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  1. Lisafer

    The Sin of Christmas

    I remember being about two years old (I have a long memory) and watching my dad plug in Christmas lights. That was probably the last year our family celebrated Christmas. Both my parents grew up celebrating holidays like most of middle-class America, but as they began their slide into fundie-dom they started reading tracts and booklets about the evils of holidays. They believed that Christmas, Easter, and Halloween were evil throwbacks to paganism that had been perpetuated by the Catholics (who, of course, weren't "real Christians"). I'm linking here to something similar to the many booklets we had around the house: http://blowthetrumpet.org/AChristmasDefenseHowGodsPeopleJustifySin.htm This refusal to celebrate holidays set my family apart, even from the fundamentalist Christians we associated with, and definitely caused a lot of confusion when people casually asked us kids what we were doing for Christmas, and we told them we didn't "do Christmas." We got asked a lot if we were Jehovah's Witnesses, since that's who usually comes to mind as not celebrating holidays. Sometimes people asked if my parents were Christian, because the idea of a Christian not celebrating Christmas was so astonishing. Birthdays were only grudgingly allowed: we normally had just a family gathering, similar to the Maxwells' descriptions of their birthday celebration. It was often pointed out that the only birthdays mentioned in the Bible were the birthdays of evil men (Pharaoh and Herod). Also it was seen as being likely to draw to much attention to one person and make them self-centered. This story has a bit of a happy ending, at least for me. After I left home, I embraced holidays with a vengeance. Christmas was amazing, my children got Easter baskets from my in-laws, Halloween was a pure delight of dressing my kids and taking them trick-or-treating. Now that I've left Christianity, I still look forward to the holidays. Christmas/Yule/Winter Solstice--whatever it's called, it's a time of joy and giving and yummy food. Halloween--it's a joy to watch my children enjoy what I didn't, with no fear of "Satan" to hinder their steps. The cycle of the seasons is cause for celebration, even if "Easter" isn't really a thing for me. And I want my children to feel special on their birthdays: to know that they're important and valued. This rejection of holidays stemmed from anti-Catholic and anti-Pagan attitudes. It was promoted as being "God's way," but all the tracts reviled Catholics and Pagans, making it obvious that the real problem was with other people's belief systems. Of course, we were the ones with the "right" understanding of the Bible. As with everything else. Nowadays, my parents still don't celebrate religious holidays, except for having or attending a Thanksgiving meal (apparently there's some justification in the Bible for "a day of thanks," don't ask me). They are free to do whatever they want on the holidays; meanwhile, at my house, there will likely be a delicious dinner cooking and a living room full of loved ones.
  2. Lisafer

    Calvinism as I Knew It

    Calvinism for my family wasn’t just an abstract theological concept. It informed every aspect of our lives, painfully so. The RPCNA, which I grew up in, is definitely Calvinist in their beliefs. They hold the Westminster Confession of Faith as subordinate only to the Bible in terms of doctrine. And the WCF is strictly Calvinist in doctrine. The TULIP acronym is a useful aid to what we believed and what our church believed: · Total Depravity: the doctrine that humans are completely unable to do anything good whatsoever. As in, even your thoughts are evil. I could go on forever about this; the belief was that the unsaved were incapable of doing any true good in the sight of God. Example: an unsaved man risks his life to save a child from drowning. Good, right? According to this belief, no, only “less evil” than letting the child drown, because the unsaved man was not performing this act “to the glory of God.” He was performing it for less pure motives than God’s glory, and therefore he was sinning. Saved people were only capable of true good insofar as the Holy Spirit inside of them was motivating them and purifying their sinful actions. · Unconditional Election: the doctrine that God has chosen, from eternity, those people that he will save; and that he has chosen them not for anything that they have done, but just because he can. (Sort of like Thanos randomly decimating half the universe’s population). · Limited Atonement: the doctrine that Christ died ONLY for the elect (the ones that God had already chosen to save). John Doe is not elect; therefore, Christ did not die for John Doe’s sins. This doctrine is kind of disgusting and pisses me off. Christ, the figurehead for love, salvation, and forgiveness in the Christian religion, LIMITED his salvation to the elect. Ugh. Gross. You might as well praise Thanos for leaving half the universe alive. He was so merciful! · Irresistible Grace: the doctrine that God’s decision to make you elect cannot be changed or resisted. Free will is not a thing for Calvinists. You don’t have free will. If God wants to save you, wants to make you believe in Christ for salvation, you will not be able to resist it. On the other hand, if God hasn’t chosen you, you will never be able to