Crazy Charismatics

Those Crazy Charismatics

I originally thought I would structure this blog chronologically. I would write about my faith story. It is, a similar story to one I hear told more and more among people my age, who have either left the church or are just barely hanging on. We are trying to find the essence of what it means to be a Christian and more of us are finding ourselves doing it from outside the church systems that we once believed in so strongly. We are finding those systems not only don’t have the answers we are looking for, they don’t even care to ask the questions.  I had a conversation yesterday and I decided I want to respond to it because it agitated me so much. It had to do with children prophesying and adults not thinking about the ramifications.

The term crazy Charismatics is probably redundant. As soon as someone identifies as ‘charismatic’ a little red flag should be raised. I feel that way not because these people expect miracles, signs and wonders, prophecy and healing to be present in their lives but because they believe they are entitled to them. I know entitled is a strong word but you don’t have to venture too far into the Charismatic world before you hear that “God wants to pour out blessings in our lives” – if only we would ask.  In addition to this focus on the supernatural, these people often also identify themselves as evangelical and probably fundamentalists. So, when someone tells me they are a ‘Charismatic Christian’, I understand that to mean that they believe they have an inside track into what God wants to do in their lives and probably in my life as well. Usually they are proud of their spiritual gifts and intimate experience with God.

So back to the conversation, I was talking to someone in my family about a church event her niece had attended recently.  Her niece is eleven years old. At these youth events, these children are encouraged to pray and lay hands on each other and prophesy. Does anyone else out there find this a bit bizarre for kids to be doing?  At eleven years old, what kind of discernment does a kid have? How much weight might they put on a prophetic word spoken over them? How dangerous is it to put that kind of pressure on a child to hear a word from God about someone else’s life? And, if these people are actually following what the bible teaches about prophesy, when a child makes a prophesy that is ‘false’ is anyone talking to them about it? I doubt it.  It’s a free for all of pumped up music, hands in the air praying down fire from heaven.

My take on this type of event is that it is driven by fear. Fearful parents consumed by the belief if their kids become fanatical Christians they won’t listen to secular music, explore their sexuality, date or heaven forbid go out for Halloween. I’m sure as I continue to document some of my spiritual journey on this blog, this topic will come up again.

Spiritual leaders need to learn how to manage polarities. When people slide into the extremes like valuing experience over doctrine or emotion over intellect they are being lazy. They polarize people. They creates systems that are preoccupied with experience and dependent on external validation like speaking in tongues or shaking or prophesying for assurance of being in a relationship with God. It is hard enough for adults to be discerning about these things. It is spiritual abuse to put children in that space.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Yesterday someone asked me about my earliest church memories. I didn’t grow up in what I consider to be a ‘religious family’. It was the sixties in Toronto and my parents, as I recall, were like the families I saw on TV. My parents were like Ricky and Lucy Ricardo or Ralph and Alice Kramden although I thought they looked like Don and Betty Draper. Have you ever noticed how much those couples fought? My parents fought a lot and those shows normalized some of the conflict. My parents were also quite young. By the time my mother was twenty she had two children. And I think getting the kids out of the house on Sunday morning was probably her motivation for sending us to ‘Sunday School’.

I remember on Sunday morning, my brother and I walking to church. It seemed a lot further away to me then but I just looked at a map and it was under a kilometer from our home. My brother and I would take our offering and walk to church. I was probably about 6 years old and we went to a church called the Salvation Army. I remember all the adults in uniforms. It was like we had gone to war. We learned songs like ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’ and as kids we would march around and stand at attention taking this battle metaphor quite seriously. Attendance was a big deal. We were in God’s army and we had to fight the enemy. If I didn’t show up how could we win the fight? I’m not sure how long we went there. Long enough that I received a certificate for attendance and the assurance that achievement had earned me a place in heaven. And long enough for me to figure out no one noticed if I didn’t put my offering in the collection plate. I could buy a lot of candy with that 25 cents my mom gave me. I can’t say for sure if my faithful church attendance had anything to do with the stop at the corner store on the way home.