Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Defining Moment

Tonight I heard a quote which was made a while back by the former pastor. As has been mentioned before, he and his family have decided over the past year that they would create their own rules of etiquette and "manners." Haughtiness and rudeness have somehow become appropriate behavior on their part whenever a former church member has tried to speak to them in public. In an attempt to defend their lack of courtesy, the former pastor said,

"The Bible says to be kind. It doesn't say anything about being nice."

I know, I know, let it sink in for a minute... is it starting to make sense yet? Of course it isn't! It is complete nonsense. Along with the former pastor's expertise in etiquette came an apparent proficiency in semantics as well. The really sad part is that in the weeks after he said it, people quoted him as though it were some profound proverb.

The scripture he was referring to was Ephesians 4:32, which in the NAS reads:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
The Strong's concordance translates the word kind (chrēstos) in that particular scripture as meaning: "fit, fit for use, useful, virtuous, good, manageable, mild, pleasant (as opposed to harsh, hard sharp, bitter), kind, benevolent."
Hmm... did you happen to notice the act of shunning listed in that definition? defines the word nice as:
1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful
2. amiably pleasant; kind
Wait a minute, what the last word in that definition? Could it possibly be that the words nice and kind mean the same thing?

Also Roget's Thesaurus lists several synonyms (a word having the same or nearly the same meaning) for the word nice, and the word kind is one of them.

Since we are talking about words and definitions, I will mention a few which I found to be fascinating:

1. One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return.
2. One who lives off and flatters the rich; a sycophant.

bad-tempered: bad-tempered, unfriendly, rude, and somewhat threatening

1. wanting to cause harm: having or showing a desire to harm others
2. harmful or evil: having a harmful or evil effect or influence

causing insidious harm or ruin; ruinous; injurious; hurtful: pernicious teachings; a pernicious lie

Can you use any of these in a sentence? I certainly could.

- V

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Importance of Connectivity

This weekend, the dad of one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. Since the moment she called to tell me, I have been very tearful and reflective. He was a wonderful man and was one of many role models I had as a young person. Although he had been stricken with an illness that affected him for many years, he remained an amazing inspiration who loved God and his family with all of his heart.

At the funeral home last night, as well as at the funeral today, I was able to see many people from the church where I grew up. I was a part of that church until I was 27 years old. Because of this, I was flooded with many fond memories from my childhood through my young adulthood. I am so very grateful for the stability and foundation in my life that my parents, other family members, and my church provided for me. Even though we left my childhood church to attend another one, whenever I see anyone from there, they are always genuinely kind, and they make me feel very special. I can honestly say that I never remember anyone from that church shunning us or being rude to us in any way.

One of my aunts also attended the funeral today, and we were talking about it afterward. She made the statement about how wonderful the connectivity was among everyone there. The word connect means: "to join, or fasten together, as by something intervening; to associate; to combine; to unite or link together; to establish a bond or relation between." She went on to say that the bonds that are established in true love are always there no matter what. These bonds can never be broken. I truly experienced that today along with a flurry of emotions. While I was grateful to God for what he had established in my life since the day I was born, I was saddened by how deceived my husband and I were to leave such an atmosphere in order to end up at a Word of Faith church for 24 years. I grieved over the fact that my children were robbed of what I had experienced. I was struck by how hard I had worked to please a pastor and be what was expected of me instead of truly just being myself. I was saddened by what I had become over those years at the former church.

We can see what absolute and utter nonsense is being preached at our former church, and the childish and classless attitudes of the former pastor and his family. We have maintained a connectivity with family and friends and are enjoying life in a way that we have never experienced before. I encourage you to pull in close with family and friends and stay connected. There is no bond stronger than one that is established on true love.


Friday, October 24, 2008

The Power of Propaganda

The word propaganda is generally associated with deception which is carried out by an oppressive government regime. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “the systematic propagation of a doctrine, cause, or information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.” It is basically a specially formulated series of messages which are designed to influence the opinions and coerce the behavior of large numbers of people. It tends to evoke more of an emotional than a rational response.

When I think of the word propaganda, what immediately comes to my mind is the steady stream of false information with which the German people were inundated by the Nazi Party. Adolf Hitler so strongly believed in the power of propaganda that he appointed a special minister as head of it. This man was Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels had two main objectives, one of which was to make sure that no one was able to read anything that was contradictory to the Nazi Party. The other was to make sure that the Nazi views were conveyed to the people in a controlling and persuasive manner. He even supplied cheap radios to the public so that everyone would be able to hear Hitler speak.

We can see the use of propaganda in nearly every aspect of modern day communication. This includes the news and entertainment media (particularly involving the upcoming election), and commercials and infomercials designed to sell a particular product. We have also been exposed to massive amounts of propaganda in multi-level marketing schemes. Anyone remember the water filters? Sadly, one area where we have seen the use of propaganda is in the church. (Note: As a disclaimer, I am now saying that I am not comparing any minister to Adolf Hitler, nor am I comparing any church to Nazi Germany. I am, however, showing the alarming use of propaganda by many ministers, particularly within the Word of Faith circles). The similarities are very sobering and are definitely worth consideration.

There are several basic propaganda techniques, most of which I will list. In some of them I have a link back to previous posts which go into more detail. There is an odd familiarity to all of these techniques. See if you agree.

1. Bandwagon - This is an attempt to persuade or convince an audience to take a course of action because “everyone else is doing it.” You feel pressured to join the crowd (spiritual peer pressure) in order to be on your way to certain victory. You are made to feel as though there is a mass movement that you would be quite mistaken not to join. Those whom you respect are participating, so you feel an obligation to as well.

2. Testimonial - Using someone, preferably a famous person, to endorse a product. A good example of this is a testimony made by a well-known minister. You believe it because of who said it, even though it might contradict what the Bible teaches. This technique can often be combined with Bandwagon. Everyone else believes it, so you do as well, even when you don't feel right about it.

3. Repetition and Slogans - Repetition uses a key word or phrase over and over to the point that the audience says it automatically from sheer habit. In our former church we were taught that we could have whatever we said, which reinforced the need for this intense repetition. The repetitive words and phrases help to shape the opinions and values of the audience. Another example is having statements which the congregation is expected to repeat like mindless robots on a weekly basis, most of which involve a selfish outlook on life and the Word of God. This is also done with certain scriptures which are often used out of context and typically beneficial to the speaker, particularly the speaker's pocketbook. We would often hear about how we were "going to a new level," or "turning a corner." Slogans were often rhyming ones. Examples include: “If you have a need, sow a seed” and “The church that’s alive is worth the drive.” There was always a rhyme about what each year was going to bring also, such as "A Taste of Heaven in 97."

