0

The life and death of an evangelical church

I realize I talk quite a bit about church, and I know it’s usually quite negative.  Before I start this post, I want to let you all know that I am not against religion, christians, or churches.  That being said, having been to many churches, being heavily involved in the staff of these different churches for many years, I feel like I have enough experience to address some issues that overall lead to the corruption of religion.

The evangelical church specifically is one of the most corrupt organizations of all time.  It uses the bible along with guilt, hatred, and fear to extract money and devotion from vulnerable people.  A little harsh sounding, I know.  But, let me tell you a story.  This story is the story of about 5 different churches who have almost the exact same story from start to finish.  For the sake of privacy, I won’t mention the names of these churches, but I can almost guarantee it’s going to be the same story of at least one church you know of.

It starts off small.  A guy invites four or five people to his house for an intimate, spiritual experience.  They come together, pray, sing songs, read scripture, and have lunch.  They all decided that other churches weren’t feeding them the true gospel, and that they could get more out of this small setting than a big church.  Intentions are good; they all simply want to have a true spiritual experience among a small group of friends.

Things are going well with this, so well in fact that these people began inviting more people.  Now there are 20 or so people fitting in this small house.  It’s getting crowded, a bit noisy, and more difficult to control.  The owner of the house decides it’s time they raise money to get a building and start an actual church.  This way, they can organize a Sunday service, once a week, fit all twenty members in, and have room to grow.  All twenty people pitch some money but it’s still not quite enough to buy a building.  So, as a group, they decide to join a denomination.  Doing so will allow the denomination to fund the building, and will give the group of people the tools necessary to grow.  So, they get a nice new building, they get a sign designed and built, and other Christians driving by are immediately curious.  Oh, and that guy in the beginning who invited people to his house – he’s the pastor.

It’s opening Sunday, and they’ve drawn in a crowd.   The congregation has doubled, if not tripled.  An order of events has been decided, too.  The service would start at 10AM; the Pastor welcomes the crowd, and they immediately start the music.  They sing three to four songs, and take an offering; that event where they ask everyone in the audience to give their ten percent.  After the offering, one more song is played, and the pastor is invited back on stage.  He preaches his sermon, closes with a prayer, and dismissed the congregation by noon.

This goes on for awhile, but something unexpected happens.  The bills are going up, and the number of people attending has gone down slightly.  This means less people giving money.  So, they decided to start doing multiple services a week; they’ll have two on Sunday, and one on Wednesday.  Each time, an offering will be collected.  This should in theory triple the amount collected, right?  Wrong, instead, what happens is the members with full time jobs end up skipping out the Sunday and Wednesday, because they have to work early in the morning.  Those that do attend all three don’t give as much in each offering, so the rate of income has barely grown.

The pastor and his staff needs a plan, and they need one quick.  “We need a way to bring in more money” he thinks, “People need to learn the importance of giving to this congregation, and people need to be bringing more people in.  The more we grow, the more money we’ll make.  Oh yeah, and more people will be saved, that too.  Yeah.”  The pastor decides to strategically write up some sermons – and here we begin to see the corruption unfold.

The first set of sermons are about discipleship – going out and telling people about God.  He tells people how easy it can be, that all they need to do is “just invite your friends to church!  We’ll do the rest!”  The congregation is jazzed and excited; the preacher preached a good sermon and got people motivated to tell other people about God.  Slowly but surely, the headcount of attendees is rising, and the income is growing slowly.  The church is able to pay the bills, and everyone’s happy.  You would think this would be enough, but it’s not.

The pastor and his staff are tired.  They all have to work jobs on top of planning three services a week, and boy oh boy is that a difficult job.  The pastor and his staff decide they all deserve a payroll, so they can devote all their time to the church.  But how can they make this happen?  They just grew and are just getting by on building costs.  That’s when the pastor kicks in phase two of his plan.

For about two months, the pastor has a ‘series’ on tithing.  Now, if you don’t know what a series is, it’s basically a collection of sermons on one basic topic.  This time it’s about tithing.  The first few tell the congregation that the church is in need.  They have lots of bills and they have to be paid.  They in turn tell them that God will reward them for their sacrifices.  The pastor then preaches on the commandment of tithing.  Which, by the way, is not a commandment.  It was required by God in the old testament to give one tenth your flock as a burnt offering or sacrifice; but Jesus abolished that system by sacrificing himself – but the pastor never mentions this.  He uses this outdated practice to tell people how it’s basically a sin NOT to give 10 percent of their income.  Here in lyes the guilt factor.

The next and last two weeks of his series focus on the ‘blessings’ again.  The preacher shares stories of his own life – which are usually half truths or whole lies – about how he or someone he knew gave all they had to God, and the next day they got an unexpected bonus, stumbled across money, or got a nice new cadillac.  Times are tough these days, and what better investment could someone make than in god, right?

The drilling is done, and the oil is beginning to rise.  The pastor has succeeded in guilting and convincing his congregation to not only bring more people in, but give more money every week so that they will be rewarded with…well…more money.  But, this only worked for a little while.  Some people got tired of the whole “give me your money” series, and decided to worship god somewhere else.  While the pastor was able to quit his job and pay himself with people’s tithes, he was getting upset that his people were leaving to join the church down the street.

