Tickle Me Jesus… Please.

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #2 – First released on April 22, 2005.

Listening again to this show you can hear Josh and I struggling with our involvement in the church. You can hear our growing discontentment with “the show” that the church had become for us. As insiders it was very apparent that each and every week church was a performance put on for an audience – and had moved far away from what we believed church should be. We were over it.

I recall now how underground the Stupid Church People blog and podcast was for us at that time. We were doing this very secret thing in plain sight, and I think we were somewhat concerned about the consequences. Here I was advocating for people to stop going to church to send a message while preparing to speak at my church that coming weekend.

But that had become part of the problem. The church we were attending had a formula it followed for each service, and as a speaker I had to conform. There needed to be a powerpoint, a special video or drama to illustrate the message, a thematic song and of course a message that lasted no less than 30 minutes.

Josh and I were tired of the show that the church had become. We longed for freedom from the church. The SCP Podcast had become that for us. This was just the beginning.

Death and Burning Down the Local Christian Bookstore

SCP ARCHIVES – SHOW #1 – Re-release of our very first show, around April 1, 2005.

It was Josh’s idea to do a podcast. I had started writing the blog and Josh was a huge encouragement. We would get together and talk about church all the time. In 2005 podcasts were just taking off, and I had never really heard one at the time. It seemed like a good way to get our stories out and the current “religious” podcasts that were out were (and still are) by and large very, very boring. So we envisioned something a little different.

At the time, Josh was on staff of a church as a youth pastor. I was no longer in full-time ministry but was a volunteer at the same church, helping with the youth groups and also preaching on occasion whenever the Pastor was unavailable.

Josh and I were both just beginning to be very disenchanted with the way church worked. I guess I had been pretty burned out on church for awhile but was trying to figure my way through it. The new church we attended was hip and cool and we had made some friends there. However, the church and church culture was really beginning to wear on me. It seemed to be such a game. Josh and I were kindred spirits from different generations.

Our lives were forever altered by these podcasts we did together, but more by the friendship we forged together during this time. Josh and I spent many, many hours together during this time and as you can tell, we were pretty comfortable together.
We actually taped this first show (and I think the first few shows) in the church office where Josh worked. It’s pretty funny to think about it now… Josh and I going into the office late at night to record a show about how much we couldn’t stand the church. How appropriate!

This first show was a little rough around the edges, not great but not horrible. I think we get better.

When Life is Hard, Stop and Think

Recently I have started following Mark Driscoll on Facebook and Twitter. Although he is good for a daily dose of SCP fodder, I have no interest in zeroing in on him. However, I would like to make an observation and respond to a recent group of posts surrounding one of his sermons.

Driscoll wrote a series of posts in his social media feeds that went like this (edited here for coherence):

When life is hard…

  • God is not punishing you.
  • God is not failing you.
  • God has not abandoned you.
  • God is not acting evil toward you.
  • God will be with you, but he will not answer every question you may have.

In the transcript of this sermon, Driscoll has this to say about trials:

When those seasons come, our emotions tend to be very elevated and escalated. We feel sometimes more clearly than we think.

In the midst of tough times, Driscoll is asking us to think and not feel. I’d say this is good advice. Because if we really think about the five statements above in conjunction with the final three points of the sermon, we have to make tons of logical leaps to accept the fact of what Driscoll calls “a good God”.

Here’s what Driscoll says God says about trials.

  • You are going to get trials.
  • Trials are a test and an opportunity.
  • You will get trials of various kinds.

Think about it. A good loving God allows trials in your life, for a test and an opportunity and he allows all kinds of trials from small to large.

Recall the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life and God allowed that to happen. Why? To test you and give you an opportunity for you “to prove who you are in Christ”. Why? If I am in Christ, and that’s true, what do I have to prove? That I am really in Christ? According to Driscoll God is consistently and constantly sending you all types of trials. It’s all good though because God isn’t doing you any harm, and he’s there for you and he will get you through.

I want you to take Driscoll’s advice and stop feeling for a second. Stop feeling how good it is believing that God is out there and that he loves and cares for you. It makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside knowing that no matter what happens, large or small, God is there to help you through it. This feeling has gotten you through some pretty hard stuff in life – the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, the loss of a marriage. Feeling God’s love and not thinking about God’s love has been pretty valuable.

But stop feeling and think about it. Does it make rational sense that good God would allow trials in your life? Is it right that someone who says they love you can permit difficulties in your life and not have to be accountable for their complicity? It’s a win-win for God all the time. He never has to answer your questions, he gets no blame and gets all the credit no matter what happens in your life. Does that makes sense to you?

If God’s ways are higher than our ways I would argue God has a few things to learn from us. As a parent, I would never treat my children the way he treats his children. Only people trapped in dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships allow such abuse to go on. The reasons they do so is because they love the abuser so much and can’t imagine life without them. Think about it.

King on the Church

1501556_10151953625232998_1730627087_o-217x300Though King’s legacy is often inextricably linked to his faith in God, he was hardly a cheerleader for the church…King believed the church had failed to fight for peace and social and economic justice. He also chided churches across the United States for having done little to fight segregation and racism. “It is to their everlasting shame,” he said, “that white Christians developed a system of racial segregation within the church and inflicted so many indignities upon its Negro worshippers that they had to organize their own churches.”

King also blamed organized religion for its willing support of violent resolutions:“In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. During the last two world wars, national churches even functioned as the ready lackeys of the state, sprinkling holy water upon the battleships and joining the mighty armies in singing, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war.”

Did you hear the one about the pastor who tried atheism?

