Friday, January 29, 2016

#289 - Chasing A Calling to Bible College (A Treatise On Pentecostal Economics)





A little related listening music:


PART 1:

I once felt a calling on my life. I remember exactly what it felt like. I wanted that microphone. I wanted that pulpit. I wanted to speak to hundreds of people, and evoke a measurable, visceral response. I wanted to impress my girlfriend. I would have never admitted this at the time, but this calling was loaded.

It came from two places: 

1. My ego. I’ve always known that I have an ability to find the right word or phrase to make my point. I used to rehearse inflection. I would measure out syllables in my head, like a rapper. If the statement or joke had one too many or too few syllables the whole thing fell flat. But if everything punched, like a boxer, you could get whatever response you wanted.

2. (This is the important one) I idolized my youth pastor. I mean more so than most. (There’s a kid on Instagram who collects preachers ties, not joking. He wins.) But for real, this guy might as well have been Jesus incarnate for me. He was a good looking dude who married our pastors cutie daughter, was insanely good at hockey (I’m from Michigan, it’s all we have), exuded confidence like a thousand Ryan Goslings, and whose sermons spanned more octaves than Freddie Mercury.

I have very fond memories of being in his youth group. Granted, I have mixed emotions, and there are many things I resent, but I recall equally as many positives as I do negatives. He made an impact, to say the least.

Shortly after he returned from bible college I became obsessed with the idea of one day attending. My sister, and her friends, went to visit him in Stockton, CA and I recall looking at the pictures of the trip with such awe, it was as if they’d visited Studio 54 in 1979.

At fifteen I asked to borrow his textbooks so I could start to prepare for my collegiate career. He loaned me his book on Romans by Daniel Segraves and I read it twice.

This was me, at fifteen years old, reading expository textbooks on the epistles, and geeking out over pictures of Bible College.

Coincidentally, it was at this point in my life where I “felt a calling.” Crazy coincidence, right?

Our youth services allocated five minutes for young, aspiring ministers to take a sermon for a test drive. We called them “Five Spots.” I begged for a chance to do one. I messed things up for myself out of the gate by going on a five-minute diatribe about standards and basically dogging everyone I knew. To quote a homily from Rev. Aubrey Graham – I was “callin niggas out like the umpire.”

I could continue writing my autobiography, but the point I want to make is this: At fifteen years old I felt a calling on my life that I would defend as ardently as an ISIS fighter with a grenade strapped to his heart. I knew I was called to the ministry. I had memorized and rehearsed all the answers, in case I had to explain how I knew. 

What I now know, but did not realize at the time, is that I was never called to any ministry, anywhere, ever.

Before I go any further let me lay out a few things:

1. Being called to the/a ministry is a noble, honorable, and respectable thing. I have seen ministers sacrifice personal time, money, familial obligations, and much more for the sake of their calling. I have witnessed men and women sacrifice everything they have, down to their own mortality, for the sake of others. The bible says there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend, and I have seen men and women called to do this over, and over again. Preachers walk into war zones carrying nothing but a bible and they do it because they’re willing to die for their calling. A call to a ministry is something not to be taken lightly, or to be discussed callously or dismissively, and I do not intend to do so.

2. If a person has confirmed, in their mind and spirit, that they are called to be a minister (read: a servant, who dedicates their life to the salvation and well-being of others), and they 100% live out this calling, then regardless of any of my, or anyone else’s opinions, this is a person who deserves our profound respect.

Please repeat the prior two points in your mind while reading the rest of this.

The UPCI endorses seven undergraduate institutions, none of which are accredited, (although IBC has been right there for about twenty years /s) and one grad school.

This post isn’t specifically about IBC, but since they’re the most popular, and most transparent of the UPCI bible colleges they get to be our example.

According to their website, the estimated annual (yearly) cost of attending IBC, and living in their raunchy old hospital dorms, is roughly $8000. This puts a bachelors degree somewhere in the vicinity of $32,000.
That’s a lot of bowtie money. That’s not even including all of the H&M and Zara money you have to drop to keep yourself altar-selfie fresh.

I want to put this in as an aside – I don’t know if this still goes on but back when I was in college one of my best friends went to IBC. He was telling me that several of the guys in his dorm were paying their tuition by drug testing at Eli Lilly. (edit: a friend from another state, with another set of friends just confirmed they heard of many students doing this as well) He was trying to get his medical records because he could get $15,000 by doing an experimental spinal tap.
Being that IBC isn’t a state accredited college the students who attend do not qualify for any sort of financial aid. Some UPC districts offer small scholarships to one or two kids, but it’s mere shekels compared to the over all cost. Due to the high costs, lack of resources, and the demands of keeping a social life impeding on actually having a job, some students turned to testing experimental drugs at Eli Lilly. This is what 19-year-old Traci Johnson was doing when she tragically committed suicide while testing Cymbalta. She had just taken a semester off because she couldn’t afford her tuition and testing at Lilly paid $150/day + meals. She began testing the antidepressant and, after being switched to Placebo, she took her life. The IBC student drug testing was never directly addressed after this and although a rule is in place against it, the last I heard is that it isn’t actively enforced. (updated source: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/apr/02/science/sci-humantest2)

So what do you get for $32,000? A bachelors degree in Worship Studies will definitely move your resume to the top of the stack at Merrill Lynch, right? Definitely. We all know so many people that went to Bible College, stuck it out for four years and then landed that coveted paid Worship Leader job at the mega church of their choosing right?

