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06-22-2016 08:37 AM
Re: Berkeley to MIT, to freedom

Originally Posted by aron View Post
This person's [Mr. Muno] Berkeley LC experience was probably doomed as soon as he refused to wear the "God-Man" baseball cap.
Maybe so bro Aron. It would depended on how many other disappointments to them he had racked up. The hive can tolerate a little dissonance here and there in brothers (and sisters) to try to bring them along, with hopes of eventual full assimilation.

But you likely won't recover if you should come against Witness Lee, or a elder. At least that was my experience. But I went down hard. Some I know managed to just quietly walk out and away. I bucked it to the bitter end ... until I was told I had to take the lead elder's personality as my own. That all happened because I spoke out against Witness Lee's claim to be the apostle on the earth (oracle, authority ... etc ... etc .. ad nauseum).

But before the final show down, even in my burning brother days, there were many times that I refused to wear the "God-Man Cap," metaphorically speaking. Yet many, very many, as reported by that despicable ignorant elder, as it turns out, looked up me as if I was not only inside the hive, but an agent of the hive.

Perhaps it was because I was taught at the feet of "the great one," early on in The Church in Detroit, by none other than the illustrious Ron Kangas himself. I wouldn't say I was his best student, but he did try to teach me about giving testimonies, and how to pick up on "the moment of learning." So I guess I had gotten pretty good at being a burning brother, in the darn cult (before I realized it was a cult).

Sorry to carry on so. I guess the God-Man Cap touched a button.

Originally Posted by Aron
What made it pernicious in the LC case was that Conformity to the Hive was sold on pseudo-spiritual terms, like "oneness" and "fellowship" and "the feeling of the Body" and "the flow from the throne" and so forth.
I call this a sleight of mind trick. It's similar to the Jedi mind trick, but with more peas and shells coming at you so fast you can't keep up. I think Galatians 3:1 terms it "bewitched." And I know firsthand how bewitching it can be. I'm sure Mr. Muno understands that too.

Originally Posted by Aron
A Deputy Program Leader's whim ("Hey! Let's all wear 'I'm a God-Man' baseball caps!") is taken as "life" by the Program Robots, as tantamount to the breath of God, to living water from the rock, and any reticence is deemed unbelief, and deviation as treason against Heaven.
Oh the "Life" trick. That's a good one. Turns out whatever threatened the hive, or its leader, was death. And conformity to the hive was "Life." How convenient!!!
06-22-2016 07:18 AM
Re: Berkeley to MIT, to freedom

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Critical thinking will make you undesirable to cults like the local church, resulting in freedom of both body and mind. Think for yourself. Cults hate that.
This person's Berkeley LC experience was probably doomed as soon as he refused to wear the "God-Man" baseball cap. The number one rule of the Hive is: Conform to the Hive. Mr. Muno's nonconformity signaled that he wasn't a program robot, in violation of Rule Number One, and would therefore be soon ejected.

What made it pernicious in the LC case was that Conformity to the Hive was sold on pseudo-spiritual terms, like "oneness" and "fellowship" and "the feeling of the Body" and "the flow from the throne" and so forth. But at its root, it was conformity to fallen humanity, not to God. One can discern the operational spirit here in that whenever the Hive Program and Scripture conflict, the Program wins every time. One's conscience may be violated, reason and common sense abandoned, scriptures panned as "natural" or explained away by false (usually abbreviated) context, or ignored, and two thousand years of Christian understanding rejected by the novelty of Maximum Brother's latest teaching. But the Hive Program - "Obey" - "Conform" - "Don't Question" - can't be threatened.

A Deputy Program Leader's whim ("Hey! Let's all wear 'I'm a God-Man' baseball caps!") is taken as "life" by the Program Robots, as tantamount to the breath of God, to living water from the rock, and any reticence is deemed unbelief, and deviation as treason against Heaven.

Originally Posted by Muno View Post
Eventually I moved to a different "brother's house'', to make room for another "babe in the Lord'' and to give myself a respite from the silent conflict I was experiencing. Yet my junior year was more troubling. The gospel move gained more momentum after a student at Berkeley was strongly saved and wanted to tell everyone about it. Shouting, which had always been a part of "touching our spirit'' in the meeting, moved on to campus, as a small group began to preach in the main plaza. The theme became "losing one's face'', that painful shyness that got in the way of most people talking to strangers about Jesus. The move was coincident with a conference at which Witness Lee declared strongly that "God became Man to make Man God'', a line taken from the early church Fathers as a summary of doctrines that had been taught by Lee for years. Out of this teaching came the term "God-man'', which was actually printed on baseball caps (along with "Jesus is Reality'') and distributed to the students for them to wear as a testimony of the Lord on campus.

I didn't like the hats at all--- I thought they were a silly gimmick, an embarrassment, and I refused to wear one with the sheepish excuse, "I don't wear baseball caps''. I also didn't like the turn the gospel had taken: they were shouting "God became man to make man God!'' and other "catchy'' slogans on campus, to attract attention and "lose face''. They encouraged us to stand up before lectures and preach to the class, or at the very least wear the hats to class. The persecution, the funny looks the hats attracted, was a glory to us and the Lord. They even organized a couple "sweeps'' of Telegraph Avenue during a Labor Day conference at the church, during about a hundred people marched haphazardly up to campus handing out flyers and shouting "Oh Lord Jesus!'' at the top of their lungs. They said it was exhilarating, full of the Spirit. I participated once. I felt silly. Apparently this brought back many memories of the younger days of the "Lord's Recovery,'' in the sixties.
06-21-2016 08:50 PM
Re: Berkeley to MIT, to freedom

Critical thinking will make you undesirable to cults like the local church, resulting in freedom of both body and mind. Think for yourself. Cults hate that.
06-21-2016 06:59 AM
Re: Attempting to think

Originally Posted by Mr. Muno View Post
And thus, I have not found any reason that I should need a God to make my philosophy self-consistent.
Of course I disagree. I needed God. Otherwise my universe was cold and empty and meaningless. But I take responsibility for my decision, don't presume that it is de facto objective truth which must then be imposed on the world to make it real and good.

