Posts

Showing posts from 2008

The Only Thing to Fear Is...Everything

Recently on the ex-Church of Christ support group forum, one of the members commented that the culture of the COC is one of fear, not love. For example, the COC uses fear to keep people in line. The fear of being disfellowshipped hangs over everyone who fails to adhere strictly to the party line, and if your whole family and social life are associated with the church, that can be a powerful inducement to keeping your mouth shut, because you know that you'll lose everyone you love if you're disfellowshipped and shunned by the church.

Fear is also the primary emotion expressed by members of the church. Everyone I knew in the COC is constantly living in fear--fear of accidentally sinning and going to hell, fear of causing someone else to sin and going to hell, fear of not raising their kids right and going to hell, ad nauseum. In fact, I would say that most COC-ers are afraid of life itself. They're afraid of anything that's messy, that's not black-and-white, that'…

You're in the COC: Authenticity Is Not Allowed

One thing I noticed while growing up in the COC is that the church does not allow people to be themselves, to live an authentic life and express the best of themselves. Instead, everyone must conform to the church's idea of proper behavior, ideas, and emotions or risk being labeled as "wayward" or even sinful. As a result, people in the COC are forced to wear a false front and not express their most authentic selves. You can't express your true feelings or thoughts because they might contradict church doctrine or undermine the authority of the elders and deacons (or "the men of the church" if there are no elders or deacons).

One way that the church suppresses personal authenticity is by strictly enforcing very rigid gender roles. Women with leadership skills are pushed down and relegated to a subordinate role, while men without those skills are forced to play public leadership roles to which they're ill suited. It's just assumed that a man will alway…

Negativity

One of the many things that eventually drove me away from the Church of Christ is that it is a negative religion with a negative view of the world and of human nature. It's a negative religion because it defines Christianity in terms of what you don't and can't do (e.g., drinking, smoking, gambling, and dancing) instead of positive actions and attitudes (e.g., volunteering, giving money to charity, having a loving attitude, or visiting the sick).

The COC has a negative view of the world because it believes that the world is hopelessly corrupt and beyond redemption. They're just waiting for Jesus to come back and destroy it and all the sinners with fire. This is one reason why they deny global warming and deride environmentalists. Why bother trying to save the earth when God will destroy it soon anyway?

The COC also has a negative view of human nature and interprets everyone's actions in the worst possible light. In fact, it's safe to say that the COC assumes the …

The Bible Is a Cosmic Puzzle, and Only the COC Has the Answers

People in the church of Christ believe that one's salvation depends on correctly interpreting scripture. If you don't interpret it correctly, then you won't know which pattern of worship is correct and which rules to follow. The COC believes that there is only one correct interpretation and that it is the only church in possession of that correct interpretation. However, the COC in any form didn't exist before 1801, the year of the Cane Ridge revival, which marked the beginning of the Restoration Movement headed by Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone. No one who came before them, save for the apostles and their immediate successors, had the correct interpretation of scripture. Thus, nearly 2000 years of Christian history and tradition count for nothing and everyone who lived and died during that period died in sin.

If there is only one correct interpretation of scripture, how do we know which is correct? Why didn't God explicitly tell us which one is the correct one…

I Don't Dread Sundays Any More

I'll be perfectly honest: the whole time I was attending the COC I absolutely dreaded Sundays. When I was a kid, every Saturday night was a let-down because we couldn't do anything fun. We had to make sure our Bible lessons were done, take a bath, and get to bed early. And I spent the whole evening dreading the next day.

Sundays were extremely stressful, with Dad yelling at us to get up and get dressed so we could head to church and be there super early so we could greet everyone else. I hated it. I didn't like greeting everyone. I just wanted to be left alone. Then we had Bible class (what other denominations call "Sunday School"), which was usually excruciatingly boring, although sometimes it could be exceedingly irritating as well, depending on who the teacher was. My classmates were always obnoxious.

Then we went out into the auditorium for the actual church service, which again was boring. Even as an adult, I rarely found the sermons to be engaging or upliftin…

Random Musings about the COC

Long time, no post. I've been kicking around a lot of ideas for topics I could address but couldn't settle on any one in particular. So here, for your reading pleasure, are some things I've been pondering lately.

1. Why is the COC obsessed with the way things were in the 1950s? I can't tell you how many times I heard preachers reference the 50s as some sort of golden age to which society needs to return. The primary reason, of course, is that the era predated the feminist revolution. Most middle-class women didn't work back then. They stayed at home, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids. Men went out and earned the living, which gave them the right to be the boss at home. Gender roles were very strictly defined in society at large, so folks in the COC fit right in...which leads to my next point.

The 50s were a time of strict conformity with social norms, and the COC loves conformity. No one is allowed an independent thought or attitude. Those who don't …

A Concordance Approach to the Scriptures

I found the passage below at http://www.culthelp.infowhile I was looking for information on the International Church of Christ.