Ryan Bell, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor, has decided to try atheism for a year.  His transition from faithful pastor to church critic to exploring non-belief have a familiar ring to them. It’s easy to identify with Bell’s description of life after leaving full-time ministry:

Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if I’m honest, God. I haven’t attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I haven’t prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I haven’t studied, or even really read, the Bible.

What Bell seems to be suffering is not only a faith crisis, but a career crisis. For professional pastors the two are one in the same. Having been there I can tell you, it can be quite scary.

So Bell is going to “try on” atheism for a year and write about it. I sense what he is trying to do, but I’m not sure of his methods. It’s his journey however I can’t quite gauge his sincerity. The whole thing seems very public after all (with a book deal no less).

During my transition from belief to non-belief, I was writing regularly online and touching on the subject but it was also deeply, deeply personal. It wasn’t something I was trying, it was something I was experiencing. It was also something I was becoming.

I’m not sure one can “try on” atheism any more than one can “try on” Christianity. Telling an atheist to “just believe” is like telling a pig to fly. I know that in my past as a Christian I could not have fathomed “not believing”. It’s just not something you try.

As I’ve said before, you can’t fake a belief that doesn’t exist. You can’t fake non-belief either.

SCP ARCHIVES: A Pastor on Pastors

“A Pastor on Pastors” post was written back in July, 2007 when I still cared about pastors and for some reason thought they were special. I was still invested in the church to a certain extent and in some sense, I fancied myself to be a pastor to pastors. The SCP blog had become a stopping place for many like-minded individuals and several pastors, who were in various phases of having been burned by the church. I’m bringing this back up today because of a link on the Stuff Christian Likes Facebook page talking about pastors extraordinary spending habits.

Mega-church pastors especially see themselves as “franchise-players” as Ed Young calls himself here. Today’s version of the younger and dumber mega-church pastor (aka Steven Furtick types) are, often like their predecessors, pure and simple douche-bags. Why do people still attend churches like this? Because as Jesus called them, church people are sheep and will follow, support and idolize anyone that gives them a reason not to think for themselves. Stupid Church People get what they deserve.

The question I asked then was: “Can we save them (pastors) from themselves?” My answer today is “I hope not.”

Freedom Fighters

I seem to be caring less about “stuff christian culture likes”. Now this isn’t a knock on the actual site with the same name, but just an observation of where I currently am versus where I used to be. SCCL is a site dedicated to lampooning the wacky world surrounding Christianity. I enjoy the SCCL site and Facebook page (and other sites like it) and follow many, but find myself less and less interested.

Looking around at the “very involved” church people surrounding me used to upset me. The judgement I had been raised to hold onto as a Southern Baptist Professional Christian turned on the group I used to be with, and I judged all Christians (particularly the evangelical type) with the same amount of fervor previously reserved for heathens. All in the name of love of course.

Seriously, I have no problem shooting sacred cows. It’s important. Actually, I’m pretty good at it. I probably could have turned pro in that realm had I set my mind to it. Thankfully, life moved me in a different direction.

I don’t care much anymore what so and so said about such and such. I do think it’s important to have someone pointing out the bullshit when it’s there and holding people accountable for what they say. But for me, the bullshit is deeper than SCCL and others (including our own SCP site in the past) have been willing to discuss. We like to talk ad nauseum about how evolved we are now that we think gay people should be married, or that women should be pastors, or that churches aren’t truly as relevant as they think they are.

Let’s be real here. Are we shocked anymore when Mark Driscoll makes douchebag comments? Does it still annoy us that John Piper is a just who he says he is – a Calvinist? Are we still upset that Rick Warren will say or do anything to appear relevant with whomever he is speaking to at the moment?

Do we care that there are more and more new church movements replacing the old church movements? And that the new ones are just as corrupt as the old ones? Have we forgotten the saying “new wine into old wineskins”?

There is no doubt that the “stuff christian culture likes” is really messed up. Christian culture exists because people who believe the same way and want the same things create a culture to reinforce and substantiate that world-view. They can’t help it. Read an “Introduction to Sociology” book sometime. It’s ingrained in people groups to perpetuate their own myths and to do so in a manor that reflects themselves in the best possible light.

One day I got to a point where I had to ask myself as a contributor of all things Stupid Church People: “Do I constantly need to monitor guys like Tony Jones anymore?” The answer is a resounding NO. Tony will be Tony. So will Mark, John, Rick, Pat, Tom, Dick and Harry. When they continue to say or do stupid, uncaring or illogical things, should I point it out? Maybe.

It could be just a point in my process of recovery that I no longer care.

Here’s what I think: Freeing yourself from a culture that is so full of judgment, guilt and shame can be painful. Freedom is not easily found (if it is found at all). Many within the “church recovery movement” turn to blogs and Facebook to find kindred spirits who are on the same journey. We criticize together, laugh together and defend each other. In this group we find that we are not alone. That’s a very, very good thing.

But at some point you move beyond this. You realize that you are just as full of bullshit as the ones you are criticizing. If not sites such as, “Stuff Stupid Church People Likes” could pop up and then you’d realize that you have created your own culture that’s just as inbred and irrelevant as the one you are trying to break away from.

Here’s what I am finding: Freedom from someone isn’t leaving and then turning around as you are walking away and screaming at them. It’s not telling them to change or how ignorant they are. Certainly, if you have suffered abuse (as many have) it is certainly part of the process. But if you get stuck there you aren’t really free. They still control you.

935803_10151717698745874_1809712021_nFreedom from someone is caring less and less about them and what they say or do. It’s caring less and less about what they say about you. Freedom is really, really hard and gutsy stuff.

Freedom is not easy. I’m still working on it. From time to time, I’ll continue to let you know how it’s going.