25 December 2001

Top Fallacies about Christianity

Christians wouldn't welcome someone like me into their Church.

That depends on which Christians. Have you ever walked into a church whose members were a different color than you? Blending in is not always an option during what Martin Luther King called "the most segregated hour in America." But in general, the more authentically Christian the congregation, the more welcome you will find yourself. And remember, most Christian churches wouldn't welcome the historical Jesus either, but we're trying to get better about that.

Christianity is just a cult like any other.

Christianity began as the quintessential anti-cult. Consider that cults usually wind up killing their followers and their opponents. Christianity began with outsiders killing the leader. The followers were neither homicidal nor suicidal, nor were they asked to be. They were emboldened with a miraculous courage to proclaim the Truth as they understood it. Christianity really is about getting in touch with God, not rallying around a psychopath (which is what cults are about).

I can be a Christian without attending Church.

From its beginning, Church has always been understood as community. Even ascetic hermits who meditated alone for years had their influence on the unfolding Church. In other words, if you are called to Christianity, you are called to make yourself known to the Church and the Church to you.

Modern day Christians are mostly Televangelists and their viewers.

Hardly. When my pastor was asked about Televangelism, he replied, "When was the last time a TV screen handed you the wine and the wafer (the elements of the Eucharist or Holy Communion)?"

I can be "spiritual" without being "religious."

Without a normative tradition to stand for or against, you can engage in what Bellah, et al. in Habits of the Heart, called Sheilaism. Sheilaism a hyper-individualistic "my-way" of dealing with one's religious impulses, named for a woman whom the authors interviewed. As such, it does not build institutions that shape societies, which is one of the functions of religion, but it may tear them down, which would be a demonic perversion of religion. In other words, your individualistic faith will do nothing for your world. Even Jesus stood in relation to the normative tradition of his day.

Christianity is not relevant to a technological world.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indespensable supports....Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintaned without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of the religious principle." — George Washington's farewell address.

There is not one mention of technology in that statement, which remains as true today as when Washington spoke it over two centuries ago. In other words, technology is not relevant to the human need for religion.

All Christians are hypocrites.

So? Do you know of any religion or ethical system whose adherents are not hypocrites to some extent? At least Christianity recognizes this and makes room for it with the doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sin.

Christians can't let themselves have any fun.

Yeah, right. Like we never have any fun here. A humorless faith is an idolatrous faith. If it ain't ever any fun, its probably a foul fantasy.

All Christians are conservative.

Actually, the dominant movements in world Christianity are liberal, like the World Council of Churches. Christians come in all political persuasions. Just pick a congregation in tune with where you are now, and enjoy.

Religion is a sham for the weak-minded.

It's not a sham. It is a constructive way of living with our religious impulses. Basically, religion is for those of us who can't get along without God. Of course our minds are weak, compared to say, God's Mind. So are our bodies and our souls. We participate in religion to connect with our source of strength.

There is no hard evidence for Christianity or any religion.

So... You are convinced without proof that empirical evidence is necessary for you to believe in, or trust in, anything. How long have you had this delusion? How long have you denied all the things you do accept without proof just to get through each day? In our world, the world God gave to us, we live by proof. In God's World, the world to come, we live by faith. It is our job to live in both worlds at once. Trust me, it takes a some common sense.

09 December 2001

An Open Letter to Survivors of Clergy Abuse

contributed by Kay Goodnow

We are the ones we have been waiting for. — Oraibi, Arizona, Hopi Nation
Along with the rest of "us survivors," I have been following the story of the Pope's apology (even if it was just one paragraph) for the sexual and psychological abuse perpetrated against the innocent by the ordained (what I often refer to as ‘authority in organized denomination’). I have also been following the comments and correspondence between us that resulted from that apology.

Before I proceed with this epistle, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to those who put the recent Link-Up conference in Toronto together! For me, and this was my first conference, it was a rewarding experience and possibly the best investment in myself that I have ever made! I am what is known as a "sensitive" and I was a little afraid that what I might find at the conference would open old wounds, but just the opposite occurred. I found myself gaining strength and I rejoiced at the power, the energy that I felt in sharing friendship with those of you who were there. I both felt and saw the light that surrounded all of us and I believe that there just may have been the human equivalent of lightning bolts in some of those sessions. More than happy that I attended, I returned home with new insights, new courage and new hope.

I was in New York City when CNN presented a one-liner relative to this historical apology and I smiled at the television set and breathed the words "This is just the beginning, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and it is good!"

Later that day I sat in Carnegie Hall, in a packed house, and I listened to a choir perform John Rutter’s Requiem. My oldest daughter was a part of this choir, which consisted of singers who had all attended Shawnee Mission South High School right here in Overland Park, Kansas. A strong part of my personal heritage is the ancient Latin of the church combined with the music, the spirit of God in song, if you will. I dearly love and secretly treasure her music. I know that the "church" can never take that away from me. Although both the composer and director are younger than I, the words were the same as they have been for centuries. Only the interpretation of those words has changed!
That day, that Sunday, two wonderful things happened to me; the apology by the Pope and the joy of that concert. As the words "Lux aeterna dona eis Domine" echoed through that magnificent recital hall my heart kept trying to stop beating as I experienced the Light that truly is God. Here was further verification that God is always present, always near at hand, always available. He was there. He heard that magnificent music and He smiled.

I felt myself accept the Pope’s apology. I felt peace, humility, courage and the empowering strength that comes from accepting the inevitable and making the brave decision to proceed along whatever path it is that I am to follow. I do not have to forgive those atrocities, but I do have to accept the apology. The Requiem had become a channel.

