Duct Tape, a Theology


Let me be very upfront.  I believe in evolution.  If not interfered with, only the fittest life forms will survive.  The weak are doomed to die.  But these are not permanent asignments, they are dynamic.  Sometimes we are the fittest. Eventually, we all become weak and die.  But within these somewhat rigid boundaries, there is a lot of flexibility.  Fighting against evolution is what makes us human.  It is the basis of faith and religion.  And I think it is what makes us somewhat unique.  We humans love to find brokenness and find value in the idy-bidy pieces.  We do our best to duct tape the parts and make it whole.  Take that Darwin!

Survival of the fittest is Darwin.  Survival of the broken is God.  It is a constant struggle:  is it about me or is it about us?.  God help me to overcome my instinct and pass the duct tape.

Vergence, Part2, My Faith


So I am culturally a Christian, but pluralistic in practice.  Can I say I believe anything?  Dogmatically, no.  But here is my best attempt at explaining what it is I believe and how that fits into a Christian context.

There is a force, a wind, the spirit that is the energy at the core of all that is.  At least once and probably countless times, the spirit coalesced around a quantum singularity and it exploded into what we now call a universe.  Entropy was (and is) suspended by the spirit and things instead of becoming less complex, became more complex.  Atoms became stars.  Stars gave light.  At the end of their life, some stars collapsed into black holes that later became the center of galaxies.  Vast unfathomable numbers of galaxies contained vast unfathomable numbers of stars.  Around these stars, discarded bits of matter coalesced into planets.  And on at least one of these countless planets, circling an average star in the outer spiral arms of an average galaxy, the spirit coalesced around a set of complex chemical soup and a new type of energy formed: life.  For countless ages, life existed in the simplest of forms.  Until one day, the spirit coalesced around a specific cell and complexity burst onto the scene.  The planet bloomed into varied and beautiful forms of life.  Over the millennia life was almost destroyed by cataclysmic events.  But after each event, it came back stronger and more complex than ever.

Many of the animals that evolved over time had specific organs used to sense the world around them.  Over time, an organ evolved to regulate these senses called the brain.  And for some species brains evolved to the point that they could communicate and sense the spirit itself.  I am a descendant of one of these species called human.

Though the spirit could be sensed by many animals, humans became especially attuned to its existence and its mission:  loving and nurturing life.  But the fruit of this knowledge was extremely dangerous.  By tapping into the power of the spirit, man learned that he could love and nurture life in all of its complexity.  But if manipulated and twisted for individual gain, the spirit could be used bring about great destruction and even death the very opposite of complexity.

All over the world, people gave spirit names and developed practices to reflect the goodness of the spirit.  Sadly one of the problems with a name was that it was a manipulation of the spirit, which was used to war against those people who gave the spirit another name and again became very destructive.

From time to time, the spirit coalesced around a given person, who was given unusual insight into the very nature of the spirit.  These individuals would gather disciples and religions were born.  If the religion on the whole stayed in tune with the basic intent of the spirit, it, like life itself, thrived and was passed down from generation to generation.

One of these religions was Judaism.  Its basic tenant was to love the spirit and love justice.  Two thousand years ago, the spirit coalesced around one of Judaism’s followers.  His name was Jesus.  Jesus became an outspoken critic of how faith in the spirit had been twisted into a very narrow interpretation of laws originally written to help Jews to live in harmony with the spirit.  But it had devolved into a clannish cult of rules.

Jesus loved the spirit and saw the spirit in all the people he encountered.  He boiled down all the laws and regulations of Judaism into two statements.  Love god (the spirit) and love your neighbor (all life).  So powerful were his words, that upon his death, when the spirit within him was released, his words radiated out and took on a life or their own.  Those words even now can bring peace, love and justice to those who choose to follow them.

Sadly too many individuals chose to turn his words into more laws and sank back into the cult that Jesus so strongly fought against.

Christianity, the religion that formed around Jesus’ teachings, is at its best when his followers love the spirit and love each other with all of their energy.  And I will leave it at that.

Happy Easter

…coming soon, Vergence, Part 3, My Expression

Now is the winter of our…


Discontent

For those of you who have followed by blog over the years, I sincerely apologize if I have caused you metaphysical whiplash.  But here I go again.