God is not a philosophical tenet for me. God is rather the Starwarsian "force" that which is in all and which upholds all. God is the electromagnetic strong/weak force which holds every electron in orbital shell. God is that which is, including the Big Bang and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. God is indeed our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. And Jesus showed me God, in more glory and beauty than I could have ever imagined. Grace came; grace upon grace. . . Love and truth and peace outpoured into a small, weak, fragile, undeserving and temporal human vessel.

Paul wrote, "To me, to live is Christ". To someone else, to live may be something or someone else: their job or kids or hobby; maybe some philosophy. Art. I'm kool with that. My reality isn't threatened by that of others. The universe is obviously variegated. Why did Witness Lee think that it all somehow had to look, think, and speak like him? What unresolved fear lurked, there?

And I can relate to the existentialist doubts, and the distant, silent God who refuses to quell them. It's part of the journey of life. After leaving the immersive LC experience, I also let go of God, and my faith. Eventually I began to move back, but on different terms. Terms that I was comfortable with, and still am, years later. No crises necessary. The LC group manufactures crisis, to get the prospective convert to have a kind of jolt of vapor, or shifted consciousness. Why do you think they shout slogans in the meetings? To cause mental dissociation, and emotional crisis; to make the mark open to suggestions that would otherwise be recognized as inherently illogical.
06-21-2016 06:54 AM
Attempting to think

Originally Posted by aron
More from the same testimony.
I tried to apply Occam's razor to my belief in God, that is, to see if God was the simplest explanation for the world as I see it.

I could accept God, that is a sovereign creator, as an axiom. It seems to me that is as good as assuming that the universe spawned out a quantum fluctuation in the nothingness. There are no scientific experiments proposed for the proof of either, although there is the possibility that God is willing to make himself known. That is the main reason for examining the consequences of this, my first axiom.

An activist God is an interesting concept and can be used to bridge the gap of knowledge that is always present in science, but with the progress of knowledge the space allowed for an intercetionist God becomes more cramped, and there is no reason a priori to assume that this shrinkage will end. Gaps in scientific knowledge do not point to God unless you're already grasping for some reason to justify faith.

A man-centered God is more troublesome -- Considering man's age (at most 1 Myr) compared to the age of the earth (4 Gyr) and the universe (10 Gyr). What we know about the universe demands the question--- what was God doing with the rest of His time?

Was He bound by the physical nature of the universe He created? We know that the only elements to be formed from the Big Bang were Hydrogen, Helium, and Lithium, with essentially inconsequential amounts of heavier elements. The elements that you and I are made of, carbon and oxygen mostly, were formed in the first generation of stars and released into the galaxy by the stellar winds of red giants and supernova explosions of blue super-giants.

Some time scales are in order: it took 300,000 years for the universe to become cool enough for stable atoms of Hydrogen and Helium to form. It was not until the first generations of massive stars burned all of their hydrogen that enough heavy elements were present to for life as we know it --- the sun seems to have formed when the universe was already 7 billion years old. Moreover, evolution being a random process (guided by selection, of course, but there's nothing I know of that can chose which mutations occur, only which mutation survive) it took 5 billion years for man to appear.

Man could also have been formed sooner (the dinosaurs seem sufficiently evolved that there's no reason why we couldn't have lived then) but for some reason it took a number of mass extinctions (not floods--- very little survived) for mammals to gain a foothold, and millions more for modern man to appear. Meanwhile, dozens of hominid creatures came and went, some (i.e. Neanderthals) perhaps driven to extinction by modern man.

Why did He waste time with the earthly epochs that ended in mass extinctions? What about all the other stars and galaxies (billions of them!)? The very physical nature of the universe seem to contradict the assumption that God had a plan with man.

What's more, if one supposes a God exists that is concerned with man, one has to wonder why so much of mankind is in rather sorry shape.

Satan is commonly applied in Christian philosophy to explain the state of the world as we now see it that God should have an adversary (that is the literal meaning of Satan) that contradicts His inherently good design is hard to accept, because it seems to reflect on the nature of God. Firstly, this requires that God is inherently morally ``good'' (as opposed to neutral) which seems to be what one might hope, although a God ambivalent to the human condition--- corruption, disparity between rich and poor, war, famine, etc. ---- would be the simplest explanation for the state of the world.

As corrolaries, one would be tempted to state that Satan is the source of all the "bad'' things in the universe that is, anything contrary to what one would expect God should want (if one is insistent about one's view of what God wants), and that He is to blame for man's evil nature, the idea for which is supported by Romans 7, where Satan may be viewed as the force behind man's sinful nature.

Of course, then there is the logical quandary: Satan is a creature (at least in Christian theology--- I suppose there could be two creators, as in Gnostic philosophy), and thus created by God. Was He created with evil, or merely with the propensity for evil? Man then becomes evil because of Satan's influence. How much responsibility should God bear for the affair? I feel I can avoid this problem by defining ``evil'' and ``good'' to avoid much of the problem (they have not been defined anyways, and are merely relative terms that are meaningless without a standard), however, the ultimate issue of a morally good God is often Punishment which forces one to examine the issue closely. I myself feel a certain helplessness when fighting against my own desires, and I have tentatively concluded that arguing punishment is fair because man has a free will is not adequate.

Nonetheless, I at one point consciously decided to ignore these difficulties, because I could not deny the state of the world, yet I wanted to believe in God. My way out was a supposed experiment--- if God was really there and was interested in mankind, he should make himself known to anyone who should take the time to find Him.

