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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Life Action, Part III

When I last left this topic I was discussing my growing unease with the Life Action Ministries seminar held at my church late last fall. I had attended one Sunday morning service and one Monday evening service, then did not attend the rest of the week until Sunday morning...which is where this post picks up.

The second Sunday morning…the sermon was about knowing if you were saved. I wish I saved my handouts, because I had some interesting notes written on them. But alas, I didn't--well, if I did they are lost somewhere in the sea of random papers that is my house! I did compose a few e-mails to friends about it though, so I can refresh my memory with those.

The sermon started with something that was completely irrelevant and unnecessary…spanking. The speaker set out to explain how his spanking of his children is an act of love to protect them. One example he gave was that if his 4 year old daughter was trying to stick a fork in an outlet, he would tell her to stop. If she didn’t, he would spank her because he didn’t want her to become a “crispy critter.” Now aside from the fact that standard household electrical supply will not produce that kind of injury (perhaps a few small contact burns—I know from personal experience—I stuck a bobby pin in an outlet when I was 3, burning my fingers that were holding the pin and my elbow that bumped it as I jerked away), my husband and I both glanced at each other thinking that there are other ways to deal with the situation. First of all, why not just go over to her and take the fork away saying “you can’t put that in there, it is dangerous!”? Why is there a need to test our children’s obedience in everything? If the child is too far away to get to in time, a directive of what to do is often much more effective than what not to do—“You need to take the fork to the table, it is for eating dinner.” And even if she didn’t do that, but rather paused and contemplated what to do with the fork (generally giving the parent enough time to get to the child and then turn the child toward the table and gently encourage them to start moving in that direction) is it really necessary to spank? He said that spanking in this situation is to teach the child not to put stuff in the outlets—it is for her safety. Hmm…we never spanked our 3 oldest children even when they were curious and tried to imitate us in plugging stuff in, but rather just emphatically told them “No! Owie! Owie!” and then redirected them. Despite our "failure" to spank, shortly after this sermon our then 2 year old—who really isn’t incredibly verbal—spotted our not quite 1 year old trying to stick his finger in an outlet and he called out “No Seany! Owie! Owie!” Apparently he was able to learn without being spanked...but then again, I've always known I have exceptionally smart children--after all, my lost brain cells had to have gone somewhere. ;-)

But he didn’t stop with just that. He then began joking about spanking. After the “crispy critter” comment he made a joke that my husband and I could not remember after the sermon. Then he said “children are like canoes, they are best steered by paddling from behind.” There was a smattering of laughter from the congregation. My husband and I—unknown to each other—both sat there thinking we should get up and leave. While we understand that some parents think that they need to spank to parent effectively, we believe it should always be an extremely serious undertaking. It should never be “funny” to intentionally inflict pain on another person, whether you perceive that the pain is necessary to their well being or not.

Then like I said, he got into a sermon about determining if you are truly saved.

He said some things that we thought were astounding…like that he believes that 90% of people attending a typical evangelical church are not actually saved! Remember now…all week people have been being set up to accept what he says without question—whether that was a deliberate intent by the design of the schedule or not. He went through about 6 or 7 points that you could use to determine if you were truly saved.

Several of them he did not justify using scripture, but rather extra Biblical materials. Now to be sure—he cited scripture in his discussion of almost every point, but the scriptures did not always prove his point, but made some other slightly relevant point.

An example of a “point” he had on his list was one that stated that just because you regularly read the Bible, even reading over the entire text over and over and perhaps even memorizing large portions, that did not mean you were a Christian. He seemed to ignore verses like Hebrews 4:12 which states that the Bible is a double-edged sword, piercing to the heart of man and Isaiah 55:11 which states that the Word of God will not return empty, but will fulfill God's purpose. Now I will agree that reading the Bible is not a proof of faith—but I do believe those passages I referenced indicate that it will break down barriers! Think of all the people like C.S. Lewis who set out to disprove scripture and became wonderful warriors of the faith.

But the part that got me was that he sited Kruschev in making his point, stating that this dastardly leader had memorized the entire 4 gospels. He stated that he had done so solely to “know his enemy.” This to me smacked of “Christian urban legend” so I attempted to verify it on-line. I found a couple of different versions of him memorizing the gospels or the entire New Testament, memorizing it to get bread with jam or candy—all were presented in the flavor of “this is something that I have heard” rather than really being authenticated. Some had points that seemed implausible—like reciting the entire 4 gospels in one Sunday sermon. How long would it really take to recite the Gospels? Surely a good many hours, perhaps well more than a day! But the stories all had one thing in common. He memorized it as a child to get a reward, not an adult bent on using it against his enemy.

I have to wonder…why was the speaker using this story in his sermon? In some of the handouts I picked up from sessions I did not attend I noted that the ministry he is with views even exaggeration as lying…did he exaggerate the story, or did he hear it exaggerated? Given that he is using it to make the primary justification for a point in a sermon that he likely gives several times a year as he travels from church to church, has he done anything to authenticate the story to make sure it is truthful?

Some of his points he sited some scripture in making his case, but the scripture really did not always fully support the points. Like I said, I wish I still had my notes so that I could give specific examples. By the end of the sermon he likely had many of the people believing they were not truly saved. He began an alter call, and it seemed that hands were not coming up as fast as he would like. I admit—I peeked. I think he did some of those “yes, I see that hand on the right side” when there was no hand. But 30 or so people did go forward—out of a sanctuary that seats around 400 and was filled to capacity.

Oddly enough, the Monday evening session was canceled, we don’t know why. Steve and I chose not to attend any more of the sessions—including the 3rd Sunday. We just felt it was becoming a hinderance to our ability to whole heartedly worship God. We did “home church” that Sunday, which the kids greatly enjoyed, and have asked us to do again since then. People who attended many or all of the sessions continue to speak very highly of the experience, and I do trust that there were many things of value presented.

Most do not give examples of what they gained. This can be reflective of the setting of discussion not encouraging the sharing of specific examples…but it can also be indicative of the psychological concept I presented in the beginning where the high “cost” of attendance resulted in a belief that it must be worthwhile—even if they can’t put their finger on why.

Every time someone brings up a specific example of some “wonderful” thing that they gleaned, my husband and I discuss it later and agree that it doesn’t sit right with us. Want an example? That's in my fourth and final installment.


Blogger TulipGirl said...

I feel close to crying reading about that whole thing, and I'm not sure why. . .

3:35 AM, February 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog...very interesting post. WE see a great sifting going on these days...many have left and gone to being small house churches...it is likely what will come to be for those who really want to worship Him in spirit and in truth! I will be watching your blog now for further posts! Thanks.

9:40 AM, February 12, 2005  
Blogger Goldie said...

I've been looking forward to this post! Very interesting! You know, it reminds me of my experience when I attended the Institute of Biblical Studies in '91 - two weeks straight, eight hours a day, and at the end they gave us booklets, split is into pairs, and sent us out into the streets. And I, too, came out of it with a feeling that I had learned something important, although not really knowing why. Hmm, I think I understand now! We, too, had a lecture about the benefits of spanking as a part of the course, but, since we were college students, we didn't really care one way or another.
Interesting observations, thanks for sharing! Will be waiting for your next installment!

8:51 PM, February 12, 2005  

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