Moving away from fundamental Christianity

Yup, I am no longer a Christian fundamentalist. I no longer believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, or for that matter even inspired by a God. I wrestled with my faith after 30 years of holding it tight. Too many things made no sense.

In the beginning, questioning triggered night terrors: was I forsaking God, and was he therefore forsaking me? I visited a psychologist to help me get through, and I began researching the historical jesus, and the beginnings of Christianity. As a Christian I only read books to support my faith, and defend it. Now I was curious about the evidence on the other side.

What most set me free from a biblical mindset were the teachings of Bart Ehrman, professor of the New Testament at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Ehrman attended seminary to become a teacher of “God’s word,” but after examining the historical Jesus, the origins of Christianity, and the origins of the Bible, he became un-converted. I wanted to learn what he learned that changed his mind, that caused his paradigm shift.
My questions were answered by reading Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why, and listening to The Historical Jesus, a class Ehrman teaches through the Great Courses. Like, do you know the gospels were not written by Jesus’s disciples? They were written 30–70 years after his death. Nobody really knows who wrote them. The names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were ascribed to them decades after they were written.
Ehrman points out errors in the gospels progression, like how Jesus became the “son of God” after baptism by John the Baptist in the gospel of Mark (scribed about 30 years after death), to “the son of God” in the womb in the gospel of John (scribed about 70 years after his death). And how in Mark Jesus had passover with his disciples before his death, but in John he died during the Passover, signifying that he was the sacrificial lamb of God. Ehrman’s study and writings opened my mind and liberated me from the ancient dogma of the Christian faith, and once again, the fear of hell.

 

Sarah Green

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 10.38.25 AMThirty-five years ago in my mind Sarah and Joshua Green were the lucky ones. I mean, what applied to my and other’s children didn’t always apply to them. They had hamsters, dogs, Josh had model cars, model airplanes, and Sarah collected antiques. Steve made our kids throw their fun into the garbage: Nathan his legos, Ruth her doll, Simon his guitar. Plus Sarah and Josh got away with doing things the other kids couldn’t.

But today I look back, and I realize I was wrong. They suffered immensely. Joshua because he could never break free of his mom and dad’s will, their grip, their claim on his life for their “army.” It was all he knew. If he left, where would he go, what would he do? Sarah because she had her own mind, her own dreams apart from what her mom and dad planned for her. I remember the first time she ran away as Jim and Lila prepared to leave for the Philippines. They had to cancel their flight, and after finding her the next day, they rebooked their flights, and they took her with them, and when they returned they left her there for five long months. They were going to teach her a lesson.

I can only speculate why Jim and Deborah arranged for Sarah to marry Mike Brandon, then Peter Royce, now Peter Green, when she was 17 years old. Mike was a favorite of the Green’s, a diehard believer (as into her as my ex) that Deborah received daily “words of the spirit” from God.  And Peter’s family not only supported their son’s choice “to serve god,” they also financially gave to the “ministry.” So it was a win-win for Sarah to Mary Peter, plus it would keep Sarah put, at lest for awhile.

(This was Peter’s second marriage within ACMTC. His first wife, Mary Royce, apparently didn’t buy all the way in. Deborah told Peter to drive her to Reno, and to drop her off somewhere on the side of the road. She was several months pregnant. Former members say Deborah despised Mary, declaring her evil, and ordered Peter to drive to her to Reno to get rid of her.)

Sarah and Mike had two boys, plus Sarah cared for M.G. (who landed Deborah in prison on charges of mental, physical, and sexual child abuse) as her own. Sarah loved M.G. I can only imagine the conflict she endured as she watched the very fabric of her life being torn. She loved those babies, but because of her parent’s psychotic claim on her life, and now on the lives of her children, she knew that if she left, she couldn’t take her babies. Peter and her mom and dad would not have it. They’d stand in her way, block her from going out the gate.  So on the most difficult day of her life, Sarah ran away, leaving her children behind, hitchhiking from New Mexico to Washington where a former ACMTC member lived, staying in homeless shelters along the way. She would later return to N.M. to try to get her kids, but to no avail.

