Tuesday, March 8, 2011

All Else Aside...I had to Be There



All Else Aside...I had to Be There

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorI'll make this short but straightforward.  I speak ONLY for myself and yes, I have many regrets.  

However....
...in my heart of hearts, I know that I had to be there. 

 I was 14 years old when I heard my first sermon.  It was in Idaho and it was about the universe and "God."  I had been reading the booklets all week having just been introduced to the Church my older sister and brother-in-law had become convinced was close to whatever the Bible was trying to tell us.  I was hooked.  No one EVER gave a sermon on the Universe in our Presbyterian background.  I can't remember one sermon from my youth in the Presbyterian Church.  But this one I never forgot.  

I devoured the Plain Truth Magazine and all the booklets I could get my hands on.  It was the 60's.  Hell, the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket.  JFK had just been killed.  MLK and Bobby were next.  There were about to be Two major Middle Eastern wars endeavoring to wipe Israel off the map.  (Update 2011...Go ahead, be my guest now.  Wipe it off the face of the earth).  I simply had to be where this church was. 
For the next four years through High School, I read all I could.  I talked to my girl friend who I was sure I'd marry someday.  Hmmm, not going over so well there.  Oh well, perhaps God was not calling her.  (Update 2011...Lucky girl)   I applied to two seminaries after High School.  One was Roberts Weslyan which was Methodist and the other was Ambassador College.  (Update 2011...I honestly thought it was a seminary according to what I saw in the perspectus).   I chose...well you know.

Loved AC.  Too stupid to know I was not getting the whole story.  I used to go down to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena to study.  They had a much better library.  Never crossed my mind to transfer there because, well...they just weren't called like I was.   Made lots of friends at AC.  Most are now players in "Days of our Lives...The Wildworld Church of God and It's Many Faces."  (Update 2011...Thank you God for not letting me keep following your true Church all over creation the last 20 years.)   

But...I had to be there right up until the moment I realized I no longer could. 
I made my choices over the years of turmoil and scandal.  Ok, people are weak but so was David and of course....DAVID WAS A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, so see, it all works out.  While embarrassing and that niggly little voice was telling me get out during the receivership era, well...Satan really hated God's Church so of course stuff like this is going to happen.  Besides, it is cleansing and we will be better than ever.  I called once a week to hear recordings by "God's leading evangelist updates on the situation, and we were winning!!!  (Update 2011...you know, like Charlie Sheen is "winning...duh! )

So I had to be there and NOTHING you could have done would have talked me out of it, until I talked myself out of it and even then, had to be pushed.  I hated letting the local church down but when push came to shove, they all disappeared like I had the plague anyway.  Big wake up there!

Somewhere along the way, I'd say around '94 or '95, I started to crack.  I read outside the WCG box and devoured John Shelby Spong's book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.  

 
Hmmmm....this guy just answered almost every question I had about what never made sense about the Gospels.  I loved his books and his honesty.  I wrote JSS and told him how much I appreciate his perspectives and how helpful they were to me and in answering questions I had wondered about over the years that my Church never addressed.  Actually they didn't know there were questions to ask.  JSS wrote back personally...
 
"Thank you very much Dennis for your kind words and I am pleased I have been able to help.  I'm glad you appreciate my work...however...

...you won't survive.
Warm regards
John Shelby Spong"

Wow...the man was not only a Bishop, but also a Prophet.   I continued on reading JSS's works on the Birth and Death stories of Jesus.  Craaaacccck.....I wove wonderful things in to my sermons for a time. I read all of Raymond Brown's books on the Birth and Death of the Messiah.  Big books, long books, deeply thought out books....and I wove them into my sermons for a time.  I was asked to teach at the local Catholic Church Bible studies on the topic of Jesus Birth Narratives.  Raymond Brown was a great RCC scholar and well respected.  The Priest and I had become friends having met at the Annual AIDS something or other and it was there I actually was able to make a contact for my local WCG to meet that was much nicer.  It was an actual church building and very nice.  Of course, I was teaching in the RCC study what I dare not ever teach to my own congregation.  They even paid me!!!  

