Friday, March 2, 2007

How to Survive Discipline: Flirting with a Church Your Church Hates (Part 6)

The key to this method is to appear that you find the discipline process so upsetting that you are getting ready to make major life changes other than those the church desires. We are going back to the defense layout. First off, what I mean by "a church your church hates" is a church your church considers a non-Christian cult or "heretical" a fake church.... Evangelicals, for example, would "hate" Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Uniterians. Fundamentalist churches would "hate" Catholic churches and liberal churches, but then, for them almost anything works. For liberal churches (though I'm not sure how much discipline they actually do), cults and possibly hardcore fundamentalist churches. For Jehovah's Witnesses: evangelical churches, particularly those with an interest in missions to Jehovah's Witnesses. For cults" almost anything outside the cult works. In other cases, you can figure out who the right groups are pretty easily.

It's important to pick a church your church hates primarily because otherwise the pastors are likely to have friendly relations and see things the same way. If you make a minor change, like Orthodox Presbyterian to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, you'll have two pastors who work together or at least see eye to eye on most issues. The natural tendency is for them to work together to "resolve your problem". You need to go to a pastor with whom your own pastor would never consider cooperating.

Discipline serves three purposes.
  1. To try and bring the member to repentance for their sin
  2. To help the church by keeping it godly
  3. To serve as a witness to the world
Flirting with a church your church hates undermines the whole discipline process. It would be like getting a new live-in girlfriend a week before a separation. First off, you are demonstrating you have a direction to go if you are excommunicated. You are developing an alternate source of emotional support. The purpose of the discipline process is to induce crisis by isolating you. That can't happen if you are busy going through the process of joining a new church. Second, since your church hates the other church, they are going to view joining it as apostasy. Apostasy is seen as a very serious sin. Your pastor doesn't want to induce apostasy.

This also undermines your church. It identifies itself as being "better" than the hated church. What would happen if the hated church brings you to repentance where your original church had failed? This, by the way, is not uncommon. Discipline processes are frequently successful in a new church where they were or would have been dismal failures in the old church. The new church doesn't have psychological and political baggage to work through, so it can address problems directly.

Let's take an example. Jill is a 17-year-old girl and a Jehovah's Witness who gets pregnant. Jay, her steady boyfriend, will not admit to being the father because he's terrified of admitting to fornication. Jill does not want to alienate the father of her baby. She knows Jay is going to be part of her life for years to come and "turning him in" would be destructive. She refuses to name the father and she hopes he comes forward when the baby is born.
Jill's pastor wants Jay confronted and says that Jill has not fully repented since she is still covering up details. He starts a disciplinary process to excommunicate Jill for unrepentant fornication since he can't prove anything regarding Jay until Jill cracks. Jill is miserable, so she starts going to the Catholic church. She also gives a full confession to the priest (who is bound by an oath not to talk). As the elders confront her, Jill bursts into tears and talks about how she can't find any solace in Kingdom Hall anymore and she goes to Our Lady of Chastity for peace. She tells them she made a full confession to Father Brown, and when asked why she talked to him, she responds that she just doesn't feel comfortable anymore talking to any of her elders because of the pressure. She makes sure to leave a brochure for Good Counsel Homes (Catholic Crisis pregnancy home) in her room and in plain sight. She also takes to carrying a rosary. Pretty soon everyone comes to believe she is cracking and the pressure disappears.

Notice that Jill never threatens and she seems emotional. She not rationally choosing to leave the Witnesses. She's just having trouble dealing all the pressure. She would like to stay part of the JW but she might fall away if they keep it up. She talks about how people aren't really listening, how they are just all she is looking for are people who really care about hurt she is by all the the only time she can talk to Jesus anymore is when she has the peace and love of (hated church). She's just too upset to even try and pray in her current church.

There is one major downside to this method. If it doesn't work, it can speed up an excommunication. However, it's one of the few methods for staying in a church where submission is impossible. It also has the nice effect of starting the separation process in advance, thus making the separation, if it happens, less painful. Moreover, you may find yourself much happier with a type of congregation you never would have considered. It might be that you don't want to be a member of SPPV but really want to be a liberal Protestant, or don't want to be fundamentalist Independent Baptist and really do like the Jehovah's Witnesses more.


Heretic said...

Again I will ask what is your religious preference?

How does what you suggest meet biblical guidelines at all? Revenge?

CD-Host said...

