Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#287- Not Marriage Equality (Part 1)

Editor's Note: So we have a guest post from a new blog called Thoughts and Prayers in MotionAnd from the two posts so far, it's definitely worth keeping in view. Not too preachy but forceful enough to make you stop and think. while it’s definitely not an establishment voice, the blog clearly has a constructive agenda and isn’t just another collection of bitter rants.” Anywho, enjoy the blog's latest post below:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to them, and to which God has called them. This is my rule in all the churches. – Saint Paul (1 Cor. 7:17)

In response to the recent incarceration of a Kentucky county clerk for refusing to perform her duties, certifying marriages for all Rowan County couples, the General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, David K. Bernard, posted some of his thoughts on Facebook. Near the beginning of the post, Bernard writes, “As Christians, we can agree on the following points…”

While it is tempting to jump straight to a discussion of the following points, it is Bernard’s deftly phrased opening, “As Christians, we can agree” to which we must be most attentive. Who are these Christians or this we? Surely not all Christians, as it is quite clear that Christians in general rarely speak with a unified voice on anything, marriage equality definitely not one of those rare issues. Perhaps Bernard means Apostolics or Oneness Pentecostals or even United Pentecostals when he says we? Even so, such a statement would still be less than accurate, as dissenting views on marriage equality exist in all three of the aforementioned more narrow possibilities. This deceptively benign opening, “As Christians, we can agree” warrants our close attention, because it is a foundational prop in what can only be called a phantasmagorical production. A feverish bit of theater, in which we are confronted by the spectacle of a weeping woman, who having been maliciously persecuted for the sake of righteousness, nevertheless stands firm for Jesus. This carefully choreographed pageantry seeks to stoke the fear of an imminent loss of Christian freedoms, all the while ignoring the abdication of Christian values taking place in the humiliation, suffering and indignity inflicted upon hapless couples who had the audacity to seek equal treatment under the law.

This foundational prop of which I speak, is the carefully cultivated fiction — a fiction many Christian leaders (including Oneness Pentecostal and Apostolic elites) are desperately trying maintain — that frames the struggle for marriage equality as an external attack upon Christian faith by an assortment of worldly forces. That marriage equality is an internal issue of Christian debate/dissent (no matter how narrowly one draws the circle) is something that cannot be acknowledged by the reigning powers. Christians however, even Apostolic Christians, have never been a monolithic group, and framing marriage equality as an issue in which Christians are pitted against non-Christians (non-Christians we should add, who seek to undermine Christian freedoms) is disingenuous. Such a framing is vulgar propaganda that only feeds a false persecution complex currently in vogue among many conservative American Christians.

The truth is this: the gays are not out there waging war against all things Christian. Let us be clear. In their fight against marriage equality, church leaders and those who follow them, are not holding the line against an onslaught by godless heathens, but are instead committing the sin of Cain. Let us name this they whom we are told to resist. They are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our musicians, educators, pastors, worship leaders, janitors, ushers and elders — they are faithful children of God. That it may genuinely surprise many to learn that nearly half of lesbian, gay or bisexual Americans identify as Christian (and that percentage is increasing) is just more evidence of how successful establishment propaganda has been.

Here is an uncomfortable truth. Whatever religious persecution of Christians is taking place in this country; it is all too often taking place at the hands of other Christians. As a little publicized victory by a coalition of clergy, same-sex couples and religious denominations late last year demonstrated, in denying LGBT Christians marriage equality, North Carolina's marriage laws violated the First Amendment rights of Christian clergy and the principle of "free exercise of religion.” While the recently incarcerated Kentucky county clerk does offer us an opportunity to confront religious persecution in America, it is not the example of persecution her supporters imagine. The persecution, to which she calls our attention, is one that seeks (among other things, namely the imposition of one’s own religious beliefs upon non-believers) to deny LGBT Christians and the Christian communities to which they belong, the freedom to exercise their constitutional right to the free expression of their religion. It is imperative that we see beyond the actors on the stage in order to unmask this tragic reality that both the victims and the perpetrators in this story are Christians.