He decides to bring up discipleship again, but this time with a new twist.  While new people are being invited to church, he proceeds to take jabs at the other churches in town indirectly, stating how ‘the church down the street might have that good band and fancy stage lights, but we have the holy spirit, we preach the true gospel straight from the word of god.”  His put downs actually end up working, and people are leaving other churches to join his.

It’s the high life.  Then, something happens.  People are noticing the pastor has gotten a little money hungry; his sermons lack substance, and no matter what he does, people are leaving.  He decides to take his ministry elsewhere, so after years of running this church, he packs up and moves to a new town, to pastor a new church where people don’t know anything about him other than he started a church from the ground up and had a lot of attendees.  And then, the story starts over.

Meanwhile, his old church’s staff selects a new pastor from out of town who has a good heart, who has planted many churches from the ground up that had a lot of attendees.

Eventually, as history repeats itself in this church, it dies.  People catch on as pastors come in and out that something fishy is going on, so they just stop going.  No one in town has any reason to go there; after all, a new church opened up, and they’re preaching some great sermons on discipleship.

0

There is no “war on religion”

If you turn on the tv, read the news, use facebook or twitter, you’ve probably read all the stories on Phil Robertson and his anti-gay remarks.  You’ve also probably heard the old ‘It’s not happy holidays, it’s MERRY CHRISTMAS’ thing, too.  If you’re friends with any group of christian people on any social network, you’ve likely read the complaints of taking prayer out of schools.  Religious people – specifically Christian people – like to think that there is some governmental, media hyped war on religion and religious freedom of speech.  I’m here to say that this is simply not true.  It’s important to look at facts first, read things in context, and in doing so you’ll find that this so-called war just doesn’t exist.

In this post, I am hoping to take some of the most common christian arguments and not debunk them, but counter-argue them with actual facts.

Argument #1 – the United States is a Christian Nation – False

The United States was founded on freedom of AND freedom from religion.  When it comes to religion, our ‘founding fathers’ (as we like to put it) came here in hopes to escape the European law of religion.  As a country, we are free to pursue our own happiness – this includes whether or not one affiliates themselves with a religion or not.  Therefor, we are NOT a christian nation, we are a nation of diversity built up of many different cultures, beliefs, and standards.

Argument #2 – Business should say Merry Christmas, not just Happy Holidays – False

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as a holiday, everyone is entitled to freedom of speech; I don’t think Jews will be celebrating Christmas, but I doubt they’re offended one way or the other.  It seems like christians are the only group of people who would actually take it personally should someone say ‘Happy Kwanza’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah’.  Regardless, a business has the right to choose what they display on their own properties.

Because our country is filled with people of different cultures, ethnicities, religions, etc., there is a wide range of holidays spanning from November to December.  Christmas is known to be a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.  A great way to accommodate ALL the holidays, is to simply wish people ‘Happy Holidays.’  We’ve been saying it almost as long as we’ve said ‘Merry Christmas’ – so what’s the big deal?

Argument #3 – Being gay is a choice – False

This is a controversial subject, but I really think it’s important to address.  While the term ‘gay gene’ has been a bit overused, evidence strongly suggests that sexual orientation is inherited genetically.  I won’t dive in too much on the biology of sexual orientation, but here’s an article on Wikipedia that can help you understand it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation

Let me give you an analogical example – let’s say you don’t like the taste of carrots.  Did you choose not to like the taste of carrots, or is it something that naturally comes to you?  Do you condemn people who like carrots?  Should we outlaw carrots from being sold in grocery stores because it’s not natural to like carrots?  While sexual orientation isn’t anything like food, it is obvious that there are various preferences and tendencies that we inherit genetically – sexual orientation is no exception.  Again, studies have shown that sexual orientation is inherited genetically.

Argument #4 – Prayer and religion has been taken out of schools – False

While it is true there is separation between church and state, when it comes to school, students can practice any religion they want on school grounds.  Students are allowed to pray, read a religious book, start religious clubs, talk to other people about their religion, etc.  What is NOT allowed is making students practice any religion.  If a teacher was muslim, and he/she made all the students pray to his/her god, how would christian families feel?  The answer is obvious.  Now, turn the tables; if a christian teacher made his/her students pray to his/her god, how would muslim or jewish families feel?  Again, the students can practice any religion they want – they CAN’T, however be forced by a teacher to practice any religion.

And now onto a more up-to-date subject…

Argument #5 – A&E is discriminating against Phil Robertson and Christians for suspending him – False

Phil Robertson has the right to say and do what he wants.  Likewise, A&E has the right to say and do what they want – and both of them did.  Phil Robertson didn’t just say ‘homosexuality is biblically wrong’ or ‘I don’t believe this or that’…what he did do is make a diminishing, disgusting, and offensive analogy comparing homosexuals to people who rape animals – aka, he compared homosexuality to bestiality.  Not only are the two not alike, but the very idea someone would make a comparison like that is just appalling.  A&E’s move to suspend him was a very light punishment for such a derogatory statement.

Interestingly enough, this same person went on to suggest that men marry teenage girls: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-teenage-girls/story?id=21278832

I’ll end this here for now.  I hear a TON of things from religious people, considering the fact my family is extremely conservative and religious, and I used to be involved in religion myself.   Are you religious?  I’d love to hear your response, and address any arguments or cases you may have!  I’ll continue to share and respond to various arguments via this blog post.  This is an interesting and topic – and a multitude of subtopics – and it’s necessary that we discuss it honestly, openly, and factually.