The Priest and I got along so well with our biblical interests that he asked me to do the marriages the RCC would not do.  I was kinda like a bastard well hidden priest doing for the congregation what the real Priest could not do for them.  Ccccrrrrraaaackkkk.  I was learning there was so much more in the world of theology than what I had been told.  Of course, I prayed my own congregation did not ask me much about it although a few did come and loved the studies on the Birth Narratives of Jesus.  

I still had to be there.  I think WCG was falling apart out in Pasadena, but my denial was keeping me in and hoping the church would just grow up. Maybe I could help it do so.
But it got bad.  In 1996 I did win that's years essay contest in Biblical Archaeology Magazine on "we have the money to send you to any dig in Israel...why should we send you?"  Long story short, out of all the people in the world that year, I won.  I spent over three weeks at BAR's expense digging in Har Megiddo  (The Valley of Megiddo)  I was in ho..., cow heaven.   I came home and shortly after that I was terminated.  

I wonder at what point I would have made my own decision to leave.  Everything was coming unglued.  Transitions are messy and I was no exception to that truth.  Everything suffers.  New perspectives replace old ones and those who used to inspire no longer can or do.  

But up to that point.  I had to be there until I didn't.  No one made me stay and once the damn broke in my mind, then and only then could I leave.  

My last Festival Sermon was on "The Politics of the New Testament."  You know, the who was the Apostle Paul really?  Why does he call Peter James and John "reputed pillars" and then add, "I learned nothing from them..." etc.  What was going on?  Who was on whose side and did they all really speak the same thing?  I loved giving that sermon. I had a ball. We laughed (passive aggressive humor is my style and yes I was serious even if it was funny) and when it was all said and done, 8000 kind folk applauded on and on when it was FORBIDDEN  :)   It was worse than running with scissors.

That Spring, it was over.  Lots of things were over.  

But I had to be there, until I no longer could be.  I made my choices. No one made me stay too long.  I had a wonderful mix of denial and hope for a time and denial bit me in the ass finally.  Denial still does that to me at times even now.  

But for all that time, I had to be there until I no longer could be.  I accept responsibility for my choices, staying longer than some or even most and not wanting to "take our local church Dennis and let's just be our own selves."  Uh..no.  I told those guys that they'd have me for lunch within six months and I had a life to get back in order.  Still working on that...

But I had to be there until I no longer could and I accept responsibility for all my choices that have brought me to where I am today.  

Where am I?  :)  I have no idea, but I am NOT stuck in the never ending story of WCG/UCG/PCG/RCG/ and all the other COG's and men who have never yet read Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism and to this day, have no idea they do not yet understand the Book well enough to teach the truth about it. 

30 comments:

Michael D. Maynard said...

Amen Dennis!

I get you now....we are on the same journey after all. The Politics of Paul and the other Apostles part...not so much. I see no division between their doctrine of Christ verses Judaism. They were just, "growing in the grace and knowledge" at different rates, like you and I (maybe).

Keep it up...I really get your humor.

Michael Maynard
TTDOCF

Anonymous said...

Dennis-

Can A Bishop Be Wrong?
Peter C. Moore
Amazon

Virgil said...

Spong leaves us with a God who cannot save because he has no control of nature or history. He offers us a dead Messiah who only ‘lives’ because of the wishful thinking of his first disciples.

Easy is the descent to hell.

Anonymous said...

Virgil. When was there ever control over history or nature by any deity. And if so, how mean of them. And if history and nature is "controlled" by a deity then what's the point? If a Deity is controlling the show like we would a video game, then we must simply be entertainment for such a Deity.

I like Churchill's definition of history. "History is one damn thing after another."

What Spong left me with was not all his views on God and religion but an understanding that the Gospels and New Testament were not written in the way, by the people or without error and contradictions as we may have been taught.

The Bible is the only book where one sees a contradiction or error and then the mind says, "na...must be me."

Besides he simply set me on a path of seeing that many theologians understand and can show the open minded just how, why and by whom the book was put together.

My journey out of fundamentalism is not based on Spong. It was ignited by him
Dennis

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thanks for fixing the format NO2HWA. Den

NO2HWA said...

