Thursday, January 25, 2007

The sect I grew up in--realization

I often tell people, when they are discussing elements of popular culture of which I lack knowledge, specifically popular music or movies, that I grew up in a box. The box was largely associated with a sect--to use their own language, an "indepedend fundamental Bible believing church". Not that we were ever educated in what these words might mean, except for the "Bible believing".

One thing that was often repeated at the sect was that it was important not to take an "ark" mentality. By this, it was meant that, unlike many of "those churches" (and by implication all those wrong, unsafe churches), we must not not think and act as if the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket (not that anyone in the sect would have so casually and profanely used the word "hell"), and the only safe thing to do is to "circle the wagons", "come inside the four walls of the church", and be safe, like Noah and co. did with the Ark, while the rest of the world drownded (I think "drownded" just works a lot better than "drowned".) Instead, we must "go outside the church" into "the marketplace of ideas" and "engage the culture!". We must not have a "hold the fort" mentality! The Bible says of the church "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it", and that means the church is on the attack, because, of course, gates are *defensive* hardware. And so forth.

So my realization this week is that in spite of all this ... ongoing talking along these lines, the sect was by and large doing exactly what it was saying we must not do. And so I grew up in a box, or an ark, if you will. Here's item one from the sect's statement of faith, pulled today from their web site. This is the item which perhaps strikes me as the strangest of the eight tenets in said statement, and perhaps also most represents the relative smallness of the ark/box.

We believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the scriptures, and that the Bible is the absolute authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. We believe the King James Version is an accurate and trustworthy English translation of the original text

I can see now that in many (and toxic) ways, the main guy in charge at the sect thought of and acted towards the members, both children and adults, as if they were children, and they in turn acted toward him as if they were children, so that no one ever really made much progress toward ... maturity.


steph said...

You've got to read People of the Lie if you haven't already.

Helen said...

Benjamin, I'm glad you got out of the box!

I was thinking about these issues this week because I went to an intro session of a Beth Moore study on Monday. (Two of my friends invited me so I wanted to give it a fair chance and see what it was like rather than just dismissing it out of hand)

I wrote about it on my blog - wow, it's hard to believe I used to be fine with doing that sort of study!

Benjamin Ady said...


got the book on hold at odegaard. Helen, you're braver than I. I don't really find it hard to believe I used to be fine with that. I was very very different back then -- mostly dead, I guess.

Leslie said...

I grew up in a Methodist church, never knew what that meant, and I can't say I remember much doctrine. I know we weren't Catholic, we weren't Baptist, we were Methodist?? I love the labels, and no one knows what they really mean! The best part about my church, 35 cent doughnuts on Sundays, and the summer garage sale. My family hung out with other families from church, we were all supposed to be a tight knit group, then my parents divorced....instantly the church went from a comforting place, a place of normalcy, to Satan's den. Women didn't speak to my mother, they talked behind her back, and people my dad called his best friends, wouldn't return his calls. My "sect" became a great place for satan to roam.
Your faith comes from within, the Bible is your truth.

Benjamin Ady said...


bummer for you that they charged for the donuts. our donuts were free. and the coffee. and the church was, as a group, overweight, though not obese.

One thing I realized from living on a missions ship for two years which a bunch of relatively *very* committed "Christians" in relatively *very* tight quarters was this: Christians are at least as fucked up (and I use that term on purpose here) as other people--they hurt each other in all the ways that people hurt each other, and treat each other badly in all the ways that people treat each other badly, and fail to respect and honor and be kind and ... well, you get my point.

The kewl thing about being on a missions ship like that was that it became utterly impossible to hide or cover up or pretend away, at least at the levels that the average ... "local church" does these things. And what it made me realize (among many other things) was that all the same crap was always going on there in my "home church"--I just usually didn't know about it.

I'm sorry you had such a horribly painful experience as a child--kind of a double dose, sounds like. I'm glad you've reached this point in your life with a largish dose of grace and wisdom despite (or ... in some part as a result of?) all that.

byron said...

Sad how it's so very possible to be explicitly committed to not doing the very thing you are doing.

And what is it with the KJV... I've never understood that fetish.

Benjamin Ady said...

byron--yeah, I think the bottom line with the king james thing is a false sense of safety/control