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Archive for the ‘A voice of sanity in the Christian world’ Category

roses1Lutherius from Ex-Pentecostal Thoughts writes:

I think one of the most important things an Ex-Pentecostal person should do is to make sure that the majority of social contacts in their circle are non-Pentecostal. I cannot stress this enough. Remember that Pentecostalism isolates you from the wider community because it is so weird. When you are sufficiently isolated, they can manipulate you because you do not have an outside source of challenge to the insanity within.

However, as an Ex-Pentecostal, you must actively and boldly fight this tendency toward isolation. Some of us might whine and complain that it is hard to do; however, we must do it. If we find problems in this area, we probably have terrible social skills and can use some professional counseling to improve our Emotional Intelligence. We must connect with other people. Think of the times of despair you had recently as an Ex-Pentecostal.

I would bet that a large portion of this anxiety and despair was because you felt isolated, lonely and afraid. We did not consider our options. We were not connected to the larger community of non-Pentecostals to offset the radical de-socializing effects of Pentecostalism. We sat alone, and we suffered alone.

Make sure that the overwhelming majority of people in your social circle are non-Pentecostals. THIS IS EXREMELY IMPORTANT! So, please, broaden yourself socially. This is extremely important. After we broaden ourselves socially, we should also broaden ourselves in other areas like careers and hobbies. I think that we are capable of a hundred times more things than Pentecostalism would allow us to think. Pentecostalism restricts our ambition, our creativity and our consideration of the World of Options. There are millions of options that we were never exposed to within Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism straight-jacketed our brains into not even being able to see our options.

Am I glad I became a journalist, I doubt I could have met so many people and so many ideas, that questioned my beliefs. Sometimes, I regret the fact that my education was a little crippled because of the ideology.roses-letter

I loved story books, but couldn’t read as many as I liked. I loved films, but couldn’t see them at all; only in secret with my college friends. I loved journalism, but was told the Godly thing to do might be to join CBN, God TV or Blessings when I held only contempt for them for the propaganda-driven, money-making machines that they were.

Am I so deeply thankful that something like journalism happened in my life. Otherwise I would have never had the ideological support, financial Independence or the friends to break free from something that was so invasive and destructive.

Oh My God! To think how many of my natural inclinations I have suppressed for an unnatural ideology. Songs like “Y.M.C.A, Fool’s Garden Lemon Tree, Ace of Base’s All that she wants or  Madonna’s Like a Prayer” had to be smuggled into the house. I would have sold my soul for a TLC’s No scrubs or Guns N Roses record then. It used to be so tantalizing just hearing a few strains of pop-music at my friend’s place. When someone gave me a second-hand record of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal…I played it again and again and again till the tape broke. I think when I grew up, Illayaraja was the big rage – I used to jam my ear against our kitchen ventilator (I was a latch-key kid so there was no one at home to watch my crazy antics) to hear songs from Mouna Ragam & Punnagai Mannan that my neighbour played. Luckily, in a crowded locality like Mandaveli, there were a lot of family functions being held – so every time they played those loud cinema songs on those street-to-street loudspeakers, I would be glued to my seat on the window-sill listening to them. Even now there are many movie songs I love, that I have never seen the visuals of; for instance “Andhi Mazhai” or “Dil tho Pagal Hai.”

Even after I turned 20, I was banned from reading corrupting books like “Harry Potter” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Mills & Boons, Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer or even teen romance series. In college, when I was given pocket-money for travel expenses and lunch…I would buy grapes or some fruit for Rs 10, then travel by bus and raid the nearby lending library with the remaining amount. Of course, the library account near my college was a secret – I had another library account that my parents opened for me, but that used to be functional only during the holidays when it was ok to read books.

Sometimes, I think I did a good job of enjoying myself despite all the restrictions. There is a saying, isn’t it? “Stolen mangoes from the neighbour’s garden are sweeter.” I developed innovative methods by which I would read books by stealth. After 10′ o clock lights off – I would keep the book on the floor and read from the slit of light coming under the door.

rose1I would keep story books inside the covers of my textbook and pretend I was seriously involved in my school work. I got caught often with this method. It thrilled me to bits, when my grandfather once told me, my father used to do the same thing (story book inside textbook) when he was supposed to be studying for his board exams. That revelation and unearthing my dad’s school report card, gave me a great defense argument, when my father started lecturing me to study. My dad’s report card was exactly the same as mine:

Hindi & Marathi – 25% to 38% (Same as me, I would fail in Tamil or pass with border-line marks)

Maths, English- 80 – 90% (Again the same as me)

Physics, Chem, Bio, Social studies – 50 % – 75 % (Me & my dad seem to be identical twins in our academic career)

Anyway, getting hold of my dad’s school report cards, became his Achilles heel; he could no longer scold me for not studying, since he had apparently done the same thing 🙂

Most of my friends think I am eccentric, because of my complete lack of knowledge of popular music, popular culture and popular books. People think I am one of those scholarly types – because I am well-versed in the classics. This was not due to any “high-brow” taste of mine, but  due to the simple fact that all books other than classics were banned in the house.

