Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#201-The Full Truth

Editor's Note: Once again, I beg you to please read. Because this is just fantastic writing on my part. It's just phenomenal. I'm the Nobel prize-winning author of Apostolic writers in this post. Also, you may want to kill me by the end of this read if you are not wanting to kill yourself by then (Only metaphorically of course).

And you get songs! Start here...."Yeah Yeah Yeah" by the Flaming Lips. It's only like the catchiest song in the world.

The Dirty Little Secret
There is a dirty secret that I and you and your own mother prefer not to talk about. It's a secret that I am just now confronting. It seems obvious enough, but I'm a slow learner. It lurks in the darkest corner of my conscience and I would just as soon like to get rid of it, the moment I found it. But it's not so easy. It may take years or even a lifetime of digging at it with my fingernails to even have the remotest chance at casting it to the abyss. And even at this assumption, I fear the reality is that it's removal is rather an impossibility in that the dirty secret is embedded so strongly in the bedrock of my soul that my only out is suicide (more on this later), or a lobotomy.

Author David Foster Wallace on the dirty little secret,

"Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of my own universe, the realist, most vivid and important person in existence."

In short for each of us, we love ourselves the most.

Firstly, allow me the freedom to confirm the thesis.

From what I gather, most of us think ourselves hopelessly good looking. Better looking than we really are. Especially in comparison with our peers. Sure, I have friends who I think are better looking than me. I have names! Zach Dunning, Darron Sistrunk, and Justin Morr. They are really devilishly good looking (sorry ladies, Darron and Zach are engaged. But Justin Morr is so completely single right now that I suggest you add him as a friend on facebook and see what I am talking about: Morrsey's Facebook Profile.

The reality is I look to these handsome friends as a kind of justification for how good looking I think I am, It's a vain and false humility and my ego is allowed to flaunt itself in my awesome brain.

You probably think you are Funny too. I know I do. I am funnier than you though. Intelligent? Is this that even a question. Well it was rhetorical. Because we are so intelligent we know how to spell rhetorical and know what it means. Because of course we are intelligent. We even get really good grades without trying. DANCE EGO DANCE! What? No. I won't.  Here? Now?

Okay, okay, I'll just go on and say it. You are simply put, spectacular. Virtual Salute to you and virtual salute to me! (Seriously I hope you just saluted the screen like I did when I wrote it). The party is not the same without you.

I am a Monument

I also fantasize about my funeral at times. And theorize what great, worshipful things will be said about me. I am so important that I want my body stuffed when I die (seriously, I have talked at length with my family about this). And when I am stuffed, I want my left hand set up with my fingers separated and pointed slightly upward so that the fingers can act as a coat hanger. And my right hand is to be as positioned with my palm open-faced and maneuvered into a bowl so that it can hold your loose change and keys. I will be set up in the living room as an accessory piece of furniture that brings the room together. This way I will not be forgotten like the rest of the unimportant dead people. This will be especially useful if I did at a young age and my wife goes to get remarried. Think about this scene: My widow brings home a date to watch an awful romantic musical like Grease or something, and the dude looks over to the corner to the room, and there is this stuffed corpse standing there as a coat rack with a few coats hanging from it and he's all confused and asks "what is that thing?" and my widowed wife says "oh that's just my dead husband." And he'll totally just freak out. Vacate premises completely and tell all his friends about the worst date ever and about stuffed me in the corner of the room. If, of course he can maintain in the date in spite of my presence in the room, laugh it off, and continue to cuddle with my wife while they watch a stupid flick like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then I say it is him who deserves the hand of my wife.

Then Halloween, can you imagine the one month a year that you set my stuffed body outside in the front lawn as a lawn decoration? It would only be the best Halloween decoration ever! People will talk about me then too. Because I am historic (can you tell that I have really thought this thing out? Of course the legalities of this are quite problematic in the United States (can someone do some research and find me a loophole regarding the matter of stuffed corpses. Maybe like Religious Freedom or something? I know it's allowed in South America)).

