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89 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Is it fair to say that the press has tried to hijack the term *evangelical?” It seems to me that anyone who calls himself a Christian should be evangelical….. A conservative should be evangelical, BUT
    NOT a watered down, compromising with popular politics…. ? ? ?
    Taliban? ? ? Say what???
    Bible’s purpose is not inspiration, but transformation! ….. Amen
    ***
    But what do I know? I am old….. 😚
    Lots of ponders there, Michael ….. Thank you!

  2. Michael says:

    “Is it fair to say that the press has tried to hijack the term *evangelical?””

    Absolutely not.
    The term has been hijacked by American nationalists to its ruin.

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    Good choice in terms of Stackhouse. He’s pretty well on the money with his analysis although I think the issues with American evangelicalism go beyond the “idol of nationalism”.

  4. Michael says:

    Duane,

    He only had half an hour… 🙂

    John Stackhouse is one of my favorite theologians…as is his wife Carolyn…

  5. bob1 says:

    More Americans belong and ID with the mainline churches than those who are “evangelical.” 16% mainline, 14% evangelical.

    Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019).

    https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion/

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    In the westward expansion –
    Baptists walked
    Methodists rode horses
    Lutherans travelled in wagons
    Presbyterians used carriages
    Episcopalians waited for the railways to be built…

  7. Officerhoppy says:

    What’s the major theological or practical differences of belief and orthography between Orthodox and Evangelical Christians?

  8. Dread says:

    The Orthodox are sacramental the evangelical are symbolic in regard to baptism and supper.

    A lot more but this is central.

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    Officerhoppy

    A good introduction is ‘The Orthodox Way’ by Kallistos Ware. It’s short, easy to read and informative…
    https://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Way-Kallistos-Ware/dp/0913836583

  10. Dread says:

    Ware is a good readable resource. You may find a home if you’re not careful.

  11. Officerhoppy says:

    Thanks guys

  12. Officerhoppy says:

    In our casual conversations here, there seems to be a major a major divide between Evangelicals and Orthodox beliefs. I’ll read the book, but can you guys speak to the major differences—if there are any? Just so I am understanding you, Dread, what do you mean by the terms “sacramental” and “symbolic” in regards to Baptism and the Lord’s supper?

    Please forgive my ignorance

  13. Dread says:

    Hoppy

    Yes the orthodox see the sacraments as a work done by God — received when done and worked out throughout the life of worship and devotion. For evangelicals the supper and baptism are signs of what God has done in which we participate but no actual transaction happens in the act.

    For the orthodox there is one true church being the orthodox faith as an unbroken fellowship flowing back to the apostles. the church is ruled by an episcopacy with apostolic succession.

    Salvation is theosis or the process of union with God and being freed from sin. God became what we are in order to make us what he is. In this the distinction between God and man remains.

  14. Dread says:

    This is a poor and incomplete statement but summaries abound to be found online. The Orthodox and the Catholic split in 1054 over the doctrine of the procession of the Spirit (Filioque). That was a long process and an unfortunate schism. I think the split was more ecclesial than theological but it is not my expertise.

  15. Duane Arnold says:

    Officerhoppy

    There are major theological differences – church, sacraments, a view of history and theology. In many ways it is a world unto itself. When I lectured in an Orthodox seminary in Russia, the students were a bit baffled why I wasn’t Orthodox! In the course of discussions it became clear that while we believed many of the same things, there were also differences owing to culture and history. In the west we approach things very differently, even when we use the same language. This is why Ware is so good. As a native born Englishman (double First at Oxford) , he helps to build bridges in his explanations. He is, by the way, a charming person…

  16. Linnea says:

    Dread and Duane, thanks for those definitions and examples.

    All, in practice, what are the differences? If we agree on the essence of the gospel, in that we receive a sacrificed Christ for salvation and sanctification while we’re on this earth, how do the differences play out in different traditions? Is God really in control? Can He meet us where were at, whether evangelical, orthodox, or other? Can He introduce what we need in our lives to draw near to Him? Do we trust for that? What does that look like?

    Please remember that I have not studied this, so basics are important. Many thanks.

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    Linnea

    Xenia would be the best to weigh in on this. You are right, however, God does meet us where we are… More tomorrow… cocktails with my wife this evening!

  18. Michael says:

    There are a couple of things evangelicals will wrestle with first in Orthodoxy.

    There is no doctrine of justification by faith alone and there is a “works” component.

    Oh… and no pews…

  19. Officerhoppy says:

    Xena? Can you weigh in on this question?

  20. Em says:

    What? No pews? ? ? 😯

  21. Dr. G says:

    Does the bread and wine actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus as many have been taught?