Many religions have fellowship with God as an important part of their religious experience.
This is embodied by the existence of the Spirit in Christian thought. As I understand it from a mystic Christian viewpoint, it has two aspects (which are rather ill-defined in the theology I have been exposed to, although there are plenty of terms): Realization of His presence in situations, i.e. comfort in trials, reward for service (glory), movements to pity or repentance, freedom from guilt.
A leading to action, or the "sense of life'' that is, a feeling to leave a situation, or join one to help, to preach to a fallen soul or maybe offer money or possessions.

In my experience, these are hardly distinguishable from "experiences'' that have nothing to do with God, those which even the godless refer to as "conscience'' or "duty''. The possibility remains that these are more often found among the religious (at least that's what the religious think, and use to justify that what they believe has real effectiveness) simply because their religion is an unspoken contract, by which they have bound themselves to live by those things preached to them.

And thus, I have not found any reason that I should need a God to make my philosophy self-consistent.
06-21-2016 06:49 AM
Comments on Local Church Doctrines

Originally Posted by aron
More from the same testimony.
I do not intend to say much about the church's doctrine--- I believe that the fundamentals of their faith are truly Christian, even if some details are suspect. I suppose it's a question of zeal and motive as to whether you want to declare specific doctrines heretical. I do not agree with the assessment of Mr. Moran, who strikes me as forcing his own interpretations onto Witness Lee's teachings to prove his point. I certainly would never have agreed with many the doctrines he criticizes the church for holding, in public or private. On the other hand, Witness Lee always made it easy to misinterpret his teachings, by applying analogies much too freely. As regards my experience, it is the practical aspects of ``the church's'' teachings that are important. I shall try to list them, and spare the reader my commentary until the end:

As regards the creation and fall
God created the earth and placed Lucifer over it as ruler. He rebelled against God's authority, fell, and was judged. This occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 2, and is explained in G.H. Pember's Earth's Earliest Ages
Man was created to recover God's rule on earth. He was created with a body, soul, and spirit, to express God. The spirit was to contain God (symbolized by eating the Tree of Life), the soul to follow the leading of the spirit, and the body to contain the former two as a vessel.
Man fell when his soul took control and chose the Tree of Knowledge. This allowed Satan to enter man and corrupt man's flesh, bringing sin and death with him. Thus Satan exists in man's nature as sin and death.

God's attempt at recovery
The nation of Israel was created to recover God's rule on earth once again, but failed.
Christ was sent as a man as a propitiation for man's sin and to undo the work of the Devil. Through His death he condemned Satan, release His life-giving Spirit, and produced the church, which is to reign spiritually in this age. There are no political connotations here.
One is saved solely by believing in Jesus Christ as the Savior, and is thus saved forever.
A believer receives the Spirit in his own spirit, which conveys the element of the life of God and the death and resurrection of Christ, and should now live before God by His Spirit in their spirit.

Caveat on salvation
Although a believer is saved eternally, if one does not overcome in this life--- "grow in the Lord'', "bear fruit to God''--- one will be punished during the Millenium as a sort of remedial school. After the Millenium all believers will enter the New Jerusalem.

General requirements for a "Normal Christian Life''
The flesh is fallen and should not be allowed to have control. Extra- marital sex is definitely frowned upon as defilement, and dating is strongly discouraged among young people.
The world is still the stronghold of Satan, so contact with worldly things should be avoided. This includes movies, music, holidays (all of which have some secular origins), ostentatious clothes and cars, novels, and to some extent newspapers (mostly because of sale ads and trashy headlines).

One is also expected to "apply the cross'' in the daily life. This applies to "soulish'' impulses which include pride, temper, and other clear vices, but extends to "natural love'' toward friends and family (love in Christ is expected instead), challenging authority, idle chatter, and various manifestations of our natural personality. This is a crux of the Christian life, and is learned with experience, prayer, and a deep knowledge of the Lord.
Hand in hand with "applying the cross'' is "following the spirit'', which entails living out the life of the Lord that is in our spirit. This is more active than living according to conscience. Manifestations of this are praying (aloud) and testifying in meetings; preaching the gospel to friends, co-workers, and strangers; serving the Lord in various functions from childrens' meetings to missions abroad; and of course, joy and harmony in our daily life. This is "bearing fruit'', although this term is applied primarily to bringing new members into the church (the new members are then the fruit).
Financial contributions are all secret, and there is no coercion in the matter that I have ever seen.

Specific elements of a "proper Christian life'':
The "ground of oneness'' is crucial. Denominations are the work of Satan to scatter God's people and prevent them from uniting as one Body in practicality. Although all Christians are saved and are members of the Body of Christ, only the "Recovery'' has the proper ground as the representative of the Body, and it is the only place for a believer to truly have the proper experience of Christ and to receive the high truth of the gospel as taught by "the Ministry''.
Some practices of "the church'' are odd, and often misunderstood. "Calling on the Lord'' refers to shouting Lord Jesus, often repeatedly. "Pray Reading'' refers to reading short phrases from scripture and repeating them, in order to touch the Spirit in the word. The same practice is applied to some extent to hymns and outlines from conferences. These practices are not like a mantra, however--- it stirs excitement (as at a football game), not an altered state of consciousness. All practices are responded to with a hearty "Amen!''

The meetings are boisterous and exuberant, containing singing, loud prayer, testimonies to "experiences of the Lord'', and teaching from "the Ministry''. Conferences are held to bring the churches in separate cities together and to relate the "freshest'' understanding of the word and the Ministry. This way people can keep up with the new terms. They are often scheduled during holidays, and often suffice for a family vacation.

