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My Life as a Missionary Kid Part Two

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What follows is part two of a series by ElectroMagneticJosh, a man whose parents were Evangelical missionaries. This series will detail his life as a Missionary Kid (MK).

Part 2: Where I Provide a Primer on Missionaries and Mission work.

Section 1

If you enjoyed my first post where I discussed Missionary Kids then consider this to be a direct sequel to that. This time I will talk about Missionaries themselves.

You may not know what Missionaries do or you might have a very good idea – either way please appreciate that this is my perspective on the class of activities know as “missions”. I will present three categories which are not prescriptive but, rather, represent the best way to classify these activities. Please bear in mind that lots (possibly the majority) of missionaries do not confine what they do to one single category of work. This should become clear when I explain the categories themselves.

Again; this is my opinion on the matter but, as an insider, my opinion should carry a bit more weight.

Section 2

The categories themselves are easy to understand and break down as follows: Aid, Evangelism and Support. See, that isn’t very hard. Most of you with background in Christianity can probably start categorizing the things you know (or have heard) missionaries get up. You should also be reaching a realization that all the things you can think of fall easily into one of those three groups. But I will elaborate for the sake of everyone else and to prove my point.

Aid work is a no brainer. By that I mean, not the work itself, but the fact that even those with no religious background could probably list what it might entail. These are when doctors and nurses open hospitals and run free clinics in poor or remote places. When food is given to hungry and housing is built for those who need it. Perhaps it involves running an orphanage or setting up a school. Whatever it is these missionaries want to look after the needs of others. Often short-term mission trips (when a missionary goes out for less than 6 months) are in this category as they may have a specific project to work on such as building or providing emergency relief.

Ultimately it is still done for the higher purpose of serving God by either providing this aid to other Christians or using it to create more followers. This is not to say their motives are impure – from my experience these people genuinely want to help others – rather it is to say that it conceptualized as more than just helping people here and now. After all there are numerous charities and aid organizations that have no such “higher purpose” and are able to meet the same needs.

Evangelism also sounds obvious to most people. Unlike Aid work this is the side of missions where the non-religious get a bit wary. At least in New Zealand, where I am from, they do. Proselytizing is not considered positive in my culture as religion is considered something people should keep private. Anyway I will end that tangential point.

Evangelism is more than preachers trying to convert crowds of listeners or the devout handing out tracts to the unsaved. Don’t get me wrong; it is about communication for the purpose of winning souls for Christ – but it involves more than the obvious. Running bible studies for seekers, hosting radio and TV shows, putting together concerts, and translating the bible into a language for the first time are just some of the things that fit in this category. There are even groups of athletes who go organize sport contests and demonstrations as an “in” to get the message in front of them. Many of these people are gifted entertainers and precise communicators. They can draw a crowd or get small groups of people opening up about themselves, depending on their personalities, although many can do both.

The final category, Support, is the least glamorous and understood of the three categories. It is still vital to the missionary cause. Now I need to clarify one thing: I am not using the word “Support” as a substitute for “miscellaneous”. This is not a catch-all category for the left over missionary jobs that I am, somehow, going to force into it. It is a distinct part of missionary work and, it could be argued, allows the other roles to function properly.

Let me explain via an example:

A missionary going to a remote village would require transportation. Often the only way to get there is via an airplane as the roads are non-existent and, due to the mountainous terrain, traveling by foot could take several weeks. These missionaries, Aid Workers or Evangelists, don’t tend be trained pilots or mechanics – so there is a definite need for people with those skills. The same goes for a wide array of other necessary functions. There are teachers for missionary children, accountants who distribute funds among the missionaries, custodians of guest-houses and compounds where missionaries live, and even IT support.

Without this group most missionary work would fall apart very quickly so a good analogy is to see them as the heart supplying life to the rest of the missionary community.

Section 3

I can already anticipate some comments on those categories. So I will try to address them here.

The first is that you can think of missionary work that does not fit into one of them. Before posting; think long and hard as to whether you might be mistaken or if it might actually be a hybrid of two (or all) of the categories. You may be correct but please think carefully before posting because you don’t to suggest something that turns out to be covered already.

I am willing to admit that there might be other categories I have missed entirely. In that case I am more than happy to revise my categories – after all these aren’t sacred truths set down for all time. If you are sure (and I mean; near certain) I have missed something then let me know.

Furthermore Missionaries don’t tend to categorize themselves as I just outlined. This isn’t because they resist categorization but because being an actual missionary isn’t that neat and tidy. Hopefully no one thinks that there is a checklist of neatly sorted jobs available so that, for example, those wanting to do aid work only look at the aid work jobs to the exclusion of everything else. Of course you don’t, that would be silly.

Usually a missionary hears about a need and feels called/”prompted by the Holy Spirit” to go and fill that need (or the other way around; they feel the prompting so they see what needs are out there). However, and this is the key, they almost never end up doing just that one thing. Instead they perform multiple jobs that don’t always fall into the same category.

The reason is simple; they embark on their missionary work with a plan that doesn’t take into account the sheer volume of additional needs. Missionaries tend to be similar to others in Christian ministry who believe that, as they are called to do God’s work, they need to work as hard as they can. When they get to their destination and realize there is more work than there are workers they try to take on as many additional tasks as they can handle.

My own parents, for example, started off doing church planting but ended up doing so much more; training church planting teams, providing theological education, assisting new missionaries with settling in, volunteering around the large missionary kid school, preaching, leading study groups and counseling fellow missionaries. That list is far from exhaustive. It is very common to hear of preachers becoming mechanics, pilots becoming interpreters and teachers being youth pastors – all without stopping their other ministries.

Section 4

Hopefully that wasn’t too dry a read and you got something out of it. I want to make the point that this was intended to be descriptive and, hopefully, it avoided making judgments about mission work. I definitely want to address the positives and negatives of Christian missions (how it impacts the missionaries, their families and the places they go to minister) in the future. However this is not one of those moments. Thank you, once again, for your time.