While Bernard’s post appears to be a genuine attempt at finding some balance between secular authority and personal conscience, sadly, he doesn’t seem to appreciate the irony involved in citing Romans 14 to conclude a reflection in which he has attempted to impose a tendentious reading of scripture upon all Christians. In 1 Corinthians 7, Saint Paul acknowledges that even for faithful Christians, marriage is a complicated subject and that we should resist any attempt at homogenizing believers. May we hear afresh Saint Paul’s words that every one must be free to faithfully live the life to which God has called them, not forced into a life that other Christians may seek to impose upon them. A candid discussion about marriage equality might begin, “as Christians, we do not agree.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

#286 - The Stoneking Hypothesis: Sound vs. Air Theology

Years ago, Lee Stoneking gave this blog an audience without realizing it. Literally, discussing the science of his Holy Magic Hair Theory caused the blog to go from a few hits a day (thanks mom) to getting hits from my mother, two aunts, and any girlfriend who gets past the three date anniversary. And that's exciting. Except we at SAL have gone our separate ways from Stoneking.... 

And like two star-crossed lovers, I felt in my heart of hearts that a reunion was imminent. I just didn't know how to start a conversation again with someone who meant so much to the blog and myself. Yet luckily Stoneking started it at Youth Congress when this happened....

Let's get this straight: Stoneking has a theory that shouting attacks the air and conversely attacks the Prince of Air himself: Satan. The theory of evolution may not check out, but Lee Stoneking's theory of Sound vs. Air absolutely checks out. Because the Bible. And because,  hashtag loud noises matter.

The theory: Joshua decided to enter Canaan and kill anyone else living there (women and children alike) and had a whole lot of success until he got to Jericho and there were walls around the city, so some marching and loud noises caused the city walls to fall and thus we can conclude that sound noises caused wall-failure.

Except with Lee Stoneking, shouting causes air particles to get shredded speedily and a take-no-prisoners, wam-bam-thank-you-mam kind of recklessness. And for Stoneking, no walls will collapse, however, because that would be physical proof of a miracle and that's not his style. Instead, tongues are spoken. Crying happens. And this all checks out. Apostolic Sound vs. Air, and Apo Sound wins.

But the critical discovery regarding the Stoneking Shout vs. Air hypothesis is that while studying the issue scientifically and Biblically, Dr. Lee Stoneking realized that Satan himself was the Prince of that very Air that was shredded by Shout.

Further Hypotheses
Whilst Dr. Stoneking is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize about this discovery, several minor logistical questions remain.

Question 1: If Satan is the Prince of the Air, who are the King and Queen of the Air?

We may never know. But if, as rumor has it, that the King of the Air is God Himself, then aren't we attacking God every time we shout? (more research needed).

      Question 1. A: If God is the King of the Air and Satan is the Prince of the Air, is God the Father of Satan? Is this like the opposite of Darth Vader revealing "Luke, I am your father?" (more research needed)

Aside: I'm not an air particle expert here as the Shout vs. Air Science is a newly constructed field. Therefore I will have to to defer to our resident Air-depletion specialist, Dr, Lee Stoneking regarding such matters in the mean time.

Question 2: If shouting attacks air, is it possible that one of the main causes of global warming is humans having a loud shout? After all, scientists agree that the amount of O-Zone depletion has increased at silly exponential rates within the past two hundred years. Is it then a coincidence that during this very same 200 years that the rate of human shouting has increased at nearly the exact same rate?

And if I'm correct (more research needed), and the smoking gun of global warming is shouting humans, then can we just let the global warming blame-game about pollution be put to rest?

         Question 2. A. Does screaming count as shouting? (From the video of Youth Congress' Great Shout Invasion, it seems screaming was permissible to shed and deplete air particles.) And if so, how much damage did the Jews cause the atmosphere when six million of them were screaming for their life in the gas chamber?

                Question 2 A. 1. What kind of injuries did Satan sustain after the aforementioned Jewish Air-Scream invasion of the early 1940's?