I have been thinking a lot about the book Naked Spirituality again, specifically winter.  I won’t bore you with my substandard summary.  But I will say that McLaren in his book is describing a state where your spirituality has been stripped bare and you are left in a wide open landscape.

Having obliterated most of the remnants of my religious upbringing, I find myself looking at a barren landscape.  But least you think this is an uncomfortable locale, let me assure you this is a happy space.

Human: Individuals or Organelles?


When I was in High School, I worked summers at a day camp.  Most days we went on a field trip of some sort.  On one particular day, we went to a local park.  We started to play kickball and all of the counselors participated.   It was a particularly hot day, so I kicked off my shoes, while we played in the grass.  The grass was freshly watered and it felt cool beneath my feet.

It was good to be out in the sun.  I was not aware of any one part of my body.  I just felt a sense of wholeness and wellbeing.

When it was my turn at the plate, I decided I was going to make the kids run for it.  I was going to send that soccer ball to the other end of the field.  The ball rolled towards me and I kicked with everything I had.  My foot connected, but not with the ball.  My bare foot connected with a sprinkler head that had not fully retracted.  My toe, of which I had been blissfully unaware, suddenly gained sentience. It communicated a singular thought: I hurt!

From being just one of many parts, for days my toe became the center of my being.

I bring up this story to illustrate a thought that has been churning in my head lately.

My toe is connected to my brain via a complex network of nerves and chemicals.  It operates fairly independently (though not consciously), until there is a problem.  Then it has the potential to be the center of my consciousness.  Well what if I extend the metaphor for a moment.  We human beings more or less operate individually.  But we are intricately connected to each other by a myriad of sound, smell and visual cues.

Here is my convoluted point.  The toe and the brain are indirectly connected and yet we consider them part of one organism.  But our connection to each other, to the environment and other living organisms is no less complex.  For that matter Jesus said that the church is his body.  If Jesus in Christian theology God and *we* are Christ’s body, then it is not a huge synergistic leap to say that we are part of a much larger organism called God.

Now let me be clear:  I find Christian theology to be way too confining.  I do not in any sense believe there is a bearded white guy in the clouds dispensing cosmic justice.  But the idea that living creatures are part of a greater whole is not a novel idea.  If there is a greater whole, does *it* have a personality?  Tough to say.  But if there is consciousness that extends beyond the individual, then certainly it would have a sense of self preservation.  When threatened by the actions of any particular part, then consciously or unconsciously *it* would act.  Those actions would impact our actions, changing our behavior.  We see this kind of group think on a small scale in everyday life.

This I think is the agnostic god.  It is the simple acceptance that there is some connection that all living creatures share and that the sum of life *might* be greater than the sum of the individual parts (of which I am one).

OK, my head hurts now.  I think I need a cookie.  If this thought survives the next couple of days, perhaps I will follow up on agnostic eternal life.  But let’s face it, I am a flake.

95 Feces


I was listening to one of my favorite punk groups, The Violent Femmes.  They have a song called “Kiss Off,” that is presumably about O.D.’ing.  At one point the writer lists his grievances as he pops pills (presumably).

I take one one one cause you left me and
Two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my lonely and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything

–Violent Femmes, 1983

At the point in the song, the artist definitely has the WTF attitude.  I am bobbing my head along to each of the lyrics. 1 1 1…2 2 2…blah blah…and then 9 9 9 for a lost god.  And I make an odd mental connection.  The song becomes the background music to Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg.  I take one one one for indulgences…

Welcome to my brain.  It is a disjointed mess of goo.

So I start thinking about what pisses me off about “the church.”  (in the macro general sense…not a specific worshiping body)

I think wow, I wonder if I could come up with 95 beefs with the modern church.  Snort!  Yeah, I am Martin Luther…not!  But I did rather quickly come up with a list of 10 things I hate about the 21st century church.  For now it is just a list.  If I am ambitious, I may blog on each topic.  But for now it is just a list for the virtual door.