No. That’s not really how it works.
I have several friends and acquaintances that felt an undeniable calling when they were teenagers, poured everything they had into church, left and went to Bible College, and walked out with a degree. You know what the consensus among literally ALL OF THEM is? That it was a giant waste of time and money, and they wish they could go back and go to a real, accredited college or university. They were shocked to find out that there aren’t exactly paid preaching and singing positions popping up all over the country like they thought there were. The world spins a little faster outside of Church Camp University.

Of the people I know who went to bible college almost none ended up within miles of a ministry. Off the top of my head I can think of a few of their professions - EMT, yoga instructor, stay at home mom, house flipper, lingerie designer (last time I saw this guy at IBC he was wearing sparkle on his waxed chest), mechanic, and the list goes on and on. 

Here’s the thing – it’s one thing to feel a calling to minister to people, and acting on that calling. It’s something else, entirely, to become a paid, professional minister. Oh but “God will make a way.” Tell that to my friend who couldn’t find a job doing anything but laying asphalt after Bible College. Tell it to many other friends who struggled, and continue to struggle financially, because they spent four years working on a $32,000 piece of toilet paper. They were under prepared for life and now don't have time for a ministry because they're working two jobs just to pay the rent. (PS - If you want to be a minister in the UPC then you have to be licensed. This means you're paying annual fees. So you'd better hope you make enough to cover the 10% off the top to the J-Man, the rent, the bills, and just a little taste for the Gulag to wet its beak a little)

*Rare photo of the guy who collects membership dues*

As I’ve said already: the desire to minister to people is a noble one, but it does not mean you should attempt to turn your ministry into a career. That doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to it. It doesn’t mean you can’t put your focus and your energy into it. It doesn’t mean you’d be less of a minister if you’re not getting paid for it. Just be realistic. Have a ministry, but don’t make it your livelihood. Paul said to Timothy, in an epistle specifically for ministers: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Basically it doesn’t matter how good your sermons are, if you leave your dope sermon and head home to your room at Mom and Dad’s at 30 years old you’re no better than the guy I passed by downtown smoking crack out of a Fanta bottle last week.

It is so easy to be a teenager in a small UPC church and think you feel a call to the ministry. I’ve covered it many times, but again will say that the level of isolationism in these churches does the youth no favors. Shrinking your scope of the world down to only a church community stunts growth and leaves you with very few things to aspire to. I didn’t know what I wanted to be at 15 but the only people I aspired to be like were preachers. I didn’t do as well as I could have in junior high and high school because my focus was on church. We were told in youth service one time, and I am quoting this verbatim, “If you have to choose between homework and church you should always choose church because God will make a way.”


me irl:


Way too much focus is demanded by the leadership of their students, and this results in a bizarre, Darwinian competition to be the most "on fire for God," among your peers. The most dedicated, front row fixture with perfect prayer meeting attendance is the one who’s going to be “used.” (funny how that word doesn’t mean what it used to) You want a ministry? Then you have to bleed church. A lot of necessary things end up shuffled around and dropped to make room for all that the church demands. School and preparing for your life takes a back seat. You're swept up into a whirlwind of prodded ritualistic commitments that carry no real weight, but suck the feeble minded right in. (i.e. those services where everyone steps over a line, or marches somewhere, etc to symbolize your commitment to the calling the preacher just convinced you that you have) 

If you couple the lack of scholastic focus with a fiery pulpit-lust, zero focus on financial stability, and fear of Draconian reproach if you aren't completely sold out to your calling, then you’re left with a kid fighting to get to bible college like a leashed dog inching toward a porterhouse. They can’t see anything else. They don’t know what Tax Liability means. They don’t know what interest rate they should get on their car loan, and they don't care. They’re just here to save the lost, Brother!

As opposed as I am to the idea of bible college, the truth is that some students do end up employed at churches. The numbers aren't impressive, but if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, some of it might stick. However, of these small numbers of success, there is a skew towards males being the ones who end up making the paper.
But what comes for females after bible college? I know several who went, a few who finished, and only one who is employed by a church, but also holds another job. She's hella talented, and really a great, great person so I'm very happy that things actually worked out for her. But she's ONE. Out of about fifteen girls I know who went. Most quit because they realized very fast once they're there that nothing they're going to learn is going to secure them a job afterwards.