4. Transfer - This technique lays the praise or blame of one person onto another in order to make one more acceptable or to discredit the other. This is used in order to transfer blame from one member of a conflict to another. It is also used to take praise from others. This is often seen in controlling pastors who are unwilling to ever accept blame for his or his family’s mistakes. The blame is placed on others in an attempt to discredit them, and at the same time, proclaim the “innocence” of the actual guilty party. The flip side is that the same controlling, manipulative pastor, without even batting an eye, will take full credit for the fruit of someone else’s labor. Both of these forms of transference were used by our former pastor for years.

5. Name-calling - This can be direct or indirect. Indirect name calling is used when the direct approach would antagonize the audience. It is not as obvious as openly naming names, but is heavy on insinuation. Sarcasm and ridicule are employed with this technique. Indirect name calling is seen most often in controlling churches. This technique was a favorite of our former pastor. It is now obvious that the people he called names were the ones who intimidated him the most.

6. Card stacking or selective omission - This is the process of picking and choosing from a variety of facts and only using those which support the propagandist's purpose. This was often done publicly as well as one-on-one in our former church. If you were one of the lucky ones who had to meet privately with the pastor or one of his family members, you became quite familiar with both of these techniques. Assumptions and decisions regarding your fate were made on their part prior to the meeting regardless of what the actual facts were. And forget reasoning or logic. Anything you had done right was selectively omitted and all that you had supposedly done wrong was stacked against you. It was always a no win situation for you. By the time you left the meeting you were completely annihilated. Another example of this technique was a particular "healing testimony" that the former pastor often shared about someone he prayed for while they were in the hospital. He talked about how the man felt so much better the next day that he asked someone to bring him a fish sandwich. This occurred so many years ago that most of the church members did not know who he was talking about. But there were several of us who knew exactly who he was referring to. The story always implied that complete healing was received. What was selectively omitted was the all-important fact that this individual died two weeks after the pastor prayed for him. He told this story for years as though it were one of his best. Apparently he didn't have too many authentic success stories. And for sure not many hospital visits.

Joseph Goebbels once said, "The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it." Always be watchful and guard yourself and your family against all forms of propaganda. It is already an overwhelming task to sift through what we are exposed to in the media. It is another matter entirely when propaganda is used in a church setting. Keep these techniques in mind when you are uncertain about the information you are receiving. Taking advantage of people's spiritual vulnerability is the most vile form of manipulation. We know from experience that when you utterly succumb to this form of propaganda, you truly do place yourself in a position that is extremely difficult to escape.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Kingdom of Wordland (Chapter Five)

The Aftermath...

At the close of the last chapter, many loyal subjects had departed Wordland. This was due to much greed and avarice displayed by the King and his Royal Family. For years, this family took the tariffs from their subjects and spent much of it on themselves. They purchased lavish castles and drove the finest chariots. They were always bedecked in opulent clothing and accoutrements. They traveled on many luxuriant journeys and consumed sumptuous gastronomic provisions. Their loyal subjects took note of this spending for many years, but were always instructed to give their total obeisance to the King and all of his proclamations. It was expected of them to approve of his lifestyle even though it was far above anything that most of them could ever imagine. The King instructed them that everyone who admired his possessions could envision having it all for themselves as well, but that this would cost them a portion of their wages. Many tried to do this but were still unable to achieve what they saw. There were some who sacrificed much while gaining nothing. Some even suffered great loss.

Then, there was the Great Banquet, which was also described in the last chapter. The King’s family desired that great honor be bestowed upon him, but at a high price for the loyal subjects. This and other blunders on the part of the King led to the Enlightened Exodus of the Masses. Many of those who had dwelled in Wordland scattered to remote areas. Those who left the kingdom developed a close camaraderie, and were now afforded an easy sociability and familiarity with one another, which they had been unable to experience while they were under the stern and watchful eye of the King.

After the Enlightened Exodus of the Masses, much nonsensical tripe and babble was spoken by the King as well as others who made proclamations from his platform. Belittling remarks were made with great frequency in attempts to discredit those who had been brave enough to venture outside his Kingdom. Many such remarks were also made by the Duke and Duchess of Falsehoods who reigned in the West. There were numerous grave references made regarding the former Wordlanders, comparing them to excrement and predicting their untimely deaths. This brought fear into the hearts of many of the subjects who remained in the Kingdom, but much amusement to those who had left. They were well aware that the statements were made by those with expertise in fraudulent predictions. Words of warning were also spoken by the King’s family members, with instructions to shun all those who had left the kingdom. Lady Tamira of Walkenshire, who had been a supportive and faithful subject for nearly a quarter century, left the Kingdom with her family after being treated rudely by the King. Since that time, she approached members of the Royal Family on several occasions with gestures of friendliness, only to be shown a great lack of courtesy. Others were treated in a similar manner when they attempted such kindness. This family also began to try to pronounce curses on the former Wordlanders. Where was the love and kindness on which the Kingdom of Wordland had first been established? Did greed and selfishness overtake and destroy it?

The seemingly vast riches of the Kingdom began to dwindle. Much was expected of those with great wealth. Many appeals were made for additional gold, silver, pounds, and shillings from all the loyal subjects who remained in the Kingdom of Wordland. The King had taught many lectures on how to attain wealth and possessions, but it seemed that when it became necessary to put his own royal principles into practice, he failed to do so.

Now all of the palatial dwellings of the Royal Family are up for transfer of ownership and title to the highest bidders. The former dwelling of Prince Devoid was declared to be in default due to nonpayment of the tariffs and taxes needed to keep it. It has also been said that the Royal Castle for the Kingdom of Wordland is up for transfer of ownership as well. What could be the purpose behind this? There has been much speculation, but for now it remains a mystery...

- V/G

Saturday, September 13, 2008


We heard of recent egregious statements made from the pulpit by our former pastor, which is actually now a very common occurrence. One of his favorite control tactics has always been that of name calling, which is defined as "an attempt to discredit an opponent by labeling or describing him with words that have unfavorable connotations; verbal abuse; a crude substitute for argument." It is a very childish trait that apparently some never outgrow.

