Shinto religion teaches nationalism for Japan, along with supernatural destiny of the nation and the people as the dominators of the whole world. The Kami first “Created” Japan by dipping spears into the nothingness, and that which dripped from the spear point, became the first island of Japan.

The sacred and holy god created nation of Japan, has a living son of heaven god as Emperor (note it’s not a king with a kingdom but an emperor with an Empire). The Japanese are, according to Shinto, sacred and lower caste relatives of the Emperor and the Kami themselves.

As for the rest of us mere mortals, we are subhuman and worthless apes, who have no worth other than slaves to be dominated by the masters of the universe, the people and Emperor of Japan. Charming.

It is clear from reading about the conduct of the Japanese during those hostilities, that they lived their religion with no doubt or question or hesitation. Such brutality is only seen in religious fanatics. They have their god on their side telling them they are doing right.

I recently spoke to a young woman from Taiwan, and a group of young people from Hong Kong and Shanghai. They all said exactly the same words to me about Japan: “We still hate them”.

It was Taiwan, Korea and China, where the Japanese army rounded up the “Comfort Women”, a euphemism for sex slave. The “Comfort Women” were pressed into service to provide sex for Japanese troops at a ratio of 1:40. That’s one woman forced to provide ongoing sex with forty men.

There were millions of Japanese soldiers, but the “Comfort Women” numbers can only be estimated. The women were not Japanese, and so according to the Japanese they were without value except to serve Japan as slaves.

In Japan today, the schools do not teach the truth about those hostilities and the Japanese atrocities committed in the name of the Emperor. If a tourist goes to ground zero at Nagasaki or Hiroshima, the tourist will be told that the bombs were only dropped because of American racism.

The USA would only accept unconditional surrender and nothing less, and the “Big Six” or the Supreme War Council only considered such a surrender when Joe Stalin declared war on Japan and rolled up the Japanese soldiers in Manchuria like an old carpet in Operation Autumn Storm. Nagasaki and Hiroshima hardly rated a mention.

The Nuclear weapons were not used out of racism, but most likely as retribution for atrocities on an industrial scale such as the “Rape of Nanking” where 400,000 people were slaughtered often tied up and thrown into “Slaughter pits” to be used for live bayonet practice.

Then there was retribution for the Bataan Death March and countless others. I heard many firsthand accounts of atrocities from former POWs, from family friends, school teachers and from Vivian Bullwinkle herself.

I say Shinto teaches racism. I say the lack of truthful history lessons for Japanese youth is also a Japanese atrocity. I say Vivian Bullwinkle was right to still fear the Japanese. If anyone “knew the enemy”, the first rule of warfare, it was her. Vivian witnessed the Bangka Island Massacre where 21 nurses were machine gunned and wounded Australian soldiers were marched to the next beach and used for live bayonet practice.

The Japanese army wanted soldiers who were heartless killers who would kill on command and without hesitation or remorse. They succeeded in that wish, and if they ever question the use of the Nuclear Weapons on their “sacred” country, they need to take a lesson from the ancient Greeks – “Know thyself”.

Right Wing Family Values and the World’s Greatest Freak Show

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Guest Post by Vyckie Garrison. You can find her blog at No Longer Quivering.

Do you remember when it first dawned on you that your relatives are all a bunch of crackpots and weirdos?  Seems like I was around 8 or 9 — my mother worked all night in the casinos and slept most of the day, leaving me alone to protect my naïve older sister from the depraved advances of Mom’s alcoholic boyfriends and worry about my big brother’s drug addiction. I couldn’t count on my grandparents to help — they were too preoccupied with their own divorce, dating, and remarriage dramas.

“Holy sugar,” I thought to myself, “these people are seriously messed up!”

That’s about the time the fantasies began.  My home, I imagined, was a three-ring circus — and my relatives were the freaks and the clowns.  In my daydreams, I was not really one of them.  No — surely, I was of aristocratic origin.  My REAL family were royalty in a faraway Kingdom and I was born a beloved Princess in a fancy castle with many servants and my own Fairy Godmother.  Somehow, I’d been separated from my blood kin as an infant — I was captured by gypsies and sold in a black market adoption — that’s how I ended up being raised by this group of crazies!

bates family

The Bates Family

ABC’s Primetime Nightline recently aired a segment featuring the Gil & Kelly Bates family — a conservative, Evangelical mega-family of twenty.  The Bates, who are close friends of JimBob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting” fame, hold to the extreme fundamentalist ideals of the growing “Quiverfull movement.”

During the one-hour special, Gil, Kelly, and their children explained the family’s lifestyle which, to all modern appearances, represents a throw back to the imaginary 60′s-style “Leave It to Beaver” family combined with strict, Victorian Era sexual mores and the atavistic gender roles of ancient goat-herders. The Bates eschew all forms of birth control and adhere to the marriage model of the biblical Patriarchs — with Gil as family leader and Kelly as submissive “help meet.”  Kelly and the girls adorn themselves in modest, hand-sewn dresses, while Gil and his clean-cut sons teach bible study and participate in local Tea Party politics. Aren’t they lovely?  Don’tcha wanna be just like them?

