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Leaving The Fold~lost Sheep Of The Far Right Hippies


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From The Book Leaving The Fold

 

By Marlene Winell

 

I grew up a middle child in a missionary family of seven. Both of my parents were kept busy establishing churches and Bible schools in the Orient. I was determined to mature into an ideal Christian.During a furlough back in the States, I was introduced to the charismatic style of worship in the Assemblies of God. I loved it. Since I had always been demonstrative myself, the emotional expressiveness felt so warm and real. My family traveled to many supporting churches in California, reporting on missionary progress. My faith taught me to glorify the idea of being different, which psychologically fostered a feeling of alienation that I tried to justify in my writing. Finally, one weekend in eighth grade, I "received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" - the experience Pentecostal Christians seek after being saved. It means that you are filled with the Spirit, and usually speak in tongues as evidence.

 

My "baptism" experience was an ecstatic forty-five minutes of speaking in tongues, which felt like ten minutes. Even now, I believe it was a very special mystical experience, one which I am not sure how to interpret. It certainly was an (1)altered state, with overwhelming feelings of total love and acceptance comparable with the spiritual transcendence experienced by people in a variety of spiritual traditions. I returned to school with a new confidence and contentment. My prayer life included speaking and singing "in the Spirit" (in tongues). At school I shared my enthusiasm. Some friends went with me to (2) Pentecostal Fellowship meetings, and two of them also "received the Baptism" when praying with me in the dorm. I was convinced that the Second Coming was very soon. This was frequently preached in Pentecostal circles along with ominous warnings about "the world." I was keenly aware of an imminent end and the urgency to spread the word.

 

At the end of tenth grade, at the age of sixteen, we moved to Southern California. My religion at this time of my life met my many needs perfectly. I was able to fit in immediately with the youth group at church. We understood each other because of our common belief system. My faith also gave me a continued meaning in life. My huge high school was full of potential converts, and street witnessing was a dramatic addition to my Christian experience. To top it off, I soon had a Christian boyfriend at the church. He demonstrated to me how to talk about Christ to "hippies," emphasizing the natural high we could get from Jesus. Most of our relationship occurred over the telephone. He instructed me in ways of being Christian and cool at the same time. For this I was grateful. Coming from overseas, my clothes were wrong, and I had a lot of slang to learn.

 

The "Jesus Movement" came into full swing in Southern California at about this time. We had the Christian version of flower children: going to Calvary Chapel in jeans and bare feet, baptisms in the surf, Christian rock and roll, and being different from our parents. There were converts by the hundreds, and I was excited. We had a sense of cosmic purpose. A memorable highlight was a week of organized witnessing in San Francisco with "Youth With A Mission." The group received continued training in evangelism and assorted topics. Walking into the hip subculture was for me like Dorothy in the Land of Oz - "Drugs and occult and sex, oh my!" I was treading carefully through Satan's territory. Witnessing to a long-haired man in Golden Gate Park who said he was Jesus left me stumped! Every evening we tallied conversions, and compared notes about the challenges we had faced. We memorized more Scripture and refined our arguments to handle the tough cases. Of course, we interpreted objections to the Gospel as "darkness" rather than honest reasons people had for not being Christian. We prayed for the souls we had spoken with each day and asked God to "convict" them of sin and lead them to the light.

 

In June 1968, I graduated second in my high school class. I debated between Oral Roberts University or the University of California at Irvine and chose the latter - so that I could be a witness there! The Christian students there took evangelizing seriously. We met for Bible studies in the park on campus. For a while I even lived with them in a Christian commune, getting the family warmth I always craved. I enjoyed college for the intellectual stimulation and challenge. My exposure to new ideas continued. In a multidisciplinary course, I learned about the history of Western culture from the time of Plato and Aristotle to the present, covering major movements in philosophy, political science, literature, and art. We read St. Augustine, Descartes, Mill, Marx, Freud, Beckett, and many others. It was interesting to find out about religious assumptions that were challenged by Copernican astronomy, the rise of empirical science, and Darwinism. I was surprised at how many philosophers had tried to prove the existence of God. Most of all, I was intrigued by analyses of core existential dilemmas.For me, the notion of free will had always been a problem in the contest of an omniscient and omnipotent God. How could we possibly choose our lives or choose salvation if God knows all and controls all? I felt increasingly compelled by notions of personal freedom.