There is a certain young man who had been attending this church for his entire life. He was as involved as any young person could b
e, from childhood into his young adult life. He participated in many areas of ministry, including music, video, youth, and hospitality, and he also went on several mission trips. He was friendly, pleasant, enjoyable to be around, and very talented. Despite the fact that he was very committed to this church, he fell into disfavor with the youth leadership because he realized the corruption that was there and was vocal about it. Those in authority made sure that his life became a living nightmare. This left him angry and bitter, and disillusioned about church, particularly about this one. He left the church and was working on recovering from his experiences.

Then one day, about 6 months ago, the former pastor's daughter and daughter-in-law came into the place where he worked, knowing that he worked there and that they might see him. He tried to avoid them at first, but was then overcome with emotion. He walked up to them and asked, "Are y'all still ruining lives at that church like you ruined mine?" They, of course, had no idea what to say, probably because they knew it was true, but instead became very upset. A few minutes later the pastor's son-in-law made a phone call to this young man's manager in an (unsuccessful) attempt to get him fired.

This story was recounted by the former pastor in a service last week. Apparently the words of this young person had been running through his head for the past few months. We find that to be amusing. When he told the story, he referred to this young man as a "punk." Remember that name calling is a crude substitute for argument. His response to the statement that the church had "ruined lives" was that he had done everything right over the past year and did not regret any of his decisions. There are many who beg to differ with that statement. It is quite the opposite. He has made many mistakes and missteps, and it goes much farther back than just the past year. There are scores of people, both young and old alike who have been adversely affected by this church and this pastor.

Here are a few quotes made by young people who attended our former church:

"I was told I attended THE best church in the WORLD over and over. You start to build a complex after hearing this repeatedly, (brainwashing tactic, anyone?). I remember thinking "wow how did I luck out to be in the BEST church in the WORLD." Oh, but wait "luck" is bad, so I mean how did I get so blessed. I had to always watch my “confession”, because if I say I'm sick of something or that drives me crazy then I better watch out I may get sick or go crazy!! Why were we not allowed to say we were sick if we were?! Isn’t that lying? I never had a headache go away, because I told everyone I didn’t have a headache when I did. Why could we not admit the truth?! You know sometimes life has hard moments. We learn that way and we grow stronger. Everyone always pretended that things were ok, because if something was wrong then you must not be that great of a Christian. There was also a great emphasis on money and having nice things. If you don’t you must not be following the will of God. Can you imagine what all of this does to a child’s head?"

" THANK YOU. I was there and you hit it right on the head. everything you say is true I still have some of that hurt but, I'm so much better now and on fire for God. and I dance and sing for him as Gil said I’m free at last!!! Thank God I’m free at last!! thank you so much for this."

" you remember when they used to publish in the church bulletin who you should vote for in elections? That is sooo crazy. And I didn't think twice about it at at the time. It took years and years before I realized that all Democrats were not automatically sent to hell."

"I am so glad someone finally spoke up about all that goes on at ______! When i was young i used to love to ride to church w/ my aunt and uncle..I loved all the friends I made in youth, I came alot back then. I have always lived a hour away and as i got older it seemed harder to get there as i played sports and such..but my mom and i would try to come as often as we could. The last service i went to I left before it even began when i realized that some people really did look down upon me. It made me angry and hurt all at the same time, I thought do they think i am not good enough to talk to their kids that were my friends? Or could it have been that i was not worthy b/c i could not come all the time..or we didn’t come as a family b/c my dad had to work all the time."

"I grew up going to this church. I thought everything was fine until I was old enough to go to youth. I thought I had friends, but I realized that wasn't true because every Wednesday night I had to sit alone. I hated going to church and I dreaded every Wednesday night. You would think that since I had been going to that church my entire life people my age would come sit with me or talk to me. It seemed that I did not fit the “mold” by the Youth Pastor's elite group of followers."

"I was one that grew up in the cult church, I know exactly what you mean. There are so many kids that grew up in that environment and question is there really a God and Church just basically SUCKS.. I just wish that they realize there is a God and that the man in the pulpit wasn't him. Guilt is not from God, Guilt is from the Devil. And the man in the pulpit always put Guilt on you. ok I could go on and on. Thanks for your blog."

"At our former church you always heard that the pastor was the 'holy one' and because he was anointed by God he needed to be held higher than everyone else. I'm sorry but that is a bunch of crap! The same Jesus that lives on the inside of him lives on the inside of me and God has anointed ME to pray for the sick, anointed ME to minister, and anointed ME to do his will!! I can do what God tells me to do! I don't have to wait on a pastor to do those things for me! ...I was sick and tired of feeling inferior and feeling like I couldn’t do anything without the approval of the pastor’s family. No one in that family is better than anyone else!!"

"I grew up in this church we speak of, Gave 16 years of my life, of my time. My wife and I put our lives into the youth group for years. This church was all I knew. It’s where my family was as well as my friends. People I considered to be my best friends. People who loved and still love. People who I would drop whatever I was doing and help, as they needed it. I still feel that way today. When it was announced that my wife and I were leaving, it seemed to have shocked a lot of people. I explained that we were not leaving town just the church. We would still be here to hang out and fellowship. Never heard from any of them. Your kids are the only friends from that season in our lives that we really have a relationship, and we love them dearly.
We would run into people at Target or Walmart and go up to greet them. Most times they would keep it short and SELL me the reason why they are still at the church, (I would say that is a red flag) you shouldn’t have to sell others the reason you go to a church if you believe you are called there. Other times they would duck around the corner in hopes we didn’t see them, we are still brothers and sisters. Ever since going to the church, it seemed to always be about the man of god and honor the man of god. The leadership always saying “you are her to help me, to help the pastor, to help Brother ___, to help God. That’s to many middlemen. Praise god I can fellowship directly with God, I don’t have to go thru a bunch of people to get to him. Once we left we would here others say the leadership say if you leave this church, bad things will happen, your marriage will fall apart, you’ll have financial problems, or you’ll die. Since I have left there my marriage is the strongest it has ever been, I’m doing the best financially, and I’m still kickin’..."

"I could NOT have said it better myself. Everything you said is exactly what I have thought and struggled with for a very long time. I still struggle with whether or not I believe certain things and am still trying to sort through some things. It's scary and liberating at the same time to finally decide, "hey, I don't think that's quite right" and then decide for yourself how you feel about something."

"You said it very well. It always was confusing why it was wrong to ask 'why' or what was wrong with visiting another church, huh? Just made me wonder more... It was nice to move away just to clear my head and see the truth without getting caught up in the mess."

"All I have to say is thank you so much for what you are doing".

"I remember being sick and going up front to get 'healed'. I arrived at the illustrious and newly carpeted pulpit area, only to have the pastor say 'are those your sisters earrings?' and then walk past me without another word."

