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Posts Tagged ‘cults’

I began writing here a few years ago, putting out my deepest spiritual angst for the world to see, and I always hoped, could benefit from in some way.  As my need for therapeutic writing (processing) has diminished, I’ve had less to say, and have no intention of trying to contrive content in order to keep a blog going.  This has never been about finding followers or selling anything.  I guess my desire was to reach out – find like minds – offer a warning alarm for anyone seeking to take the detours I’ve taken.   I didn’t come out of an unhealthy religion (twice) just to find a comfortable pew to spend out the rest of my days.  The journey marches on with new challenges, disappointments, and a continued desire for more understanding.  Having been born and raised a Seventh-day Adventist, and now being an ex-Adventist, makes up a part of my identity I can never truly erase.

I thought I’d moved on past this label, and gotten to where I can just be a human.  But you really can’t cut off your formative years.  They mold you for a lifetime in some way or another, a sobering thought as a parent too.  What brought this back to the surface for me was a show I ran across on Netflix called Amish:  Out of Order.   Reality shows have their severe limitations, and I don’t know when it became necessary to format programming as if the target audience was five years old, but the sincerity of the people in this show sharing their experiences  had me in tears myself.  The show centers around an ex-Amish man, Mose Gingerich, who does what he can to help other young Amish people make their transition to the “English” (outside) world.  He offers much counsel, encouragement, and finds ways to bring the ex-Amish together as a family to replace the ones they left behind.

In one episode, the focus turns from the young people to Mose and his own pain he continually carries from past abuse and being cut off from his family when he left.  He goes back to attempt to reconcile and re-spark a relationship with his mother.  His father has passed on.  She won’t let him in the house for fear of what her community elders will do to her.  She can’t even agree to correspond by mail.  She can offer no relationship, because she has been given a choice between her son and her church.  He chooses to forgive those who have hurt him and to pursue a relationship even if there is no response in return.

While Adventists are rarely (but sometimes) this extreme in their shunning of those who leave, the effects of growing up in a church that teaches salvation only within its own membership, creates fear and confusion that only those who have left one can understand.  In this episode an ex-Amish evangelical minister mentioned that suicide is sometimes the preferred option for someone who can’t stay or leave.  I also knew many Adventists who committed suicide.

As I look back on my life, I feel like my entire adult life has been an attempt to grapple spiritually with my original heritage, which has a culture all of its own.  While not as secluded as Amish, and very worldly by comparison (more so now than when I was young), this church has a very distinctive culture of food, religious lingo, and a prophet that dictates nearly every facet of every day life, for those who take her seriously enough to comply.  Adventist churches of my youth were close-knit and in my family where work/church/school all centered around the institution, we had little or no social connections with any non-Adventists.  If we did happen to meet people on the outside, we felt it our responsibility to share our truth with them.  Outsiders were a lesser class of human and seen only as targets for saving.

Since leaving, I have never found any other group that had the same close-knit feeling of community as we had growing up.  (Our Hebrew Roots group came close for a time.)  Sometimes I wonder if I’m not out looking for truth as much as I am looking for that type of spiritual family.  American churches I have been involved with are not like this.  I cannot even imagine the void an ex-Amish person must feel upon leaving.

Going from this closed system into a public school my senior year, I found myself lost in family dysfunction and grasping for my own identity.  I felt like my new social world operated on a set of rules from a secret code somewhere, and I didn’t have any instincts or discernment about who to trust.  I went into college continuing the reckless abandon I had begun the previous year – trying to prove to the world and myself I wasn’t a religious freak.   I didn’t want to think about God, religion, rules, personal safety, or the future.  I wanted to be seen as a wild child just like everyone else, and it’s much easier to fit in with a joint in your hand.

Decades later, I see that the main focus of my adult life has been trying to find a spiritual path and identity.  I can remember shortly before our awakening out of the Hebrew Roots Movement, feeling so thankful I finally had found the truth and wouldn’t have to go through any more transitions.  That’s pretty funny, because I’m still in transition.  I don’t get to rest comfortably in correct knowledge, because the older I get, the less I know.