 

From Eastern thought and existentialism.

 

Nevertheless for a long time I tried to integrate my new awareness and skills with my faith. For one of my field studies, I worked with another woman to start a 24-hour hotline and walk-in Christian counseling center. The experience brought my growing frustration with the church patriarchy into sharper focus. To my surprise,(3) we were told we could only get support from Calvary Chapel if we had male leadership.

 

The first one we were offered by Calvary soon created problems - he canceled our phone service and left town. We had the service reinstated and carried on. Finally one of our male counselors, a newly converted Christian, stepped into the director position. Saying he had been led by God. At the time that was enough for me.

 

Just as I was disappointed with(4) sexist and hypocritical Christians. Some changes began when I was sixteen, but it was ten years before I stopped calling myself a Christian.

 

Boe: (Sigh..Unforuant...)

 

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Losing My Religion

 

Confessions of a backslidden Christian-- returns to the church where his faith in Jesus began . . . and ended

 

The Sonoma County Independent/April 2, 1998.

 

By David Templeton

 

I have officially been an ex-Christian--a backslider--since the day I handed in my keys to the front door of Calvary Chapel of Downey, in Southern California. No doubt about it, Calvary Chapel--along with such similar non-denominational, groups as The Vineyard, Maranatha, and Warehouse Ministries--(4) is some dangerously rocky territory if you happen to harbor any theological questions or liberal interpretations of Scripture. Take my word for it, you'll stick out like a leper at a tanning salon.

 

BOE: Been There..though I was never IN Calvary Chapel.

 

The dynamic, ever-expanding chain--three of the affiliated churches now operate in Sonoma County (Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Petaluma)--stands apart from more traditional Christian churches by fostering a maddeningly upbeat, pep-rally atmosphere in which (5)anyone experiencing a crisis of faith must either cover it up, shape up, or ship out.

 

After seven intense, often exciting years spent examining the "unconditional love" of Jesus--what we all called "God's free gift"--(6) I'd finally concluded that too many conditions and rules had been placed upon that love for it to qualify as either unconditional or free.

 

BOE: Again, unforuantly..I completely relate.

 

The bottom line that led to my escape, however, is a less philosophical question: If Jesus truly lives in my heart, I asked, why do I still feel so damned empty? And if he does not, if it is all a game, what damage had I done to myself by conforming so utterly to the simple-minded, robotic, dogma-spouting mindset modeled by the elders of the church?

 

Terrified of what waited out in "the World"--our word for the supposedly empty, nightmarish, despair-filled existence that waited outside the church--unable to continue pretending, I closed the door on Calvary Chapel, knowing that I was doing more than just losing my religion; I was also stepping away from the vital and intimate social circle that had provided a sense of family all through my adolescence. I had just turned 21 and I was turning my back on everything I'd believed and worked for, betraying the only group of people to which I'd ever felt I truly belonged.

 

THERE IS A TENDENCY among fundamental Christian groups to promise people that if they dedicate themselves to Jesus, their lives will suddenly be better," comments therapist Francis Dreher. The director of the Institute for Educational Therapy in El Cerrito, Dreher is an experienced marriage, family, and children counselor, with a distinguished track record working with former fundamentalists. "In these churches you often end up placing your whole life and belief on this one single idea," he further explains, "the idea that you will receive redemption here on Earth, along with all the love and the sense of family that you desire, simply by focusing on Jesus. When that doesn't happen, people can tend to sink into serious depression."