I sure did!  I left home at 15 and embarked on a quest to recreate my long-lost perfect, happy family — my REAL courtly family, where I truly belonged.  After a false start involving marriage at 16, a baby at 19, and divorce after seven years of abuse rivaling the most astonishing freak show acts Mom’s circus family had ever performed — I remarried, found a “bible-believing” church, and worked hard within the Quiverfull counterculture to implement the best of the best biblical family values into our home life.  I had six more children. I homebirthed, homeschooled, and home-churched. I submitted to my husband and joyfully sacrificed my time, energy and talents to build him up and help him to succeed.  I published a “pro-life, pro-family” Christian family newspaper to inform and encourage other Christians to defend “Traditional Family Values.”

In 2003, we were honored as Family of the Year at the Nebraska Family Council’s “Salt & Light” awards. I’d finally made it! I had built my own Magic Kingdom where my husband reigned as King and I was his Queen, the children were our loyal subjects and we could all live happily ever after …

Like the Bates family, we were the perfect picture of the “biblical family values” fantasy — an idealistic vision of big, happy families: devoted husband and wife surrounded by a passel of respectful, obedient children — we were all sweetness and smiles.  It is this mesmerizing dream world which energizes and motivates Tea Party Republicans like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to work tirelessly to implement the “pro-family” theocratic agenda into every aspect of American society: not only in politics, but religion, family, media, education, business and entertainment.

Fundamentalist Christians are convinced that contemporary American society is the World’s Most Spectacular Display of hideously mutated, diseased and anomalous freaks.  ”Step right up folks!” the preacher yells, “and witness a grotesque parade of ho-mo-sex-uals, lesbians, Wiccans, radical feminists, godless liberals, secular humanists, and …” (congregation gasps!) “Muslim extremists!!”

Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, respectable religious parents scramble to shield their innocent children’s eyes and ears from the depravity and corruption of “The World.”  They homeschool and form special Chastity and Creation Science clubs designed to insulate and isolate their vulnerable young from the miscreants and most depraved elements of popular culture.

It’s completely understandable and normal for preteens to create imaginary worlds — their own private, safe hideout where they can dream of nobility, of rising above and doing so much better than the clowns running the Big Top’s Museum of Mutantstrosities.  The grown-ups watch in silent, knowing amusement as kids disavow their relatives as “psychos” and “bozos.”

But when otherwise responsible, Christian adults in recent years set out on a mission to create a radically distinct way of life based on “biblical family values,” the resultant countercultural movement known as “Quiverfull” has become an all-too-real Hall of Mirrors horror show.

In my own life, perpetual pregnancies destroyed my health, and my indiscriminate acquiescence to my husband’s every whim transformed him from a loving father into a tantrum-throwing tyrant. Burnout and disillusionment led to abuse, neglect, family disintegration and a particularly nasty divorce.

When the dust settled, I took a good look at myself in the mirror.  I could no longer deny the strong family resemblance — I saw my mother in my own face staring back at me.  After all those years of fighting and denial, I had to finally accept the fact that I really am one of them — I belong to these crazy people.  I, too, am a conspicuous oddity — a bizarre spectacle and an embarrassment to my own noble children.

Funny thing is … these days, I don’t mind so much being associated with my misfit clan of circus freaks.  Life experience has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the inevitable realities and desperate circumstances which deformed and mutated Mom and the rest of us into shocking and extraordinary creatures worthy of society’s disquietude and awe.

Black market adoption fantasies and youthful idealism are important wayposts on the journey to adulthood.  Rebellion against blatant injustice, hypocrisy, moral compromise and the myriad of other common grown-up failure is a healthy manifestation of a kid’s personal power and strong moral agency.  Arrogant and annoying, yes — but in moments of truth we have to admit, the kid’s got a point.

Society sucks.  Bigotry, racism, inequity, corruption, greed, depravity, malevolence, and all manner of evil abound. Let’s just face the fact that in many ways, the contemporary American social and political scene has devolved to become the World’s Greatest Freak Show.

No wonder Tea Party Patriot families like the Bates and the Duggars escape into their own personal fantasy-land.

Ironically, with maturity comes humility — along with a profound sense of connection and belonging to that wacky bunch of buffoons who share our DNA.  We see our people with new eyes.  Sure, Grandma’s got a beard and Uncle Stan is a charlatan — Aunt Betty’s such a lunatic, she may as well have two heads.  But in the end, they’re all we’ve got.  That perfect, royal family whom we imagined searched frantically for us for years and never gave up hope that one day we would return to our true home?  They’re not real.  Cousin Roger is real — never mind that he doesn’t have a lick of sense and the only thing he’s good for is shoveling elephant shit — he’s the one who truly understands you, knows all about you, and loves you anyway.

