Christian Love In Action
In The Worldwide Church of God
Being Dumped Because You're Not 'Spiritual Enough'
by J. R.
(Names and names of places have been changed to protect identities.)
Before I begin, it is important I establish who I am and my personal religious perspective. This story relies to some degree on the context of my personal information, as well as that of the subjects I will be discussing.
I am twenty years old and I live in a small town in Oregon. I come from a moderate evangelical Christian background. I was not raised to attend church every Sunday or read my Bible everyday. Only until recently, I considered myself a Christian, though I was never terribly fervent in my faith at any point in my life. Mind you, I certainly tried hard and was not quick to 'give up'.
Earlier this year, I met a girl named Sara Rand. She was my same age of twenty years, and we both lived in the same city together. Her father was a long-time Worldwide Church of God pastor and a graduate of Ambassador College. At the time I met Sara, her father was pastoring two churches in the area with a combined attendance of around fifty people. He was considered a 'regional' pastor.
This was my first real introduction to the Worldwide Church of God. Before meeting Sara, I only had a cursory knowledge of the church's history. I had heard before that it was considered a 'cult' by some, but I knew it had recently become more 'mainstream', and its past did not worry me. My opinion of the church, at the time of first meeting Sara and her family, was neutral. I had asked Sara about her church's past, and she would make rather flippant, unconcerned references to their former 'backward' ways. The church's troubled history did not seem to bother her or her family.
I began a friendship with Sara and later a relationship with her. During this time, our spiritual perspectives were markedly different. I was, and always will be, a more intellectual person, not given to the emotionalism seen in many evangelical or charismatic churches. Sara, however, was very much into this type of religious expression, an example being her belief that God was 'working' in her life on almost a regular, daily basis. (She gave examples, many of them that seemed to be merely coincidental occurrences.) This is something that I, like many, have never once felt in my lifetime. I couldn't help but notice the perplexity in this, in that God seems awfully choosy as to the lives he blesses with His intervention.
Our relationship did not focus heavily on our Christian 'walks'. I was more interested in the 'real' person underneath the veneer of Christian indoctrination Sara had inevitably experienced being the daughter of a Worldwide Church of God pastor. Some of the time I would see her 'real person', and it was a person I was attracted to. Unfortunately, the veneer of Christianity and Worldwide Church of God fiefdom clouded and covered up the person she was underneath. That factor became more and more clear as time went on, and as I began to remove the chains of Christianity keeping me blind.
As for her father, Ken Rand, I was able to make a good number of observations. He was a syrupy, emotional pastor. While at his home and around me, he was never the warm, caring, enthusiastic 'man of God' he portrayed to his congregation. I was never received warmly by his family, though my family treated Sara with exceeding warmth. I was able to see all of this first hand, having spent time both at his home as well as at his church. I felt he was a decidedly two-faced, disingenuous person. A person I felt was dancing on a rope for his church followers and putting on a 'show' for them, but certainly not for me.
I was informed that Ken always worked well with teenagers and the youth. Yet, I was never given any interest by this man. It's possible he was uncomfortable with me, being that I was his daughter's boyfriend, but I find such mistrust and paranoia so petty I could not imagine it coming from an adult. But I hear that sort of mental 'block' against an 'interfering' boyfriend is quite common with fathers. Beyond this, I found Ken to be such a dual personality it was hard to even communicate with him. Even in the two months while Sara and I were casual friends, his treatment toward me had been no different. I found this all the more difficult to reconcile being that he was a pastor. I naturally expect 'more' of a pastor, and to only find a dual, insincere personality in Ken Rand was obviously troubling in the context of the 'virtuous' Christian faith in which he professed to walk (and earn a living within). I do not make these criticisms lightly.
Early this year, the Rand family was informed that 'headquarters' had issued their decision to move Ken's pastorship to two churches in the southern California area. Apparently, 'headquarters' didn't feel his $46,000 a year salary was worth the two small churches he was maintaining in Oregon. So the Rand family grudgingly moved from a beautiful city in Oregon, in June, to the crowds and smog of southern California. They felt it was 'God's will'. It sounded more like a financial decision by 'headquarters' to me. In fact, it was, and nothing more.