 

Dreher suggests that those attracted to such high-control, authoritarian groups are trying "to make sense of a world that doesn't make much sense, a world full of violence and broken families and broken communities." Once a member has left the church, Dreher says, the letdown can lead to serious psychological scarring. "Almost always there is a ... lack of self-confidence in making your own decisions again," he adds. "Often it takes a lot of work to make those abilities strong again." Every organization, occupation, or social group tends to develop its own peculiar lingo, a unique glossary of colorful expressions that rise up from the collective ideas, habits, and personalities of the club members. To insiders, it provides a feeling of unity within the group, while distancing the members from the unwashed outside world.

 

BOE: Oh yes. That's SO true.

 

After my spiritual rebirth at the wobbly age of 14--amid the cultural wasteland of the 1970s--I clung to such distinctions as if my life depended on it. The Jesus Movement was in high gear and I relished using the lingo that identified me as a participant. When we approved of something, we'd say, "What a blessing!" or "Praise God." When we told each other goodbye, we'd invoke, "God bless." I even enjoyed that word backslider--taken from Proverbs 14:14: "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways." We had other words for those ex-Christians: they were "strays," and "execs," and "prodigals," and "blotmarks."

 

BOE: IN JW and Mormon they call them "Apostates."

 

That last epithet is taken from Revelations 3:5, in which the apostle John describes a vision of Jesus, who says, "He that overcometh, the same will be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life."

 

The message was clear: to "walk with the Lord" and then slide back from salvation was to embrace a fate even more worse than the one awaiting those who'd never been saved in the first place. When I first walked into a Calvary Chapel, I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I knew that Calvary, already a certified phenomenon, was a chain of ultra-casual( 7) Protestant-fundamentalist churches that had been strongly influenced by the California hippie culture. It had grown in leaps and bounds ever since Pastor Chuck Smith positioned his once-foundering, Costa Mesa--based church as a kind of jumping-off point for the Jesus Movement. I'd never seen any group of people so fired up, so magically set apart from the norm. Desperately unhappy--the product of a broken home and an alcoholic, suicidal mother--I was ripe for the picking. At Calvary--named for the hill on which Christ was crucified--I all but salivated at the promise of a savior who could love me on an as-is basis. I prayed and invited Jesus to take up residency in my heart.

 

Soon thereafter, I joined a feverish Bible-study club that met during lunch breaks at Downey High School. I developed a strong cadre of friends, all focused on becoming ministers. Saturday nights, we carpooled the 50 miles to Costa Mesa for intensely emotional, jam-packed rock concerts--featuring such classic Jesus-rock groups as Maranatha, Mustard Seed Faith, Petra, and One Truth--whipping ourselves into imagining that Calvary Chapel was ground zero in the great war against the devil. We sang, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me"--but we sang it to the bouncy tune of "The Happy Wanderer." "This is not religion," we were told, and quickly parroted to our wide-eyed friends and family, "this is a relationship!"

 

That relationship with Jesus was further expressed, and distanced, from the incense-and-icon atmosphere of Catholicism and other formal expressions of divine longing by the instantly recognizable symbol that had become Calvary's logo: not a cross or crucifix (too negative, too brooding), but a dove, an oddly misshapen outline of a descending dove that resembled a melting B-52 on a suicide dive. We loved it, dutifully scribbling the shape in the margins of our Bibles, wearing it on T-shirts, and dangling it from chains around our necks. Since we were a bunch of ugly-duck, marginalized teenagers unaccustomed to feeling any sense of belonging, those early days were almost too heady an experience.

 

Marlene Winell, in her book Leaving the Fold (New Harbinger, 1993), describes her own Calvary Chapel experience as a tremendously exciting one, of being surrounded by "the Christian version of flower children" and of being filled with "a sense of cosmic purpose." Charged up with that sense of cosmic purpose, my friends and I would cry, hug, proclaim our love for one another, praise God, and reiterate our promises to never betray him. We'd close our eyes to pray and actually conjure up the smiling face of Jesus in our minds. Then we'd go out for coffee and badger the waitresses with our wild-eyed enthusiasm.

 

CALVARY CHAPEL. Fike, a professor of philosophy at Cal State in Irvine and another graduate of Downey High, also once assumed his faith was unshakable. After a short sojourn at Calvary, he moved on to an even stricter, Calvinist sect before abandoning Christianity altogether.