"The Pipeline'': growing up in the church
Young people are encouraged to keep themselves undefiled from the world, and attend and participate in all meetings, and preach the gospel to their friends. They are encouraged not to get into close friendships with the opposite sex. High school students are encouraged to study hard and go to college, to be trained for the Lord. If possible, the school chosen should have a strong ``church life'' nearby, preferably with a ``brothers' house'' or ``sisters' house'' for the students to live in off campus. They are strongly encouraged to read the Recovery Version of the Bible (complete with extensive footnotes by Witness Lee) and ``the Ministry'' (the works of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee).
College students are encouraged to form close relationships with their fellow brothers or sisters, in order to "pursue the Lord'' and to create a social atmosphere conducive to bringing new members into the church. They live separate from the opposite sex, although all meetings and facilities are generally co-ed. Close contact is discouraged, especially of the sort that would lead to developing relationships. College students are also expected to study the Ministry, and ample opportunities are provided.

After college one is expected to go to two years of "the Full-Time Training,'' a cross between a Bible school (based on the Ministry) and a missionary excursion to college campuses. It is held in Anaheim, CA, as well as a few places overseas, and is run by leaders in "the church''. After the training, the brothers should begin to look for a wife, to form a new family for the church life. Many are encouraged to serve-full time, according to the individual's feeling of the Lord's leading.

I must emphasize strongly that very little is actually enforced, except to the extent that peer pressure affects how people behave. There are many people who do not follow all of the above precepts--- college students with girlfriends, high schoolers with baggy pants and posters of Tupac in their rooms, older members who have been quiet in meetings for years. The more "living'' members just encourage them to "function'' more actively. The effect of this encouragement is variable, and some members can push quite hard in their zeal, especially if they get to give a message during a conference or a retreat. It doesn't always work, and many members are good at ignoring it--- especially "church kids'' who have listened to it all their lives.

Yet the affect of the atmosphere is profound, and it says a lot about human nature. One is put into a peculiar position because the practices of "the church'' are contrary to those of society, as their spiritual doctrine demands. This leads to conflict with friends and family who do not understand the reasons for their loved ones' behavior, which can ultimately hurt relationships. This in turn has led to accusations that "the church'' is cultic. These are not entirely unfounded, but one must be aware that "cult'' should not be taken in a Heaven's Gate or Branch Dividian sense of the word. Yet the pressure to conform and live up to expectations can be subtle and powerful, and the level of zeal and excitement is not conducive to clear thinking. I feel that "the Local Churches'' should be approached with discretion.

Now that I think of it, this list is bizarre--- I actually took all this for granted as a normal way of life . .
06-21-2016 06:47 AM
More from the same testimony

Originally Posted by aron
More from the same testimony.
This group I joined is generally referred to as "the Local Churches,'' by those who have heard of it who are outside the group. Those inside refer to themselves "the Lord's Recovery'' or "the church'' most often, although they claim they won't take a name. Perhaps that irony says more than a name ever could.

People join this type of group for various reasons, but they're always seeking something. Some need cause to strive for, a truth, to give their lives meaning and purpose; perhaps they are attracted to a warm, caring, stable community; or maybe it's a group of people who share one's own values. These are legitimate human needs, and a religion is a traditional means to fill these desires. I entered ``the church'' in my senior year of high school, and when I went to Berkeley for college, I entered the "the church life'' in full step, baptized just before I left.

I left my senior year of college, without much fanfare. I didn't tell anyone explicitly that I was leaving "the church'' until I was gone, because I was still unsure of whether I really would until I was actually in Boston. I didn't want to cause a stir by my departure--- many of my friends considered me "solid in the church life,'' and I didn't want to let them down, or worse, disrupt their faith.

What happened in between is involved, so I will allow the reader to choose to read those aspects that are most interesting. I want write about it so that I can have it all out in one place. I think I've come to some important conclusions about myself.

My Entry into the Church Life

As an adolescent, I was rather oblivious to the things that junior high kids get into (except when I was picked on for it). I was thoughtful, and enjoyed lively debates with my friends about everything from evolution to the appropriate name for lip balm (I saw nothing wrong with Chapstick, even if it was technically a brand name). I considered myself Christian, and both my parents are Christian, although I never went to church after I was 8.

I was a late bloomer to say the least--- people thought I was ten when I was sixteen, because I looked young, and was quite short. I was also considered smart, so I had the whole "Doogie Howser'' thing going against me. Even after my growth spurt, it took a while to shake that picture and start to come into my own socially.

So I was a bit lonely in high school, and had a hard time getting a date. I sought out the best means of meeting the type of girl I liked--- I started doing community service through Key Club (don't get me wrong, girls weren't the only motive--- I did plenty of community service in Boy Scouts although there were no girls to be seen anywhere), and decided I should try one of the Friday church groups that all the girls seemed to go to (don't forget, I considered myself Christian, and I sincerely wanted to meet with other Christians and study the Bible).

Through Key Club I met a girl who I ended up with a crush on. She also went to a Friday church group, and was very devout. So devout, in fact, that she refused to date or even go to dances, so that was a dead end romantically. Yet I admired her for her faith in God, and couldn't help liking her. Eventually, she found out I was reading the Bible on my own, and sheepishly invited me to one of their Friday meetings, which I gladly agreed to go to.

The meeting was bizarre at first--- they sang the songs and then repeated the verses aloud, calling out the verses and responding with a loud Amen. They also "called on the Lord,'' repeating "Oh Lord Jesus'' in a manner that reminded me of our yells from Boy Scouts or of cheers before a soccer match. It was different, but it was clearly nothing like chanting or other forms of hypnosis, so I sat through it. The Bible study was more interested--- they spoke about Noah's ark and the Ark of the Covenant and assigned spiritual meanings to its various aspects. I liked the symbolism--- it reminded me of the way my high school English teacher ascribed meaning to every detail of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

At the same time, I was still a bit lonely. All right, I wanted a girl friend badly. I was happy to see that he girls were starting to notice that I was growing up, and one or two even found me cute. Yet I was attending the Friday young people's meeting at "the church'' more often, and I was absorbing some of their doctrines.