Tea Party family values are the fundamentalists’ desperate attempt to deny their own imperfections, vulnerability, and their inescapable mortality.  Sure it hurts that they look down on us regular folk — those of us who make no pretense of actually having our acts together — they avoid being seen out in public with us, they disown us, and they shrink away in fear of catching our cooties.

But take heart — perhaps they’ll grow up.

I did.  Not saying I don’t still sometimes get all starry-eyed and visionary over the possibility of influencing our society for the better — I’ve got a bit of spunk left in me and I’m doing what I can to stick it to The Man.  But I no longer think of myself as qualitatively different or “other” than all the rest of my fellow human beings — my family.  My freakish, crazy, wonderfully imperfect people.

I don’t believe in God anymore, but I still have faith.  I have hope and I trust that collectively, we’re all gonna make it — we are learning from our mistakes and growing more compassionate.  Our shared experiences make us wiser and I have confidence that better times are just ahead.

Yes Virginia, Some Christians are Crazy

demon of stupidity

Every once in a while, I read something that reminds me that there are Christians who believe things that in any other context would get them placed in a straight jacket and thrown into a padded room.

Jim Croft is a deliverance minister. According to Croft’s website:

Jim Croft’s ministry career spans four decades. The renowned Bible scholar, Derek Prince mentored Jim. Early on, it became apparent that Jim was an anointed Bible teacher and minister of physical healing and deliverance from evil spirits.

Croft is known worldwide for his unique ability to share profound biblical truths in a simple and interesting way that encourages people to incorporate the truths into their everyday lives. One of his primary delights is to train and liberate laymen into fulltime ministry. There are at least 40 ministries functioning globally that came up under his tutelage.

Jim has ministered in more than 40 nations. His books and articles have been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, Farsi and Swahili. He has written 13 books. The most recent are: The Muslim Masquerade; Faith’s Decision For The Abundant Life; Heaven on the Links; Charismatic Superstitions and Misconceptions; Dysfunctional Doctrines of the Hyper-Religious; The Heritage Factor; Miracle of Miracles; Bless the Chosen; and Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons.

Croft is considered by many to be a foremost authority on Islamic Issues. He ghostwrites books and newsletters for several international ministries specializing in ministry to Muslims. Each week Jim’s Bible studies are translated into the various languages of the Middle East for distribution among secret house churches in closed Islamic nations.

Jim founded Good News Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was the home church of Derek Prince. Jim serves as a pastor of pastors and on a number of ministry boards including that of Derek Prince Ministries. He currently pastors a network of house churches and is the senior pastor of Gold Coast Christian Church of Boca Raton, FL.

Croft says this about himself on his Facebook page:

I have authored 13 books. Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons is the most recent . It’s a great read for those who have ongoing unresolved issues and those who have inlaws whom they suspect might be hosting uninvited passengers. I also ghostwirte books and articles for varius ministries. My emphasis of life is to be naturally supernatural. (spelling errors in the original)

According to the Gold Coast Christian Church website, the home church Croft pastors:

God is not boring! Christianity is not a religion designed to revolve around man-made rules. Redemption through faith in Christ paves the way for people to enjoy God; their relationships with His people; and to become the type of people whom God enjoys. Therefore, it is our conviction that all of life is spiritual. God enjoys His people when they are involved in their vocations, recreations and families as much as He does as when they are engaged in religious activities. Every aspect of life can be enhanced through one’s spirituality. Proof of one’s devotion to God is not determined by interjections of religious language into every conversation 24/7. We believe that God’s purposes are best served when people take the relaxed stand of becoming naturally supernatural. Our leaders teach our folks to minister salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the unconverted in an unobtrusive manner during the routine events of everyday life. By the leading of the Lord, hearing someone in a store checkout line saying they feel ill can turn into a spontaneous healing event. It can be accomplished without the fanfare of a revivalist’s campaign. If you are looking for biblical Christianity without the religious hype, we could be a safe haven for you.

With this biographical background information in mind, here’s an excerpt from an article Jim Croft  wrote for CHARISMA. The title of the article is When Demons Attack Your Children With Sickness. Croft is an older man, so the story he tells about his daughters took place decades ago. Here’s what he had to say:

Our two oldest daughters, Kari and Sharon, were born with serious asthmatic conditions. Regular medical treatments kept them functional. Then, shortly after I became a Christian, Prudence and I prayed for the Lord to heal them. We thank God that He erased every symptom from their lives.

The situation with our third daughter, Holly, was quite different. She was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit at an early age. Nonetheless, her health history and certain aspects of her behavior puzzled us. None of the symptoms she exhibited was alleviated until she received deliverance ministry at the age of 5.