  22. Dread says:

    The Logos became flesh and blood. He can give us his flesh and blood to eat and drink according to his word and according to his good will. Nothing is impossible for him.

    But you likely know the various views of the Supper that invokes your question.

  23. Michael says:

    “Does the bread and wine actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus as many have been taught?”

    Yep.

    Am I going to argue about it?

    Nope.

  24. Officerhoppy says:

    Michael
    Is there scientific evidence to support that claim?

    Just curious

  25. Michael says:

    None.
    It’s not a scientific claim.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    Linnea

    What are the differences? To borrow a phrase from my old friend Peter Gillquist, it’s “the physical side of being spiritual”. Yes, it is the same Christ and the same narrative of salvation, but the message is proclaimed in a physical liturgy, within a physical and unique Church calendar and it finds its apogee in the eucharist in which we physically encounter Christ in his words (This is my Body… This is my Blood) and in the consecrated elements of Bread and Wine.

    On a practical level the worship and structure of Church is “set”, that is, it is not a reflection of the whims or peculiarities of the pastor(s) or worship leader(s). The sermon also tends to steer clear of “hobby horses”, at least in a majority of liturgical/sacramental churches.

    I also need to say, people can find this worship and structure in many different places. Back in the late 70s there was a group of us searching for something outside of evangelicalism, or at least something that could ground our evangelical ideals. We were tired of people and pastors “making it up as they went along”. Yet, we did not all end up in the same place. Peter Gillquist and his group ended up in the Orthodox Church (along with Duane Pederson of the Hollywood Free Press). My dear friend John Michael Talbot was attracted by the life and message of Francis of Assisi and became a Roman Catholic. Robert Webber and I became Anglicans. Our journeys, beliefs and motives, however, were much the same.

    I recently ran across a video of a homily on prayer that I delivered 35 years ago. I could give the exact same sermon today and not change a word. Moreover, I could circulate that sermon among my old friends in these varied traditions knowing that all would assent. I’m pretty certain that this would not be the case if I chose one from my evangelical days. It’s as much about the spirit in which one acts as it is about the theology that stands behind that spirit.

  27. Xenia says:

    I’ll answer some questions, if I can.

    I think the most observable difference in our everyday lives is the importance of physical things in our corporate, family, and private worship. We believe God uses physical matter to work out our salvation, with the biggest example being Jesus Himself, who came in a real physical, not ephemeral, body. So matter matters.

    Therefore, we believe the bread and wine really do become the Body and Blood of Christ, but we don’t attempt to explain it. We believe holy water, incense, icons, etc. in some way bless us as we live our lives in Christ. So there’s a lot of “holy” things in an Orthodox Church and an Orthodox family home.

    We believe salvation is a process as we live our lives in Christ, with the goal being theosis (joining with Christ) which is completed in heaven.

    We believe holy people who have made it to the finish line before us, accept prayer requests, and pray for us, since the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. We have paintings (icons) of these holy people all over our churches and houses, as most people have photos of family members. We love them, but we don’t worship them.

    We believe baptism in real physical water saves people, even babies, but he/she who endures to the end will actually be saved.

    We believe in confession to our priest. He is not the one who forgives us, he’s the God-appointed witness. We believe in living lives of repentance.

    We are not Sola scriptura, we have Tradition, of which the Scriptures (including the Apocrypha) are the most important part. We also consider the 7 Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers to be part of the Tradition. We believe in Bible study, but Sunday morning liturgy is not a Bible study.

    We are amillennial, so no beliefs about a Rapture.

    Pious Orthodox Christians should have morning and evening prayers. We use prayer books to help with this.

    We keep lenten fasts four times a year, with Great Lent before Easter being the most rigorous.

    It’s not a sin to not keep the fasts, by the way.

    Our creed is the Nicene Creed minus the Filioque.

    Our priest can be married, our bishops are not married.

    We have a robust monastic system which is very, very conservative. There aren’t orders, like the RC orders (Jesuits, Benedictines, etc.) There’s just male and female monastics. We like to visit monasteries. 🙂

    We celebrate many holy days beside Christmas and Easter, such as Pentecost, Theophany, the Dormition of the Theotokos, and days for Saints.

    All Orthodox churches (except for a small group that observes the Western Rite) have the same liturgy, that being the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The longer liturgy of St. Basil is served on special occasions.

    The cultural divide in Orthodoxy falls between the Slavs and the Mediterranean-area churches.

    We believe we are saved by grace and not by our works, but our lives in Christ consist of cooperating with Him on daily basis, thereby working out our salvation. We are not monergists, we are synergists. We believe in free will, if God wills it.

    We use the LXX (Septuagint) version of the Old Testament.