In this blog I'm trying to keep the focus off me. I'm not arguing my own beliefs I'm trying to help people develop a plan of action consistent with their beliefs. That is to keep the focus on people going through this, to present them with a list of options and their plusses and minuses (see decide on a goal)

Obviously the flirting method isn't appropriate for someone who has a particular and strong belief. But not everyone has those beliefs. Some people are churches for the social aspects. Some people are at strict churches because they believe in conservative values but don't have strong theological or doctrinal positions. For them fundamentalist baptist, Mormon or Jehovah's witnesses all play the same role. Some people may have those values but can't participate in the disciplinary process because the consequences are too great, like Jill from our example.

What is "biblical" or not depends a great deal on your hermeneutic. Your hermeneutic depends on your theology and this method is for the theologically flexible, or at the very least people who want to kill the disciplinary process.

You take a position that excommunication isn't a big deal
I am not trying to justify myself nor my actions before men, because I don't feel the need.... In the end whether I am personally exonerated or not before men doesn't matter. Because God's not after my glory. He's after His. I stand justified by faith in Christ, and my hope is in Him alone.. Not everyone agrees with that core position. This blog doesn't even attempt to address whats the "right" position it merely tries to help people actualize their own positions and work through any internal conflicts.

Hope that answer your question.

providing you do

Heretic said...

I've not taken the position that church discipline is not a big deal. My position is that my justification is not dependent upon it when it is done in error.

In error meaning that the disciplinary action is the direct result of differences of opinion and not the clear evidence of transgression.

My statements were not meant to make light of discipline, as I believe (even walking through it) that it is a necessary part of church life.

But I also believe it should be done correctly. Often times, we as a church don't discipline folks when they need it, and do when they don't.

We don't understand power and authority - as a people.

This blog seems to be a dangerous place. Because church discipline hits the deepest parts of the human physche. Those involved are many times wounded, and wounded people wound people.

Maybe they were wounded before the discipline process, maybe during? But folks like that don't need to be comforted and told to do what's best for their (comfort). They need to humble themselves before the Lord and embrace whatever it is the Lord is trying to do in their lives no matter how painful it might be.

Because men will fail, but God is ever loving - His mercies are new every morning. He is slow to anger, and rich in love. His love covers a multitude of sins. Sins that will be cast as far away as the east is from the west.

It seems strange to me to encourage those involved in the discipline process to seek self-justification, and possibly lead them into further error than what did (or did not) get them into the discipline in the first place.

After all, he who hates correction is stupid.

CD-Host said...

I think Jonah proves pretty effectively that the Lord can get people to do what he wants. I'm not concerned with God's ability to accomplish his ends, he doesn't need my help nor is my hindrance of any consequence to him. So lets leave God out of it.

Sometimes discipline is being done to address transgressions. Sometimes its done to maintain hierarchy. Sometimes discipline is done for moral correction. Other times its done to encourage immoral behavior. Sometimes discipline is being handled properly and will result in improvement in the recipient's life. Other-times its being handled stupidly and will be remarkably damaging.

I don't tell people what their goals should be. I only teach them how to come to a resolution as to what they should be and how to accomplish those goals. This blog is a dangerous place. It teaches people to make moral choices and to understand consequences of their actions. On this blog if you take a series of steps whose likely consequences are X you are attempting to cause X to occur.

So what's is your advice for Jill. How should Jill have handled her situation? Or better yet Sam from part 5. What should he do?

Heretic said...

My advice to Jill?

Well, it would be to fall on the rock and be broken. To repent and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus who offers forgiveness and atonement for sins.

I would not offer her any advice per se, because Jehovah Witness is not Christian. (I know you'll probably take issue with this statement.)

Sinners sin. That's what they are expected to do. What have I to do to judge them who are without the Body of Christ?

If Jill came to me for advice, my advice would be to seek the Truth. If asked, I would tell her the truth. And finally I would allow the Holy Spirit to convict her of her sins - so that she might find peace and forgiveness.

Heretic said...

As for Sam -

He should be excommunicated. First for adultery, then for lying.

I'm done conversing here after reading Part 5.


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Anonymous said...

Cd-host said "I think Jonah proves pretty effectively that the Lord can get people to do what he wants. I'm not concerned with God's ability to accomplish his ends, he doesn't need my help nor is my hindrance of any consequence to him. So lets leave God out of it."

There is no excusing either God or his word from issues in the church - the church exists for God and his glory. The Bible is very clear on the establishment of the church, its leadership, its role, and its benefit to its members. The church is described as "the body" with "Christ as its head". The relationship cannot be more clear.

CD-Host said...

Anonymous --

It is so clear that every single denomination has a different theology and practice of the church?