Holly had a stubborn streak that was uncharacteristic of her siblings. In the area of health, she did not respond to prayers for healing in the same way as her older sisters. For instance, all of the girls would catch the sniffles and we would pray for them simultaneously. Invariably, Kari and Sharon would be completely healed within several hours of our prayer—or they would recover fully within a day or two at most. But that was never the case with Holly. Her condition always seemed to worsen…

…Prudence and I grew weary from concern, sleepless nights and enormous medical bills. Above all, we were both disappointed by the fruitlessness of our prayers for her healing. And we were mystified that our every attempt to help her cultivate a more agreeable attitude failed.

One evening, Prudence came to me full of optimism. She told me that while she had been praying about Holly’s condition, the Lord had given her a spiritual revelation. He had reminded Prudence of several pertinent facts. Holly had been born under traumatic circumstances. First, she was more than a month premature. After her birth, she was hospitalized with a life-threatening respiratory ailment. In addition, after the delivery, Prudence had approached death’s door due to massive hemorrhaging.

As she shared all this with me, Prudence beamed with confidence. She was certain she had heard from the Lord.

“Jim, God gave me a vision of demons of infirmity and death entering Holly during her birth. The reason she doesn’t respond when we anoint her with oil and pray is because we are dealing with evil spirits, not routine sicknesses. We must take authority over them and cast them out in the name of Jesus.”

As Prudence spoke, something like inner agreement clicked within my spirit. I knew that what she was saying was absolutely on-target. We were very familiar with seeing people liberated from evil spirits, and I was filled with hope sensing that we were on the brink of a breakthrough for our child. Prudence and I both agreed that the best approach was immediate action. So we asked Holly to sit down with us in the living room for a talk.

As we all sat on the couch together, I explained to her as best I could what we were going to do. “Honey,” I said gently, “God has shown Mommy that there are some naughty spirits inside of you that make you sick all of the time. Daddy is going to tell them to come out of you in Jesus’ name.”

Holly looked a little unsure. Prudence slipped her arm around Holly’s waist, and I continued to explain.

“I’m going to speak very firmly to those nasty spirits while I’m looking at you, and I’m going to tell them to come out. It may sound as though I’m angry, but I’m not mad at you. We know you want to be a healthy and good girl. I am mad at the devil and the mean spirits that make you sick.”

Holly nodded at this point, seeming to understand, so I went on.

“I want you to look straight at me. When I tell the spirits to leave, you just open your mouth a little bit and breathe them out through your mouth.”

At that, Holly again looked puzzled. I thought to remind her of her experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. “Holly, do you remember how you breathed in the good Holy Spirit?” She nodded. “Well, after I tell the bad spirits to come out of you, I want you to huff and puff them out so the good Holy Spirit will have more room.”

What happened next was astonishing. As soon as I commanded the demons of death and infirmity to come out of my daughter, she gagged as though something were lodged in her throat.

Her tiny frame shook convulsively. Her face went ashen white, and her eyes rolled back into her head with only the whites showing. She then collapsed on the couch as though dead. In fact, she actually looked like a little corpse. But rather than panicking in concern at her appearance, I picked her up and began to laugh and sing and thank the Lord. I knew the troubling entities were gone.

Suddenly, Holly opened her eyes and smiled shyly up at me. She looked different. Her face was bright and her eyes were clear. Prudence and I knew in that moment that Holly was free from the chronic sicknesses and demonic forces that had attempted to snatch her life…

Now go

puke

How God Reminds Us Every Day That We Are Little More Than Worms

original sin

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Issac Watts, Alas! and Did my Savior Bleed

Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good-above all, that we are better than someone else-I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
Psalm 22:6

How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?
Job 25:6

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Romans 7:24

Original sin

Vile

Wicked

Hater of God

Worthy of torture and death

According to the Bible, we are the lowest of low, little more than a dung beetle or a worm. Thanks to Adam and Eve eating fruit from a tree in the Garden of Eden, every human being is born a sinner, a hater of God worthy of having the judgment and wrath of God poured out on their head. None of us can escape this condemnation. As soon as the egg unites with the sperm in the womb of a woman, a new vile and repulsive sinner is created.  We don’t become sinners, we are sinners. Or so says Christianity.

What better way to attract and keep congregants than to convince them that they are broken, helpless, hopeless sinners who need glued back together with Jesus glue that can only be found at First Baptist Church on Main Street Anywhere, Ohio. And when the Jesus glue doesn’t last and bits and pieces  of one’s life start breaking off, congregants are told to go to confession or walk the sawdust trail to an old-fashioned altar and get a resupply of Jesus glue.

And the cost for this wonderful, sin erasing Jesus glue? EVERYTHING. Your life, possessions, money, and family now belong to God. If it wasn’t for the Jesus glue, the Christian would still be like Humpty Dumpty, a pile of brokenness at the bottom of the wall. Since Jesus paid the ultimate price for sin, the least the groveling sinner can do is obediently follow him until they die. If they do this, then Jesus will give them a room in God’s Trump Hotel, a room they will rarely use since they will be spending most of their time praising and worshiping God. And even in heaven there will be a final judgement for every Christian, a time when God will comb through the events of the Christian’s life, reminding them of all the times they sinned and how lucky they are that God is allowing them to enter his heaven.