Why Do Fundamentalist Men and Women Dress Differently?

how should a woman dress

Within Evangelicalism, especially on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum, women are considered subservient, second class, whoring Jezebels out to rob men and teenage boys of their virtue. Listen to enough sermons at the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church and you will likely conclude that seductive women are lurking in the shadows ready to expose a bit of leg and cleavage, bringing weak, helpless men to their knees and hopefully to her bed. After all, the Bible does have a story that warns of this very behavior:

…For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7)

Evangelicals have concluded that the only way to save teenage boys and men from whoring Christian women is to demand that women cover up their flesh and wear clothing that mutes their feminine shape. They are implored to dress in a way that will not draw any attention from the male species. Often, women are told not to wear excessive make up or jewelry. Again, it’s harlots that paint themselves up and wear bawdy gaudy jewelry, so Christian women should avoid wearing anything that gives the appearance of being an easy sexual mark. Again, justification for this demand can be found in the Bible:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2)

While most Evangelical churches no longer make an issue of how women wear their hair, some on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum do, requiring women to wear their hair long and/or put it up in a beehive or bun. As always, the BIBLE says:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. (1 Corinthians 11)

Some Evangelical sects believe, based on the above text, that a woman wearing her hair long shows that she is in submission to her father if she is unmarried and to her husband if she is married.  Some sects even go so far as to require women to wear a head covering, a doily-like piece of fabric which says to all who dare gaze on her that she is in submission to God, the church, her father, and her husband.

All of these things are used to keep women in their place. What is that place, you ask? Married, submissive, keeper of the home, bearer of children, and on-demand sex machine. Post high school education is often discouraged, and if a woman is determined to get a college education she is often shipped off to an Evangelical Christian college to train for her MRS degree. The end game is always marriage and bearing children.

On any given day I can go to Meijer or Walmart and I will see Evangelical families shopping. How do I know they are Evangelical Christians? One look at the mothers or the daughters is all I need. Their head-to-toe Evangelical burka or Little-House-on-the-Prairie garb make them stand out from the unwashed Philistines around them. I can even determine of which particular sect they are a part based on the way the women wear certain items of clothing or how they wear their hair. Apostolic or holiness women, forbidden to cut their hair, often put their hair up in a bun or bee hive.

But, here’s the thing, if the unmarried boys or the fathers are in the store without the fairer sex by their side, they blend in quite well. Some Mennonite sects wear a certain style of pants, belts, or suspenders, but outside of the that the men look like any other man in the store. Why is it that the men are free to dress as men typically do, but women are forced to dress in a manner that says to the world that they are part of a religion that treats them like seductresses and appendages, the man’s  servant?

I’m sure pious Evangelicals will suggest that women dress and behave this way because they choose to do so. Anyone who thinks like this is ignorant of the conditioning and mind control that goes on in many Evangelical sects. From the cradle to the grave, women are told what their place is in God’s divine order. They are constantly reminded of the importance of covering up their body so they don’t cause men to lust. Many of the people who read this blog were raised in this kind of religious environment, and they will tell you that the puritanical moralizing becomes very much a part of a woman’s life. It’s all they’ve ever known, so how can it ever be said that they freely choose to live this way?

Here’s all the proof you need. Look at women who leave/flee Evangelical sects such as those mentioned above. What are some of the first things they do after they leave? get a new hairstyle, paint their nails, stop wearing dresses/culottes, start wearing makeup and jewelry, start wearing shoes with heels, show a little leg or cleavage. Perhaps in the quiet confines of the bathroom or the bedroom they look at themselves in the mirror wearing their new style of clothes and they smile and say “nice!” And once the proverbial horse is out of the barn, there’s no hope of corralling it. I know of no woman who ever returned to these type of restrictions once they were free of them.

Were you once part of an Evangelical church/sect that restricted how a women dressed, wore her hair, etc? How did things change for you after you left? Please share your story in the comment section.

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IFB Church Sign Says, Pity the Atheist Who is Grateful

Yesterday, Polly and I drove 50 or so miles northeast to Toledo to celebrate her 57th birthday. We had a delightful evening and enjoyed a scrumptious meal at Mancy’s Steakhouse.  On our way to the restaurant, we traveled on I-475 North and passed by Hope Baptist Church, one of the largest Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches in the area. (The church is pastored by Richard “Rick” Sowell.)  Hope Baptist has quite a snazzy and expensive church building as far as IFB church buildings go. Hoping to maximize their message, the church has a digital sign that can be read easily from the interstate. I wish we could have stopped along the road so I could photograph the sign, but traffic was heavy and we were pressed for time. I did, however, write down the message and text it to myself. Here’s what it said:

PITY THE ATHEIST WHO IS GRATEFUL

Over the years, I’ve had a few Evangelicals question my use of words like “blessing” and “grateful.” Some of them suggested that my use of these words proves I am still a Christian, as does the fact that I capitalize words such as  Bible, God, etc. Evidently, no matter how I much I try to suppress God, he oozes out of my life. Can’t argue with brilliance like this, right?

The argument goes something like this; the words “blessing” and “grateful” are words that can only be used by someone who has God as the focus of their worship. The Christian says, WHO is blessing you, Bruce? WHO are you thanking? They got me. I’m caught in an insurmountable problem. What should I do? Is it time for me to admit that it is the Christian God that blesses me?  Is it time for the preacher-turned-atheist to admit that he is grateful for what blessings come into his life from the God from whom all blessings flow?

doxology hymn

This line of argument reveals that many Evangelicals have no curiosity and are unable to think of any explanation but that which flows from and fits the narrow confines of their fundamentalist theology. For Rick Sowell and the people of Hope Baptist Church, the locus of blessing, gratefulness, and thanksgiving can only be their version of the Christian God.

Well, let me disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that an atheist can’t use words like “blessing” and “grateful.” As an atheist and a humanist, I reject the notion that there is a God. As I have humorously said before, when the words Oh God are screamed out in our bedroom, we know exactly who the God is. Too risqué? Consider this. Who is it that blesses your life? A fictitious God, a deity no one has ever seen? The Christian says yes, believing that ALL blessings flow from the hand of God Almighty and any humans taking credit for these blessings are blaspheming God. However, as a man rooted in the here and now, in the earthy present, I choose to recognize that what blessings come my way come from one or more of my fellow human beings, nature, and the animals I share this world with.

When someone does something that is a blessing, I express to the person blessing me that I am grateful for what he or she has done. When I tell the doctor THANK YOU, I am directing my gratefulness to the person responsible for my medical care. When we stopped to pick up Bethany from my son and daughter-in-law’s home last night, I thanked them for babysitting. Polly and I were grateful that they were willing to watch Bethany so we could have a nice time on the town. Should I shoot up a prayer to the ceiling, thanking the Big Man Upstairs for them being willing and able to babysit? Of course not. God didn’t do the babysitting, they did.

Video Link

One of my all- time favorite movie prayers is Jimmy Stewart’s dinner prayer in the movie Shenandoah:

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked Dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel. But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food were about to eat. Amen.

