A few weeks back at the burgeoning neo-Calvinist church that my family is attending, though we are not members…
Wait. Let me back up. Lay some ground work so that you don’t get your brain muscle all outta whack.
Before you cry hypocrite, hear me out. I have told this story before–somewhere, but don’t ask me to link it–but it bears repeating. I will make it short, however.
Well. Short…for me.
After fifteen years and over a hundred thousand dollars in tithes and offerings to Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) in three different churches in three different states, my family and I had an epiphany, known in our household as a healthy dose of reason. This occurred not long after C.J. Mahaney, President of SGM got–as John Immel of spiritualtyranny.com hilariously put it–“a bucket of wikileaks in the face” and then the proverbial human excrement hit the proverbial wind motivator. We foundered in the spiritual wilderness for a while (we should have stayed there, frankly, because the alternatives out there in Christendom are all pretty much a massive waste of time and money) before finding a great little church (well…not that little; a couple hundred attendees) literally just down the road from us which was in the midst of recovering from a nasty church split. The cause of the split?
Take a guess.
I do believe you’ve got it.
A neo-Calvinist tyrant was trying to lead the church down the tyrannical road of that peculiar brand of theo-marxist tyranny, and after doing the “Cant’ We All Just Get Along” dance and standing on ceremony for a time laity basically said “fuck off”…and off the tyrantwent, taking the usual 30 to 50% flow of slavish, mindless devotees with him(and we think this country could never fall for a Hitler….we can, and probably will, and he will probably be Reformed and probably a Calvinist, though he will probably deny it because tyrants love to talk about how they aren’t really tyrants and don’t believe the tyranny that Calvin taught, because they only believe in the Westminster Confessions or the Heidelberg Catechism which of cours have noooooothing to do with Calvin’s systematic theological system, even though they SO do adore Calvin, and no I’m not kidding; our national tyrant will be a “good Christian man” who believes only in the “objective” and “inerrant” “Word”; trust me).
So…great situation for us, right? My wife and I were all smiles, and assured our new brothers and sisters in Christ that, after having spent some time in the theo-marxist sausage machine of Calvin’s brand of Protestant “sound doctrine” and having some personal experience with the psychological manipulation and emotional abuse (and I got off easy) which proceeds from such a mindset, that the folks in our new church had indeed made the right call in sending the little dictator off to sell his snake oil to people who actually DID just fall off the turnip truck, having actually BEEN born yesterday.
Cut to a year or so later when, in an act of what I can only define as desperation, they hired a full-on, rank neo-Calvinist to replace the one they just sent away, after having vowed that they’d rather see the church “body” cloven in two like the baby before Solomon than to have someone like THAT tell them a spiritual thing or two about a spiritual thing or two. Now, in the defense of the laity, these mystics are exceedingly convincing, and in the question and answer sessions which took place before he was hired this neo-Cal did a great job of deflecting his theological…more like philosophical roots. As I knew he would, having, by that time, come to understand that what neo-Calvinist pastors call “preaching and teaching” is really full-on propaganda; and that to someone who believes that humanity is morally and epistemologically defunct at the root of its very existence, LYING and LYING WELL becomes the operative mark of a successful Pastor. Of course, they don’t look at it as lying. They look at it as putting the “milk” before the “solid food”. But here’s the thing: the “solid food” only every really goes to a select group of soldiers that the Pastor can trust to carry out his demands without question and without concern for the pesky lives of the laity which NEVER matter in the grand scheme of doing God’s will and spreading “sound doctrine”, which is always in service to the Pastor’s his own power, even though he might deny this, because in that peculiar theology it MUST BE, because there is no distinction between PASTOR and GOD; and what God wants, God always gets because God has supreme and sovereign “authority”, which is really FORCE, as John Immel says, and FORCE is VIOLENCE plain and simple. The Pastor is God…if God were nothing but a man with a gun pointed at your head telling you to pretend you don’t really exist and thus you are free to shut up and tithe and serve. You sit and tithe and serve and fear for your life which you don’t really have, but which is leveraged against you to get you to serve the “authority’s” absolute Will to Power.
The rest of us get the “milk”, and so…my point is, having been sucking on the neo-Calvinist teat for fifteen years and cooing for more, I had gotten pretty adept at spotting the subterfuge and deception. I could smell it in the air, and it smelled like burning flesh.
So…needless to say they hired this guy and so there me and my family are to this day.
Why have I not left?
Hmmm…it’s complicated, but as usual it involves the children and the torturous and heart-wrenching thought of tearing them away from certain friends. You must understand that we home school, so my girls don’t get a lot of interaction with kids their own age. When they do, they tend to get extremely attached to them. And…well, if you don’t have kids you won’t understand; you’ll likely see me as a rank hypocrite, and I get it. I really do. We are trying to leave. And we will. But for those of you with kids (and actually like them) you will quickly understand that no matter how steely your philosophical resolve, you find yourself making compromises and adjustments that you’d NEVER have thought your principles would have allowed, in order to save yourself and your family from emotional torment.