After several weeks of rain, we’ve finally gotten a break and are able to work in the yard and garden. Weeds are growing prolifically, and I am certain I heard them laughing at Polly and I as we, with aching muscles and bones, reached down to pull them up from the ground. I was so fatigued and in pain today that I laid on the ground and crawled along the flower beds pulling weeds. As I was doing this, I contemplated the wonders of  Christianity. That was sarcasm, BTW. These Bible verses came to mind:

 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:17-19

If you like to grow things, you know that weeds come with the territory. If you don’t pull them, they will take over and soon your yard looks like a movie set for a post-apocalyptic thriller titled The Revenge of  the Weeds.  As you pull the weeds, just remember that weeds are a reminder from God that you are a vile worm, worthy of death. If you are a Christian, every weed you pull is a reminder of how vile you were before God saved you. Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t apply salvation like Roundup? One application and the weeds are dead. One application of Jesus and all sin is eradicated. Why wouldn’t God do this? Wouldn’t it make life more enjoyable, not only for Christians, but God? Surely, God gets tired of Deacon Bob going to the altar every Sunday to confess his child porn habit?

Today, we celebrate Independence Day. Wouldn’t this be a good day to cast off the belief  that we are broken sinners in need of salvation and forgiveness?  Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for, scratch that, and then you’ll be dead. Enjoy life, living each moment to its fullest. As a man in his late fifties with declining health, I know that the ugly specter of death is stalking me. If I don’t enjoy life NOW…when will I do so? Since no life awaits me beyond the grave, shouldn’t I make the most of this life? Proverbs 27:1 says:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Good advice, but not for the reasons Christians think. This verse stresses to the Christian the importance of being saved, of having sins forgiven, and preparing to meet God face to face. As an atheist, I read this verse and it says that life is short. There is no promise of tomorrow and no one knows what might happen. So, live! Live each moment of every day as if it is your last, because some day, sooner than you think, it will be.

My Life with Bill Gothard Part Three

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This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

Quite recently a friend of mine was found dead. We’re still not sure of the cause of death. It’s difficult to believe she intentionally committed suicide without leaving a note to her very beloved family. She was one of the most devoted mothers I’ve ever known and left four children and five grandchildren and many friends and other relatives, all who loved her immensely. She was my co-worker, my friend, my ‘happy hour’ buddy and was always good for a laugh or a chug. My heart is heavy; my stomach has been in knots for days. I will miss her greatly.

Her passing has renewed a few conversations in my mind I’ve been mulling off and on for several years. My next few posts will deal with some very personal issues but I think issues that must continually be brought to light in order for change to occur.

It seems the whole of Fundamentalism (including Gothard) reject the fact that depression exists and those who experience are not to blame. I grew up with a very depressed mother. I believe my father is depressed as well although he exhibits different symptoms (as men normally do). After their abusive childhoods and cultic/religious teachings full of blame and condemnation, depression is no surprise. My mother’s father was a depressed man. He turned to alcohol to ‘deal’, thereby circumventing displaying for his children alternative coping skills. My mother did not utilize alcohol. She had Jesus and a Bible full of verses to tell her what a horrible, rotten person she was and that even her good deeds were as filthy rags to him who died in her stead; if it weren’t for his death she would be nothing; and she was the reason God’s only Son suffered….and on and on it goes. If that’s not the most depressing ‘Good News’ I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

One of the first stories I remember hearing Gothard relay to his audience was about a woman who had left a plastic bag in her infant son’s bedroom. While he was sleeping, a breeze blew the plastic bag into the baby’s bed and suffocated him. I can’t imagine losing one of my children, but knowing my choice not to pick-up the plastic bag is what took his life would haunt me forever. Of course, this woman was plagued with guilt and Gothard’s remedy was to remind her that all her sins were nailed with Jesus on the cross. Was that woman’s choice that cost her son’s life a sin? No. A bad decision? Yes.

But this seems to be the mind of Gothard: that every possible life choice or decision (seemingly major or minute) is a misstep in the eyes of god. Those who live under this teaching and believe it rack up hours and days, years & lifetimes of doubt, fear and guilt. It’s a vicious cycle I observed continuously as a child. My mother – beautiful, capable, classy and stylish- was never good enough for anyone in her own eyes. The condemnation was always there, but then she had the audacity to go and be human – feel emotions, speak her mind, react in anger or frustration and then the guilt would accumulate and we’d find verses written on 3×5 cards around the house or on the chalkboard in the school room reminding her of who she was ‘in Christ’ (only), not as a person who was loved and could choose to love herself without the permission of any ‘Savior’; accept her humanity (and that of others); to choose happiness. No, it was a constant search for affirmation and still is.