have saving faith in Christ. · Perseverance of the Saints: the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” except for Calvinists. Since they were chosen from eternity, it’s more like “always saved.” Since God is all-powerful, never changes, and has chosen you, you’re either elect or not. There is no crossover. This leads directly into the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, as people do leave the faith. They are seen as having never been true Christians in the first place. (There are differences of opinion on “the unpardonable sin” mentioned in Mark 3: 28-29, and other passages. Some Calvinists would say that I have committed the unpardonable sin by leaving Christianity and following another path. But those Calvinists would consider me to have never been regenerate to start with.) This is Calvinism as it was taught to me and as I understood it. There are shades of Calvinism, of course, just as there are shades of all religions. The effects of this doctrine were, to start with, guilt. Everything I did and thought, every breath in a literal sense, was either evil or highly suspect of being evil. Coupled with my OCD, this led to years of muttering under my breath “oh-God-please-forgive-me” for the littlest action that might have been sinful. I dragged my guilt with me everywhere I went, crippled by the sense of sin. I didn’t understand people who talked about the burden of sin being lifted. Sure, I could hope that I was one of the elect and would escape hell; but that was about it. I was simultaneously told to avoid sin, and that sin could not be avoided. It was painful, painful beyond belief. Coupled with mental illness, it was nearly unbearable. Another effect was prejudice against others. Our doctrine was special: the only true doctrine. People who were not Christians were evil, incapable of doing good. My motives were suspect: theirs were undoubtedly sin. People who were not Calvinists, even though they were Christian, were seen as “less than,” not having the whole truth. I learned to doubt the salvation of people who believed in free will (Arminianism). The prejudice and doubting may not have been an intended effect, but I have never known a Calvinist congregation that did not have an extra helping of arrogance. An arrogance that corrupted my mind and poisoned me against others. I think that Calvinists often see themselves as “special,” and “intellectual,” because their doctrines are convoluted and require a lot of study and understanding to grasp. The idea that “Jesus died for my sins,” and a simple faith in that idea, is seen as being a “baby Christian.” Calvinists pride themselves on being more advanced. They like discussions on the “act” of justification vs. the “work” of sanctification. They like infighting over the nuances of the Westminster Confession. They like debating the positions of tiny splinter denominations. (I knew of a Calvinist preacher who refused to enter an alliance with another tiny Calvinist church because the second church refused to force the women to wear headcoverings. They were aligned on salvation doctrines and worship practices.) Yet another effect was fear. Paralyzing fear. If I was elect, everything would be ok in the end. I would go off to Heaven, which sounded horribly boring, but at least it was devoid of flames. But if I wasn’t elect? Nothing could save me from Hell. And there was no way to be 100% sure that I was elect. No literal book with my name written in it. To counteract this, the church talked about “assurance,” which was supposedly the Holy Spirit comforting our souls with trust in God. It wasn’t very comforting, as Satan was also waiting, ready to trick us into false assurance. Determining which voice was speaking to our hearts was difficult. I had no “assurance” until I was about 18 or 19, at which point I formally joined the church I’d been attending since I was 6 or 7. It was an intense, traumatic time for me, knowing that refusing to join could be a sign that I wasn’t elect, but that being admitted to Communion and taking it “unworthily” would bring down unpleasant heavenly consequences. (I took the membership vows very seriously, but I now consider myself to have been coerced. I was brought up to believe that Hell awaited people who refused to join the visible church—because refusing membership was most likely a sign that you were not elect. And Hell as a literal eternal fiery pit is a pretty powerful motivator.) Good works, to the Calvinist, are seen as a sign of being elect. Oddly enough, they become massively important for that reason, because they serve as the only outer barometer of being elect. If you claim Christianity and run a charity, take care of your kids, go to church, and dress modestly, you’re probably elect. If you claim Christianity but have an addiction, don’t go to church, or have sex outside of marriage, you might be unregenerate (in certain people’s eyes). Instead of seeing hurting people as brothers and sisters, this kind of Calvinist sees them as either unregenerate or as sinners not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. As I said before, this is how Calvinism was for me, and my birth family, and my church. It was an ugly, ugly system full of arrogance and othering and guilt and doubt and fear. If you have questions, feel free to ask. I realize I’ve written a novel here, and it still doesn’t cover more than the surface of this issue!