"People need to hear the truth. My family was hurt so badly by that church, I didn't ever think we would be the same again. I'm so happy to say that since we left 6 years ago, things have NEVER been better. I am glad we got out of the church before all this mess started. I know that it had to be a God thing. God always has perfect timing.""...I think it's valuable to many who have been hurt to express that hurt, be it here, or privately elsewhere. I went through a period of years and years away from God because of some of the things that went on. I thought that if the Lord is issuing these statements through this man, then this is not any God I want to serve. But I found out Gods love extends beyond the 4 walls of a church, and found myself in my basement with a guitar alone worshiping and crying my eyes out because I could feel the presence of God, which was something that I had always just faked at ___. When everyone is flopping around on the floor laughing, I would do it too, because if you don't, you're not a Christian right? or something is wrong with you, right?"

"I started going to ___ in the early '90's and I was sucked in at a young age and just wish I could have seen the light long ago. I did leave a few times and was accused of being a church hopper because I couldn't stay committed to the "former church" way! I always knew deep down that something just wasn't right. I knew that my Jesus would not have been so critical and judgmental. It took me having my own children to realize that I did NOT want them to grow up believing that money somehow made them more important than other people. We were always taught to give so we could get...that is NOT what I want my children to learn. I want them to know that it is more about winning souls for Christ and accepting everyone (whether they look and act the way we think they should or not). Isn't that what Jesus did? Hello!!!!
All I can say is "Thank GOD" we have been set free and we can now truly grow in God's love. I will never forget going into the former pastor’s office in a very low point in my life and him looking at me saying, "You know the Word, there's nothing I can say to you! What a pastor....NOT. He was NEVER my pastor because I wasn't one of the "fat cats" as he so inappropriately called people from the pulpit!! What is wrong with this man!! And what is wrong with a church when the visitors, pregnant mothers and elderly people have to walk in the rain, across the parking lot when "the pastor's family" parks up front and treated like royalty!!! Sickening....disgusting...too bad that what he taught for so many years is finally happening to HIM and his family....they are reaping what they have sown. None of us are perfect and I just pray that the people still under the spell and drinking the kool-aid will soon 'see the light' and get the heck out ~ get out soon."

Sounds like a few other young people had issues to deal with because of this church and its leadership.

Matthew 18:2-7 says:
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.

"But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do.

It is so tempting to call names in this situation. I could think of a few choice ones that are very fitting and appropriate. The difference here is that I do not need a substitute for argument. And I am a grown up.


He enjoyed being called a punk, by the way. Didn't bother him in the least. Sticks and stones.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ethic of Reciprocity

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. Luke 6:31

Christians refer to these scriptures, which are words spoken by Jesus, as the Golden Rule, something that most of us learned as children. This concept is also called the ethic of reciprocity. It is a fundamental moral value that unites nearly all religious and ethical philosophies, and it is simply that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.

We created Clarity Rediscovered to do for others what we wish could have been done for us years ago. We have been through this Word of Faith experience personally, and because of that, are able to shed light on many discrepancies that we have observed.

We recently heard of remarks made in a meeting by a Word of Faith preacher. He instructed the audience to stay away from blogs that disagree with the Word of Faith doctrine, and for them to instead, stay close to their pastor. We certainly wish we had been able to read a blog like this one many years ago because it would have opened our eyes and rescued us and many others from the muck and the mire of the false teaching that makes up the Word of Faith.

For years when someone would leave our church, the pastor would speak about them in a derogatory manner, often from the pulpit. He would present his spin regarding why they left with his critical sarcasm and eye rolling, and all of us (gullible, clueless) followers would buy everything he said. We were told to avoid all contact with those who left, which is typical of the cult that we were. The people who left, who certainly had every right to attend the church of their choice, were alienated and ostracized, and made to feel that they were the ones at fault. This is still the prevailing attitude at this church.

There are, however, a few things that are different now. Thank God for that. In previous years, people would leave only a few at a time, which made them easy targets for slander and bullying. Over the past several months, a multitude has now escaped, and these are people who had attended that church for years and years. So it has not been quite as easy to spin why all these folks just up and left. Crude and unkind remarks have been made, which has not been surprising, considering their source. Somehow, though, it just doesn’t have the same effect since they are being made to a greatly reduced crowd, while at the same time, those who found safety and sanctuary outside the walls of that church are rejoicing in their newfound freedom. The remarks and reactions of the leadership of our former church have simply reinforced our absolute certainty of the dangers within it.

Another difference in how this situation has played out is the use of blogs, YouTube, etc to open a forum of discussion. The “no talk rule” has been abolished forever! This has been adversely affecting the Word of Faith movement nationwide. People are seeing the light because the truth is being presented, and blogs are networking with one another, which enables people to ask previously unaskable questions. Those who have sat in silent submission have been able to speak out what they have been feeling for years.

All of you Word of Faith ministers are whining and howling about it because it is exposing your greed and selfishness. This false message has been your bread and butter, and that at the expense of countless good people. If it really works, then what are you so worried about? Why don't you encourage people to check out what the blogs are saying and make their own decisions? If your message is true, then shouldn't it stand up to all the scrutiny? Instead of using guilt and fear tactics to make people give, if you have a need, then YOU sow a seed. YOU believe God. YOU confess scripture over and over like some sort of mantra until you see what you want. What exactly have YOU been sowing?

Have you thought that maybe all this just might be the beginning of YOUR harvest?


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Burning Bridges

Good, lasting friendships are important. I have contact with many people whose friendships I have enjoyed for over 40 years. It has also been of the utmost importance to me to do all I could to maintain these friendships, which included doing any mending that was necessary to make sure that bond stayed intact. My husband is the same way. Neither of us likes to burn bridges, and we have both endeavored, to the best of our ability, to maintain good communication with all our friends, regardless of our differences.

We found this to be quite challenging at our former church, however, and for a variety of reasons. Friendship was not emphasized, but rather discouraged at this church. It was often belittled from the pulpit as having minimal value. Being people with many friends which we cherished, we could not understand the motive behind this view. Now we do. One of the reasons was that the pastor and his family members used their friends to accomplish what they needed, then discarded them when they were no longer beneficial. Sometimes you weren't totally thrown out, but you just dropped a few rungs down the ladder. Then someone bigger and better would replace you. Sometimes the bridge between you and the pastor or his family was burned completely. The more money and influence you had, the better a "friend" you were to them. We didn't just imagine this, we watched it take place for over 20 years, and it is still going on. It was very hurtful to us as well as many others who went to church there. So a person who has never experienced true friendship would certainly not endorse it.

