My Letter of Resignation from the Professing Religion
When I left meetings, I wrote a letter explaining to my family why I was leaving. I decided to post it here because I hope anyone who is experiencing the difficulties of leaving the church, or knows someone who is, might find something in there helpful. The names have been changed to prevent this being perceived as slanderous. It is also important to note that this letter does not represent my current religious beliefs, but I decided to leave it as it is since it accurately represents my breaking point from the 2×2 religion.
Background: I was raised professing, professed at 6 years old and drank the Koolaid to the max. I remember as a child I was very committed to learning to read specifically because I wanted to profess and was told I had to know how to read my Bible. I drank the Koolaid just fine until about age 12 or 13 when I started to develop critical thinking skills and I’d hear things in meeting that I didn’t like, or I’d hear professing people do or say things that didn’t sit right.
I was in a very dark place when I was 13 and 14 years old because I started to think that Satan was tempting me by “sowing seeds of doubt” but when I would pray, I got no answers. Other professing people would talk about God speaking to them, and God never spoke to me when I prayed. I thought God had abandoned me and the only reason I am alive today is because I was too afraid of hell to kill myself. Over the course of my teenage years I continued to doubt but my mental health began to improve as I found hobbies and interests and jobs to keep me busy, even more so after I moved out from home. It took me several years of regularly attending meetings and taking part, all the while not believing in any of it, before I finally quit professing cold turkey at 20 years old and sent a letter to some close family members essentially denouncing the church.
In this letter I make regular mention to a situation involving a professing person we’ll call Josh, who is married to a born and raised professing woman we’ll call Susan. Several years prior, Josh had lost his career after being investigated for felony fraud, but he continued to remain in the professing community and was allowed to continue participating. Years later, it was discovered that Josh had been having an affair with a girl in her late teens. Josh had teenage daughters who were the ones who discovered the affair, who we’ll call Sara and Mary. When the affair was discovered, the workers made efforts to keep it from becoming public and treated the daughters like they were the enemies. They basically said they were not allowed to tell anyone about the affair because it would “damage his testimony” and they were essentially told to submit to his authority as the father and keep their mouths shut, or else.
I engaged in a heated exchange with a young female worker we’ll call Martha who was “assigned the case” if you will. The older sister worker of the pair who we’ll call Julie was someone my family had long history with, and she at one time actually broke up a relationship I had with Sara and caused us to be apart for over a year before we were allowed to date again. (No sexual conduct had occurred or anything, simply forbidden to date due to us not being “old enough to date”.)
Basically, my understanding is that Julie gave the task of keeping the affair a secret to Martha as a training opportunity, which was offensive to me. It was treated like a lioness letting her cub kill the crippled prey, and I felt incredibly disrespected. I was unhappy with the conversations with the younger worker so I waited until convention and went to the overseer, who we’ll call Ed. He basically told me that if they allow the affair to be discovered they risk losing a professing house, but if the teenage daughters quit coming to meeting its no significant loss to the church.
I told him the girls need to be able to talk to people for their emotional health, and he pretty much said they can pray to God for peace if they’re troubled. I then moved to a different town and I thought the “friends” there were a nice group and genuinely good people, which I still believe about most of them.
Because I was separated from the family drama and able to go to a meeting somewhere else, I stayed professing for a few more years but I had already decided the workers were frauds and the church was corrupt. I skipped a year of conventions but I went to one last convention, and while there I decided I was going to quit. It took me a year to do, but once I hit send, I quit cold turkey and haven’t looked back since. I have come a long way since writing this letter and my current religious beliefs have continued to trend in a more open-minded way, but this letter represents the breaking point when I finally had the confidence to kiss the 2×2 religion goodbye and walk out into the unknown.
Major disclaimer, in this letter I refer to “the gays” and “sin” together only because in my experience it was very common to hear homophobic statements from workers and elders. I am not and have never been homophobic, I only referenced being gay as being a sin because that’s the professing doctrine I was challenging.
Here is the letter:
“I started writing this letter the day I got home from convention last year. I have added and edited sections often since then, but the content of this letter is an accurate representation of my current standpoint, and I feel confident that the statements made are not swayed by emotion. I know that two of my siblings are aware to some degree that I was undergoing some instability during convention. I want to briefly sum up the history of my doubts and concerns.
I was about 13 when I started being able to see behavior patterns in the church that were inconsistent with the Bible. People acting like chickens picking at something red. People who would get all worked up over teenage kids doing teenage stuff, or Bethany not putting Stephanie’s hair up for meeting, or so and so wearing jeans. Maybe I took it too seriously but to me it felt like people were looking for an excuse to flaunt disgust and hate for things that Jesus didn’t even care about. I felt disappointed to realize that there was corruption in the way that I had been naive about. I never really doubted that professing was God’s way, I just mentally submitted to the “don’t judge your brother” protocol, but I couldn’t overlook the unChristlike spirits that plagued the church.
I never doubted that professing was God’s one and only way until the convention following my experiences with the aftermath of Josh’s affair. I was highly unsettled until after I talked to the overseer, Ed, at convention, nearly 6 months after the affair. Everything Ed said was disappointing to me, but I felt resolved that I wasn’t going to fix the issue, and that the issue was much larger than I ever realized. It went from being “there’s a problem that needs to be fixed” to being “there’s a problem that won’t be fixed.” (When I refer to “the problem” I’m not referring to Josh still being allowed in meetings. I’m referring to the sweeping things under the rug and attacking Sara and Mary, labeling them the primary troublemakers in the scenario and viciously defending a false reputation.)