D:

Blogger/Firefox does something weird with the formatting when I copy and past your articles. It all looks great till I publish it then all the spacing disappears. If I go back in and double space the paragraphs, it all works. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I can empathize with your knowing WCG brass lied to you. They lied to those of us who stayed and helped them up until they sold the property too.

Schnippert stood up in an employee meeting and told us that we would get our severance packages doubled for 'sticking by them to the end'. For helping them to get through the dissolution of the church and property we would be compensated.

Being the dumb f@*%s we were, we sat there and believed him. The Church was going to take care of us.

It was just the start of numerous broken promises and blatant lies.

When it came to for them to lay us off they found every way imaginable to cut back on the severance. No matter if you were working 40 hours a week when you were hired (still classed as a student) they claimed you were not a full time employee and refused to grant you those months.

Bonuses and raises were constantly trumpeted out to us just as soon as they sold Big Sandy, Orr, Camp River Glenn, Lake Tahoe cabin, the 747, etc. Never happened and yet we continued to stick by because we thought were were doing "god's" work.

We all heard the line when we were terminated, "we will pray for you," too. If they were praying for us wouldn't you think that they would want to maintain contact with you after you had been laid off just to see how you were doing? Nope. Not a call, not a card, not an email, nada!

Now all of those left in Glendora have guaranteed retirement, receive bonuses and pay raises. Life is good.

Virgil said...

According to Spong:

There are no absolutes. This is self-refuting, as that statement is itself absolute.

Miracles don’t happen. Spong hasn’t proved this — he just can’t stomach the idea of a ‘manipulative’ being intervening in history, or the Biblical God’s social agenda.

Spong gives no explanation for his denial of the supernatural other than conceptual decree and an appeal to common prejudice. In other words, God doesn’t intervene in history because Spong hasn’t seen it happen, Spong says it doesn’t happen, and we all know it can’t happen.

Spong never tells us why belief in the Virgin Birth or belief in Creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing, i.e. no pre-existing matter) entails a lack of scholarship. The statements of the two bishops quoted disparagingly by Spong in Born of a Woman are perfectly logical—if God is almighty and can create ex nihilo, then arranging for a virgin to bear a child would be easy (i.e. ‘a snap’). To declare carte blanche that these things certainly did not happen, just because one believes they cannot, is hardly consistent with a scientific approach.

However, the disparaging reference to the intervening God of history suggests a further dimension to Spong’s world-view and beliefs. In his books, reasoned argumentation has been replaced by special pleading and sweeping assertions characteristic of the caricatures of fundamentalists Spong himself attacks. Spong approaches the Bible with his own politically correct spectacles. This leads him to impose his political and social stereotypes upon the Bible with a crude dogmatism devoid of scholarly insight. To add weight to this cause, Spong desperately tries to dress up his claims as scientific and scholarly.

Anonymous said...

John Spong introduced me to the FACT that the Gospel accounts, when taken literally, are incoherent, errant and contradictory. He makes the same case about the birth and death accounts that countless others make.

They are taleweaving and not eyewitness accounts. The authors listed are not the authors who wrote them.

When one considers that Matthew is 94% Mark and Luke 54%, it can hardly be said these are three or four different accounts are of the same event. They are copying, editing and upgrading that which is embarassing accounts.

If you don't like Spong, switch to Raymond Brown. He explains these problems in even more detail.

Anonymous said...

Of the 7 things the Lord hates, a lying tongue ranks first.

So why isn't fire & brimstone raining down on the leaders of the WCG and all its offshoots?

Anonymous said...

"So why isn't fire & brimstone raining down on the leaders of the WCG and all its offshoots?"

Perhaps because there is no "Lord" to get angry or one willing to intervene in human time and space to mean what he is aledged to have said....

Baywolfe said...

Anon #4,

Yes, Matthew, Luke and John were all written based, at least in part, on Mark. Mark dates back further having derived from the infamous "Q book".

As you said, all are taleweaving, using a form of writing common for the era, writing in the name of a famous Patriarch to make your point. It would be like writing a US History book with chapters names like George, Thomas, Abraham, Franklin, and John.

