Tag Archives: faith

How To Not Ruin The Silver Chair

I get why it’s so tough to fully adapt the whole Chronicles of Narnia into films.

Sure you can make headway capturing the magic and wonder of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a well-known story with mass appeal and everybody loves Mr. Tumnus.

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Yet when I stand in the woods holding my package, people get all uptight about it. [Source.]

And while it’s nowhere near as popular, Prince Caspian makes for a good, old-fashioned swashbuckling romp.

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My name is Inigo Montoya!

Do it right and you might have the momentum to try The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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I’M ON A BOAT (the movie)

And that usually kills it.

Not that folks haven’t made valiant efforts. It’s just that Dawn Treader is a much slower story – more of a “travelogue” than an adventure on the high seas. The battles, beasts, and betrayals that mark the other two are noticeably absent here, as are two of the original four Pevensie children, and much of the steam built up by the previous two installments.

And that’s a damn shame. Continue reading

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3 Life Lessons I Learned in Church (Or, the Hilariously-Sad Realization that I Grew Up in a Cult)

“Here’s an easy way to figure out if you’re in a cult: If you’re wondering whether you’re in a cult, the answer is yes.” ― Stephen Colbert, I Am America

They say hindsight is 20/20. Never has this cultural idiom been so true to me as the moment that  I realized I grew up in a cult. After conducting some personal and academic research about the characteristics of a cult, the scales fell from my eyes and, hallelujah, I could see.

It wasn’t as earth-shattering as I would have expected, in some ways, it was like I always knew. I just had to step out of the cult closet and see for myself.

A few characteristics of a cult include financial mismanagement, abusive behaviour, and attempts to control members through manipulation. During my time in my childhood church I experienced and/or witnessed each of these concerning behaviours. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the kind of horror movie cult that was sacrificing babies, or drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Generally, it wasn’t even all that bad. But on the spectrum of church to cult, we had more in common with a cult than the typical church.

I learned a lot from my recent revelation, and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Below, I’ve included three life lessons I learned in church, or, as I like to say, the hilariously-sad realization I grew up in a cult.

Life Lesson #1: Your Time is Valuable

“If God is up at five in the morning for prayer… (dramatic pause)… Then you should be, too!”

Time is arguably our most valuable commodity, and it’s your time that a cult will take the most of. For most cults, controlling your time is almost as good as controlling your money. Since I was quite young I didn’t donate a lot of money, but let me give you a breakdown of how I spent my time:

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep about 56 hours, and work about 40 hours each of the five workdays. That leaves about 72 hours left to do what we like. In our cult, we were told that our time was spiritual money in our spiritual bank account. If we had free time we weren’t doing enough for the Lord.

In a given week we would spend 19 hours in prayer (both communal and private), 6 hours in service, 4 hours doing street ministry (aka knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets), 10.5 hours of driving ministry (picking up families for church programs), 3 hours youth ministry, 4 hours outreach ministry, and 5 hours in worker meetings or music practice. That left 19.5 hours of free time for 7 days, or approximately 2.7 hours of free time per day. To put it another way: if our free time had been money we would have barely made enough to support a child in a third world country.

When I finally committed to not go to church (cult) anymore, I suddenly had time to do what I wanted. It was as if I had discovered my belly button for the first time as an adult, which would be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Life Lesson #2: Question Everything

“When you come in here, turn off your brain.”

Ignorance is bliss, but cult ignorance? That shit is magical.

The first thing a cult takes away is your ability to question. You are not allowed to question leadership, the lack of faith healings, or the way money is being managed. You are discouraged from receiving a secular education and told to “turn off your brain” so the spirit could lead. Asking certain questions could get you ex-communicated. This meant that the Leaders would restrict any communication/contact between the ex-communicated person and the rest of the church congregation. This delicate practice was meant to somehow force the individual into repentance and to return once again to their (dysfunctional) church family.

In order to demonstrate your “true faith” you were required to leave your logic at the door and take everything on faith, no matter how absurd some of the services would get (running around the building and shouting at the top of your lungs was a frequently occurring event). While this kind ignorance was truly blissful, it quickly got out of hand.

Growing up in a cult was a lot like growing up in a tiny magical bubbleMy tiny bubble consisted of a small intimate group of people that saw each other every day. Like most charismatic churches we believed in faith healing, prosperity, and gifts of the spirit (speaking in tongues).

However, we also believed we could:

  • change the weather
  • drive cars without gas
  • teleport
  • pray back a woman’s hymen so she could re-lose her virginity on her wedding night (honest truth)
  • pray away the gay
  • chase demons out of the church (this actually involved physically running around)
  • pray over adult video stores to close them down (it actually did close down two weeks later, BTW)
  • repel bullets through prayer (when the persecution came)
  • pray people out of the grave.

It was a strange, wonderful, magical bubble, to say the least. But it was also a bubble that needed to burst.

For me, the pin that burst the bubble came the day we were asked to pray for a specific group of people to die.

We prayed, and they died, further justifying our beliefs in our magical powers.

It was scary, scary to be in a group of people you love and have grown to know over decades, then, one day, to see them all pray in mindless fervour for someone to die.

This is when the magic ended, I no longer viewed the world through the foggy haze of my magic bubble. I suddenly realized this was all crazy and I had no choice but to leave.

Life Lesson #3: Know When to Walk Away, And Know When to Run

“I don’t trust people with an education, they think too much with their head.”

As cliche as it sounds, things aren’t always meant to last forever. Leaving the safety and security of the community was hard. It was like a divorce; a divorce where you had to separate yourself from every single member of your family one by one. Although I came out relatively unscathed, there were people who I cared about who lost everything: family, money, and community.