Once again, I felt that feeling of disappointment when you realize you’ve been naive. Since that point, I have had no interest in fixing Josh, or fixing Martha, but rather finding out how to cope with the disregard for morals and truth in the church. I’ve been torn ever since with wanting to turn my back on evil and walk away, and also not wanting to disregard the good people in meetings. I felt drawn to continue attending meetings due to the small scale edification from several of the Godly people there, but also feeling to need to address the larger scale issues that are mentioned in this letter. I chose to wait until I could make a calm, rational decision without emotions involved, and I feel that I am at a point now that I can do so.
Some traditions and doctrines of professing have been increasingly obvious and troubling to me. I choose to bring these issues up because after noticing them more and more over several years, and praying and reading scripture for answers, I still find biblical and ethical inspiration to reject certain doctrines. I do not ask or expect that you agree with my beliefs, but I sincerely hope that this letter allows for a clearer understanding of my path in life. I realize that this letter may sound angry, but please understand that I do not write out of anger or hate, but out of sincere desire to understand what it truly means to be a righteous man and a follower of Christ.
The Bible is a history book. In it, we see the rise and fall of the Mosaic law, and the Jewish religion. We also see the rise, and beginning of the fall of Christianity. By the book of Revelation, Christ already had words of warning for the people who gathered in his name. Jesus came to bring a conclusion to a religion steeped in dogmatic religious traditions, and very shortly after his death, the followers of Jesus began to worship Jesus with a new religion based on dogmatic religious traditions. Not long after the Bible’s end, the religion of Christianity had fallen to a level rivaling the Pharisees from which it broke from.
Today, cultural Christianity is a religion of mindless traditions, and constant bickering over the balance point between upholding a moral standard and trusting in the grace of God to forgive our sins. In an apples to apples comparison, Professing is a lot better than most churches, but that doesn’t mean we’re like Jesus just because our traditions and rituals are better than theirs. If we compare our way to the world, we’re pretty good, but from my perspective there are instances where we fall short from the religion that Jesus intended to establish.
A very common false belief among Christians is that the grace and forgiveness of God removes all accountability for our actions, and exempts us from the responsibility of making reparations to those who have been affected by our wrongdoing. To hear that doctrine applied to life by workers is disheartening, as that is not a belief that a decent human can have in their heart. It creates people like Josh Duggar and Josh Smith. We don’t get a “get out of jail free card” cuz we pray to the “professing God.” I think God holds us to an even higher standard than he holds the ignorant.
I don’t believe that God will endlessly pardon the sins of a “professing man” and then punish the sins of the Baptists with eternal torture, simply because the professing man asks forgiveness from the right God. Our self-proclaimed “enlightenment” should make us feel more responsible for our actions, not exempt from God’s standards. If God forgives professing people who cheat on their wives and commit crimes, I believe he would forgive Baptists or Atheists just as quickly. I don’t believe that Christianity was meant to provide a safe space for the morally corrupt to hide from accountability. That’s not what the grace of Christ is for.
We hear about Idol Worship. Tv is an idol. Celebrities are idols. Nice possessions and money in the bank are idols. I don’t see that in professing people. We don’t worship idols of motorcycles and football players. Our idols are professing people who want their opinion to be respected as God’s. If “ask Julie” comes before “ask God” we are worshipping an idol. If I label my opinions as God’s word, I’ve made myself an idol. If I treat the natural opinions of a Worker as if it is the unquestioned Word of God, how is that not idol worship?
Many workers in my experiences are willing and eager to be “God” in someone’s personal situation. There are some workers who do not understand how to apply the Bible to reality, and that has become painfully obvious to me through my experiences. They aren’t God. They may be OK people and they may be smart and educated about the Bible, but they aren’t God. When we identify something that is of man as something of God, that’s what idol worship is. When a human’s opinion is heralded as the opinion of God, that’s idol worship regardless of how good or bad that human’s opinion is. When people consider Workers as the go-to source of biblical instruction in life, you end up with the opinions of a human being endorsed as the word of God.
When professing people assume that workers have all the answers for natural problems, it creates an environment where people are expected to live up to theological religious beliefs that are incompatible with reality. Workers are able to live lives far more disconnected from reality than the rest of us. Its painfully obvious that Martha’s grip on reality is skewed by beliefs and doctrines that are wonderful and nice, but not real. It would be nice if we could all just forget each other’s sins and play in the crystal river with lions and lambs but that’s not the world we live in. No matter how hard we try, we can’t live up to the spiritual fantasies of those who are ignorant of reality.
I’ve thought a lot about forgiveness, and how it applies to reality. Forgiveness isn’t “I forgot you sinned! In fact, it never happened. What were we even talking about?” Forgiveness is when we don’t want revenge. We hear a lot about unforgiveness being a chain that binds us. That chain is the desire for revenge. The theology definition of “forgiveness” is some fantasy-land act of ignoring all of someone’s faults and being one big happy family. It is not compatible with reality for Sara and Mary, or Susan for that matter, to “forgive” Josh and not hold him accountable for who he is. That’s not true forgiveness, that’s blind foolishness.