They taught that the world was a product of man's fall, through which Satan was able to take control of the earth and human society and turn it into a system intend to oppose God's plan with man. As believers, we needed to give ourselves wholly to God and reject the world, so that He would fill us with His life. As young people, we were particularly vulnerable, because we were surround by so many fleshly lusts--- rock music, parties, dances, romance. We needed to flee these things, and pursue the things of God (2 Tim. 2:22).

I became weighed down with a terrible guilt over listening to music and attending rock concerts, to the point where I was sometimes in tears (and I do not cry easily). When prom came around, even though it was obvious that a couple girls were hinting in my direction that they wanted a date--- and I would have happily gone out with them a month before--- I was caught in a terrible struggle trying to avoid succumbing to the lusts of the flesh.

On the other hand, "the church'' preached that the Spirit of Jesus Christ was a real and effective force in the Christian life. As believers, we shared all the befits of the death and resurrection of Christ. When I first read the Bible, I was confronted with impossible demands--- here they told me it was not I who was to fulfill the law, but Christ who lived in me (Gal. 2:20). I was eager to pursue the Lord, to seek out His infinite riches (Eph. 3:16-19).

While at the church a year later, I would testify that it was only the Lord that could have brought me through that time, and out of "the world'' into the "church life''. I see it differently now. I was constantly sabotaging my life: resisting the impulse to listen to music because I would soon get used to life without it; holding out until prom and refusing to ask a girl to the dance because the temptation would soon pass; trying to give away my tickets to rock concerts; forgetting my promise to teach a girl I had liked to ice skate, despite her reminders. I wanted "the Lord'' to fill my heart, yet it always ached when I thought about those missed chances and things left behind, even in the best of times.

But the children of Israel died in the wilderness because they lusted after the things of Egypt, while God had much better things planned for them in the land of Caanan. So when I moved to Berkeley from southern California, I sought out "the church life'' right away.

Lamentation on the Faltering

This was written in November of my senior year at Berkeley, while I was still in "the church''. Much of my outlook has changed since then.

I suppose that since I have the time, I may as well write this all down. I'm not sure whether I'm trying to solidify it all, to have a systematic position, so that it would be that much harder to change my course, or whether I really am open. In a sense, I don't want to forget, so that if the source has only ever been myself I will be able to see something more concrete that just my recollection of feelings I have had.

I know I truly have had enjoyment of the Lord in the past, even recently, even two nights ago. But I have lost the assurance that it is all real. I'm afraid that I have only wanted the experience, because it seemed like the right thing to do. That has been my fear I suppose--- that I haven't truly known the Lord, but some sort of sense of duty, or a romantic notion of how I should be, and that all the change that has been wrought in me has been merely a change in habit.

This became bad one Thursday, although I had been ignoring it more or less for--- I don't know how long, the past always seems different depending on the colored glasses my mood has put on. But I was walking to class, and I saw a girl who reminded me of a friend from high school. Since I had decided before that following such impulses to look to see if it really was the person I knew only ``got me into my flesh,'' I ignored the impulse and without a second thought went on walking. None of the transaction so far was truly conscious, yet as I have often discovered, something will linger after such an occurrence that is not entirely tangible, a sort of after taste, a feeling like a light was turned on and off, yet there's still a faint glow that is hard to place. (I'm assuming its biological, something to do with the perpetuation of the species.)

That this had happened didn't hit me until she did. It was actually my friend from high school, and although we weren't that close and never even really hung out together, we had some common friends and a common counter-culture cynicism and generally gloomy outlook on life. Perhaps my faith wavered at that moment simply because I was attracted to her, seeing as I regarded her as ``cool'' and not at all difficult to look at, but the thoughts that came to me seemed to have deeper roots. I felt like I saw a picture of who I'd become.

I used to be proud, in a way, of the Lord's mercy, in that I wasn't like my friends who were pursuing all sorts of vain things. My goals were so much more noble, so much more refined--- I was pursuing the Lord, and for him I split my time between Him and my studies, not those silly night clubs and emotional trips and evenings hanging out. I felt the Lord had really done a work to separate me from the world.

Well, over the summer I said just about as much, boasting a bit that the rock music at work didn't bother me in the same way it used to. During my freshman year that had been my major struggle, because I really came to love my music in high school. I thought it was so cool, the feelings and ideas and attitudes that went around with it, all the clever poetry, and the beat. It was something that was shared among my group of friends, and that could instantly make new friends. We could talk about it and about our feelings and our thoughts and have so much in common. I pictured myself cool like that for the rest of my life, because that was what I identified with, something with which I could convey my personality.

Eventually it occurred to me that the change was not what I thought. It wasn't that I didn't like the music, but that I didn't see it as such an immediate danger like I did as a freshman. My heart didn't seem so close to being taken from the Lord, because I lived in the brother's house and when I went home the atmosphere was so different and I would sit down and read Life Studies or study the word or Greek or something else to keep myself occupied.

Eventually, I found myself singing the songs on the radio. What's worse, I found myself liking music from groups I had previously been a bit afraid of, because they seemed evil in an amorphous way. I remembered that when I was young, I did not like any rock music, because I sincerely linked it with the devil after hearing sensational stories of the night stalker wearing an AC\DC hat and the suicides that followed a Judas Priest album. Yet later I got into some stuff that seemed harmless, like Weird Al, and that led me to realize that a lot of the scary music wasn't all that bad. In high school, alternative rock matched my mood and outlook, and I enjoyed it with my friends for its intellectual and emotional appeal.

I feel like I've been around in circles, and I don't know what's right or where it's from. I can't honestly say I've seen that the world is evil. I have heard it said, believed it, and accepted it, but I'm afraid that the night I threw away all my cassettes, my heart uttered a prophesy, "I can take it out of my life physically, but it will always be in my heart and playing back in my head.''

There was another angle too, though. I realized that I was becoming bitter. Although I have made acquaintances, I really have no friends I can truly open to, not even in the church. With them, I don't want to tell them what I'm really thinking, because I'm always pretty sure that its wrong. So I seemed to myself to be a facade. I realized that toward others I was always apart, because they knew I was devout and that always carries a kind of mysticism to it that makes others a bit--- I don't know if its wariness or respect or fear or what. It probably varies from person to person.