But I am so thankful to those friends of mine, who stuck by me, even when I was a over-the-top God fearing person. My friends in school and college were my mainstay, anchor and emotional support. It always struck me as ironical that Christians were always over-critical of me, while my non-Chrisitian friends were fine with me just as I was.

This post was to say, I am happy to have come this far. I still have a lot to do; catching up culturally – watching Tamil masala movies + those award winning art movies, reading to my heart’s content and just learning to enjoy life 🙂

I suddenly realised that this post sounds like the only complaints I had against the system was not allowed to read fiction, watch movies or hear songs. I had very strong differences of opinion and there were other things that hurt. What I am posting is what I am comfortable in sharing. There were much larger issues at stake.

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audio-button-2I have been in touch with J. P. Istre, author of Letters from an Ex-Pentecostal. The book makes very interesting reading and has sections devoted on how to recover from spiritual abuse.This is a good resource for spiritual abuse victims. Istre has also said that there’s absolutely no copyright on his book, so anyone wanting a copy of the book can mail me for a PDF format.

And for Christians, who belong to the Pentecostal fold, there is no need to get angry over this. If you are happy with a Pentecostal church, then we are happy for you, but there are others out here, who are hurting; whose lives have changed for the worse, because of legalistic, strict doctrine. This is for them!

You can also directly contact the author, who is a regular commenter at the Ex-pentecostals forum and a Lutheran, at derkrash@earthlink.net

The book shows how some charismatic Christian churches break social and family bonds, in their zeal for new converts, even within the Christian fold. Their holier-than-thou attitude, their lack of understanding, their legalistic approach to all things and even how they market the “glossalia” phenomenon – everything is dealt with at length in this book.

When I was a kid, and I heard people speaking in tongues I used to feel scared. When I saw people engaged in frenzied worship in church, the loud music, the drum beats pounding your chest, I wished I could run; For a six-year-old that was real scary stuff. I have even seen people have something close to fits, during these hyper-active prayer session. Later, when I grew older, there was immense pressure on me. Because I didn’t get the gift of tongues, the church people felt I wasn’t holy enough. I used to want it so badly and wondered what was it about my friends that they received the “gift,” but I didn’t; they weren’t any holier or any worse than me – normal teenagers all of us. And yet, why didn’t I alone not have it?

Later, after my disillusionment with the church and turning atheist, this phenomenon was still at the back of my mind. I couldn’t explain it away. Now I find out that it is a scientifically recorded phenomenon and even non-Christians experience it. It was such an eye-opener!

For those wanting to get out of the pentecostal church (I’m an ex-pentecostal myself), do read this book!

P.S. Do check Ex-Pentecostal Thoughts.

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spiritual-abuseI didn’t even know that a word called spiritual abuse existed till I read Cindy Kunsman’s UnderMuchGrace blog (My friends will of course be quick to remind me there are lot of things I don’t know 😉

Defining spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse describes the process by which a spiritual authority misuses their power and the trust of their flock in order to meet their own needs or the needs of an organization or ideology. Many churches with sound and solid Biblical doctrine can be considered “cultic” when they practice techniques of manipulation and thought reform.

How many stories we have heard of false prophets, fake gurus and cult leaders? Lots, I guess across religions and denominations.

One great resource that one of my friends forwarded me was Ex-pentecostals forum . I was also sent this link to a book, titled The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century by Michael at google books.

I found excerpts from the book fascinating. Though I come from an orthodox Pentecostal background, I wasn’t too clued in on the history of the movement. That way this book brings fascinating glimpses into one of the most charismatic church movements in South India. He also dwells on the change from CPM to TPM; and the why and where of it.

I am going to be posting a lot more on spiritual abuse in the coming days. Not to decry religion, but more out of concern and a desire that people would practise freedom Christianity than legalistic, patriarchal Christianity.

I also want to post on emotional incest – a topic of great relevance in Indian society where enmeshed families are common.

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While reading UnderMuchGrace, I came upon the reason behind the graphic Fight the Mental Burqa on White Washed Feminists. Since I really liked what they said, I’m posting the pledge here.

fight_mental_burqa02

Fight the Mental Burqa!

A woman is imprisoned by a Mental, Burqa if her entire formation, or her present indoctrination by those claiming to speak in God’s name, does not inform or enable her to choose the other good means that God allows her in the pursuit of her final end.

