Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dennis Muses...Sucketh It Up

The Branson 2013 Challenge



I am absolutely the last person any COG would ever pick to write about the Unity of the Faith  and with good reason.  Balancing, if that is a goal in the realities presented by both science done well and religion, the conflict between faith and skepticism is a challenge for me and many to say the least.   "Just have faith" means nothing to me as it seems like what you say when you can't explain something well or simply have no answer for something that obviously is unbelievable.  Believing the unbelievable has become a personal problem. On top of that, the politics of religion and in my own experience, within the Church of God has put me off beyond measure.  I'm probably still stuck in an idealism of childhood.  Someone once thought I did not get much beyond 11 in my reactions and idealistic expectations of oneself and others.  Perhaps they were right.



Christ Church Episcopal-Greenville, SC

Founded 1826

 I'm writing this because I am going to have my first formal church experience in a couple hours. It will be Episcopal and the oldest surviving church building in Greenville.  The reasons for going are varied at this time.  This is only the second time in 15 years I have been inside a church building.  I do like the fact that Christ Church's stain glass, done in 1914 of the Lord's Supper, clearly shows Da Vinci's belief that Mary and Jesus were closer than the Gospel stories would like you to believe.  She plainly sits on his right hand in the picture at Christ Church.  Even the person I was with when I commented on the whole picture suddenly said, "Hey, who is that woman in the picture?"  Lol.  She has gone there since childhood and never noticed until I mentioned how nice the stain glass was. I did not say anything about Mary. 


Da Vinci also made it so that if you placed Mary on Jesus left instead of right, it forms a very endearing couple with robes complimenting each other.  Also , the four groups of three may have had the deeper message of the Four Seasons around the Son of God (Sun) who was Most High in June, but I spare you! 

 I returned to my old Presbyterian Church for mom's memorial service.  It was the same inside as when I played a shepherd in the Christmas play for Sunday School.  The pews were the ones we all sat on decades ago as children when our feet would not touch the floor and our parents were young with all of life ahead.  The woman who brought me down the isle for my baptism to present to my parents, as an infant, and the baptismal still sitting where it did then, was sitting on the front row.  The Sanctuary had not changed one bit but we all had of course. That's the nature of a stable church.  It gives good memories

 So why write to challenge the myriad of Feast of Tabernacles churches and groups that will descend upon Branson, Mo. this year, to reach out and mend broken fences and share common hopes?   Because I know they won't and can't I suppose. Maybe to prove they tend to more competing corporations and marketers than really stable beliefs and congregations. .

 Religion is an organizational thing.   Spirituality is a whole other thing. They are COG "leaders" and leaders don't wish to give up their autonomy for the general good it seems. It threatens loss of members to others.  No Dave Pack is going to shake hands with a Vic Kubik of course, but maybe Vic Kubik could shake hands with one or two or three of the more balanced and open minded leaders of other groups. Or at least try   I suspect those under a Rod Meredith type might really wish to shake the hand and share a common service at Branson with someone they know but they don't have the power to make such a decision. Of course there are the zealots in each who would howl to the heavens.  Rod would require them to come to him and the idea of "come let us reason together" is totally lost on that generation of COG leaders.  Anyone outside of them is of the "marked" and "disfellowshipped' or as Vic Kubik taught me when I was 22, "dis-membered" crowd.  We don't talk to them. 

In reality, of course, none are bad folk or fallen away from their hopes and understanding of what the Bible says to them.  They just ran afoul of closed minded, limited view and authoritarian Bible readers of this or that persuasion.   Gone are the days of feeling bad about being put out of the one true church.  Now you can just slide over to another true church and feel right at home.  It was my first thought when the Tkaches reinvented the wheel of my Presbyterian past.  "Well if this is so, then screw driving thousands of miles a year to church.  Down the street works just fine and no you can't have anymore of my resources."  Seemed a no brainer to me.

 Anyway...  May I suggest if not arranging to share a service together, how about a hymn sing before or after one?   I know...that could be emotional and someone would lose members to the other who would gain them depending on the mood. I suspect there will be a lot of festival sermon and church hoping in Branson anyway.  A day here, a service there and meals out with the "enemy" are probably going to be common place. The kids with friends in "the splinters" in Branson will find each other and talk about how stupid church is and this idea of same hopes and views, practices and even hymns but turf wars galore. It will cause them to shun the whole thing first chance they get. Just because they aren't talking to mom and dad about it does not mean they do not observe such stupidities among themselves and their peers.  I know I would if I was a COG kid in Branson this year.  I also know I would not care who my kids talked with in Branson were that the case.  I found it more healthy to send them the message in life that they got to make their own beliefs and truths decisions just as I did and do .  Of course you have to live with them and sometimes recover from them.