    We cross ourselves, although in the opposite direction the Catholics cross themselves. We do this with the same regularity that a Pentecostal will say “Praise God!” We also cross ourselves when the Trinity is mentioned, or if we hear sirens in the distance, or when we are awaked in the morning by the emergency broadcast system with Tsunami advisories, as happened today.

    We have a deep and reverent love for the Mother of God. We have songs to her, as we have songs for all the Saints. I sing a little song to my St. Xenia most every night. I love her. 🙂

    Politically, Orthodox Christians run the gamut, with Greeks being most likely to be a little more liberal in some areas and with Slavic parishes (Serbs, Russians, Bulgarians, etc) being more likely to be be politically conservative. I have never heard a whisper of politics in any EO homily, but individuals have their own opinions and sometimes it’s better not to ask.

    So what have I left out….

  28. Alan says:

    Xenia

    That’s a superb confession.

  29. Xenia says:

    Many Orthodox churches in America do have pews, especially among the Greek and Antiochian parishes. Our parish has some chairs along the walls and an old piano bench in the back.

  30. Officerhoppy says:

    Thanks for the time and effort to compile this information—as well as the info itself. Also to dread and michael.

  31. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    Many thanks… always better from the inside than the outside!

  32. Nathan Priddis says:

    Officer happy.

    Here is a Commencement Address that I consider the official founding of Evangelicalism. Preparations had quietly been underway for some time, but 10-1-1947 was it’s public proclamation.

    You have to parce Ockenga’s text. He is referring to the destruction of the war. America is the only world power to escape it’s destruction due to the fighting took place on foreign soil.

    Evangelism has culture war in it’s DNA. Ockenga will call in the latter paragraphs for a social contract. It is also predicated on American global dominance. Again, latter paragraphs. What is missing is Evangelical jargon, since that will only develope in subsequent decades.

    Ockenga, and his audience on that day, where Fundamentalist, but embarrassed to be called Fundamentalist. I was schooled by Fundamentalist, but a type unwilling to hide their Pre-War Fundamentalism. Yes, they wanted power, but where not willing to pragmatically shut up about dancing, pool halls, jazz, black people and how God hates everybody.

    Take away.. Evangelicalism = American military / economic power.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/70-years-ago-harold-john-ockengas-opening-convocation-address-to-fuller-theological-seminary/%3famp

  33. Xenia says:

    A few more things I just thought of:

    We don’t use musical instruments in our church services, it’s all acapella, with the hymns and prayers being sung/chanted by a choir that is usually out of sight. The choir represents the congregation. (Greek churches have chanters, which is the same idea, but sounds more exotic.) We also have Readers who are specially appointed to chant/ read/ sing portions of the Scriptures. Only a Deacon or the Priest read from the Gospels.

    Many Russian parishes use Church Slavonic, a language with a fascinating history but which very few understand. It was originally used as a language that most Slavic people could more or less understand, but in my opinion, and the opinion of many, it’s a relic of the past and the Liturgy should be in the language of the people. Happily, this is changing for the better. Some Greek parishes use all Greek, especially Greek monasteries, even here in America.

    We keep a short fast before Communion, which means nothing by mouth, not even water, not even COFFEE, from midnight til Communion the next morning. We are all pretty hungry (and thirsty) by the time Liturgy is over, so we always have a meal in the church hall afterwards. In our parish, it’s a potluck.

    We all have a Saint’s name. Some converts swap over to their Saint’s name, like I did, but some just use it for church. When I go up for Communion Father G. says “Handmaiden of God Xenia receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and for the healing of soul and body.”

    Even babies receive Communion.

    If I think of anything more, of if anyone has questions, I’ll try to answer.

    Love,
    Xenia

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    You might say something about the international scope of Orthodoxy. Many Americans are unaware…

  35. pstrmike says:

    “We like to visit monasteries. 🙂”

    So do I.

    Years ago I was on a motorcycle trip with a guy who has a different rhythm than I do when riding, and it was draining on me. We stopped for lunch at a Greek Orthodox monastery (he didn’t really care about it), and after we ate, I found a nice piece of grass and slept for almost two hours, No one bothered me. I was recharged and able to finish the trip.

  36. Linnea says:

    Xenia…thank you so much for your explanation. I agree–the capsulation of your beliefs was clear and concise and I really appreciate it. I’ve heard you explain about the icons and images, and listened for a time to an orthodox podcast you recommended, so this is not unfamiliar to me.

    In response to Michael’s comments:

    Regarding a works component, I think James covers it–you’ll get no argument from me there. Where we get into trouble is works in place of faith.

    Regarding the pews–I’m just grateful to have a place to rest my arthritic bones, whether it be a pew, a cold metal chair or a something to lean against!

