Tag Archive for: religion

A Different Experience

We’ve certainly had our own challenges with church experiences over the years. And, unfortunately, I am not surprised that this fellow had such a difficult experience with a Christian family.

Community and unconditional love seem to be strangely absent in much of the Christian experience.

Here is the full story.

My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists

When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul. Here’s his story.

Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared in SchoolSpiegel, a SPIEGEL ONLINE Web site that solicits original contributions from school kids about their experiences. The site also features first-hand accounts of foreign exchange students.

“When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, ‘Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.’ At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying ‘Michael, it’s time to go to church.’ I hated that sentence. When I didn’t want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn’t allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled — my mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.

Then, seeing as we were already on the topic of God’s will, the religious zealots finally brought up a subject which had clearly been on their minds for a long time: They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God’s will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me — I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow — I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.

It was clear to me that there was no way I was going to do that. The family was appalled. It was a weird situation. After all, these people were my only company at the time. If I hadn’t kept in touch with home through e-mail, I might have been sucked into that world.

It was only after four months that I decided to change my host family. I had kept hoping that things might improve, but it was futile. Telling them that I wanted to go was the most unpleasant moment I experienced in that half year. Of course they didn’t understand — how could they? They had grown up with their faith and were convinced of it, and then suddenly I turned up and refused to fit in.

From that moment on, I counted the days. The two months that followed my decision were hell. My host parents detested me. There were constant rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me. They didn’t know what to do with me any more.

67 days later, I was finally in a new family. They were young, actually more friends than host parents, and I was very happy there. Because my new family was only 50 kilometers away from the other one, I was distrustful at first and afraid that things wouldn’t be any better. But the change was worth it.

Despite everything, I still haven’t come to terms with my experience. I want to write to the religious family soon and explain to them, clearly and calmly, why things went so wrong. It shouldn’t just end this way.”


Ted Haggard’s Fall

I first came across Ted Haggard when he was interviewed by Barbara Walters on her prime-time special called Heaven.

He represented evangelical Christianity. And my first impression was that he did not represent evangelical Christianity very well. I did a bit of reading about him on the web. He has his own website here. He led a large mega church of 14,000 people in Colorado Springs called New Life Church. He was the president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. He was named by Time magazine in their list of 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

And, in a pattern all too familiar with highly visible Christian leaders in the United States, he participated in a terrible moral failing. When first confronted by the media he denied all allegations of any wrongdoing. New Life Church issued the following release yesterday:

The following is a statement released on Saturday by the New Life Church of Colorado Springs, Colorado, about the resignation of the Rev. Ted Haggard: We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard. Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.

This all started when a male prostitute named Mike Jones went public and claimed that he had been involved in monthly sexual encounters for money with Ted Haggard for three years. And the encounters included the use of drugs.

Haggard initially denied the allegations and he also denied any knowledge of the male prostitute. He then admitted that he knew the man. And that he had received a massage from the man and that he had bought methamphetamine but did not use it.

Haggard resigned from the National Association of Evangelicals and he has stepped down from his church. Great work, Ted.

CNN has all the details here.

Clint Brown

Jordon Cooper posted on the Clint Brown divorce in February of 2005 here. I had also posted on Clint Brown here, here and here.

We both continue to receive comments and flames from the post. In my case, much of the traffic on the post originates from Florida. The typical search string is “Clint Brown Divorce”.

Jordon has an update on this topic on his site today. And I admit to having mixed reactions to some of the comments that I have received.

Many of the comments, which come from disciples of Christ, are quite hateful. Other comments fall into the following lines of thought:

  • He is anointed therefore he deserves God’s blessings
  • Who are you to judge God’s anointed?
  • You do not know the man and you do not know his motives

Clint Brown did fight to prevent his divorce proceedings from becoming a matter of public record and for good reason. There is certainly some questionable behaviour in the court filings. You can read more about Clint Brown here.

Is living large an acceptable practice for church leaders?

And He Can Bench Press 3,000 Pounds

A friend of mine passed me an article about Pat Robertson. This one had nothing to do with money. It was about brute force.

Pat Robertson, the 76-year old host of the 700 Club, offers an age-defying protein shake. Almost free. You need to register if you want to download the magic recipe.
At the young age of around 73, Pat claims to have leg-pressed 2,000 pounds. How he accomplished this feat is explained here. Must watch out for age-defying protein shakes. They are really, really strong!

A lot of skeptics out there for some reason. Here and here for some examples.

Apparently, it is not uncommon for men to leg-press over 2,000 pounds as Wikipedia explains here. So perhaps Pat, the wunderkind senior citizen, did press that much weight.

