Religion and Personal Beliefs

I often struggle with how much of my personal beliefs to share here on the Internet, especially on this particular blog. I feel like we’re a community, and I like that about us. As a community, though, I realize we’re all very different in our take on life, religion, etc. and I don’t want to impose. I’m naturally very opinionated, so sometimes I censor myself (yes, believe it or not, I censor myself!).

I was told several months ago that there were thousands of people who were hurting after they left Master’s Commission, many struggled with depression, doubted God’s existence, and that they’d benefit from my story about the evolution of my faith. Before I share something very personal about my faith (I’ve already written much about depression), I’d like feedback from my readers.

Would it interest you to hear my story? As someone who’s been indoctrinated with a dogma that I find destructive, I’ve shied away from discussing my own beliefs, because I’ve not wanted to influence people. I’m not a pastor. I’m not a leader. I’m a blogger telling my story.

Forgiveness

Considering the foundation of Christianity lies on the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, for the atonement of sins of believers in the faith, forgiveness is a spontaneous deed of a Christian, and one that is needed from God the Father, on behalf of Jesus Christ, for a Christian believer to enter in eternity with God. If a Christian does not seek out forgiveness for their sins on Earth, a Christian would perhaps spend an eternity in Hell, separated from God. The Christian New Testament states in Colossians Chapter 3, Verses 12-14:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

In this Christian view of forgiveness, the writer emphasizes the Christian as “God’s chosen people” which subverts the Jew to being under the Christian, or attempts to nullify their beliefs.

Additionally, the emphasis on bearing and forgiving the grievances you have toward another human being belittles and forgets the sufferings of the victim. The emphasis of forgiveness in many New Testament texts is usually placed on the perpetrator, and the atonement of his soul, rather than on justice or vengeance for the brutalized; thus, even the act of forgiveness can ultimately belittle the victim or perpetuate the dehumanization and torture of the victims.

In the case of Simon and his fellow concentration camp victims, he was at risk for death at any moment, and when he wasn’t fighting for his life from an SS guard, he was fighting starvation, being worked to death, and otherwise being treated as subhuman and viewed as animalistic. Horrifically, Simon’s victimization had not just been an event of the Holocaust, but an ongoing violence that had followed him to high school, and even began thousands of years before he was born. Christianity had begun the brunt of the hatred that Jews like Simon endured, and it was one of the precursors for the Holocaust to happen.

Former MC from TX Tells Her Story

Written by a Former MC from TX

It was said that Pastor Nathan was accountable to the pastor of the church, but I quickly learned, Pastor Nathan was the end of the line.

There would be an hour of morning prayer, daily devotionals, cleaning, working, Bible reading, and a strict ban on dating.  There was even a ban on “emotional dating” that I eventually understood to mean “don’t be good friends with members of the opposite sex.”

(Pastor Nathan even gave a sermon on how girls who had mostly/only male friends were emotionally damaged.  Oddly, the reverse was not stressed.)

What more could a seventeen year old girl want?

Unfortunately, the idea of being really holy appealed to me at the time.  Also, like most crazy religious organizations, this program showed the world one side while promoting an entirely different world once you were involved in the program.

See, the only preview I got of this program was when I saw them lead a youth service.  They seemed (as the Evangelicals like to say) “on fire” for God.  They did music videos (acting out Christian rock songs), they quoted scripture with trembling passion, and they lit the auditorium with an emotional blaze that got everyone pumped.  I wanted to be inspiring like that.

What did I learn about those shows?  (I call them “shows” now instead of “services”.)  We practiced our asses off for those shows.  We practiced the tears, we practiced the emotive quoting of scripture, and if it was not reaching the emotional highs Pastor Nathan needed we were lectured and ordered to practice more.

The really insidious part of it all?  He did not call it practice.

I remember a girl named R.  She was called an intern because she was in her second ten-month stint in the program.  She quoted the same scripture at every show.  She was, like most of the other kids in the program, a genuine believer.  She joined the program to be closer to God, to learn to inspire others to come to God.

She would stand on the stage half-weeping/half-yelling her memorized scripture, trembling and making the crowds wish they could feel something as deeply as R.

They did not see how Pastor Nathan told her she was “doing things for her own glory” during one practice.  He told her to go pray and come back when she was doing things for the right reasons.  R, like the rest of us, was so eager to please God, all Pastor Nathan had to do was claim she was doing something displeasing to Him and she would break.

She went to a corner and prayed earnestly and then came back and delivered the more emotionally reactive quotation that Pastor Nathan had really wanted.  Pastor Nathan said she had done better, but to “watch herself.”