You are a Major Motion Picture (Protagonist)

We like to imagine our conversations are as magnificent as those in movies. Romantic conversations that are so poetic and mind-blowing because you are just that tragically romantic. If only there was a musical score to accompany us in the background as we go in for that first kiss after saying that ever so cute compliment. You know what? Let's do that. Next time you are on your date with your spouse or pre-spouse, bring a mini-boombox or something and then have certain songs pre-selected for the occasion of either a candlelight dinner (always classical piano), a walk in the park after the meal (always some soft-spoken male solo artist with the music turned down low), the kiss (something where the soft-spoken male solo artist gets to the climax of the song and it's like BAM! FIREWORKS!), and always if need be, after a fight make sure to have some female solo artist accompanying letting you know it's going to be all right. And make sure it's raining. Romantic confusion and fights are always accompanied by rain and walking alone. Your life should and probably is like this. Except without the music. But thank goodness for my awesome mini-boombox suggestion (you can thank me later).

Then there are the times when you cry because when your ego is huge, drama is to be sought. Because movies have drama and climaxes and you are a major motion picture who searches endlessly for the slightest bit of drama that attacks awesome you so you can have emotional tear-jerking climaxes too (once again, female solo artist is crucial here when your tears fall on the pillow in your loneliness). Thus, in our self-importance, self-pity is always to be invited. 

Glorious ego envelopes us all. Deep inside, we are super-heroes, romantics, strong but sensitive, geniuses, Olympic athletes, arm-chair politicians who care about Darfur and electric cars, reality show stars, new, stylish (in a non-caring way), logical, bright, survivors, holy, unclassifiable, classy, and entertaining. Why don't more people notice this about us?

You ever notice how much quicker to forgive our own flaws and sins before anyone else? Sure our hygiene is suspect and we lie on occasion and obsessively think about eating bacon, and even secretly hold viscous judgments about others which we dare not tell others about (save our closest friends), but we just as easily excuse such flaws under the label of "being human." But we are no so quick to allow others such an excuse, especially to those whose personality strikes us in the raw or actually treads on our own existence in a conflict. I love myself some me. Some of us just learn to keep this truth more hidden than others. And those who are no so skilled at disguising their self importance are the most ripe for some Guantanamo Bay Torture (Yay Waterboarding!).

Date Night
Two Fridays ago, I went on a date. It was my first date in years and not something I am fond of. It didn't go well. In our 3 1/2 hours of conversation, the female talked for a good 3 hours of it, about herself. Needless to say, there won't be a second date, and even ignored her texts she sent the next day. Why? While her ego was put on display to scrutinize obsessively for 3 hours, I, who is important, was not allowed equal opportunity to display my own ego. My fault with her was that she didn't allow me the opportunity to talk enough about myself that would cause her to worship me. Poor girl. 

The Whole occasion has got me to temporarily define romantic love as "finding someone who is just as obsessed with you as you are obsessed with yourself and visa-versa."

Reality Conflict (Antagonist)

Luckily there is a system in place that keeps ourselves in check. It's called reality. Reality tells us we are not as important as we would like to think. It makes ugly people like myself develop a sense of humor and personality in order to make oneself the least bit of attractive and marketable both socially and in the dating scene. In short reality is heartless and seeks nothing more than to make special you conform to levels of mediocrity and conformity. In this scenarios we best leave our innate delusions of grandeur, and get on with the monotony and boredom and complacency which reality offers in return for your compliance.

Reality softens the ego, but in the end your ego just finds ways to hide amidst the lack of importance wherein we are each our own king and queen.

What does this look like? Our ego runs for escapes from the absurdity of life that reality offers. We seek alternate realities.

For some, the escape is in a hobby such as thinking you are an expert in cinema or literature. Or thinking Bieber or the Jonas Brothers are singing to you and you alone.

For others the escape from the death dealing forces of reality is obtained through being fashionable or becoming a musician in a band that is on their way to fame.

Yey more applicable are some of those who seek to be a big time preacher or a home missions pastor or knows that one day they will have a church of 500. Same goes for some of those who want to be a pastor's wife.

Others escape in working out and eating hummus and buying food organically.