    Regarding transubstantiation, I have a hard time with this one because I want to understand the why. I realize we don’t always know the why, never-the-less, I have questions.

    -Why must a priest be the one to consecrate the supper?

    -Why is it essential that the actual body and blood of Christ be taken into our physical bodies? I know Xenia said “we don’t try to explain it” and I’m not interested in arguing about it.

    -Is confession to a priest a tradition or an essential element of the orthodox faith? We know that James says to confess our sins to one another. Is this in keeping with the liturgy in the sense that all critical elements of the life of faith are offered by the church?

    Duane, thank you for your explanation. I’ve been off and on the PP site for years and there were lots of discussions during the Calvary Chapel controversies that suggested that many of the problems in independent evangelical churches could be avoided with liturgy and association with well-established ministries or denominations that provide accountability.
    To be fair, that can also be avoided with an independent board and elders, though I’ve seen that go awry, too. I’ve had several friends leave evangelical churches and choose liturgical churches. It’s my experience that I learn a different aspect of faith and ministry at different churches of which I’ve been a part.

    My brother-in-law studied for many years to become an RC priest. He never took his final vows. He married a woman who is protestant and they attended an orthodox church and had their children baptized there. To my surprise, they performed an exorcism before the infant baptism. I’ll have to dig to better understand that tradition.

  37. Linnea says:

    Xenia–thank you for the further explanation. One of my husband’s cousins, a devout believer, entered a discalced RC order and took a new name. I understand the significance of this. She and I have always been close and we continue to exchange prayer requests.

    pstrmike and Xenia–I like visiting monasteries, too. Mostly I like peaceful places and must admit I’m an introvert by nature.

  38. Xenia says:

    Hi Linnea,

    Why must priests consecrate the supper?<<<

    I think the simplest answer is that it was an office appointed for them by God. In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, he makes the case for the offices of Bishop-Priest-Deacon. It's the Bishop who has the authority to ask the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine, but he delegates this authority to the priests in his area, too. (Not to deacons.) I think it's a matter of good order? If I or anyone could just take some bread and wine in hand and claim it was the Body and Blood of Christ, what would the people I gave it to actually receive? I think it's all about authority. It's set aside for the clergy, it's special, it's sanctified. This is quite different from the extremely casual way communion was celebrated in some churches I attended in the past.

    Confession. <<< If I sin against an individual, I need to repent and apologize to that person and make any amends I can. A formal confession before (not "to") a priest makes it real. I remember being in the company of some people in my former days who would sin and then say "Sorry Lord!" and then go back to whatever they were doing. If they had to tell their faults to a priest and he says "The Lord forgives you" and offers some counsel, etc., it makes more of an impact, especially if you have to go back the next week and confess the same sin! It really helps, at least, that's what I've found. Even in my Calvary Chapel days I tried to confess a few things to my pastor, but he was very uncomfortable and finally said "Why are you telling me this?" Of course, if you are in the middle of nowhere with no clergy around you can still repent and talk to God. We can always talk to God.

    Is it essential that the real Body and Blood be taken into our bodies… <<< I've wondered about this a lot. I would say it is "normal" Christianity and it's the way God proscribed that we receive the "medicine of immortality." But as with many things, I look around and have to adjust my thinking to fit what I see. I see millions of Christians who do not receive the Body and Blood of Christ. So do I say they can't be saved? God forbid! God is not willing that any should perish. So I think He has made accommodations for all who believe in His Son. I think the Eucharist is extremely important, but I cannot doubt the obvious fact that millions of believers get along ok without it. Let's be honest: Where were the Orthodox when people all over the world were being evangelized by Protestant and Catholic missionaries? We had our times of great evangelization, and I think we will again, but right now we are in the process of gathering up the remnants that remain, both in Russia, the Middle East, and here in the USA, which is a weird and special case.

  39. Linnea says:

    Xenia…you understand your faith and communicate it so well.

    My husband and I were discussing this at breakfast this morning and I’d read My Utmost for His Highest, which talked about the day you decide to obey the Lord not matter what He asks. We talked about Abram/Abraham’s faith in not questioning the Lord, but traveling to an unknown destination. About Moses putting a bronze snake on a pole, but not understanding the representation of the savior, made sin for us, crucified on a tree that we might be saved from the bite of sin. He just obeyed. There is blessing in obedience every time. Of that I am sure. And, having gone through many physical problems and difficulties the last year and a half, I now understand the deeper fellowship we have with the Lord, most especially in suffering. That suffering has made me more of an evangelist.

    I understand gathering up the remnants, where countries with orthodox faiths have suffered greatly.

    I so appreciate your witness, your honesty, and your gentle spirit Xenia.