  3. Hi all. Old member returning here. Some of you may remember my association with the Niednagel family. Still trying to get my Christian views and living into perspective. As with most things in life that are important, it hasn't been easy. For those unfamiliar, I was actually raised in a happy, non-legalistic, broadly conservative Christian home (WELS Lutheran first and then vaguely Pentecostal later). My brother had a tragic death in 1997, my late mother retreated into watching TBN even more than she did before (I learned later that this wasn't good, I know), my parents left church and did home-study for years after that (and became obsessed with the End Times, along with an idiosyncratic and completely unorthodox view that people can be saved after they die, hence no interest in evangelism per se), and I myself went through an agnostic period in my late teens and early twenties (2003-2005). Around that time, I also became increasingly acquainted the famous/infamous Niednagel family through their Brain Types theory and a shared interest in basketball and other sports (my late mother and I were huge basketball fans), returned to Christianity in 2005 (though not because of the Niednagels, whose version of Christianity I was still ignorant of -- but because of a vision that I was leading a fornicating and unbelieving life and would go to hell if I didn't repent), later learned all about Calvinism and ATI/Vision Forum and the Stay-At-Home Daughters movement through the Niednagels (2007-2012), subsequently got completely confused over what type of Christianity was best (2012-2013ish and beyond), got disheartened over the perceived inadequacies of my alleged "Brain Type," attended Calvary Chapel for a few years (2013-2017), then attended an IFB church for half a year (2017 through early part of this year), witnessed my mother's passing (Feb of this year), and now am with the LCMS church (April to present). My husband, whom I married in 2016 and met back in 2004 when I was agnostic, remains skeptical of theism, but has never dissuaded me from my faith when I returned to it in 2005. My father still attends Calvary Chapel, yet his laid-back theism is essentially this: Jesus is the Only Way, but there are no hills worth dying on after that (and yes, he remains convinced that people can be saved after they die, and has no interest in debating politics and religion with people, though he is supportive of Trump and doesn't think transgenderism or homosexuality is right, but refrains from judging the eternal state of such people). He's enjoying the single life, golfing, food, drink, and basically the "eat drink and be merry" type of life. He could have no more gotten into the Niednagels' version of controlling and rigid patriarchy than fly to the moon. They look down on him as a generic FCIR "Brain Type." Contrary to what the Niednagels think, I don't think that's an entirely bad thing. So I've pretty much seen and analyzed the whole spectrum of conservative Christianity, even as I approach merely my mid-thirties. I'm now at the stage of, what is truly important? I don't believe secularism, liberalism, or other faiths hold the answers from what I've perceived and studied -- but conservative Protestant Christianity is so divided that it's been tough to navigate the terrains, especially since my parents weren't exactly theologically rigorous themselves. Becoming affiliated with the Niednagels, and witnessing the hair-splitting tendencies of Calvinists, really opened my eyes. I also learned about all kinds of other things my less-than-systematic parents ignored, like how the Pentecostal dispensationalism my mother embraced for the final twenty or so years of her life is COMPLETELY at odds with the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran upbringing she touted so much, how my father is perceived as theologically weak even by Calvary Chapel standards, and just how little doctrine my parents imparted compared to other conservative Christian factions. My parents were always like, "this doesn't pertain to salvation, so don't worry about it!" Even in somewhat more stringent Calvary Chapel circles, the message always is, "it's a relationship, not a religion" -- way too fluffy for the likes of Calvinism! The Niednagels and other Calvinists, instead, were always like, "you need to engage the analytic concrete left brain more, Christianity is about rules and regulations which you abstract right