Most just get along with what reality has to offer, get married, have kids, watch American Idol. Then again, some of these secretly pride themselves in their family, how big and clean their house is, and how smart their kids are (seriously, have you noticed how every parent wants to tell you how far ahead of the curve their kid is in intelligence?).

Point Being, we all have escapes where our self-importance is justified in closets which you cannot know of. And in these closets we worship self.

GET TO THE POINT! (about "the Full Truth")
There is a pandemic amongst us Apostolics that find a justification for our ego in the name of God. This should be maddening but it seems so easy and right.
It's telling our ego what we know is absolutely correct and not only is it correct in it's "truthiness" but it claims truth in exclusion of other non-participants. Enter the popular term "full truth." Enter "Apostolic Identity."
 These terms allow worship of who we are and what we are and affords us the opportunity to stop seeking the destruction of our ego.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard saints request a prayer for others to come "to the full truth." Perhaps it's just a linguistic misstep. But is there something more going on here?

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone claim that they are proud of their apostolic identity. It's cool to have a separate identity. I am the most separate and distinct individual alive in my eyes. But I also wonder, when someone brings up Apostolic Identity they usually do it as kind of a rallying cry. And I always hear Paul in the back of my mind when it's brought up: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). Yet again, I definitely have heard others bring it up as a point of sacrifice and not in a tone of pride and superiority over other Christian denominations.

Overall though, the horror of these terms, is that most use it for a false humility. It's all about God and for God, and because the whole "Full truth"/"apostolic Identity" thing is done in His name and we can have the excuses necessary to want to make everyone else like us and at the same time not have to deal with the world. Humble Pride. Nod Head. Raise Hands. Bow to God. Pat yourself on the back. God wins. You win. Win-win situation.

Warning...it's about to get all crazy up in herr....

(I know what you're thinking. You're saying...Joel, this would be easier if I just had a song to accompany whatever craziness is about to happen. Well I got you covered. SONG!)

Ego Ego Ego. That is what we are up against. Self-denial is what we need. That to me, is much of what Christianity is about. Denying yourself. They who will be last will be first, and those who are first will be last.

But where is this within me?

For the love of God, why am I not more about this? I am more worried about the number of page views this blog gets than I am about talking to my co-workers about church. God I hate that. God I am so sorry. My life is a complete wreck in this regards. But I don't feel like a wreck. It's so awful. Heretical. To feel this, all this comfort. Because I know at the end of the day JESUS LOVES ME AND FORGIVES MY SIN and my laziness and my apathy. But this simple fact allows my ego to dance evermore. I shame the cross. I can't comprehend the demands that say my flesh must die so that He may live. The God who also died on those wooden beams, I can't fathom that. So I make a stupid mocking show of it and run for comfort and secretly say in my head "I AM IMPORTANT! I AM APOSTOLIC! I AM AMERICA!" What is that? WHo am I? Don't soften this blow for me. I need the blood that this realization is causing. I need the discomfort. I am not even exaggerating this one bit. I am this self-absorbed and it will be the death of me. My God. I need to be yelled at. Someone just call me out. This is ridiculous. And No one is saying anything.

I AM A SON OF GOD through Christ. And that is my escape. I have spoken in tongues, been baptized in Jesus' Name, still don't wear shorts even though I am now allowed to in the church I am at. Because I am making sacrifices for the Lord you see? Sacrificing that show how dead serious I am about my relationship with God. I Pray too! Because knowing you are the good guy, and you got truth, that is so comforting. It allows me joy even though there should be tears in my eyes right now for how pathetic I am and how miserably I have failed my call. Don't you see it? I hope to God you see it? (Okay maybe, I have a couple tears, but my ego didn't want me to tell you that, because men shouldn't cry).

I am a major motion picture with heaven as the conclusion (complete with awesome music to accompany my resurrection).

I am failing. We are failing. Because of stupid things like thinking we have the full truth and have an Apostolic Identity. This makes living so much easier when, Christianity should not be about justifying our laziness or seclusion from the world by knowing that we know that God is one.