Friendships also open lines of communication between people. The communication at our former church was always very strained and uncomfortable because you could not express your opinion if it differed with the leadership, particularly with the pastor. You were then labeled as a gossip and/or troublemaker. So when you got together with your friends you had to act like you were happy about whatever was going on at the church, even if you weren't. Because of this, friendships were often not trusting ones, and many ended. In retrospect, we believe that the leadership feared strong friendships among the congregation because then everyone would get together and discuss the true absurdity of the many situations that we encountered. One time, the pastor was very unkind and critical in some remarks he made to me. He overstepped his bounds to the point where my family should have left the church. I confided in a "friend" about what he said to me and it got back to him. He then accused me of putting a friendship before the "word." The irony of that was that nothing he said to me came from the Bible and he was not acting anything like Jesus would have. It would have been a help to me if he had. Sadly, I bought what he said and stayed for many more years.

We also observed the burning of many bridges in the leadership's relationship with other ministers. It was actually difficult to keep up with who was on the approved list or who just got moved to the black list. Much of it was politically motivated, such as, who was in this camp and that camp. There was much division between ministers who were supposed to share the same goal.

I Corinthians 3:4-8 in the Amplified says:
4. For when one says, I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, are you not [proving yourselves] ordinary (unchanged) men?
5. What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Ministering servants [not heads of parties] through whom you believed, even as the Lord appointed to each his task:

6. I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was making it grow and [He] gave the increase.
7. So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but [only] God Who makes it grow and become greater.
8. He who plants and he who waters are equal (one in aim, of the same importance and esteem), yet each shall receive his own reward (wages), according to his own labor.

This scripture was completely ignored. There were not only different camps, but different hierarchies of ministers within each camp, with all kinds of bridges being irreparably burned between them. It did not give us a very good taste of what ministry was supposed to be.

When it came to the point where we realized that we could no longer stay in this church, we attempted to formulate a plan for a smooth departure, only to have the bridge burned to a cinder behind us. We should have known that it was inevitable that after watching so many bridges being burned at this church that the same thing would eventually happen to us as well. Remember that bridges can be burned from either side. Burning bridges is a deliberate way of preventing anyone from returning. Maybe they realized that once someone saw the truth from the other side, they didn't want them coming back. Although it is not the best, sometimes you cannot prevent bridges from being burned. In this particular case, we are not interested in ever crossing that bridge again, and would discourage anyone else from doing the same.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 in the NIV says:
9. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
10. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Do all you can to repair and maintain the bridges that join you with friends. Don't let anyone stand between you and your friends, especially a crazy pastor.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stand up to the Bully

Mark 9:42 "... if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck."

Did you ever encounter a bully during your childhood years? I think that most everyone probably has. The bully kid was usually intimidating because of his larger stature, big talk, or because he had a cadre of would-be usurpers behind him who were staring you down, ready to back him up. Does any of this bring back unpleasant childhood memories for you? I mistakenly thought I was all through with bullies once I had grown up, but I and many others ended up having to deal with a grown up version of one for many years.

The definition of a bully is, "a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people." To bully someone is to "intimidate with threats and by an overbearing, swaggering demeanor; to act the part of a bully toward." Sometimes a bully can also try to get the best of you emotionally. Emotional bullying is "when someone tries to gain control by making others feel angry or afraid. It is characterized by verbal abuse such as name-calling, sarcasm, incessant teasing, threatening, mocking, putting down, belittling, ignoring, and lying. Also known as adult and workplace bullying, emotional bullying also includes such abuse as exclusion from a group, tormenting, ganging up on others, or humiliation.”

This bullying trait can be quite problematic in a church setting, particularly if the role of the bully is played by the pastor, which we saw in our former church. The pastor constantly demanded the respect of the congregation. If he (and his family) did not receive the homage he believed he deserved, then threats, belittling criticism, teasing, and mocking would ensue. Sometimes this abuse was for no apparent reason. Just always at your expense. And woe be unto you if you attempted to retaliate. Staff members were treated in this manner for years, and were often ridiculed from the pulpit. These staff members, who looked to him as their role model, would, in turn, bully the volunteer helps people. This bullying spirit was taken on by certain staff and board members who, for years, have served as henchmen for the pastor. They have appeared at people's homes and businesses, made threats, or attempted to get information. Under the guise of being unhappy themselves, they have pulled criticisms out of people to use against them later. Just how many brownie points are worth hurting so many people? What exactly is it that they are gaining? One step out of line and their accumulated brownie points will immediately go into a negative zone.

Word of Faith ministers seem to have adapted an overinflated opinion of self-importance. This is a nationwide epidemic that people, including ourselves, have bought into for years. Many of these ministers are also bullies. Sometimes I watch televangelists for the sheer pleasure of now being able to see them and their false teaching in a different light. There is also a tremendous gross-out factor that draws me in as well. I watched one preach on Hosea 4:6, which reads, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge." We've heard that one a few times, huh? This televangelist bully proceeded to use this scripture to tell everyone in the TV and studio audience just how ignorant he thought they were. He called them stupid several times and said that their stupidity was what was destroying them. He then had people in the audience look at one another and proclaim how ignorant they were. The sad part about it was that everyone laughed uncomfortably and went along with it. So, this dude with his big hair came in and insulted people instead of helping them, and then lined his greedy pockets with their hard earned money. It is really frustrating to watch good people be so deceived. A common practice among Word of Faith ministers is to take a scripture, put their obnoxious and often inaccurate twist on it, and then say, "Don't blame me for saying it! God said it!" What I say to that is, "Don't you blame God for your stinking bad manners."

I found a great quote that says,"Bullies seldom execute the threats they deal in." This is so true. A good friend of mine told me that if you stand up to a bully, he will back down. I am so grateful to God that we now have that freedom. Don't let yourself be bullied by anyone, particularly in a church setting. I don't care who they are or what title they hold. Know who you are in Christ and let that be your confidence. Placing your confidence in a man instead of God will always lead you down the wrong road.

Jeremiah 22:13 "Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, Who cheats his workers and won't pay them for their work, Who says, 'I'll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows. I'll bring in rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor.' So, that makes you a king— living in a fancy palace? Your father got along just fine, didn't he? He did what was right and treated people fairly, And things went well with him. He stuck up for the down-and-out, And things went well for Judah. Isn't this what it means to know me?" God's Decree! "But you're blind and brainless. All you think about is yourself, Taking advantage of the weak, bulldozing your way, bullying victims."