If you think I'm being sexist I have to redirect that finger. As a whole, women in the movement are subjugated to the point it's almost sadomasochistic. That's another discussion for another day, but how it relates to this topic is that bible colleges are one of the primary channels through which the UPC invests in its youth to keep itself viable. It's at the bible colleges where we can see who the organization places its future value on, and it's landing consistently on the men.
Women in the organization can aspire to be:
1. Wives who sing
2. Wives who sing and play piano
3. Wives who speak
4. Wives who speak and sing
5. Wives who speak, sing and play piano
6. Wives who speak and play piano

If this is what your aspire to be then, Sister, have I got the school for you.

PART 2:

If, as teenagers, our young UPC kids are fixated on the idea of being called to the ministry and have zeroed in on Bible College as their destined path, then whose job is it to give them a dose of reality?

Well, number one, it’s the parents, but I have little interest in telling parents how to parent. Not to mention that topic is akin to chlorophyll more like borophyll.

So, number deuce – THE PASTORS.

My pastor wouldn’t sign my application to CLC. Not because he doubted me, he didn’t. He knew I had potential and I never doubted for a second that my pastor and youth pastor had 100% faith in me. However, when I went in to my pastors office with my CLC application in hand and my parents by my side he sat us down and talked to us for about fifteen minutes. Those fifteen minutes changed the course of my life in such a positive way that I want to go back in time and kiss that man. He told me that after my youth pastor got back from CLC he couldn’t possibly see sending any more of our students out there. He basically outlined to me everything I’ve outlined here, and much more. He told me it’s just not a good decision. He gave me the best advice I’ve ever received in my life. I’m now employed in Film & Television with a career I love and a life I’m more than satisfied with all because he wasn’t concerned with what would be beneficial to himself or the church, but instead he was concerned with MY well being. I thank him for that.

Pastors, I know it’s a huge asset to your ministry and your undeserved sense of accomplishment to raise and court a basketball team worth of young ministers. Young, “called,” brown-nosey kids in youth groups are to pastors as interns are to Wall Street Bankers. I’ve seen pastors advocate this mentality. I’ve heard so many garbage sermons about treating the pastor like he’s Jesus. (You should wash your pastors car! You should shovel your pastors drive way! Thank you sir, may I have another?!)
So I get it. It’s a benefit to say the least.

However, the next time a simple minded young kid walks into your office and asks for your approval to gamble his entire future on an extended stay at The Center For Church-r-Us Kids Who Don’t Wanna Grow Up, take a real long, hard look at them and assess if this is actually what’s best for their future. If attending a religious education institution is truly what you feel is best for them then why not an accredited seminary? There is a plethora of highly respected institutions at their finger tips where they would receive a much higher calibre education.

Seriously, why are you so quick to sign that application? That piece of paper you haphazardly sign is going to define the direction this kid is going to go in for, possibly, the rest of his life. Honestly ask yourself, “If I sign this, and send this kid, this kid who graduated high school with a C- average, this kid who has very little common sense, this kid who has limited social abilities, if I send this kid to bible college will he be financially independent and viable by the time he turns 30? What will this piece of paper do to this kids life?”

ASK YOURSELF. IT IS ON YOU.


It’s not on him, he can’t see past you. 



Thursday, October 15, 2015

#288 - Not The Big Church In Your Town (They're Going Charismatic, Haven't You Heard?)

(*Side note - these people are all going to hell*)

Did you hear the big church in your town went charismatic? If they haven’t yet, then BREAKING NEWS: The bigger church in your town is liberal. I don’t know what town you live in, but that’s irrelevant. The big church only has all those people because they’re liberal heretics. But your church? You guys have been prophesied over. You’re going to be the revival center of your city. Yep. Any day now…

But I mean really, let’s break this down. Of course the big church has more people. They have girls in their youth group with cut hair. I saw one of the elders coming out of a movie theater when I was parked across the street looking at the front entrance through my binoculars. Why was I doing that? Because....reasons, shut up. Any church that lets that sort of riff raff go on is bound to have more people. Because that’s why people go to church, right? To feel like they’re going to heaven without having to make any real sacrifices. Not you though. Your church doesn’t even go to Applebee’s because it has a bar in it. Your train is bound for glory.

The big church couldn’t possibly be big because they have talented musicians and awesome music. That’s just another symptom of their charismania. I think the keyboard player is gay anyway. I saw him on Grindr when I was checking to make sure none of our young boys had fallen prey to the enemy.

They couldn’t possibly be big because of their relatable, articulate, intelligent leadership. I mean they don’t even spend time talking about standards. Sure, the sermons may sound good, but once you peel back all that post modern, down to earth, come as you are hippy garbage, all you have left is sharp dressed smooth talker with a killer smile, right? They don’t even have regular members meetings to remind you not to come to church dressed like you’re going to a Sunday school picnic for crying out loud. What kind of church is this? Get involved in the community? Not unless we’re selling peanut brittle.

They couldn’t possibly be big because of their creative, forward thinking, cool guy youth pastor. I mean sure, he’s good looking, his clothes are tailored and the kids love him. It probably doesn’t hurt that his wife is hot. But the lights? The stage décor? The multimedia? They didn’t have Pro Presenter in the upper room and by God we don’t need it now. Hashtag I’m going back to the heart of worship. Smoke and mirrors church, smoke and mirrors. It’s all just a big ruse and they’re all going to hell.