I don’t have access to cable or satellite television, but this week I was at a friend’s house and decided to check out 3ABN for the fun of old times.  This Adventist television station plays a variety of programs designed to teach the church and also evangelize outsiders.  The current program featured an evangelist we had watched almost 20 years ago.  We used his videos to evangelize the community.  In fact, one of my husband’s employers and now lifelong friends came through this connection as we reached out to our town with the “truth”.   This evangelist, with more grey hair now, paced the stage selling the same rote speech on the Mark of the Beast as we had handed out umpteen years ago.  He now has a more elaborate stage, complete with life-size golden angels and state-of-the-art multimedia technology, but the defining message of the organization marches on:  If you do not keep the 7th day as the Sabbath, and keep it correctly, and instead worship on Sunday as the harlot of Revelation has taught you to do, you will be damned.  At least I can watch it now without the anxiety, only sadness that people are still being led into this.

This month I am going to visit SDA family I love so much, and have learned to put down the sword of aggression toward their faith.  I don’t think they are going to hell, even if they think I might.  I no longer believe I need to save them from what I consider false beliefs.  They are happy.  It’s home for them, and they have contentment in their path.  I envy that at times  – being settled.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  The spiritual truths most precious to me now cross all barriers of sect and culture, so I hope this time around, we have more in common than not.  Because after all, I will always have some Adventist in me too.

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple weeks ago I had a great time with a close family member who is still a very loyal member of the Seventh-day Adventist organization.  Some people believe they can pinpoint the errors in beliefs about God that would prevent a person from having what they call “saving faith” in God.  I’ve been one of those people.  When pressed, they (I) would admit we don’t know the person’s heart, but we DO absolutely know they are wrong.  It was evident to me this family member of mine (after many heart to heart talks) has the same heart I do – one that resonates of the same Holy Spirit and the Love He pours out, in spite of some really huge differences of opinion on doctrines.  If we were forced to talk about the fine print, we would still strongly disagree and say the other is wrong.  But how much does that matter to God?  How much does that matter to each other?  Maybe this person still believes I’m wrong enough to go to hell in the end, but she is kind enough to not let on.  I don’t believe that about her (and actually never have.)

God has been widening my horizons at a painfully quick pace the last year or so, and He showed me much during this visit as well.  I realize that if I went back a few years on this blog, there are posts I probably wouldn’t write now.  While I still passionately believe the core issues that delivered us from legalism, that same legalism has taken a long long time to work its way out of my thought processes.  It is so easy to replace one form of legalism with another.

When we leave a system of belief that touts itself as the elite truth above all others, we immediately sense battle lines will be drawn.  We need a way to reassure ourselves that we truly are right.  Often doubt and fear can creep in so we fortify our defenses, and as happens in all wars, the”enemy” becomes much worse in our eyes.  I believe most fractures over religion – in families, churches, etc.,  come not so much from the differences in the beliefs we hold, but the attitudes of the heart that lead us to feel we are superior, and the desire to exert control of our position over others.

I had already begun to write this post when someone on our forum for HRM friends and family asked a question about spiritual fruit.  The individual wanted to know what the connection was between this movement and the fruit of love in its followers.  Are there any loving Torah Observant people?  Are they all cold and judgmental?  (Don’t look at their comments here, but no – they are not).  Does it matter what theology they have if they are kind?  And does their theology interfere with that?

Lots of loaded, complex questions here.  Jesus said to identify false teachers by their fruit (love rather than Pharisaical righteousness or knowledge), so these are really important questions.  And is there a difference between a false teacher and the followers?  Is it more difficult for a teacher to be blindly sincere than the follower?  I just like to ask questions I don’t have answers for.

As my very long story posted on this blog tells, my eyes were initially opened to the error of our law-centric theology by the overall lack of good fruit (as defined by Jesus) in the Hebrew Roots Movement.  Yes, there were exceptions to this generalization, but the overall atmosphere and focus did not naturally generate a loving, compassionate, sacrificial attitude toward anyone who was not aligned with our way of thinking.  And Jesus did say there wasn’t any glory in loving those who love you back, because well… anyone can do that.  When you love the unloveable, then you are on your way to being perfect, “as My Father is perfect”.

