Oh Hives and Flocks
(God's Church Part II)
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought . My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasa”; still another, “I follow Christ.”I Corinthians 1:10-12
I believe we all know how terribly unrealistic this view of group think is. Christianity is nothing but splits, schisms, slivers, twigs and division. Churches, especially the COGs, tend to add to themselves by subtracting others from each others fellowship and multiply themselves by dividing others. Chloe in the text was a tattle perhaps for self gain and it obvious no one got along with anyone. What Paul seems to mean here, as do all COG ministers is that Paul would simply prefer you followed him and that the others would get their act together and recognize that he is the group think leader.
In looking through The Journal, I find the adverts to be the most interesting. Simply put they seem to say, "Look at me." One writes pages and pages of just how true his true church is. Red letters mark the points you are not supposed to miss. It is a plea to "all speak the same thing," and follow me as I know what those same things are better than others.
All the COGs believe they are THE COG.
In the history of the Church there never was one true one. My last FOT sermon in Myrtle was my high water mark in sermons to me. It was on "The Politics of the New Testament," showing just this truth. John sends his followers the message to ignore Peter as you would Judas. Judas betrayed....Peter denied...same thing. Don't follow him. (Of course other Gospels say "they all fled.) John portrays Peter as a buffoon and sandwiches his comments about Peter six times between cracks about Judas. The audience was supposed to understand.
Luke and Paul in acts stab Peter again in the story of Ananias and Sapphira where Peter strikes down a couple who said they'd do one thing, and did another where we all know Peter did the same thing. We may miss the point of the story, but I guarantee you the original audience did not. "Don't follow Peter."
James (probably not really THE James) writes James, in the opinion of many, to counter Paul's claims about law in Romans. Paul writes Galatians and makes it very clear he doesn't care at all about Peter, James or John and learned nothing from them. They are "Pillars so called." to Paul but Jesus or rather Paul's cosmic Christ gave him the Pauline Gospel and cursed be anyone that teaches otherwise.
On top of this, Paul claims, like Jesus and Jeremiah, he also was actually called from the womb. He knows nothing of Luke's cute story in Acts about his Damascus Road enlightenment.
We see this kind of posturing today in ALL the COG one man shows. All follow the true Jesus, or rather Christ. All understand just how law is to be kept and administered or avoided and how one soaks in Grace and understands the concept of three in one and yet not end up with three. No matter how small and insignificant their group, hive or fold, the leadership believes with all it's heart they are the boiled down remnant of the one True Church.
There never was one True Church and the divisions, opinions, ideas, practices and just who is in charge started before the body of Jesus cooled. I'm wondering if the Pope has recently allowed himself to read his own Catholic Scholar Raymond Brown on the Birth of the Messiah. Just before Xmas seems appropriate. Seems he now admits the Church has missed Jesus birth dates by a few. Hope he reads Dr. Brown's, Death of the Messiah before Easter.
The Author of Ephesians 5 says:
"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is ONE body and ONE Spirit—just as you were called to ONE hope when you were called— ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism; ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
The "Unity" and "One" of these verses are truly embarrassments to the COGs and all Churches really. It has never happened and it never will. Of course, what "Paul" here (most don't think Paul wrote Ephesians as it is too advanced in church issues to be written so early.) is saying is "follow the one of me-- the author of this book."
For the Restored Church of God, The Philadelphia Church of God, The Living Church of God, The United (ahem) Church of God, The Better United Church of God or any other Church on the planet to believe it is the ONLY Church of God, the TRUE, the FAITHFUL, The OBEDIENT, The OVERARCHING or the anything you can think up Church of God, to believe they are the ONLY Church of God is simply misguided, wishful and extremely ignorant Church of God hive and sheep fold thinking.
Many sincere people quest for the true Church. They reason that somewhere out there is the one group that knows. The group that matches the words to "Onward Christians Soldiers," or "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus," meaning the true one, not the wimpy one.
If they can just find the right match, fit God's Puzzle together just right, crack the code or find the defining traits of the one true church, they win. Somewhere there is organized a group that is the true group. When they meet the minister/ministers, they will be the true ones and will know the one true truths, behaviors and views on everything. They will run the Hive and Fold well and always speak the same right things, follow the one true God, understand the one true views of Jesus and have all the right characteristics of a well olive oiled machine for preaching the Gospel so the end can come finally.
These folk will spend a lifetime looking and leaping from one true church to the next or hunkering down in the one they found all others be damned. Fear, guilt and shame will keep them in their seats or catapult them out into yet another form of the one true thing in life they have to find before it is too late.
Can you even grow in grace and knowledge in a Hive or Fold? Few seem to mind if you grow in grace. After all, when your leadership or members screw up, grace can set them free and keep you happy too. Growing in knowledge is quite another thing. The COG's are real big on knowledge unless it from the top down. Bottom up knowledge is a formula for disfellowshipping or a hanging.
How many times have I heard of someone who held a different view on something and simply was not allowed to stay in their church. HWA was big on changes as long as he made them. Tkach was big on change, as long as he announces them. Neither were theologians of any kind or knew much about what they were talking about. One sought out resident Jewish "scholars" for back up and one sought out the gentile views for credibility.