A girl is living under the Mental Burqa if she is told that she is “resisting God’s Biblical plan for her” by pursuing a higher education or by exercising a legitimate profession, before settling down to marry, should she believe that is God’s will for her.

She is oppressed by the Mental Burqa if she is trained to believe she is not fit to choose whom she will marry. Patriocentrism treats women as interchangeable, and castigates as “modern sentimentality” a woman’s loathing to be “given in marriage” to a man she finds repulsive, one with whom she has neither affinity of character nor compatibility of intellect.

So, yes, I am for the woman’s right to live as a human being with a rational nature. I am for her right to know she has a God-given choice between the legitimate means to reach Him. I am for her right to the education that will equip her to embrace any state of life. I am for her right to determine, if she decides to marry, which man she thinks will make a good husband for herself and father for her children.

I am for the woman’s right not to be extinguished by the neo-fascist philosophy of a group of men who know that their own agenda is best served by women who have been denied or who have abdicated their duty to act as rational, responsible human beings.

We have a face and a mind.
Fight the Mental Burqa.

wwf_burkas

P.S.Only on Cindy Kunsman’s blog UnderMuchGrace did I first come upon the term spiritual abuse. Her blog is also very warm and reflects the kind of Christianity I would like to promote.

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bridal-march1Serendipity is the joyful discovery of something wonderful by accident. And for me discovering Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major was something like that. I have always heard the song being played in church for the bridal march, but never knew that it was classical music.

As a flower girl, seeing Christian weddings at the St George’s Cathedral I felt this was what heaven would be like; the music, people in their Sunday best, the flowers, the solemnity, the grace, the holiness and the overwhelming goodwill. Sometimes the experience is just heavenly! If you have visited the St George’s Cathedral and heard this music playing as the bride, all radiant and beautiful, walked down the aisle on her father’s arms, you will know what I am talking about. Everyone smiling, a few sniffs from those sentimental. The bridegroom waiting for her…the music playing …me dragging my feet with the bride’s veil, sometimes I would wish it would never stop…the music being heavenly. But all good things come to an end.  The organist would play the last few notes and the pastor would start: “Dear brethren we are all gathered here on this solemn occasion …”

For me, choir music has been something I have always loved. But when I stopped going to church, I don’t know what made me stop buying gospel songs. The journey back started at a funeral service. While attending the service, I found Christian choir music just as breathtaking as ever. Music has the power to take you to another plane all together. No wonder, theists feel singing for the Gods is to experience heaven on earth. Hearing the familiar hymns sung I could feel tears coming to my eyes; the sheer beauty and poetry of the songs, and my stupidity in letting my atheists beliefs stop my enjoying the music.

And I was surprised that I could remember the words so well and not need to use the hymn book kept on pew shelves. There is a Chinese proverb, “If you learn something really well, it will always stay with you.” I don’t know if I am quoting it correctly as I first read it in Antony Grey’s Peking. I really loved hearing the old songs and didn’t know I was really missing something until then.

When I went back home, I tried humming a few of the old hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Great is thy faithfulness,” “Abide with Me,” “Praise my soul the King of Heaven,” and found that surprises of surprises, I could recall all the words from every stanza.

So, I am re-discovering myself. I found that even when you totally reject something, there will always be something good in it to comfort you 🙂impromptu1

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church1Since there have been many debates on whether the TPM approved or disapproved of married pastors, I thought I’d post this history of the TPM as told to me by a current TPM member:

Ceylon Pentecostal Mission (now TPM) Founder Pastor Paul or Ramankutty had accepted several married people into full-time TPM ministry and even had children.
Pastor Paul ordained Pastor K.E. Abraham, who was married, as the founder of Indian Pentecostal Church (IPC). This event has also been mentioned in Pastor Paul’s biography.
Though Pastor Paul advocated pastors to take the vow of celibacy like the Apostle Paul, he never demanded celibacy from anyone or rejected anyone for priesthood on the grounds that they were married.
If Pastor Paul had rejected anyone from ministry for being married, then it would violating the principles of 1 Timothy 4:1-3 (Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.)

Chief Pastor Alwin de Alwis introduced some controversial doctrines in the latter part of 1950’s and early part of 1960’s. Pastor Alwin supposedly taught that the only reason for marriage is lack of self-control and that an essential requirement for being a pastor was celibacy. These were not the teachings of Pastor Paul, so Pastor Freddy and the council of senior ministers rejected these.

