I grew up in a very conservative Pentecostal home. We lived by many rules called “standards”. The hope was that these rules would instill some kind of deep spirituality in our children. As my generation grew up, many of the children who lived among so many rules could only see “the rules” and not the spirituality that the rules were meant to inspire. There were a small number that found the rules to to be a “fence of security” from a world they could not embrace but feared and they became the next generation of the modern day Pentecostal. There were also a group of survivors that fell victim to the “unyielding law” of the rules where injustice was found in the immediate forgiveness of the passive personalities that readily apologized and conformed while those who questioned for better understanding were never given a place of acceptance at all.
The inconsistencies where the likeable were forgiven and the unlikeable were not, where each church had a different set of rules and where scriptures were not truly debated for a better understanding but blind obedience and conformity were the true standard, left a large number of young people with a bitter taste in their mouths and a bitter root in their hearts. The hypocrisy of it all was that without the spiritual development of these children, the rules were just rules, with no meaning, only oppression and injustice. It should have been an evident, foregone conclusion that these children would not survive, what would ultimately be viewed as the “hypocrisy of inconsistency” by these children. With no introspection by the leaders of our faith, these children were instead, demonized for their inability to keep rules that a spiritual man conformed to through faith. How were the unspiritual to appreciate these rules when it required spirituality to understand them? It was destined for failure and the ignorance of the leadership led them to dismiss the massive falling away by discounting the validity and importance of these children whom Jesus had come to save. Yet some Pentecostals will still excuse their own failure to reach these souls as “they just had a love for the world” or “they’re reprobates”. Let me explain the hypocrisies that can lead a soul to come to the conclusion that God is fallible or doesn’t even exist. Where only a few escape the disillusionment of a fallible doctrine.
1. When a child sees that mom and dad say we need to follow rules A, B and C but then the child sees mom and dad not really following A,B and C
2. When the pastor excommunicates or sets a person down ( excommunicate means to not allow a person to attend the church anymore and forbids anyone from the church to communicate with them any longer. “Setting a person down” means to remove all priviledges of membership from a person by not allowing them to participate in church functions for a set amount of time) for breaking rule A,B or C and then fellowships ( considers them brethren of likeminded beliefs) with a church in another city that doesn’t believe in rules A, B or C.
3. When the pastor “sets down” parishioner A for an infraction but does not “set down” Parishioner B ( there are usually many excuses and this behavior is not announced to the whole congregation but it happens ALL THE TIME behind closed doors).
4. When the pastor is found to be guilty of a particular infraction of the rules himself but makes up excuses as to why he is exempt. In my case, when my pastor was attending church as a young person, he and his girlfriend (who later became his wife) committed fornication and they hid it until their children were grown. Now as a pastor, he had been excommunicating offenders and not allowing others to have church weddings. Then someone figured out that the pastor’s anniversary didn’t match up to the birth of their eldest child. He explained why he was exempt and kept up his policy of excommunicating offenders or not allowing them to have church weddings.
5. When different rules apply for the pastor’s family than the parishioners. In my case, anyone who left our church for any reason without our pastor’s permission was excommunicated except his daughter and her husband who left without permission so the daughter’s husband could preach. Even those who left to minister or attend church elsewhere were excommunicated.
So, if the rules must be obeyed because they will save your soul, then why don’t the rules apply without partiality or excuse? and if the rules don’t save your soul… why do we even have the rules? If the rules are required for us? Why are they not required for preachers or for the church we fellowship down the road? I bring up these questions, not to condemn my pastor, for I believe him to be sincere and I learned many good things from him as well. He was a powerful figure whose doctrines, no matter how sincerely believed by himself and his followers, could not withstand the scrutiny of a generation who was bred, born and fed on the rhetoric.
For those who are honest, the hypocrisy begins to create unbelief because we all read the same stories and what really hits home are the stories of Christ. Christ hated and condemned hypocrites. Christ did not condemn the harlot, he forgave her even though she had just been caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stoned for it. Christ did not condemn the money grubbing tax collector, he chose one for his disciple and forgave and ate dinner with another named Zacchaeus. He didn’t condemn unbelief because his disciples continually had to be reprimanded for their unbelief. The only people Christ condemned were the hypocritical religious people… the Pharisees
I have come to believe that religion must evolve with the understanding , education and development of mankind. It does not negate the necessity of religion, for spirituality is developed through religion, whether it be in a group or whether it be on a personal level. A perfect example of the evolvement of religion can be found in Christianity itself. At one time, mankind believed in oppression of different cultures. We found scripture that supported those beliefs and Christianity now bears the stain of mankind’s lack of understanding and limited education. Mankind evolved and Christianity did with it. We now see the scriptures that speak on slavery as a cultural context but only having relevance in the teaching and importance of self submission to a higher standard of beliefs and living. As mankind evolves, his religion must also. I am a Christian and I truly believe that God does not change but he knows and has created the evolution of man’s education and understanding and with that evolution we begin to have more understanding of what God really wanted and intended for mankind…. if we do not become disillusioned.
My husband likes to use “The Sims” as an analogy of our world and Christianity. The programmer (God) is the creator of the world. The devil is the evil hacker who corrupts the code that makes the created beings in the game have to suffer illness, corruption and death. We are the created beings of that world that have been hijacked by the crazy hacker (the devil). Death, birth, life, the environment and everything in it may have significance to the created but it really is limited to the game. The creator does not come into the game but creates a being ( his son, Jesus) to come into the game to tell us all how to escape the corruption of the evil hacker and get into the creator’s world instead of staying in the corrupted game without escape ( which would be hell). In our world, we see the slow degradation of our lives as we are born, we live and we die in a corruptible world where everything else is dying with us. It is all material. However, our creator (God), sees it as a temporary place where we are born, we live, we suffer and we die but then we cross over into His world where there is NO corruption, if we so choose to follow the map described by His son. The life we knew “on earth”… all the suffering, the corruption, the degradation and ending is but a miniscule part of eternity. We weep over a person who is murdered, who dies of illness and we fret that God cannot really be a God of love because he allows this stuff to happen when those that die actually escape “the game”. I find that my husband’s explanation seems to connect with people of this generation quite well. So, even the message of Christianity evolves to meet the needs of each generation.
