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Pentecostalism: A personal perspective (part 2)

A socialist leader with a far right following

Upon entering the Christian life (I will explain how why and when later) I found the church a mixed bag of people and personalities; ranging from the very weird through the meek and mild, to the kind, the dismissive and the intelligent but all seemed to have one thing in common: Most were looking for something that was missing in their lives and thought God might provide answers for them. I was no different (saving souls for Christ).

Unlike Catholics who are born into their faith or the Uniting Church who are more open to freedom of thought on many issues (very refreshing), Pentecostals are saved. They believe that Jesus will only come again when the Gospel of Christ has been preached to all corners of the world.

I once asked at a Bible group: “If the only way to be saved is by confessing Jesus as your lord and savior, how would you get on if you lived half way up the Amazon and you had never heard of him?”

I never got an answer to what I thought was a reasonable question.

Theology differs enormously from denomination to denomination.

As do Priests and Pastors. Having met many and conversed with them openly on a wide range of issues I can tell you that charismatic Pentecostals are on the far right of politics.

It was Ronald Reagan who made it possible. When he gave them the opening to become involved in politics he had no idea of the problems he was unleashing.

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rationale explanation.

One pastor I was friendly with had a junior school attached to the church. One teacher was a paedophile. The pastor lied to protect the image of the school.

The Pastor appeared before the Royal Commission.

Another pastor who I was on best friend terms was also a Financial Adviser who embezzled $2 million from his clients, and lost his pastorship, his business, his friends and his flock. He helped me in my own business. I trusted him.

Another spent time in jail for much the same thing.

Two other pastors were hounded from their jobs simply because they weren’t popular. A fairly common occurrence.

Often pastors are not natural leaders and lack the charisma demanded of them in the fundamentalist movement.

Luke 6:38 (DBY): Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall be given into your bosom: for with the same measure with which ye mete it shall be measured to you again.

On the basis of this scripture, church members are encouraged to give and give and give. On this basis they are promised that God will make them rich.

Do they want your money? Yes, they certainly do. Just like the local football club or the Country Women’s Association they need money but do so more abundantly; the flock is constantly hounded to give and give.

They justify this through a tithe. A system of giving that is based on ancient scripture that you should give 10% of the harvest to God. Serious scholars would think this scripture reference is unjustifiable.

They believe in growth, and this can only be achieved by capturing the young and they are successful at doing so.

Places like Hillsong are full of young people excited by the music and become intoxicated by the consistency of being told that they are important.

In charismatic circles the success of the pastor is judged on the wealth and size of the church and how many bums there are on seats.

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.

In an uncertain world the message of the gospel told from the feel good perspective of Pentecostalism is exactly what they want to hear. It gives them hope and they feel good about it, but it isn’t necessarily the truth.

However, these same city churches are bereft of older people. Over a period these same young people either by life experience or education find that many Christian concepts don’t meet the evidentiary standards of today.

The fastest growing sectors in education are the Pentecostal churches; all full to the brim with children who their parents think will walk away with better values than those the public schools teach.

One would think that they would get that at home. but it appears not.

Religion does not have a monopoly on morality. Or anything else in my experience.

Our local Catholic secondary college educates in excess of 1000 teenage boys and girls, but if you were to peak into Mass on Sunday morning you wouldn’t find a corresponding figure.

The more educated people become, the less likely they are to believe the Christian story. This is evidenced around the world.

Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact.

To believe in Christianity requires a faith ignorant of fact. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding. It has to rely on faith alone.

Elle Hardy, in her article in The GuardianToday’s Pentecostals aren’t tongues-talking hicks – they are slick Australian exports‘ says Pentecostals are “looking not to save souls, but to transform societies.”

That is also correct, they do want to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and see them changed in all areas of their lives.

But it is also judgemental – the carrot and stick approach a method of control. Do as we say or you will most certainly go to Hell. Give your life to Jesus and a life hereafter is guaranteed.

In an article in CRUCIS titled ‘Under the surface of Pentecostalism‘ Dr. Jacqueline Grey argues that:

“It is holistic change; that relationships will be restored, family’s reconciled, financial situations redeemed, their vocations and work given purpose. For this reason, many Pentecostal pastors will say that they preach to help people on Monday, not just Sunday…

However, the purpose of the practical emphasis is the transformation of people, communities, society and creation to live as consistently as possible with the gospel…

It is not, as Hardy fears, a political movement per se; its transformative impact, however, is widespread.