  1. Hell…the idea that anyone could deserve eternal punishment.
  2. Rapture…F’ off world, I am out of here!
  3. Devil…Really?  There is a being that would rival an all powerful God.
  4. Politics…Jesus is not a republican
  5. Prosperity…I love you Joel Olstein
  6. When bad things happen to good people it is a test or because of unconfessed sin…man, I must be a real asshole.
  7. The doctrine of the Trinity…OMG could there be a more disjointed theological cluster fuck?  Did anyone proof read this doctrine?  I think they were smoking pot…so he is totally god and totally human…drag…like…like an egg
  8. The cannon should be reevaluated…Yeah, um Joshua…not a big fan.  Leviticus really???  I am sooooo going to get stoned.
  9. Christianity is the only true religion…God is a trademarked entity of the Jesus corporations.  All violators will be prosecuted and persecuted…void in Wisconsin…damn Lutherans.
  10. Mega churches…take 2 cups Jesus…some spotlights…an orchestra…some slick marketing…presto…salvation baby!  See also #5

Interesting…there are dark clouds forming over my head.

Thou or It?


My spirituality has taken a radical shift since becoming a hypocritical agnostic.  I say hypocritical because I am not a very consistent agnostic.  Since entering the winter of my discontent, I have distanced myself from the god of my past.  But oddly enough, I am experiencing a kind of spiritual renaissance.  While I see less evidence of a personal god, I have begun to see life as more than a series of meat and vegetable bags.  My spirituality now focuses on seeing the connections instead of the divisions.

Joseph Campbell in a series of interviews with Bill Moyers talked about the “thou” and the “it”.  When I see the other as an it, the relationship tends to be one of exploitation.  When I see the other as a thou, I enter into a sacred relationship where I appreciate our commonality.

I am trying to be more cognizant of these moments of recognition.  When I see the sacred thou, I am very easily snapped back into “reality.”  The challenge for me is going to be finding a way to hold the moment.

Here are a couple of examples of grasping and then losing the moment.

Friday night I went to Panera to pick up some dinner for my family.  As I exited the house, I noticed that it had just rained.  The birds were chirping merrily and the temperature was in the 70s.  Perfection.  I drove to Panera with the radio off and the window down.  As I  walked up the store, I noticed the sun peeking behind the clouds.  Sublime.  I got in line and gave the cashier my order.  She told me the total and I remembered that my wife had given me a gift card to pay.  The cashier asked if I had a Panera card (reward card).  I said, “Oh, I have a gift card,” and went to grab it out of my pocket.

She gave me an exasperated look and said, “A gift card is not a Panera card!”

(No shit Sherlock).

At that very moment, she ceased being a thou and became an it.  The moment was gone.

Much later that night, I woke up at 3am.  I laid in bed for about 15 minutes until it was clear I was UP.  I went downstairs, fed the dog and made coffee.  As I was sitting on the couch, I had a sublime moment.  The coffee pot and dog crunching sounds mixed in a symphony of the ordinary.  I was alive.  Creative thoughts flooded my mind.  I had multiple topics to write about.  I sat there soaking it all in.

Then for reasons that are unclear to me, I almost automatically got up and took two antihistamines.  Within 15 minutes I was in a dead sleep.  Noooooooooooo, what was I thinking???

I am actually encouraged that I see myself snapping out of thou mode.  It gives me something to work on.  I have a goal.  There is no it.  I just need to focus on thou.

Imagine, part 6


Crash!

I preface this post with a couple of thoughts.  It is impossible for me to put into words how much I love my son.  He inspires me daily.  Let me be clear I do not in any way, shape or form blame him for what happened to me.  What follows is purely the result of my ego and a lifetime of bad theology.

My last posting ended with Jenn and me on the road to the hospital to have our son.  We were practically giddy with excitement.  This was the big day.

We got to the hospital and were put in the pre-surgical ward.  Our son was breach and had to be delivered by c-section.  We had to wait for a couple of hours because there were some emergencies in front of us.  But finally they wheeled her back.  I had to wait in the hall until she had the epidural and was prepped.

When they called me into the room, things happened very quickly but I recall them in slow motion.  Jenn was draped so that she could not see the incision point.  They had me sit in a chair right by her head.  I had a greater vantage point, but I could not see the incision either.  They started almost the second I took my seat.  The first thing that caught my attention was the smell of burning flesh (as they cauterized the wound).  I almost hurled because I was not expecting smells.  I kind of chuckled to myself and regained my composure.

It took about a minute to free Ethan from the womb.  What happened next put me in a state of panic.  They silently lifted him into my field of view.  I noticed that one leg had no tone and was significantly smaller than the other.  He was not breathing and was pale blue.  They took him to a nearby table and started CPR.  Time stopped.  “God let him breath.  Please let him breath.”  Eternity passed.