 

BOE: That too, unforuantly, is commom with most ex-JWs.

 

"It fits well into a consumer-driven culture, Calvary does," Fike observes. "It shares a lot with McDonald's. You go in, and though you're never quite satisfied, there's this strong, advertisement-like appeal to it. You stand there chewing, going, 'I don't quite get this, but everyone else looks satisfied, so I'm going to keep coming back until I'm satisfied.' "Calvary is selling a product," he insists. "A mass-produced idea of Jesus and salvation and everlasting peace that is constantly wagged before you while you're there. It's like buying a brand of uncomfortable shoes, but then you're afraid to admit that they're uncomfortable, because everyone else is wearing them. So you go on wearing them, hoping you'll finally break them in enough. "But you never do."

 

BOE: Again, yeap, been there. Done that.

 

I was 15 when Downey gained its own Calvary Chapel, a tiny storefront operation pastored by a sincere and affable guy named Jeff Johnson. A disciple of Chuck Smith, Jeff seemed seductively cool to my new teenage friends. Intense, bearded, muscular from years working as a welder in the construction industry, this charismatic, drug-dealing-surfer-turned-Jesus-person caused an immediate stir throughout the strait-laced environs of Downey, following the established Calvary Chapel format of oratorically low-key preaching, a de-emphasis on the trappings of denominational religion, and a shockingly casual dress code.

 

(*) At Calvary Chapel, even today--at one of the thousand-plus affiliates spreading across the country--jeans, T-shirts, and tennis shoes, or bare feet for that matter, are acceptable Sunday dress. The theology is basic foursquare Protestantism with a Pentecostal twist: an emphasis on love, joy, peace, and goodness with an undercurrent of fundamentalist didacticism and an unswervingly literal approach to the Scriptures. We were encouraged to go out "harvesting souls" in order to bring new converts to Christ; we pored over our Bibles, scribbling notes in the margins, underlining important passages. Smith's burgeoning Bible school churned out dozens of freshly ordained ministers,(8) all male (unlike most Protestant-based faiths, Calvary Chapel expressly forbids women from holding leadership status over any man), all trained in the biblical interpretations favored by Smith, all hot to start their very own Calvary Chapel franchise, taking over storefronts, movie theaters, and tire stores, seldom in a building that actually looked like a church.

 

I myself now went to church five or six times a week, and--encouraged to stay away from non-believers--resisted friendships with anyone outside the church. I was allowed to use the staff kitchen--and began the process of studying to become an ordained minister of Calvary Chapel. Then things began to get weirder. As the intensity increased, our willingness to debase ourselves in God's name led to unhealthy extremes. I remember Sandy, a fierce 10th-grade convert. Two other high-schoolers, Laura and Julianne, eager for a juicy mystical experience to tell the congregation, insisted that they'd witnessed the love of Jesus materialize before them in the form of a glowing ball of energy dancing before their eyes. They later realized it was a only a halo of light around a street lamp outside.

 

 

 

Then there was Jeff Johnson himself, our leader, who would tell us that before converting to Christianity and while tripping on acid, the devil appeared to him in a tent in the jungles of Hawaii, and, Johnson insisted, granted him the power to control the elements. After experimenting with the flies in his tent--making them do backflips with the power of his mind--he wandered to a cliff overlooking the ocean. There he summoned a tsunami that drowned all the sunbathers on the beach. He did not tell this story as that of an imagined vision during a bad trip, but as an event that he apparently believes actually took place, an occurrence so unsettling that he had no choice but to turn to Jesus to escape the devil's temptations.

 

 

 

We all prayed that an experience that overpowering, that mystical, that cool, might someday happen to us.

 

BOE: Not only is this very weird but dangerous and why is it that chrasimatic religion and mind-altering drug use seem to always go hand and hand? This is to be questioned seriously!!!