Grey also writes that:

“This is not to deny the pitfalls of such grassroots movements. Pentecostals have sometimes uncritically embraced secular practices. They have not been immune to the pervading challenges of money, sex and power.”

The problem here is that these things cannot be achieved without eliciting some form of control over people’s lives both in and outside the church. It is not as simple as preaching the Gospel and saying that is how you should live.

I find it difficult to pray for anything while at the same time knowing that 30,000 children will die from preventable deceases the day I am doing it.

In my time in the church, “control” was always an issue.

The transformation of people and communities by the church in order to create a theocracy, in my view, would be wrong.

It would always result in a clash of cultural norms and individual rights all of which form the foundation of our democracy.

That is why religion has always been held – and should always be held – separate from state.

My thought for the day

The study of free will is an important foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?

Link to Part 1

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  1. Pingback: Pentecostalism: A personal perspective (part 2) #auspol - News Oz

  2. Jak Sayla

    In a lineup one can usually identify the pentecostal pastor by their gold watches and expensive clothing.

  3. Kerri

    What does “god” do with his 10%?

  4. Egalitarian

    Great piece John and very timely.I think it’s time for the Churches to start paying there 10% TAX too.

  5. Harry Lime

    Kerri, Flash cars and expensive whores if the American experience is anything to go by.

  6. Stephengb

    Yes – at a particularly low ebb in my life these creatures sold me peace of mind through being so called born again.

    What utter rubbish, within 9 months I came to recognise the controlling nature of the group think lead by this extremely likeable pastor and his wife.

    It didn’t take them long to start expecting the tithe, and expecting me to do the “good works” all in the name of reaping what I sewed of course.

    These people are parasites, leeches, pitcher plants digestiging their prey alive

    They, (the borrn again’s and similar cults) are dangerous dangerous people, not only to their followers but to the societies in which they operate.

  7. george theodoridis

    Great piece, John. Many thanks.
    I was around 4, in Greece when my uncle (son of a priest) was studying Theology at Uni. I remember sitting on his knees while we were both reading the various text books he would be bringing from Uni.
    On our left, he’d have all the myths and legends of ancient Greece and they’d be spread across the table so that the next lot of books were the abrahamic stuff.
    I loved those days!
    However, whilst, in my head the abrahamic stories were just more myths, to my uncle they were the revelation of the proper religion. The one and true religion with the one and true God. He became a professor and a practicing priest, whereas I became an atheist.
    His own father -my super gorgeous grand father, in whose village church I often sang (having taught me the mysteries of the Byzantine music) thought that his son (one of 11) was too strict, too fundamentalist and worried about him.
    I saw him in 2005 and I had an inner-mind shaking of the head. He had sunk by then even deeper into the Tartarus of idiocy, fascism and incoherence.

    One of his dicta was, “every man is the voice of god.” We talked for well over an hour, both of us sinking deeper into the fog of inebriation with the ouzo we consumed, each trying to understand the other. He insisted I go back to greece and try and repair my now irretrievably damaged soul.

    During that conversation I’ve realised that there is a peculiar paradoxical phenomenon going on with people of his conviction. I noticed that what he was saying was not matching his histrionics. The more convinced he sounded, the more I saw doubt taking over his face. Couldn’t understand what I was seeing then but now I think it might have been that when it comes to metaphysical ponderings, we cannot be dogmatic. We simply don’t know and that we must accept that. Be like Socrates: I don’t know nofink yer honour and so I’m wise. The certainty, I thought came from “the club,” which in Greece, it is enormous. A club which atheists in Greece, call “crows” (from their black capes and their hunting ethics) and which rules the country.
    It is a club with enormous clout in the ruling of the country and one which Tsipras had promised to curb their excesses but, in fact, increased them.

    The fear that he’d be thrown out of this club put my uncle into great trepidation and had him chained in the chains of necessary hypocrisy.

    Sad stuff but there it is. Greece could easily get back to her golden age (we can argue that it wasn’t so golden after all but one had to reel off some of the names and inventions, of thoughts and views that have emerged back then, 5th C. BC Athens and elsewhere and one would see just how far from there is not only modern Greece but also, almost the whole of the rest of the world.