Who Cares? Seriously, who cares? Do you think God is anymore pleased with the fact that you know that He is one and not three-in-one when the results of this knowledge breed nothing but a contempt for those who don't see God the way we do? I am not saying God is not one, but there needs to be more than this. What you and me are doing. How are we settling for this When the demands are so much greater? But I will sit my fat butt in a pew and stand during the worship songs and sing a few lines written on the screen and say this is GOOD AND HOLY AND PURE. So pathetic.

If Heaven allows me, selfish, self-justifying me, believing in the truth, making sacrifices like not going to the movie theater me, then I want no part of it. If all I have to show for it is me leaving service with tears in my eyes because I sang a song about how much God loves us was played.

I need another fleshly suicide. I need a spiritual rebirth. I don't need more services about Apostolic Identity. I get it. I really Do. Nor do I need another service about Acts 2:38 being the "only gospel" at General Conference. Is that what Jesus died for? Is it? For services like that? Just so we can claim a full truth about Him that saves us confusion and adds comfort to us and our belief system?

I know, I know, I know. It's a process. And I can't be perfect. But I am 24 now and won't be for long and I have grown up in this. And I am just sick about how "this" and my ego have just led me to more justifying about how awesome I and you are for really believing what the Bible is saying. WE just want to know that we are right and they are wrong and this simple truth,  called the full truth allows us the freedom to live uncontested.

And that Cross. The one on that hill. With Jesus on it. It's staring me right in the face. And I want to bow to it. I really do. It's demands. It's loving embrace. But I want my pride too. And bacon. I want bacon. Someone give me a plate full of extra crispy bacon. So I can forget about the ego denying and destruction of my prideful flesh that the cross is demanding as it stares at me. I can't look away quick enough. I need to forget quickly. It's so hard. That cross. It's just uncomfortable. There is nothing pleasing about it. I need church to be pleasing.

But I have a compromise! It revolves around knowing that I have prayed today. and felt God. And know God is One. And looked quite dapper in my church apparel last Sunday. And there are sacrifices too. Incredible sacrifices for me to show God how much He matters. The sacrifice is knowing that my two sisters and my mother don't cut their hair and wear skirts instead. Here I can play untethered with such knowledge.

I don't want to be like Paul or Jesus....with all those sufferings and trials and deaths that they experienced in their truth.

I want to be me. But I also want to be well. I know I am not well. I am sick. And I need to feel this sickness if I want to claim to be any sort of Apostolic Pentecostal.

My ego can either die now or die in hell.

David Foster Wallace for the Win (with slight relevant revision): "Let us learn how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable (Apostolic) life dead, unconscious, a slave to your  head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.

We will not live until we are resurrecting ourselves to walking towards our own mini-crucifixion.

So whose going to lead this walk? Not me. I have books to read. Youtube Videos to watch. Classes to teach. I also have the Full Truth and have the Holy Ghost. And I will fight you if you try to tell me I don't.

Cue Video (and don't worry about the text on the screen. Just listen).

I hope you're crucifying me right now in your mind because of me posting that video. Then I may be doing something right.

One More...

Is that who we are? Someone's lying. That preacher or Me. I am probably lying. Because I have problems. Serious Ego Problems. Unlike that man. Choose Him. His Side. It's easier that way. And when you choose his side, pray for me that I may get better like you. Or just Punch me Or hope that I end up dead soon as a sign to show how right he is. But when I am dead, make sure you stuff my body and set it as a displaying in a church as an example of how right we are in having the full truth.....Because it's a win-win for both of us. A win for me in that I will not be forgotten. A win for you in that your religious identity is justified.


  1. When Isaiah got a rather full revelation of God, he declared, "My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!" Is 6.5. The more we see, the more we should be undone, whether it's His glory or our lack of it. And stories like Ananias and Sapphira do cause, "[g]reat fear [to grip] the entire church and all others who heard what had happened." Ac 5.11. People who understand their own flaws don't ever, ever, wanna see that kind of thing happen because they know who's first in line for judgment. It makes them cower under the pew in a fetal position, whimpering for mercy.

    So that's my addendum, my sneak-a-blog, to your brilliant and convicting post, but it's appropriate here, right?