Not us though. Our church is sanctified. Those dusty old songs were good enough for my daddy, my grand daddy and all the way back to William J Seymour and A.D. Urshan. Like hell we’re learning new ones! That big church can take their love everybody attitude and whiny Hillsong, vaguely sexual music and follow the Osteens right down to Trinitarian Town but we ain’t followin’, amiright?!

I mean when is the last time they even preached about the denominal world???

My pastor preached about it just the other day.

Pastor Whitebread was in his groove Sunday. His tie was loose. His top button was undone. The handkerchief was out. He hit us with the opening scripture that had little to do with the following forty-five minute diatribe. He started the story that he flipped on its ear into some allegory that had nothing to do with the opening scripture.

And then he was talking about the Catholics, and the Baptists, and whatever the Duggars are. And when he needed to allude to the local megachurch and differentiate those other denominations from us: the spiritual jews, the crème de la crème, he dropped it.... "The denominal world would have you believe..." and brother as soon as that word left his mouth the anointing fell harder than an Oscar nomination on a conflicted gay protagonist.

Now never mind the fact that the word "denominal" has absolutely nothing to do with the concept of Christian "denominations,” because when Pastor Whitebread gets doused with a fresh dose of anointing he can make words mean anything he wants them to. Was Webster saved when he wrote the dictionary? NO! He’s burning in eternal agony right now and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some hell-bound ecumenicalist named after a secular 1980s sitcom use his book-learnin to tell me what word means what!

Now I know we Apostolics are literally the only ones concerned with other Christian sects, much less comparing ourselves to other local churches. And even though it’s not a major part of denominal culture, brother it’s such a fundamental part of ours that there aren't even enough existing adjectives and verbs that can be used to talk about it so we have to make up our own! I’ll take any word that sounds like it could mean what I want it to mean and use it however I want, because I’m a man of God and I can!

By God, I’m keeping that proverbial measuring stick within arms reach because nothing is going to bring revival like subtly condescending other churches or denominations that have more success than mine does. They don’t have the truth. Even the ones who do have it are compromising. Yep. It’s down to us small church folk. We’re the sole banner bearers!

I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do – we’re just gonna keep holding onto that prophecy from 30 years ago, putting forth zero effort, not changing a single thing, keep singing those old three stanza hymns, and sooner or later, after us faithful few pray out everyone who’s been holding back revival and they leave for the big church, God’s gonna send us a wave of people. Hopefully I’ll still be alive to see it. Bless God.

We just have to be prepared, Church, because if the prophecy that $150 a night evangelist peddled to the last fourteen churches he preached at actually comes to fruition at ours, I expect our unlikely explosion of congregants to be followed with a litany of accusations of standard-dropping from the envious churches down the street.


And the church said amen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#287- Not Marriage Equality (Part 1)


Editor's Note: So we have a guest post from a new blog called Thoughts and Prayers in MotionAnd from the two posts so far, it's definitely worth keeping in view. Not too preachy but forceful enough to make you stop and think. while it’s definitely not an establishment voice, the blog clearly has a constructive agenda and isn’t just another collection of bitter rants.” Anywho, enjoy the blog's latest post below:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to them, and to which God has called them. This is my rule in all the churches. – Saint Paul (1 Cor. 7:17)


PART ONE
In response to the recent incarceration of a Kentucky county clerk for refusing to perform her duties, certifying marriages for all Rowan County couples, the General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, David K. Bernard, posted some of his thoughts on Facebook. Near the beginning of the post, Bernard writes, “As Christians, we can agree on the following points…”

While it is tempting to jump straight to a discussion of the following points, it is Bernard’s deftly phrased opening, “As Christians, we can agree” to which we must be most attentive. Who are these Christians or this we? Surely not all Christians, as it is quite clear that Christians in general rarely speak with a unified voice on anything, marriage equality definitely not one of those rare issues. Perhaps Bernard means Apostolics or Oneness Pentecostals or even United Pentecostals when he says we? Even so, such a statement would still be less than accurate, as dissenting views on marriage equality exist in all three of the aforementioned more narrow possibilities. This deceptively benign opening, “As Christians, we can agree” warrants our close attention, because it is a foundational prop in what can only be called a phantasmagorical production. A feverish bit of theater, in which we are confronted by the spectacle of a weeping woman, who having been maliciously persecuted for the sake of righteousness, nevertheless stands firm for Jesus. This carefully choreographed pageantry seeks to stoke the fear of an imminent loss of Christian freedoms, all the while ignoring the abdication of Christian values taking place in the humiliation, suffering and indignity inflicted upon hapless couples who had the audacity to seek equal treatment under the law.