Quote:Like Campbell, the Churches of Christ also viewed the Bible as a collection of facts. Common was a "concordance approach" to the Bible which indiscriminately strung together New Testament texts based on the appearance of a single English word or phrase with little or no regard for the historical context, the author's intention, or the literary form or function. [112] Thus, disconnected texts could be strung together into codified doctrinal "facts."

For with this method the New Testament became essentially a law book or divine constitution for the church, with most of the doctrinal "facts" reduced to a level of equal importance. The Bible became atomized, broken up into separate little bits of doctrine which could be codified into law. It became a document filled with workable formulas, neat blueprints, a docume…

Why Even Bother with the Lord's Prayer?

Here's something I've never understood about the church of Christ: they make a big point of teaching kids the Lord's prayer and making them memorize it. I remember earning an extra gold star on my Bible class attendance chart for being able to recite it from memory.

However, the congregation never recites the prayer during worship service and, in fact, they argue that the prayer is no longer valid today. They claim that the line "thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" makes the prayer invalid for today, because God's will was accomplished in 33 AD with the founding of the church. Since there is no more for Christ to accomplish here on earth, there is no reason to make that particular petition to God.

They say that the prayer is simply a model on which we are to base our own personal prayers. But again, why bother teaching kids to memorize it if it's so unimportant?

I think the real reason they reject the prayer's validity is their rabid anti-Catho…

Discrepancies and Contradictions in the Bible

One of the primary doctrines of the church of Christ is that the Bible is perfect, with no contradictions or discrepancies, and that every word of the Bible is literally true and able to be proven scientifically. I believed this when I was young. But when I started reading the Bible for myself, word for word and not just the passages I needed to read to fill out the workbook for my Bible class, I saw that there are indeed discrepancies in the Bible. Here are a few examples.

1. Job 26:7 says that the earth hangs upon nothing. Psalm 104:5 says that the earth sits on a foundation (some translations say "pillar") that can't be moved. If we must view these verses literally, instead of poetically or metaphorically, then one of them must be wrong because their assertions contradict each other.

2. There are a few discrepancies in the accounts of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:7 says that Paul's companions could hear the voice that was talking to him but…

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

The title of this post comes directly from the Bible, the words of Jesus himself. I believe it's true. If you want to know about someone's character, look at that person's actions (fruit) not the person's words. The same is true of groups, including churches. So let's apply this logic to the COC. What are their fruits?

In my hometown, the COC had a reputation for being an angry, contentious group. The members would get upset and split the congregation, over and over, for the most trivial of reasons. The church also had a reputation for being judgmental, small-minded, and bigoted. Why was the church's image in the community so negative?

The primary reason for this was because the members of the church were arrogant and haughty, because they believed themselves to be the only true Christians and, thus, the only ones who will be saved on Judgment Day.

Another reason is that the church refused to offer charity to those in need beyond its own four walls (and even then …

The CoC and Money (Again)

Awhile back I documented the COC's attitude toward charity and noted that basically it uses the money it collects each Sunday to perpetuate itself, not to help people in need. Now I want to disclose another of the COC's dirty little secrets regarding money: If you give a lot of it to your local congregation, you can (almost) get away with murder.

Most COC congregations, especially the anti ones, are very small, in part because they have a habit of splitting every time someone looks at someone else cross-eyed. Thus, they skate on thin ice financially, simply because there aren't enough people to give the money that allows the church to function. Also, the core demographic of the COC is aging and dying rapidly, and the elderly folks are usually on fixed incomes and can't spare much for the Sunday collection plate.

As a result, if you're one of the rare COC members who can afford to give liberally, your generosity will be rewarded by fawning preachers and elders who wil…

All Aboard for the Dysfunction Junction!

The one constant I noticed in all the COC congregations I attended is that most people in that church have serious boundary issues. You are never allowed to have a private life or hold opinions that differ from those of the majority. Before and after every church service, during the "visiting time," you will be subjected to an interrogation far worse than anything the KGB or CIA could cook up. Why weren't you at Bible study last week? You looked bored during the sermon--did you disagree with what the preacher said? I noticed that you failed to stand up during the final prayer--is your back bothering you? If you are cagey or just refuse to answer the questions, you'll be accused of being unloving, unfaithful, insincere, and secretive. And they will start watching you for tell-tale signs of sin so that they can pounce on you and shame you into repenting of...whatever crazy, trivial thing it is they think you've done wrong.

So I always answered their intrusive questi…

History of the History-Less

Despite the fact that there is zero historical evidence of its existence before the Cane Ridge, Kentucky, revival of 1801, the church of Christ teaches that it is the one true church, founded by Jesus in 33 AD. Usually, the narrative goes something like this: "The true church was founded by Jesus and then hopelessly corrupted and apostasized by the Council of Nicea in the fourth century, when the Roman Catholic church was founded. The true church went underground until 1801 when it was restored to its pure form by Alexander Campbell." Of course, this is all rubbish.

The truth is that the COC is just one of many American churches, including the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon church, founded during the Second Great Awakening at the beginning of the 19th century. Its true history can be found in this marvelous book by Richard T. Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America. Hughes draws on the writings of Campbell himself, as well as th…