Both claim Paul as God's man in the NT but illustrate how Paul can so easily be both for and against something such as law in his meanderings. Few stop to think that the only difference between following HWA, Gerald Flurry, Dave Pack, Roderick Meredith or any other one man view and following Paul is a mere 2000 years. The NT is merely yet another view of basically one man with a sprinkling of key players scorning, ridiculing and mocking each other. Nothing new to see here .
I don't believe one can grow either as an individual or in knowledge in a hive or fold that believes from the top down there is just one way to be, do, act and think. It is a formula for "well son, with ideas like that you will really go up in the Church," and then find yourself standing at the bottom step to the gallows with the minister saying, "up you go."
You lurkers out there firmly seated in a COG... Would you not want to hear in Church how badly the leaders of the early church got along or in what ways they did not agree? Would you not want some good science at times that don't reference the mythologies of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark or the Tower of Babel as if they really were and yet explained what they meant in the ears of the original hearers? Would you not want to see that it's ok to think differently than your deacon friend, minister or EVEN the minister's wife!???
If they find evidence of life on Mars in our lifetime, do you really want to be told that it is a ruse of Satan to hurt your faith or that they are lying, by your minister? Do you really want to be limited to believing that the God of the Universe only has to do with one small blue dot in one galaxy of billions of stars and probably millions of earth like planets, among billions of other galaxies all having earth like planets, cares only for this one?
Voyager looks back at Earth from 11 BILLION miles out. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2196997/Voyager-1-beams-images-Earth-tiny-dot-prepares-interstellar-space.html
Wouldn't you love to belong to a church as a kid where you could talk about evolution of life including humans without getting a lecture on "In the beginning..." or "and God took a rib from Adam's side..."??? Do you really want to grow up with the idea the Grand Canyon was gouged out in one day of Noah's flood and not get to ask or at least wonder out loud why there is only one of them on the continent? Does it destroy your faith that simple life is in the bottom layers and more complex as you go higher in the strata without being told that's just how drowned creatures in the flood settled out because animals could run to higher ground before they drown?
When a pastor, I took one of my 13,500 year oldish Clovis Point to show Dr. Hermann Hoeh on a refresher. He seemed like a man who might enjoy seeing it. Ummm...no. I explained it to him during a break and he would not touch it. He said, "lovely" and turned away. Yikes! I learned a lot in that moment about how such a small thing can wreak havoc with big ideas. I'd rather belong to a hive or fold where the minister actually knew what a Clovis Point was! For that matter, I'd rather have a pastor , if I was so inclined, who understood what Raymond Brown was saying in his tomes on the Birth and Death of the Messiah or what Bart Ehrman, former fundamentalist, had to say how the Bible was really put together. But hives and folds don't thrive on knowledge or even knowing certain views exist and can be easily read.
I had moment in a sermon where I mentioned Homo Erectus as precursors of humans etc. After church a man came up to me and said he was uncomfortable with me using the words "homo" and "erectus" in the same sentence. I just looked at him and for a rare moment had nothing to say. lol
I know FEW paid ministers in the COGs who read outside the box to learn more than they learned when they first believed. I guarantee you they don't read what they don't teach and need to teach to keep the hive and fold together. Hives and folds keep you ignorant. They do feel good. They feel safe and comfy and there is power in a three string rope that is not easily broken. But some ropes need cutting. Gordian Knots and all that.
Bees and Sheep (According to Paul, I should say "sheeps and seeds" otherwise it is singular" Galatians 3:16) aren't big on straying outside the hive or fold to learn there is a whole world of knowing outside their world. And it's ok to know or to look or to wonder and even express it.
So, long story shorter.... How about you lurkers still attending a COG get up all your courage and ask your Dave Pack, Rod Meredith, Un-Official spokesman Bob Thiel, Gerald Flurry, Ron Wei...well never mind that one, and ask if your minister, your head bee keeper or Shepard has ever read Raymond Brown, Bart Ehrman, Karen Armstrong, Hyam Maccoby and hundreds of other very well read and perceptive theologians who have stood up in their faiths, often thrown from them for the realities they have come to see.
Booklet fed bees and sheep are not all that well versed. Being only "versed" as in Bible verses only is not reality. Reality, while scary, is your friend. It may protect you from spiritual abuse or staying too long on the wrong tracks even if you were put back on those tracks by your beekeeper pastor or guru.
There never was one true church. There never was a group of men (always men and all Bible men either single or at least not talkin') who all spoke the same right things or held the one true truths. You don't see it in the New Testament but what you do see is what you see today. Men vying for power and ego feeding. Men who think they are more special standing up than those who merely sit. Men and hives , leaders and folds who don't do their homework. Men who don't read outside their small box and frankly rarely look at the box they came in or inhabit now. If you look too closely you risk ending up outside the hive or fold wondering what happened.
Groups, organizations, hives, coveys and folds are all mean to limit the wonder of it all. They are ways to keep participants penned up or merely honey producers for the energy needs of the hive. That there are other hives, folds ways of being and things to be understood and learned never crosses their minds. If it does...well....up you go ....
If you are going to sit in a hive or fold week after week, at least realize there are more hives and folds than yours. Your beekeeper is wrong when he says otherwise. He's wrong when he makes fun of Einstein because he had "wild hair," or "there can't be life anywhere but here otherwise God would have told us."
Life is an amazing experience. So much to learn and so little time. Don't get stuck in your seat believing everything your one, come unto me all yea that want to know "the truth" minister says about how it all is....because it all isn't that way.