And finally he cried.  The nurses and doctors examined him.  They splayed his butt cheeks and gave each other knowing glances.

My mind was reeling.

They wrapped him (Jenn knew nothing at this point) and brought him for her to see.  They congratulated us and said nothing.  Ethan and were moved into recovery while Jenn was stitched up.

I robotically called my family.  “It’s a boy.  Yes, everything was fine.  Gotta go.”

They wheeled Jenn back and handed her the baby.

“Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, problem.  Blah blah blah blah no anus.   Blah blah blah blah blah Nonnative Intensive Care.  Blah blah…can’t come until she can sit in a wheel chair…Blah…sir, follow us.

Tubes…IVs…Monitors…What in the hell just happened.  “Dear God, I have the faith.  Heal him now…Now…NOW!!!

“Sir we need to do a procedure…come back later…call family…go to wife.”

Dial home.  “Mom.”  I lost it and cried uncontrollably.  This was the first of many loses of composure.

The rest of the story is well documented in the rest of this blog.  Fast forward…two weeks.

I met with my mentor.  I lost it again.  He consoled me.  It would be OK.  This was our last meeting before I went before the district superintendent.  My mentor told me he had met with many candidates over the course of his ministry.  Never had he worked with a candidate with so clear a calling.  He looked forward to great things.

Fast forward…several weeks later.

I got the hospital bill.  It was over $100,000.  My insurance had not paid anything.  Panic.

Fast forward…weeks.

I got the bill cleared up.  Insurance covered it all.  I wondered what the Methodist Church’s insurance would have covered.  Called my mentor.  “Oh, it is a standard 80/20% policy.”

Hmmmm…

So if I was a pastor.  I would be on the hook for $20,000.  This is the first of many many many bills.  First year, my salary would be capped at $28,000.  What would have happened?  What will happen?  This is the first of many bills.  How will I pay for this?

HOW AM I GOING TO SUPPORT MY FAMILY?

More to come…

Imagine, part 5


TnT, pride before the Called

So after moving to Virginia, we started attending a medium size Methodist Church.  It was such an unlikely pairing; formerly hardcore Pentecostals meet the mainline church.  But as I mentioned in the previous post, we loved it.  I started attending a Bible study.  At the time, I had a skater haircut and a goatee.  The first night of the Bible study, the lady next to me showed me the index in the Bible so that I could find Revelation.  I was polite, but chuckling inside.  A year later, I was running the study.

For the first time that I could remember, I enjoyed going to church.  Jenn and I both became heavily involved, she in the music, me in Bible study and both of us in youth ministry.  Over time, we had our fingers in almost every happening at the church.

Jenn and I were still by far the youngest members of the community.  So the Pastor asked us to start a young adult group.  We tried twice and it failed miserably.  A year after the second failure, the pastor made a big push to have get people to join small groups.  They asked us to give it one more try.  In our previous attempts, we were never able to get more than 3-4 people to show up.  Because the pastor had made such a push from the pulpit, I was hopeful that we could get 8.  I figured with 8 we could make a go of it.  The first night 20 people showed up.  Within a couple of months we had over 40 people on the roster.  We had to split the group in half and sometimes thirds.  Jenn would take a group, I would take one and later we got others to help out.

Though it started out as a bible study, it quickly evolved into a fully fledged ministry.  TnT or Twenties and Thirties was our name.  We had our own outreach projects, social outings and the study.  We had a party at someone’s house most weekends.  We sat together in a section of the church.  And I found myself right smack in the middle of it.

I was elected a lay leader in the church.  On several occasions, I got to preach.  I also lead a couple of retreats.  I had found my niche.

It was in the middle of this faith renaissance that one of my church buddies sponsored me for the Emmaus weekend.  He was a mentor of sorts to me and I really admired his commitment to Christ and our church.  So I thought what the heck; I’ll go.

It was a transformative weekend.  Describing it would be its own post.  Halfway through the retreat (on steroids), I just started crying.  Which was kind of weird.  Most of the guys in my group were just coming back to faith.  I was firmly established at the time (yeah, right).  But I just could not stop crying.  Something powerful was happening to me and I could not figure out what it was.  It was then that I thought I heard the voice of my childhood (figuratively), saying come home.  I thought about it and went for a long walk.  Halfway through the walk, I started crying again.  And I said to myself, “God, do you want me to serve you in the full time ministry?”  It was then that I had the most powerful spiritual experience of my life.  It was as though suddenly my entire life had lead me to this moment.  I felt a very specific calling to serve as a pastor.  As soon as I made that connection, I felt a wave of contentedness that I have never felt since.  I WAS CALLED.

