Monday, November 4, 2013

Undercover Agnostic (Update 23): Discussions About Charismatic Christianity and Unintentional Double Meanings

(Pentecostal televangelist Benny Hinn)
This Sunday, at Sunday School, my Sunday School teacher "Jason", a regular in the Undercover Agnostic   series, said that his sister "Kelly" was gone because she was visiting their aunt and uncle in the town of Jacksonville in west central Illinois. He said Kelly was a wondering what she would be seeing this week since they are what is known as "Charismatic" Christians, (extreme Pentecostals), and she attends church with them when she visits.    

This had started a conversation on the entire Pentecostal movement, and it brought to mind my days in the Assembly of God denomination as a young boy, which is likely more moderate than the church that Kelly will be visiting, but still Pentecostal and fundamentalist none the less. Some time ago, I wrote a guest post titled Subconscious Phone Conversations with God about my first speaking in tongues experience on the blog Leaving Fundamentalism.

Jason talked about how his uncle was a big enthusiast of Biblical prophecy, the book of Revelation, and various theological debates surrounding the end times (Will we be raptured up before or after the Tribulation? etc.). I remember those days well, and just how popular that kind of theology was, and related fiction too, like the popular Left Behind series in the 90's and early 2000's.

I had a Sunday School teacher then I'll call "Jack", who was a big fan of such theology, and he had a very interesting life story. He grew up in a town in central England, was a solider in the final years of World War II, and met his wife, a German citizen, in the war.

His stories of coming from a rather rowdy British family were quite amusing. His family had the reputation of being some of the tougher people in the neighborhood, especially his mother and brothers. He once told the story of how in England, much like it was in the US at the time, people wouldn't hesitate to scold (or sometimes even punish) other people's children, or if they did something mischievous. Sometimes, they would practically drag them to their parents, explain the situation, and the child would have hell to pay from their own parents once they got in the door.

Once, he did something a neighborhood father didn't approve of, and the man thought nothing of it to spank him for it. His mother didn't approve of such societal norms, and was furious. She went to confront the neighbor, and asked him why he did this and he said he was "chastising" young Jack. His mother supposedly told him, "Oh yes? Well let me 'chastise' you!", and despite the fact that she was a foot shorter than him, punched him in the face.

His family was definitely not like other families of his culture and era.  He recounted another story of when the Nazi air raids were starting to reach his town, and the night that they first started, he was around 15-16 years old, and was at a local stage theater watching a show. Everyone heard the explosions, and ducked as the building shook, and old chandeliers were swinging back and forth on the ceiling.

He went with his friends outside, who for whatever reason decided to run out of the building, instead of hunkering down and waiting for it to pass. He was almost killed walking down the street when one of the Nazi bombs hit a neighborhood butcher shop, and among the debris that went flying, was a large side of beef.

War time rationing in England at this time was worse than it was in the US, and he said that the rations for beef would only allow his family enough beef to make two roast beef sandwiches a week. When he returned home safely, he told his family about the whole incident, including the flying beef, and they were furious. They thought he should have brushed off the debris off the beef, and brought it home with him. I'm serious.......

Many of the men at that church liked to hassle him about how proud he was to be originally from England (he did earn US citizenship along with his wife decades before). He often liked to boast of how England was such a great and powerful empire in the past, and about the old saying that the "sun never sets on the British empire" (since the Brits held so many colonies around the world that they had colonies in just about every time zone on earth, somewhere in the empire at any given point, the sun was shining). When he said that once, one man joked that the sun never set on the British empire because God didn't trust the British to be left alone in the dark.

The Sunday School class continued on, and Jason was teaching out of a workbook based on an AW Tozer book on the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure when the book was written, but Tozer died in the 1960's, so no one would have seen a double meaning when it was written when Tozer said that people in churches in his day were too egotistical, and there was too much "self-love" in churches. Maybe I have a twisted mind, but I was doing everything I could to keep from laughing at the unintended double meaning.

(Quote from this scene)
This morning, I had a lot of energy for some reason, and my mind kept racing, conflicting thoughts, conversations and ideas running through my head, I was feeling real jittery. I've called it the "Lottery Ball Effect" before, and I don't know why it started up despite the fact that I'm still on medication. 

I had been talking about this to Jason, he knows about my mental health issues with depression, and my suspicious that I'm autistic, he understood. Once the service started, I knew it would be hard to keep seated through it as jittery as I was, and as much noise as was going on in my mind, so I went home. Fortunately this week I had that luxury, since the family is out of town right now.


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