This is Not How We Behave

Just keep spamming, just keep spamming (2)

Gentle Reader,

I’ve been hanging out amongst the residents of the interwebs for a long time now. This blog has existed, in one form or another, for seven years. Before that I enjoyed myself thoroughly on the Amazon Christianity discussion forum. Before that was MySpace. (Remember Tom?)

Online life can be fun, engaging and surprisingly deep.

It can also be disheartening. Even nasty.

On Sunday night I briefly wrote about the howling over Focus on the Family’s small article (actually a Q&A piece) regarding vaccination in their magazine, Thriving Family. The response of a certain intensely opinionated blogger* caught my attention. This blogger is out-and-out offended that nobody from Focus on the Family has picked up on or crafted a statement about the response. While avoiding telling anyone to engage in bad web etiquette, this blogger made sure to say that it was important for any followers who were equally offended to publicly explain on the Focus on the Family Facebook page why support is being withdrawn. The people have taken up the torch.

The flames leap high.

It’s shameless fit-throwing. While I do not think that anyone has to be a fan of Focus on the Family in order to be a Christian, what is happening on the organization’s page is sad. Negative, one-star reviews are popping up and right and left because this blogger has purposefully stirred the pot on an issue that should not be this heated or divisive. This is not a litmus test of salvation. Yet every time a new post comes up in the feed, no matter what it’s about, followers of this blogger comment with a link to the response. All because Focus on the Family maintains a position of supporting vaccination (and medicine in general; some comments are mixed) and because nobody in the organization has opened up a forum for debate.

Except Focus on the Family isn’t obligated to publish an in-depth, thesis-length piece on vaccinations. Or medicine. Or why the sky isn’t purple. They aren’t obligated to respond to every single person with access to a computer and a blog. Such a thing would be nigh unto impossible.

So the ranting? It’s distracting. It’s immature.

Again, you don’t have to be a fan of the organization to be a Christian. But you also don’t need to flame a group that has worked for decades to help families. If their stance on vaccination bothers you, fine. Great. Don’t listen to their programs, purchase their materials or send them money. Move on.

Spamming and trolling never win an argument. Never. Like I said, I’ve been around the internet for a long time. I’ve made connections with many bloggers and site operators. And we just lurv spam. We just adore trolls. Send me a link once and I’ll gladly look. Engage in honest, respectful dialogue with me and I’ll talk. I’ll listen. The second you start screaming is the second I think you’re a nutcase, an attention-seeker or just plain arrogant and want nothing to do with you. Shouting only makes me close my ears. Everyone else I know who operates online feels the same.

Christians, this is NOT how we behave. We do not throw fits. We do not engage in histrionics. We do not get so everlastingly full of ourselves that we work, however cunningly, to undercut a legitimate ministry. These are the attitudes and antics of toddlers, not Spirit-filled adults.

Worse, it’s what one non-believer called “Christian cannibalism” as she watched the fracas unfold.

It’s the Enemy cackling with glee.

Grace and peace along the way.

* I am choosing to not share the name of this person because I don’t want to drive traffic to the site or the blog’s Facebook page. Based on the information provided in this post, you can figure it out for yourself. Please do. Go and make your own decision. Feel absolutely free to disagree with everything I’ve written. Feel free to tell me what you think.

I realize that I walk a fine line here. I don’t want to tear this blogger or this blogger’s followers to pieces. I don’t question their salvation or the sincerity of their beliefs regarding vaccinations and medicine. I don’t deny them the right to voice their opinions in an appropriate manner. Nevertheless, what they are doing is wrong.

How do I know? I chose to interact with them. It was a highly discouraging experience.

And why is this so clearly under my skin and dear to my heart? Why have I written several posts in the last few months about illness and medicine? Because my body is torn apart every day. The bodies of many I love are torn apart every day. We struggle. We suffer. We simply don’t need the additional stress of the ever-growing health-and-wealth, just-eat-organic-and-you’ll-be-fine-no-matter-what, Jesus-doesn’t-want-you-to-go-to-the-doctor-ever-ever, vaccines-are-black-magic juggernaut. I can’t stand by and let it roll on unchecked.

Five Minute Friday: Relief

Shut the front door, you crud muffin (1)

Gentle Reader,

Migraines. Cluster headaches. I don’t know exactly what they are, but the settle right behind my eyeball. My right one. Thankfully I’m blind in that one anyway so I could easily pluck it out to stop the pain and not miss it.

I missed the Tweeting party. Sadface.

Kate and the folks contemplate: relief.

Go.

My head is still pounding so we’re keeping this short today.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. I had lots of moments when some sort of cuss word was just on the tip of my tongue. Sometimes it came out. Other times I “just” thought it. (As if God doesn’t know, right?)

Honestly? I feel relief. There’s a great rush of, “Ah! That’s off my chest now!” This is immediately followed by, “Oh, I can’t believe I said that!”

Yes, I am a cusser. Usually I head for those murky speech waters when I’m angry, but lately I’ve been scooping up bits from the shoreline and sprinkling them into my everyday conversation. I don’t like this about myself; swearing is intellectually lazy. It’s unimaginative vocabulary.