After I got home, I was worried about telling my wife.  She had grown up a PK and I was pretty certain she would not be thrilled about my calling to a new vocation.  But when I told her, she was surprisingly open to the idea.  A short time passed and then I started taking concrete steps towards pursuing my calling.  I started looking for seminaries.  I shared my calling with my close TnT friends and they all enthusiastically confirmed my vocational plans.

I officially approached my local Methodist district and told them of my calling.  They sent me some materials and assigned me a mentor.  Being methodical, the Methodist church had a process for pursuing a calling.  I met with a local pastor weekly and we reviewed a manual on pursuing a calling.

Normally, it takes about 3 months to complete this phase of the calling.  But my mentor and I really hit it off and our 1 hour meetings often went on for 2 hours or more.  It took us nearly 9 months to get through all of the materials.

Meanwhile we had other happy news in our life.  My wife was pregnant with our first child.  We were ecstatic.  My job was going gangbusters and my TnT group was thriving.

Near the end of my candidacy exploration, my mentor and I began putting together a plan.  I applied to and was accepted at two seminaries.  I had a plan and a backup plan.  Plan one was to go to Asbury seminary in Kentucky and work in their financial aid office (I still had skillzzzz).  Asbury was my first choice, but I knew it might be rough on my wife to move to a strange place again.  So I formulated plan 2, which was to go to the local seminary, Wesleyan.  If I went this route, I could only go part time while I kept my day job.  The nice thing about this option was that my work at the time had a benefit that would pay for schooling at any school for any major (that has since been cut back).

My mentor and I completed the exploration process and he strongly endorsed my candidacy.  The next step was to meet with the district superintendant and become a certified candidate through my local church.  These two things were going to be a snap.  I met with the DS and it went well, although he was somewhat suspicious of my Pentecostal background.  It was the spring of 2001.

Life could not be any more perfect.  I was happily married.  I had managed to build some equity in a house.  I led a successful small group ministry.  I was called into the full time ministry.  I had started pursuing my goal with great success.  And I had a baby, a son that was due in June.

It was all coming together.  We would have the baby in June.  I would take some time off over the summer.  I would pick my seminary.  And in early fall I would become a certified candidate at my church’s annual meeting.

Because the baby was breach, we scheduled a C-section on June 12th.  On the way to the hospital, I commented to my wife on what a blessed existence we lived.  No matter what happened, God had blessed us beyond all of our expectations.

But wait, there’s more…

Imagine, part 4


You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” –Talking Heads

So this is the last assignment for my Imagine group.  Describe your faith journey as an adult, age 27+.  I will break this post into at least two segments.

Well the thing that had the biggest impact on my faith at age 27 was getting married.  When I started dating and later married my wife Jenn, I resolved to follow the grin and bear it approach to faith practice.  I had been attending church semi-regularly before we started dating, but when things got serious I knew that faith was going to be a central theme in my married life.  I did not enjoy church in any way, shape or form.  But I did have a somewhat flimsy faith in God.

When we got married, my wife and I started attending a Baptist church near our apartment.  It was another mega church, so the quality of the service was high and I could practice my faith in near anonymity.

Halfway through that first year, I got news that my job was being moved from San Jose, CA to Herndon, VA.  That was a huge deal.  We were moving away from all family and all friends.  It was a blank slate.

The Sunday after our arrival, we started church shopping.  Oh my, it was painful.  When you are in a new environment, you do what you know.  We knew AG, Baptist and non-denominational.  Every week was a new freak show.  Either the people were dancing in the aisles or they were saying things like, “no good church music has been written since the 1950s.”  That last one really won over my wife, the musician.

We were really struggling to find a church that we did not hate, little lone one we liked.  Then there was an interesting twist of fate.  One of my coworkers who knew I was a Christian asked to go to church with Jenn and me.  At first I freaked out because she was very liberal and all of the churches we had visited were right wing bible thumpers.  I had no clue where to take her.