For what it’s worth, from me to you and just between us, what has happened has happened and there is absolutely nothing in this world that we can do to change that. Once we have been abused, life changes. I can no more go back to being an innocent 15-year-old than can any of you go back to before your damage was done. Yes, I agree, it should not have happened; not to me and not to you and not to anyone else and especially not in God’s name! But it did.

I have just read the editorial from the December 7, 2001 issue of the National Catholic Reporter dealing with the need for an "open and just procedure needed in Maciel case." My head and my heart, acting as one, said, "Well, d-u-h-h-h!"

I have just read the new set of norms from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. My head and my heart, acting as one, said, "This may be new to them, but to me it sounds just like all of their 'Hear, Speak and See No Evil' methods for avoiding with their serious internal problems!"
Some clergy are openly committing crimes against humanity. Abuse is one part of those crimes. And the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues to both propagate and perpetuate the problem.

The 'committee' defined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is no doubt another attempt to keep the perpetrators and the facts hidden. Like the ostrich that buries it’s head in the sand to avoid confrontation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sounds good, but it isn’t. That is unfortunate, but true. And granted, a token apology cannot take away the years and years of pain that each of us has experienced…

A very wise woman once told me "We are each responsible for our own spirituality." I have accepted that responsibility, with great pleasure. And I would like to submit to each of you, for your consideration, the following:

Maybe it’s time to start telling the truth to ourselves and our children and grandchildren: God is alive and well! He is always there for us! He is too big to be contained, defined, categorized or limited in any way. He existed before Christianity, before the birth of our planet and before the birth of time as we know it. It really doesn’t matter what we call Him… He loves us all, every single one of us!
Maybe it’s time to stop exposing our children and grandchildren to 'authority within organized denomination' while we hope that they never encounter a 'perp' or, if they do, that we can do something about it!

Maybe it’s time to stop enabling this 'authority' by denying access to what it is they want, REGARDLESS of their motivation!

For me, the message brought by Christ is valid. It is the vehicle that is wrong! It was the vehicle that invented the Trinity, pronounced babies sinful, proclaimed those who chose to think for themselves to be heretics. It was the vehicle that 'created' hoaxology ad nauseum. I believed it all, right out of the Baltimore Catechisms of the 1950's! I am now in a phase of berating myself for believing any of it, because it simply doesn't make any sense. Alas, it isn't even logical. They did a very, very good job of brainwashing me. It has taken a lot of years, oceans of water under the bridge, for me to get to where I am today and I certainly did not get here by myself! The Ancient Light that is the author of the universe had quite a lot to do with breaking those deceitful, self-deprecating tapes!

Certainly I believe that there are good people and good leaders in all of the forms of Deism that exist. Certainly I respect every other person and his or her own personal beliefs. Certainly I know that each of us is in a different stage of growth. Certainly I can identify with the rage, the fury or being slapped in the face and called "insignificant." The opposite of love is, after all, indifference. I know for a fact how very scary it is to stand before God and say "I give all of this nonsense back to You, do with me whatever it is You want."

I have what I call the "gift of perception." No doubt this is due in large part to the abuse and the ridicule I experienced from "God’s representative here on earth." I now believe that "authority within organized denomination" is diametrically the opposite to the real message of the Christ…
Some of you may be in crisis with your God identity. Some of you may not honestly know what you do believe. Some of you are caught in the throes of not being able to believe or accept that your church could do these things…

All of these are normal feelings, under the circumstances that have severed you from your churches. Please know that God is alive and well, very present and very real, very aware of the pain and the rage. He simply is not the God that we were taught! He walks around with us in our daily lives. He understands that we are who we are… Once used to this concept and living life in this way, it becomes increasingly difficult to find peace at a church service. At least it has for me!

I have decided to quit believing in somebody else's God. I have decided to invite organized religion to takes its Thou Shalt Not's and go elsewhere with them. Enough hypocrisy! Enough lies! Enough discrimination! Enough duplicity! Enough control! Enough final authority!

As someone at the convention stated with a smile, "I have excommunicated them from me!" I agree, but I have welcomed all people of all faiths into my life. My gift of discernment is like a beacon in a storm or a virus detector on a computer: It shouts "Warning! Warning!" and I walk away… Chances are that you have this gift too; you "feel, sense" that something isn't quite true about someone else. It is okay to protect yourself and it is okay to question! Once the information is obtained, it is okay to sift, sort, pitch, retain and validate. That's how growth and recovery happen. How marvelously freeing it is for me, but how painful was the process, and how slow!

I believe that we must continue to make abuse cases public. We must educate the world and we must be confident in knowing that we will make a difference in the future, each of us. We are, after all, stopping the cycle of abuse by being ourselves. We should be proud, stand tall, hold our heads high and celebrate!

Perhaps it's time to reread the message of Christ and interpret it on our own. If, after all, that message is valid then it is 'authority within organized denomination' that is the so-called anti-Christ!
I wish for all of you, during this season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Solstice, all that is good! If anyone wants to talk, ever, at any time, please do not hesitate to contact me. There will be similarities between us, but no two of us are identical. Therein lies the strength, and light, that is God!

Rejoice in the birth of the Light!

Although this e-mail was started with the intent of communicating with those who attended the Link-Up Conference in Toronto last month, it is also intended for SNAP (Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests) and all persons who have been abused or seduced by a trusted mentor; those who have experienced the very real (and awful) violation of fiduciary responsibility no matter what their religious expression (or lack of same) may be.
I have emailed a copy of this effort to the National Catholic Reporter with the sincere hope that publication will result in reaching those who have never come forward to tell their stories. — KG