When you “forgive” someone who doesn’t value you and has a habit of hurting you, abusing your trust and neglecting your needs, it does not lead to peace. When you uphold the religious fantasy of “forgiving” everyone and trusting everyone, it results in people who allow their self worth to be flushed down the toilet by people who take advantage of that trust. “Forgiving” Josh will not heal Sara. It took a lot of self confidence for her to identify an issue and distance herself from someone who harms her. It takes courage to identify and stand up against wickedness.
Some people don’t heal from having forgiveness and trust, because that’s how they got hurt in the first place. Continuing to forgive and trust someone as they tear your life apart will only result in shattered self esteem, an absence of peace and a lack of hope. Some situations heal better by taking away the problem instead of forgiving it. Sara has forgiven Josh in that she does not feel a need for vengeance or recompense. That’s what forgiveness is to those of us who live in the real world.
The “forgiveness” the workers speak of is incompatible with reality. If you trust someone who has proven to not be trustworthy, you’re not being Christlike, you’re being naive. In the absence of conflict, trust and naivety look the same, but true trust involves awareness, discernment and understanding, and naivety lacks those qualities. When trust is betrayed, learning occurs and that person becomes a better judge of character, but it leads to a more solid state of educated ability to trust.
When naivety is exposed, that person becomes paranoid, distrustful of all humanity across the board, and eventually calms back down to a state of naivety again only to be broken again and again. If I choose not to trust someone who has proven to be undeserving of trust, that is not unforgiveness, that is wisdom. I am disappointed that the doctrinal leaders in this organization encourage those who are already weak and broken to also be naive and ignorant, and to tolerate disgusting sin.
We heard at convention that a prior Catholic had been inspired to profess because the modesty of the women convinced him that these people are serious about worshipping God. Where is that scriptural, that Jesus’ followers would be identified by clothing? Quite opposite is the verse that calls out the Pharisees, saying “All their works are to be seen of men, they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” Does it not seem that Jesus disapproved when religious people chose to be identified by their clothing? “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets.” How can we say that our dress code, especially for women, is not for outward appearance? A woman can be criticized for wearing a necklace, by a woman wearing a scarf. A woman can be criticized for wearing her hair down, by a woman with plaited hair. A woman can be criticized for looking like a publican, by a woman who looks like a Pharisee.
There were many critical religious people who identified Jesus with the publicans and sinners, but we read of no publicans and sinners who identified Jesus with the critical religious people.
We can’t say we love souls if we don’t love people. I feel like the “love for souls” that is often mentioned, is in actuality only a love for memberships. The NRA has a love for memberships. The democratic party has a love for memberships. People wanting to see more professing memberships is not love. My experiences have shown that there are workers who don’t care about people, they just care about professing memberships.
If your “convictions” cause you to be identified as a Pharisee, your convictions aren’t from the spirit of Jesus. Every tree is known by its fruits, and if your “convictions” don’t encourage the fruit of the Spirit in your life, it’s not from the spirit. Peer pressure and conviction seem similar if you’re unwilling to challenge the righteousness of your peers. I don’t doubt the power of the Spirit to give us convictions. Those convictions are when the Spirit of Christ enters our conscience and guides us to be like Jesus. To make the right choice, when our own natural conscience is insufficient.
“Convictions” do not cause us to do what everyone else does so we can fit in and escape their criticism. We often find that blaming God for our actions removes all accountability, and it’s much easier to justify an action by labeling it a “conviction.” If it doesn’t make us like Jesus, it’s not from Jesus. Jesus’ convictions will lead us to behave like Jesus.
It is blatantly hypocritical to do something, or keep something quiet to “preserve a testimony.” We think that because we use the word “testimony” instead of “false reputation” that somehow that legalizes deceit and guile. If we’re being dishonest to preserve a testimony, that is morally wrong. When an issue is swept under the rug to preserve a testimony, God does not approve. Human conscience does not approve. Are we as professing people truly more concerned about our reputation than our character? Which one is God interested in?
If my reputation before professing people is knowingly twisted to misrepresent my character, I am a Pharisee. If I think that someone exposing my character “slanders my Testimony,” I need to fix my character, not defend my testimony. To experience workers who encourage this type of dishonesty at the expense of the victims of a situation is alarming. I think if Ananias and Sapphira could come back from the dead and give us one warning, it would be to beware of a false image. When our image in meeting and at convention and in public misrepresents who we truly are, God despises us. Peter didnt kill Ananias and Sapphira, God did. God saw their actions and determined that the behavior at hand was unacceptable for a child of God, and not deserving of a second chance. A false testimony is incompatible with righteousness.
Our way is not the church of Acts. The church of Acts did not have nearly as much order as our church does, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The church of Acts did not have doctrines relating to professing, emblems, not discussing things in meeting, meetings being kept at an hour, how to have conventions, only being permitted to profess in a gospel meeting or convention, etc. Our workers look like any missionary would dress, not like commercial fishermen like Peter and John probably did. I doubt Peter and John sold all their possessions and bought some Pharisee robes. Our church is very similar to the church of Acts, and much of the order is based off necessity.
We can see in Acts 20:9 that meetings that run til midnight aren’t the greatest idea. We read of many instances in the letters of Paul that there were issues that resulted from lack of an organized religion. We can claim to be rooted in the doctrines of the Bible, but to deny our own non-biblical order to the meetings is pretty blind. It’s not necessarily wrong, order is necessary to produce unity, but it is not how they did things in Acts.