 So...We all know now that after 3 requests for Dave Pack to come out from behind the walls of the Restored Castle of God and down from the mountain, to talk theology and the Bible , he won't, but how about a challenge for even just two different but the same Churches of God in Branson to share a common service at least once?   We need two real Church of God leaders to suck it up and show some class.  We need someone , somewhere to prove it's not just about getting and keeping members, collecting money and increasing  the numbers. 


First Presbyterian Church :: Noisy Offering


Religion is what others stuff into your head.  Where to be, when to show up, what to believe and how much give.  Spirituality is an inside job and while each may have a different perspective on the whole thing, spiritual people don't sweat the details and they don't major in the minors as we see so pathetically done by, say, a James Malm type of Church of God cast off. 



Besides...If any Branson Feast Churches of God, even just two, answer the challenge, it will drive the Apostle Joshua C. Packstrong nuts.

 Well...off to Church.  If they sing the "wrong" hymn and memories of a kinder and more gentle time in religion come flowing back...I'm toast for a time before the skepticism returns.

19 comments:

Douglas Becker said...

Have you ever considered that these are cults we are talking about? Maybe not quite as dangerous as the Fundamentalist Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints but still dangerous enough: There have been murders, stalking, child rape, assaults, suicides (and we're talking about ministers here, let alone the members) and all sorts of other terrible cult activities not often found in such a church as you are visiting again today. We're talking extremes -- the extremes of David Pack, James Russell (who claims that all the other ACoGs will be bowing down to them as Gods in the millennium because the other ACoGs don't keep the holydays on the right days), Gerald Flurry (I know, the six pack prophet won't be in Branson this year), Roderick Meredith (false prophet for half a century).

Now it's possible that they might be all genteel and all, sort of like a meeting with Dixon Carwright, but you know, as unlikely as it is, it is possible that there could be a blood bath being that the leaders all seem to have inherited the Warrior Gene. Their "Hardwired Behavior" is not to be trifled with and suggesting that they get together is just asking for trouble.

And what if a couple of them actually did get the "urge to merge"? Suppose Rodan and Mothra (or even worse, Godzilla) decide to join forces? Could they energize to bring back the advertising power of Herbert Armstrong? What if they went on a binge and gathered millions of people to their cause? What then?

You are just playing with fire!

[And if you can't distinguish between serious commenting and sarcastic ironic satire, I can't help you.]

Anonymous said...

My hair is as long as Jesus' in those wall framed pictures. Somehow...I just can't get my tinfoil hat to stay on. What would Jesus do?

DennisCDiehl said...

I was drifting above the fray for a bit not interested in what they believed differently but what they believed in common. It's the same problem one encounters with all the various Baptists churches around here that have virtually no room between them on beliefs,save for the classic shoulds and should nots of clothing, musical and entertainment tastes. They won't darken each others doors either and they play musical members all the time.

One puts in a gym for B-ball and there goes a few more from one to the other. Have a contemporary service for those types, which Baptists are not wont to ever do, and there goes another few who like that.

Across the street you have those who dress like it's 1886 and look the part as well as speak it. They are the true ones for sure...just look at them.

Just got in from the Episcopal service. 90% every week ritual and readings according to the liturgy requirements. Lexicon has the minister boxed in to the chosen topic and about 20 minutes to cover it. It was good actually. Very too loud organ music that drown out the singing and I only got teary once when they hit the doxology that I had not heard in years.

Mostly older folk with very few younger families and virtually no children. CCE has 5 services a day and something for everyone so they go to the more contemporary services evidently.

This is a highly stable group for sure. I sat behind the Mayor of Greenville. My sense is that few of the members actually know that much about what's in the Bible save for hearing it read every week and I didn't feel all that comfy knowing what I feel I know personally. But that's to be expected. It felt like my Presbyterian upbringing and for a few moments as if I had never heard of WCG and not been a pastor.
Kinda weird.

The man behind me was not happy I was sitting next to the person next to me and I was cautious about the common book of prayer hitting me in the back of the head. Escaped unscathed.

Most of the hymns had me baffled as having never heard them before ever. I never saw so many people, hundreds, arrive so fast the last ten minutes before services began lol.

Peace be with me...and with you.

Joe Moeller said...

Dennis:

Two things contribute to church division more than any other IMHO...