This prayer reveals the essence of the atheist and humanist view on expressing gratefulness. Who deserves our praise and expression of gratefulness? The person doing the work. When someone makes a financial donation supporting this site, I don’t send them an email letting them know that I thanked someone other than them for their donation. Simply put, we should give credit to whom credit is due. If religious people want to give their deity an honorable mention, that’s fine, but the praise and gratefulness should be directed to the person responsible for the blessing.

So, to Rick Sowell and Hope Baptist Church, I am GRATEFUL that you continue to provide me with blog fodder. Keep up the good work. As long as you and your fellow Evangelicals continue to deliberately distort how atheists and humanists view the world, I plan to send a bit of Bruce Gerencser Blessing® your way.

Note

Hope Baptist Church is King James Only, pastored by Rick Sowell, a graduate of Peter Ruckman’s school, Pensacola Bible Institute.

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Playing In Traffic; Don’t Worry God Will Protect Us

the big c

If the Evangelical Christian teaching on the sovereignty of God and God’s personal, direct intervention in our lives is taken seriously, it often results in Christians acting foolishly and irresponsibly. It often leads to fatalism. The thinking goes something like this: God is in control. Nothing happens that is not a part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Christians live fearlessly, knowing that God  is controlling and directing their lives. All they need to do is surrender their will to his, dying to self (cue the song I Surrender All). God promises the Christians he will never leave them or forsake them. He promises to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promises, promises, promises…

Back in the real world, Christians fail, get sick, have accidents, lose their jobs, get divorced, end up in bankruptcy, and die just like the rest of us. Despite the promises of God, their lives are no different from the lives of godless atheists. They “think” their lives are different, but any cursory examination proves otherwise.

A scene in an episode of the Showtime hit The Big C illustrates how Christians often deceive themselves. The Big C is a comedy/drama about a woman who has terminal cancer. Cathy (Laura Linney) has cancer. Her son Adam (Gabriel Basso) has turned to Christianity as his Mom continues to struggle with the reality that she is dying. The Christianity the show portrays is a mix of Lutheranism, Emergent church, and Evangelicalism. Adam starts attending a Bible study where he meets a girl. She is “saving” herself until she is married, so she only will have anal sex with Adam. In her world, anal sex and oral sex are not really “sex.”

One evening, Adam is out with his girlfriend and they come to the curb of a busy, traffic filled street:

Girlfriend: (starts praying) God help me to help Adam. Let him know your love and protection like I do. Let him give over his life to your loving hands.

GirlfriendOkay, RUN! (and grabbing Adam’s hand they begin to run across the street dodging cars)

AdamOh shit!

Adam: (Upon safely reaching the other side of the street)  I can’t believe we did that, we could have died.

GirlfriendBut, we didn’t because God protected us. Just like he protects all of his children.

This is EXACTLY the way many Evangelical Christians think.

Never mind that if this same scenario was played out again it is likely they would have been killed. Perhaps they escaped death a second time. All that would mean is that they were lucky the first two times. They might run out of luck the next time they try to cross the road. And if Adam and his girlfriend were hit by a car and killed? Christians have an out for that too. It was their “time” to die. God called their number, end of story! To God be the glory.

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My Life in an ACE School Part One

ace

A guest post series by Ian.

Introduction

I am writing a several part series on my ACE school experience. I attended three different ACE schools and was associated with a fourth, so I feel I have had a pretty varied experience with them.

This is my story as I remember it. I had good and bad times, as did anyone attending any type of school. Am I a better or worse person for having an ACE education? I don’t know. I truly believe I did as well as I did because my parents were heavily involved in my schooling, both public and private.

As I tell my story, I will write about the bad things I did. This is not to brag, it is to be as honest as possible.

This has been quite he journey down memory lane, going back over 30 years.  For people who have shared my experience, this will bring back memories. For those who have never attended an ACE school, it may be quite an eye opener.

I hope you enjoy what I have written.

Understanding An ACE School

ACE stands for Accelerated Christian Education. Donald Howard, a pastor in Texas, started ACE in 1970. It was developed as a way to evangelize children. ACE relies heavily on rote recall and short-term memorization to teach children. (See Jonny Scaramanga’s post on Donald Howard, A Very Fundamentalist Sex Scandal)

Let me explain how an ACE school operates. Students start the day out in an assembly, where we prayed, read scripture, recited pledges of allegiance to the American flag, Christian flag and the Bible. Afterwards, we heard school announcements. Then, children who passed tests the day before were called to the front and given blue “Congratulation Slips”; we would applaud them before they sat back down. After a final prayer, we would go to a Learning Center.

In the Learning Center were rows of desks, divided into “offices” by wooden dividers. In each office, students kept their school work and items needed to complete their daily work. We also had two flags, American and Christian, which we used to signal the Supervisors (American flag) and monitors (Christian flag) we need help. Supervisors were people who had taken a 5 day training course and were conversant in all things ACE. Monitors were usually parents who were volunteering as assistants. Monitors were only allowed to do things like give permission to use the bathroom, score your work, or give spelling tests. Supervisors answered harder questions and could authorize you to do special things. Students in higher grades were sometimes utilized as monitors, something I did quite a bit of in 9th grade.

ace modesty
ACE Modesty Cartoon

Students had a star chart, on which were placed stars showing the work we completed. The work we did was contained in a PACE-Packet of Accelerated Christian Education. Each PACE was roughly 32 pages long and 12 in each subject were completed each year. Typically, we would do Math, English, Social Studies, Science, and Word Building (spelling/vocabulary). As you got into higher grades, there were PACEs in literature, and home economics. For high school aged children, there were elective subjects in Old Testament Survey (studies, I don’t know why they called it survey), New Testament Survey, New Testament Church History, World History, American History, Soul Winning, Life of Christ, Accounting, etc. All of the courses had an overt fundamental Christian message, from the first math PACE, to your final typing test. Even as a Christian, I did not think that was a good thing.

Each PACE was divided into several sections. After a block of instruction and practice problems, there was a quiz called a “Check-up”. At the end of the PACE was a “Self Test”, which was to show you had mastered the information in the PACE. After completing the PACE, it was turned in to a Supervisor and a test was taken the next day.

Scoring the work was accomplished by going to a score station and using a red pen to mark your wrong answers. You then had to return to your office and correct the answer and re-score the work. You did this as many times as was necessary to get it right. I’ll bring up pen colors here. Blue or black was allowed for the students to use during the day. Red ink was only for scoring. Green ink was only for Supervisors and monitors. Even today, at over 40 years old, red and green ink pens still hold almost a mystical quality for me.