We’re really secretive and defensive about how “professing” got started, and it is often stated that we’ve been doing things this way since Acts. When un-professing people ask how we got started, they’re not asking “so who invented the spirit you guys have?” They’re asking how our order was established. They’re asking how things like Conventions, our hymnbooks, our study lists, our meetings, and our natural order to the meetings were established. Why are we so dishonest about that? God didn’t start conventions and command that they be four days and three meetings a day. Some dude decided that. God never said “meetings shall be no more than one hour.” Some dude decided that. It wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t John. Somebody somewhere in history, by multiple accounts in the early 1900s, set up the natural orders of how to be professing. How come it makes us feel better to deny that? How come we don’t just say “yeah the Apostle Jack Carrol was led by God to establish order among God’s people” or something? Does the dishonesty actually fool anyone?
We criticize people who worship in a church building, but how long did the church meet at the Union Hall? Does God prefer Union Halls over a purpose-oriented building? The gospel was meant to spread the message of Christ to those who are in darkness, not to provide a secondary church option for professing people who’d rather listen to a pastor preach a sermon in a designated place than to take part in a home Bible study. The ministry was meant to distribute the gospel to areas where the residents hadn’t heard of it yet, and in having meetings in the same place endlessly we’ve failed that objective, so why not have a building? Our doctrine of excluding newcomers to certain meetings and church functions until they profess at a gospel meeting isn’t really contingent with the early churches in Acts either. When a worker only preaches the gospel to people who have already heard the gospel, they’re not “preaching the gospel.”
The fundamentals of Christianity have become modest clothes, no swearing, sexual abstinence, attendance to church, no alcohol and rejection of cultural changes. If you do all those things, you’re in. To an extent, those things are necessary in being a good human, but very little to do with being a follower of Christ. The religion that Jesus established was to be from within. The kingdom of Heaven is within you. God is a spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth. Adhering to natural definitions of religious superiority doesn’t make us like Jesus. Criticizing people who don’t adhere to our definitions of religious superiority makes us very much NOT like Jesus. Jesus spoke very little of not swearing and sexual abstinence, the two biggest “Christian fundamentals.”
Jesus spoke a lot more about not being like Pharisees than he did about using alternate cuss words and making sure you have a document from the government before engaging in sexual activities. That’s not to say Jesus approves, but rather, if Jesus spent all of his time on earth teaching his disciples how to be followers, and he didn’t mention certain things, it’s probably safe to say there were other things more important to him. Things like “inasmuch as ye did in not to the least of these my brethren” and “suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” There was a time that some professing people thought that the children were disrupting the meeting, but Jesus made it pretty clear that they had it wrong. If the voice of a child disrupts our worship, we’re probably not worshipping right.
The way many professing people treat young people is not Christlike. Youth are judged by how well they fit into the societal norms of the professing culture, not at all by whether they exhibit the attributes of Christ in their lives. Young people are not respected unless they fit into the pious image of their elders. It is not acceptable before Christ for “Godly” people to condescend and condemn youth over religious traditions and pious clothing preferences that were not established by him.
God is not a victim of loopholes. Nobody gets to heaven on a technicality. We tend to think that because human laws are laced with loopholes, God’s rules of How To Be a Christian must be too. It is because of loopholes that people like Rebecca Johnson (a divorced and remarried elderly woman) can’t take part cuz of adultery, but people like Josh Smith can. Being honest about a past sin is much more biblically acceptable than hiding it and pretending it didn’t happen. Divorce and remarriage is much more honest than cheating on your wife for a year and a half, yet one is considered forgiven by God and the other isn’t, because of the loophole of the definition of the word “adultery.” Is God limited by the technical definitions of English words?
Does God approve of jewelry if it’s in your hair, but not if it’s on your ears? If we count Song of Solomon as part of the God-inspired Bible, jewelry is actually something that is preferable. Why would the Bible compare the attributes of Jesus’ spirit with jewelry if he hates jewelry?
Do we really believe that God likes it better when two people get married at a really stupid time so they can have sex, but they haven’t taken the time to get to know each other or make mature life decisions together? Is a marriage founded on immaturity and lust approved of God? Which is more important to God, the commitment or the certificate? The cultural method of marriage in the Old Testament was definitely NOT a good example of healthy relationships, and much of what is in the Mosaic law is to prevent disease and unhealthy social structure, not necessarily to promote respect to women and healthy relationships. Jesus didn’t talk much about people’s relationships. People like Josh Harris seem to think it’s because Jesus forgot. Maybe it’s because that’s not one of the fundamentals of being like Jesus? If we’re making life decisions based on selfishness, immaturity, impatience and lust so we can be right with Jesus, we missed the point.
We’re not judged by how we treat professing people; we’re judged by how we treat those we esteem to be the least of our acquaintances. Gang members call other gang members “brothers” and are loyal to them. Doesn’t make em good people. We’re not judged by how loyal we are to our brothers, we’re judged by the way we treat people outside our “brotherhood.” We as professing people are pretty good about being gracious to publicans and harlots when they come to meeting, but we tend to treat them with a lot more disgust when we see them at the gas station or read about them on the internet. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not unto men.” We’re supposed to treat random worldly people like we’d treat Jesus. Not like “enemies to our soul.”
The professing standard of modesty goes too far. It’s not modesty. It’s being a pious prude. If your standard of modesty labels everyone but the Amish and the Muslims as immodest and sexually inappropriate, your standard goes too far. If a teenage boy is sexually tempted by a girl who wears her hair down or wears jeans, that boy should NOT be catered to or encouraged to blame others. If the average woman in society is considered an enemy to your teenage boy’s purity cuz she wears jeans, then you missed the mark in teaching him respect. Professing culture likes to vilify sexuality to the point where if a guy thinks a girl looks nice, he’s sinning and committing adultery by thinking so.