1) The control of money, thus having membership viewed as cash flow source and not to be "stolen" by another group.

2) Non Elected autocratic leadership, which ALWAYS ends up with a Jealous leader who cannot have any attention diverted from himself.

There are other more minor points, but these are the two major legs fighting against cooperation and fellowship.

Your Friend,
Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Byker Bob said...

Dennis,

I know from personal experience what a gut wrencher going back into a church environment can be, considering mutual past experience, and the years which have passed.

When I attempted to attend Catholic services with my second wife, it somehow didn't resonate. For one thing, I just was not ready in 1977 for another church experience. All the ritual, and the sheer gothicness of it all just didn't seem right. Our minds have been pretty much poisoned about the Catholics, too. Much to my in-laws' chagrin, I ended up telling my wife that our son would get to make up his own mind about church when he reached maturity. And I continued my then journey as an agnostic/atheist/free-spirit.

It's very doubtful that any of us could totally buy into a narrow set of doctrines, or to fully endorse a particular church or denomination. Basically, I now look to my own studies for beliefs, and to church as being a source of uplift. I adhere to a code of basic Christian ethics based on the teachings of Jesus. Of course, this is something that I claimed to do as a non-believer, as well, but there were some areas in which I sorely needed transformation.

As an agnostic, I allowed myself the luxury of administering paybacks. I was actually proud of it. I also would occasionally "con" people to get my way, and was fairly good at it. And, normal conversation for me often bordered on the filthy and prurient, unless I was trying to make a good impression. Those things were narcissistic, and they hurt people. I've come to realize that many of the people who passed through the WCG, even some who ended up as atheists, did not share those severe character flaws of mine. It is good to have received transformation in those areas, and there didn't seem to be any catalysts towards those transformations while I was a nonbeliever. In fact, I'm looking forward to even more transformation!

The problem becomes balance. Those of us who would like to align ourselves with good need as a support group people and organizations that actually follow a program of good. These are at their best when they are an inspiration, and an example. Not an intrusive police force. The nice thing is that there actually are churches out there that lead by example, and don't have a police force. Obviously, the dress code people you noticed across the street wouldn't speak to most of our souls, regardless of their doctrinal approach, because we have learned that legalism does not constitute a spiritual experience.

The Episcopal church you attended may bring some good into your life, or not. The important thing is that, this morning, you stepped out of the box, and went on an adventure. You were secure enough to open a door, knowing that if you want, or need to, you have the right, the power, and the control to close it. You also have the power to sample or not sample some of the things behind the door. It's not about a binary all or nothing process.

I for one appreciate your sharing. Keep sharing, and have a safe and enjoyable journey!

BB



Retired Prof said...

The only Episcopal service I ever attended was a funeral for a co-worker and friend. To me it was completely unsatisfactory. Whole thing came from the Book of Common Prayer; nary an admiring word about my friend's excellent qualities, nor affectionate acknowledgement of his quirks--just his name inserted where the blanks in the text left room for it. All abstraction, no concrete detail.

Anonymous said...

I propose that all the groups get together one day in the middle of the feast at a mutualy agreed upon location for a church service and take up an offering that will be given to a mutualy agreed upon charity.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, hope you found your church experience today enjoyable.

Since leaving the WCG, I used "typical" Christianity as a stepping stone to my present agnosticism.

It's never really been hard for me to go to the variety of churches I've attended after leaving the WCG.
"Boring" has probably been my worst complaint (but some weren't boring), and I've met many nice people (although there's been inevitable occasional jerk), and some churches have been a splendor of architecture and ornateness to behold.

Every so often I still attend a service when invited, and I find it easy and no big deal. When there's food I tend to like it better, lol!

Allen C. Dexter said...

I went to a funeral for a neighbor at a Methodist church in Phoenix a few years back. High falutin' abstract nonsense meant to pass for being profound was all I heard. I can't remember a single point because there were no real points as far as I could ascertain.

We went to another Meethodist church service in Montana when we visited my wife's sister a few years back, just to be nice to them. Same basic experience. I call modern methodism "christianity light." I have no desire nor intent to go to any more churches of an brand anywhere. It's boring and a waste of good time.

Anonymous said...

Allen, you found the Methodist sermon nonsense? I would often times ask myself, when leaving a Methodist church, "What was his point?" What the hell was he talking about. And many of the pastors all seem to have been trained the same way. Just string together phrases that sound spiritual, top it off with Bible verse, which oftentimes doesn't fit the message, and presto, you have a sermon. Boring? Waste of time? Sure. How else can you explain the drop in membership in the mainstream churches since the mid 60's? I gave it all up and now meet in my home with a group of believers. We study the Bible together, eat, support an orphanage in Tanzania. Sounds more like the early church than the "ONE TRUE CHURCH."