  2. Now what? What are we supposed to do after reading something like that? I for one can't just go back to watching America's next top model cycle 15 online. It's all surreal, those people in those video clips. What are we supposed to do now Joel? What do you want from us? Did you intend to push us head-first into the next crucible? Life is so much easier without trials. I came here to laugh. But only managed nervous laughter, and even that was begrudgingly. Now what? I think I'll just go to sleep and pray the rapture happens before I wake up. And even that thought doesn't put my mind at ease. I'm scared of the rapture now. I hope you're happy.

  3. The Whole occasion has got me to temporarily define romantic love as "finding someone who is just as obsessed with you as you are obsessed with yourself and visa-versa."

    That line made me seriously LOL... but overall some really good stuff to chew on. We do seem to take a lot for granted and our trials we go through are so little compared to what they had in the Bible.

  4. Sad (the video), God has never been a God to lead His people in fear of thinking or fear of what is around them. Jesus taught love and tolerance, and it was never to go punch somebody in the face because they don't share the same opinions as you do.

    Jesus was always about reaching out to people in love. If you really think somebody else is lost, then you love them, you show them Christ's love through you. Jesus didn't like the way the Pharisees were (self-righteous & religious), but He never told anybody to hate them or punch them in the face.

    Once you make it about your doctrine and your beliefs, its no long about Jesus and it should always be about Jesus. Getting angry or acting out is about self, its not about Jesus. Serving Jesus is about a relationship that draws you closer to Him and His love in you that others can see Him through you; sorry but its not about self serving pep rallies to justify one's ideologies.

  5. I'm a 4th generation Apostolic/Pentecostal and do not believe in the idea of "The full truth" being solely with the Apostolic/Pentecostal movement. I've also thought about leaving my organization and finding another to call home but have to admit that the only other organization I have even considered has been COGIC and only for the reason of their awesome music ministry. It's a hard thing to leave a group of people and organization one has called home and has family roots in since the very beginning of the movement.
    One of the sad truths about Oneness churches is that they are so introverted and miss out on a large part of the larger Christian world.

  6. I really liked the line, "finding someone who is just as obsessed with you as you are obsessed with yourself and visa-versa." My problem is; I know I'm self-absorbed, selfish, the center of the universe, and part of me hates that. I've caught myself in the middle of conversations, realized I've only been talking about me, letting people talk so I can tell them what I think about what they said because it's sure to be profound, sheer genius. If I ever get really quiet in a conversation, it's because I've realized my ego is shoving out my mouth and I'm trying to bite its head off. I've told some of my closer friends about my selfishness insecurity, but they laugh and say I'm not that way. Obviously they have no idea how my thoughts work. I laughed at the qoute because for a long time I've known I'll never be serious about someone until I am more fascinated by learning about them than I am desiring of telling them about all of my glorious life, ideas, opinions, etc... :P
    Obsessed with someone else as I am with myself? Is that even possible? If it is, I hope I start to think that way about Jesus instead of waiting for that paragon of maleness that will rip my attention from myself to obsess over him.
    One thing I know for sure, I'm not as obsessed with Jesus as I should be. Not even close.
    Sigh. Less of me. More of You. That would be nice.

  7. Wow. Well said, Joel.

  8. Areas of egotism? Well I pride myself on being a loner because I feel that I'm not understood by my generation. I distance myself from those around me for fear of not being included. I see myself as different and more special than any of them. A testament to this would be approximately one week from today.

    It was late and I was at my University catching up on my reading and homework. The night had grown dark early and the rain began to fall. I sat at a large desk that reminds me of the ones seen in the Library of Congress. On the bottom floor of my schools Library I looked out into the darkening night with the rain falling, Sufjan Stevens playing in my headphones, my book opened up to the Jeffersonian era of Presidency, and a rather large desk with overhanging lamps all to myself. I felt complete in myself. It was all I needed, the solace of myself, education, and soft music made me feel so complete. It's bitterly lonely in all honesty. To feel at ease with only yourself to keep company. As I left the Library and walked through the empty halls to an empty parking garage on the now cold and completely black night I envisioned myself as someone of importance caught up in researching something that only I could find. The hours had taken me deep into the night and I would have to rise early but it's okay because I was important.