Last month I was anxious to see Sarah again. I knew she was also subpoenaed to Deborah’s trial. I’d tried in vain over the years to find her. She was 12 years old last I saw her, and now she’s 46. Was she angry with me for exposing her mom and dad, and all the trouble I’ve caused them? Was she really going to testify AGAINST her mother?

I met her as we being escorted to the courthouse in a car. “Okay, let’s do this, she said, “I love my mombut she’s crazy.” And on our last night in NM, on the day she gave testimony against her mother, she said, “I felt absolutely no emotion seeing her. She’s like an empty shell.” 

I gave her a card with a painting of a cactus on the front, with the inscription, I’m sorry I’m such a prick. I told her I was sorry for all the pain and heartache she’s suffered over the years, and sorry if I added to it by my lawsuit and all that occurred after.

Tears fell down her beautiful face and she flung her arms around me, holding me tight. “My mother’s a monster,” she said,  “All the shame I felt, leaving my babies. I had to escape, I just had to, and there’s no way I could have taken my babies with.”

“Those memories will never go away”, I said, “but the shame, the blame, the guilt: those don’t belong to you, they belong to Deborah. 

In the end she gave me something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Holding me tight she says to me, “thank you for paving the way.” 

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 9.03.18 AMBack row: Deborah, Jim, Joshua, Peter (behind Filipino man), and Sarah (Circa 1983). Peter was about 10 years older than Sarah, and he currently awaits trial for 100 counts of child rape. 

IMG_2715                                                      Sarah and my son Nate, reunited after 20 years.   

IMG_2717                                                                Julie and Sarah.

So Sarah left ACMTC running, and she hasn’t stopped. Today at age 46 she’s a triathlete. She’s run 27 marathons, and says it’s how she copes with her past.

being positive

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Leaving the Fold

An outstanding book for anyone questioning or leaving their faith.

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This book by psychologist Marlene Winell provides valuable insights into the dangers of religious indoctrination and outlines what therapists and victims can do to reclaim a healthier human spirit…. Both former believers searching for a new beginning and those just starting to subject their faith to the requirements of simple common sense, if not analytical reason, may find valuable assistance in these pages.”

Steve Allen, author and entertainer

becoming aware is a process

keynote templete.001Becoming aware is a process. It starts with letting our questions in, with opening wide the doors that someone else has shut inside our minds, then greeting with openness the things on the other side. We step outside, we take in some fresh air, and we learn to be free a little.

It works wonders. Stepping out gives clairty with new, fresh perspectives.

It’s not that hard, nobody but you and the God you believe in need know, and if the divine source of life is love, then what’s the problem with questioning what we believe?

There’s no fault in that. The fault is in fear. Fear is what binds, what blinds, and there is no love in fear.

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Freedom of Mind: book

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Another book by Steven HassanAvailable through Amazon Prime:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.24.07 AMJust now purchased this on my kindle (along with a lot of other books). If it’s anything like another book of Hassan’s I’ve read, Releasing the Bonds, then it’s going to be good.

 

Heaven and Hell

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I love this story by Pema Chödrön

“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.” The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.”

Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving Kindness

it starts with the mind

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becoming authentic can be painful

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keynote-templete.00181Nothing’s much harder to pull out of than being physically or mentally stuck, especially if both are working together as one.

Never let someone claiming authority from God do all your thinking and discerning for you. Stop and listen to your own voice. Smell the roses. Let your mind and your awareness work for you. This empowers you to dispel someone else’s myth, someone else’s crazy beliefs.

I think we have to be quiet and really listen, and we have to let our questions in, and let our mind and heart go to work. I’m telling you—a welcomed paradigm shift can occur!

It’s like stepping out of a box you’ve been living in for a long time. It gives clairty. For me, observing the obvious, the uncomfortable, the less than good parts of myself or my life enables me and motivates me to do the work of change. We can’t fix what we don’t see, and we have to create our own happiness.

I think what it really boils down to is that we have to really want the truth, regardless of any pain attached. We have to really yearn for happiness and an authentic life.

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asking questions opens doors

Love this quote by Dsogchen Ponlop

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