That is not God’s design. God designed the feelings of affection and attraction; teenagers are not sinful for having those feelings. It becomes sinful when selfishness and a lack of respect is involved. Instead of teaching boys that women are temptations to lure them to hell, maybe teach respect instead and things will work out better. Instead of expecting your sons to avoid all women until they’re ready for marriage, teach them to have self control instead. Someday your son may have an attractive co-worker and it would be a tragic shame if he was unable to thrive in his career because he’d never learned to be respectful and control his feelings around women. God doesn’t hate it when people find each other attractive. He designed that. What God hates is the betrayal of commitments, and selfish lust that has no respect for others.
Professing people over-emphasize the importance of prayer. Our standing before God is determined by our character and the way we treat our fellow man, not our frequency of pious behavior. A brief moment of piety every night and a little extra on Sunday doesn’t erase your character. If you have a corrupt character, you don’t fix that through asking God for forgiveness every night. Josh’s problems of manipulative dishonesty, an absence of morals and a false reputation cannot be solved through prayer. When Martha insists “your sin of unforgiveness is as serious to God as Josh’s sin of fornication.” That’s where I see a major lack of understanding. She believes that all humans are sinners of equal proportion and all that’s needed is to obey workers and pray and we get to go to heaven. Jesus separated sheep from goats by their character. Selfish and dishonest on one side, loving and genuine on the other. Not by which ones prayed the most frequently.
We act as though when a professing man sins, our response should be “neither do I condemn thee, thy sins are forgiven thee” and when a worldly person sins it’s OK to exalt ourselves over them and sneer at their immorality. The woman caught in adultery was not applicable to Josh Smith’s situation. The woman caught in adultery was more applicable to the teens who use Planned Parenthood. How come we condemn those people to the ends of the earth, but when there is sexual sin within our little circle, that’s when we decide to apply God’s mercy? Jesus despised corruption in the temple. Jesus didn’t despise corruption in the world.
We criticize makeup, hair dye, nail polish and jewelry because that’s not how God made you to look. Guess what else God didn’t make? Shampoo. Deodorant. Perfume. Acne remover. Hair gel. Glasses. Razors for shaving. If God wanted your hair in an elaborate bun, why doesn’t it grow that way? Lets admit the foolishness of this line of reasoning and quit condemning other people for things we do too. God isn’t offended when a girl puts some effort into looking pretty. He designed them to want to do that. Whether that’s who has the prettiest scarf and fanciest hairdo, or best makeup and shiniest necklace makes no difference to God. The sin occurs when the approval of others feeds our ego, so we dress a certain way to gain that approval. Whether that’s out-doing your friend’s scarf or wearing a cuter pair of earrings than your friend, the error lies in the lust for approval, not in the clothing. I’ve seen many professing people in bondage to approval of their peers.
If your self worth is influenced by whether or not everyone in meeting is impressed by your clothes, you’re making the same exact error as a girl whose self worth is influenced by whether the kids at school think her outfit looks nice. I bring this particular issue up because it is a very real problem that is handled very poorly and in my opinion is harmful to the youth. When an uptight professing woman tells a girl she needs to dress a different way, what they’re saying is “I disapprove of your image, and you need to dress for my approval.” Skirts and buns are not “God’s approval” that’s just an image that self righteous women think is superior to society’s standard.
Professing adults who’s self worth is dictated by approval and a pious image are not a good influence on young people. When a girl is struggling with self esteem issues, and they’re told “you need to dress to impress me and fit into my social class, don’t dress to impress your friends and fit into their social class” that only makes the problem worse. The problem is the need for approval. The professing dress code either fulfills that need or instigates it, but either way the problem is not solved. A woman who chooses to live and dress for the approval of professing people has the same fundamental problem as the woman who chooses to live for the approval of un-professing people.
The way someone dresses should be an accurate representation of who they are and what they do, not who they’re trying to impress. It is not at all offensive to God that clothing trends change. What God finds fault in is attitudes that place value on things that God doesn’t value. I think the skirts and buns rule is a dress code that God doesn’t value, and I don’t believe God is happy when people criticize and scorn teenagers for not fitting into their social class.
God isn’t impressed when we live our lives in a cardboard box and reject society cuz there’s temptation out there. God is impressed when we have the opportunity to choose between right and wrong, and we choose right. God wants to see how we make choices and how we live, not how good we are at avoiding the opportunity to sin. It’s a lot easier to never sin if we reject everyone, but that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus was known for socializing with sinners and harlots.
We hear a lot about the “freedom” we get when we are on the inside. We’re told that everyone “out there” is in captivity to Satan, but we are free to do God’s will. I find it a lot more liberating if your religion is defined by morals and being a Christlike person than if your religion consists of putting people down for failing to meet your traditions and ritualistic beliefs. That is not freedom. Telling a teenage girl that her necklace is in defiance to God’s rules is not freedom. If you choose to live in bondage to doctrines that Jesus did not establish, you’re not free.
