First of all, the internet can be a blessing, or it can be a bane. The whole world can be accessed from our fingertips. There is no limit how deep you can go into an issue. If you choose the wrong path, and you have wound your way to some very dangerous and undesirable place, you may find your return to mental, emotional and spiritual normalcy extremely difficult to navigate.
The same can be true with the imagination. Our thoughts and emotions can take us to some pretty dark places. The trek back to regularity may be quite a challenge.
And then there are those times where our feet and hands, (mouth, eyes and ears) literally take us beyond cyberspace or some imaginary chasm to real places. Places that, to borrow from an old ditty, take us farther than we wanted to go, keep us longer than we wanted to stay and cost us more than we wanted to pay.
I have a few of those ugly places that I am trying to be honest with myself about:
1. Rehashing the tragic stories of fallen ministerial icons. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! II Sam 1:25
I am a recovering fundaMENTAList. I continue to hold fast to the fundamentals of Scripture and the faith that was once delivered to the saints. By God’s grace I will stay true to New Testament principles and my local church, as long as the latter stays true to the former.
However, I find the cultish tendencies of many fundamentalist preachers and institutions greatly disturbing and destructive. The usual modus operandi includes: unquestioned loyalty, unabashed pride, extra-biblical standards and expectations, emphasis on external appearances and behavior, ostracism of non-conformists, and a my-way-or-the-highway mentality. They tend to feel superior, be contentious, and cast judgment. Their mantra is, “We are the only ones doing it God’s way.” They are the heroes of each of their own stories. The rules they impose apply to others, not to themselves.
They have a special relationship with God that grants them immunity from the consequences which we hoi polloi must face when we sin. They are heavy on law and light on grace, until they are the ones in need of grace.
The danger that comes with this model of Christianity (Please note: a model is a small imitation of the real thing!) is what is cautioned about in Scripture, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18.)
The destructive path I tend to travel as a recovering fundamentalist is to spend valuable time and delicate emotions contemplating, and even relishing in, the stories of the rise, the exploits, and fall of the big guys who wowed the masses, got full of themselves and fell from grace. It helps to recognize the error of their ways and avoid the pitfalls, but I can’t afford for my soul to relive those dark-hearted attitudes that cost me so much personally. They have taken the fun out of fundamentalism, so I have to just leave it there.
Other places I really need to avoid:
2. Exploring the exploits of current pimples on the face of Christianity. See: Benny Healer, Smilin’ Joe Holsteen, Steven L. Anders Son, Westboro Badtwist Church, Liberals, Prosperity Promogulators, Bible deniers, Politically correct denominations, etc. (See, I told you I am recovering and sometimes I fall off the wagon)
3. Getting too near the lunatic ledge of conspiratorial theory. I am so right wing I have registered as an independent. I mean, Rush Limbaugh is way too liberal for me. He even has a term for people like me, KOOKS, the Keepers of Odd Knowledge Society. I suppose I am guilty. I'm learning not to buy into the conspiracy theories as readily as I once did. A person has to ask themselves simple questions regarding the classics and the conspiracy du jour. A few really good questions: 1) Would "they" readily be doing this to their own grand children? 2) Have you considered the logistics it would take to pull that one off? 3) How have they managed to keep the thousands of people who participated in this thing quiet? (I know, I know, they brainwashed them, paid them massive amounts, or killed them.)
Yes there are conspiracies. Psalm 2 is pretty clear on that. 1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
But, here are a few of the more close to the ledge ones: “All doctors are bent on your demise so they can make their Mercedes payments.” “The CDC wants you to have Alzheimer’s.” “Chemtrails are produced to give you and the pilot’s grandchildren cancer and contaminate your wheat so you will have leaky gut.” “The Illuminati has infiltrated your church and will soon bring it into the National Council of Churches.”
4. Giving time, thought and energy to those who give me one star, thumbs down reviews. I won’t give them any space in my blog.
5. Feeling slighted, ignored, inconsequential, unappreciated, unloved, disrespected or invalidated. In other words, woe is me! Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. Now, who is it that sets on a person’s shoulder whispering these discouraging lies into our ears? That would be the Accuser of the Brethren, the Father of Lies. And it’s just not true. God loves His children; they are the apple of His eye. As Max Lucado says, “If God has a refrigerator, your picture is on it!” In Christ, we are more than conquerors. We will one day reign with Him as kings and priests. God has chosen us nobodies to confound the world. Our message, to the world, is foolishness, but is, in fact, the power of God.
6. Focusing on my inadequacy. This is the biggie. This one can take me down for days and hamstring my marriage and my ministry. It’s true, I ain’t got it. But what is more true is that He has begun a good work in me and will be able to perform it until the day of Christ, for He has called me, equipped me and continually enables me. Indeed, He is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that I am able to ask or even think!
Dear friend, perhaps you have your own “Do not go there” zones from which you have to steer clear. I would guess some might admit these places would include: Gossip, gluttony, envy, lust, substance abuse, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, doubt, etc.
Let’s ask the Lord to cleanse us of our sin and fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we may put off the old nature and be led away from temptation. He desires for us peace, joy and abundant living. That can’t be accomplished when we are going down these destructive paths.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8