Even as a child, I remember feeling huge pangs of guilt and fear over small ‘sins.’ And in Gothard world, just about everything can be a sin. Any thoughts, feelings or behaviors that didn’t fall under the realm of his particular brand of ‘godliness’ were stressed over, creating compulsiveness I still find difficulty shaking. Most people in my family seem to possess a disposition for depression. When you are reared to believe ‘Jesus is enough’ and not taught to utilize positive coping skills, instead internalizing all the ‘sinful bad’ and shameful emotions, you become an accident waiting to happen. I internalized so much and created a very dark, depressed, narrow-minded world by the time I was 21 leading me to seriously consider taking my own life. I’m not sure why I didn’t but that day, I began a new journey out of the old thought patterns, belief system and mindsets that had led to so much bondage instead of the freedom purported by those I love and trusted.

Not too long ago, I was mopping the living room floor alone, enjoying the peace and quiet. I was in a good mood; I’d had accomplished a lot that day (always good for a happy high) and all of the sudden, out of nowhere, came a flood of depression, unhappiness and fear in such dark contrast to the sunlight I was feeling just seconds before. Tears escaped my eyes before I could not hold them back. At that point I realized the flood of depression and negative emotion I experienced was in no way related to my previous moments of happiness and that I had the say-so over the gloominess. I get to acknowledge its presence in my life, forego the guilt and blame and conquer its hold. That day was a life-changer for me. I came to a new state of POWERFUL self-awareness in my life and a new desire to find the strength to adequately cope with whatever comes my way.

It is not arrogance to believe you are worth whatever it takes to make this life YOUR BEST LIFE. It is not selfishness to take care of YOUR emotional, physical, spiritual self. Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is okay to acknowledge depression and get whatever help you may need. Depression is not a sin and never was.

I wrote this post in honor of my friend and for any and all of you reared within the condemning confines of Fundamentalism and Gothard’s teachings and who continue to self-flagellate, allowing those teachings to instill fear, obligation and guilt. My friend was one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever known. She was constantly doing for others and may have forgotten about herself in the process. Perhaps she did not learn how to cope; to confess her humanity to others instead of constantly trying to please & make everything ‘look’ good on the outside, discounting her own sadness and fears by focusing on the thoughts and needs of others. While I don’t know for sure, my own experience with Gothard has created some difficult hurdles as I continue to learn how to manage my emotions and thoughts and not berate myself over my own humanity (faults, weaknesses, commissions/omissions, etc.). For every person set free from the stronghold of Gothard’s teachings, there is something to share, something to be learned.

How have you learned to cope with your depression and negative thoughts stemming from cultic teachings?

My Life with Bill Gothard Part Two

guest-post

This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

My parents really are nice people. After hearing some of the personal stories of some of my Gothard and Fundamentalist friends and watching families closely, all-in-all I feel pretty lucky. There was never any indication my parents were total mental nut cases, just two people trying way too hard. If their goal was to get a little further from the emotional and spiritual dysfunctions and effects of alcoholism or to give their children good memories, the ability to think reasonably and logically with compassionate hearts, they somehow succeeded in spite of Gothard’s dogma and the pressure placed on those who accept his self-proclaimed utopia. One interesting facet of this is they tried so hard and burdened us with so many rules and regulations and a mindset void of balanced thought, I think I could have easily become an alcoholic as I sorted through the pain and the brainwash. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel I’ve finally learned it’s okay to be a normal, run-of-the-mill person with hopes, dreams, strengths & weaknesses, failures, successes and a ‘sin nature’ who enjoys a balanced, pleasurable (gasp!) life. As I read the comments from my last post, I realized that only those who have experienced the effects of Gothard and Fundamentalism completely understand the difference between the issues we deal with that may have some similarity to common bumps in the road of life. Fundamentalists and Gothardites also deal with a huge GOD factor and resulting doctrines and beliefs which place fear at the forefront of every decision-fear of being wrong, of doing evil, of simply looking evil (which has numerous definitions in that world). If you think emotional blackmail in human relationships is cruel, try worshipping a god who utilizes it hypothetically himself and actually through your parents and environment.

I was in 2nd – grade when my parents decided to home educate us. My dad told me and my sister together and my sister or I asked if that meant our mom would buy red pencils. When I told my activity table in Sunday school one of my friends commented, “Cool! Does that mean you get to raise your hand and go to the bathroom anytime you want?” If only our experience were that simple. The thoughts of children- so guileless and unaffected; why would a parent ever accept the idea their child needs to be anything other? Life hits hard & head-on as it is and usually too early. Why not let kids be kids while adding layers of kindness, hope, courage, simplicity, strength, love, acceptance, logic and tolerance so that when the realities of life can no longer be ignored and tenacity must be forged in its fires, those nurtured qualities come alive & hold them even when mommy and daddy are no longer present? But allowing kids to be kids doesn’t work out well when you’re trying to raise an army. I must have been 7 or 8 when I told my aunt she would go to hell for wearing pants. If you think it’s evil the words ever left my lips, imagine being a child and already thinking those horrible thoughts about people you loved, triggered by a mere article of clothing. Yes, this was my mind, my world at a young age. My parents, prime candidates for Gothard’s inclusive teachings, started with his Basic Seminar (more later) and led to utilizing his home education program, Advanced Training Institute International.