But it’s a struggle. So I appreciate this bit from Tim Hawkins:

May we all find relief from the biscuit-eating Bolsheviks.

Stop.

Grace and peace along the way.

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: Arnold Murray

-...inwardly they are ravenous wolves.- (1)

Gentle Reader,

I get that this developing series isn’t cool. It’s not “acceptable” to point out the difference between lies and truth. It’s not “tolerant” to think that there is even such a thing as lies or falseness. “What’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me.”

Gag. Eye roll.

Especially gag and eye roll because nobody actually believes that line of garbage. Seriously, nobody does. The second anyone talks about “rights” or appeals to a higher authority, the whole “everything is valid” thing is dead and buried. It’s basic logic. But we don’t live in a logical world.

Neither do we live in a world that can ignore Jesus. Have you noticed that? Every single major religion incorporates Him somehow. Even the most militant of atheists can’t ignore Jesus. He is, without doubt, the single-most confrontational person in all of history. Nobody can push Him aside.

And so, cults.

Shepherd’s Chapel was founded by Arnold Murray (1929-1914). I am currently unable to find a precise founding or start date of the group, but Murray began broadcasting his teaching in 1985. The reason for this secrecy is noted by cult-watch group, Watchman Fellowship:

One possible reason for Murray’s reticence to release biographical or historical information is the apparent misinformation circulated by the Shepherd’s Chapel concerning Murray’s alleged doctorate. Evangelical apologist William Alnor asserts that Murray “falsely claims to have a doctorate degree from a properly accredited university or seminary.” This accusation is well substantiated by the research of B.J. Oropeza in 1991.

Oropeza notes that Murray claimed to receive a doctorate from an individual named Roy Gillespie, after writing a dissertation on the book of Daniel. No evidence of such a dissertation was found in The National Union Catalog or through UMI Microfilms (the primary source for copies of theses and dissertations). The claim of a receptionist for Shepherd’s Chapel (an admittedly dubious source for official statements) that Murray’s dissertation was unavailable because it was being “revised” is additionally problematic: dissertations are not revised after being accepted by the author’s dissertation committee and the office of graduate studies at the conferring institution.

Another receptionist [it is important to note that higher-level officials at Shepherd’s Chapel will not reveal any information about the organization; office workers are thus frequently the only source of information concerning Shepherd’s Chapel] told countercult researcher Tony Pierce that Murray had attended Biola University, a Christian institution in Los Angeles. Biola officials note, however, that there is no record of anyone named Arnold Murray having attended the school. – Shepherd’s Chapel Profile

Any time a group or group leader refuses to communicate honestly is a time for concern. This is, at the very least, a sign of a domineering, controlling atmosphere, and most likely a domineering, controlling leader.

The impossiblity of verifying Murray’s clam brings me up short. I do not understand why anyone would want to listen to someone who has such difficulties with transparency. This seems like classic “don’t trust people who aren’t honest.” Yet he managed to develop a following.

Murray was among those fantastic folks who manage to predict Armageddon/the return of Christ. (You know, those who are always, always, without fail, wrong). He taught that Armageddon would happen in a valley on an Alaskan peninsula (incidentally, my husband grew up on the Kenai Peninsula) on June 8-9, 1985.

Cue crickets chirping.

So guess what? That makes him a false prophet. Sandra Turner, in her work on Mormonism, reminds us that that a prophet must teach correctly about God (Deuteronomy 13) and that whatever the prophet predicts must come to pass (Deuteronomy 18). All prophecy should be absolutely and minutely consistent with Scripture and it should absolutely center on God’s glory. You can’t just, you know, get the math or the setting or the people involved wrong. You can’t shrug your shoulders and be like, “Ooops, my bad.”

Again, why anyone would pay attention to Murray (or others who falsely predict future events) isn’t something I understand.

There really isn’t much else to say about Arnold Murray the person. I tried to listen to a “sermon” of Murray’s, thinking that perhaps he was especially charismatic. While I couldn’t stomach a large portion, the nibble I did ingest left me with an, “Oh.” (And a need for spiritual Pepto). Murray was “plainspoken.” This is, I think, a large part of the draw. For all his flaunting of an alleged advanced degree, Murray presents himself as the “everyman.”

I live in a state where people object to politicians being “too smart” or “too educated.” (Idaho, what is wrong with you?) Many fear or are intimidated by those with greater levels of understanding or experience. (As a woman with a theology degree, I live this out on a daily basis). This is exactly what Murray picked up on and exploited (again, at odds with his claiming a doctorate). He struck a chord that runs deep in the United States; the chord of individualism, rejection of authority and the equality of each person before God. Yet the striking is massively deceptive, as we shall see when we begin to examine some of his teaching. For now, know that this “everyman” enticed other “everypeople” to join him in the realm of “better than.”

False teaching, false prophecy, false humility.

Arnold Murray.

Grace and peace along the way.

Note: Murray’s son, Dennis, has taken over leadership of Shepherd’s Chapel. I am unable to find anything about him online. Anyone who reads this and does know about Dennis Murray, please feel free to contact me.