So, we moved on to enthusiastically embrace mainstream Christianity, where we knew things would be so much better.  That idealism eventually died as well.  I am starting to see a more level playing field between those who claim truth and those accused of error.

Jesus remains my Truth and the most beautiful love ever demonstrated to humanity.  But  I see that we who call ourselves by His name, in general, don’t know Him, and His verdict on false religion is that HE never knew us.  The heresy hunter’s favorite accusation is that cults invent their own Jesus.  And they often do.  But I’ve seen some strange versions of Him in the evangelical world too.  If it’s true what they say, that a false Jesus can’t save you, then maybe we should start getting to really know Him.  Really.  Know His heart before we seek to know soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology.  What does He love?  What does He hate?  When you fall in love, you crave to know everything you can about the object of your desire, but you would not cut them open to study their organ tissue.  You would LISTEN to them and enjoy their company.  Scientists study cadavers and cells under microscopes.  They have great knowledge but take no thought of the life it used to be, before it came under their knife.  It is no longer a being but a source of information.  Do we benefit from what they learn?  Yes.  But oh the grief of what we may lose if we insist on living in the knowledge of God without really knowing Him.  We may look at a tissue sample and come to very wrong conclusions, because we see such a small part of the picture.  

So what do we do with this fruit problem?  I rejected a movement on a premise that indicts most of Western Civilization and its institutions, in orthodoxy or heresy either one.  The world is an unloving place but the light and fire of Christ still burns, sometimes in the most unexpected places.  I don’t have an answer for the question about theology and fruit.  Maybe there is a flaw in the knowledge base somewhere, but I have come to believe that the problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a failure to integrate Truth (Jesus) into the fabric of our whole being.  We have selfistic (my word) desires, half-truths from the world systems, a million other “isms” competing to be our paradigm for life.  This isn’t just an American problem, it’s an ancient one.

When Yahweh delivered the Hebrew nation from their slavery, they did not have a knowledge of Him in the way He was planning to reveal Himself.  They could comprehend very little of their Father and Creator, and even with amazing displays of power, didn’t believe He loved them enough to sustain them.  They didn’t resemble a priesthood, or a bride.  Yet these are the symbols He used to refer to them and describe His desires for them.  Even in their state of helplessness and ignorance he demanded Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  They were HIS people, based on His covenant with their fathers, not on their own merit or worthiness.

Today there are many many children of God held captive by dogmas and falsehoods of countless kinds.  Can any of us say we really have everything right about God?  I don’t find my security in that pursuit.  And I don’t see other people’s spiritual worth from that vantage point either, anymore.     I can see where a certain untruth can hurt them, or others – like the whips of the slave owner.  But maybe someone is saying, “Let my daughter go.  Let my son be free to serve me in joy.”  Maybe they belong to Him right where they are, right now.

“Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind and soul.  Love one another as I have loved you.”  These simple words will shatter slave-holding dogmas, if taken to heart.

God didn’t call me to be right.  He called me to be love.  It has taken a lot of humbling for me to give up that desire and pursuit.  I love to be right more than just about anyone. (Ask my husband!)  What good will it do to uphold the foundations of doctrinal purity while we let our love and compassion wither on the vine?

I am not negating the whole purpose of this blog.  I believe cults and heresies rob people because they cloud the Son.  But my reason for speaking isn’t to prove someone wrong.  It’s to point to the Son, so we may all be healed.  Because we all need that, no matter how right .. we think we are.

Only a small part of truth can be understood. The rest must be caught as an intense longing for a beautiful, loving, harmonious world. Truth is something much better than a set of ideas.

-Richard Wurmbrand

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My husband recently shared an overview of the Hebrew Roots Movement for our friends at after7.tv and I am happy to be able to share the link for those who were not able to join us live!

CLICK HERE to watch the replay.

Lots of other great topics to explore there as well.  Enjoy!

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I would like to present some real-life examples which illustrate the parable I wrote a few weeks ago,  Deceitful Duck Logic.