Observations: Observed that a lot of the air particle depletion from Congress occurred in a setting where screaming and shouting was encouraged amongst thousands of youths. A setting where one could openly emit LOUD NOISES in order to kill Satan, and ALSO NOT be declared a crazy, a wimp, a rebel rouser or be suspected of possible terrorist intentions. Actually Congress may have been the only place in the world where screaming & shouting would be rewarded with a fist pump or a bro-hug even though tears were clearly stuck in your eye-lashes.

Testing & Results: Rumor has it that the Oklahoma Air Particle Assault did not end at Congress but found it's way to many a church the following weekend(s). And the scientific measurements of just a sample of these church confirmed that air particle shreddings were not limited to 23,000 insecure adolescents making loud noises for emotional effect. No sir. In fact, air particles were depleted at the exact same rate no matter the amount of shouters within a venue. One loud shouting home missions church of eight people and a pet cat named Steve reported that they were "having difficulty breathing and feeling slightly light headed" after  having a Shout alter call service for a whole twenty minutes. The good news is that inside sources tell me that after this shout attack, that Satan is nursing an ACL tear and is expected to be out of any spiritual warfare activity for at least 6-9 months,

Sound vs. Air Theology in Action:  After finding out that Satan was injured and in hiding over a bit of shouting at the air, I have taken up the task of shouting in wherever the Spirit compels me to. Sure I was alone in the shout each time, and sure it was way awkward to be amongst people who didn't have one clue about the amount of Air destruction they could commit with some loud vocals, but when Satan's on the retreat, there's no time to explain why you were shouting out loud.

And who care's if you found yourself escorted out of a TSA airplane line because you shouted. The air is being shredded and that's more important.

And sure you'll get sweared at next to a man in a urinal as the Spirit compels you to  give a loud shout. But even if the man next to you is mid-poop, be rest assured, that your very shout may be preventing a Satanic attack on his soul at that very moment. Tell him to thank you for your shout.

Conclusion: When the tried and true theory of the Lee Stoneking Sound vs. Air theology is confirmed within academia, we'll have more visitors in our church from the shouting revival services for the next week or two and as a result of all the outbursts of emotion, salvation will be easier for the seekers which means even more ridiculous and asinine pseudo-science theologies to manipulate a crowd to get a reaction. And in two months, we'll forget any of this ever happened.

P.S. More Stoneking Love coming soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#285 - #NAYC2015 (An Ode To Broken Commitments)

Editor's Comment: To ensure credit where credit is due, Glen McGee wrote this post (side note: goosebumps ahead)-

Fresh on the heels of North American Youth Congress 2015 it’s the Stuff Apostolics Like Recap of Events!

Nah, just kiddin. We actually have finally crossed the threshold of being so far removed we have absolutely no idea who sang, preached, screamed, got wifed up or anything else that may have occurred.

I've had a post on my mind for a while now and given that I spent last night looking at the Instagram hashtags from NAYC, and became very, very sad, I thought now was a good time to post it.

Looking through Twitter and Instagram there are countless posts of excitement and zealous emotion for the time spent there. And why wouldn’t there be? When you live in a culture that’s founded on isolation from everything that surrounds you, and you’re constantly reminded that you’re “in the world, not of it,” it’s absolutely intoxicating to completely take over a city. I recall being 18 years old, withdrawn from my school; my only social access was the thirty or so kids in my youth group. I felt like I lived in a bubble. I lived for the large gatherings the UPC fostered. I counted down to camp season like the rest of the country counts down to The Superbowl. Just like the countdowns on Twitter and Instagram for the last month… I only made it to two NAYC’s (2003 and 2005) before my work schedule couldn’t allow it, and by the time I could take off from work I no longer cared, but those two NAYC’s were the epitome of excitement for me.

I can’t describe the feeling of being in an arena with 20,000 people who think, dress and live the exact same way you do, when you’re the weird one back home. At your school you’re the goodie two shoes, the church boy, the Jesus Freak. But here? Here you’re in your element. Here the tables turn. Here the girl walking down the street in pants is the one who’s out of place. Here your bowtie is cool. Here the smell of Aussie hairspray permeates the air like hot garbage in New York City.