Anonymous said...

Was the WCG less dangerous than other cults? Jim Jones led nearly 1,000 people to their deaths in the jungles of Guyana. How many people died in the WCG because they were taught that they shouldn't seek medical treatment? Have any of these groups apologized for their stupidity and the suffering they caused?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis,
I'm glad you posted this. I was raised in WCG and my family still attends UCG. I've really struggled with my faith (or lack thereof) after realizing that Armstrong theology is complete nonsense. After several years, I decided to try an Episcopal/Anglican church. It was different, but I valued the stability of a liturgical church and simplicity of the message. There also seems to be a nonjudgemental feeling about the congregation too. I know that a church like that doesn't work for everybody though. My UCG family and friends think I'm a pagan but I have to laugh; at least I don't think I'm of the tribe of Manasseh. I wish you the best on your journey...and the "Lord be with you" :)

Anonymous said...

Retired Prof: The Episcopal funeral service is short and impersonal by design. I think a key to understanding this service is in the statement: "All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia." (BCP, p. 499)

The service is not about the deceased, it is about God and our proper relationship to him. It comes from a time before the widespread use of embalming when there was an urgency to bury the body before decay set in, even if many of the family and friends had not had time to gather.

The reminiscences that you refer to should be made at a wake or other memorial service which can be scheduled for the convenience of family and friends. I strongly recommend such a practice.

DennisCDiehl said...

Thanks all. It was an interesting experience and I did attend at the request of a blind date that does not seem to end.

It was a bit too predictable to me and seems to be the same every week with the liturgy. Only the homily changes and the Rector seems pretty bound to the topic with little wiggle room. My impression was that there are many areas the Rector won't be covering ever and that the average member knows little or nothing about the scriptures save for that which is read to to them over the course of three years.

I sat behind the mayor of Greenville and it is a very high end crowd. The school campus is awesome with 1000 students. My "date" was is retired from teaching science at the Episcopal High school.

I did not participate but was respectful. When the Priest held up the large wafer for Eucharist, all I saw was the SUN. lol. But then the stained glass Christ with a huge sun burst and rays around his head put me in mind of solar theology as well.

I guess I'm a tough audience. All I ever wanted to know as a kid and now is what is true and what is not. That can be a tough journey with a high price.

I never saw hundreds of people fill a space so quickly the last 5 minutes before church! lol. They have that down to a science.

DennisCDiehl said...

Thanks all. It was an interesting experience and I did attend at the request of a blind date that does not seem to end.

It was a bit too predictable to me and seems to be the same every week with the liturgy. Only the homily changes and the Rector seems pretty bound to the topic with little wiggle room. My impression was that there are many areas the Rector won't be covering ever and that the average member knows little or nothing about the scriptures save for that which is read to to them over the course of three years.

I sat behind the mayor of Greenville and it is a very high end crowd. The school campus is awesome with 1000 students. My "date" was is retired from teaching science at the Episcopal High school.

I did not participate but was respectful. When the Priest held up the large wafer for Eucharist, all I saw was the SUN. lol. But then the stained glass Christ with a huge sun burst and rays around his head put me in mind of solar theology as well.

I guess I'm a tough audience. All I ever wanted to know as a kid and now is what is true and what is not. That can be a tough journey with a high price.

I never saw hundreds of people fill a space so quickly the last 5 minutes before church! lol. They have that down to a science.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the airlines can learn something about loading and unloading passengers from the churches. Perhaps if, upon landing, it was announced that a David Pack video will be shown as the passengers depart the plane, the plane would empty out in seconds, some even leaving their luggage behind.

Anonymous said...

"My impression was that there are many areas the Rector won't be covering ever..."

So, this church was some kind of nudist colony?
;-)

Byker Bob said...

Response to and agreement with Anonymous 4:40:

Some cult leaders are like Charlie Manson, in that most people would be repelled by them. In Manson's case, he had a basic core of loyalists who would lie down in the middle of the street and die for him if called upon. But, he is known to have cleared out the Whisky a GoGo in less than five minutes by his weird dancing. His very repulsiveness is apparently what attracted his loyalists. There is certainly a lesson in that, somewhere.

BB

Anonymous said...

There are several different churches and ministries meeting together in Panama City Beach, FL

http://www.commonfaithnetwork.com