This foundational prop of which I speak, is the carefully cultivated fiction — a fiction many Christian leaders (including Oneness Pentecostal and Apostolic elites) are desperately trying maintain — that frames the struggle for marriage equality as an external attack upon Christian faith by an assortment of worldly forces. That marriage equality is an internal issue of Christian debate/dissent (no matter how narrowly one draws the circle) is something that cannot be acknowledged by the reigning powers. Christians however, even Apostolic Christians, have never been a monolithic group, and framing marriage equality as an issue in which Christians are pitted against non-Christians (non-Christians we should add, who seek to undermine Christian freedoms) is disingenuous. Such a framing is vulgar propaganda that only feeds a false persecution complex currently in vogue among many conservative American Christians.

The truth is this: the gays are not out there waging war against all things Christian. Let us be clear. In their fight against marriage equality, church leaders and those who follow them, are not holding the line against an onslaught by godless heathens, but are instead committing the sin of Cain. Let us name this they whom we are told to resist. They are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our musicians, educators, pastors, worship leaders, janitors, ushers and elders — they are faithful children of God. That it may genuinely surprise many to learn that nearly half of lesbian, gay or bisexual Americans identify as Christian (and that percentage is increasing) is just more evidence of how successful establishment propaganda has been.

Here is an uncomfortable truth. Whatever religious persecution of Christians is taking place in this country; it is all too often taking place at the hands of other Christians. As a little publicized victory by a coalition of clergy, same-sex couples and religious denominations late last year demonstrated, in denying LGBT Christians marriage equality, North Carolina's marriage laws violated the First Amendment rights of Christian clergy and the principle of "free exercise of religion.” While the recently incarcerated Kentucky county clerk does offer us an opportunity to confront religious persecution in America, it is not the example of persecution her supporters imagine. The persecution, to which she calls our attention, is one that seeks (among other things, namely the imposition of one’s own religious beliefs upon non-believers) to deny LGBT Christians and the Christian communities to which they belong, the freedom to exercise their constitutional right to the free expression of their religion. It is imperative that we see beyond the actors on the stage in order to unmask this tragic reality that both the victims and the perpetrators in this story are Christians.

While Bernard’s post appears to be a genuine attempt at finding some balance between secular authority and personal conscience, sadly, he doesn’t seem to appreciate the irony involved in citing Romans 14 to conclude a reflection in which he has attempted to impose a tendentious reading of scripture upon all Christians. In 1 Corinthians 7, Saint Paul acknowledges that even for faithful Christians, marriage is a complicated subject and that we should resist any attempt at homogenizing believers. May we hear afresh Saint Paul’s words that every one must be free to faithfully live the life to which God has called them, not forced into a life that other Christians may seek to impose upon them. A candid discussion about marriage equality might begin, “as Christians, we do not agree.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

#286 - The Stoneking Hypothesis: Sound vs. Air Theology




Years ago, Lee Stoneking gave this blog an audience without realizing it. Literally, discussing the science of his Holy Magic Hair Theory caused the blog to go from a few hits a day (thanks mom) to getting hits from my mother, two aunts, and any girlfriend who gets past the three date anniversary. And that's exciting. Except we at SAL have gone our separate ways from Stoneking.... 

And like two star-crossed lovers, I felt in my heart of hearts that a reunion was imminent. I just didn't know how to start a conversation again with someone who meant so much to the blog and myself. Yet luckily Stoneking started it at Youth Congress when this happened....




Let's get this straight: Stoneking has a theory that shouting attacks the air and conversely attacks the Prince of Air himself: Satan. The theory of evolution may not check out, but Lee Stoneking's theory of Sound vs. Air absolutely checks out. Because the Bible. And because,  hashtag loud noises matter.

The theory: Joshua decided to enter Canaan and kill anyone else living there (women and children alike) and had a whole lot of success until he got to Jericho and there were walls around the city, so some marching and loud noises caused the city walls to fall and thus we can conclude that sound noises caused wall-failure.

Except with Lee Stoneking, shouting causes air particles to get shredded speedily and a take-no-prisoners, wam-bam-thank-you-mam kind of recklessness. And for Stoneking, no walls will collapse, however, because that would be physical proof of a miracle and that's not his style. Instead, tongues are spoken. Crying happens. And this all checks out. Apostolic Sound vs. Air, and Apo Sound wins.

But the critical discovery regarding the Stoneking Shout vs. Air hypothesis is that while studying the issue scientifically and Biblically, Dr. Lee Stoneking realized that Satan himself was the Prince of that very Air that was shredded by Shout.

Further Hypotheses
Whilst Dr. Stoneking is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize about this discovery, several minor logistical questions remain.

Question 1: If Satan is the Prince of the Air, who are the King and Queen of the Air?

We may never know. But if, as rumor has it, that the King of the Air is God Himself, then aren't we attacking God every time we shout? (more research needed).

      Question 1. A: If God is the King of the Air and Satan is the Prince of the Air, is God the Father of Satan? Is this like the opposite of Darth Vader revealing "Luke, I am your father?" (more research needed)

Aside: I'm not an air particle expert here as the Shout vs. Air Science is a newly constructed field. Therefore I will have to to defer to our resident Air-depletion specialist, Dr, Lee Stoneking regarding such matters in the mean time.