What's worse, I've become really cold toward women. When I was introduced to a female graduate student from Stanford, she smiled very warmly, but I was cold, because I was caught off guard and liked the smile and got angry with myself. Eventually I realized she sensed it, and I'm afraid she thinks I'm a chauvinist or just have an attitude problem or something, which unfortunately would not be all that untrue.

I've just raised up this defense against being attracted to things that seem to me to be wrong, yet which my heart still desires, and about which things I can't really say why they're wrong except that ``it's not the Lord.''

So there I was rather disgusted with the way I'd been treating people and upset at myself for being things I should not have been while behaving like something I was not, and I haven't been able to get over that for a couple weeks. Now I'm fed up with my spiritual pride. I've decided I don't want the spiritual things, to follow in the footsteps of Madame Guyon in her deep experiences of the cross, or of Charles Finney and the great outpourings of the Spirit which he experienced. I don't want to tell others about how I've experienced this kind of suffering and how the Lord was such grace to me. When I remember the times I felt that way, something in me rises up and shouts that I was just proud, just romanticizing it, just feeding off the self- satisfaction that I was before the Lord, working for Him, pursuing Him, where I was supposed to be.

At one time, I wanted the experience that Watchman Nee had when he wrote, "Since Long Ago at Bethany we Parted.'' So I prayed about it a lot, and really gained an appreciation of that song. Oh, how wonderful it was to love the Lord! For Him to be my only goal! To have nothing on this earth and just to long to enter into that celestial city! I look back on those times and can't help but wonder, was I in love with the Lord or with the idea of being in love with the Lord. There's something in me--- I can't allow my falling in love with an ideal to be my reason for sticking with this trip.

This is a fear I've had lingering for a while, ever since I considered myself to be in love. I'm a bit bitter now about it, because even when we hadn't talked for months, I still had myself convinced I was in love with her. In fact, when the object was nowhere near, it got worse. It seems like we were just good friends, until we lost contact. There was something going on, but it was under control, or it seemed that I had control over it. I hope she never got as mental as I did, or if she did, that that letter put an end to it. I wouldn't wish my stupid fantasy world on anyone. I don't know whether the feelings were me in love with her or me merely wanting to be in love.

Well, I was willing to admit that I'm just an idiot the other night, and it took a big burden off me. I don't feel like I have to justify myself anymore. When I see the people with whom things seemed so rough, who I would be ashamed to look in the eye, I want to say, "Yeah, I was pretty stupid and let a lot of silly things become way more important than they were and a lot of feelings got blown out of proportion because I'm just who I am and have a lot of notions of how things should be and what I want out of everything, but since that's past I don't see any reason to be ashamed and avoid it, because I'm just human, and a fickle one at that, and I am no longer making any claims that I know what I'm doing, and--- don't take this as being condescending-- but I really don't feel any animosity toward you if that's ever been why you've avoided me.''

I can picture myself saying that to a lot of people as life brings them back around again, and I want to, because I hate to feel guilty about what I've done to people every time something comes up to remind me of them.

So perhaps it's obvious why I'm so confused about the Lord. I just can't be so sure anymore, and now all those other desires seem to have gotten worse. I feel like I understand Ecclesiastes 3:11 the way the translators of the King James may have seen it: "He hath made everything beautiful in his time: else He hath put the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.'' Ecclesiastes truly is a cynical book, how can it not be, when things are only looked at from under the sun? God has not put eternity in man's heart so that man could not find out His purpose--- eternity should reveal His purpose!

No, I don't think I'm bitter at the Lord Himself, although the thought that the glorious product is accompanies by an awful lot of waste has crossed my mind. I don't think I've rejected the Bible either. I've just given up. There seems to be a void in my being, a dystopian gospel which the Lord has not filled. I can't blame Him, I must not have let Him. Yet I don't know what to do. At my worst, I feel that I vacated a space by my own struggling, eliminated those things from my life and trying to occupy myself with other things, cleaned and swept my inner being so that bitterness and jealousy and pride could return with the melancholy which I didn't really mind when it inhabited me alone. I don't know what else to do. I can go on like I did before, but I am repulsed by the motives I presume to have perceived. What's more, I've lost my heart to continue struggling. I want to toss the stupid paddle out of the canoe, and enjoy the warm afternoon sun reflecting of the cool water. Right now, the sun only beats down on my striving.

So I've decided romantic notions can't keep me. There is no person to keep me here, save one base reason that I'm still frustrated over, and for which I have no respect. There is yet one thing I'm afraid of, and that's the consequence of staying in my present state. I feel that if these thoughts are known, they can only do damage, they can only instill the same doubts that are tearing me apart. I can only ask the Lord one of two things: that He respect my fear of the warning of Luke 17:2, for the world and the Lord can have nothing common in the same place, in my heart and much less in His Church, or that He manifest Himself, so that I could have the assurance that I am pursuing Him and not some dead-end wild-goose ideal.

Right now my desires are rather base, I admit, but they're genuine and they aren't mixed with a whole lot that leaves me with anything to boast of, having spent any time before the Lord. I want to listen to and sing the music that I still like that matches my moods and not have to worry about whether it is appropriate for me to feel that way. I would like to be able to fall in love--- a romantic notion I haven't been able to purge--- and not be concerned that it is my flesh or that it is natural and needs to go through the cross. I don't want to be somewhere where I am expected to be spiritual when I am not--- where when someone meets me they see one thing, yet when they get to know me they realize I am not and are disappointed, or, worse yet, see what I am that I should not be and use me as an excuse before the Lord to hold onto something He is touching them to put to death.