Dennis,

Thanks for the change in camera angle to see things from your perspective as a young man. How many of us might have gone down your path had we been snared as teenagers?

Anonymous said...

"Miracles don’t happen. Spong hasn’t proved this — "

"In other words, God doesn’t intervene in history because Spong hasn’t seen it happen..."


Virgil, do you believe in leprechauns?

Paul Ray

Virgil said...

Dennis,

Raymond Brown doesn't go for the literal historicity of every detail in scripture, but he never denies, and in fact often defends, the underlying historicity of the essential events narrated.

Virgil said...

Paul,
In the case of leprechauns, we are talking about figures from Irish folklore who are characterized by their size and style of dress, and their supposed penchant for mending shoes, storing coins in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and generally making mischief. Just describing them is the first step in intuitively realizing that they don’t really exist. God, on the other hand, is not a thing within creation. He is that Being, outside of and apart from this universe, from which all things derived; that Being a greater than which cannot possibly be conceived. He is the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the incomprehensibly intelligent and powerful source of all that exists.

Placing this image before our mind, we see that this conception of God is based not on fairy tale or folklore mythology but on reason. Something must be there to explain what is here, to account for intelligence and consciousness, to make sense of the design inherent in nature, the laws that govern it, and the existence of morality and beauty. Even if all religious knowledge were suddenly erased, rational men and women would quickly grasp that such a Being is real - that He must exist.

To prove atheism, a person must do more than ignore all the evidence of design in the universe. He must do more than reject the testimony of those who witnessed Christ’s life, death and resurrection. He must be able to examine the entire universe, and everything that exists beyond the universe. In short, he must become omniscient, for only then could he know, with the certainty atheism claims, that there is no God.

Anonymous said...

"In the case of leprechauns, we are talking about figures from Irish folklore..."

As opposed to Hebrew folklore. Or Arab folklore. Or Roman folklore. Or Greek folklore.

"Just describing them is the first step in intuitively realizing that they don’t really exist."

As opposed to a deity with magical powers?

"God, on the other hand, is not a thing within creation. He is that Being, outside of and apart from this universe, from which all things derived; that Being a greater than which cannot possibly be conceived. He is the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the incomprehensibly intelligent and powerful source of all that exists."

And this theo-babble is based on what evidence? This is no different than claiming that Allah exists based on the same criteria. Or Zeus. You are fabricating attributes (or culling them from Hebrew folklore) of your deity and then using those same attributes to claim the existence of your deity. This is no different than claiming that my purple unicorn is real, and not subject to the same criticism that leprechauns are, simply because he created everything and I inherently know this, no matter if you accept this truth or not.

"Placing this image before our mind, we see that this conception of God is based not on fairy tale or folklore mythology but on reason."

Conception? Sure. You can make up all sorts of reasonable attributes for your imaginary being all day long. But existence is another matter. Your belief in imaginary beings is not based on reason, it is based on the suspension of reason. Reason, evidence-based logic, these cannot co-exist, hand in hand, with belief in imaginary beings for which you do not have a shred of evidence.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

"Something must be there to explain what is her, to account for intelligence and consciousness, to make sense of the design inherent in nature, the laws that govern it, and the existence of morality and beauty."

Why? Why must, as if it is a law of the universe in its own right, be an explanation? We would all like one, but that there must be one? No. You are simply begging the question, that is all. But even so- this would in no way prove that an imaginary magical creator exists, much less your particular imaginary being.

"Even if all religious knowledge were suddenly erased, rational men and women would quickly grasp that such a Being is real - that He must exist."

No, they wouldn't, and left to themselves, they mostly don't. Rational men and women look to reality, and so far (for I have my eyes open, believe it or not) there is no evidence. Only people who are pre-disposed to believe in imaginary beings, whether through family, society, etc, will come to the conclusion that the answer to existence must be an imaginary magical creator being (ie, Jehovah, Allah, take your pick). If all knowledge of religion or belief vanished from the minds of humans, very few rational minds would "quickly grasp" your worldview. Some may dream it up, creating their own mythology, but it would not be birthed from reason.

"To prove atheism, a person must do more than ignore all the evidence of design in the universe."