Different than Bible-BASED home education curriculum, ATI is Bible-CENTERED (Bible being the textbook). If you understand the mindset of a family who would be attracted to ATI, this distinction is essential – Bible-based isn’t good enough if Bible-centered is available. Wisdom Booklets, based on a specific verse or passage of Scripture (Wisdom Booklet #1 beginning with The Sermon on the Mount), are provided linking Science, Math, Social Studies and Character Studies to the passage in some way. Fortunately, my parents supplemented the Wisdom Booklets with other curricula so that my siblings and I all graduated with the state required courses completed, therefore acquiring a better education than many die-hard ATI’ers. I have known personally some who brushed-off all other avenues of learning and education and focused only on their Biblically-based studies. I’ve overheard many ATI mothers and fathers voice their (non)education goals and dreams for their children. I know one girl whose father finally relented, allowing her to attend a local, forward-thinking, private, very high-quality institution with the understanding she attend classes without gaining credit. What a loss. This may not seem so strange if you realize the objective of ATI is to raise children who are virtually untouched by the ‘world’, its ideas, processes and practices. This mentality disparages traditional education of any kind. Liberal-arts, secular and even Fundamentalist Christian colleges (BJU, PCC, CCC, etc.) are not entertained as options for post-secondary education. Criticism from the outside and the ‘harsh’ expectations of existence (I say that tongue-in-cheek), led Gothard to establish Telos International which does provide some basic coursework for secondary education as prep for their Programs of Study. One glance at those websites will give you a good overview of the absurdity that is ATI. Fortunately or unfortunately (it could go either way), I convinced my parents God had called me to a Fundamentalist college, an experience I was mentally, socially, spiritually and emotionally unprepared for.

While in ATI, my family started every weekday morning with a Wisdom Search , a family Bible-study digging deeper into the ‘truths’ of the Wisdom Booklet we were studying. Most mornings Every morning, all I wanted to do was a grab a red pencil and commence voracious eye stabbing. My siblings probably would have too had they not been more lethargic than I some days. ATI parents believe they are doing ‘good’; they are giving their children a gift, a better way, a better life than the hopeless and meaningless existence they perceive surrounds them. I don’t know why neither one of my parents, both formally educated individuals, did not clue-in one of those sleepy mornings-my dad droning on while our heads bobbed listlessly, contributing occasionally to the conversation attempting to convince them we were awake and attentive during those few seconds we nodded off into leftover dreams-IT WASN’T WORKING. Those few seconds seemed like hours. Those days, years. Those years seem like centuries ago. And I’ve only just begun.

Read Part Three

My Life with Bill Gothard Part One

guest-post

This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

Awhile back, Bruce requested someone who had been reared in the Bill Gothard movement write a post concerning their experience. I volunteered. After many frustrating nights of re-typing, editing and scrapping most of my rough-drafts, I think I finally hit on a post I hope will work. I thought I had re-hashed, dealt with and de-programmed myself far enough away from that experience…

But here it is again, staring me in the face; reality hits and I find myself crying in the shower. I enjoy a beautiful life-a wonderful husband, three beautiful children and a place I love in the mountains. By the world’s standards, we don’t have much but, in my opinion we have everything. Our home is full of love and good times. I’m a lucky girl! Why is it then that some days I feel so screwed?

As a child, I possessed many interests and dreamed big; there were so many things I wanted for my life. Somewhere along the way, I was presented the lie and accepted the lie that I wasn’t good enough unless I was wearing someone else’s shoes, that I couldn’t just say “yes” to what I wanted because all I heard around me were “no’s.” My world was so small, created by a know it all, religious neurotic (IMO) with alarming stories, defining my childhood with fear, obligation and guilt and given the nod by my parents who lost any sense of judgment they may have possessed and, sadly, began closing themselves off from other persuasions. Confusion and dread permeated my young adult life as I contemplated where to go and what to be, the achievable dreams of a little girl lost in an environment too good for traditional education, occupations, livelihood and culture.

