Trying The Churches
I rite your blog post Mommy
The Drinking Game (So Far):
1. I agree with something Doug says
2. Doug tells an outrageous story that sounds incredibly unrealistic
3. When the timeline jumps around in ways that don’t make sense
4. Doug runs away from home
5. Doug gets dragged back or comes back of his own accord
6. Doug (thinks he’s) messing with the occult.
7. Doug shoehorns in paragraphs of theological stuff
After his conversion experience, Doug goes church shopping. For now he is keeping his denominational loyalties open.
He goes to what is sort of a home church with a guy who encourages them all to also attend the Pentecostal church he’s part of.
I did visit his church, and several others too. Some of them were charismatic, and the members spoke in tongues. I attended a place called the Faith Center, and also studied with the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I found that most churches taught that theirs was the true church and others were all wrong.
Kinda like Adventists.
Here we see Doug, again, demonstrating that he thinks in black and white. When he finds out that every church teaches that they are right and others wrong, he starts to wonder which one is right. He does not start thinking that it is very frustrating that they all claim to have the truth, because in reality every church has different versions of the truth and nobody has all the truth.
Here is Doug, trying to find the “one true church.” And he’s not so much looking for a needle in a haystack as he is looking for a very specific strand of hay in a haystack. And now I have a mental image of shoving Doug into a haystack.
One pastor said “unless you speak in tongues, you don’t have the baptism of the holy spirit.
(DRINK!) Doug talks about the gift of tongues and what SDAs believe it is; that it is being gifted with the ability to speak a foreign language you hadn’t studied, rather than speaking random gibberish. So, if I were to suddenly start speaking fluent Japanese* I would be receiving the gift of tongues. If I were to start speaking random gibberish like some churches do, Adventists believe that I would need to be carted off to the nearest mental hospital.
Unless I was around a group of particularly conservative folk on the fringes of Adventism, in which case, I’d be subjected to an exorcism.
I felt frustrated with all the disagreements Christians had among themselves, and at the way they sometimes acted so unchristian toward each another(sic). I couldn’t understand it. Didn’t the Bible say, “one hope, one faith, one baptism? Surely somewhere out there God had a true church, but which one was it? I went back to the mountains to study and pray for guidance.
So, because all the churches argue and fight with each other, Doug assumes one of them has to be right. What’s his reason for assuming all of this? Why doesn’t he assume that each one of them has a bit of the truth, and they’re all wrong about something?
Yes the bible says “one faith.” And back in bible times, it was probably true.** And in a sense, it is still true. Regardless of what all those denominations believe about the little things, they all agree on a few basics: Jesus died for us to save us from sin, Jesus loves us, and Jesus is coming back for us someday. Really, that’s it: basic Christianity. In that sense, then yes, there is one faith.
Why does Doug not assume that this is what the Bible is referring to?
Like Doug, I struggle with black and white thinking. I struggle with this partly because of environment and partly because I have Borderline Personality Disorder.
I’m not trying to say anything about Doug’s mental status. I don’t know enough to comment on that (nor am I a professional.) I’m just throwing it out there that black and white thinking is considered, by psychologists, to be a sign of…something.
Doug prays that God will help him find the true church, one that “uses just the bible.”
So, then, why did Doug become an Adventist? Yes, they say they don’t use EGW’s writings as a second bible, but….
Anyway, Doug tells his friend, Glen, about his frustrations.
Glen didn’t say much. he seemed to be going through some internal conflict.
I already spoiled for you that Glen is XSDA. I don’t know Glen’s story, but it seems that, even though Glen isn’t in the Church, he still believes everything they teach. Which begs the question: why did he leave? There exists a small group of people who leave the SDA church even though they still believe all it teaches. It has been said that these people are the saddest, because they still believe in all the rules, but feel, for whatever reason, that they can’t follow them. Or that they can’t return, for whatever reason. I wonder what Glen’s reasons were? I had my own reasons for being like this, but that’s another blog post entirely.
I wonder if Doug wanted to explain Glen a little bit, but Glen asked Doug not to include his story in the book. That’s a generous explanation, the real answer, probably, is that this is Doug’s testimony, not Glen’s, and it’s all supposed to be about Doug. Besides, the only reason people leave SDA churches is because they’re not converted, duh.
A few days later I was lying on my hammock reading when Glen showed up again. He handed me a book.”
“What’ this?” I asked…. the title said The Great Controversy.
“Read it,” he said simply.
“But what is it?” I asked.
“Read it,” he said again. He was always a man of few words.
Doug doth protest too much, methinks. If someone handed me a book and said, “read it,” I’d say. “Ok.” I’m the type of person who will read anything. Or, parts of anything, at least, before I decide that what I’m reading is too stupid.
Glen tells Doug this book will answer all his questions. I admit that it has been a while since I read the book, but I would think that there’s a better EGW book for him to start with. I personally enjoyed sharing Desire of Ages, which is all about the life of Christ. When I was a canvasser, I figured I’d rather bring someone to Christ than to Crazy.
After Glen left I checked out the book more carefully. It had 678 pages, and I had never read a book even half that big in my entire life!
