May 25 2011

Camping Lessons

By John Immel

Unless the rapture only included about four people, I’m going to assume that it didn’t happen. I know, I know, some of you are shocked. Your calculator said the same thing that Harold Camping’s calculator did. I could crack a blonde joke, but that might get me in trouble. We can just all agree that math is hard.

What have we learned?

Well, if history is any measure … probably not much. I remember the first time (within my lifetime) that this whole Jesus is coming back in 5 minutes and 31 seconds occurred. Then the book was called 88 Reasons Why Jesus is coming Back in 1988 and lots of people were all in a dither about Jesus knocking on the Rapture door. The dithering was not limited to the Christian superzealous fringe as I had the opportunity to learn.

I made the unfortunate miscalculation of laughing riotously when my good friend’s mother offered the book up for discussion. We will call her Petunia. Petunia was respectable in almost every area of her life. Successful, married to a good man, a house full of great kids, loved horses, puppies and kitties, and she was a pillar in her local upper middle class Virginia church. She handed me the book (purchased from her church book store). I thought it was a joke. Well, it was, but not one that Petunia thought was funny. What followed was three days of argument, consternation, evangelization, and recrimination.

By Sunday, Petunia—when it became apparent that my rapture to tribulation views were not at all in alignment with her interpretive “authority” and she had exhausted most every other intellectual manipulation—was reduced to tears, on her knees, beseeching God for my salvation in a roomful of people. She gave me a book by J. Dwight Pentecost, a full systematic dispensationalist Pre-Tribulation theology. It was her counterargument by proxy. She was positive that this book represented what the bible “clearly” teaches. My soul was in danger if I didn’t escape my deception. She tried to make me promise that I would read it, but even back then I didn’t make such commitments. And I’ve never accepted that evil demonic hordes could compel me to believe something independent of my own volition. To my amazement, Petunia was one of many that I encountered through 1988 who was utterly convinced of the Bible’s “clear” teaching of Jesus’ return during that year.

The reality is, this won’t be the last time we hear such a proclamation. Maybe Harold Camping will be relegated to the dustbin of absurdity, but probably not. I suspect he has already crafted a rationale that will justify the error. But if not him, someone soon will take another whack at all things Rapture, seeking to scare the bejeebers out of the world and into the Kingdom. Whatever “blessed hope” the rapture represents, as an evangelistic tool, it represents an open manipulation of people’s fears.

Let me wax brainy for a minute. To understand the tides of human history, it is important to grasp these two concepts.

  • Man abhors chaos.
  • Man needs a coherent body of ideas to govern his actions.

When man cannot find a coherent body of ideas to explain the chaos, he tends to toss his hands in the air and his brain into the grand end zone of life: the Rapture is the ultimate Hail Mary.

Most of the Biblical “end times signs” are sufficiently pervasive throughout the world and common enough to local cultures that they can be seen in most any nation. And those signs that are not local and obvious, man becomes creative with rumors and portents to fill in the blanks so that their life qualifies. So, in pretty much every age, some Christians somewhere have thought they were living in the last days.  All men live in some form of social pandemonium and national turmoil. This chaotic existence grates on their bones driving man to collective despair. When nothing makes sense, Man will suffer most any indignity to find something that orders the chaos. So, when the indignity does not seem to be serving a purpose, he is inclined to just check out. It looks like the game clock is ticking down, so let’s blow this popsicle stand. Jesus is coming back NOW!

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      Hi John,
      I was looking for a link to email you, but I couldn’t find one, so I will leave a comment.  I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, I’ve just never commented.  I wanted to thank you for all your clarity and reason on issues of spiritual abuse, especially as it relates to SGM.  It has helped me and my wife immensely.
      My wife and I attended an SGM church for a mere 4 months back in ’09 and it all went seriously south very quickly.  My wife, who is a writer, wrote anonymously about foray into a new church from our first week there.  (She’s had a personal blog for a long time.)  When someone at this church who knew about my wife’s anonymous writings about an always unnamed church narked her off to the powers that be at this SGM church — for anonymous “gossip,” I suppose — it all went bizarre-o from there.
      You can click on my name for the link to our new blog about our experience there.  Our story is a more insidious story than some have to tell about their SGMs, but it was still a betrayal and, because my wife is a very observant person, she was noticing small SGM weirdnesses before she even understood the full extent of the SGM weirdness.  When I look back on what she wrote without knowing anything about SGM’s problems, I’m amazed at what she discerned, even BEFORE the betrayal happened that revealed much more of SGM’s cultural oddities and dysfunction and oppression.
      If you’re ever interested, you can check it out.  Thank you, again, for what you do here.  You’re helping a lot of people.