  40. pstrmike says:

    I’m with Linnea on standing…..
    The local Orthodox church here wants people to stand, sing in a language that I do not know, and adhere to a dress code. That and the priest has the same narrow epistemological perspective of some I know in his former Protestant denomination. I decided to pass.

    Xenia,

    “In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, ”

    Ignatius of Antioch?

    ” I think the Eucharist is extremely important, but I cannot doubt the obvious fact that millions of believers get along ok without it.”

    Michael and I had a similar discussion earlier this week in regards to another sacrament. There are always the outliers, and it is hard to know how to understand those cases.

    I don’t consider participation in the sacraments work—we take communion often in our church—and I agree that it is of great value. But many I know seem to get along just fine without frequent participation in the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion, etc. But then again, I do not believe in the transubstantiation, although I am convinced that there is definitely more going on than a strict memorializing of the death of Christ.

    “Of course, if you are in the middle of nowhere with no clergy around you can still repent and talk to God. We can always talk to God.”

    I think of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who did not always have access to a confessor or even a church in which to take communion with. I equate their physical desert experience with our spiritual desert experience of our day. Like the early monastics, we have to make due in environment we find ourselves in.

  41. Xenia says:

    I decided to pass.<<<

    I hear you. I almost wonder if I know who this priest is.

  42. Duane Arnold says:

    “I decided to pass…”

    Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism all occasionally suffer from “the zeal of a convert”…. Just sayin’

  43. JD says:

    Thank you Xenia for sharing and helping me to understand what you believe and why.

  44. pstrmike says:

    Duane,

    Xenia and I had that conversation here many years ago about a friend who found himself in Orthodoxy and then attempted to to take on one of the leaders within his diocese. He had, at least in his own mind, become more orthodox than the orthodox. But of course, it is that zeal I think, that drives them to search out another tradition.

    FWIW, I’ve had Ware’s book for about 15 years. Its a good read.

  45. Em says:

    One last comment, then I’m gone……
    Trans substantiation is, for me, puzzling, i.e., why would our Lord mingle His Holy body and blood with our rotting and dying flesh? ? ?

  46. Xenia says:

    You’re welcome, everybody, and thank you for the kind words. I only hope I explained everything properly!

  47. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    Remarkably well done!

  48. Linnea says:

    Em…my husband and I discussed your comment this morning. What happens to the host when it passes out of your body? I don’t mean this to sound crass.

    I’ve read accounts of RC nuns who want to receive the communion every day to to be in communion with the Lord.

    In my life, I can be in communion with the Lord with or without the supper, though I prefer the communion because it reminds me to confess my sin to Him and to be in fellowship with other Christians.

    There are so many touch points that remind me of what God has done, and continues to do for us. A beautiful sunset, budding trees, someone encouraged, someone healed, even a minuscule move from atheism to agnosticism, fractals represented in plants, the solar system that reflects the atomic structure, and numerous other applications. I’ve learned to find encouragement in everyday happenings and in complex explanations. He truly is above all and in all.

    My favorite verse is “He is above all things and in Him, all things hold together”, Colossians 1:17.

  49. Michael says:

    “why would our Lord mingle His Holy body and blood with our rotting and dying flesh? ? ?”

    To begin the process of transforming us into truly new creation…and as a means of grace…

    The body and blood do not leave the body…

  50. Duane Arnold says:

    Pstrmike

    My wife’s great-Aunt was married to the Headmaster of Westminster School, London. Visiting her on our honeymoon in 1980 we told her we were going one evening to a lecture by Kallistos Ware. She said, “You mean Timothy! He used to eat all my biscuits we he came for tea at school… He lives just a street away…” She invited the Bishop for tea the next day and, of course, he came!😁

  51. Xenia says:

    I met Bp. Kallistos Ware, too. He was the speaker at an event for the Orthodox school I used to attend in San Francisco.

  52. josh hamrick says:

    Well this thread is a breath of fresh air 🙂

  53. pstrmike says:

    Duane,

    she must have made great biscuits! lol!!!!

    Linnea,

    “I’ve read accounts of RC nuns who want to receive the communion every day to to be in communion with the Lord.”

    I would like to do the same. Taking communion helps me stay connected—in union with Christ. It is not necessary, IMO, but helpful to do so.

  54. pstrmike says:

    Xenia, (perhaps you missed this question above)
    “In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, ”

    Ignatius of Antioch?

  55. Xenia says:

    Yes, St. Ignatius of Antioch, not St. Ignatius of Loyola.

  56. Em says:

    Michael @2:48
    I wish that made sense…. our bodies all rot, slower, if you’ve been embalmed, but….
    Thank you, though for the answer
    God keep.