Apparently, Satan was itching to infiltrate our group and one weak leak would bring us all down.

In fact, we were increasingly encouraged to cease looking at ourselves as individuals.  We were a unit.  The sin of one was the sin of all.

When the boys made the error of renting “Meet Joe Black” it created an uproar.  Now, we girls, being kept well away from the boys’ quarters, had no idea that the boys had rented this movie.  We never would have known.

We found out.  Pastor Nathan marched it into devotion time.  It was the only time during the day we saw Pastor Nathan unless he made special time to reprimand us or suddenly change our schedules.  It was generally the time when we found out what we were doing to annoy him.

This devotion time was special.  There was a TV in the room.  It was paused on some part of a movie with Brad Pitt kissing some chick.

The boys had rented a movie with a sex scene in it.  Did they watch the sex scene?  No, they either fast-forwarded through it or stopped watching completely.  Did that matter?  Not a bit.

Since those boys had so defiled our group, we girls were unknowingly defiled too.  So, Pastor Nathan said we would all have to watch the sex scene together.  He hit play and stared at all of us like we were about to drop into Hell.

No one moved.  No one looked at the screen.  The fear of Nathan was a powerful thing because he had made himself God’s emissary.  He was our own, personal Jesus Christ.

Then, from the back of the room, a boy named jumped up and ran to the TV.  He turned it off while shaking and crying.  Then he turned to us, addressing the girls with, “Don’t you know some of us are tormented by lust?!”

Looking back, I laugh quite heartily at that.  It was an odd thing for an eighteen year-old boy to be screaming in an extremely tense situation.  Furthermore, I wasn’t sure why he thought it was our job to prevent his lust.

Pastor Nathan was pleased. Well, sort of.

“It’s about time someone did that.  I’m ashamed none of you did it sooner!”  He said.  Then he made the male staff members (you had to be a three or more year member of the program to be staff) apologize to the group.  We all had to spend extra time in prayer that day.

Then there was the time another female student informed me should would be politely confronted Nathan about our scheduling—or lack thereof.  As students, we never knew what was happening days or only hours down the road.  Our schedule could change in an instant and we would not know until the last minute.  This bothered many of us, not just T.

A couple of days after T informed me she would be speaking to Nathan about this, we had a particularly stern message from him in the morning devotional.  It centered on the selfishness of worrying about temporal things like time management.  Nathan said we needed to trust the leadership with our time.  It sounded eerily pointed.

I scribbled a quick note to T during Nathan’s message, “Did you talk to him yesterday about our schedule?”

She looked at me and mouthed, “How did you know?”  To this day I’m not sure if she was joking or not.

Many of Nathan’s messages seemed to be pointed at anyone who disagreed. I believe I might have inspired a couple on rebelliousness with my concerns.  In the later one he went through a list of types of rebellion.  He informed us no true Christian makes claims on “rights.”  We give-up “rights” when we surrender to God. He also reiterated, as he did often, the need for complete trust in the leadership (though they were known to share all secrets with Nathan).  He even said that because he and the leadership were appointed by God, we would not need to worry if the leadership “inadvertently” asked us to do something wrong.  We would only be following Nathan’s instructions, so God would only hold Nathan accountable.  Free-will was never mentioned.

That message was probably the closest Nathan ever came to being honest about his motives.

Former MC from Texas attended Master’s Commission of Austin under Nathan Davies.  She loves the Longhorns and Tex-Mex.

 

To contact Former MC from TX or to drop her a line, you can email her at: FormerMCTX@gmail.com

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This work by Lisa Kerr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. © Lisa Kerr and My Cult Life, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Kerr and My Cult Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

You’ve Been Taught a Lot of Dumb Sh*t

I’m going to play “Dear Abby” aka Dear Lisa today. You can ask me any question and I’m going to answer, probably contrary to how your pastor has taught you.

Dear Lisa,

My pastor says it’s not okay for women to pursue men and that men are cowards if they don’t pursue us. He says that all men these days are chicken and they should do the pursuing.

Sincerely,

Confused

Dear Confused,

Your pastor is full of sh*t. I covered the anti-feminist movement of the church here. It might be a good idea. Men LOVE being pursued. Sometimes men are just as nervous as you are to put themselves out there and risk rejection. You should do flirt with him, call him, ask him out! It might be the best thing you’ve ever done. I always pursue guys. I found that when I lived in Texas, that was a faux pas, but here in California, we do things differently.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Dear Lisa,

My pastor says if I have sex before marriage, I’m going to get pregnant and die. Is this true?