Question 2: If shouting attacks air, is it possible that one of the main causes of global warming is humans having a loud shout? After all, scientists agree that the amount of O-Zone depletion has increased at silly exponential rates within the past two hundred years. Is it then a coincidence that during this very same 200 years that the rate of human shouting has increased at nearly the exact same rate?

And if I'm correct (more research needed), and the smoking gun of global warming is shouting humans, then can we just let the global warming blame-game about pollution be put to rest?

         Question 2. A. Does screaming count as shouting? (From the video of Youth Congress' Great Shout Invasion, it seems screaming was permissible to shed and deplete air particles.) And if so, how much damage did the Jews cause the atmosphere when six million of them were screaming for their life in the gas chamber?

                Question 2 A. 1. What kind of injuries did Satan sustain after the aforementioned Jewish Air-Scream invasion of the early 1940's?

Observations: Observed that a lot of the air particle depletion from Congress occurred in a setting where screaming and shouting was encouraged amongst thousands of youths. A setting where one could openly emit LOUD NOISES in order to kill Satan, and ALSO NOT be declared a crazy, a wimp, a rebel rouser or be suspected of possible terrorist intentions. Actually Congress may have been the only place in the world where screaming & shouting would be rewarded with a fist pump or a bro-hug even though tears were clearly stuck in your eye-lashes.

Testing & Results: Rumor has it that the Oklahoma Air Particle Assault did not end at Congress but found it's way to many a church the following weekend(s). And the scientific measurements of just a sample of these church confirmed that air particle shreddings were not limited to 23,000 insecure adolescents making loud noises for emotional effect. No sir. In fact, air particles were depleted at the exact same rate no matter the amount of shouters within a venue. One loud shouting home missions church of eight people and a pet cat named Steve reported that they were "having difficulty breathing and feeling slightly light headed" after  having a Shout alter call service for a whole twenty minutes. The good news is that inside sources tell me that after this shout attack, that Satan is nursing an ACL tear and is expected to be out of any spiritual warfare activity for at least 6-9 months,

Sound vs. Air Theology in Action:  After finding out that Satan was injured and in hiding over a bit of shouting at the air, I have taken up the task of shouting in wherever the Spirit compels me to. Sure I was alone in the shout each time, and sure it was way awkward to be amongst people who didn't have one clue about the amount of Air destruction they could commit with some loud vocals, but when Satan's on the retreat, there's no time to explain why you were shouting out loud.

And who care's if you found yourself escorted out of a TSA airplane line because you shouted. The air is being shredded and that's more important.

And sure you'll get sweared at next to a man in a urinal as the Spirit compels you to  give a loud shout. But even if the man next to you is mid-poop, be rest assured, that your very shout may be preventing a Satanic attack on his soul at that very moment. Tell him to thank you for your shout.

Conclusion: When the tried and true theory of the Lee Stoneking Sound vs. Air theology is confirmed within academia, we'll have more visitors in our church from the shouting revival services for the next week or two and as a result of all the outbursts of emotion, salvation will be easier for the seekers which means even more ridiculous and asinine pseudo-science theologies to manipulate a crowd to get a reaction. And in two months, we'll forget any of this ever happened.

P.S. More Stoneking Love coming soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

#285 - #NAYC2015 (An Ode To Broken Commitments)



Editor's Comment: To ensure credit where credit is due, Glen McGee wrote this post (side note: goosebumps ahead)-


Fresh on the heels of North American Youth Congress 2015 it’s the Stuff Apostolics Like Recap of Events!

Nah, just kiddin. We actually have finally crossed the threshold of being so far removed we have absolutely no idea who sang, preached, screamed, got wifed up or anything else that may have occurred.

I've had a post on my mind for a while now and given that I spent last night looking at the Instagram hashtags from NAYC, and became very, very sad, I thought now was a good time to post it.

Looking through Twitter and Instagram there are countless posts of excitement and zealous emotion for the time spent there. And why wouldn’t there be? When you live in a culture that’s founded on isolation from everything that surrounds you, and you’re constantly reminded that you’re “in the world, not of it,” it’s absolutely intoxicating to completely take over a city. I recall being 18 years old, withdrawn from my school; my only social access was the thirty or so kids in my youth group. I felt like I lived in a bubble. I lived for the large gatherings the UPC fostered. I counted down to camp season like the rest of the country counts down to The Superbowl. Just like the countdowns on Twitter and Instagram for the last month… I only made it to two NAYC’s (2003 and 2005) before my work schedule couldn’t allow it, and by the time I could take off from work I no longer cared, but those two NAYC’s were the epitome of excitement for me.