One of the most important things in our office was our goal card. Every day, we had to place the number of pages we planned to do in a square that was underneath the subject. We were required to do at least 5 pages in each subject each day, unless a supervisor allowed otherwise. After the goal in each subject was completed, we crossed it off. This was all done in pen, so there could be no cheating. Except for erasable ink, which was fairly new in the early 80’s. If your goals were not finished by the end of the day, you had to ask the teacher for a green “Homework Slip”. On this slip was written what needed to be done to complete the day’s goals, or if you needed to study for a test, memorize scripture verses, etc. Parents signed the slip and it was turned in the next day. The Supervisors performed a “goal check” each morning to ensure everyone was actually doing all of their work.

Any infractions of a rule resulted in a demerit being issued. These were kept logged in a binder. At the end of the day, a student with 3 demerits was given a yellow “Detention Slip”. This slip had to be signed by your parents and returned the next morning and detention was served that day. Three demerits was a 20 minute detention, four was 25, five was 30. Six demerits was automatic swats (spanking). Parents had already signed a slip that allowed the school to administer swats. Swats ranged from 3 to 5, depending in the severity of the infraction or number of demerits. In my own experience, Detention Slips ensured a spanking at home, as did swats. My parents didn’t follow the idea of double jeopardy; they felt if I was bad at school, I deserved the punishment at home. My parents backed the school 100% and did everything they could to make sure I obeyed and learned. As a consequence, I had a VERY good reason to behave at school.

Breaks consisted of a 5 minute break in the morning and afternoon and a 20 minute break for lunch. You had a chance to earn longer breaks by applying for one of three “Levels”. These levels were labeled differently in different schools but always corresponded to “A-C-E Levels”. “A” level would give you two 15 minute breaks and a 25 minute lunch. “C” level would give you two 20 minute breaks, a 25 minute lunch and the ability to score your work without asking for permission. “E” level allowed you freedom to do pretty much as you pleased as long as you completed all of your work. Applying for these levels consisted of completing at least 1.5 PACEs a week for A level, completing 2 PACEs a week along with scripture memorization and a monthly book report for C level, or completing 2 PACEs a week, scripture memorization, a book report every month, and a weekly Christian service for E level. These were something we all coveted, since it give us a bit of freedom.

All students wore a uniform to school. These were known as God and Country uniforms. For boys, it consisted of Navy blue slacks, a red dress shirt and a hideous God and Country necktie. For girls, it was a Navy blue jumper or skirt with a red shirt and a little God and Country neck scarf. Girls had to wear tights or flesh colored stockings, boys had to wear black or blue socks. Everyone wore polishable black shoes. The dress code changed over the years; first we could wear white or red shirts, then red, white or blue shirts. Grey slacks/jumpers were finally allowed. The schools also gave us a little leeway. I remember wearing a red turtleneck shirt for a while and another school let us wear blue or grey Docker or Dickie pants.

lester roloff
Cartoon from an Accelerated Christian Education PACE. Most of the violence and abuse in Independent Baptist group homes can be traced back to Lester Roloff

Part of the indoctrination we received was that shorts were evil on either sex and pants on a woman was the greatest abomination you could imagine. Girls had to wear skirts, dresses or jumpers during the school day. These had to be loose fitting and extend below the knee. For outdoor events or gym times, girls wore a glorified pair of pants called coulattes. All of this was done to help boys avoid temptation and help girls not to become sluts and keep them from tempting us poor, helpless boys.

Another feature of ACE, and fundamentalism in general, is the application of the 6 Inch Rule. This is a rule that states, “All boys and girls must maintain a 6 inch distance from each other”. This rule is a variation of Jack Hyles’ Bible distance rule. He said for a boy and girl to keep a Bible between them, that way by the time they made it past Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they would be too ashamed to do anything. I know, a stupid rule, but it was what we had to do.

The King James Version of the Bible was the only Bible we were allowed to use. There was no question or debate in this area, and there was no explanation as to why, either.

ace virtueson
Ace Virtueson

I have saved the best part of ACE for last- the cartoons featuring the cast of ACE. Front and center is Ace Virtueson (pronounced Ay-see), the perfect child who is as wise as any adult. Then there is Pudge Meekway, the fat kid. Hapford Humblen, the buck-toothed kid who had a learning disability. Racer, who was almost as good as Ace. Kristi Lovejoy, the female counterpart of Ace. The red headed McMercy sisters. Reginald Upright, another good kid. Then there were the two bad kids, Ronnie Vain and Susie; they were the two non-Christian kids who were always doing bad things. These kids all lived in Highland City and attended an ACE school. The principal was Mr. Friendson.

We can’t forget the subtle racism in ACE. There was another city, called Harmony, where the black kids lived and went to their ACE school. There weren’t too many comics with these kids. Two of these kids were J. Michael Kindhart and Booker. There were a couple of girls, too, but I forget their names. I don’t remember any other races being represented, but I could be wrong.

The kids in these cartoons had all kinds of problems that were solved with the help of wiser, older people or prayer. Some of the stories were blatant rip-offs of Bible stories, some were retellings of Sunday school morality stories. All of these cartoons were designed to fit in with the theme of the PACE you were working on, themes such as honesty, diligence, faithfulness, etc.

There was a code of conduct that had to be followed. Each student had to agree to attend church, have devotions, not go to movies, not listen to rock music, keep their hair appropriately cut (or long, if you were a girl), etc. This was to control our behavior in and out of school. These codes were never a problem for me, since my parents were always more conservative than any school I attended.

Once a year, all the ACE schools held a State Convention in which we would compete for medals and a chance to attend the National Convention. Basketball, track events, singing, art exhibits, preaching, public speaking, spelling bees, choir events, solo singing events, etc. These were all designed to get us ready to preach or enter the mission field. During the times I attended ACE schools, boys had to wear sweat pants and the girls had to wear culottes–for modesty’s sake–for sporting events.

So, this is a brief overview of an ACE school. I hope it will make my next installments a little easier to understand.

My Life as a Missionary Kid Part One

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What follows is part one of a series by ElectroMagneticJosh, a man whose parents were Evangelical missionaries. This series will detail his life as a Missionary Kid (MK).

Part 1: The Introduction where I talk about myself and Missionary Kids

Section 1

Regular and former church-goers might remember these people. They were part of your church but never physically there; opting, instead, to live on the other side of the world as missionaries. Every three or four years they would return and report to the congregation (either taking up a Sunday service or maybe doing the rounds to all the various weekly home groups). They often required someone to dust off an old slide projector so everyone could see their pictures (until the merciful advent of power point).