After they moved in June, Sara and I maintained close contact, writing letters and calling each other. One night, I expressed some of my doubts about Christianity over the phone. It was nothing too terribly traumatic. She had asked me what I felt about God's 'grace and love', and I said I had never experienced it, and I mentioned a few other doubts. I called her back the next day only to find out she was considering dumping me. She said she had been very disturbed by what I had said the night before.
A week later, I received a letter, where she informed me she could no longer continue in a relationship with me. No explanation was given, except that we were on different spiritual levels at the moment, and this apparently had something to do with her decision. I wrote her back, expressed my confusion and hurt in being dumped in such a cold manner. She then cut off all communication with me and now refuses to talk to me, apparently, ever again. This might sound fairly typical of boy-girl relationships, but being that she was such a kind, sweet girl, and the many Christian overtones one must consider here, I ended up reading a lot more into this.
I feel her motivation for breaking things off was entirely based on my 'spiritual state'. Essentially, I was not spiritual 'enough' for her. I have since learned that she felt from the beginning that getting in a relationship with me was a mistake. She had followed her heart, and not 'God's will'. Apparently, God's will was that I wasn't good enough for her.
I do feel her and I, if anything, could have carried on a deep, meaningful friendship. Beyond the spiritual differences, we were two people able to communicate well. I find it all the more unfortunate knowing that the two very 'real' people that we are underneath were fairly compatible. But Christianity and her delusions about 'God's will' and my spiritual state got in the way in the end.
Through all of this, the Worldwide Church of God history of 'we're right, everyone else is wrong' became apparent. This sort of mentality breeds a certain irksome pride, and a contempt for unbelievers; Sara is not one to easily admit she is wrong or she has made a mistake, I quickly found out. That's not to say I wished that she retract her 'break up' and get back together with me, because I am certainly not that petty. But the manner in how she carried out the break-up, and the reasons for it, I found offensive and patently un-Christian. To break up with someone because they aren't spiritually at your 'level' sends a hurtful, rotten message to whomever is on the receiving end of such a thing. And it certainly won't bring anyone closer to Christianity! It is belittling and makes the other person feel 'less' than human. It's astonishing this sort of message is being sent by a Christian, of all people. But not all too surprising when viewed in the context of Christianity being the vile mind-trap that it is.
Christianity, and the Worldwide Church of God, is not open to those who doubt, or those 'on the fence' or those with problems with their faith, because it has no answer for them. It is only open to those flimsy minds willing to engage in the flimflam emotionalism that characterizes evangelical Christianity. It is a cult of elite-minded people that judge others with an unbridled ease. I believe all of this centers around the Worldwide Church of God mentality of elitism that continues to this day, as well as the inherent 'ego boost' Christianity provides any believer. More over, any denomination founded by the likes of offensive a dunderhead as Herbert W. Armstrong must be condemned to a perpetually tottering foundation.
The important conclusion for me in all of this was finally sloughing off my long persistent worry over the true nature of Christianity. While I found numerous bones to pick with many of the 'religious' aspects of Christianity, I've always felt conflicted as to the 'spiritual' aspects of Christianity. I was afraid to 'question God', but the question I most needed to ask, and then answer, was this: Is Christianity inherently Divine, or not? My conclusion now is that it is not. It is a religion, no more or less than any other religion. It has nothing to do with 'God', if there even is a god. It is rather the creation and manifestation of some inherent human desire for belief and blind faith in a higher power, all of this being completely separate from the observable world in which we live.
With that in mind, I find it such a petty waste that people structure their lives around the trifling delusions of the Bible. I am sorry that Sara has relegated and confined herself to this path of fear and fallacy. While it can give a weak person a set of simple moral dictates to follow, it offers little else. Beyond that, it only adds to our social ills. I believe were it not for Sara's 'faith' in this religion, and especially her involvement with the Worldwide Church of God, we would probably be friends, or more, today. (I wonder how many relationships in the past of human history have ended over this kind of triviality). Most importantly, we would treat each other with a mutual respect, as one human being to another -something Christianity, by its nature, makes an impossible task between believers and non-believers. It creates such an unnecessary, inhuman divide and segregation between us all.
I ended up having to learn all of this the hard way, at the hand of a Christian. But I am thankful that I am now free.
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