Doug just told us he’s read most of the Bible, so I call Bullshit.
Doug figures that, with a significant lack of reading material, it couldn’t hurt to give the book a few pages, so he starts with chapter 1. Admittedly, the first few chapters and the last few chapters are the most interesting. It’s the middle of the book that’s godawful. Of course, maybe I just think the middle of the book is boring because I’ve heard it talked about in school all my fucking life.
Doug tells us he has trouble with the antiquated language because of his limited education. *I* had trouble with the antiquated language, and I went to all my classes.
Wow! I thought. Whoever wrote this book speaks with authority!
Yes, but who’s?
Scripture references were sprinkled generously throughout, and the narrative came alive as the words flowed.
These are two contradictory statements.
“Who wrote this, anyway?” I asked an hour or two later. I turned to the cover and read the author’s name: “Ellen G White.”
This is a lie. This is a lie I would expect Adult!Doug looking back on this to know to be a lie. The Great Controversy is heavily plagiarized. I’ve seen an edition where credit is actually given to the real writers, and nearly every paragraph is cited.
“Next to the Bible, this is the most interesting thing I’ve read in my life,” I thought.
Wow, poor Doug. No one ever exposed him to any good reading material. Drink, because I feel a moment of pity for him.
The next time Doug sees Glen, he asks who Ellen White is.
“Well, some people believe her to be inspired.”
“That’s what I thought,” I said. “It’s obvious that God was speaking through her. I’d like to meet her and talk to her sometime.”
“You’re a little late.” Glen smiled faintly. “she died in 1915.”
So, a couple of things. First, Glen says “some people.” He doesn’t say, “she is inspired” or “I believe he is inspired.” What does Glen believe about Ellen White?
Second, Glen is speaking Adventist. Another Adventist will know what the word “inspired” means, but in this context, anon SDA would just be confused. “Inspired by what?” they might ask. “Inspired by God,” the SDA might reply. “Ok,” says the heathen, “but what does that mean exactly?”
It would make more sense to say that “Some believe Ellen White was a prophet who could talk directly to God.”
Third, Doug wants to meet Ellen White. This, to me, reads as though Doug is used to just being able to meet up with authors and talk to them. This makes sense in our world, but was that really so common in the 1970s?
Either Doug is used to being well connected, or this is him looking back trying to shoehorn in that EGW has been dead, at this point, for over 50 years.
As Doug keeps reading GC, he finds that the Bible makes sense. Before, he was having some trouble understanding it, but Ellen White makes it all so clear. Now he learns about the Sabbath, state of the dead, etc.
I suppose the only reason he doesn’t think this book is better than Star Wars is because the events in this book predate it.
Several weeks later, Doug comes to the final paragraph about Heaven and how awesome it will be. Doug is ecstatic about not only the ending, but about having finished such a long book. (Drink!) I agree, being able to finish The Great Controversy is an impressive accomplishment.
Afterwards, Glen gives him The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, Patriarchs and Prophets, and Daniel and the Revelation. I’ve read Steps to Christ, I guess, or at least I must have because I have the entire thing underlined but I don’t remember actually reading it. I’ve read DoA and GC, but haven’t read the other two books.
I’ll have to dig up the list of EGW books I’ve read….
Enough about me. These posts are supposed to be about Doug.
Doug gets into an argument with a minister over whether or not they should keep the seventh day Sabbath. The minister tells him they don’t have a commandment to observe Sunday, they just have tradition.
But I didn’t want tradition…. I wanted Bible authority for such a change. (Mark 7:9)
The next preacher was most creative of them all. He explained it this way: “Back in the days of Joshua, when the sun stood still, and in the days of Hezekiah, when God turned the shadow back ten degrees, we lost a day, and Saturday became Sunday.”
This does pose an interesting problem regarding the Biblical story of Hezekiah, and how such a thing would affect our concept of time. Did we just have a really long Monday, or have we been on Tuesday for the last 4 hours? I have read that, back in Bible times, a day was from sunrise to sunset. So I’m going to guess that, at least in the minds of the people, they all just had a really long Monday. Sucks to be them!
Doug then points out that Jesus clearly kept the 7th day, to which the minister doesn’t have an answer.
We get another few paragraphs about the Sabbath. Finally he asks Glen, who tells him about the Seventh Day Adventist church. He then has to explain what the word Adventist means.
Aloud, I said, “how come you know so much about this stuff?”
Glen seemed a little embarrassed. “I grew up with the Bible and those books, and I attended the church ever since I was born. ”
“Do you mean you know all this stuff, but you don’t do anything about it?” I asked in amazement. “That’s incredible.” I thought of all the times we’d smoked and drank together. I couldn’t understand how anyone could know all about God and his marvelous love and sacrifice for man, and yet seem to ignore it.
I can, so let me speak. Even when I believed in God, I was not always a Christian. Why? Because the God of the Bible isn’t really all that loving, especially in the Old Testament. He was just such an asshole all throughout the Bible. Even in the new testament he tells women to be submissive to their husbands (Titus 2), among other things. I also heard a lot about a “loving” God, and had tried desperately to find evidence that he loved me, but I couldn’t find any. All I found was evidence that God, at best, just didn’t care.