But that’s not all. It’s at these functions, the Congress’, the camps, the rallies, where “commitments” are made. Sermons are screamed with a practiced pseudo-sincerity that also acts as a calculated emotional spell being cast on starry-eyed teenagers.

And herein lies the tragedy.

This was me, on the regular.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I sat on my knees with my face buried in the carpet, my hands filled with tears as I BEGGED God for the strength to never give up. I interceded with the fervor of a dying soldier begging not to be left on the battlefield, asking God to never let me become…..

what I eventually became.

I committed with every fiber of my soul to never turn my back, to never walk away, to never stop believing. The fear the preacher had just put into me drove me to scream at the top of my lungs every articulation of commitment I could think of. I listened to the rhetorical idea that “we’re one generation away from losing the anointing,” and I told God I would never be a part of that fallen generation.

During the time when most everyone I knew at school were living normal teenage lives, having their first kiss, going to dances, listening to music and simply having the American Youthful Experience I spent my time at a Pentecostal altar. I, and my youth group, thrust ourselves into the emotional hurricane of guilted commitments prodded by a passionate solicitation for our most sincere devotion. Tearful preachers stood in pulpits Sunday after Sunday, Friday after Friday, telling us of the risks waiting for us every time we “stepped outside those doors,” and we bought right in.

And that’s what happened this past week in Oklahoma City. Thousands of teenagers, with no practical knowledge of this world, had their phobias reinforced. Junior High aged children bawled their eyes out, consumed with the fear of disappointing God. They committed their lives, not just to God, but also to a Pentecostal “Holiness” lifestyle and an Apostolic Identity.

The tragedy of all of this is not where the story ends, but in the regret from where it started. And for 20,000 kids last week, it started in Oklahoma City.

I love my life. I love where I ended up. I have a career I love, that pays me well. I have well rounded experiences, friends that are closer than my own family, and I live in a city that people fantasize about living in.

But I am everything I prayed I’d never become. I’ve broken every commitment I ever made to God. I am a caricature of the worst outcome of all those impassioned sermons. And while I am so happy about that, the happiness has had to evolve. I've been told several times, and agree, that I am in dire need of counseling. I ended up on my feet, but only after doing a triple axle through confusion, anger, bitterness and deep rooted resentment, and I still haven't stuck that landing. 

When I look back on my life and see the path I took to get here I become so, so sad for the child I was, but not the adult I became. My youthful, impressionable mind was held captive by a bleak outlook, based on biased conjecture. Instead of learning, and growing, and being matured through experiences I begged God for stagnation. I was told in dozens of sermons, and I believed, that life in the altar of events like North American Youth Congress was as good as it could ever be and I placed all my chips on that bet. “Progress be damned, life has to stop here.” Progress wasn’t progress; progress was the path to hell. Progress would lead me to a life devoid of purpose. New experiences, friends and ideas were to be feared. But when those inevitable experiences and friends and ideas came along they brought with them perspective. When I encountered something I had once prayed never to encounter the recurring word in my mind was “Really?” Really, this is what’s going to destroy me? Really, the highest I could ever be was at that altar? Really, these people are the bad ones?

With every new epiphany another youthful tear of mine became shed in vain.

Why did I allow my youth to be spent in trembling fear of a normal life? Why do people see a child or teenager, like in the video at the top of this page, with bloodshot eyes, a face covered in tears and snot, nerves and emotions shocked beyond that seen in court rooms and funeral homes, and think “how precious?”

