Review: “The Christians”

This was my first Lucas Hnath play at Actors Theater in Louisville, KY.  I enjoyed his unique writing that left me leaving the auditorium with more questions than answers about belief and faith.  The best part is that Lucas did not show his cards and did not force his opinion among the masses.  He did the opposite, which left theater goers not knowing what he believes.

The in-grained effects of the Pamela Brown theater audience in “The Christians” were creepy.  The audience was cast in this play as “churchgoers” listening to a pastor’s sermon that shook the doctrinal foundation and belief of the local church.  The creepy part was when the pastor (played by Andrew Garman), and associate pastor (played by Larry Powell) asked to bow our heads and pray.  Many of the audience members did just that, they bowed their heads.  The actions of the audience, and the way the set was carved out to look like a rock concert stage, made you feel like you were actually attending any of the mega-church services today.

As the four-part sermon started, just like many other “here are the steps to be a better Christian” type sermon are, the cherry-picking of verses to prove a particular point was well done.  When the pastor left the lectern, I was put off by the use of the wired microphones at first, because my focus jumped to the pastor playing with the wire when speaking.  However, the dramatic use of the wired microphones as the play progressed was a stroke of genius added to the set.  I think the microphones set an atmosphere of individualism, where each person had their own mic to speak into to let people know their opinion and their belief.  The individual microphones show the invisible disease of individualism the church spreads by preaching, which takes away from the community church should be.

The sermon was a build-up to release information on what the pastor actually believed.  After getting all the debt paid on building a mega-church that included a book store, coffee shops, and a lot of other consumerist type products that people buy with their tithe, the pastor used scripture to prove his doctrinal point that hell does not exist in the way many believe it does.

This leads to perspectives of how others believe.  We listen to one of the elders in the church (played by Richard Henzel) talk about keeping the numbers of the church strong.  We listen to a member of the church (played by Emily Donahue) spill her guts on what she believes, and asks a plethora of tough questions about her faith.  One question she asked left the audience (the congregation) literally gasping with the answer the pastor gave.  Finally we hear from the wife of the pastor (played by Linda Powell), who makes a complete turn-around to see some other interesting insights into the thoughts of women and the church.

Which person in the pastor married to, his wife, or his church?

What I “get” from this play is that each of us with our beliefs cannot build a church because we are all going to bring our opinions to the table.  Individualism boils down to each of us building “The First Church of _____” (enter your name here).  If Christ is love, we should drop all the individual indoctrination we push on others, and focus on just loving one another.  That would be a church Christ would be proud of, one He has already created.  

There is a danger for those pastors, or elders, or members who are part of the leadership of a church to start thinking of the church as theirs. When they start thinking like that, they start acting like that. They start trying to build their own church.  If this is how Christianity is portrayed, Christianity needs to fade away like other religions.

What is your opinion on hell?  Do you think it exists? … and if so, what does it look like?

“Yoga” To Be Kidding Me…

College newspapers are not totally worthless. They are where young journalists go to learn… and espouse hatred.

This was an opinion piece from a well-known “Christian” college…

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Rethink yoga

March 13, 2014

Deborah Raiees-Dana

We are cultural beings. We learn what is acceptable from those around us, and that becomes our unconscious reality. When something is said often enough it becomes true for us, regardless of its ultimate reality.

My devotional this morning highlighted the fact that when the Israelites were in Egypt they had no revelatory word from God, so the giving of the law and the isolation of the tribes in the desert was a means of installing in them a new culture. But cultural shifts are hard, and once we’ve accepted something as reality, we don’t easily let go.

Belief in a spiritual realm where angels and demons are real has largely been dismissed by mainstream Christianity. We have a lot of teaching about God, but we are “ignorant about the plans and schemes of the enemy” (2 Cor. 2:11). Demonic influences have been explained as ignorant superstitions or as the results of mental illnesses. And as long as we believe Satan and his powers are not worth considering, he is free to attack and lay the blame wherever he sees fit. Judgementalism and self-condemnation result.