Maybe you enjoyed these reports, maybe you found them dull or, just maybe, you have no idea what I am talking about. Whatever your perspective please read on if you are interested in finding out more about Christian missionary work (with a specific focus on protestant and evangelical missions).

Before I continue it would be rude of me not to introduce myself. I was not a missionary but the child of missionaries. In 1983, just shy of my 3rd birthday, my parents left the socialist democracy of New Zealand to work as missionaries in the right-wing dictatorship of the Philippines. I and my younger came with them. I grew up immersed in the proselytizing wing of Christianity and, while I am now an unbeliever, for most of my life I was a committed believer. I am, and I always will be, a Missionary Kid (MK).

Hopefully that puts some of what I will discuss in perspective. I am planning on writing about that world; the “frontline” of Christianity (at least that is how the missionaries see it). Obviously this won’t be a “pro-mission” series of writings, but it not intended to be an exposé either; more a personal perspective. For my first entry I am going to introduce the idea of Third Culture Kids.

Section 2

Any discussion about MKs needs at least make mention of Third Culture Kids. The Wikipedia page provides some decent information if you want to read further but, for now, I am going to provide my own definition of a TCK and how it may have shaped some of my perspectives on life.

Firstly; what is a TCK? Well the best way to answer is to compare it to most people’s own experiences. For the majority of human beings their formative years are spent in the culture of their parents. They are formally educated in their country’s education system and their peers are the children of their parent’s peers. They share the same common history, enjoy the same cultural touchstones and learn the same values. The odds are high that you, reading this, fit into that category. If so then you were or are, depending on your age, a First Culture Kid. You were raised in the culture of your parents and, whether you realize it or not, have and affinity and implicit understanding of its traditions, taboos, and its sense of humor.

The next category is the Second Culture Kids. Unlike the First Culture Kids; these are children who spent their formative years in a culture different to their parents which they were expected to join. The most obvious example, and the only one I can think of, is the children of immigrants. While their perspective on life is shaped by the culture they were raised in their parents still retain the “old” attitudes and values. If you fit into this category you are likely to have experienced some unique conflicts with your parents over the “right way” of doing something. Often what your parent’s value may seem incongruous to what you believe is truly important out of life. This can be over the big issues like acceptable career paths and life-partners or over small issues like wearing jewelry or enjoying certain entertainments. You grow up in a culture different from that of your birth and, as a result, identify more with the new than the old.

That brings us to the group I belong to; TCKs. Like the Second Culture Kids we are raised in a culture different to our home or passport country (as we often call it). We are people who, despite being raised in a different country, are ultimately expected to return and integrate to our passport country’s culture. TCKs come from three main sources as the children of government workers, expatriate business people, or missionaries. It is the MKs that, on average, spend the most time in a single “host” country while the other categories of TCKs move around between more countries and spend less time overseas in total. As a result; MKs often have the hardest time integrating back into their passport country upon their return.

Section 3

While I did interact with other types of TCKs growing up (my parents were friends with some expatriate workers) the majority of people I grew up with in the Philippines were either Filipinos (of the same Christian denomination as my parents) or other MKs. In other words; while it could be said that I identified with both Filipino and a New Zealand culture it was still through the lens of Christian culture. This meant I was unaware about a lot of Filipino cultural practices – particularly their social gatherings. Like Christians in many other countries the Filipinos my parents worked with had replaced the more “worldly” activities available to them with Christian alternatives. They especially avoided things with alcohol and dancing.

When our family would return to New Zealand on a four-year cycle for a year before going back to the Philippines I had a very similar experience. The people I interacted with the most were family or church people. Again; it was a very Christian-heavy environment. There was, however, one key difference; I always attended the local public schools when I was back. I’ll talk about the specifics of my MK education at another point but the public schooling was interesting to me. Every time I started afresh the other kids always seemed so godless (which they were).

I didn’t stop me wanting to socialize. Not only did I manage to make friends each four-year cycle but I got the added bonus of feeling smug on the inside because of the things I, as a good Christian, refrained from doing. When I was younger not swearing was my main spiritual differentiator but, on subsequent returns to New Zealand, I graduated to avoiding smoking which lead to avoiding drinking, not having sex and deciding not to experiment with drugs. In that regard I was similar to many Christian kids who defined their religious practice by the things they didn’t do.

None of this builds a case for MKs having trouble re-integrating back into the passport country. But I was lucky. I am naturally extroverted and enjoy new experiences so every-time I came back I saw it as an adventure. I also had the good fortune of having long-standing friends from the church that commissioned my parents. At the age of 18 I returned to New Zealand to start University I had a group of friends already and quickly made new ones. I had Uni friends during the week and church friends during the weekend with a slight overlap as a couple of them went to both. For me, unlike many of my former MK classmates and my own siblings, re-integration was relatively easy.

Section 4

One final word on this topic; I said that I was lucky because of friendships I had to return to and the fact I could easily make new friends. One other aspect is the cultural integration. I wasn’t fully up with the nuances of Kiwi (a term New Zealanders call ourselves) culture but I could fake it until I was. I also was fortunate that I lived in the Philippines where a lot of the population read, speak and understand English. As a result a lot of entertainment (music, tv, film and books) came from North America and the UK – the same place a lot of popular entertainment in New Zealand comes from. When it came to the pop culture of my generation I had very few gaps.

There is a lot to be said for sharing these cultural touchstones. I know some MKs who grew up in remote areas (isolated tribal villages and the like) who found it hard to join in casual conversations when they returned. This was problematic because people in their late teens tend to talk about entertainment a lot and without the shared culture and history to draw upon pop culture can be a powerful way in. In my case I made friends with people who enjoyed similar movies, music, and video games.

Of course I still have moments, although not as often as I used to, where I’m with a group of people. Be it friends or colleagues it is inevitable that the topic will turn to an event reminder of a joke for which I have no point of reference. Many people experience this when moving to a new town or joining a new circle of friends – but try to imagine that on a completely cultural level. A level where you realize that this was something that everyone in the country probably knows. It is this reason that many TCPs seek out each other’s company and the company of immigrants. Regardless of whether or not we have a shared history we all understand the feeling of being a cultural outsider.

Traversing the culture gaps are further complicated by the fact that MKs look like the people of their passport country. Often certain allowances that are made for immigrants are not made for us when it comes to understanding slang words or making social faux pas. This affects MKs differently depending on their personality. While I am the type to laugh at my mistakes I have seen others who retreat very quickly from groups once they have done something they might deem humiliating. It probably doesn’t help that most of the MKs are returning home in their teens to either complete high school or because they have just graduated.