I no longer feel like I could rejoice when the day of the Lord comes. I know I can't do it. I started building the tower, but I just don't have it. I'm not one who desires spiritual experience. I'm not thrilled by revival. My heart never stopped loving the old creation. I hate trying to appease my conscience all the time.

Life was so much simpler in the world: it promised nothing, asked nothing, gave nothing except what I tried to get out of it, and that wasn't too bad. The Lord promises everything, asks for everything, and I'm faced with the probability that I can't do it and that I'm not open enough to the Lord for Him to do it.

I never understood what existentialism was until these past weeks. That's always been my philosophy, yet I never had a name for it. I thought it was just apathy, but its a bit more active than that. I want to be a leaf, enjoying the sun and the cool water while its there, taking the cloudy days and occasional eddies as events in the normal course of life (nothing of the supernatural attached), and flowing off into wherever the course of this life takes me, because I'm not really sure anymore whether there's anything else to be concerned with.
06-21-2016 06:15 AM
Re: Berkeley to MIT, to freedom

What is interesting about this testimony, to me, is that you can really see the peer pressure that is applied to young people to get them to conform, and become program robots.

Secondly, you realize, if you already haven't, that critical thinking is anathema to groups like this. How can they retain intelligent young people who want to think?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not threatened by people who think, and question. How can leaders of a church program think that it represents and furthers the gospel when it's so reactionary and repressive? I mean, please; wake up, folks! It's the year 2016. There is an internet, and people can share their experiences, for good and ill. It's not 1972 where you can pretend your program is something it's not; that it just one day appeared out of the ether: "The church in XYZ began when some Christians who were pursuing the truth began to meet there in 1975". I mean, all Christians are pursuing truth, no? Or just you few?

Or, "We're just Christians from a variety of backgrounds who love the Lord." Completely disingenuous.

People can get information; they can think, and question. It's okay. The gospel of God doesn't crumble in the Information Age. But religious gulags are increasingly walled in, and their response to any probings, is to build higher walls! Higher! Such is Babylon: impressive, to some outward aspect. Built by dedicated, hard-working folks. Well meaning, even. But entirely human in origin, and in effort, and destiny.
06-21-2016 06:00 AM
Berkeley to MIT, to freedom

Originally Posted by aron
The following is on the MIT website.

My freshman year I lived in the dorms at Berkeley. I felt a little bad about it, because there was a house near campus for the brother's to live in, but I used the excuse that the deposit was already paid on the dorms to bribe my conscience to stop bothering me. The brothers were very supportive of me--- they made sure I was settled in, and looked out for me when I came down with the flu a couple weeks into the semester. I enjoyed spending time with them, playing ping-pong, learning the guitar, and talking about the Bible.

I was also invited to a family's house for meetings every Friday night. We talked for a while, and then started the meeting by singing, and continued by sharing our "experiences of the Lord'' from the week, or anything that we read that we enjoyed or that touched us. The atmosphere was very relaxing and comfortable for me--- it was great to have a "second home'' to go to, and we could listen or speak as they wished. I still appreciate the hospitality and care I received from that family.

Yet there was an evangelical move on campus, carried out under the auspices of a campus club, Students from the Truth. We were encouraged to preach to our friends. The "co-workers'' as they were called, who served with the college students at "the church in Berkeley'' actively tried to meet new students, and the brothers and sisters in the church were encouraged to sign up their friends in a "Truth Course'' during which we were to go one-on-one with our friends and preach the gospel by ostensibly practicing to teach a lesson we were given. There was also a table on campus, from which we handed out pamphlets. A few people started responding, but rumors about Witness Lee and the Local Church dissuaded most of them, even though some of the rumors were unfounded.

I was involved, but I was also shy, and very reluctant to preach the gospel, because it felt too much like shoving things down peoples' throats. I desperately wanted to be a living testimony of Jesus Christ, and I also tried to stay normal, not to seem too eccentric or fanatical--- nonetheless, my roommate from that year recently referred to me (in past tense) as "the resident religious zealot''.

In social settings outside the church, I constantly struggled with "the world,'' because I missed flirting and listening to rock music and conversations about the latest style and offbeat cultural references.

On the other hand, I took a liking to debating about the "truths'' in the Bible, and this spurred me to study it more. I liked the seemingly endless layers of meaning in the word, and even the challenge of understanding it in a self-consistent manner.

The next year I moved into a house with some brothers and began to throw myself into "the church life'' more whole-heartedly. A couple students from campus joined the group enthusiastically, and the evangelical move began to gain momentum. I was struggling with problems with my housemates, who stayed up talking while I was trying to sleep and wouldn't do their dishes. Then I felt more isolated as their zeal for the gospel increased and I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to match it. I retired to reading "the Ministry,'' books by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee, as well as books by Andrew Murray, Brethren writers, and biographies of Christian evangelists. I also decided to learn Greek, to better understand the New Testament.

I also began to care for other brothers. One had been meeting with "the church'' since high school and was undergoing a crisis of faith, and I often engaged him to try to get him out of his bitterness and self-pity so that he could get back on track in his classes at Berkeley. Another entered my freshman year, and still considered himself Catholic--- I called him every morning to pray, and always made sure he felt welcome at meetings.

Eventually I moved to a different "brother's house'', to make room for another "babe in the Lord'' and to give myself a respite from the silent conflict I was experiencing. Yet my junior year was more troubling. The gospel move gained more momentum after a student at Berkeley was strongly saved and wanted to tell everyone about it. Shouting, which had always been a part of "touching our spirit'' in the meeting, moved on to campus, as a small group began to preach in the main plaza. The theme became "losing one's face'', that painful shyness that got in the way of most people talking to strangers about Jesus. The move was coincident with a conference at which Witness Lee declared strongly that "God became Man to make Man God'', a line taken from the early church Fathers as a summary of doctrines that had been taught by Lee for years. Out of this teaching came the term "God-man'', which was actually printed on baseball caps (along with "Jesus is Reality'') and distributed to the students for them to wear as a testimony of the Lord on campus.