  57. Linnea says:

    Em, something I’ve struggled with since becoming a Christian is the verse Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

    Since the moment we were married, my husband advised that I meditate on that verse. We’ve been married 33 years. It wasn’t until all the physical and mental suffering I’ve gone through over the last few years that he suggested that we are made for fellowship with Him, not necessarily to hold up long in this world. Now that made sense to me.

    Yes, we start dying the moment we are born, but we are made for eternal fellowship with Him though our bodies waste away. Not sure if that helps…

  58. pstrmike says:

    Thanks Xenia. I knew it wasn’t Loyola who was 16th century…. I actually got a book in the mail yesterday concerning the Spiritual Exercises.

  59. Reuben says:

    Xenia,

    I have catastrophic problems with the ROC on account of Stalin alone, but you said things here that blew my mind. I ended my faith journey an Anglican, and I suspect we have a lot in common when it comes to why.

  60. Xenia says:

    Reuben, Stalin? In what way?

  61. victorious says:

    Xenia-
    On another note, congrats on your youngest one’s latest worship song writing endeavor.

  62. Reuben says:

    My head has so may fights happening right now. It’s why I asked for prayer. I feel an overwhelming sense of punishment. I read the things Michael says here about god’s love and grace for his people, but I do not, and never have experienced it. Mind you, I preached that love and grace for 12 years.

    I have two metal disorders, one was imposed, and once was just there, and I have never heard a good explanation of why it happens. The imposed metal disorder is PTSD, acquired through having the hell beat out of my by my pastor father and narcissistic mother until I ran away from home at age 16. The mental disorder that has simply always been there is Bipolar Disorder. I was not diagnosed with Bipolar until my late 40s, and I am in my late 40s.

    When I read the DSM-5 description of qualifiers, it was literally reading the entire pattern of my whole life, and the the diagnosing psychologist explained it, I was in shock. My whole life had been the result of a mental disorder that I could not explain, but the church always said I can “word, prayer, and fellowship” it away. I did those things, and it always worked for a very short time, because it distracted my mind. The second it got quiet, I was again overwhelmed with cycles of Maia and depression, utter waves of reckless impulsiveness that I simply COULD NOT control.

    Since this diagnoses was handed down, and confirmed by another, and described in the DSM-5 in a way that it may as well be called “Reuben Disorder”, I have had serious questions to ask god, if he/she/it is even there, and I am still not convinced there is one that is good.

    But the diagnoses and following treatments explained to me something that may well be a massive source of my hatred towards god and the church. It could easily be summarized as follows:

    1. The church is not by default a cluster of psychologists, and acting like it is damnable.
    2. Praying away a mental disorder rather than treating it is also damnable.
    3. God obviously made me this way, so the church needs to shut the hell up about legitimate mental disorders. ALL OF THEM.

    I am an alcoholic, to the degree that I need Jack Daniels like Winnie the Pooh needs honey. The urge to drink consumes may days. It does not make things better to do so, but temporarily, like “word, prayer, and fellowship” it distracts the mind for a while, slows it down, creates a space of temporary freedom.

    I stand in profound understanding that my view of sky daddy is shaped by my actual daddy. God has to overcome that one, because I have never found a way to separate the two.

    To be clear, a massive number of my debilitating beatings from my Jesus lovin’ parents were because I could not control my Bipolar swings. If the church treats metal disorders this way, seriously, shut your damned doors and take up flipping burgers instead of living off the bondage of of scripturally unjustifiable tithes unless you are living 3,000 years ago.

    The thing that is changing in me rapidly is that I see it is “god’s chosen” that have killed my will in quite a few things of a religious nature.

    Michael used to speak here often about how Christianity is exceedingly efficient and proficient at slaughtering it’s own. One aspect of this has to become reality for the church, mental disorders are absolutely legit, and if you believe you hold some magic key like James Dobson believed he held, to simply wipe it all out with a seriously fervent prayer, you are a serious problem for humanity, let alone the church.

    About 6 months ago, I was “extracted” from a hotel room after the hotel had been evacuated, by an astonishing number of cops and a SWAT team with AR-15s pointed at my head because I was armed and shoved a loaded gun into my mouth in front of someone. I then proceeded to attempt to provoke the cops to shoot me. I had zero control over myself. I was almost having an out of body experience, but I truly wanted to be killed. Had it not been for that “incident”, (and there were other incidents) I would not have found out what has been the pattern of my entire life, and that it had a real name, and that I was not alone in it, that others lived this reality daily all over the planet, Christian or not.

    You could say that was the actual hand of god.