    Again, many thankses!

  8. Warren Cox

    Can’t wait for part 3.

  9. Joseph Carli

    “Allo, George…good to see the greek perspective on the page…hmm..ouzo, eh…always a retsina man myself.. 🙂 … But I would promote the idea of a “worship” of atheism. Not substituting Godhead or Gaia or even rough “Mother Nature”, let them alone..they will float along without our assistance. I would emphasise the belief in casual observance of the world around oneself. Step out of a morning and feel the wash of sunrise pour its ambrosia over the body like a soothing balm..or stand transfixed at the noon of the day and hark to the frenzied activity of life at full throttle..then again sit or lay comfortably in the velvet cloak of evening and let slip from your grip those worries and concerns accumulated throughout the working day, let them fall into the miasma of shadows of the coming night..for night is the metaphor of life’s ending..and finally let morphia’d sleep cleanse the mind and wash with dreams away this impertinence of temporal existance.

    Atheism is neither a “belief” , nor a “way of life”..I see it more as a shedding of clumsy armour, the relaxing of futile defence against a non-existing fear. For if there has ever been a power more condemning, more controlling and exacting of behaviour so that even natural human activity can draw cruel conviction, it is religious / canon law. There are ample and sensible civil laws legislated by sanity, put in place by unanimous consent and obeyed by the majority that do not require ecclesiastical condescension. So if we have laws to guide us, common sense to inform us and a wide world of wonder to both awe and amuse us, why waste time and temper on another useless chore like bowing and scraping to false Gods?

    You know, whenever I see those photographs of the Earth taken from outer-space and they show this cool, beautiful, green/ blue/ sometimes cloudy orb suspended serenely in the silence of revitalises a belief within me that we are duty-bound and committed to extend ourselves to maintain and revitalise this luscious but lonely garden of delight! We can do no worse thing with indoctrinated discourse, than to deliberately lead the child (and the “child” within ourselves) from a world of innocent wonder, a world of curious discovery to a mendaciously manufactured shadow world of adult doubt and insecurity…. through a prism distorted…through a glass, darkly….

  10. John OCallaghan

    What an absolute brilliant concept religion is…. that is somehow getting trillions of people since almost the dawn of time to believe in a God that no one has ever seen, a heaven and hell that no one has ever seen,an evil being and anti christ called Satan that no one has ever seen, and a woman 2000+ years ago that gave birth to a baby without having sex with a man… bloody marvellous stuff that! …….

    I take my hat off to the genius who came up with this concept which of course is the biggest con in human history and is still used by Governments and other corrupt organisations to amass fabulous wealth and privilege for themselves and misery and poverty for the very people who donate their hard earned souls and money for the privilege. And thats just the christian variety.....

  11. wam

    Hardly a smile today, lord. I was expecting some of what you promised last Saturday week? But who cares as long as it is what you remember.
    We atheists find it more than ‘difficult’ to pray but the process is a sure fire winner whether god hear or not.
    Years ago I asked the christian ex-Kormilda kids about their ancestors and heaven. I tried to find their answers but my skills are weak and I got tired scrolling. Memory say that was bad luck but when god calls up the souls to account for their life they may get a run? But it seems that you need Christ on earth to get to heaven.
    Pretty sad that Hannah’s husband will be with Hannah and the kids in heaven because god forgives men who kill women and children. Whilst detectives, men’s sheds and pubs don’t condemn till provocation has been investigated

    I noticed one of the Democrat hopefuls was moving and shaking and clapping and singing at his rally.perhaps he seeks a religious fervour. Bernie would be great but he will struggle against the billionaires

  12. george theodoridis

    Jo Carli! How good is retsina for liquifying thought and letting loose the delusions about life. What a lovely essay on its effects!
    Last Thursday and Friday I delivered lectures on Aeschylus’ Eumenides. It is a play which ends with one of the most potent messages, admonitions to humanity, if they want to be a happy, civilised society: The end of seeking Justice by curses and vendettas, by vengeance and such like.