Ezekiel 34:1 [ When the Sheep Get Scattered ] God's Message came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, 'God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren't shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don't feed the sheep. You don't build up the weak ones, don't heal the sick, don't doctor the injured, don't go after the strays, don't look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they're scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills. My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them!

- V

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Kingdom of Wordland (Chapter Four)

A Mass Exodus...

The King and his son were away in a distant land to the north when the announcement was made about the Great Banquet. The King’s daughter made a special request that all of the loyal subjects bring a gift for the King far and above anything that had ever been done before. This was in addition to the special tax that was imposed on all who desired to attend the banquet. The Princess even shed tears that day. Most all of the Wordlanders present were shocked by this appeal.

On the same day as this appeal, the Minister of Benevolence tried to restore the spirit of the Wordlanders by telling of a recent visit to a land far to the south. He had just returned from taking food to a neighboring nation that had recently suffered a national calamity. He spoke of the need for the Wordlanders to get involved in efforts like these to reach out to the needy. He also mentioned that the King had commissioned him to this position, and that the King had asked him to present this to the people. But this helped very little. The Wordlanders began to see a different picture of the King and his family. Many had questions about some of the King’s ambitions and motives, but none dared to voice them because they greatly feared him.

That was about to change. When the Prince returned later that week he called together the royal staff. Prince Devoid went on a royal fulmination. He spoke as one with great anger and arrogance. He questioned the staff and asked them as to their disposition regarding the announced gala and the new tax. No one felt the liberty to respond to the Prince until the Minister of Benevolence stood up. Having just returned from a land of great need, he could see the great avarice which motivated the banquet. He spoke of how beneficial a tax like this would be if it were given to the poor instead of for the King’s benefit. He mentioned that many in Wordland could not afford this tax and would feel slighted because they could not attend the banquet. There was much unrest that day, but among the royal staff the abundance of silence spoke many volumes.

The King returned the following week amongst many rumors. The Benevolence Minister was shown very little regard, and after nearly a quarter century of service, was dismissed on the spot by Prince Devoid. The King never had the courage to face the Minister of Benevolence. It was later reported that he was not in the royal palace during the minister's dismissal, but he was actually seen passing by in the corridor several times.

Because of the many rumors which surrounded him, Prince Devoid was sent westward with his family to serve the Duke of Falsehoods. This duke's title was bestowed upon him as a favor. He did not go through any of the needed requirements to earn it, like most of the dukes did.

Over the weeks and months that followed, the King became very angry and indignant. He began to make many strange statements, one of which was likening the former Minister of Benevolence to a court jester. He also likened unpaid taxes to a flaming arrow that would sear the flesh and hair of his loyal subjects. He began to be suspicious of many of his other ministers and squires. One in particular, Randolf the Brave, was one of the King's loyal helpers for many years. Randolf, because of his close association with the King, was privy to much information. Because he was a man of proven character, many Wordlanders went to him for counsel. Although the King labeled him as a man of insignificance, Randolph was able to help many. Randolph and others were later banished from the Kingdom.

During these days in Wordland, many rumors of malfeasance began to circulate. People seemed to be willing to ask the questions that before had seemed unspeakable. It were as if a great spell that had controlled the people had been broken. Scores of subjects began to venture out from Wordland. They now were free to follow their own hearts and personal interests. In spite of many curses that were continually being pronounced on these people, they were now walking in a new found joy and freedom. There were old friendships that were restored, and great peace now ruled these people. It was learned that many of the Wordlanders that had left many years earlier were living a much better life than before. They were quick to help those who were now leaving.

To this day, Wordland still exists, although not to the level of its former glory. There are still loyal subjects that have stayed to help the King. However, the joy and peace that was once there does not seem to remain.

If you ever meet a former Wordlander, they will tell you that they are now better than before and have learned many valuable lessons. They will also tell you that their hope has been restored and that they will continue to live happily ever after.

May you be one who lives happily ever after as well.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Kingdom of Wordland (Chapter Three)

The Big Move...

Although there had been some dark days for the Wordlanders, a renewed hope came in the form of a message from one of the great prophets of the west. He sent a message to the King that the best was yet to come. He said that all of the great things that the King had done would soon be rewarded and all of their troubles would be over. So as to encourage the people, the King published this message over and over for his loyal subjects to hear. Each time they heard the message they would rejoice because the great prophet from the west had given them hope.

During this time in Wordland, the King appointed his son, Prince Devoid, to the position of Vice King. He would now be in a place to help his father. He was to oversee all of the management of the finances and the royal staff. Although Prince Devoid had no experience and had never proven himself in this position, the King assured the people that it would help to move Wordland to a higher plane. They were soon told that all of the taxes and tariffs that had been paid were being used efficiently because Prince Devoid was such a wise manager. The royal family surely seemed to be blessed during those days in Wordland. They were now able to live in some of the finest palaces in the known land.

Wordland had seen so much growth in the past years that the land that they were dwelling in began to feel too small and worn. The King met with the people and showed them a vision of a land which he had seen that would be a good place to grow. He told them that it was now time to launch out and possess that new land. He asked the people to bring in all of their gold and silver so that they could acquire this land, and build a new royal castle. All of the people were excited and began to bring in gold by the carts full. Prince Devoid was making sure that all of the gold and silver was being well protected.

After several years of hard work, it was time to make the big move to the new Kingdom. With great fanfare, that historic day came. How proud it made them to have come from such humble beginnings and to now be in such a grand place! It seemed that the castle had become so important that the King began to neglect the people that had helped him to build it. Now that Prince Devoid was overseeing all of the daily operations of the Kingdom, the King could now travel even more that he did before.

The new place appeared to be the finest yet, but something was missing. Where was the unity that they once had? Where was the hope that the people once had? Where had all of the resources gone to help the needy people? The people found themselves doing more and more to please their King, but their efforts seemed without purpose.

The King became gloomy because the people did not seem to be paying him the homage that they once had. The ones close to the King decided that they would throw several banquets and feasts in the King’s honor. They were sure that this would help bring joy back to the King and to all the people of Wordland. The great banquet would come at the end of the year and it would be the grandest that anyone had ever seen. This event would feature the King and all of his accomplishments, and it would have to be the most lavish that there had ever been. They wanted to invite other kings from all around the land to this feast. The question was, how would they pay for such an affair? They decided to levy a tax on the people, and only those who were willing to pay this tax would be allowed to attend the feast. They also said that all who attended would be required to wear the finest apparel.