The loss of community was the most heartbreaking. It left many bewildered and asking themselves a multitude of questions: What had been the point of all that hard work and time? Why did we pray so much? Why did I give away so much money? And why did I needlessly hate myself for natural body functions? Masturbation jokes aside, after leaving, or rather running, from the cult that I grew up in I learned that I don’t need their edification in my life to have purpose. I could live and make my own choices, without fear that God or church will disapprove. In my cult-free life I have found joy and purpose. Plus, there’s no one trying to steal my money anymore.


The writer of this post has chosen to remain ANONYMOUS.

The Rise (or Return?) of the Post-Secularist

Last week, my news feed blew up with a surprising announcement: the “Post-Seculars” have arrived.

Before I get into what exactly that’s supposed to mean, let’s deal with the source of this news.  This new classification of human being comes to us from an article published in the American Sociological Review, and is based on data collected from the General Social Survey (GSS), a biennial survey of American households that, among other things, asks respondents about their attitudes regarding religion and the sciences, as well as general familiarity with facts about the latter.

Now, that’s about as much background as you’ll get from your standard internet source, but fortunately for you I’m a nerd, so I read the actual paper (with skimming.  I’m not a robot).  Basically, participants in the GSS were asked a lot of questions like: “does science increase opportunities for the next generation,” “should science receive more government funding,” “is the Bible the actual word of God,” etc.  Yes, the religion portion is absurdly Judeo-Christian-biased, but they tried to cover more ground with some personal rankings of general religiosity.  In addition, the participants were asked to answer some questions to test scientific knowledge, like: “does radioactivity occur naturally?”

Our sociologist friends found that 43% of participants adhered to what they refer to in the article as the “traditional” perspective (religiously focused with little to no understanding of/appreciation for science) and 36% could be labelled as “Moderns” (the opposite of Traditionals).  The remaining 21 percent were something in between.

But not “in-between” like Richard Dawkins playing dress-up with Papal robes.

Continue reading

3 Things Christians Parents Can Learn From the Death of Leelah Alcorn

On December 28th Leelah (Josh) Alcorn committed suicide. In the Tumblr note she scheduled to upload after her death, Leelah implies that her parents’ strict rejection of her identity was one of the factor that led her to this decision.

I’m not a parent, so I don’t want to ignorantly hand out parenting suggestions. However, I do want to start a dialogue about this story in the Christian community.

Instead of offering my own naive words of advice, I’ve pulled out three quotes from Leelah’s note to focus on. Each of these three points highlight things Leelah seemed to deeply wish that her Christian parents would understand.

1. You can’t force your child to accept your beliefs

They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy…

– Leelah

I love what Jamie (the very worst missionary) once said on this topic. In her post titled “Not All Pastor’s Kids Are Christian. Sorry.” she talks about her own experience as a pastors wife, parenting a child who now identifies as an atheist. While Jamie expects their children to act respectful towards her and her husband (and their chosen profession), when it comes to their faith she only asks her children to be honest with her in their journey towards truth. She doesn’t ask them to pretend to be something they are not:

“Believing in Jesus? Receiving His redemption? These are not commands to be given by a father and obeyed by a child. They are a loving invitation from God to his people, every last one of His people, and He is patiently awaiting their reply…”

Continue reading

Do Western Christians Want Martyrs?

This isn’t going to be a long post because I’m on the road again, but it is something that I wanted to quickly say.

A couple weeks ago I told you that I was reading up on ISIS, in particular the rumours I had seen circulating on Facebook. You’ve probably read these rumours yourself, or seen people changing their Facebook profile to this picture as an act of solidarity.

Some of these rumours seemed fishy to me. The one I found particularly disturbing was the account that Muslim terrorists were decapitating children. While trying to fact-check this claim I came across some photos of a decapitated child and was so sickened and angry that I gave up trying to find the truth behind these rumours. Luckily someone else has done so for me. Continue reading

Sure, There’s The Afterlife [But Wait, There’s More!]

When deciding to write about this topic, I had to be honest with myself and admit that things have gotten pretty darn personal around here in the past. It’s not like I haven’t shared with you and potentially anyone else in the world with an internet connection that I think Ingrid Michaelson has “amazing” breasts. The main difference here, I think, is the general way I feel many of my peers [ie. fellow young Christian people] discuss faith, which is to say, rarely.

There appears to be a common sentiment of live and let live. “I’ll respect you if you respect me.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great, it’s just that it all too often results in us [refer to my definition of peers above] not really talking about something that’s ostensibly important to us. All of that’s a topic to possibly be unpacked for another time, though, because today I’m going to try tackling the benefits of faith. To be more specific, the benefits of faith sans salvation. Continue reading

Fame Day: Liberation Theology (Can the Church be a Force for Social Justice?)

I grew up as an Evangelical Christian. There are many wonderful people I love who strongly associate with that title, but at this point in my life I no longer consider myself one. As I’ve struggled with certain tenants of the Evangelical movement over the last few years I’ve also struggled with the urge to write off Christianity entirely.

As I’ve gotten older and moved away from my previous home and (wonderful) community, I’ve started to realize that the “brand” of Christianity I was raised with is certainly not the only one out there. I also discovered that the emphasized conversion message that I was brought up in is actually a relatively new aspect of Christianity. While this method had a real heyday in the 80-90’s (think altar calls), here in North America things seem to be evolving yet again.

While I’d love to share more about what I’ve been learning regarding the evolution of Christianity sometime soon, for this post I want to focus on a branch of theology that I didn’t even realize existed until pretty recently: Liberation Theology. Continue reading