Back to my religion. I expound upon my upbringing to also bring up my religious evolvement. In spite of all the rules, injustices and all the hypocrisy, I did have an experience with God. It was life changing. When you experience something, you become a witness that cannot be turned. It’s like telling the witness of a murder or robbery that they really didn’t see anything or telling someone that loves tamales that they don’t exist because they never tasted them. I will never be convinced otherwise. I am a witness because of my experiences with God. When everyone abandoned me. I felt God and experienced God in supernatural ways. Once when I was weeping because I had no family anywhere near me, I cried out to God for him to hold me and I felt physical arms holding me when I could not see them. A few months after my first husband ran off with another woman and our divorce was final, I wept because I felt I was undesirable and unworthy of a good man who shared my ideals and beliefs… God sent my husband to me a month later. Of all the men in all the world, I meet a man who fulfills all my hopes and dreams.. and I asked God a month earlier to send him to me. I’ve mentioned two incidences but I have a lifetime worth of “miracles and good luck” that remind me everyday that someone is mindful of my prayers, my hopes and dreams.
However, I did have to evolve and when I resisted God’s urging to grow beyond my limited beliefs and faith, God would push me to a place where I’d have to admit I was wrong and change my beliefs. I no longer believe in “standards”. I believe in people finding God on a personal level and then conforming to the dependency that relationship creates. I believe those things that God will ask of an individual may not be what he asks of another. My grandmother never had to live without television, she did not abuse it. To a woman who struggles with alcoholism, he may require abstinence from alcohol until she is healed of her disease. Of a man who womanizes, he may require celibacy from women and marriage until he is delivered from his sex addiction. I serve a God who asks one man to lead people through the desert, asks another man to die upside down on a cross while he asks another man to write poetry and die of old age on an island. I serve a God who gives riches and wisdom to one King while he makes another be a fugitive for 20 years. Why? because God is into personal relationships and his plans may be for you to reign or to serve, to abstain or indulge in God’s gifts and we are NOT all created equal. if you think otherwise, ask the handicap man if he feels like he was dealt a fair hand when he has one less leg than the next guy. Why do I suffer diabetes while another family member suffers from a developmental disorder and yet another is completely healthy? Why was my grandmother blind while her best friend was deaf? We are individuals and the sincere GET IT. The conformists believe there is a methodology and if they follow the methodology, they’ll make it even without knowing God and that they are entitled to a perfect life because they followed the methodology. My path is not your path, I may see the desert while you walk on a tropical island. It is no wonder that Jesus said “not everyone who casts out demons or who says Lord, Lord, will make it… why? because he will answer , “I never knew you”.
God seeks out people. From different cultures, different backgrounds, different ages and different times, what he asked of the early church he has not asked of you. Who among you has died or been maimed from persecution? I spoke to a fellow Bible study instructor in 2004. I had not seen him in a long while. He said, “Cherish, I am a different person now. I cannot believe the things I used to believe. My understanding of God was so limited. I went to India and Africa to minister. I never saw a miracle before going there, in-fact, I doubted their existence. But in these other places, miracles I could not even explain were happening before my eyes. People who never even heard of tongues were speaking in tongues and I thought we had to teach about tongues for someone to get it” He began to weep and he said, “I worry in America… we don’t need God the way they do and they have greater miracles. No one there worries about having dresses three inches below their knees, many of the women beg to even have one article of clothing. It is nice that we squabble about what to wear when they have nothing to wear.”
We have missed it. While we raise money for bigger and better buildings, our Savior had no where to lay his head. While we contend with people’s clothing, there are those who’d be happy to have our castoff’s. While we waste sermon after sermon preaching about standards, tv shows, websites, books and other material things that perish with the using, the world is slowly trudging in hopelessness and poverty. I may not ever be called to suffer like Paul, perhaps I will be here at home in my synagogue like James, but let us not kid ourselves for one moment in thinking that forcing a person to wear specific clothing is going to change their heart. For the soul that seeks after God is obedient to His desires and seeks out ways to please Him and the soul that is obedient who conforms for peace’s sake may just be a conformist and not even know Him. Do not wonder that we have tares among us… some of us nurture them with our doctrines and traditions. Do we not trust that God can save a man in the wilderness and reveal mysteries to him that we cannot even understand? That this person independent of our “standards” will strive to be obedient and sit next to the Father in the kingdom to come knowing none of our “standards”? when some of the most obedient conformists to our “standards” won’t even make it past the gate? I have found that evolving beyond “handle not, taste not and touch not which all are to perish with using” is more spiritual just as Paul wrote in Colossians 2:20-23
Paul asks us… “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Please read this scripture for yourself. I copied in the NIV version but it’s pretty clear in the KJV. Have at it my rule enforcers and may you find deliverance from the ordinances you obey that appear to be wise but really have no power to subdue our flesh. Only Jesus Christ can deliver us from ourselves…rules will only create injustice by hypocrisy and bitterness through oppression…. or there’s a better way, let God manage the lives of those He calls and may they fall so head over heels in love with Him that they want to please him any way He asks. God don’t need you to clarify His desires to those He loves. He’s the perfect Lover and anything he asks, he gives back more.
Pastor Cherish King Crisp