There is nothing to "prove" in atheism. As you know, atheism is simply lack of belief in gods- just as you are an aleprechaunist. Do you feel the need to "prove" your aleprechaunism? Of course not. You know they don't exist with about the same certainty that I know that gods don't exist. Oh, and what "design" are you referring to?

"He must do more than reject the testimony of those who witnessed Christ’s life, death and resurrection."

Just as you reject the testimony of Muhammed? Those who witnessed him flying away on a magic horse? And when the testimony comes from an ancient, disreputable text which features talking animals, the testimony is very disreputable in itself. The Koran is no different that the Bible in this.

"He must be able to examine the entire universe, and everything that exists beyond the universe. In short, he must become omniscient, for only then could he know, with the certainty atheism claims, that there is no God."

You have a good point- since we aren't omniscient, we can't know that Allah doesn't exist. Or flying purple unicorns in some far flung galaxy. Or Darth Vader. Therefore, it would be prudent to believe in them, because if you can't prove that they don't exist, then they surely must exist.

And I am certain that god does not exist with the same certainty that flying unicorns don't exist- they very well just might.

Oh, and leprechauns don't exist not because they seem fanciful (like god) and are a product of mythology (like god) but because there is no evidence of their existence (like god).



Paul Ray

Douglas Becker said...

Making it work and Broken promises

I think what happened to all of us is that we have all tried to "make it work" even though we ended up doing exceptional and unnecessary things. We were told to tithe on our gross wages. Most of us tried to do that. Then we were to take a "second tithe" on our gross wages to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and most of us tried to do that. Then, the third year and sixth year of a seven year cycle, we were to pay a "third tithe" and most of us tried to do that -- sometimes with devastating results.

Scripture no where mentions tithing on wages, let alone gross wages before taxes are taken out. There is no such thing as a second and third tithe. In spite of all of that, we believed and we tried to make it work.

It isn't clear whether or not Herbert Armstrong knew any better or just a fool. He lied to us, but it may have been "sincere lies". It should be noted that no matter what the sincerity level might have been, the scales were tipped heavily in his favor because he had his thumb on them. We were lied to. We sincerely tried to make it work.

Herbert Armstrong died. The new administration, as has just been pointed out by another poster, lied to all of us -- but particularly the employees. We all tried to make it work until we started catching on to the fact that we were dealing with a pack of liars.

My conclusion is this: If it's a false prophet, leave. If the ministers and administrators lie to you leave. If the ministers and administrators break a promise, leave.

I think that the baseline here is that for there to be a measure of integrity, there must be honesty. Any lies, deceptions or broken promises... we're finished... we're done.

I would propose that everyone watch very carefully: One broken promise and we've been compromised. One lie, we've been compromised. One false prophecy, we've been compromised. Ignoring reality isn't an option.

In fact, I would go so far as to propose that if you are joining up with anyone, put those in charge in a position of making a promise of some kind up front. It could be something as simple as going to lunch. If they are late, that tells you something. If they don't show up at all, that tells you everything.

Life is too short to continue trying to make things work when the people you are supposed to rely upon have no commitment to keep their promises or pursue the truth.

Virgil said...

Paul,

The God I believe isn't an imaginary leprechaun, isn't folklore, isn't defined by Greek, Roman or other ancient mythologies.

Evidence of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in the books of the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

Dennis wrote: "There were about to be Two major Middle Eastern wars endeavoring to wipe Israel off the map. (Update 2011...Go ahead, be my guest now. Wipe it off the face of the earth)"

Thank the U.N. for this problem. A problem that has caused the world to be engulfed in war within the context of the middle east.

The Jews at least don't strap bombs to their women and children. I hope they survive.

Mike (Don't Drink the Flavor Aid) said...

The tooth fairy is not an imaginary being. Evidence of the tooth fairy was found in the form of the nickel that was under my pillow the next morning to replace the tooth.

Anonymous said...

"The Jews at least don't strap bombs to their women and children. I hope they survive."

I wouldn't think those with nuclear weapons and every other expensive weapon funded mostly by you and me would need to strap bombs on others.

Bomb strapping is a function of the weaker enemy feeling despair and hopelessness.