 

Further swayed by Johnson's jaunty sermons encouraging our "servitude" to God and his insistent admonitions not to trust our "worldly desires," we became convinced that we were incapable of making decisions without God's help. We would pray desperately about everything: whether to go to college, which car we should buy, which person we should date. I myself, after years of gaining only intermittent flashes of anything approaching peace, joy, or happiness, began intense 30-day fasts in order to open myself more fully to Christ. At the end of one such starvation-fest, I passed out cold at church, as everyone smiled and praised the Lord, supposing that I'd been knocked out by the power of Jesus.

 

 

 

I began to have doubts. I became depressed. My doctor suggested that I was carrying a stress load that could kill me if I didn't make changes soon.

 

 

 

Johnson--apparently irritated that my doubts weren't dispelled by his prayers--had less and less time to devote to one-on-one counseling sessions with me or any of his other "sheep." That's more lingo: Since Johnson was "the shepherd," we were all "sheep," a hand-me-down idea from Chuck Smith, who, in his biographical book Harvest (Calvary Publishing, 1984, which also contains Jeff Johnson's Hawaiian devil story), tells of abandoning traditional denominational structures after years of pre-Calvary frustration that any church board of mere "sheep" would dare to vote down the plans that he, "their appointed shepherd," had been given from God.

 

Apparently overwhelmed by the growing demands of running what had become a multimillion-dollar organization with almost 5,000 members, a bookstore, a full-time Christian school, and numerous ancillary ministries, Johnson began to refer certain mundane matters--explaining contradictions in Scriptures and your basic crises of faith--to his associate ministers. Often he'd suggest we get in line with the other sheep waiting to talk with him after Sunday morning services.

 

 

 

I stood in that line to say goodbye on the day I walked away. With the last of my childhood faith now fading away, I shook hands with Johnson, exchanged God-bless-yous, and drove away from Calvary, away from Downey, away from Southern California, and away from Jesus.

 

BOE: Again, very unforuant. That he left Jesus..NOT that he left Calvary Chapel.

 

I vowed I'd never return. Last Thanksgiving, after nearly two decades, I finally broke my promise and returned to Calvary Chapel.

 

 

 

RICK ROSS is an "[intervention specialist]," a world-renowned [expert] specializing in the [behavior] of destructive cults [and radical groups]. As a "deprogrammer," Ross aids former members of [extreme groups] and their families to make the difficult transition to life outside of the controlling group. Working from his office in Phoenix, Ross has assisted members of the Davidian cult in Waco as well as [consulting the media just after the tragic suicide of the cult known as] Heaven's Gate in San Diego. His website Rick Rose-a resource center for cult watchers and families of people who have disappeared into cults--includes a long list of reports on various cults, [controversial and radical groups]. Calvary Chapel is on the list.

 

 

 

"I wouldn't go so far as to call them a full-on cult," Ross says. "But I will say that Calvary Chapel is an extremely authoritarian group where lots of control is exercised over the members. They treat Smith as if he has some special revelation, an elite calling from God. The churches under Chuck Smith all foster feelings of spiritual elitism. They are typical of a lot of groups who think they are God's Green Berets, the epitome of God's best."

 

 

 

Ross has twice been involved in transitioning clients away from Calvary chapels, each time contacted by parents who were alarmed at the intensity of the personality changes and frightening mood-swings their children experienced after joining Calvary. "The promise of unconditional love is hard to pass up," Ross agrees. "But in my experience, what Calvary offers is [highly] conditional love I've ever known. People who leave [often] feel that they could never be good enough. The clergy at Calvary don't wish to admit it, but they push their members very hard. [Many can not] an live up to those expectations.

 

Others are more inclined to classify Calvary Chapel as a full-blown cult. "(8) Cults, in my opinion, are about behaviors, not beliefs," explains Janja Lalich, an expert on cult systems and mind control and the director of Community Resources on Influence and Control, in Alameda. "Cults aren't always tiny religious groups off in some compound. I think anyone who says they have the answer, the one way, whatever it is, is potentially dangerous. (9)Whenever questions are not really answered but always turned back on you like there is something wrong with you for asking them, that's a sign that something is wrong."