I don’t remember when exactly my parents became involved in Bill Gothard and The Institute in Basic Life Principles Seminar, but if memory serves me correctly, I was probably around five or six when they attended The Basic Seminar for the first time. My parents, both children of alcoholics (COA’s), were seemingly enraptured with Gothard’s teachings from the beginning. I’ll never forget the day my mother told me she and my father did not agree with ‘everything’ Gothard taught. At eighteen, this was debilitating news. I grew up observing my parent’s devotion to the seminar and their dedication to serve in various capacities – utilizing the home education curriculum (Advanced Training Institute International) and investing our precious time, energy and finances into practicing and infiltrating our lives with Gothard’s propaganda. Never once did we sit down and discuss the seminar, nor was I ever left with the impression that my parents questioned his teachings. Why? This question haunts me still. Both of my parents are educated people. In almost every other aspect of their lives they are deliberate. It took me years to realize the smidgen of truth and common sense in Gothard’s teachings hooked them – two harshly abused and rejected adults, now with four little children, looking for answers, just wanting to ‘get it right.’ My father was a meek, kind, passive, quiet man with little to no confidence who, in his desire to feel acceptance, was driven by the approval and acknowledgement of others, simultaneously building walls around himself and our family so that we were pulled into his everlasting eager to please, becoming as a family what he never saw in himself – something to be proud of and displayed. Then, there was my mother – a child inside who was forced by circumstance to be the adult most of her life, caring for her siblings at a young age, feeling overly responsible for everyone and everything and being caught in the middle of a fantastical life that would never be realized and the cold reality of independence. Both of them, so preoccupied with separating themselves from their own dysfunctional familial experiences and the assurance that perfection was attainable, seemingly didn’t stop to consider the cost; to realize the extremism of The Institute and the futility of embracing a life of mindless rules and regulations, walls, narrow-mindedness & pain.

Finished with my cry fest for the evening, here I sit – a computer on my lap and a college catalog lying next to me on the coffee table. Friday, I have an appointment with a career counselor. I’m desperate. I want her to tell me what ‘I want to do when I grow up’. I’m 36. I should have some idea of what makes me happy, what makes me tick, what I can do, where I can go…but I don’t. I thought I knew myself. The first 23-years of my life were spent listening to what I was ‘supposed’ to be, marry & love; what not to wear, to listen to, to dream or imagine and what not to believe or read or think. I lived in a surface level world where looking the part and acting the part was everything and allowing people close enough to see your warts non-acceptable. The false confidence I assumed as a result, not wanting my weaknesses to hang for the world to see, lost its grip on me four years ago when I became a mother – the one task, pleasure, challenge and gift that is unequivocally mine and I’m left wondering if anything else I’ve experienced thus far is completely genuine – some relationships, conversations, ideas & intentions. For 13-years I have been sorting through the good and bad of my childhood; the childhood of my parents and what triggered their seemingly unfeigned attentiveness to Gothard – an articulate, crafty peddler who insulted their intelligence with a product of unrealistic hopes and twisted truths he himself had never even sampled.

I think I’m beginning to understand why I’ve felt so screwed.

Read Part Two

My Son Thinks I’m Going to Hell by August Stine

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Guest post by August Stine

August Stine is the author of the book  The Modern Confessions of Saint August Stine

In spite of the fact I am a former fundamentalist Christian and ex-pastor, my minister son and his family think I am headed for Hell. This is my response to him. I use the pen name of August Stine to protect my son.

Different Family Beliefs

Your faith is important to you.

My beliefs are important to me.

We pray to the same God every day

For me, He is the Caring Creator;

Who cares about my well being

To you, He is the fearful God

Who demands obedience.

I believe Jesus was a spiritual man but not God.

I believe Jesus said some great words of wisdom

And I am sorry he had to die on the cross.

You believe Jesus died for the sins of man

And his salvation is a gift from God.

I do not believe this, but let’s suppose I did.

Didn’t you say salvation was a gift?

If it is a gift, why do I need to do anything?

You say I am going to hell unless . . .

You even give me the words I should say—

“Jesus, forgive my sins.”

Do people go to hell for not saying these words?

What if I wait until just before dying and then ask?

What if I meant to ask Him for years but didn’t?

You say “Too late—you missed your chance!”

This is God we are talking about isn’t it?

Is God limited by time or death?

On the other hand, if salvation is a “gift,”

Do I really need to ask Him for forgiveness?

The Bible says God freely gives this gift.

Where did all these attached strings come from?

Why conditions on God’s unconditional love?

New converts are told their Christian duties.

Tithing is one—not too bad—it is do-able

Unless you are unemployed or on minimum wage.

But the heaviest of all these burdens is . . .

People go to hell unless we show them Jesus.

So their salvation is in our hands . . .

I thought salvation was a gift.

Why is this huge ugly rope attached to this gift?

Am I responsible for my neighbor’s salvation?

Why am I involved with another man’s salvation?

Why does God need Me?

Suppose I want to play golf on a nice day,

But my neighbor dies and goes to hell . . .

And it is my fault . . .

Because I did not tell him about Jesus.

Please don’t tell me

God is so awful and demanding.

Why am I involved in someone’s eternal choice?

I thought God loved me and my neighbor.

Because of His heavy guilt trip,

I can’t even play golf without God on my back

I cannot believe God dearly loves me . . .

But loads me down with guilt trips

About darn near everything I do.

If I truly am a child of God,

Why do I have to be afraid of Him?

Why can’t I enjoy God

And let Him fix the world?

I thought that was His job.

Scripture says God is with us always;

If so, “Come on God, let’s go play some golf.”