Pastor M. Daniel formally excommunicated the sitting Chief Pastor Alwin of CPM on charges of sexual impropriety while both of them were in France. After Pastor Paul’s son Freddy Paul became the Chief Pastor, the first announcement he wanted to make was that it would be perfectly acceptable for pastors and sisters to marry and remain in the ministry. With that in mind, he called a meeting of the senior ministers. However, the majority of the senior pastors suggested that if they make such an announcement, majority of the young male workers and female workers might pair up and request to be married.
Remember, they were/are living in a communal environment (faith homes). That would have caused irreparable reputational damage to the then CPM in the eyes of the world. In addition, their argument was that CPM has a tradition of celibate ministers and if many ministers got married, it would completely change that tradition.

Therefore, the decision was that they would not make such an announcement and would just remain silent on the issue of celibacy. That is why, I think, we are not able to find any official statement on this issue from TPM. They also decided that if anyone wanted to get married and wanted to continue in the ministry, he/she would be heavily discouraged or encouraged to leave the ministry and then marry. However, if any one insisted that he wanted to marry and continue in the ministry then he will be allowed to do so.

After the Pastor Alwin crisis, several pastors left the ministry to get married. Some of the pastors in India got married and continued in the ministry. The TPM church in USA has married ministers.

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Being an atheist from a Christian background, people automatically assume I’m angry with God and dead against the church. For me, I’m indifferent to the whole “God exists or not” debate. While I don’t think Christ was God, I do like him for being a radical in his times. I like him because

a)he didn’t act holier-than-thou & goody-goody like the Pharesees & Sadducees

Remember, the prostitute (or in these politically correct times, I must call them commercial sex workers (CSW))? Jesus didn’t judge her. He didn’t want her stoned to death like the patriarchs of those days & today (name change: In the Middle-East countries & Pakistan they now call it “honour killings”). Of course, whether she was a CSW or an adulteress is debatable, because different versions of the Bible seem to give different accounts. Anyway, when she was brought up before him, Jesus said, “Let he, who is without sin cast the first stone.” A direct reference to men and their own state of sinfulness and also a veiled reference to the fact that all of those present had lusted after her and might have also slept with her. That means, he held the men responsible for adultery also, not just the women, who in most cases are only victims of the system.

b)He wanted women to participate in theological debates & not be mired down by the traditional responsibilities of women like housework.

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken away from her.” Mary’s sister Martha is busy cooking dishes in the kitchen for all the men present, while Mary sits with Jesus and talks about spiritual things. When Martha overburdened with the housework wants Mary to help, Jesus gives this reply.

I don’t know if any of my readers have attended Christian religious meetings. But the prayer meetings always used to end with the serving of tea and refreshments. So my grandmother and myself (our house used to be the centre for such church-oriented activities) always had to miss out on what the pastor said and start heating the tea and laying out the refreshments like homemade sandwiches & vada. And the womenfolk also had a lot of cleaning up to do afterwords. If only a few menfolk in my family had pitched in, the women needn’t miss out on the meeting. But then the men had more important things to do like debate about theology. Even in church functions it was the same story.

I feel a lot of blame for this state of affairs, should be laid at Apostle Paul’s feet, who said, “Women should be silent in church, they should not cover their head, etc, etc…”

c) He was a radical. Though by birth a Jew, he made friends with Roman tax collectors, fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers

Samaritans in those days were discriminated against and did not occupy the upper elechons of power. In his parable, “The Good Samaritan” Jesus tried to criticise the inhumaneness of the religion some religious heads practise and set a Samaritan’s actions in good light. Roman tax collectors like the tax collectors of today did not win any awards for popularity. But Jesus befriends Romans too. And not being class-conscious, he befriends fisher-folk & lepers.

I remember my English lecturer in MCC, who was a Gandhian, drew a diagram in class to explain Christ’s exemplary behaviour in embracing all communities & people from all religious backgrounds. He asked what was the centre of power in those days. We replied “Ceasar and his Roman empire.” What comes next? “The Roman Senate & powerful noblemen.” Next in the circle? “Roman citizens, tradesmen.” Next? “Jews (the occupied race)” And finally at the bottom of the social structure, you have all of Jesus’s friends: “Fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers.”

d) He didn’t like churches minting money in God’s name

How about if someone came to your church, broke all the stalls selling CDs, self-improvement Godly books, drove out all the salesmen manning the stalls and declared that “pastors must not turn God’s house into a money-making enterprise.” Would you not be angry with him? Yet, this is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, when he saw that the Jews had converted the synagogue into a market. He overturned all the pigeons cages, drove out all the vendors and sellers and declared “Don’t turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”

e) “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.”

People are nailing him to the cross, after stripping him naked, mocking at him and whipping him mercilessly. And he instead of railing at them angrily, asks for their forgiveness. Truly, a great man! That’s why I guess, people started worshipping him as God. He is the one person, who truly followed his teaching of “Turning the other cheek.”

As Friedrich Nietzsche said and quoted often by Karl Marx, the last Christian died on the cross”

Rachel Chitra

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