I pray as I write this that neither of these reactions results from my comments. It is my hope that we all acknowledge the real possibility that we may be deceived or ignorant in certain areas, and that we all desire truth, no matter how disconcerting the truth may be.

My story is too long and complex to explain fully, but I was saved while in elementary school, experimented with witchcraft in junior high, started drugs in high school and was deeply involved with the New Age—including yoga—during my college years. About 30 years ago I turned back to Jesus. About 20 years ago I began the process of being delivered from numerous demonic spirits. I’ve had to wrestle with the reality of how demonic spirits have affected my life as a Christian over the years, but the freedom I’ve experienced and have seen others experience has been the most beautiful thing I’ve known since salvation.

This column is not a theological exegesis, but rather a heartfelt cry. I understand that yoga has become an accepted part of the American culture. The National Institute of Health promotes it vigorously and much of the Church has accepted it as harmless. I have to disagree.

As I have been thinking of all the arguments and reasons why yoga is not as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe, it all keeps coming back to the fact that yoga has its roots in the worship of demonic Hindu gods.

I believe that while yoga may offer some benefits, those benefits have hidden, demonic strings attached. I spoke to one of our chapel speakers years ago about this. He was a Dalit “untouchable” from India who had become a Christian. His view is that yoga is the beautiful face that the very ugly religion of Hinduism uses to sell itself to Americans.

Please know that my intention for writing this is one of love and concern. I understand that most people will probably disagree with me. It is not easy for me to publicly share my story, knowing that it is so counter-cultural. But if my story will bring hope or truth to anyone, it is worth it. I am very open to respectfully discussing any of these issues further. There is more I have left unsaid than I have said.

Ask God to reveal his truth, and then be willing to seek it out. Google “yoga” and dig a bit. Research the presence of exorcism in the Early Church. Search the Scriptures.

We don’t need to be afraid of the demonic realm, but we do need to be wise.

_____

Has American Evangelical Christian thinking always been this radical and nuts or is this a new thing?

This was written by a college sophomore, and when it comes to real life wisdom I could really give two shits what a sophomore in college thinks… but the thing that really bothers me is the hatred and division these types of colleges are pounding into the skulls of the students.

A heartfelt cry?  Yes, I am having one right now after reading this article.

My wife has been doing Bikram yoga for years, and my son just tried the class for the first time last week (and liked it).  I have not attended, not because I feel it is demonic, it is because the thought of me trying to bend myself into a pretzel in 105 degree heat does not appeal to me…  I think I would rather have an appendectomy.

I am sure the class my wife attended this morning began with a few sun salutations and then some devil incantations, and then ended with savasana, which we all know is just an attempt to imitate the corpse like nature of our souls… come on, give me a break.

I think the ironic thing about articles like this is that the very system of religion that drives someone to write an article about demonic practices comes from demonic practices itself.

What are your thoughts on this?

The Pleasure Business

Pornographers don’t sell pornography; they provide orgasms.

I know the institutional church thinks pornography is a sin, but they sure do like their business practices.  No, institutional churches are not selling pornography, but they do provide orgasms of a different more mental form.

As I started to question why I was doing what I was doing at church over the last decade or so, I concluded that I was attending just to pleasure myself (always looking for that next “spiritual high”).  I was not losing the “master of my domain” bet with my Seinfeld buddies, but I was definitely doing the act of mentally masturbating. 

I found myself engaging in useless, yet intellectually stimulating conversation, usually as an excuse to avoid taking constructive action in my life.  I have come to learn that the system that runs church is a business set up to do exactly that… it promotes non-action. I could not wait for the next class to start in the fall.  The summer bibles studies were great.  Arguing in my small groups I attended was just what my body wanted.  It was a lot of surface talk, with no one wanting to know what the real problems in people’s lives were.  It was a life of acting perfect inside a world of fantasy.  But reality was everyone in the pews was struggling with something, but others would never know it.

Sounds a lot like what people use porn for, to pleasure themselves, and to escape reality, and live in a fantasy world… and it can be addicting.