This isn’t precious. This isn’t good. This is sick. The willingness to accept the image of a sobbing, shaking child is predicated on the idea that the child understands what they're doing. But guess what: they don't. The video at the top of this page should cause outrage, but it gets a pass because it's in a church. If anyone walked into a daycare center or a school and saw children that young crying and trembling on the floor they would call Child Protective Services. This is emotional abuse. Children like the ones in the above video filled the seats of that Oklahoma Arena this past week. I posit that there wasn't so much of a "move of God" in that arena as there was emotional manipulation and manufactured distress. These preachers have figured out how to do something very, very dangerous. If a psychologist was granted access to these events and observed the altar calls they, undoubtedly, would tell us we've engaged in amateur mass psychosis. They're "playing" with minds of children and it's not only unhealthy but carries extreme risk. These emotionally loaded situations carry the potential for trauma - real, psychological trauma, and it's treated so haphazardly.

Amidst the hashtagged posts on Instagram I saw videos of kids so young they’ve never had to learn how to burn a CD so wrought with guilt and fear rocking back and forth on the floor of an arena making those same commitments I made and I was on the brink of tears for them, but not tears of joy.

I see kids who will spend the next ten to twenty years locked in an emotional and psychological battle as they slowly have a curtain drawn back to reveal the truth of their situation. I see kids with the claws of manipulation gripping them so tightly they don’t even know who they are outside of their hair and their skirts, who worship people they will either grow to hate or worse, fetishizing these preachers as some kind of god among men. I see pastors sons and daughters holding hands and praying with the belief that they’re supposed to be together, who will grow to resent each other. I know because I watched this happen to almost every teenage friend I had that truly believed God had ordained their pubescent relationship. All the while oblivious chaperones and parents sit with plastic smiles of approval, not understanding the inevitable disillusionment these children are on a road to.

I’m not here to argue with those who never left. I’m speaking as a voice of experience, as a voice of those who have gone down this road. An often said remark by Pentecostals is "I know this is real because I felt it," or "You can't doubt my experience." Well I've had my own experiences and I'd say the same in return. While my feelings of animus may be more extreme than that of my peers, the sentiment exists in all of us to varying degrees. Those still filling Pentecostal pews can certainly agree that after a certain age it seems a disproportionate number of us who grew up in the church leave it. I know this because I sat under numerous sermons on Friday nights warning of the dangers we will face once we’re out of high school. The stories of those who went before us and walked away, only to be met with (presumed) grief filled sermon after sermon which prompted our tearful commitments.

But it wasn’t evil temptation that baited us to some debaucherous lifestyle. We simply matured. We reached the age of introspection and self-awareness. We entered the workforce, college, and other avenues of “real life” where our beliefs were challenged. While pastors and preachers would tell us otherwise, the simple truth is that beliefs that can’t stand up to questions are wrongly held beliefs. There simply isn’t substance to back the beliefs up. This is why instead of being taught answers to questions we were taught not to ask them. We were taught that those who do ask are distractions and tempters, thrown in our paths as “stumbling blocks.” Biblical phrases like “lean not to your own understanding,” were used to justify instructions not to think, just to obey, and that things didn’t have to make sense. We were taught, “God is not logical,” so that when the things that made sense to us contradicted what we committed ourselves to at those altars, we would stick with the ramblings of the mad man in the pulpit rather than our own hearts and minds. Catchy sermon titles and clever wordplay kept these sinister instructions seemingly light hearted, as we walked out of the arena's like the Manchurian Candidate.

Almost every person from the youth groups I grew up in have left their UPC churches. Some have gone to Non-Denominational churches, while others have become Atheists. I don't mean just a few. I could throw a backsliders rally and fill the pews with the hundreds who used to stain the carpet with their tears, yet now raise a glass to making it out. It could be argued that we've all lost the battle to the enemy but if those condemning us could just listen to us with an open mind they'd see that's not the case. We're people, just like them. We think just as much and just as deeply as they do. We're just as scared of hell, if it exists, as they are. No part of us is evil. But if we lay awake at night it's not with a gaping hole in our life as we wonder what it is that's missing. We lay awake thinking how much better life had been had we never been forced to buy into the Pentecostal message. Tears may sometimes stain our pillow, but we're not praising God, we're cursing him for letting people use his name to take advantage of us at the most impressionable point in our lives. We may be screaming, but it's not in tongues. It's the cursing and pounding as we look at our lives and our wasted potential because we were too focused on the youth group and not on our grades or our college education. We're cursing the uneducated, inexperienced, unqualified men who stood in front of innocent, blank slates and filled them with anxiety and unease about a world filled with beauty, but painted to be full of despair. We could have been SO much. We could have accomplished SO much. But we let them rob us of a future that hadn't even been written yet.