Sincerely,

Almost Dead

Dear Almost Dead,

Your pastor is full of sh*t. If you have sex before marriage, you’re going to have lots of free entertainment, and you risk run the risk of LOVING it. Pastors don’t want women running around in this world who like sex, who are happy and fulfilled, and who might become more powerful than them. If you are going to have sex before marriage, my only advice is to use a condom to prevent STD’s, and use birth control so you don’t have an unwanted pregnancy with someone you don’t know if you want to have a kid with. I’m a firm believer in women living their dreams out first, and then mothering afterward.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Dear Lisa,

My pastor says if I drink alcohol, I’ll go to hell. I actually like beer. Help!

Sincerely,

Samuel Adams

Dear Sam,

Your pastor probably throws one back in the evenings when he has a bbq at his house. No worries. Drink your beer. Heck, drink some vodka. Have fun in life. Of course, drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive. And don’t become an alcoholic. But you won’t risk hell from any of those things–drinking responsibly can be fun. Try it!

Sincerely,

Lisa

Dear Lisa,

My pastor says that if I go to Vegas and gamble a little bit, I might burn in hell for life because I’m not giving all my money to the orphans at the church. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Leaving Las Vegas

Dear LLV,

First, there are no orphans living at the church. What your pastor means to say is that if you give your money to Vegas, he can’t buy his new car. Your tithe and offerings go to operate the church and they also go to your pastors pocket. It’s true. I worked with pastors for years. Gambling in Vegas is FUN. You should try it. You won’t go to hell. You won’t die. You’ll probably have a ton of fun. But, you might get addicted and that could be bad. So, just play in moderation and you’ll be fine. And, if you do get addicted…get help. Gamblers Anonymous style.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Magic Erasers Are the Best Cleaning Product, Or Why Elisabeth Elliot is Full of Crap

Magic Erasers are the best cleaning product out on the market today.

They’re particularly useful for the bachelor pad, the busy business minded person or for the person who hates to clean (like me).

If you’re like me, you hate to clean. You don’t mind letting the shower go for a month without a good scrub down. You may not even vacuum the floors until you can visibly see the dirt on the floor. Maybe you have a sink full of dishes that’s been sitting in there since Thanksgiving. Who cares!

With the Magic Eraser, you can wait two or three months and then give your shower a good scrub down. All the soap scum disappears…like magic! (Pun intended) Ha Ha.

I love the magic eraser. Why? You ask. Let me explain.

Years went by while I was being “discipled” (or as I affectionately call it: Slavery) that we were ordered to keep our rooms, bathrooms, and cars in meticulous care.

If our pastor walked in unannounced, he might see our dorms in moderate disarray (the kind of disarray that’s normal for a young adult).You’ve seen comments on this blog, where ex-students have shared that their personal belongings were ripped from their wardrobe closets and tossed into the middle of the dorm room floor to represent the pastor’s distaste for uncleanliness.

This was a real problem for me.

Not only is it violent, and abusive, but it’s just not my style to spend hours on end categorizing and organizing my underwear and personal filing system. I have better things to do. I like to sleep. I love to write and play online. I take long drives down in Southern California, adoring the natural beauty of our state. In other words, I don’t give a damn about cleaning for hours on end and I’m happy about that.

Furthermore, I’ve always been really relaxed when it comes to how my room or apartment looks. My idea of being organized for my writing space is dozens of books lined up along the floor, wall, counter top, and desk–some open to a page that I’m quoting or mulling over and some face down, with some random gum wrapper holding my place. I have papers spread around me like a moat around a castle–if I move, I have to tip toe around them like I’m Alice in Wonderland getting out of a maze.

If you walked into my creative work space, you’d probably think a Tasmanian devil had arrived and spun out of control.

I like it that way.

No big deal.

Except, it is a big deal when your pastor and his wife are obsessed with Elisabeth Elliot and her books. The idea that “cleanliness is next to godliness” gets it’s militaristic stance from the author of Passion and Purity, a legalistic guide to abstinence and avoiding contact and emotional ties with the opposite sex. Elliot wrote a book entitled Let Me Be a Woman, which is the text I believe the idea of being clean, robotic women-drones came from.

Why do I disagree with Elliot and the teachings our pastors put on us? Well, first let me say that if you think getting your clothing and possessions thrown on a public floor is “godly” or good in any way, you need to have your head examined, as my dad would say.

Secondly, Elliot is completely against the type of female I am. I was raised to be a woman who could do anything I wanted to do with my life. Yep, I had those parents. The ones who never said, “Oh, Lisa you’re a girl. Don’t even dream of doing that! You must just sit at home and get married and have babies.”