It is important to know, that after moving, I was constantly getting lost.  I found a route to work and I did not stray from my path.  Well, on the way to work every day, I passed a picturesque little Methodist church, Floris UMC.  One day on the way to work, I thought…hmmm, Methodist, that should be mostly harmless.  I’ll take my coworker there.

We checked out the churches website and found that they had a Saturday evening “contemporary service.”  We took my friend.  Contemporary it turns out meant 1970s Maranatha choruses sang to the organ.  The music was truly awful.  But the pastor sermon was passable.  It wasn’t a fantastic service, but it did not hit any of my “red alert” triggers.

My coworker hated it.  She swiftly converted to Buddhism (where she remains happy to this day).

Jenn and I on the other hand did not have a visceral reaction and decided to try out the traditional service.  So the next Sunday, we came back.  We were easily the youngest people in the service by at least a decade.  The music was traditional hymns and the service was semi-liturgical.  We absolutely LOVED IT!

More to come…

Imagine, part 2


On three:  One, Three, Two…

I know, I know, I already published part 3.  I winged part 2 at the meeting, but I want a complete set so here goes

Paradise Lost

So purely from a faith standpoint, I had a pretty great early childhood.  But unfortunately as I got older, the adults around me felt the need to teach me theology and religious polity.

But in addition to my wholesome religious education, they threw in some crazy wing nut theology.  Looking back, some of this was the religious equivalent of pornography.  It was designed to scare the bejeebus out of me, so that I would not stray far from the straight and narrow.  Worked like a charm.

I have dozens of examples of religious abuse, but here are two that forever scarred my psyche.  In 1972 a movie took the evangelical movement by storm.  The name of that movie was “A Thief in the Night.”  This little cinematic gem was shown in my home church shortly after it was released.  I would have been the ripe age of 5-6.  And for reasons that are unclear to me to this day, my parents thought it was a good idea for me to see the film.

Here is the basic premise of the flick:  Jesus has returned to Earth in the “rapture” and taken all the good Christians to heaven.  Those who were left had to endure the “tribulation.”  Worst of all, in order to function in the tribulation economy, everyone had to be ID’d with “The Mark of the Beast” (represented with a barcode tattoo).  Here is the thing, if you took the mark; it was a one way ticket to hell.  There was no chance of redemption once a person took the mark.  At the end of the movie, the main protagonist is forced to jump off a damn in order to avoid damnation (genius!).

Now let’s break this down in the mind of a six year old.  My best friend, who I carried on a constant dialogue with, Jesus, was going to come back to Earth some day and take all the good people away.  But if I sinned, which at age 6 could be as simple as a lie or stealing a cookie before dinner, my friend Jesus would leave me…an orphan…I would face starvation or taking the mark…in either case, I would most likely go to hell where I would burn for all eternity.  I am sure I was not quite as succinct at age 6, but I did ask questions.  The basic answer was yes, if I sinned and had not had the opportunity to tell Jesus that I was sorry, then I would be left behind and possibly burn for all eternity.  Good to know!…thanks!

As if this message was not clear enough, my church did a little drama for my benefit.  The “drama” was a skit/play about judgment day.  I was really excited because my friend Todd was in the production.  Todd and his mother were at the “judgment seat.”  I don’t remember any of the dialogue, again I was 7 or 8 at the time.  The bottom line, Todd got to go to heaven, his mother went to hell.  Nice!

So as it turns out, my friend the son of God was kind of a dick!  A couple of things changed about my faith.  First, I was afraid of God.  On numerous occasions, I came home to an empty house and my first thought was that God had rejected me.  Second, I started having reoccurring nightmares involving Jesus and the Devil.  I will save those little nuggets for a future post.

In spite of all this, I remained a committed Christian.  The relationship had changed from innocent love to Stockholm syndrome, but I still “loved” god.  I also developed two separate lives.  There was the sinful Ben who drank, smoked and shoplifted.  And there was the Ben who was a devout little follower of Jesus.

I think I would have gone crazy were it not for the friendships I developed in church.  To my knowledge, NONE of them are still members of the Assemblies of God (AG).  And only a couple of them would still call themselves Christians.

I wish I could close this posting by saying this kind of abuse no longer occurs.  But sadly, it still goes on.  My parents to this day attend the church of Keenan Roberts who is best known for his “Hell House” and the “Hell House” kits. 

 

http://www.godestiny.org/hell_house/HH_kit.cfm