When the people learned of this tax, they were outraged, but were afraid to tell the King. It was a very high tax, and the people would have to pay it during a time when there were other tariffs due. Many discussed their misgivings among themselves, and word of this got back to the King.

To Be Continued


Monday, May 5, 2008

The Kingdom of Wordland (Chapter Two)

Trouble Brews for the Wordlanders...

At this time some people did not like the change that they saw in their King. They were told that the King knew all things and was not to be questioned. Some of those people did not like the King’s response and decided to leave the Kingdom. When these people told the King that they were leaving, he warned them that great evil would come upon them and their families if they left. He told them that they were only safe from the great evil one if they remained behind the walls of his Kingdom. Many people began to leave in spite of the great dangers that were outside of the Kingdom walls. It was reported that some who left had faced an untimely death. This is the first time that any Wordlanders were bold enough to venture outside of the walls of Wordland. At this time, a decree came down from the King that any and all outcasts were to be shunned.

The King pronounced a blessing of health on all of the loyal subjects and told them that they were in a land that was free from plagues and diseases. The King continued to prosper and threw many great feasts for all of the other kings with whom he had become close. It seemed that all of the small people had become servants to the King instead of his being servant to them. The King did not seem to have time to spend with the people because he was now busy trying to expand his Kingdom.

One day, a dark spirit fell on Wordland. In spite of the great words of protection that had been spoken by the King, many people came down with the great plague. The King continued to speak words of health, but others became ill as well. Although the people were told that they were in a safe place which was free of this plague, there were some that died. After that, other evils fell on some of the people. There were many in the kingdom who became fearful and troubled. The King stood his ground and told the people that all was well.

Over the next several days, the people waited for the King to present them with a message of comfort. Many asked the King to explain what had happened. They were disillusioned because they had been taught that things like these would never fall on the positive speaking Wordlanders. The only response that came forward was that some things were too great for them to understand.

The King continued to prosper and began to formulate plans as to how he could get his son, Prince Devoid, to help him run the Kingdom.

To Be Continued...


The Kingdom of Wordland (Chapter One)

In The Beginning

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were a people that lived in the Kingdom of Wordland. These Wordlanders were, at one time, a happy people who worked together to build a place that would spread the good news that they had come to find. In the beginning, this was a small group of people with modest means and hearts that were true. They started out with a leader that lived and worked among them. He was a simple man who was very grateful to the people. He would take time to teach the people and help them deal with the issues that they each faced. The leader at this time dressed and lived a humble life like the rest of the people.

The Wordlanders would come together many times each week to listen to the man teach the truths that he had learned. The leader told them of a place far to the west that he had visited where he learned these teachings. In that city there were people who lived in a state of near perfection where no one ever got sick and or lacked for anything. If there was anything that they needed, all that they had to do was to say it and it would manifest. As the leader began to teach this message, the people began to long to know more about it and dreamed of their visit to this city, which was called Mecca.

Each week, when the people came together they would make great merriment. They would gather with the minstrels and sing and dance. They would celebrate and shout of the things that they had not yet seen, but were told that one day they would have.

As more and more people came to this small place, they began to grow. The leader began to have other great leaders visit his people, and one day the great teacher from Mecca came to visit. As the small group continued to grow they realized that they needed to find a larger place so that more people could come to see this great work. And one day they did. They moved to a much larger place that was greater than anything they could imagine. The leader told them not to worry because he could help them believe for anything.

All was well, and everyone was happy. The leader began to travel out and spend time with others like him. The people were excited to hear that he was known among the great leaders of Mecca. They were told that their leader was a man of importance and they began to see him in a different light. One day their leader returned from Mecca and told the people that he had just learned of a new teaching from the great prophet. No longer was he to spend time close to the people and be their servant, but he now held a special place and was to be addressed as their King. From that day forward, no one was to address the leader by any other title but King.

During this time in Wordland, the Kingdom began to grow. Many people were happy, but they began to see a change in their newly proclaimed King. He no longer lived among the people. He no longer dressed or drove chariots like the people. No longer was he available to help the people with their problems. He also began to talk about how important it was to accumulate fine things, and that the Kingdom of Wordland was the greatest Kingdom in all of the known world. This also must mean that he was the greatest King in all the world. One day he told the people that he was the King of the Kingdom that all of the other Kings wished that they could be King of. Oh how proud that made all of the people and the King’s family!

To be continued.....


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It Happens Everywhere

We received this comment on the Religious Lace post today from Charismania, a site we have referred to before and have listed as a link. It was so amazing that we decided to post it in addition to having it as a comment.

Charismania said:

My husband and I are convinced that there's some "playbook" somewhere for these things. It's utterly amazing how what you wrote could describe our former church exactly. When we started attending, the messages were much more scriptural, much more Bible-based. But as the years passed, we watched a gradual descent into church-as-show, with all the stupid catch phrases, the extreme emphasis on money and giving, and way too much talk about "blessings" that somehow were always material things.

Our pastor did not have a plane or take hunting trips, but he and his family lived a very wealthy lifestyle. His two young adult sons had their every whim indulged. It was difficult for our own teenager (who was in the inner circle of the youth ministry) to understand that turning 16 did not automatically translate into being led into the garage where his brand-new, ordered-to-his-specifications car would be waiting for him, topped with a giant bow like in the car commercials. This is what had happened for both the pastor's sons when they'd each turned 16 a few years before our son did.

These young men (the pastor's sons) were nice enough fellows, but they'd been so marinated in the atmosphere of pastor-worship that they had a completely inflated sense of their own accomplishments. They both were obviously being groomed to take over the ministry, but because they'd never lived through any financial hard times the way their parents had, they simply did not have the character that their parents did. Also, with the audience pumped and primed to clap and cheer for them no matter how shallow the sermon or how off-key the song (one son preached, the other did music), they really had no clue how they'd stack up in the real world, outside the oddly insulated little community their parents had built.

And sadly, after so many years of living the high life, I think wealth was what had eaten away at their parents' character, too. I believe they began to compromise in what initially seemed like small ways, where they pandered to rich church members and sucked up to their more famous (think TBN guests) mentors. Eventually, the messages by necessity became all about money...and how much we needed the pastor to be blessed, because "anointing flows from the head down."