I didn't like the hats at all--- I thought they were a silly gimmick, an embarrassment, and I refused to wear one with the sheepish excuse, "I don't wear baseball caps''. I also didn't like the turn the gospel had taken: they were shouting "God became man to make man God!'' and other "catchy'' slogans on campus, to attract attention and "lose face''. They encouraged us to stand up before lectures and preach to the class, or at the very least wear the hats to class. The persecution, the funny looks the hats attracted, was a glory to us and the Lord. They even organized a couple "sweeps'' of Telegraph Avenue during a Labor Day conference at the church, during about a hundred people marched haphazardly up to campus handing out flyers and shouting "Oh Lord Jesus!'' at the top of their lungs. They said it was exhilarating, full of the Spirit. I participated once. I felt silly. Apparently this brought back many memories of the younger days of the "Lord's Recovery,'' in the sixties.

I actually preached the gospel the most I ever did that year, including attempts at open-air preaching in the plaza. I was never satisfied with it, I always felt I wasn't doing enough. I knew they were only token gestures, attempts at bribing my conscience to leave me alone. I continued reading, yet even that haunted me because I found I didn't like reading "the Ministry'' as much as the other Christian authors. "The Ministry'', after all, represented the "high truth'', "the peak of the Lord's Recovery'', and was crucial for spiritual growth. I read it every day so that I had paid my dues and could read more interesting things. Unfortunately, not everything agreed, and I often came out with opinions that questioned "the Ministry.'' This annoyed the co-workers more than once, and I began feeling guilty about rebelling against "authority'' and letting my "natural opinions'' get their way.

So I increased my diligence in morning prayer, and fell asleep a lot. I also testified in the meetings more, and enjoyed the warm response I received.

By the middle of my Junior year, the co-workers realized the hats and shouting were doing more harm than good, as rumors began to fly that Students for the Truth was a front for a cult. A few brothers worked to soften the impact of the three-ring circus we created on campus, and The Students for the Truth shifted back to emphasizing the Truth Course as a means to preach the gospel, as well as publishing more pamphlets and apologetics so that people knew what we believed. Our doctrines were always open to public criticism, although I don't think anyone really met the task aptly.

I became more comfortable for only a short time, and began going out with a younger brother to preach the gospel one-on-one. It soon became tough, because he obviously hated it. I felt awful when my zeal brought him to tears. The co-workers were encouraging us to be vital, to have a companion to pray with and open up to, and I tried to force the issue with my poor gospel partner. Yet again, I was under stress.

At the end of my Junior year, the large class of brothers and sisters that came in before me graduated, and many of them decided to go to the Full Time Training in Anaheim, an unaccredited Bible school that emphasized spiritual devotion, a strict lifestyle, and service in the gospel. Every student was encouraged to attend after college (the degree was a requirement for entry), and indeed it was a part of the "pipeline'' that was supposed to create future co-workers and upstanding "pillars in the church life.'' My plan had always been to attend graduate school in physics, and it was suggested that I defer for two years to attend the training. I swore to myself I would do so, and at one point was even willing to go to Russia to preach the gospel after finishing the training.

My senior year definitely changed that. My doubts caught up with me. I realized that I still missed "worldly'' things; that I still was reading the Ministry out of duty; that I didn't want to preach the gospel because I was afraid of dragging someone else through what I had gone through; that I was still embarrassed by the co-workers schemes, words, and actions; that I still held natural opinions that contradicted the Ministry; that I was bribing my conscience in regard to the gospel; that I kept myself busy with studying and research to keep myself from idleness and from being dragged into the work on campus. I looked for God in my life and all I found was myself. Moreover, I disliked what I saw myself as. I became bitter and depressed, but tried hard not to let it on.

The student work, on the other hand, carried on full force. A new practice was discovered--- intensively studying and praying aloud over the outlines Witness Lee made for conferences. It struck me as a bit of blasphemy, praying over outlines in the same manner as we were encouraged to pray over the Bible. Moreover, we were to form small "vital groups'' with other students to study these outlines and preach the gospel. The new way was certain to make us more involved, and draw us closer together with the brothers.

I managed to form a group with my roommates, who never took much initiative so that little would be demanded of me. I carried on outwardly as I had before, except I decided there was no way in hell I would try to evangelize my friends with this gospel I had lost my faith in. I applied to graduate school and bided my time, until either the Lord softened my heart or I could leave without causing too much of a stir. The latter came to pass.

Perhaps this characterization of my stay in "the church in Berkeley'' is too harsh. I had a few good friends there, and more than a few enjoyable evenings singing and fellowshipping and praying with the brothers and sisters, or at families houses, or on day trips to the beach and weekend trips to the mountains. "The church life'' was secure and comforting, there was always someone to care for me, I knew what was expected of me, people appreciated me. It is definitely possible to be happy there for a lifetime, but it takes a certain personality that I can't fake . . .

Even now, I have been in contact with a few people still in the church who wondered what had happened to me. I have told a couple friends honestly that I had left and why, and they understood to some extent. They wouldn't wish me to be unhappy. I am by no means an anathema to these people, and they deserve credit for being understanding.

Yet the church life always seemed "natural''--- as opposed to "spiritual''--- and that always bothered me. It was people making their way through life as best as they could manage, forming friendships and enjoying the sense of community. It never seemed like the ideal, and I was eating myself up from the inside trying to get there. Ultimately, I guess what drew me in and what did me in was that [same] thing.

Now I have hope again, in that all the things I wanted are available to me free of guilt, and I've regained the right to work out my life as I see fit. I enjoy the friends I've made since leaving Berkeley, as well as regaining some of the friendships I felt compelled to withdraw from, and look forward to many more. I now only must hold my tongue out of courtesy, no more out of fear. I've thrown off the shackles of those unreasonable demands and truly begun to run my race freely.

Feel free to mail comments to: muno@mit.edu

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