But, having said that, I must say that for a blogger like me, there has been an enormous benefit to hanging around this church; and I would be lying if I said that that also wasn’t part of the reason I have stayed. You see, I have witnessed the doctrinal conversion of a church from something NOT Calvinism to that which IS Calvinism, and IS CALVINISM to the fullness of its despotic and destructive conclusions. I have seen the manifestation of the evil theology rise from just a few seeds and a few smatterings and suggestions here and there and some “care group” banter concerning the merits of “free will” vs. “total depravity”…to the formal doctrinal “discussions” between the Pastors and the laity as exhibited in many a Sunday “sermon series'”…to the full blown acceptance that the church is completely devoted to Reformation orthodoxy of the codified and systematic Calvinist kind and the leadership will reject the granting membership status to, or ordaining, ANYONE who denies “sound doctrine” in any way…to the full blown scandals of child rape, blackmail, cover up, intimidation, excommunication, lying and distortion, and leadership taking financial liberties with tithes and offerings.
But see, back then, I was a Calvinist, and so I didn’t have the rational frame of reference with which to understand what was really going on at the time, nor did I much care, trusting that the leadership had the mandate of God on its side and so who the fuck was I to question men who had been called and inspired in a way that was utterly beyond my ability to apprehend.
Of course, realizing that that is all total bullshit now, I have an entirely new vantage point from which to observe this spectacle; the inexorable march of the hoards of darkness as they take over this little unsuspecting group of very nice people. I note with clinical and studious interest the furrowed brows on some of the elderly folks when they hear the new Pastor pronounce that he does not see it his duty to visit the sick and the dying in their homes and hospitals because his primary responsibility is to spread false ideas and unholy propaganda, and to tear the church from the arthritic grips of the old, fuddy duddies and place it squarely in the possession of younger, more malleable and impressionable males. And they shall replace the geezers as the new leadership, and they “shall not be despised for their youth”, and shall possess no abundance of years nor wisdom, understanding, enlightenment or self-confidence. Personality traits of which are nothing more than rank unwashed arrogance insofar as Calvinism is concerned.
Yes, I see the hands raised ever so slightly in tentative protest and the small voices here and there who dare to question the Sunday School teacher (who is maybe thirty) when he says he doesn’t feel that he can support the idea that the American Revolution was a righteous endeavor; nor is he convinced that God looked favorably upon those Colonial rascals who dared challenge the right of the King of England to stand in the stead of God as His divine proxy and wave a scepter and pronounce that no man shall have any value at all who has not been sacrificed, body and soul and wallet, to the “sound doctrine” of his Divine Right of Kings. That YOU, oh America should have remained a direct extension of the his Majesty, with no thought to that insolent notion of YOURSELF as actually existing autonomously from the British Imperial Collective, ruled by his royally Reformed ass, King George III…oh yes, that you should have, in order to truly be godly, been denied your very SELF–that inexorable and infinite singularity of existential essence which must exist before you can even agree with his majesty, the royal butcher, and concede Divine Right of Kings in the first place–is the very thing being taught in an AMERICAN church, right now, down the street.
And NO ONE is leaving! On the contrary! You’ve never seen a church so full! Packed to the brim with rows of pews threatening collapse under the weight of sanctimonious declarations of human existential failure and positively desperate begging of forgiveness for inherent and unavoidable depravity and shame as we learn of the cosmic importance of our local church and the evils of the individual…that sense of ME, that sense of SELF, that sense of metaphysical ONENESS which is the crux of life, oh how we are told to beat our chests and gnash or teeth and tear our clothes and bathe in ashes for the very shame of being born a single person. Who will save us from this body of death? Be it Christ?! Aye…Christ who is now incarnate within the collective called the church, and never from without, which beckons you to forsake SELF and fuse yourself to the GROUP which is the very Ark which shall rise up to heaven! Indeed, rational human beings (ostensibly) gather en mass each Sunday to learn that in fact they possess no ability whatsoever to do, think, choose, or teach anything GOOD. They gobble it up with shaking and desperate hands as though it were manna from heaven, hoping that it will somehow bring life to that which was born dead and is destined to enter the final judgment dead; that the very NON-SELF of the the Christian who has been categorically integrated into church collective might somehow see salvation (which is a rational impossibility…for without YOU, there is no one to save)and the love and grace of God which can only be effective and received if humanity itself is categorically removed from the equation. In this system, the conceptual abstractions of “group” and “body” and “biblical roles” are what is real, and YOU as YOURSELF are the lie which stumbles “the truth”.
Shall I stay? I find it ever so motherfucking fascinating! So you bet I will stay.
For a while.
And I will stay and listen as the young Sunday school teacher, with a marvelous boyish charm, most kindly and gentle disposition, and positively sparkling smile says this: “God, Church, Family, Work” with respect to an abstract value hierarchy which he is utterly convinced is rooted in rational Biblical ideas. For I. Cannot. Help. Myself.
I will stay and listen and blog.
It demands rebuttal. And this is my forum.