Sunday, September 15, 2013

Who Is Lord?

When I was living in Sioux City, Iowa back in the late 1970s, I attended a nondenominational church that met at Morningside College. I liked many aspects of that church, as I have often liked aspects of churches I have attended. But I found certain aspects of that church very troubling.

One pertained to the attitudes that I saw there, regarding the arts and the importance of excellence. At a Maynard Ferguson jazz concert I attended, I approached a brother from that church, inspired by the excellence of Maynard’s music. I said to that brother, “I’d love to have a Christian group that would play music that good.” “That could never happen,” he replied. I asked him why not. He said, “Any true servant of Jesus would be so busy praying and reading his Bible that he would have no time left over for practicing his music.” I was appalled. In his mind, discipleship meant settling for mediocrity in all other aspects of one’s life.

The other thing that troubled me was the fact that the leaders there seemed to practice a type of control which was almost cult-like, even though the church could not have been described as a cult in the doctrinal sense.

I was told that people who became members of that church had to agree to relinquish control over major life decisions to the church’s Board of Elders. Decisions like what college to attend, what woman to marry and so forth. Never mind that those elders might not be in possession of the relevant facts that would come into play when making such decisions.

What was even worse was that they demanded unanimity. If even one member of the Board of Elders voted Yes when all of the others were voting No, then it was thought that they needed to pray more about it so that every single brother would say Yes (or No, as the case might be). I found that ironic in light of the fact that early church leaders like Paul and Timothy often disagreed with one another.

Given the attitude I’d seen in relation to excellence in the arts, I could see that the decisions these folks would make for my life would be totally wrong for me. I fervently desired to create music and art that would glorify God, and I couldn’t see how it would benefit the Kingdom of God for me to create works of art that would impress no one.

I learned that that church’s policy stemmed from a doctrinal movement called the Shepherding Movement. Associated with Bob Mumford and Derek Prince, the Shepherding Movement was soundly repudiated by Pat Robertson, who (in spite of the fact that he sometimes made flaky statements that were ridiculed by the press) knew a cult when he saw one.

I found myself thinking about that church this morning, because I read an article by Rob Walker, in the April 2013 issue of Atlantic magazine (pages 88-89). Entitled “Putting the ‘I’ in IPO”, the article was about a guy named Mike Merrill, who founded a webzine called Urban Honking. Merrill had heard about the concept of crowdfunding, a valid concept which has funded many projects, like the creative projects (e.g., the movie Blue Like Jazz) funded by

Merrill hit on a plan to raise funds. It was one which many people would regard as bizarre. In exchange for their “shares” purchased from him, shareholders would get to call the shots regarding areas of his life which most folks would regard as none of their business. They decided that he would not get a vasectomy, that he would register as a Republican, and that he and the woman he’d been dating would enter into a three-month “Relationship Agreement”.

To his credit, Merrill did not require unanimity, the way the Sioux City church did. A simple majority vote would do. It was downright democratic. Not only that, but the people making decisions about how Merrill would live his life were people who were willing to tangibly invest in his life. It's not clear that churches involved in the shepherding movement were similarly willing to do anything to help those in their charge to achieve their life goals.

Still, I was reminded of the fact that I’d been attending a church where they felt obliged to throw in their two cents about aspects of my life pertaining to my intense desire to find and marry a compatible woman.
I've begged for help from my pastor and others in the church, in terms of matchmaking help, but I have seen scant evidence (despite occasional lip service) that they intend to help me in that way. (I would very likely change my mind in that area if I actually got a call or email message from a woman saying, "So-and-so suggested that I contact you so that you and I could have coffee with one another."
I was told by my pastor, Matt Atkins, that he thought that I ought not to aspire to marry a woman not very close to my own age. (In his words, he thought that if I did so, I’d be “fishing in the wrong pond”; as if women were scaly fish comparable to trout.) I wrote back to him to point out that compatible does not have to mean "born within four or five years of one another" or even "born in the same decade". It's worthwhile to read the Wikipedia article about Age Disparity in Sexual Relationships (also known as May-December relationships).

I was inclined to ask which "pond" was appropriate for someone my age. Should I now resign myself to the idea that I could only find a wife by visiting the nearest hospice?

I was not blessed with marriage when I sought it earlier in my life, but I still desire what I have always desired: To marry a woman who is attractive to me, both physically and in terms of compatibility. Physically, women older than I am are only rarely attractive to me. Raquel Welch, always known as a sex symbol, is still very pretty (some might even say "hot"), and I would be fine with the idea of marrying a woman that looked like Raquel, even though she’s at least a decade older than I am. But very few women age as well as Raquel has aged.
I know that beauty eventually fades, but I’d like to at least experience a few years of love (and yes, sex) with a woman to whom I could honestly say, “I find you to be beautiful.” It seems to me that women like to hear that from the mouths of the men to whom they are married!

There are people who think that they are entitled, on the basis of the fact that they are fellow Christian believers, to tell me who I should and should not date. Given the fact that they do not seem to feel any particular obligation to help me to find a woman, I cannot help but think that they need to butt out and allow me to select women on the basis of what appeals to me. If I ever do find a woman, it will not be those people who have to spend every day of the rest of their lives with that woman.

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