New Life Bulletin ~ 7/18/21
Every once in a while something happens that causes me to reflect on an article I wrote in November 1990. It was entitled “Christian Paranoia.” The article caused me to be challenged to a debate, as well as be ”written up” by a guy over in West Virginia.
Among the things that upset them was my comparison of certain belief systems which mirror one of the definitions of paranoia, i.e., “A tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.” Boy, I could have a political heyday with that! But I’m interested in how that continues to control some churchgoers.
In the original article, I referred to the kind of teaching I heard as a boy. The kind of teaching that is sadly still going on. It was a view of God as a God of lists and rules. If you crossed the line it was curtains for you. Strict obedience to the rules was required. Noah and his “gopher” wood ark was one great example. If Noah had decided to use one board that wasn’t “gopher”, then all would have been lost. It would be years later that I learned that gopher wood was an ambiguous term that might mean any of three woods, fir, cypress, or cedar. Others said the best definition is “pitched wood”, which would make sense since the wood would need to be sealed. Along with the ark was the story of Nadab and Abihu and their “strange fire.” Every time a preacher did something different and shook some other preacher up, he was accused of introducing “strange fire.” It was my denial of such a view of God that raised the hackles of a couple of area preachers.
In the nearly thirty years since I wrote that article, little has changed among those who hold that kind of fear over people’s heads. Sadly, there are those who find comfort in deluding themselves into believing they can actually be pleasing to God by simply keeping a list of rules.
Before getting to the heart of all this, let me clarify something. Christians do things that God wants done. Could those things be called “rules”? Yes, I suppose. However, it is the motivation behind the doing that is of the most importance. Christians do things because they have been saved by the love and the grace of God. They do not do those things to receive the love, the grace, and the salvation of God. There’s the rub.
It may be a little too harsh to say that such people who live under that kind of belief system are in an abusive relationship, but the similarities are there. In both cases the person stays where they live in constant fear because they have been made more afraid of what will happen to them if they leave. It is one thing to know what abuse to expect. It’s quite another to be faced with the possibility of something worse. Eternal damnation, for one.
It is also important to keep such people from going “outside” the safe area. They will be told anything they see, read, or hear “out there” will hurt them more than they can imagine. Fear is the constant method of restraint.
Of those I have met who broke free from such confinement, I find that it usually came from peeking over the wall or hearing something that told them there was a whole new world of faith out there. Or it can be just “having it up to here” with being afraid and controlled. In other cases, it might be a divorce or witnessing the prejudice that can be rampant in some religious circles.
I also find that the younger generation is asking questions and demanding answers that once were (and in some places still are) considered taboo. As long as the “sheltered” are kept at home and in a controlled religious atmosphere, they are content. But when they reach the outside world (a good thing) they are confronted with a world view much larger than they imagined. For some, this can begin in high school. For others when they start to college. It is there they find questions that were either refused to be discussed, or answers that do not answer but cast dispersions on those who ask. Say the word “evolution” in a group of Christians and see how many are thinking, “Oh yes, the evolution of a species,” versus those who are thinking, “That stuff is a denial of God.”
Mike Branch once asked the Sunday morning adult class to express our views of heaven and hell. At least one person used the word “up”. Of course, that person knows there is no “up” but rather an “out”. At one time “up” was all we knew. Today we know there is an unimaginable “out” out there in what, for the lack of a better word, we call “space”.
Each day we are faced with more and more challenges to what we believed yesterday. I think this is good. As I’ve said before, we will not grow as we should if we stop at one point and say, “This is all there is.”
As a Christian, what concerns me is the way people are held captive by those who see God as a God who demands exactness in all we do. In worship they wi1l say there is an exact pattern that must be followed. In life the only way to live pleasing to God is to do exactly what they tell you, and of course, they back it up with scripture. Are they sincere? I want to be careful here. I believe some are. It has been for them a safe haven. However, far too many times it has been a position of abusive power. It has been a way of controlling the thinking of the people and thus assuring their position of power. On one hand it may be all the person in control knows. That does not excuse it, in my opinion. What it does is allow me to understand they are sincere, even if they are sincerely wrong. On the other hand, it is the refusal to allow anyone to question their authority (?) and power.
In some ways they are as afraid as those they control by fear. What if all those years of using their power was not the right way? How would it look for them to admit (little to no chance) that they were wrong? Their power would be taken away and given to someone else.
On the other hand, I’ve seen the transition in those lives that, by the grace of God, somehow began to think more openly, lovingly, and more grace filled. All of them express it in terms of being released from bondage. I’m thankful to be one of them.
THOSE TO SERVE IN JULY
18- Wayne Flora
25- Mike Branch
17- Andressa Mileti 19- Jim Hunter
21-Brock McRoy 25-Oliver Hogan
26- John Bolin
CONCERNS: Judy McWhorter had knee surgery on Tuesday and is recovering. Last week’s visitors Bill & Melinda Crigger are at UVA, Bill has a cancerous tumor. Del Bolin’s mom, Carrie, is in a nursing home doing PT twice daily and gaining strength. She is looking forward to going home in a week or two. Please continue to keep Erma Williams’ family in your prayers. Erma’s sister, Lorretta, has a serious six-month oncology treatment plan. Please continue to pray for Alisa Flora’s nephew, Ethan Gentry, and her sister, Melanie Gentry. Wayne Flora’s parents, Sylvus and Martha Flora, and sister, Jan. Teryn Gaynor’s mother Brenda Windham has cancer that metastasized into her colon (again) and her liver. She is doing chemo and will get another scan in a couple of months. Leena Bolin’s brother, Steve (Covid lung scarring), Steve’s ex-wife (possible ALS) and son (bi-polar). Please continue to pray for Judy McWhorter’s sister, Jan, and brother-in-law, Gary Overstreet. Gary is now in the hospital. Megan Downing’s aunt, Stacey Smith, will be checked monthly for a while. Megan’s grandmother Bonnie Beaver has 1 more week of Chemo. Jim Hunter has been diagnosed with an autoimmune deficiency and will be going to UVA in September. Joni Beach’s niece, Jamie Cole. Pray for Debbie McRoy’s cousins, Linda Alsup and Erica Halford. Deanna McRoy has a kind of cancer that can return at any time.
ALSO REMEMBER: Martha Albert, Cory (medical student of Del Bolin), Calesta Saunders, Alan & Joni Beach, Kerry & Sula Hay, Judd Beaver, Lebreska Whitaker, Wayne & Susan Phlegar, Nick Hodges, Ruby Crosen, Mark & Ellen Tidwell, Donte McCadden, Joni and Alan Beach’s fathers, Jo-Ellen Griffith, Sheila Jansen and daughter, Amber Weaver, and Tim Elder.
We will be showing A Bugs Life July 16th
at 6:30 in the Annex. Please pray about and get
the word out on this weekly summer event.
We have started evening services at 6:30pm for those who are unable
to attend Sunday Mornings.
SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS
Del Bolin is back, please come join us for the Study of “The Acts of God in the Book of Acts” at 9:30am, in person or online with YouTube.
ONLINE YOUTUBE SERMONS
We continue to provide services online. The Roanoke Church of Christ YouTube channel link below:
Join the Zoom Meeting on the study of Matthew at 7pm.
Meeting ID:873 6718 6931
We are continuing to gather at the Miletis’ on Thursday nights at 6:00pm to pray and work through the church vision statement. This has also been a great time for fellowship, come join us. Please RSVP to let the Miletis know if you plan on coming.
LOOKING FOR A ROOM TO RENT
Angela Cavalier is looking for a room to rent; she needs to be out of her current location before July 31st. Please let Joanne know.