 

 

 

And though cults are often identified by the influence of one charismatic leader, there is such a thing as a cult of consensus, she says. "Often it's not direct orders from the leader at all but a group dynamic and a process that gets put in place," explains Lalich. "It's the peer pressure that can end up being even more important than the relationship with the leader. As human beings that's what we respond to. You're just going along with the norm and modeling yourself after the other members, and suddenly you are unable to think for yourself."

 

Come to the Lord and be saved.

 

(10) AFTER MANY YEARS spent living in "the World," I have learned that there is such a thing as happiness, peace, and even unconditional love, and that Calvary Chapel--religion in general, for that matter--holds no monopoly on it. Though it's taken almost half my lifetime--and endless hours of therapy--to shed the anger, guilt, and self-hatred that I inherited from my tutelage under Jeff Johnson, my new life is demonstrably richer, fuller, and more meaningful than my narrow, fear-driven experience, intoxicating though it was, within the inner circle of Calvary. I am not alone.

 

 

 

Of my old friends, only a handful have remained believers. And--true to their training--have made it clear that my blotmark status makes it impossible to sustain any further friendship. A surprising number of them, however, are now confirmed backsliders like myself. Laura, by coincidence, is now married to another former member of Calvary Chapel, whose son attended Chuck Smith's Calvary School in the 1980s and suffered recurring nightmares for years. "I do look back on my experience as that of being in a cult. It's left me with little tolerance for people who won't think," she says. "It's easy enough to live in a closed system where all the answers are fed to you, but it's laziness. If you have an original thought, I can respect that, but to be a sheep just sitting there gobbling up the pabulum, I have no tolerance for that."

 

IT WAS A DESIRE for a sense of closure--coupled with a growing bewilderment and curiosity about the organization that once so thoroughly dominated my life--that led me, one Sunday last fall, to return to Calvary Chapel in Downey. My e-mails to Pastor Jeff, suggesting a sit-down meeting, are ignored and his secretary politely insists that I should not expect to be granted such a meeting if I arrive. The same huge parking lot--which once seemed unfillable, even by the large numbers of people attending services 17 years ago--is packed with cars bearing bumper stickers and glib slogans: "Life without Jesus is Hell." I find a parking space in the back, near the site of my old studio.

 

True to Jeff's promise, I had been replaced by a restroom.

 

I take my place in line.

 

 

 

"Remember me?" I eventually ask.

 

 

 

"Of course!" he exclaims, grasping my hand.

 

 

 

"Good to see ya. Lord bless ya! Where are you living now?"

 

 

 

"Northern California," I reply.

 

 

 

"Heavy. Married or anything?"

 

 

 

"Uh huh."

 

 

 

"Praise the Lord! Any kids?"

 

 

 

"Two."

 

 

 

"Wow! What a blessing! Are you going to fellowship up there?" he wants to know.

 

 

 

"Actually," I answer truthfully, "since Calvary, I haven't found any church I'm comfortable in."

 

 

 

"Oh," he answers, nodding slowly.

 

 

 

"The place has grown," I say, glancing around and back at the line that's formed behind me.

 

 

 

"Awesome growth," he agrees. "But more than the quantity, there's a whole new quality of believers coming in. They're getting rooted in, grounded in God's word, and staying rooted in it. They're bringing in others. Healthy sheep beget healthy sheep, of course. Are you staying for the next service?"

 

 

 

I say that I am and reiterate my request to meet with him later.

 

 

 

"Wow, I'm all scheduled up," he says. "But maybe after Thanksgiving."

 

 

 

He extends his hand again. "God bless."

 

 

 

Sitting toward the front of the 4,000-seat sanctuary, I am suddenly overwhelmed by the tremendous emotional distance I have traveled since the last time I sat listening to my one-time shepherd. His words still awe me, though in a vastly different way.

 

 

 

"Don't bother watching the news, people," he says from the stage at the end of his sermon.