The porn companies don’t seem to care much about how they get you what you want to see and hear.  The industry will just find ways to give people their pleasure.  They use postcards, magazines, theaters, DVD’s, online photos and videos, chat lines, webcams, and whatever else to get a returning customer.

The church subscribes to the same business model.

I was basically attending the First Church of Mental Masturbation.  I was there to pleasure myself, to gain more and more knowledge as an individual.  I was there to debate doctrine, and to be a master of it.  I feel the “church” has become a place for people to have their “needs met”.  They are there to stimulate themselves by enjoying what the music, what the pastor has to say, and/or how the program is ran having a “what can they do for me” attitude.

Just like porn being used for personal pleasure, mental masturbation at church gives no pleasure to anyone else either.  It is very difficult to find community, when a lot of people are focused on their personal relationship with Christ.  The focus needs to be on Christ (but the people who actually make up His Body), not the Jesus product the church sells in postcards, magazines, theaters, DVD’s, online photos and videos, chat lines, webcams, and what else to get a returning customer.    

I believe we exist to love one another, and to expose our hearts to see the garbage that we all really deal with.  We are to help the sick, the poor, the marginalized, and each other.

How could I get out and help others if I am too busy inside “mass-debating” a bunch of doctrines that I will never have the correct answer to.  Well, this was one of the reasons I left the institution of “church”, I was tired of pleasuring myself and I needed to focus on one another and not just myself.

If I could have found community inside the walls of the institution, I would have stayed.

Anyone else experience church in this way, or am I completely losing it?

A New Book Arriving Fall of 2014

Announcement For A Book Called “What We’re For”

I have been quiet here on the blog since October of last year, so I needed to post something to start the new year.

Well, I got the awesome call from Eric Carpenter that he was looking for authors to contribute to his book new book project.  I was honored he thought of me.

You can click and go to Eric’s page: A Pilgrim’s Progress: The Big News: “What We’re For”, and you will see the full list of the contributors and links to their stuff.

The chapter I am writing about has to do with church being seen as a people and not an institution (go figure, right?).  I picked that chapter because it fit what my entire blog is about.  I know I can be blunt (and a bit harsh sometimes) about how I see the man-made organization, but the intent of this book is to focus on the positives rather than the negatives of what church really is… the people.

I hope you get a copy of this book when it comes out.  The authors for each chapter of this book are so diverse, and I am looking forward to reading all the positives they bring to the Body of Christ.

Thanks,

Swanny

Threats Everywhere

Besides the government, and the capitalistic society we live in, another great threat to the United States of America (and of course you can add the rest of world to the list) is the advocating of a right-wing ideology.

I am writing this post as a word of warning from what I saw and learned while attending and participating within the walls of the man-made institution we all call “church”.  The momentous problem with the right-wing movement is that the followers of the movement possess a fuzzy sense of entitlement.  The ideological system has set the right-wing apart, and the “fundies” seem to think that their faith gives them the right to view the world from a banality of conceit, through snobbish and lofty eyes, and with a false sense of supreme dominance.

Living in the world of fundamentalism for over a decade, the people in this movement actually believe themselves to be superior beings, and truly think that God is on their side.  They crave and yearn to conquer everyone and everything in the name of Christ.  Their view of humanity is being reduced to nothing more than an “us” versus “them” mentality.

Now that I am out of the fundamentalist organized institutional religious system, and looking from the outside in, what the typical “fundie” fails to realize is that if the Christ they believe in leads them to view other humans as lesser beings (until they “join” and become just like them), they are actually following some sort of “anti-Christ” thinking.

Here is the way I see it, and I could be wrong, but I do not see God having or following any type of religion or movement, and I do not see God discriminating against anyone.

I think any religion that professes to be the only true religion, or that they are special in the eyes of God preaches false doctrine.  If the Spirit of God is truly within someone, it will only be known by their ACTS of “unconditional” love and charity.  No religion can claim exclusive rights to God.  He belongs to all that He has created, and to foster a belief in an “us” versus “them” mentality is to divide, not unite.

In time, those who have set themselves apart from their fellow-man will find that they have set themselves apart from God.  The worth of a soul will only be measured by how much it has loved, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else (and that measured Love is Christ).