There are several concepts about God and his creation of man, and his plan for salvation, that have been spoken about in meeting and I don’t agree with. One concept is that God created us inherently good (in his image), and righteousness is achieved by never sinning, and praying for forgiveness when we slip up. Another equally wrong concept is that God created us inherently wicked, and he gets angry and jealous when we continue to be wicked, and unless we humble ourselves and beg forgiveness and worship him, he’ll punish us with eternal torture. God isn’t a spoiled four year old. God didn’t create us and then get mad when we’re exactly how he created us. I believe that God created us with the intention that we would make choices. And it angers God when we make poor ones, because I don’t believe that God has every sin, victory and experience in our life all predestined. The reason I don’t feel that either of those doctrines are right, is that nobody in the Bible is in there cuz of how much they prayed and begged for forgiveness for how God created them. People in the Bible are there because of what they did.
God is interested in our character. God is interested in what we choose to uphold in our lives. God is interested in how we treat others. We read of having the spirit of Christ in our life. A new spirit. A new nature. If we have a nature that does not inspire us to be like Jesus, then it’s not “Jesus’ nature in us!” Its rampant self righteousness. Jesus wasn’t just known for not doing bad things, he was known for doing good things. We can lock ourselves up from society and avoid doing bad things, but that’s a very small part of the big picture. If we have the spirit of Jesus in our lives, that spirit will lead us to value the things that Jesus valued. It won’t lead us to become 21st century Pharisees.
I was recently asked if I believe in predestination (salvation through selective grace,) or Arminianism (salvation through works.) Both doctrines isolated from the other are wrong, and rooted in self righteousness, but I found it very beneficial to consider what I really believe and why. Professing people like to reject the concept of predestination, but then believe that God controls everything in life, and all my problems are God’s will, and we just coast through life with no accountability because God predestined it all.
When Susan says, “God put me through the situation with insurance fraud and public embarrassment to prepare me for the emotional trauma of my husband having an affair with a girl our daughter’s age, and it’s all part or God’s plan and Josh is still a Godly man,” that is 100% belief in predestination. You cannot believe in predestination any more than that. If you think God plans things like that, then you cannot pretend to reject predestination. We don’t like the word “predestination” but we’re quick to embrace its principles. I think God wants to see accountability for our actions. Not blaming him for our own poor choices.
We hear often that there are a lot of good people who are not Godly people. Less popular to consider, is the reality that there are no Godly people who are not good people. If you’re a bad person, playing the “God forgives all my sins” card doesn’t fix that.
There are two ways people achieve contentment with themselves. You can compare yourself to people worse than you. “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men art.” Or you can compare yourself to those better than you, and seek to better yourself. Comparing ourselves to people we read about online or in doomsday articles, or even to people we find to despise in our actual real life, does absolutely nothing to make us better. It makes us worse. It makes us complacent and judgemental. The reason that it’s easier, is because if you compare yourself to people better than you, and don’t do anything to achieve that goal, you fall into discouragement and depression. If you’re unable to look at your past and your present and mark a noticeable improvement, you’ll find yourself unhappy with yourself. That’s the first step in becoming a better human. You never get to that point by focusing on people worse than you.
On a spiritual side, if we only compare ourselves with worldly church-going sinners, we’ll continue in the same rut of self righteousness forever and we’ll be fine there. No motivation to do better because you’ve convinced yourself that’s not necessary. A lot of professing people are in this rut.
It’s become a form of Christian supremacy to immerse yourself in anger over gay marriage, women getting abortions, and “society’s acceptance of sin!” I have two problems with this. Problem number one is that God’s people aren’t fueled by anger at society. Government laws are not supposed to mirror our moral standards. It’s not a “Christian” mentality to wish for a society where everyone was legally required to be good Christians. I find that it’s very difficult to maintain a Christlike spirit when I spend any length of time glued to the Christian media. If my religion consists of hating everyone who fails to meet my standards, how can I claim the spirit of Jesus in my life?
We hear a lot of anger about Planned Parenthood and similar organizations aborting babies and providing contraceptives to immoral teens without parental consent. Yeah, God doesn’t want babies killed, but in the Old Testament, they took the pregnant teen outside of the town and killed her and her unborn child with rocks. How can we so blindly gather under the mantra “abortion is murder!” When in the days of the Mosaic law, two lives were brutally taken, instead of just one.
There are places in this world where honor killings exist, and I cannot comprehend the level of gratefulness we owe for the freedom we have in this country. If that freedom offends me, maybe I should consider moving to places where immoral women can still be killed like in the good ol days. Let’s consider the advances in society and acknowledge that our crooked, sinful society is still more Christlike and forgiving than the Old Testament. There has never been, and there never will be a society completely populated by good Christians, with healthy, committed relationships, so let’s stop allowing ourselves to live a life of anger and hate over what we read on the internet. A hateful Christian is an oxymoron.
The second problem I have with the hate on the world bandwagon is that it’s not truly about morals, it’s about being united against a common enemy. It’s a safe bet that the vast majority of professing people dislike gays and dislike abortions, so if you want to be opinionated and self righteous, it’s an opportunity to puff out your chest without risk of causing offense. If I say “I have a problem with the way Josh lives his life, because he dishonors marriage,” that is controversial to the professing community, because people will defend Josh. If I say “I have a problem with how gays live their lives because it dishonors marriage” that’s not controversial. Its unanimously agreed within the Christian community. If we only take a stand for things that are universally supported by our peers, we’re just being cowardly and bad mouthing the people who aren’t there to disagree. It doesn’t make me a better person to condescend obvious sins I read about on the internet. The thing that makes us better people is to find truth in controversy. If you focus on “I hate gays and I hate abortions so I must be righteous before God!” You’re missing all the opportunities to sharpen your character.