    I realized at this point how egotistical I was. I was playing in my head the selfish desires of myself. Instead of interacting with classmates and sharing any understanding I have, I distance myself. They won't see anything in me except a self centered, egotistical young male caught up in himself and what he desires to achieve in life. They don't see anything of Christ in me because I don't portray a caring attitude, I don't show them that I want to help, they don't see the fact that I have been filled with the holy spirit because I keep it hidden in my solace.

    I am conceited, thanks Joel.

  9. You know Joel, I had a great response to this piece all worked out. I was going to denounce you to the world about how evil and Emergent you are (mostly kidding). But instead, I find myself thanking you. You see, as much as I might try to rationalize it, or the new wave of lessening standards might try to tear it down, or even the old dogmatic forces of Apostolic identity may try to hold it together. The whole core of this issue comes simply down to a single choice. First the choice, and second the why. The choice, despite leanings to either one side or the other of the argument, is "Will I either Accept or Reject, the Whole Word of God, With All its facets, and with All its burdens? Am I willing to stop picking and choosing what pieces are convenient to me, and fully commit myself one way or the other?

    And then the question must be why? Why do I choose to do follow totally after God or not? Is it because I just don't see the point in not cutting my hair, or wearing long skirts, or not wearing shorts, or not letting my man-mane grow long? Or on the other side, Is the only reason I am being so "Holy" to create a sense of security for myself veiled in my own hypocrisy? I am being the Pharisee who ensures that everything on the outside is clean? And honest to goodness I don't even have a monitor in my house, I'm so holy. But on the inside, I am filled with pride and judgment, just waiting for each new opportunity to cast blame and condemnation on those who don't hold with my superior ideals.

    Or even to the middle-grounders like me. Oh we can say we're neutral. But we all know better, we lean one way or the other. And I wonder just how many people in this area have the guts to stand up and ask themselves the question, "Why can't I just commit?" Why don't we wonder about that passage in Revelation 3, that says, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Why aren't we terrified at the idea, that our lack of commitment to one side or the other will be our undoing?

    I can provide no answer to any of these questions. Rather, I am going to go pray right now for myself. The rest of you are on your own, I can't make the decision for you, nor would I want the responsibility. Rather I'm going now to pray and ask forgiveness for my unbelief, and seek out His Will, what he would have me to do.

    Again Joel, thank you. I know that This wasn't what you had in mind when you wrote this blog, but it's what I've taken out of it. May God bless you in whatever decision you make personally.

  10. Thanks for reminding me that I love me some me....and thanks for your honesty.

  11. Punch them in the face ... C'mon, Lee ... the theatrics are stale.

  12. Bro. Stoneking said the same thing a few weeks back here in SC, and I took it to be more of a satirical bit than literal commission. Who knows? Somehow I can't imagine him actually doing something like that. The only time you'll catch me punching someone in the throat is if I'm physically attacked (and my spidey sense didn't forewarn me), and I can't grab by ruger in time...also know that I'll probably be speaking in tongues and appear to be a crazy woman...so get to steppin' creepos...

    But I digress. Joel, allow me to inflate your ego a tad bit more (well, with as much effect that a semi-stranger can utilize) . I think this post is exactly what my youth group needs to hear. I should probably print this out and laminate it for them...make multiple copies for them to put on their bathroom mirror, dashboard of their cars, above their beds etc... :)

    Something that I have been thinking about for a very long time, is our delivery of the Gospel. I believe (in my gross self-importance) that our self-righteousness is often birthed under the tutelage of well-meaning leaders. By preaching a positive message in a negative light (i.e. being defensive/acting superior), we become that monster with stale preaching points ingrained in our very being.

    I'm finally getting back to hiding the word of God in my heart. Forgive me Lord for taking so long! (oh...but this comment isn't supposed to be about me)

    Thank you for once again providing thought provoking commentary on life, the gospel, and our humanity.

    (and darn you for making me hungry...I'm leaving now to fry up some bacon)

  13. LS said that at a Prophecy Conference here in Michigan this past summer. He didn't sound satirical. How many times are you going to say the same satirical one-liner before people start questioning his intentions?

  14. I really wanna know who you went on a date with.