  63. josh hamrick says:

    Reuben, you are so brave for writing that. Correct on so many points. I have no help to offer, because I’m a total wreck myself, but wanted you to know I’m hurting for you, man. Please, hang in there. PLease keep fighting.

  64. Reuben says:

    Cliche to say it, but the struggle is real, Josh. I wish the church had not put me in the position it did. I was convinced my entire life that I could not be any good for god because my mind is so tortured and out of control. I believe the church taught me that. There has to be a reason, if god is real and what the Bible says god is, that I was made this way.

  65. Reuben says:

    Or there is no reason at all, and I am simply Bipolar, and have to approach life differently than conventional methods seem to allow.

  66. Michael says:

    Good morning , Reuben,

    The only reasons I even feel remotely qualified to address these things is because, as you know, I live close to the same world you do…and can at least empathize with your suffering.

    You wrote well and truthfully.

    The only thing I would question is whether God made you this way.

    My lungs are shot and my heart isn’t working…but I don’t think God made me for organ failure.

    The best I can come up with is that this whole creation and everything in it is broken.

    This was not the original intent of God.

    In this brokenness and all the pain that comes with it, He is working through broken people to re-create that which was His intention.

    To help enable us to endure the process, He came himself and subjected Himself to suffering and death,.

    When it comes to illness of any kind, I refer people to the best medical help they can find…while we also pray that God will intercede.

    Sometimes, He does…

  67. Dan from Georgia says:

    (coming out of lurking mode)…

    Thanks Reuben for shedding some light on what you are going through. I will continue to pray. I cannot relate to much of what you have been and are going through, but I have had a small taste of it.

    I myself take several meds for depression, which has been with me since I can remember (I’m 54 years old), and also am an addict. Why I have dysthymia is unknown. And the church hasn’t helped. The church can’t handle those with emotional/mental disorders, despite their claim that they have THE answer, they don’t have all the answers that actually matter on a moment by moment basis.

    And further about the church, I have been treated like garbage by many in the church. And to make matters worse, it was from those who claim to be the cats meow in God’s eyes. A past girlfriend once told me that she was afraid I wasn’t going to heaven because “you are too smart” (somehow implying that simply by being smart I was predestined for hell).

    WTF?!?!?!

    The most evangelical of all my past girlfriends was also spiritually abusive. More than a few times I wished a violent death upon her and her family (in my moments of rage and anger) worthy of a death metal album cover, but that is my issue.

    That is one reason you will see lots of criticism leveled at some evangelicals by those of us who have been abused in various ways.

    Anyways, you and I don’t have any connection or dialogue here in the past, but you are being supported by us.

  68. Reuben says:

    Dan, I heard and understood and empathized with every last word. My only difference is I have had a wife who has stood beside me and embraced 27 years of my convoluted mind. I also have a 15 year old son who is shaped by my madness and it brings me more shame than I can write about. I feel you. Genuinely.

  69. Dan from Georgia says:

    Thanks Reuben. That’s a great woman you have there! I have been married for 11 years and change as of today and she is THE best wife I could ever have. Puts to shame all my previous love interests.

  70. Kevin H says:

    Reuben, you and I have had our difficulties but let me echo what Josh said that it was very brave and took quite the fortitude to share what you just did. I do not have the answers to dealing with such things, but I do care for you and wish you only the best as you struggle through what at least you can now put some definition to.

    What many Christians did to you trying to beat you into submission or in guilting you for just not “praying away” the condition is appalling and completely unjustifiable. Just as Michael has done before, I can only put forward to you God’s love and grace that is most displayed to us by Jesus, unfortunately many times not by his followers.

  71. josh hamrick says:

    My conundrum lately is that if His followers don’t look anything like Jesus, then are they actually folling Him?

  72. Kevin H says:

    Josh, it probably often should be qualified to say those who *claim* to be his followers. Only Jesus knows those who are truly following him and others who make a charade of such, sometimes fooling even themselves.

  73. Reuben says:

    Michael,

    I know what you face, and you know I have a profound empathy for it. I feel like I should sit along side your son to just listen to him. I have always felt a stronger connection to the Alice In Chains types than the prolific John Coursons of this planet who seem to know the brain dead answer to everything. Trey has been on my mind since you and I last spoke. Like a ton. I feel infinitely more love for him than I do the entirety of Christendom. To use Christian speak, literally to a fault, he is on my heart in big ways.

    “Foreordained to become sons of the almighty god” is a concept that may be understandable by you, but I have never once had that experience or understanding, which excludes me from understanding. My mind does not work the “christian” way. It can’t. I did not have a choice in this matter. To blame it on “the fallen world” that god did not intend is in my mind a cheap defense of someone who does to own what he created. NGL, that’s how I emphatically see it. He may claim to want to own and love and grace those of us like Trey and myself, but the Bible spoke once of mental illness, and apparently it was just demon pigs that needed to be cast into the sea. God can do that if he likes, I’m done trying to understand, and it would be a welcome resolution.