 

 

 

"Don't waste your time reading newspapers. The Bible says that the devil is 'the prince of the power of the air.' What do you think that means? Air? God's talking about the 'airwaves'!

 

 

 

The devil controls the media! So take your news from the Bible only. It's all you need." The sheep smile. They nod. They agree with whatever he says.

 

 

 

"Out in the world, people have no guidance," he continues. "

 

And so it goes. Finally, he winds it up. "Let's pray," he says as heads bow all around me.

 

 

 

"Thank you, God, for the assurance of your glorious Word," Johnson prays, as I continue to watch. "We pray for those who don't have this assurance. We pray for those who are backsliders. You know who you are."

 

 

 

I look up at the pulpit. Though 4,000 pairs of eyes are closed all around us, Jeff Johnson is pointing directly at me.

 

 

 

"Pull them out of the world, Lord," he prays. "Bring them back into your Light."

 

 

 

I close my eyes, trying to imagine the face of Jesus calling me back to the fold. Though I will always love that face, and will honor the wisdom, understanding, and love that it represents to me, I can no longer see it as the face of a savior, offering to transform my wretchedness into a thing of worth. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.... I may someday find a church in which I feel comfortable; perhaps I'll even call myself a Christian again. But I will never again believe that I am so wretched that no one but Jesus can love me.

 

 

 

I look back to Johnson.

 

 

 

"Come home," he is offering, his voice lilting and soft. "Come back. It's never too late to reclaim your salvation."

 

 

 

Perhaps he's right. Maybe it's not too late.

 

BOE: It's NOT too late..but you don't need to go through Calvary Chapel to get to God.

 

 

 

But for this particular backslider--having finally grown up out in the big wide messy world--nothing I once clung to within these very walls could ever again be enough.

 

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BOE: And then I found this comment on Amazon.com

 

A JW's Comment

 

Informative, helpful, but also disappointing., April 26, 2008

 

Most of the book is easy to read for the layperson but you do need to be familiar with the following terms: a priori, ethnocentric, tautological, cognitive dissonance, and so forth. Any good dictionary can help you with this.

 

Although I was familiar with fundamentalist Christianity (from having talked to them at various points in my life) I didn't realize how dogmatic, unhealthy, and unreasonable they can be.

 

BOE:???

 

The author's own experience and those of the others were eye-opening. Although the author still appreciates certain Bible principles such as the Golden Rule, she claims that God was responsible for Job's suffering and also the following:

 

page 90 "problem with occasions of Jesus expressing vindictiveness, discourtesy, narrow-mindedness, and ethnic and religious intolerance."

 

page 93 "Eve is blamed for bringing sin into the world."

 

I can only attribute this to her fundamentalist upbringing, which apparently didn't teach her how to think about the Bible in a holistic manner.

 

BOE: Ironic Comment

 

For example, the scriptures blame Adam for bringing sin into the world, even though Eve was the first human to sin. This is because he was created first, had more knowledge and experience, and unlike Eve was not deceived.

 

BOE: Gee..and I wonder where people get the wrong idea here.

 

God allowed Satan to persecute Job. He was not responsible for it.

 

At any rate, the author's suggestions for psychological and spiritual recovery for the fundamentalist Christian who has left dogmaticism are fairly good. Probably the best part of the book are the question and answer checklists, exercises, and the section on humor as healing.

 

She claims that her advice is applicable to former Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, having had them as clients. However, unlike fundamentalists, JWs are not taught "hellfire and damnation."

 

BOE: I don;t know what makes JW's think that just because they have replaced harping on hellfire with harping on Armageddon in it's place...that this alone means 'they' are NOT "Fundamentalists." They positively ARE, even if NOT the Evangelical Protestant version of it.

 

I do agree that dogmatic individuals can exist in any group, even among atheists.

 

BOE: How about in your own group, lady? CAN YOU admit THAT?

 

For Mormons I recommend another book with the same title: Leaving the fold: candid conversations with inactive Mormons. I would love to see a book about inactive Jehovah's Witnesses.