God, from my perspective, was an asshole.
And I tried, I really tried to see things differently.
I can’t speak for Glen. Perhaps he doesn’t feel this way at all at this point, but it wouldn’t be an unreasonable assumption.
In any case, Doug wants to go to church and tries to get Glen to go with him. Glen refuses.
“Well, I don’t know, Doug. I don’t think I’m ready for that. You go ahead and go, and then you tell me about it.”
Glen didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm, because he knew what I was about to experience.
So do I, and I feel a tiny twinge of pity for Young!Doug. He has this image in his head of a bunch of smiley, happy people. To be fair, I have been to Adventist churches where the people are extremely non judgemental, go out of their way to be nice to people who don’t fit inside their narrow beliefs, and genuinely seem to care. But those churches are the minority. I can count the number I’ve been to on one hand and still have fingers left over.
….I found a grand, modern edifice in a prosperous neighborhood. The parking lot was filled mostly with luxury cars. The red carpet felt plush under my feet. All the men wore fine suits, and the women wore expensive looking dresses and fancy hairdos. I hadn’t read anything about how Christians should dress, and suddenly I felt very out of place. Heads turned in my direction… a man shook hands with me at the door and said, “I’m glad you’re here.” but it seemed to me that he was acting. I had been around show business all my life, and I could tell when someone was acting.
Oh Doug, it doesn’t take being around show business to know when someone is acting. It takes someone with half a brain.
An interesting program was in progress and I enjoyed the mission story.
This is a lie. Nobody enjoys mission stories, except those presenting them. Everyone else is quietly reading their quarterlies, wondering when it will be over.
When the time arrived to discuss the Sabbath School lesson, I wandered with the others down the hall to a room where chairs were arranged in a large circle. No one spoke to me, though some did give me a genuine smile. I sat down, and others found seats too, but though the room was full, the chairs on either side of me were empty.
Did Doug bathe before coming to church? I mean, this is kind of understandable if he smells bad. Earlier he told us he wore his “grubby” overalls.
The subject of the SS lesson is Daniel 9 and the 490 day prophecy. Doug is excited, because this is the very thing he has been studying as of late. When the SS teacher asks questions, Doug is the only one willing to answer, though hesitant. I’m not sure if the other students honestly don’t remember when the 490 day prophecy began, or if they are all just the typical shy SS students.
I felt a little disappointed at that first Sabbath, mostly because of the lack of warmth and fellowship. The other churches had been so friendly, had even vied for my favor. I couldn’t help but wonder if the people at the SDA church would’ve had the same attitude if they’d known my father was a millionaire. Maybe I had expected too much.
Spoiler alert: If they’d known who his father was, Doug would have had a much warmer reception.
I visited the church a few more times, but I never seemed to fit in, so I kept Sabbath the best I knew how on Saturday and went to church on Sunday for Christian fellowship.
My faith increased….. I often talked to a friend named Doug… He played guitar and I played the flute, and we would panhandle (beg for money) together on the street… One day we were in town playing our instruments for money, but nobody had stopped, and nobody had given us any money, so we started talking. Soon the conversation turned to religion again.
I love how Doug feels we need an explanation of the word “panhandle.”
“Well I believe in God,” Doug said. “But I don’t believe in Jesus.”
Does Not!DougBatchelor mean that he believes in God, but not the Christian God, or is he meant to be Jewish?
“I can prove that there’s a Jesus,” I said confidently.
No you can’t, Doug. People have been trying for ages.
“Oh yeah, how?” He asked skeptically.
“How much money do we need right now?” I asked.
“Well, it would be nice if we got a couple of dollars a piece, then we could go out to eat,” he said.
“All right,” I said, “I’m going to pray right now to Jesus, and we’re going to get $4.***”
Because Jesus is a cosmic vending machine! Pray hard enough and he’ll give you money for food. Wow! I’d better rush out and tell the entire homeless population of Mytown right away!
Doug and Doug begin to play their instruments, and soon a lady comes along. Our!Doug asks for spare change.
“Well,” she thought quietly for a moment, “normally I don’t do this sort of thing, but today is my son’s birthday, and he’s about your age.” She dug into her purse and pulled out some money. “Will $4 help?” She asked….
As she walked away she must have wondered why my friend was staring in blank shock with his mouth open. Before long, he, too, had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.
And then immediately rejected him when he found out that Jesus Christ is not a fucking vending machine, you douche.
I’ve heard some criticize this experiment because it isn’t testable or repeatable. Well, you could repeat it, but you wouldn’t get the same results every time.
Because God is not a vending machine.
*I can swear fluently in Japanese, but that doesn’t count. (Not really, I don’t actually know any Japanese swear words, but I’m sure I will by the time S is done indoctrinating me into the cult of anime.)
**I’ve read somewhere that, even then, this was not the case, but I don’t have a source, so I can’t be sure.
***My handy dandy inflation calculator tells us that, back in 1973, $4 was roughly the equivalent of $22 of today’s money.