The memories of “awesome sermons,” “amazing altar calls,” and “let’s take this revival back home with us” became fleeting memories, dissipating with every passing year. The vehemence of promises to ourselves, to our pastors and to God became distant memories, and their value lost.

Why this pains me so much is because it’s cyclical. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change these kids paths. I would run into every Sunday School classroom, every weekend youth service, every camp and convention and tell each and every one of them that the world is too beautiful and life is too short to waste it on a fabricated story if I thought I could, but I can't. Not only would they kick me out, but at this point in their lives these kids would dismiss me as Satan incarnate, and follow my warnings with more commitments and tears. They are destined for the same path I've travelled. They will pray with the same fervency I once did. They will make the same commitments. They will ask the same questions. They will struggle with the same answers. They will have their characters assassinated by the same men and women who claimed to love them with the love of Christ. They will become bitter and dejected. Some will fall into depression. Some will hold grudges. Some will go a little too far in their rebellion. But all will look back at those sermons, those altars and those tears with regret, to varying degrees.

Because they should have just been allowed to be kids. Their youth was wasted, and they’ll never get it back.

Just like mine was. And that is what brings tears to my eyes again. 

There are high school seniors whose tears have barely dried from the concrete of Cheasapeake Energy Arena who, by the next NAYC in 2017, will have realized the lies and fear so ardently expressed to them this week. And with no guidance, and a lot of regret, they'll begin a journey in a direction they don't know where will take them. I hope they have the good fortune that I've had, but I've seen too many that haven't. And for that I am deathly afraid.

Monday, February 9, 2015

#284-Not Nathaniel Haney (A sequel) w/ Bonus Footage....

I've seen some things, man. Some weird and strange sights, initiated by people you would not expect in the least. But I'm not sure anything's been as weird as the 60 seconds unleashed by one Nathaniel Haney, regarding of all things: Underwear.

I mean... we got the weird, irrational rants that come up on occasion over the pulpit from pastors of the deep. But these sermons have some cultural context at least: Homosexuality, long hair, women in pants.  Basically stuff that would kind of make sense if it was preached in the 19th century.

But Nathaniel Haney and his underwear obsession... There's just no context for it. It's just....

Really Really Weird.

So last Friday I received some footage that may possibly be more weird and more disturbing than the sixty seconds of video  I received last week. Except this bonus footage is only thirty seconds long....

The one problem is that initially I could only get the audio to the video to work. So in the second mini-podcast below (downloadable), you'll only hear the audio included in my commentary. But if you want to see the actual video.... it's below the podcast or can be seen here.

Update: Here's the thirty-second video that referenced in the mini-podcast above:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

#283- Men's Underwear

We have become a denomination of TMZ nonsense. Our  most famous ministers:
-Lee Stoneking knows how to put makeup on and believes God judges people by how long the strands of their hair are. (yes, I admit the cliche)
-Jeff Arnold here, here, and if you want commentary: here

Our most famous youth pastors will be getting a salary of 30k for the rest of their life at best. And of those hundreds of QVC-like Apostolic salesmen who do what they do because it gives them the rare space to play dress-up, only a dozen or so will preach at some event beyond their local youth rally...

Unfortunately one of those dozen happened recently:

Apparently, there is an epidemic of sorts among the males of the UPC. And this epidemic is as "query as can be." And all I was thinking was, can you imagine a day-care worker or business owner caring as much about his/her's clients underwear as to discuss their underwear out in the open.....

 So in lieu of writing an overly long diatribe and pointing out how far the preacher in question has steered from the Cross (he's obsessing about underwear), I'll instead present a monologue against one Nathaniel Haney....

*Rant can be downloaded. Consider the audio a mini-podcast*