It isn’t all negative though. When I think about my childhood I realize I had an opportunity most people don’t have. I experienced two countries, two cultures and two ways of life which are very different from each other. My experiences were mostly positive and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. When I look at MKs I find that those who take the perspective of both cultures with them and are able to appreciate those unique experiences that those from either one wouldn’t have are the ones who do the best in life. This is regardless of whether they end up living in their host country, their passport country or somewhere else entirely.

I won’t elaborate further as this will start to bleed into some other topics I plan to write about. For those who have found this interesting so far: I am busy but will do my best to write more so if there are any questions that you have feel free to leave them in the comments and I will take them on board when writing future updates. I will give you an indication of some other ideas I already have like the “call” to missions, MK education, Mission agencies, the validity of mission work, and maybe even a look at the Open/Plymouth Brethren.

Polly’s 57th Birthday

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Polly Gerencser 2015

Tomorrow, Polly and I plan to eat at Mancy’s Steakhouse in Toledo, Ohio in celebration of her 57th birthday. Mancy’s is quite expensive, so we only go there once a year on Polly’s birthday. We hope to have a wonderful time. As I sit here contemplating the wonderful life I’ve shared with Polly, the song Wasn’t Expecting That by Jamie Lawson began to play on Rdio. I’ve never heard this song or artist before, and as I listen I find myself weeping. The song speaks to the bond and love Polly and I have for each other.  I thought I’d share it with you.

Video Link

Lyrics

It was only a smile
But my heart it went wild
I wasn’t expecting that
Just a delicate kiss
Anyone could’ve missed
I wasn’t expecting that

Did I misread the sign?
Your hand slipped into mine
I wasn’t expecting that
You spent the night in my bed
You woke up and you said
“Well, I wasn’t expecting that!”

I thought love wasn’t meant to last
I thought you were just passing through
If I ever get the nerve to ask
What did I get right to deserve somebody like you?
I wasn’t expecting that

It was only a word
It was almost misheard
I wasn’t expecting that
But it came without fear
A month turned into a year
I wasn’t expecting that

I thought love wasn’t meant to last
Honey, I thought you were just passing through
If I ever get the nerve to ask
What did I get right to deserve somebody like you?
I wasn’t expecting that

Oh and isn’t it strange
How a life can be changed
In the flicker of the sweetest smile
We were married in spring
You know I wouldn’t change a thing
Without that innocent kiss
What a life I’d have missed

If you’d not took a chance
On a little romance
When I wasn’t expecting that
Time doesn’t take long
Three kids up and gone
I wasn’t expecting that

When the nurses they came
Said, “It’s come back again”
I wasn’t expecting that
Then you closed your eyes
You took my heart by surprise
I wasn’t expecting that

Local Church Says The Morality of the Bible is the Safety of Society

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According to the Church of Christ at West Unity, the morality of the Bible is the safety of society.

Hmm…so…we live in a nation where every home has a Bible, often multiple Bibles, and there are churches on virtually every street corner. Shouldn’t this mean that our society is quite safe? How’s that working out for Christian America? And exactly what “morality of the Bible” should we follow? The polygamous, genocidal one of the Old Testament? The Ten Commandments? Or is that just the Nine Commandments? Which version of the Ten Commandments? The socialist morality of Jesus or the capitalist morality of Paul? If we obey “the morality of the Bible” does that mean, for a fact, that our society will be safe? Or is this just a cheap cliché that is not believed or practiced? So many questions…

Preaching the Pro-Life Gospel on Route 18

Polly took me on a short road trip before she went to work today. I hoped to photograph farmers busily harvesting their crops, but I found few farmers in their fields. We drove to Grabill, Indiana, took a quick stroll through The Country Shops Flea Market & Antiques, and then headed to the McDonald’s in Hicksville to get a quick bite to eat. From Hicksville we took Route 18 east toward Sherwood, Ohio. Along Route 18 are a variety of religious signs. I previously wrote about them in a post titled Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance, County, Ohio. One string of signs  has been repainted and lettered with what I call the pro-life gospel.

Going East on Route 18

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Going West on Route 18

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The signs are owned by the Hammon family who live on Wonderly Road, Mark Center, Ohio

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Tony Miano’s ‘Ministry of Presence’ is Really Just the Harassment of Women

the masters college students harrassing women
Students from The Master’s College Preparing to Harass Women at Family Planning Associates in Mission Hills, California. Dear Lord, Please help us to harass many women in your name! Amen! (Picture from Cross Encounters website)

Tony Miano is a bombastic, arrogant street evangelist associated with John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Miano’s direct oversight pastors are Mike Riccardi and a former friend of mine, Phil Johnson .   Miano, a retired police officer and best buds with Ray Comfort, believes God has called him to be an open- air evangelist and itinerant preacher. A hardcore Calvinist, Miano makes no bones about the fact he considers the Arminianism preached in many Evangelical churches to be a false gospel. Miano, like his pastors John MacArthur and Ray Comfort, thinks he has the corner on the truth market. Those who believe differently are ignorant, poorly taught, or wicked, vile, unregenerate, reprobate atheists such as myself.

Last week, Miano took a group of 20 students from MacArthur’s The Master’s College to “minister” to women at Family Planning Associates in Mission Hills, California, a women’s health facility that performs abortions.  Miano calls his abortuary work a ‘ministry of presence’. That’s right, a ministry of presence.  In truth, it is a ministry of harassment, a ministry of forcing one’s religious beliefs on another. Miano, hoping to corrupt the minds of another generation of young Evangelicals, spent the day training The Master’s College students in the fine art of harassing women who came to the Family Planning Associates (FPA) for service and care. Here’s what Miano had to say:

The Lord has allowed a wonderful team of Christian men and women to form and to engage in loving people in action and truth, outside the Family Planning Associates abortuary, in Mission Hills, CA. Today the team and I were blessed beyond words to be joined by more than 20 students from The Master’s College.

This group of young adults was exceptional. Mature; submissive; teachable; respectful; servant-minded–and the list goes on. The students held signs and prayed. They effectively engaged in a ministry of presence.

A number of students, as well as regular members of the team, testified at the end of the morning of seeing people in cars, fitting the profile of those seeking to abort a child, making repeated passes by the abortuary, but never entering the parking lot. While tragically babies were murdered at the abortuary this morning, we left confident that the Lord used us to turn several abortive parents away–allowing unborn children to live for at least another day.