Don't mean to ramble...but it's still incredible to realize that this exact same garbage has been perpetrated in the name of Jesus all over this country. We've received a lot of emails and comments to this same effect, but it never ceases to amaze us, how the Word of Faith money message is still such a good con.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Religious Lace

Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they're not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.
2 Timothy 2:15-18 (Message)

By nature, I am a very practical, logical, and realistic person, which is part of the reason why I never fit into the Word of Faith mold. I do not like to waste my words, and I do not like being in a position where I have to listen to someone who does. I firmly believe in the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln when he said that it is "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." When I am not an authority on a situation I know how to keep my mouth shut. However, there are some who don't.

A minister should take his job or "calling" very seriously. He has a captive audience of people who have technically paid admission to be there with their tithes and offerings. The people in our former church were earnestly seeking guidance from God for their daily lives. These people were often in a vulnerable state and faced seemingly insurmountable problems. They were taught that talking about their problems was a "bad confession," and were ashamed to admit that they were depressed, lonely, physically sick, or financially insecure, just to name a few. So these people would gather for church services, ready to hear something that they believed would help them. Not only were they presented with false doctrine, they were also infused with mega doses of vain, useless, and idle talk. (2 Timothy 2:15 Amp)

Years ago, our former church seemed good, with solid teaching from the Bible. It was edgy, which is part of why we liked it. We haven't been able to totally put our finger on what went wrong, but the church took a bad turn somewhere along the way. The pastor and his family did not have much in the way of material things in the beginning, so I believe that at the time, they were probably really using their faith in their daily lives, and the teaching reflected that. Over a period of years, as the church grew, they began to have more money, power, and "prestige,"(self-perceived). The whole Word of Faith network is actually quite political. We watched it firsthand. We were subjected to teaching from ministers who were in error. We went to the pastor several times about one in particular and told him about our concerns. He said that he was a renowned old time minister, and that he would continue to have him come and preach. He did continue to have him in, and the guy continued with his false teaching and just general weird stuff. The pastor told us to just take what was good and "spit out the sticks." I could not understand why we had to listen to a message that had sticks in it.

As the pastor began to prosper, we had to endure hearing about all his new toys and acquisitions. His motorcycle, his new house, his personal gym, his fancy suits and ties, and "his" airplane. He also elaborated on his extravagant vacations and boring hunting trips. Stories about all these things began to filter into his teaching to the point that material possessions became his focus. Tithes and offering were also emphasized more than ever, and the impression was given to everyone that if they tithed, they could experience this same kind of "good life." When the leader loses sight of what the Bible truly teaches, so do the people in the church.

Another trait of the Word of Faith type church is the use of "spiritual fluff." It comes in many forms. One of the most annoying to me is the use of catch phrases throughout the teaching. Some of them are:

"Don't shout me down just 'cause I'm preachin' real good."

"I'm preaching a whole lot better than you're amen-ing".

"Don't look at me in that tone of voice."

I am naming only a few of the many phrases we have heard. As you can see from these, they are often boastful and self-serving. And to me, they have never been funny. I would look around at people who actually would continue to laugh after years of hearing this stuff and wonder what the heck was wrong with them. It is just all part of the control and peer pressure. If you didn't laugh, even if what was said was stupid or crude, you were perceived as having a bad attitude.

Another form of spiritual fluff is used as a filler, so to speak. Constantly saying,"Praise the Lord," "Isn't God good?" "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah," "Glory to God," "Well, amen," among many others. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with making these statements, but I began to recognize that these phrases were used in a meaningless way in an attempt to spiritualize the words of the speaker. The Message Bible calls it "religious lace."

Matthew 5:33-37 in the Message says:
33-37 "And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong."

The longer we were there, and closer we got to the inner workings of that church, the more we realized that these words were meaningless because they were not backed up by action. I do believe that God desires for us to be comfortable and enjoy material possessions. There is a way to do that without becoming obsessed with it.

I Timothy 6:17-20 in the Message says:
17-19 Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
20-21 And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.

- V

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Discerning Deception and Double Talk

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.
2 Corinthians 3:12 KJV

Have you ever been confused, befuddled, or annoyed by the speech or method of communication of another person? Have you ever listened to someone talk and had no idea what they just said? Double talk, also known as double speak, is defined as, "deliberately ambiguous or evasive language." Other colorful words to describe it are: balderdash, baloney, hokum, bunkum, drivel, flimflam, rigmarole, and waffling. Hokum and bunkum are my favorites on that list. Sometimes the language is gibberish mixed in with normal speech. Both double talk and double speak may be used in different forms, but with the same intent, which is to deceive, mislead, and/or withhold information.

This "technique," if you will, is often used by politicians. They go around the world, so to speak, to supposedly answer a question, and when they are finished, they are hoping that no one noticed that the question was never really answered. It is very frustrating, isn't it? It is also insulting to your intelligence and sense of reason. Colossians 2:8, in the Message warns us to "watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything." Sometimes it is difficult to muddle through the muck and mire of what was said by many politicians, as well as ministers.

We had to deal with this from the leadership at at our former church. Not that big or intellectual words were used, but it did take on many other forms. One of them was the face to face conversation where you were trying to make a logical point, or you had a legitimate complaint. Logic did not exist there, and complaints were not welcome. So, somehow the conversation had to be twisted to make it look as though everything was somehow all your fault. There were no real answers given, and unless you specifically asked for one, no sincere apologies were made. And, in my opinion, an apology that that you have to solicit from someone is not truly sincere.

I know of a person who tried everything he knew to be a help in a particular area of the church. He was talented and well-liked. He handled many responsibilities in a very capable manner, but kept having them taken away from him with no clear explanation. He would continually ask what he did wrong and would only get a mumbo jumbo answer. Just total nonsense. We found out later that he was getting too close to a situation that the person in charge did not want him to know about, so the attempt was made to discredit him.

Colossians 4:5-6 in the Message says, Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

If you were mistreated by the leadership or their family and it bothered you, then you were "offended." If the leadership or their family members were mistreated by someone and it bothered them, they were "hurt." It seemed that they were always the victim in any given situation. That is a manipulative use of semantics. When someone in the congregation messed up, they were harshly corrected and sometimes rudely treated. When the leadership or their family messed up, everyone was admonished not to gossip, and a new series on forgiveness came from the pulpit. That is double talk combined with a glowing example of a double standard.

Watch out for manipulative double talkers. It is very unpleasant to be taken advantage of, and this is a vile form of it. Always mean what you say and avoid those who don't. If someone tries to manipulate you with double talk, just tell them they are full of hokum bunkum.

For a little comic relief, I added this funny clip that gives an extreme example of a double talker who mixes gibberish with normal speech. I hope you like it.

Mr. Doubletalk

- V