Spiritual growth comes when experiences cause us to narrow down our beliefs and find the correct answer in a situation where it isn’t blatantly obvious. Spiritual growth is not prospered by broadcasting the obvious. It’s more comfortable to avoid controversy, but growth comes when we embrace it and learn from it. Do I support gays? It doesn’t matter, because it won’t change how I live my life. We need to focus on the things that affect our lives. Condescending the worldly people out there that we read about on the internet is not helpful in determining my character.
Religious people are so quick to condemn abortion and birth control and they state they’re motivated to speak up because they have a love for souls, and are pro-life, but if you’re unwilling to lift a finger to help an unprofessing person, I don’t believe it. You don’t love souls if you don’t love people, and that’s determined by how you treat people. If you love the soul of an unborn fetus but you don’t love the soul of your neighbor, there is a verse that John wrote that applies to you. “If a man hate his brother, who he hath seen, how can he say he loves God, who he hath not seen?” If you scorn unprofessing teenagers and you scorn single moms, I don’t believe for one second that you actually value the soul of that fetus. You’re just looking for an opportunity to judge somebody.
If you oppose abortion, do so with compassion, sobriety, sincerity and grace, as Jesus would have, and double check your values to assure that you actually do value the souls of others and you’re not just hopping on the bandwagon of hating on sinners. The only time Jesus violently hated something was when it involved corruption in the Temple of God, and that caused controversy.
We heard a testimony at convention that was begging for sympathy. It was sad to me just how much sympathy this person expected for their own condemnation. The testimony went about like this. “This year, I had to experience a son falling from the truth, but I’m thankful that God has given me a godly husband, and at least I have that to be thankful for.” She spoke as though that son was dead, except worse. At least a dead son has happy memories to be thankful for. She implied that that son gave her NOTHING to thank God for. Imagine being that son! Imagine hearing that, from a woman, your own mother, who claims she is righteous and you are not? She made herself the victim of her own rejection.
I find it empty and shallow when professing people refer to people “falling away” or being “on the fence” regarding attendance to meetings. The true way of Christ is about a spirit and how we act towards others, not attendance to church. Many people still attend the meetings, but have fallen away from the values of Christ. I’m starting to suspect that others may “fall away” from attendance without falling from the morals and doctrines of Christ, because of inappropriate experiences with false Christians in the meetings. If someone is “on the fence,” meaning they come to some meetings but they don’t dress professing and sometimes haven’t read the study, that is a very shallow way to judge the status of someone’s soul. Jesus doesn’t care about our attendance; he’s interested in the moral content of our hearts. That can’t be on the fence.
If you’ve fallen from the doctrines of Christ but you’re still taking part in meeting, you’re not “on the fence,” you’re outside. If you’re flaunting the leaven of the Pharisees in your life, you’re a long way from the fence. If you don’t care about the doctrine of Jesus, you’re a long way from the fence. If you don’t value the least of your brethren who don’t meet your standards, you’re a long way from the fence. If religion is a way for you to feel better about your sinful habits, you’re a long way from the fence. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in every meeting, you’re outside of the fence.
We have a lot of terminology. God. Satan. Jesus. Salvation. Heaven. Sin. If we take the words away, do we understand what we’re talking about? It’s become painfully obvious that a lot of people really don’t. When we try to apply human tendencies and limitations to “God”, and use that mental picture as a base for our religion, it causes a very close-minded approach to life. God is not interested in words and our categorizing of what we perceive to be reality. God doesn’t speak to us in English, and God doesn’t listen to us in English. If our understanding of God goes no further than the terminology used in the English language, and God lives in the sky in a place made of fancy unknown materials where we can go when we die, we’ll find that we believe in a system that falls far short of the reality of the spiritual realm. If I say nice words with a self righteous spirit, God hears the spirit, not the words.
Professing people are quick to claim miracles. The two professing people that worked in the World Trade center were sick that day. The people in Haiti were in meeting somewhere safe. The tsunami last year in Indonesia “thankfully was in a place where there are no friends.” Professing people talk as if the death of an unprofessing person is no big deal, and we can rejoice cuz no professing people died. God values our spirit. God does not value our lives over the lives of others. “For he maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” To accuse God of predestining deadly events at times when professing people aren’t there is a pretty cynical view of who God really is. We try to amplify every experience that points to us being special, and ignore things that show we’re just people, too. Professing people die the same as anyone else.
I think professing people would be much better people if we acknowledged that we’re not all saved, and we’re not the only ones. If we go through life with the idea that we’re going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell, we’ll find that our spirit is very far from the spirit Christ came with. If we believe that God never saves a soul without sending them to meeting first, we greatly limit God in something we know very little about. If we treat those in the world as if they’re going to hell, how can we say we’re treating them like Jesus? If I treat the least of my brethren as if he’s going to hell, how would Jesus feel about that?
There are things in life that Jesus didn’t address that we have to make decisions about. Especially with relationships and parenting. It’s important to make good choices in life. It’s important to make choices that shape our character and make us better people. The things we choose to allow or not allow in our lives are important to our natural success and our wellbeing, but they are often things we need to embrace as personal preferences, not Jesus’ will. We don’t know enough about Jesus to honestly say we’re doing everything in life how Jesus would. Jesus didn’t brush his teeth, tuck in his T-shirt or own a car. I don’t think Jesus dictates what kind of car I buy or whether I have an electric toothbrush or just a regular one.