Note carefully what Miano said: the students were submissive, respectful, and teachable, Evangelical lingo for easily persuadable. Force-fed the pro-life lie and anti-Planned Parenthood talking points, these students were perfect candidates for Miano’s abortuary ministry. The students were taught by Miano the fine art of profiling a woman seeking an abortion and, applying their learning, succeeded in turning women away from getting needed health care. While Miano calls this a ministry of presence, it really is a legal means of harassing women under the guise of doing the Lord’s work. While Miano can report to his supporters that several babies got to live another day, numerous women turned away from FPA out of fear, not wanting to be accosted by the religious crazies in front of the facility.

Only in America do we allow fundamentalist religious zealots to stand between patients and their doctors when receiving medical care. Pro-life groups have carved out special legal exceptions that allow them to harass women and doctors, the same legal exceptions used by Westboro Baptist Church to harass the families of fallen soldiers. Whatever a person might believe about abortion, a woman should have the right to seek medical care without being harassed by God’s appointed agents of righteousness. If a person thinks abortion is murder, fine don’t have an abortion, but don’t impede those who think differently. Unfortunately, while abortion through the second trimester is still legal in every state, Republicans and Christian fundamentalists have worked to enact state laws that have made it increasingly hard to get an abortion, while at the same time refusing to support methods and practices that would drastically reduce the need for abortion. They will not rest until Roe v. Wade is overturned and women are once again forced to seek out illegal abortions. For those of us who think every woman has a right to control her own body and have an abortion if she desires one, we must continue to push back at laws and regulations that we know will only result in increased suffering and death.

12 week fetus
12 week fetus

People like Miano aren’t really as interested in saving life as much they are interested in being right. For pro-life Evangelicals, the most important issue is what the Bible supposedly says about life, death, and abortion and making sure that everyone, Evangelical or not, is forced to play by their interpretation of an ancient religious text written by unknown authors thousands of years ago. In what other medical realm do we allow such a text to hold weight? Its antiquity alone invalidates its message and medical worth. Since 88% of all abortions occur within the first trimester and 98.8% of abortions occur before viability, the issue is not really about the life of fetus as much as it is the continued attempt to control women and their reproduction. I wish more Americans would understand that the difference between zealots like Tony Miano and the Muslim fundamentalist in the Middle East is quite small. While in many places the Muslim has the force of the law and is able to regulate everything from what a woman wears to when she can and can’t have sex, the Mianos of the Christian world lack the force of law to compel women to live according to their puritanical laws and regulations. They continue to chip at the edges of the establishment clause and the separation of church and state, but make no mistake about it they’ll not rest until the Christian flag flies over the White House. This is why we must continue to expose, fight, and push back. We must not rest until people understand that freedom of religion also means the freedom FROM religion, and a woman seeking an abortion has every right not to be harassed by a fundamentalist Christian abortuary ministry team and students from a fundamentalist Christian college. Perhaps, it is time to recognize that the first amendment needs some tweaking; that just like a person can’t shout FIRE in a crowded theater, neither should religious zealots be permitted to harass women seeking out medical care.

You can read my thoughts on abortion:

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder

A Few Thoughts on Abortion and The Planned Parenthood Videos

I’ve written about Miano previously when he sent out the following tweet after the Nepal earthquake:

 

miano twitter nepal

See Tony Miano Rejoices Over Earthquake in Nepal

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[signoff]

Look Through Both Eyes, It’s the Way God Made Them

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Graphic from People in White Coats

Bethany, our daughter with Down Syndrome, had her eyes checked today by the ophthalmologist. Two years ago, she had cataracts removed from both eyes and a year ago she had laser surgery to correct a small complication. Bethany has a pair of glasses she is supposed to wear for reading and other up- close work, but she refuses to wear them. After months of almost daily nagging, we gave in and told her she no longer had to wear them. Her visit to the ophthalmologist was to make sure there wasn’t any physical problem that was causing Bethany’s reticence to wear her glasses. Good news? Her eyes are fine, and if she is happy with how her world looks, there’s no need for us to nag her about wearing her glasses.

Using an eye chart, the intake nurse did a preliminary exam on Bethany’s eyes. First one eye, then the other, and then both eyes. When checking both eyes, the nurse said, Bethany, look through both eyes, it’s the way God made them. Both Polly and I looked at each other and smiled. No big deal. We know the nurse is a Christian, as is the doctor. God talk is, for the most part, harmless, so we rarely, if ever, say a word. But, it did get me to thinking…

If looking though both eyes is because that’s the way God made them and how he intends for us to view the world, why then did Bethany have to have cataracts removed?  Without getting into the complexity of the human eye argument, why is it that these perfectly tuned eyes of ours often require glasses to see properly? After we got in the car I told Polly that God is the General Motors (GM)  of the physical world. Supposedly, our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of God, yet there are numerous design flaws and failures, quite like the recent spate of problems GM has had with millions of automobiles.

You see, if God is going to get all the credit for the body being perfectly designed, including seeing out of both eyes, then he must also bear the responsibility for the parts that are poorly designed and the parts that do not work as they should. If GM can be held liable for engineering failures and be fined billions of dollars, shouldn’t God be held accountable for the same? And in God’s case, his lack of proper design and engineering skill has resulted untold suffering and death. Perhaps God is more like the Ford Motor Company and the Pinto, in which a design flaw resulted in people being burned to death. Maybe God is like the bean counters at Ford who decided it was cheaper to pay the wrongful death claims than it was to recall and repair Pinto gas tanks. Well, God is actually worse than Ford because he lives in a world where he is immune from wrongful death claims. God just smiles and says, I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life…even if that plan means roasting you like a hot dog on a stick.

As we sat in the waiting room, I noticed a frail, petite, elderly woman sitting in front of us. She had no nose and it looked as if part of her upper jaw had been removed. I suspect that she likely had some sort of oral cancer. I could see her tongue constantly flick towards where her upper teeth once were. I felt so sorry for her, for the pain and suffering she must be going through. I told Polly that seeing someone like that is a reminder that things could be worse. While I feel like I’ve gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson and lost, only to be run over by a truck after the fight, I have not been permanently disfigured by surgery. From my perspective, I’ve got it good compared to this poor woman.