What I really want to know is whether Superman can bench press 3,000 pounds on his age-defying protein shake.

Must be time for Pat to hang up his boots. What more media damage can he do?

Pat Robertson Leg Press

Big Ministry, Small House

I was looking at this site on tele-evangelist lifestyles. Most of the names were no surprise. There are a number of tele-evangelists who treat religion as a business and they spare no expense in ensuring that they live the “good life”.

One surprise though. James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago just bought a $2 million house. Not too bad for a kid born in London, Ontario.

I guess ministry work can pay really, really well. The attached is from chicagomag.com:

Farewell, Fitz
With a home””and a banking business””in Virginia, former senator Peter Fitzgerald sells his house here and says goodbye to Chicago

The former U.S. senator Peter Fitzgerald has sold his house in Inverness, severing his lifelong ties with that northwest suburb. He now lives with his wife, Nina, and their 13-year-old son, Jake, in McLean, Virginia, where he is busy investing in new banks””much as his father did years ago.

Letting go of the house “broke my heart,”? Fitzgerald says. “We just weren”™t using it enough anymore to justify the considerable expense of keeping it up.”?

Fitzgerald and his wife paid $452,500 for the place in 1994, when he was a state senator. It has a designer kitchen commissioned by the Fitzgeralds, a two-story family room, and five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The backyard has a pool and a multilevel series of decks overlooking a private lake.

Fitzgerald says that when he and his wife decided to sell the house last year, they did not state an asking price. Instead, their agent, Sheila Morgan of ReMax Unlimited Northwest, showed the property to five prospective buyers. James MacDonald, who is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows and who also delivers a weekly sermon on a Christian radio broadcast, offered $1.9 million””“My minimum,”? says Fitzgerald””and the deal closed this past October. “It”™s a very exciting house,”? says the Rev. MacDonald, “and it”™s even better in the backyard.”?

Purpose Driven

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback, is the author of The Purpose-Driven Life. His book, which was published by Zondervan on October 1, 2002, has sold more than 24 million English language copies as well as millions more in other languages.

As money came in from his book, Warren stopped taking an annual salary and repaid Saddleback for his 25 years of salary since its founding. He and his wife became reverse tithers, keeping 10 percent of their income and giving away the rest, including $13 million in 2004.

At his church last month, Warren reminded his congregation that life is not about having more and getting more, rather it’s about serving God and serving others.

This month, he is leading a trip to Rwanda, to train pastors and distribute medicine and money to battle AIDS and other diseases. It’s part of what he calls his global PEACE plan (Plant a church, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, Educate the next generation).

I went to Warren’s church last year and I was impressed with the focus on impacting the world. I still remember the message of that day. Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, shared his group’s efforts in liberating children around the world from slave labour and prostitution. You can learn more about Haugen’s work here.

Saddleback is located in one of the most affluent areas of the world. Somehow, Rick Warren has been able to encourage people to catch a vision and to use their money to achieve something greater than personal consumption. Whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes


My daughter has recently started blogging and, for me, it is a special treat to read about her thoughts on her journey through life. She is creative, thoughtful and wise beyond her years. I learn a lot from my daughter and I am very proud of her.

For better or worse, blogs are hosted on public access networks. And, unfortunately, some people will choose to make rude or hostile comments. And she received such a flame. I can relate to her reaction to the flame. I have received hundreds of them over the years.

I review all the comments that come in to this blog and I keep the comments open. I also publish an email address and I receive a surprising amount of email traffic from people who read this blog. And, for the most part, the interaction is usually very positive.

I do, however, actively moderate comments. There is always an annoying number of comments from spammers and, from time to time, a couple of rude, nasty and hostile comments. I do not publish spam. And rude, nasty and hostile communication is just another class of spam.

Without exception, all of the rude, nasty and hostile comments and emails that this blog has received to date has come from one source: evangelical Christians posting/emailing out of the United States. I sure do feel their love. I wonder what it would be like if I got on their bad side. But then again, they might be learning from this fellow.

iPod Theology

Pastor Sal Sberna leads the congregation of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. For whatever reason, the Associated Press carried a story on his recent sermon series on iPod Theology. Sberna hopes to increase his 4,000 member church to over 20,000. And part of his strategy is to appeal to a younger, professional audience.

His iPod Theology appears to be captured in the following excerpt from one of his sermons:

When I go to iTunes, I select all that I want. When I go to Jesus Christ, he gives me all that I need. It’s that simple… Why have you not bought one of these things? These are so cool. They cost a little bit of money, but they are worth the money. Let me tell you something about salvation, it’s free but it’s not cheap.

Deep. A theology that promotes the idea that life is all about what I want and need. It’s that simple.

I don’t think so.