  74. josh hamrick says:

    I mean, we are following something, it just hasn’t turned out looking like Jesus. It feels like that should be cause for concern, but it seems to cause us to just double down.

  75. Michael says:

    Reuben,

    If God has only sent a book, I would have no use for Him.
    But He came himself…and was subjected to abuse and torture…with the approval of people who claimed to be friends of His father…

    I’m obsessed with Romans 8 and it’s pretty much the whole story to me, properly understood.

    I’ve always been far more comfortable with Charles Bowden than theologians…I understand…

  76. Reuben says:

    Charles Bowden genuinely believed in something, and pursued it as if he genuinely believed in something. I aspire to that. Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley communicated on a level that only those who knew would understand, and it turned out to be millions who took profound value from their words. These are giants, because they spoke truth, real world experience, reality. Hell, Gucci Mane speaks more reality than the “church fathers”, and I have read my share of Calvin and Luther till I was broken with hatred.

    They say (whoever they are) that Jesus would not be allowed into church if he walked through the door. I see this, reality is not allowed through the doors of the church. That is its primary fault. You and I agree Bowden was an IRL prophet.

    The church, many of which I have been too and preached in, have sound systems that cost more than what it would take to employ 6 full time people to deliver grandma to thee pharmacy and back home, fix the broken garbage disposal for the single mom, clothe the poor at the churches expense…. the list goes on…

    This is not blamed on “a fallen world”, but rather $hitty humans who have more regard for themselves and their flags and hills to die on than humanity itself.

  77. Reuben says:

    I may have just proven your point! Haha!

  78. Reuben says:

    Gott Mit Uns is what differentiates Christians from human beings

  79. Michael says:

    Reuben,

    I pay little attention to Christians en masse as I live my life.

    I stick very close to Jesus… as much as I can.
    He makes it all make sense and exposes the nonsense in the light of who he is.

    I’m not “evangelizing” because I think heaven or hell is at stake…something else I rarely think about.

    I want people to know Jesus because in Him is the only hope we have…but a sure hope indeed.

  80. Reuben says:

    Thus the reason you are one of the last people I listen to. You actually believe.

  81. pstrmike says:

    Thanks Reuben for your 9:13am. I appreciate what you wrote, and felt compelled to respond. You sound like you have more clarity now.

    I get so irritated when I talk about my addictions to some Christians and they immediate respond with, “that was BC, right?” I answer with a sharp “NO!” Such comments reveals their lack of understanding because they were fed a narrative that was nice, clean, and full of certainty. Real life rarely works that way, but denial does help the pieces fit…

    In one of our discussions in my doctoral program, I told them that I read Nietzsche and listen to A in C. One person remarked,’ “that’s a wicked cocktail,” again, simply revealing ignorance.

    When you come out the other side of a legit suicide attempt, it changes you. It can be an incredible point where clarity begins, but there is always the baggage that such an experience will accompany you with.

    Peace.

  82. Reuben says:

    Mike, I feel like I understand all the sudden

  83. Reuben says:

    Soaking in the 4th Tree by Travis Meeks hard today, Limited Eyes on repeat. Nietzsche was on my plate last week, like hard.

  84. Reuben says:

    Understand you all the sudden

  85. Em says:

    Question? ? ?
    As I read I have to wonder if we have allowed our children to be brainwashed…
    TV sitcoms with happy endings? Commercials that hype perfect lives….
    I’ve remarked to the husband of my alcoholic neighbor that she won’t conquer her addiction until she learns that life in this world isn’t fair…. It eats at her that her previous husband left her for a much younger woman (one of his students) and one of her daughters blames her for daddy’s infidelity and won’t speak to her mom anymore….
    Heartache IS part of life on this planet….
    Just a ponder I have……… as I read Michael’s blog site here
    God keep

  86. Reuben says:

    “Why do you keep wiping me away

    Cuz Im a stranger, looking strange on a strange strange day”

    I learned the tuning and how to play that song within hours of the album release. Calvin could not hold a candle to this dude, and I will always hold people like him in higher regard than the 10% Christian

    “Why do you keep the loving from loving you?”

  87. Reuben says:

    I wept uncontrollably the first time I heard that song

    Because the bridge truly kept me high

    God may have never spoken to me directly, but if Alice In Chains an Days if the New were god, god spoke

  88. Reuben says:

    Mike,

    Rough Day by Travis Meeks spoke to me as hard as Beautiful People did back when Marylin Manson performed it

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