A very common practice in  Adventism in order to gain converts is to rent a public facility for meetings and send invitations in mass mailings to the community.  The colorful invitations include promises to explain Biblical topics relating to end times and other subjects people may have questions about.  What they don’t include is any mention of who they are.  Most who attend these meetings are already Christians attending other churches, as these are the people with the most interest in prophecy subjects.

I heard the following account from a person directly involved.   Feel free to check out the facts of this if necessary.  In July 2009 the Adventist  “It Is Written” ministry rented the Performing Arts Theater in Lancaster, California for three weeks, at the cost of thousands of dollars a night.  They sent out over 200,000 invitations to the community and named the series of meetings  “Countdown to Eternity”.  An ex-Mormon and other concerned Christians decided that someone needed to at least inform the attendees about the identity of their hosts and their key beliefs.  After the meetings ended they passed out fliers to those leaving the building.  They delivered more than 500 in the first couple of meetings and many expressed their gratitude for the information.  Observers of the first meetings reported no one would have suspected they were not mainstream evangelical.  They promised to help their audience “understand prophecy better”.  No church affiliation had been indicated.

I have seen this method in action myself, on a smaller scale.  When our own small local SDA church organized similar meetings at the local college,  we were asked to lie in response to questions about the speaker – that our SDA pastor teaching the series  “may be the pastor of a church in the area in a few months”.  We did not agree to lie for him.

Recently another former SDA I know in Nevada received a brochure at her door.  She immediately recognized it as having the Adventist flavor, but no name was listed.  She called the number provided and this is what transpired:

I called the phone number on there.  When the lady answered I told her I had this brochure.  I asked what church was sponsoring it.  She said, “No church.”  I could not stand the lie, so I told her I was a former SDA and I recognized SDA doctrine when I saw it.   She  did a LOT of protesting and I kept on telling her she was not telling the truth.  That is when she admitted she was SDA.  I told her it was a lie to say she did not know what church sponsored this,  and that they had given it to the wrong person.  – Diana R. Lopez

A couple who are in the process of leaving the SDA denomination recently confronted the church’s practice of initially hiding their identity in evangelistic outreach activities.  The following is a response to this issue, a direct quote from the associate pastor of the high-profile Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary, Andrews University.

The discussion of whether our evangelistic advertising should include the church name has been a live discussion in the church ever since I can remember. Many agree with you that
all of our evangelistic advertising should always include the Adventist name. Most of our evangelistic meetings are held in our own churches because it’s less expensive than renting public facilities, and in these cases the advertising does include the church name by necessity. The other argument is that surveys indicate that the average person on the street confuses us with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., and to include the Adventist name would not be communicating truthfully to such people.  I won’t claim that there is never an  attempt to deceive, but I think it’s safe to say that that is rare. Other motivations are involved. – Skip MacCarty

So we see the line of logic is “honesty requires us to not tell the truth.”  Of course the REAL question is, “Why do people confuse you with the other two cults?”  And another, “Why is it okay to lie in order to teach people they should keep the 4th Commandment?”

In spite of their fear of being associated with JW and LDS, Adventism has done an amazing job in the last few decades of presenting itself as a mainstream Christian church which simply meets on Saturday.  I meet so few Christians who know what Adventists actually believe, or that they also have a prophet like the Mormons.   Evangelical factions exist within the denomination who do not hold to the historic precepts which launched the church into existence.  Yet the official stance from the organization remains unchanged in crucial areas that deviate from the tenets of orthodox Christianity.  For an overview of these differences, an excellent Evangelical Resource is “The Truth About Adventist Truth” – by Dale Ratzlaff, former SDA pastor.

Truth does not need to hide or deceive.  It is not afraid of being questioned or tested.  This practice alone tells me there is something wrong with Adventist “truth.”  I dearly love Adventist people.  I know many believe their message is so important it justifies the means.  But I also have a burden for unsuspecting prospects to not take the bait, but to be aware and discerning.

I have been given permission to share both the exit letters and church response which contain the above quotation. (links below) The church requested this couple always include its response with copies of their own letters.  While this couple is under no obligation to do so,  we are in agreement that the church response says much than their exit letters ever could have.

Dana Kendall’s Exit Letter

Scott Kendall’s Exit Letter

Pioneer Memorial Church Response

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