Monday, November 10, 2008

Hangin' Out with the Fundies!

Yesterday I was granted a unique and interesting opportunity to attend a small Assemblies of God Church in Willard, MO. Let me just say that I appreciated every second of getting to know these guys and being part of the intimate section of their lives that their spirituality is. That being said, they were nuts. It was one of the craziest things I've ever experience! We laughed, we cried, we condemned Jews and Catholics; it was great.

Let's start with some basic AOG theology. This group, whose global headquarters is in Springfield (the town I live in), is a fundamental sect of Christianity who has four major precepts: Salvation, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and The Second Coming of Christ (this is how the pastor explained it to me). Basically, this means you have to believe in Jesus Christ and be able to show the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit (i.e. speaking in tongues) in order to be "saved" and go to heaven. It also means that they believe that medicine isn't necessary. Jesus Christ will heal you if you just have enough faith (in the church I grew up in this is called Extreme Unction). From personal experience (if you'll look back you can read my story about Rick), I know this is not true.

Lastly, Jesus is coming back. Soon. Like tomorrow soon. That's what the pastor has been preaching for the past several weeks, anyway. He looked us in the eyes yesterday and said, "You know, I believe Jesus will be coming back to get us all within my lifetime, and if you don't have Jesus in your heart, than you have NO HOPE!" At this point, my friend (the one who took me to church with her) began snickering. We're both religion majors at Drury, you see, so much of what normal people would find serious has lost its luster for us. It'd be like a gynecologist watching a pornography going, "No, that's all wrong. She shouldn't be doing that."

The pastor got a chance to tell us about an interesting experience he had this past week, which I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about. He said, "You know, this week God gave me an opportunity to witness. Praise Jesus! I was at a seminar and a young Catholic man came up to me and started asking about the Assemblies of God. It was like God opened the door for me to walk right in! So I told him all about our organization. I don't think he accepted Jesus right then, but I planted some good seeds for the Holy Spirit!"

WHOA!!!!! Seriously?!?! I wanted to be like, "Brother, you know we all have our historical roots in Catholicism, right? And you know they believe in Jesus Christ the same way you do, right? Good Lord, man! Literal interpretation of the Bible got wheels and an engine because of them! You have them to thank for the fact that you even exist as an organization!" It was ludicrous.

I'm not sure where all of these ideas stem from. My intuition tells me that it's our ego's deep-seated desire to be justified by convincing others that we have the "truth." Somehow getting others to go along with us empirically proves us right. I'm just so surprised. When you start to sift through the rubble of theology these guys have tossed about, you'll end up staring a very angry, cruel, harsh, and anthropomorphic God in the face. It's hurtful stuff. AIDS orphans in Africa are no longer innocent and suffering needlessly, they're being "disciplined" for sins that they or their father committed in hopes that it will bring them to Christ. Women lose all status and are left to the titles the Bible gives them such as "foolish." Homosexuals end up being condemned to death, literal on-this-planet death, due to Leviticus. The whole thing just reeks of closed-mindedness and pride, two things which have no place in spirituality.

Sometimes the hardest people to have compassion for are the ones who think they can save you. More often than not, they're the ones actually drowning. Still, we become no better than the bigots and misogynists if we detest them in turn. Christians are called to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. The word equanamity, from Buddhism, comes to mind. Besides, loving wholly, entirely, and unabashedly is the only action I can see that might have a chance of reversing all the hate and pain people like AOG have put into this world.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I could sit still in a chrch like that - too much judgment against anyone even a little different. And besides, I'm immersed in it culturally here. I've heard my share this week since last Tuesday with the folks who are profoundly disappointed that the new president will be a)black b) not their kind of Christian and c) liberal (read "destined for hell").

PeterAtLarge said...

That's quite a story, Mark. It's beyond me that "Christians" like these fail to see the flaws in their own improbable logic.

Latesa said...

I have too many comments to even list here. When I read this I had so many complicated emotions going on that I'm not sure how to explain them even. What you're criticizing here is an integral part of my identity, so part of me is offended. But again, another part of me is right with you agreeing wholeheartedly. I find myself getting lost in the middle of these two different things constantly. Sometime I would love to really explain AG to you. Some things you understand and others I think you are quick to assume you understand. (So there's the "quick and dirty" version)