Thursday, January 26, 2012

Price of Biblicism Part II - Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll

I thought I'd go onto another topic, then a friend sent me a link to this blog, which discusses a recent church discipline action taken by Mark Driscoll's church, Mars Hill, right here in Seattle. Talk about spiritual manipulation and abuse!This is a another sad example of the price of biblical literalism, as a church uses Matthew 18 and a few other verses to "discipline" a member who fell into "sexual sin" (having non-sex contact with a single woman and having sex with his finance). They issued him a church discipline contract to sign that spells out his requirements for gaining restoration (including writing out his whole "detailed sexual sin and emotional attachment" life history! - and "all sins" during this time period!). Then when he refused to sign it, leadership sent instructions to the church to not even talk to this guy unless he was willing to abide by the hoops they set up (check out the level of control they stipulated in the letter to the church). So, he's basically booted out of the church with the whole congregation not only knowing his "sin," but commanded to shun him.

Where do I begin? This whole case makes me so angry. It's similar to what I encountered in PDI/SGM back in the 80s and 90s and share in my book on the chapters on church and bible abuse. First of all, even if one believes the Bible should be applied this way to spell our exactly how to discipline someone (which I don't), Mars Hill has gone way beyond the Bible! Where does it say draw up a contract in Matthew 18? Or get the guy to spill his guts by listing all his sins? Moreover, when Jesus said if a sinner doesn't listen to one or two or three others, then tell it to the church, he wasn't talking about broadcasting it to a mega church. The term is "gathering" and in a local setting it was always a small group. When Jesus said "treat him as a tax collector or pagan," since when does that mean don't talk to him unless he's ready to sign a contract and grovel to the demands of leadership? Last I checked, Jesus treated the Gentiles and tax collectors pretty well and told his disciples to do the same.

The amazing thing is, when you read the case, you'll see that by any reasonable standard the guy really did repent of his "sin." He just refused to sign the contract and good for him. But again, this case also reveals the incredible paranoia of the church over sex, a obsession that doesn't follow from a fair reading of the Bible as I explain in my chapter called The Sex God. You see, technically, having sex with your fiance, if love rules, is not a sin. I don't have time to go into it now but this is one of those fabricated offenses the church overreacts to. Look, read the case. This man wasn't spotless in what he did, but he's now paying the price for a church that adheres to a strict biblicism--and one that even goes beyond what the Bible teaches. This blantent spiritual abuse and manipulation and controlling behavior must be exposed.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Price of Biblicism

I've written elsewhere about the dangers of fundamentalist or evangelical biblicism--the practice of attempting to apply the Bible's teaching based on the assumption that it is inerrant, self-sufficient, self-evident, internally consistent, and universally applicable. One obvious example is the way biblicists use the Bible to condemn gays and lesbians to an agonizing struggle to become "ex-gay" or remain celibate. Others are when they use it to preach salvation in very exclusive ways or still another, when they teach the supposed "end times," which is, by the way it's taught, extremely manipulative.

These results are the "price of biblicism," the fruit of making the Bible into something that the original writers (and God, I believe) never intended it to be. Another grave example I highlight here is the real-life case study of Soveriegn Grace Ministries (SGM - formerly People of Destiny International), a 30-year-old denomination that is now going through a very public investigation of ongoing spiritual abuse of church members and leaders. The root of this, I contend, is this denomination's strict adherence to biblicism.

The heart of most of the problems in this denomination is how it views its leaders' authority. For example, they take very literally Hebrews 13:17, which says "...Obey your leaders and submit to them. For they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give…an account." And as the leader of SGM, C.J. Mahaney, recently taught, they believe God has inspired and preserved these specific words in Hebrews with their churches in mind.

To see the fruit of taking such a Scripture so literally and applying it to church leaders, pastors, and members, one only has to visit two websites that track a myriad of cases of serious, spiritual and emotional abuse. and are chock full of stories from former SGM members who report on specific examples of leaders using verses like Heb. 13:17 to control people's lives, impose psycological guilt trips, and manipulate/reject members or other leaders when they stand up to the abuse. It's a sad commentary, but important for people to be aware of so I encourage interested readers to check these sites out. The abuse can only stop when things come to light.

I was recently reminded of these websites when I noticed one of the founding leaders of SGM, Larry Tomzcak, had finally posted his story of how he was spiritually abused more than 13 years ago. Also, having attended one of these churches back in the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s, I have personal experience. Finally, one friend of mine from those days, Darla Melancon, wrote a book about her family's abuse (I just discovered last year), called The Things I Learned After Being Kicked Out of Church. These sites and this book is a massive case study on the horrific price some people have to pay for biblical literalism.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Buried Truth Revealed Pisses Off Religious Elites

BOOK REVIEW: The Kairos, by Paul E. Hartman - Buy on Amazon

What if someone found sound historical proofs from Jesus’ lost years that revealed two shocking revelations about Jesus’ life? What if conservatives considered one revelation to be blasphemous, and liberals counted the other as mythological? Paul Hartman, in his new religious thriller, The Kairos—a term that signifies a point when God breaks into human history—deftly answers those questions. You don’t want to miss the ramifications found in this book.

When Hartman’s protagonist, Dr. Lute Jonson, a world-class archeologist and Dead Sea Scroll scholar, decides to unveil to the world these heretofore hidden proofs (scroll fragments accurately carbon-dated to the early first century), all hell breaks loose. Jonson inadvertently puts himself, his family, and friends in grave danger as powerful fundamentalist religious and secular forces (where else could you find Vatican officials and CIA agents working together?) race to stop him before he reaches a international media outlet. You won’t be disappointed with the book’s global intrigue that takes you from Jerusalem to northern Alaska, or its heart-stopping twists and turns, or an ending that’s anything but predictable.

What’s at stake, according to some, is the faith of a billion Christians worldwide. But the message in Hartman’s fictional account of what could be, goes beyond what the book’s characters think to the heart of Jesus’ message: follow the way of love, not historically-bound law, and embrace this love that drives out fear. Moreover, it goes to the heart of how we read the Bible. This engaging book reveals both a Jesus we never knew and one we always did, while reminding us to embrace the marginalized of our day.

Don’t let the few places where the protagonist sounds overly religious scare you away (the ongoing internal prayers and scripture citations were a tad overkill for me). You’ll get beyond that minor wrinkle and into a fascinating story and premise with realistic Dead Sea Scroll scholarship. I recommend this book! * * * * * [five stars]