    Orestes is in the dock, Athens and he has the Furies as his prosecutors and Apollo as his defence lawyer.
    At the end of the hearing Athena, the goddess of wisdom and the protector of the city becomes the judge -temporarily only because she tells the onlookers (the whole citizenry) to go away and think about whether Orestes is guilty or not.
    The message here is, “stop asking us, the gods, to do this for you. From now on, you the peers of the accused will do this thinking.”
    No more curse, no more seeking vengeance, no more vendettas. The peers become the jurors, and the judges.
    From then on the Furies (Erinyes) become the Eumenides, the “kindly ones” and the protectors of the city.
    The play was written when the words “demos” was being a currency for judgement. Democracy had been brought in not that long before that play was written and the two attacks by the Persians were repelled because of it. Greece fought to keep this new system of govn’t, rather than continue with Tyranny, especially the sort of tyranny that the Persians had, that of a delusional man who thought he was god. Christianity, of course was exactly that: One God, One King!
    We mustn’t let that happen was Aeschylus’ cry.

    I was talking about this to a lovely law student who works at Readings, in Doncaster.
    “George,” she said, “if you think that the Furies have disappeared from the process of Justice you are wrong. AND, they have also taken a new appearance and work with a new, far more vicious vengeance: their new name is algorithms and they attack the accused well before the judge’s gavel touches his bench.

    We can have our sip of retsina and do all those dreamy things you’ve mentioned but the evil doers will do their evil and the Furies will raise up and pursue you, like they did Orestes.

    …and the furies did pursue Aeschylus himself. He went to Gela (in Sicily) for his retirement years and was killed brutally by a tortoise!
    An oracle had told him he’d be killed by a fallen object, so he stayed outdoors all day – until, one fine day, the tortoise fell on his head and killed him. The tortoise was picked up by an eagle and it did what eagles do with small animals. Lifted up into the sky, looked around for a rock to drop it and smash it, saw Aweschylus’ bald head, thought it was a tortoise crushing rock and let it go from its talons. Furies 1, Aeschylus o.

  13. wam

    found one, lord,
    a lovely student from the mid 80s and a gradndmother:

    In my educated by the bible opinion the world is approximately 4000yrs old which I admit that it makes my ancestors tales a bit surreal about dwelling on this country for 40000 plus years. So yeah back to my educated opinion you and I come from the same ancestor Adam and Eve, therefore we are also distantly related to each other AND Jesus and because God loves His children; us, He takes the obedient ones who believe He created us and loves us, home to heaven. You have time to believe so I can see you there one day my brother!

  14. Arnd

    “There are ample and sensible civil laws legislated by sanity, put in place by unanimous consent and obeyed by the majority that do not require ecclesiastical condescension.”

    … said Joseph Carli.

    And where, pray tell, might we find a jurisdiction in which law has actually approximated such an idyllic state of affairs to a meaningful degree? I don’t know of any!

    All systems of law that I know of are trapped somewhere between Voltaire’s “It is forbidden to kill. Therefore all murderers at punished – unless they kill in great numbers, and to the sounds of trumpets!” and Anatol France’s mocking admiration of “The majestic equality before the law, which forbids to rich and poor alike begging in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing of bread!”

    Seems to me that we are now further from administration from behind John Rawls’ “Veil of ignorance” than at any time since WWII.

  15. Joseph Carli

    Ah!, George…we may drink of the same epoch, but we must forebear to each quote example from a differing culture..I hold to the terms and conditions of the vendetta…we will be granted justice, or we will TAKE justice!..:

    (from Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Antony)

    “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
    And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
    For Brutus is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honourable men–
    Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And, sure, he is an honourable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love him once, not without cause:
    What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
    O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
    My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me. “

  16. Joseph Carli

    Personally, I think that anyone who takes up religion in their adult years must be having a lousey sex life!

  17. wam

    good one joseph
    Could be they hope god will pimp them a few virgins???

  18. george theodoridis

    And there you have a classic case of a boy who goes to the races for the first time and puts his bet: “two bob each way please!”

    Caesar was an ambitious man -but he was not; Brutus was an honorable man -but he was not!
    I prefer the comedy sketch of this incident:

    Antony: Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears!
    Citizen: What’s ya got in that bag?
    Antony: Ears!

    The Furies (Erinyes) got to him too. Aeschylus was right and so is my friend at the bookshop. Antony was a lover boy, thinking through his testicles.

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