I can’t describe the feeling of being in an arena with 20,000 people who think, dress and live the exact same way you do, when you’re the weird one back home. At your school you’re the goodie two shoes, the church boy, the Jesus Freak. But here? Here you’re in your element. Here the tables turn. Here the girl walking down the street in pants is the one who’s out of place. Here your bowtie is cool. Here the smell of Aussie hairspray permeates the air like hot garbage in New York City.

But that’s not all. It’s at these functions, the Congress’, the camps, the rallies, where “commitments” are made. Sermons are screamed with a practiced pseudo-sincerity that also acts as a calculated emotional spell being cast on starry-eyed teenagers.

And herein lies the tragedy.

This was me, on the regular.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I sat on my knees with my face buried in the carpet, my hands filled with tears as I BEGGED God for the strength to never give up. I interceded with the fervor of a dying soldier begging not to be left on the battlefield, asking God to never let me become…..

what I eventually became.

I committed with every fiber of my soul to never turn my back, to never walk away, to never stop believing. The fear the preacher had just put into me drove me to scream at the top of my lungs every articulation of commitment I could think of. I listened to the rhetorical idea that “we’re one generation away from losing the anointing,” and I told God I would never be a part of that fallen generation.

During the time when most everyone I knew at school were living normal teenage lives, having their first kiss, going to dances, listening to music and simply having the American Youthful Experience I spent my time at a Pentecostal altar. I, and my youth group, thrust ourselves into the emotional hurricane of guilted commitments prodded by a passionate solicitation for our most sincere devotion. Tearful preachers stood in pulpits Sunday after Sunday, Friday after Friday, telling us of the risks waiting for us every time we “stepped outside those doors,” and we bought right in.

And that’s what happened this past week in Oklahoma City. Thousands of teenagers, with no practical knowledge of this world, had their phobias reinforced. Junior High aged children bawled their eyes out, consumed with the fear of disappointing God. They committed their lives, not just to God, but also to a Pentecostal “Holiness” lifestyle and an Apostolic Identity.

The tragedy of all of this is not where the story ends, but in the regret from where it started. And for 20,000 kids last week, it started in Oklahoma City.

I love my life. I love where I ended up. I have a career I love, that pays me well. I have well rounded experiences, friends that are closer than my own family, and I live in a city that people fantasize about living in.

But I am everything I prayed I’d never become. I’ve broken every commitment I ever made to God. I am a caricature of the worst outcome of all those impassioned sermons. And while I am so happy about that, the happiness has had to evolve. I've been told several times, and agree, that I am in dire need of counseling. I ended up on my feet, but only after doing a triple axle through confusion, anger, bitterness and deep rooted resentment, and I still haven't stuck that landing. 

When I look back on my life and see the path I took to get here I become so, so sad for the child I was, but not the adult I became. My youthful, impressionable mind was held captive by a bleak outlook, based on biased conjecture. Instead of learning, and growing, and being matured through experiences I begged God for stagnation. I was told in dozens of sermons, and I believed, that life in the altar of events like North American Youth Congress was as good as it could ever be and I placed all my chips on that bet. “Progress be damned, life has to stop here.” Progress wasn’t progress; progress was the path to hell. Progress would lead me to a life devoid of purpose. New experiences, friends and ideas were to be feared. But when those inevitable experiences and friends and ideas came along they brought with them perspective. When I encountered something I had once prayed never to encounter the recurring word in my mind was “Really?” Really, this is what’s going to destroy me? Really, the highest I could ever be was at that altar? Really, these people are the bad ones?

With every new epiphany another youthful tear of mine became shed in vain.

Why did I allow my youth to be spent in trembling fear of a normal life? Why do people see a child or teenager, like in the video at the top of this page, with bloodshot eyes, a face covered in tears and snot, nerves and emotions shocked beyond that seen in court rooms and funeral homes, and think “how precious?”

This isn’t precious. This isn’t good. This is sick. The willingness to accept the image of a sobbing, shaking child is predicated on the idea that the child understands what they're doing. But guess what: they don't. The video at the top of this page should cause outrage, but it gets a pass because it's in a church. If anyone walked into a daycare center or a school and saw children that young crying and trembling on the floor they would call Child Protective Services. This is emotional abuse. Children like the ones in the above video filled the seats of that Oklahoma Arena this past week. I posit that there wasn't so much of a "move of God" in that arena as there was emotional manipulation and manufactured distress. These preachers have figured out how to do something very, very dangerous. If a psychologist was granted access to these events and observed the altar calls they, undoubtedly, would tell us we've engaged in amateur mass psychosis. They're "playing" with minds of children and it's not only unhealthy but carries extreme risk. These emotionally loaded situations carry the potential for trauma - real, psychological trauma, and it's treated so haphazardly.

Amidst the hashtagged posts on Instagram I saw videos of kids so young they’ve never had to learn how to burn a CD so wrought with guilt and fear rocking back and forth on the floor of an arena making those same commitments I made and I was on the brink of tears for them, but not tears of joy.