Of course I don't wish Israel destroyed. I would like to see the specialness go and for American Evangelicals to stop filtering their specialness through the Bible, which they wrote to give themselves a spectacular pedigree that in many ways is just myth.

Baywolfe said...

Evidence of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in the books of the New Testament.

Evidence of the life and passing into the Grey Havens of Frodo Baggins is found in the Chapters of The Lord of the Rings.

To a Critical Thinker, if you give credence to the former, you must give credence to the latter.

Anonymous said...

"I wouldn't think those with nuclear weapons and every other expensive weapon funded mostly by you and me would need to strap bombs on others. Bomb strapping is a function of the weaker enemy feeling despair and hopelessness."

Politically, I suppose I've moved, since I stopped believing in imaginary beings, to the left on social and foreign policy issues. But for the life of me, I still cannot muster any sympathy for a group of people (who are not being thrown into gas chambers and ovens) who encourage each other to strap bombs on each other and specifically target civilians as a military/political objective. If the Palestinians where subject to genocide, then you'd have a point. But they aren't.

People who criticize the Israelis for enacting some of the same policies that the Nazis laid on their parents and grandparents, is being a bit forgetful of what occurred in Nazi Germany. How many Jews, in response to the first anti-jew edicts in Germany, suddenly begin blowing themselves up at Berlin bus stops? How many bombs where set off in restaurants during Christmas dinner after the Jews had been forced into ghettos? Maybe I'm missing something here. I don't condone what the Israelis are doing, necessarily, but, try as I may, I cannot find any correlations between Nazi Germany and Israel, when taking both situations into context.

Jews faced murderous pogroms for centuries in Europe- it was a way of life. Oy vey, here they come to rape and murder, here, take our money and leave us in peace until next year. Then, the Holocaust when the eradication of the entire race was put into plan. It was then that the Jews realized that other people, nations, etc, literally wanted them put down as a race. What would be your reaction? I would do the same. The Israelis have acted, over the years, with extreme patience given what happened in the early 20th century in Europe.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

"Evidence of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in the books of the New Testament."

Evidence of Allah is found within the Koran. Change your heathen ways and convert to the true faith.


Paul Ray

Virgil said...

Evidence of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found in the books of the New Testament.

Evidence of the life and passing into the Grey Havens of Frodo Baggins is found in the Chapters of The Lord of the Rings.

To a Critical Thinker, if you give credence to the former, you must give credence to the latter.
.......
J.R.R. Tolkien himself would strongly disagree with your giving his allegorical fiction the same credence as the Bible.

Tolkien's devout Catholic faith was a significant factor in the conversion of C. S. Lewis from atheism to Christianity.

Virgil said...

Paul,

Be rational.

Compare the Bible with the Koran.

Compare the life of Jesus Christ with the life of Mohammed.

Or, is your enormous Brain your god?

Anonymous said...

"J.R.R. Tolkien himself would strongly disagree with your giving his allegorical fiction the same credence as the Bible."

Which a moot point, which I suppose is a good substitute as any since you have either missed, or ignored, the main point, being:

You have no way to verify that the events written in the Bible actually happened. From a rational point of view, given the complete lack of evidence, the Bible is merely a story. Like Lord of the Rings. Since you are willing to take the events of the Bible as having actually occurred without a shred of evidence to substantiate them, then why not take literally the events written in The Return of the King? Or the Koran?

It is very hypocritical to claim that out of two seeming fictional accounts, one actually took place, while the other is mere fancy.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

"Be rational. Compare the Bible with the Koran."

I am being rational. Here we have two ancient religious texts full of magic and miracles. Why should I accept either as actually having taken place, much less point to one as truth and the other fiction?

"Compare the life of Jesus Christ with the life of Mohammed."

I may as well compare the life of Frodo Baggins with that of Don Quixote. How would that prove that Frodo existed, and not Don Quixote? How would that prove that Lord of The RIngs actually took place but not Don Quixote? Are you even aware of the problem here? You are pointing to a fictional account of someone who may or may not have even existed, and comparing it another fictional account of someone who actually did exist, in order to prove that the first fictional account actually occurred!

Think about it.


Paul Ray