We need to differentiate between following Jesus and making good choices. When we treat our lifestyle choices as the Indisputable Will of God, we begin to condemn all who make different life choices. Jesus did not come to earth to create a religion where nobody takes accountability for anything and everyone dogmatically labels their natural and moral preferences as “Jesus’ will.” There are many things that are good things to do in life, but aren’t necessarily anything to do with Christianity. We need to make choices that are responsible, ethical and set us up for a better future, but that’s not part of being like Jesus. If people choose to wear a bun as a matter of personal preference, that’s one thing, but if they treat it as Jesus’ will and begin to condemn others, that’s not a Christlike spirit.
It is obvious to me that there are certain people in my life who would be better off without the natural social aspects of professing. Not necessarily because the peer group of professing is bad for people, but when it is used in a way that is not consistent with the teachings of Christ, I have personally witnessed instances where it has been spiritually disastrous. When we neglect to do the Christlike thing or to do the morally right thing that we can, and we instead do the professing thing to do, it becomes very obvious that professing is not always helpful. If we adhere to the natural religion of professing and reject the spirit of Christ and the courage to stand up for righteousness, it’s harmful.
If the fear of hell or the promise of heaven are your motives to be a good human, you need to improve your character. If pleasing God is your only reason to be kind to your fellow man, you need to improve your character. You shouldn’t need a reward from God for doing the right thing. You should be kind to your neighbor because he’s your neighbor and it’s the right thing to do. You should avoid sin because you value a clear conscience and high moral standard, not because you want to go to heaven, or you’re afraid to go to hell. I have more respect for an upright, moral atheist than I do for a two-faced Christian.
My feeling now is that if righteousness could be achieved through a church, Professing has it pretty close. But righteousness can’t be achieved through a church, and the people who vigorously defend that “professing is the One True Way!” And neglect to do the things Jesus spoke of, are no closer to God than anyone else. The people who trust in their religious beliefs to save them are wrong, regardless of which religion that is.
Who we are in life is determined by the things we tolerate and the things we stand up against. It’s determined by the people we surround ourselves with, and the environments we establish for ourselves. Our character is shaped and defined by our surroundings and our choices. While there are many wonderful people that I respect greatly who thrive in the environment of the professing culture, my experiences have identified this society as a part of my life that is incompatible with who I want to be.
We all have to assess our choices based on the experiences that affect us individually. My experiences will guide me to a different course than your experiences will guide you. I do not discredit those who find solidity and peace in the professing community. I do not discredit mom and dad’s testimony and experiences, and I don’t discredit the godly men who influenced their lives, but my experiences have led me elsewhere.
If anything I have written is against the teachings of Jesus, I am completely willing to receive correction and edification.”
After I sent that letter I received minimal response, but one response was a brief statement that we should be like sheep and focus on the shepherd and not other sheep, and also that the Bible instructs us that we need to remain in fellowship. I was cautioned that my separation from the church would come at a cost. I wrote the following response:
“Everything in life has a price. The things we do, the things we don’t do, we pay a price. We don’t get to choose not to pay a price. I’d rather pay the price for isolating myself from corruption than pay the price for tolerating it. I’ve been paying that price and I choose to no longer do so. Truth is the foundation of a moral, upright life, and through silent conformity to the professing lifestyle, the price I find myself paying is truth. The feelings inside and the image outside are not in agreement, and to change the image to fit the unseen morals must involve a separation from conformity.
I’ve been thinking about sheep. Jesus said we should be like sheep in our walk with him, and I find that there are many times where, when making natural decisions, it is not appropriate to be a sheep. One quality of a sheep is conformity. Sheep in a field all do the same thing. They conform and follow, much more so than goats and pigs. We should conform to and follow the spirit of Christ.
Outside of the spirit of Christ, the natural habit of conformity is a dangerous snare. When we see sin, it is not appropriate to conform to it. When we find ourselves surrounded by vanity and dishonesty, it is not appropriate to conform to it. Even if that means having courage and discernment that a sheep lacks. When we gather together in the image of conformity, and assure ourselves that we are having the spirit of a sheep, unless that conformity is to the spirit of Christ and nothing else, we are in a dangerous situation. When conforming to pious rituals that Jesus did not establish is in question, the spirit of a sheep is not the appropriate spirit to have. A sheep is lacking in wisdom and discernment, and I believe we are supposed to apply those qualities to our lives much more diligently than a sheep does.
It is often said that we shouldn’t judge our brother, or we should keep the mirror angled at ourselves, or we should focus on the beam in our eye before helping with a mote, and the list goes on. Those are used as excuses to conform. If I fail to reject false doctrine because I may have a beam in my eye, that is a good way to be a weak, cowardly sheep in a situation where the spirit of a sheep is not appropriate. If I have the courage to say the Lutherans are wrong, but don’t have the courage to say the snake who calls himself my brother is wrong, my need for conformity has overcome my need for truth.
Truth is not afraid of the consequences. Truth is not afraid of the price. If we find ourselves wavering because we don’t really want to pay the price for truth, we must ask ourselves, what else is more valuable to us than truth? I believe that Jesus wants us to focus on our own faults and failures so we can improve. We should ensure we are removing the beams from our eyes and camels from our soup, but that cannot be used as an excuse to conform to a “herd” that is not conforming to Christ in their actions.”