I see kids who will spend the next ten to twenty years locked in an emotional and psychological battle as they slowly have a curtain drawn back to reveal the truth of their situation. I see kids with the claws of manipulation gripping them so tightly they don’t even know who they are outside of their hair and their skirts, who worship people they will either grow to hate or worse, fetishizing these preachers as some kind of god among men. I see pastors sons and daughters holding hands and praying with the belief that they’re supposed to be together, who will grow to resent each other. I know because I watched this happen to almost every teenage friend I had that truly believed God had ordained their pubescent relationship. All the while oblivious chaperones and parents sit with plastic smiles of approval, not understanding the inevitable disillusionment these children are on a road to.

I’m not here to argue with those who never left. I’m speaking as a voice of experience, as a voice of those who have gone down this road. An often said remark by Pentecostals is "I know this is real because I felt it," or "You can't doubt my experience." Well I've had my own experiences and I'd say the same in return. While my feelings of animus may be more extreme than that of my peers, the sentiment exists in all of us to varying degrees. Those still filling Pentecostal pews can certainly agree that after a certain age it seems a disproportionate number of us who grew up in the church leave it. I know this because I sat under numerous sermons on Friday nights warning of the dangers we will face once we’re out of high school. The stories of those who went before us and walked away, only to be met with (presumed) grief filled sermon after sermon which prompted our tearful commitments.

But it wasn’t evil temptation that baited us to some debaucherous lifestyle. We simply matured. We reached the age of introspection and self-awareness. We entered the workforce, college, and other avenues of “real life” where our beliefs were challenged. While pastors and preachers would tell us otherwise, the simple truth is that beliefs that can’t stand up to questions are wrongly held beliefs. There simply isn’t substance to back the beliefs up. This is why instead of being taught answers to questions we were taught not to ask them. We were taught that those who do ask are distractions and tempters, thrown in our paths as “stumbling blocks.” Biblical phrases like “lean not to your own understanding,” were used to justify instructions not to think, just to obey, and that things didn’t have to make sense. We were taught, “God is not logical,” so that when the things that made sense to us contradicted what we committed ourselves to at those altars, we would stick with the ramblings of the mad man in the pulpit rather than our own hearts and minds. Catchy sermon titles and clever wordplay kept these sinister instructions seemingly light hearted, as we walked out of the arena's like the Manchurian Candidate.

Almost every person from the youth groups I grew up in have left their UPC churches. Some have gone to Non-Denominational churches, while others have become Atheists. I don't mean just a few. I could throw a backsliders rally and fill the pews with the hundreds who used to stain the carpet with their tears, yet now raise a glass to making it out. It could be argued that we've all lost the battle to the enemy but if those condemning us could just listen to us with an open mind they'd see that's not the case. We're people, just like them. We think just as much and just as deeply as they do. We're just as scared of hell, if it exists, as they are. No part of us is evil. But if we lay awake at night it's not with a gaping hole in our life as we wonder what it is that's missing. We lay awake thinking how much better life had been had we never been forced to buy into the Pentecostal message. Tears may sometimes stain our pillow, but we're not praising God, we're cursing him for letting people use his name to take advantage of us at the most impressionable point in our lives. We may be screaming, but it's not in tongues. It's the cursing and pounding as we look at our lives and our wasted potential because we were too focused on the youth group and not on our grades or our college education. We're cursing the uneducated, inexperienced, unqualified men who stood in front of innocent, blank slates and filled them with anxiety and unease about a world filled with beauty, but painted to be full of despair. We could have been SO much. We could have accomplished SO much. But we let them rob us of a future that hadn't even been written yet.

The memories of “awesome sermons,” “amazing altar calls,” and “let’s take this revival back home with us” became fleeting memories, dissipating with every passing year. The vehemence of promises to ourselves, to our pastors and to God became distant memories, and their value lost.

Why this pains me so much is because it’s cyclical. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change these kids paths. I would run into every Sunday School classroom, every weekend youth service, every camp and convention and tell each and every one of them that the world is too beautiful and life is too short to waste it on a fabricated story if I thought I could, but I can't. Not only would they kick me out, but at this point in their lives these kids would dismiss me as Satan incarnate, and follow my warnings with more commitments and tears. They are destined for the same path I've travelled. They will pray with the same fervency I once did. They will make the same commitments. They will ask the same questions. They will struggle with the same answers. They will have their characters assassinated by the same men and women who claimed to love them with the love of Christ. They will become bitter and dejected. Some will fall into depression. Some will hold grudges. Some will go a little too far in their rebellion. But all will look back at those sermons, those altars and those tears with regret, to varying degrees.

Because they should have just been allowed to be kids. Their youth was wasted, and they’ll never get it back.


Just like mine was. And that is what brings tears to my eyes again. 


There are high school seniors whose tears have barely dried from the concrete of Cheasapeake Energy Arena who, by the next NAYC in 2017, will have realized the lies and fear so ardently expressed to them this week. And with no guidance, and a lot of regret, they'll begin a journey in a direction they don't know where will take them. I hope they have the good fortune that I've had, but I've seen too many that haven't. And for that I am deathly afraid.