    2. 2
      John Immel

      Hey Henry… I’m always glad to hear from my readers.  It is a rush to know that what I write helps.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m just amusing myself. Self-amusement is as good a motivation as any, I suppose, but helping certainly adds to the fun.
      I see the stats… there are a lot of national and international readers out there.  Thanks to all of you.
      Anyone can get to me at John@spiritualtyranny.com
      Henry, you put your finger on the issue: Clarity and Reason.  This is what gets so relentlessly abused and hijacked in service to the tyranny under discussion.
      SGM has mastered some of the finer points of the mystic despotism equation. They manage to play most any side of the reason and anti-reason fence successfully disarming any critic and morally equivalizing any error. Your eight points on the blog summarizes nicely the core of their manipulative wiles. Your point 3: “An Appaling lack of personal boundaries” is very insightful. They cross personal boundaries with impunity and are fully insulted if one is unwilling to bare their soul from the first “Love Bomb.”
      (For those of you who want to read what I am referencing: http://www.sojournsg.com/search/label/our%20sgm%20story)
      Here is irony in the most exquisite form: if people were this immediately familiar with physical intimacy, we would call them sluts.
      Spiritual Sluts: “I doctrinally demand that you give me promiscuous access to your heart and soul!”
      Physical Sluts: “I doctrinally demand that you give me promiscuous access to your body!”
      I do soooo love irony.

      I have very little opportunity to interact with SGM spiritual sluts, because I am no longer in the geographic confines of their organizational powers, but I recently had the opportunity to go into the brothel’s territory.


      Anyway, I was at a social event that ostensibly had nothing to do with SGM and a man—whom I had known for about 5 years while part of the SGM superstructure—within minutes of our conversation start, he said: “So how is your spiritual life?”  No dinner. No romance. Not even a kiss.  Can you imagine that?  Mind you, I had not seen or spoken to this man for the better part of a decade which should give you a measure of the nature and quality of our relationship. To be blunt, we don’t have a relationship and for very good reason. I’m not that kind of girl.

      I wasn’t really surprised by the temerity because I’ve gotten very good at telling the spiritual sluts to keep their hands to themselves. They get wide-eyed and bewildered by being smacked on the metaphorical cheek and blubber out some variation of “But I just love you. I was just being led of the Spirit. I just wanted to be in fellowship with you.”

      Yeah … well, I’ve heard the endless declarations of love before, and they all just wanted one thing, so keep your paws off. If you want a piece of me, here is a newsflash: authority is not an aphrodisiac.

      (some women just read that sentence and know EXACTLY to what I’m talking about)

      But anyway, this is pretty much standard when dealing with this kind of spiritual zealotry. It never really occurs to this mindset that they have crossed a personal boundary. In their mind they are perfectly authorized to demand an accounting from anyone.

      Here is where the “Reason and Clarity” get muddy. Most people have no security in their own spiritual pursuits. They have been indoctrinated to believe that someone in “authority” dubs them “authentic.” So they immediately start scrubbing their heart in public denouncing the fundamental flaws of their own spiritual pursuits. The doctrines of inability and depravity rob everyone of every confidence. The only place of security comes when someone in “authority” pats them on the head and declares them an authentic part of the collective. And this is the vortex that so many people get sucked into: the endless quest for Christian Validity.

      What most people don’t know is this: it is on purpose. The underlying doctrines are designed to make you dependent on collective affirmation.

      Henry, the eight points in your post are a good outline of how Mystic Despotism gets its power. This is how men—secretly insecure, secretly self-absorbed, secretly weak-willed—gain power over those who are often more skilled, more able, more accomplished.

      For all of their posturing and pretense, the leaders within SGM are hardly independent thinkers. One of the reasons they land so dang hard on gossip and slander is because they are flat terrified they will not be able to repel ideas that challenge their claim to Authority. When everything revolves around “authority” gained by the endless quest for pure “authentic” Christianity, church leadership cannot sustain ANY challenge because if ONE thing is found lacking, it destroys the foundation of authority.

      This is exactly what happened to the Catholic Church over the centuries. Because their governing power was derived from an imputed authority—i.e. biblical authority—they could never recant horrifically bad judgment because to change their mind was to impugn the authority. This evil dynamic spiraled out of control without serious repercussion until the arrival of Aquinas. St. Thomas introduced critical thinking back into Western thought, which lead to the ability to judge the insanity correctly. And, as they say, the rest is Despotism. Luther finally offered an argument that prevailed in the public mind: Scripture Alone was a stake in the heart of Papal authority because it presumes a rational equality for all men.

      Unfortunately, Luther abandoned that presumption almost as soon as he offered the argument. Protestant Christianity has lived an intellectual schizophrenic life since Calvin/Beza formalized Augustinian depravity into Christian thought. Scripture Alone is mere “rational” pretense when combined with the existing doctrines of Pervasive Depravity. This is the camel nose in the Protestant Tent returning dictatorial authority (read PAPAL power) into the hands of a select few “authorities.” The authorities are doctrinally privileged to demand access to the deepest parts of everyone’s spiritual life for the sole purpose of defining authentic Christianity.

      So the progression towards Mystic Despotism goes like this:

      Eradicate rational independence.

      Eradicate clear judgment.

      Eradicate personal boundaries.

      Alakazam! Poof! A group of spiritual sluts who own you. 
      To be sure, SGM is singing the same despotic song that has lingered throughout the ages that thrives on destroying reason and moral clarity.  They are one voice in an entire chorus … a glee club that is growing with noticeable size and speed through American Christianity.

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