Christ spoke 7 woes, but I think he left one out… He should have said… Woe to those who have taken the widow’s mite to build a man-made organization called “church” in My name.  

Born Again By Leaving “church”

Most professing Christians believe that being “born again” occurs in this life upon “receiving Jesus.”

Well to me I think that teaching I heard for years, getting pounded into my cranium, is hogwash.

It was not until I read and discussed my readings about this subject that it started to become less foggy.  My findings were that this subject is nowhere to be found inside the pages of scripture (like much of what is said in the pulpit of many churches). 

I do not think being “born again” has anything to do with “professing Jesus,”

I do not think being “born again” has anything to do with “just believing in your heart,”

I do not think being “born again” has anything to do with “giving your heart to the Lord”

I do not think being “born again” has anything to do with any other kind of religious experience.

I do not thing being “born again” happens at “conversion”.

I DO think the Bible teaches that it happens long after these so-called “initial” steps to become a Christian.

I have known many who believed the opposite of what I described above.  While having no idea what the term actually meant, they (including me for years) had been told that “professing Jesus” was a kind of “new birth”—that they were in some mysterious way “born again.” 

And on top of that, it also became their Christian duty to bring others to this same belief.

I have been approached more than once, over the years attending church, and asked if I have been “born again.”

You know what I always told them…  Nope!  I really have no clue what that means.

So get this… now that I have been away from the institutional church for a few years, I feel like I can finally say, and finally understand, what it means to be “born again”.

Jesus’ words: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”

I feel like I can now see the kingdom of God, and it is not inside the walls of a man-made institution.  It is out here where I am wondering in the wilderness away from all the doctrinal, and religious bullshit.

The kingdom is out here… Jesus is out here…

Separation FROM “church” and “state”…

… that is exactly what I want to be separated from.. church, state, and any other man-made piece of BS institution.

If looking at the whole bible as a book written to reveal Christ to us, which I feel is the essence of Christianity, then I feel Christians should dig deep and reconsider the relationship they have with the church institution and also with the “state”, or what we call government.

In many passages throughout scripture, and one in particular in the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus gave instructions to his followers not to swear oaths, not to judge and not to resist.  However, when you look at our institutions of church and state today, the government of each institution actually demands oaths of allegiance, and judges its people.  The government of the state and the church also use violence to impose its laws, and maintains its citizens in a form of economic slavery by forcefully taxing their labor or forcing a “tithe”.  A voluntary tax?  Hahahaha.. try not paying them, see what happens. 

So I am going to come out and say it.  The church institution and the state institution of government are both an “unchristian” or an un-biblical institution.

Let us step back and close our eyes and pretend a minute… if Christians actually acted as Jesus taught them to act by governing their social interactions through love and forgiveness, then there would be no need for a state government institution, or even a church institution. People would help one another and willingly share all of life’s basic needs and necessities. The main principle of society would be love (or Christ), not a fictional so-called “justice” enforced by a threatening government state.

So, open your eyes.  Is this type of life too good to be true?  I do not think so.  I feel the government, as well as the institution of church are incompatible visions for our so-called “society”.

I cannot see how a person can be both an honest follower of Christ, and at the same time recognize the legitimacy of our man-made institutions.  I think the government and the church institution both directly violate Jesus’ clear advice. 

What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are yes… I think so, and if Jesus’ recommendations were put to actual practice, then the government and the church institution would become obsolete and fade away.

For the last couple of years I have written a bunch of posts about the church institution.  As of now you know I am not a fan.  I know when people read these posts they think I am coming down on them personally.  I am not and never will.  I love the people.  I just hope that these posts bring about good discussion and thinking.  It is all about Love, right?

My criticisms of both government and church institutions typically fall on deaf ears.  I get censored from a plethora of Christians and get called many names (heathen, asshole, ect).  It is sad really.  I think many Christians have fallen in love with the institution of Christ called church and not Christ the Church himself… and they do all they can to fight for the institution.  Because if they were fighting for Christ the name calling would stop.