brainers struggle with meeting, you need to analyze Scripture in context with the left brain instead of your dominant right brain, God may be love but that is not all He is, holiness is a mandate, women are property" etc. Not convinced either of these extremes are good anymore, tbh. I wouldn't say my parents were outright Antinomians, but they were close. And I do think there are Scriptural and practical problems with that. But I'm also skeptical of the pride, hypocrisy, and legalism of the Niednagels and other Calvinists. I don't think their way is Scripturally right or balanced, either. I like the LCMS because I think their doctrines make the most sense, theologically and practically. I don't want to write a treatise here, so if you want further analysis of these people and groups, and how their beliefs, doctrines, and practices pertain to Scripture (or lack thereof), feel free to ask. I'm just giving background for context here to start. Oh, and if you follow Michelle Lesley's web site, I was the one who recently asked about the Great Commission and women's roles.
  4. Lisafer

    H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

    H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks (A comical reference to the hot place, based on the shape of the last two letters) The Christians I grew up around took Hell pretty darn seriously. They didn’t believe in expiation of sins after death: once you’re dead, you’ve lost your chance, buddy. If you weren’t saved by Jesus before you died, off you go in a handbasket to the hot place. For Reformed Presbyterians, this is compounded by the Calvinist belief that God has already determined who’s headed to the flames, but has not chosen to share this information with humankind. Of course the above paragraph is a simplified explanation, but sometimes it helps to strip away all the fancy theological terms and state things baldly. I was taught that if you died without believing in Jesus as Savior, you would instantly go to a place of never-ending torment and darkness, and at the Resurrection your body would be consigned to the flames to burn forever without any chance of escape. This shit fucked with my head pretty badly growing up. I remember sheer sweating terror one night where I had convinced myself I was going to Hell. I still remember how afraid I was as I faced an eternity of screaming agony, sure that I couldn’t do anything about it. After all, if God had predestined me to the flames, there was no way around it—no propitiation, no sacrifice, no acceptance, no forgiveness. I relaxed a little bit about Hell after that; I think I numbed myself to the possibility of ending up there and tried not to think about it. But I still believed in eternal torment, and I still believed that the unsaved were headed there by the thousands every day. This led to a lot of guilt about not witnessing to the unsaved. Now I know this doesn’t really make sense, because if God had already chosen his people, it couldn’t be my fault if somebody went to Hell. At the time, though, it didn’t seem nearly so clear, and if anyone I knew died who wasn’t Christian, I was full of guilt because maybe I was the one who was supposed to evangelize them and save them from the flames. We were commanded to spread the Gospel, and I wasn’t doing it, or not doing it well enough. It made me really sad when my grandfather died an “unbeliever.” I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea of him burning up forever. I just didn’t understand how people could be happy in Heaven when they knew their loved ones were shrieking in the fire. Apparently if you are one of the elect, when you go to Heaven you are purified and happy forever and just…don’t care about your friends and relations? Forget about them? Rejoice in their punishment, since they are sinners? Holy fuckballs! If that’s the way it works, I’m jumping in the handbasket with my loved ones and heading to the Pit, because Heaven sounds a lot more twisted. I would think for most Calvinists, predestination would take the edge off of personal guilt about evangelizing to the lost. But if you believe that everyone has an opportunity to be saved, like many modern Evangelicals, how do you not spend every waking moment trying to rescue people from the flames? Unrepentant humanity is throwing itself over a cliff of destruction! You should be waving signs, screeching warnings, blocking their path…oh, wait, there’s a bunch of Christians