After Bethany’s appointment and the nurse’s mention of God’s design, my thoughts returned to the woman with no nose. Where is God for this woman? The perfect designer made a body that is prone to sickness, disease, and death. The one who supposedly created us neglected to make sure our DNA and cells couldn’t go wild and cause cancers that eat away at our fearfully-and-wonderfully-made bodies. What kind of God gives a woman a cancer that ravages her face, turning her into a freak stared at by all who dare look her way? It’s sin, Bruce, the Christian is sure to say. Sickness, disease, and death are the consequences of sin. This woman is paying the price for her sin. God still loves her and has a wonderful plan for her life if she will only put her faith and trust in him. Does the Christian ever bother to consider what a monster their God is? A God who maims, afflicts, and kills just because he can and because he wants humans to love him. Would anyone in their right mind want to be married to or be friends with such a person? Our televisions air crime procedural shows like Criminal Minds, dedicated to stories about human psychopaths; how is God any different? How can anyone look at the untold agony, suffering, pain, and death caused by the Christian God and still worship him? Is it not better to say there is no God and accept that sickness, disease, and death are the consequences of living? It is not better to say shit happens and that we all have to die of something? How does having a God with a grand design and plan make things better? If this God can’t be bothered with his creation now, why should his creation be expected to or desire to worship him? Isn’t God the equivalent of the psychopath who tortured a woman for ten years, only to let her go free, hoping that she would still love her torturer and voluntarily come to live with him? Would we not take steps to make sure that this could never, ever happen? Yet, when it comes to the Christian God, he keeps meting out pain, suffering and death, and millions continue to love, adore, and worship him.

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The Fruit of the Spirit Is or Why Christianity is a Dead Fruit Tree

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I spent the first 50 years of my life in the Christian church and I spent 25 years pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I have met thousands of Christians in my lifetime. Even now, seven years removed from the last time I attended a Christian church, I continue to meet Christians and interact with them on this blog, through email, and on Facebook. My exposure to the personal lives of hundreds of Christians allows me to draw some conclusions about Christianity. I include myself and my family in the sample set. My conclusion is this: For all their talk about being Spirit-filled, it seems that Christians are anything but.

According to the Bible, all Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. He teaches them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Why is it then that most Christians live lives contrary to the basic, foundational teachings of the New Testament? WWJD, what would Jesus do, is rarely seen among Christians. Christians are commanded to follow the Lamb (Jesus) wherever he goes. How many times have Christians heard their pastor say, we need to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, yet any casual observer can see that most Christians seem to walk wherever the hell they want. If Jesus wants to follow along that’s OK, but if not, fine, because the mall has some great sales going on.

The passage at the top of this post says, “the fruit of the Spirit is.” The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence, the proof that a person a Christian. Notice that it says IS. This is a very important word. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Greek Dictionary, the word IS in this verse is “third person singular present indicative.” Simply put, the fruit of the Spirit is not some lofty objective to hope for or aspire to; it is the proof, the evidence that a person is a Christian.  Since the Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian, the fruit of the Spirit shouldn’t it be readily evident in the lives of EVERY Christian? The life of the Christian should evidence the fruit of the Spirit every moment of every day. With such a great power as  the Christian God living inside them, surely this should not be a difficult way of life to maintain, right? After all, according to the Bible, he that is in the Christian (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he that is in the world (Satan).

 

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However, when we critically look at how Christians live their lives, what do we find? We find that Christians are not much different from the uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines they judge and condemn to hell.  It is chic these days for Christians to admit that they are just sinners saved by grace or that they are a work in progress. A popular bumper sticker says, Don’t judge me, God isn’t finished with me yet. However, such statements are directly contrary to what Galatians 5:22, 23 says.

The Bible is very clear…every Christian should evidence the following each and every day of his or her life:

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • long suffering
  • gentleness
  • goodness
  • faith
  • meekness
  • temperance

A wonderful list of admirable character traits, to be sure. Every one of us would do well to strive to live lives that demonstrate these traits. However, we know, even on our best days, we fail miserably in demonstrating these character traits. We are, after all, human. We recognize that all of us have character flaws that can and do affect the relationships we have with others. I don’t know of any non-Christians who think they are perfect or a beacon of morality and virtue. While many non-Christians certainly evidence the fruit of the Spirit, none would be so foolish to say that they perfectly do so.

Christians aren’t given the luxury of claiming they are human. Remember, the fruit of the spirit IS. There is no place in the Christian life for anything less than perfect obedience to the Christian God. After all, Christians have EVERYTHING they need to live a life of perfection. Surely, God did not leave them lacking in any way, right?

Within Christianity we find many reactions to what I have written above:

  • Some Christians believe in perfection. They are entirely sanctified and  can not and do not sin.
  • Some Christians think there are two classes of Christians: ordinary everyday Christians and Spirit-filled Christians. Most Christians are the former and very few become the latter.
  • Some Christians think every Christian has two natures, the Spirit and the flesh, and these two natures continually battle against each other. Which nature you feed the most is the one who wins the battle. Christians are classified as either Spirit filled or carnal/fleshly.
  • Some Christians think they are saved by grace and how they live doesn’t matter. While they certainly think a believer should evidence the fruit of the Spirit, if they don’t they are still Christian. Their ticket to heaven is punched, their fire insurance is paid up, and a home in God’s Motel 6 awaits them no matter how they live their lives.
  • Some Christians think that God gives a special anointing of the Spirit to some people. All the TV preachers have this anointing (along with the ability to extract large sums of money from the bank accounts of gullible Christians) Some sects call this being baptized with the Holy Spirit, others call it a second definite work of grace.
  • Some Christians believe in progressive sanctification. They believe that the Christian life is a long process where sin is progressively dealt with and forsaken. It is a wash, rinse, and repeat kind of process.

All of these reactions, except the first one, reject the clear teaching and meaning of Galatians 5:22,23. Again, the fruit of the spirit IS! Of course, the first reaction is ludicrous. There is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t sin. The evidence of this is everywhere we look. Here’s a dirty little secret that many Christians don’t want non-Christians to know: for all their talk about God, Jesus, and Spirit-filled living, they live just like the rest of us. While they may be experts at putting on the good Christian act, underneath the façade they are no different from Atheists, Humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Shintoists, Pagans, or Satanists. Try as they might, they still live lives that are an admixture of good and bad behavior.

All I am trying to do is knock Christians off their high horse and get them to see that they are not any different from the rest of us. I am trying to get them to see how offensive it is when they try to force their moral code on others when they themselves can’t even keep it. Even with God living inside of them, they “sin” just like everyone else. Christianity would be better served if Christians presented their moral code as one code among many, worth aspiring to and not as a “God says, Do this or else.” Not many atheists are going to disagree with Christians about the value of the character traits listed in Galatians 5:22,23. The world would be a far better place if we all tried to evidence these character traits (and others) in our lives.

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