Elliot is completely anti-feminist and contrary to how I was raised (how I was raised is probably really normal and if nothing else–healthy).

How can Elliot be anti-feminist? It’s more common than you think, especially in Christian society. Elliot wrote the following argument against feminism and matriarchy in her book, Let Me Be a Woman.

“Do the women’s liberationists want to be liberated from being women? No, they would say, they want to be liberated from society’s stereotypes of what women are supposed to be…. Some very interesting facts have been uncovered by scientists which will feminists will have to treat very gingerly for they show that it is not merely society which determines how the sexes will behave…. The idea of matriarchy is mythical, I’ve learned, for not one that can be documented has ever existed. Doesn’t it seem strange that male dominance has been universal if it’s purely social conditioning? One would expect to see at least a few examples of societies where women rather than men held the positions of highest status…. Isn’t it really much easier to believe that the feelings of men and women throughout history bear a direct relationship to some innate prerequisite? … It was God who made us different, and He did it on purpose. Recent scientific research is illuminating, and as has happened before, corroborates ancient truth which mankind has always recognized. God created male and female, the male to call forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow, adapt, submit.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman, pages 58-59.

Elliot’s last line in there is completely sickening: “God created male and female, the male called forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow, adapt, and submit.”

Wow. All I can say is how full of ignorance and stupidity that line is. Women are just to “respond, follow, adapt and SUBMIT?” What a load of horse sh*t.

What she really means is this: Women: Don’t use your brains, don’t take charge or be assertive, don’t buck the system (especially if that system is your husband or a male pastor), and don’t diverge from the role I’m telling you “God commands” you do have.

If I’m going against what Elisabeth Elliot taught (along with what my pastors taught), and don’t sit around cleaning my house non-stop, nor do I “submit” to a man’s plans for my life and that means I’m “ungodly” or “unsaved” then…AWESOME. I personally can’t ascribe to ignorant teaching and I personally don’t even want to be categorized as anything that those idiots teach or language that that ideology pushes. It’s language that oppresses me and other women. It attempts to push us into the home, coercing us to serve our husbands as our masters, without recognition of the human beings we are. The anti-feminist ideology fails to recognize that we can have dreams and succeed too, even if we are women. Emphasis is only placed on the males ability and desire to “dream about their future” and succeed in the business or ministry world.

My magic eraser and I are doing just fine without a load of horse sh*t teaching. Thank you very much.

Think For Yourself

The problem of complicity is a dangerous one. To be complicit, is to refuse to think for oneself. When we listen to what is taught to us without question, without examination, and without doubt, we’re prone to being complicit.

To Think Requires Courage

The problem of complicity is a dangerous one. To be complicit, is to refuse to think for oneself. When we listen to what is taught to us without question, without examination, and without doubt, we’re prone to being complicit.

Complicity is a problem that extends to many religious and political ideologies. Often in politics and religion, a mob mentality is often easier to listen to. When you’re faced with a mob of hostile onlookers, it’s easier to join them than to allow the moral dilemmas of the historical and current times press against the conscience.

Individuals become easily complacent by allowing a group to think for them, and not taking the hard road of freedom of thought and moral action. People must be greatly courageous to think for themselves, both morally and socially, because social ostracism is as prominent now as it ever was. In the history of the Holocaust, thinking for oneself meant the possibility of one’s own life being taken by the SS soldiers. Therefore, to think creates a problem for the individual and for the society. Sometimes, we may disapprove of or doubt what an entire group is thinking and in doing so, may be “attacked” by the mob.

But to go along with the mob as a “just a bystander” creates an even greater problem. Going along with the mob paves the way to some of the lowest points of humanity. The mob mentality was what caused an unthinkable horror such as the Holocaust and mass extermination of an entire culture. Although an extreme example, it’s one I can not forget. The Nazi mentality when they were tried was, “I was just following orders.” The Nazi soldiers who killed innocent men, women and children were “just doing what they were told.” In essence, they weren’t thinking for themselves. They didn’t take responsibility for their own actions.

To think for oneself is one of the most courageous acts a human being can embrace, and because the majority of the world chose to stand by silently, the world has lost millions of precious lives and, for a time, lost their courage.

Should a Pastor have a Full-time Job outside the church?

My friend posed this question to me that he’d once heard:

“How much would it change the church and Christians if the pastor worked a regular job like the congregation and what would be different?”

What would our lives be like if pastors went to work in an office, or the oilfields, or as a teacher? Did you know there are bodies of worship who have pastors with jobs?

Another question I’d like to ask: Are church members to be reliant on pastors for teaching and spiritual growth? If so, why? If not, why not?