doing exactly that, and it’s obnoxious. Theologically consistent, but obnoxious. But understanding how some Christians view Hell as a place of eternal, no-escape torment does shine a light on their behavior. If somebody thought you were about to jump off a ten-story building, you’d expect them to try to stop you. That’s what a decent person would do. Unfortunately, there are a lot of well-meaning Christians out there trying to “save” people from the Christian Hell. Their intentions are good, but I’ve always heard that the road to hell was paved with good intentions... Like a lot of my early beliefs, my belief in Hell slipped away gradually. I had to go from strict Calvinism (God only saves the elect, all others go to Hell) to a belief in free will (you can decide to accept God, and then you will go to Heaven) to the belief that the Divine love is open to everybody, and that the only hell is one you create for yourself. And if you’ve created it for yourself, you’re free to leave it behind. But what about mass murderers? What about Hitler? A lot of people consign the unrepentant to eternal flames with smug satisfaction. A lot of people do that, some without even really thinking about it. “He got what was coming to him.” “He can rot in hell.” That’s our desire for justice talking. If we lost our sense of justice, we’d lose a huge part of our humanity. Pain and suffering follows evildoers. Karma is a bitch, and we bless her for her bitchiness. But what if even the most evil are not unreachable by love? Maybe, even when we are full of justified anger and hate against the worst of humankind, maybe Divine love doesn’t give up trying to bring them back to goodness, even after death. That’s why I can’t say that I hope anybody rots in hell, because one: I don’t believe in it, and two: I hope that everybody finds some kind of redemption, be it through reincarnations or purgatory or something else. At least that’s how I think of it. I don’t fear Hell anymore, and that’s a relief. I don’t want my children to grow up in fear, sickened by the thought of eternal flames. I asked my son once if he knew what “hell” was—he said he knew “hail” fell from the sky, and I laughed because he didn’t know, and he wasn’t afraid, and that’s the way a child should be.
  5. Cleopatra7

    Dr. Francis Nigel Lee

    I'm doing a review essay on an edited book about the Catholic Church in South Africa, and I found this huge pdf about the "purity" of Afrikaner Calvinism written before the fall of apartheid by Calvinist minister Dr. Francis Nigel Lee: https://web.archive.org/web/20130906130111/http://dr-fnlee.org/docs3/ca/ca.pdf He promoted a dominionist approach to history, seeing colonization and apartheid (i.e., "separate development") as evidence that god loves whites more, and that South Africa is an outpost of "Calvinist civilization" that has to be protected from communists and "uncivilized" blacks. He also referenced Rushdooney approvingly, so I don't think it would unfair to classify him as a dominonist, as this quote indicates: Looking at the document is somewhat laughable today, since the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa has been largely discredited because of how it provided the theological justification for apartheid; these days, Afrikaners seem to be Pentecostal or "nones." So much for the "purity" of Afrikaner Calvinism. I do wonder how he squared these beliefs with the fall of apartheid and the election of Mandela; maybe God was punishing Afrikaner Calvinists for not being "godly" enough? As rage-inducing as the document is, it is illuminating to see the extent to which apartheid-era South Africa was seen as an explicitly "Christian nation" that was governed according to a sectarian ideology that cast Afrikaners as "an elect people" and blacks as perpetual serfs. I did some more Googling and found out that Lee advocated for "Christian ethnic homelands," and that some group called the "Puritans Network" thinks this is a viable idea for the US: http://www.puritans.net/homelands/ http://www.puritans.net/articles/plan.htm Unsurprisingly, they have a homeschool curriculum as well: http://www.puritans.net/curriculum/ I have no idea how widespread the beliefs of these "Puritans Network" people are, but it's pretty disturbing that anyone in 2016 would look at South Africa's Bantustan policy and think that it's something that should be replicated.
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