 

BOE:I find the comment interesting why you said that you'd, "Like to see a book written by an inactive witness." I was raised jW. I was never df-ed or reproved and while I agree that JW's don't teach "hellfire" or "demanation"..they do harp on Armageddon too much. While I found the author's bio on her experince being involved in the fundamental Christian Hippie movement of the 60's and early 70's aka The Jesus People Movement, interesting,I found that this former fundamental Evangelical Protestant ended up, unforuantly, the way the vast majority of XJWs do... atheists.

 

One thing that I personally related to that the author spoke of is being really turned off by the sexism she experinced being taught in the Calvary Chapel that she was involved with during the Jesus Movement. This is somrthing that Evangelical Protestant Christian Hippies will not ever admit..even to this day. I myself was really turned off by the sexism I witnessed in JW. However..unlike the author of this book I did not turn atheist or agnostice. I don't blaim God or Christ..for the way MEN have chosen to interpreate Scriptures....As the author John Temple Bristow points out in his book, "What Paul Really Said about Women," 3 women by name DID serve as equal elders ALONG side Paul...why JW's, Southern Baptists, Calvary Chapel and the like choose to ignore this fact..I find highly questionable and unforuant.

 

CONCLUSION

 

On the positive It was good that pastor Chuck Smith devolped this whole contemporary and seeker-sensitive approuch to church by welcoming the hippie culture and allowing their jeans, t-shirts, bare feet and the whole creation of Christian Rock. It was equally great even before all this that some Christian in the San Fran Bay area opened the first ever coffee shop called The Living Room, in 1967and that by doing all this...brought many of the youth counter culture to God and Christ. This was all the good parts of the Jesus Movement of the 60's and early 70's.

 

However, on the negative...Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, as pointed out in this article, forbids women from serving as elders ( pastors) in the church, promoting and fostering sexism in the church which surely goes against the whole Cilvil Rights marches of the 60's. In doing this they join the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention, instead of following the positive lead as such moderate Protestant churches such as United Methodists.

 

This whole One Way slogen breeds an apperance of egocentricism. In this the whole concept of One Way=His Way aka Jesus' Way..comes off as "MY Way Or The Highway!" And perhaps this is where this whole falirure of Un-conditional love promise (Agape) comes into play.

 

The Seeking of "Mind Altering" Experinces

 

Finally, through out this article, as well as in the Lonni Frisbee doc movie, again and again hippies who were heavy drug users seem to be attracted to highly chrasimatic religions, seeking "Mind-altering" experiences. It is this wanting to "alter" one's mind that causes hippies to get into trouble with drugs to begin with. In Previous drug flip outs, the person expeinces "mind altering" mystical experinces. Now, the person, after becoming a Christian seeks to re-visit such experinces? But now considers it a "religious experience"? Is the goal of being a Christian or spiritual seeker to sharpen your underings of things..or "alter" your mind's preception? Are NOT these very two things in conflict with each other?

 

How can you sharpen your perception and alter it all at the same time?

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So were you around during this first Jesus People movement in the 60's and early 70's? And when you said you didn't understand parts of it..did you mean the emotional flip out experinces? There is a the next generation of the Far Right Jesus Movement going on right now..And if you all would like I could post here about it too.

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So were you around during this first Jesus People movement in the 60's and early 70's? And when you said you didn't understand parts of it..did you mean the emotional flip out experinces? There is a the next generation of the Far Right Jesus Movement going on right now..And if you all would like I could post here about it too.

 

 

No. I was born in '69. But I had the Pentecostal, leaving the church experience. I had problems understanding sometimes who the author was. I was waiting for the ending of the first story from a female. And then was in the 2nd story from a male. (I think) Keep in mind I was reading it when I couldn't sleep. I'll have to read through it again. It may make more sense the 2nd time around.

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I was born in 69 too. :) I did NOT come a chrasmatic background. I came from JW..but DID relate to sexism bit. The story of the gal actually comes from the book, Leaving The Fold. The guy's story came from Rick Ross.com. I'll see if I can find his web site and post it here.:)

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