My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 14

For part 13 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:4

So I was now married, had a family, and was ready to really get my hands dirty in the ministry. However, the opportunities to preach at my current church were slim, and I had no idea where to start in finding work as a minister. I started calling various churches and realized very quickly that, unless you’re well-known in the evangelist circuits, you aren’t wanted. So begrudgingly I sought ways to increase my ministry at my current church.

One of the first lessons I learned about the ministry is that, keeping the members you have is about twice as hard as getting a new member.

I encouraged us to join with other local churches in fellowship, trying to increase the area that all of our churches might cover. This was at first met with agreement, but once word got out that certain members might find another ministers preaching to be more to their liking, the fellowship idea was shut down fairly quickly.  One of the first lessons I learned about the ministry is that, keeping the members you have is about twice as hard as getting a new member. So ministers are often very unnerved at the idea of allowing other local pastors to preach within their church.

The second thing that I tried to do was increase the attendance of our youth group, and the best way to do that would be to switch our meeting day from Sunday night before service, to Saturday afternoon. This time I was allowed to do so, for about two months, until word got out that we were running the heat during our meetings. Youth meetings were then moved to the same time as the midweek prayer meeting, 7pm on Wednesday night. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but Wednesday night isn’t the best time to attempt a youth service. Kids have homework and other engagements throughout the week which prevent them from coming, you can’t get too loud for fear of angering the folks in the prayer meeting.

I did however have a fairly successful cookout with the youth group. I personally went to grocery stores and asked for donations, knowing that if I asked the church for money I would be turned down. The stores that I visited were more than happy to help out. I got hot dogs, hamburger, and buns from a local grocery store, a Wal-Mart donated chips and condiments, I was able to get the local Dairy Queen to donate napkins, and plastic silverware. The only thing that actually came out of my pocket was the 15 dollars to reserve a shelter at the local state park. The cookout went off without a hitch and I was very proud of what I had been able to accomplished, that is until the next Sunday.

I arrived at church and walked in to be greeted by one of the deacons. He shook my hand and then asked me about the cookout. I told him how everything had gone and he said that some of the members of the church were upset that they hadn’t been invited. I told them it was a youth event and that if the church wanted to have a cookout, I’d be happy to try to get donations once again for them. He frowned and said he’d have to talk to the minister about that. After the service I was informed by the pastor that we were to not have anymore youth events off church property, and that if we had another event we had to include the entire church.

I was both angry and distraught, what type of youth event could I have that involved 70 and 80-year-old men and women complaining about the style of music? What had I done that was so awful? So with this plan being squashed I was beginning to once again get very discouraged, and the old doubts about my really being called, by god, to minister kept swimming in the back of my head.

Things at home weren’t any better. I enjoyed my time with the kids and we had a lot of fun playing games, going to the park, and just being goofy around each other. My wife on the other hand was a completely different story.  To say that things were never good would be a severe understatement. Every day she would go through bouts where she was perfectly content with me and then bouts where she hated my guts. Rumors about alleged affairs had started cropping up shortly after we had gotten married, but I shrugged it off at the time as the devil trying to knock me off my path to the ministry.

I was never serious enough for her, she always saw me as immature and too laid back. To her the sky was always falling, she constantly accused me of sneaking around on her and seeing other women. (Something that I have found is common among spouses that cheat is to accuse the other of doing the same) She would ask for a divorce almost weekly, which would lead me to beg and plead her to not go through with it. I knew that another divorce would completely eliminate my chances at being a minister at any Pentecostal church in the area and I didn’t want the shame of going through another divorce riding on my back.

At the same time as I was trying to get my ministry up and running, I was also working full-time at a local meat-packing plant. The hours were long, the pay wasn’t the best, but it made ends meet and I was content to do this until I got my own church. I say I was content but in all truthfulness, I hated the job. Loud noises have always bothered me and the noise level at this place was unbearable. I also hate being sticky, and at this job, something was always wet and sticky. It was a brutal job, but I was content in that it allowed me, during my off time, to pursue my “calling.”

The job, to my wife, was seen as a pain in the ass. It didn’t allow me to be home enough to get things done, it didn’t pay enough, and it didn’t have good enough benefits. There was always something that I needed to speak to my boss about, which I never did, that would make the job less stressful for her. That’s right I said less stressful for her… I began to realize just how badly narcissistic my new wife was during these fights, in which I would always feel belittled, torn apart, and sorry.

Anyway, With all of these setbacks, stress, and backbreaking labor in mind; my outlook was not too sunny in regards to my chance at becoming a real minister. One day I decided that I was done with it all. My plan was to quit the church, get divorced, and find an easier job. Then the phone rang, on the other end of the phone was an elderly woman who i hadn’t heard from in years. She went to the church that we had attended when I was a small child and had been one of my Sunday School Teachers.

She Said, “I hear you’ve been looking for preaching opportunities? Would you like to preach here next Sunday night?”

My heart jumped in my chest and I excitedly said , “YES!” This was my chance to really be a pastor. It was a one night thing but it might open the possibility to more services. I thanked god that night for the opportunity and set about planning a sermon. I knew this was god’s way at reassuring me I was on the right path. I was ready to preach!

To continue on to part 15 of my journey, click here.

 

 

Satanic Sundays

Satanic Sunday #2: Masturbation

For last weeks Satanic Sunday click here.

The topic for this post was chosen by a poll on twitter. If you haven’t followed yet, why not?

“My family was so poor that if I hadn’t been born a boy, I wouldn’t have had anything to play with.” – Rodney Dangerfield

Growing up in a Pentecostal home, many things were considered to be sinful. One of those things is the most natural things that nearly all humans enjoy, masturbation. Science has taught us that masturbation for men can help prevent prostate cancer, improve mood, as well as relax those who might have trouble sleeping. For women it can help improve self image, decrease stress, and in some may be the only way to reach orgasm.  The majority of people on earth masturbate so why on earth would it be considered sinful? Think about it, you can’t tickle yourself, but you can get yourself off, so there must be some evolutionary reason for it. We’re not even special in our  self love practices, as is shown in the video below.

 

So why is something so natural considered sinful? It all stems from a couple of passages from the Bible, one a misunderstanding of context and the other an attack on thought crime. From these two passages, Christians form their anti-masturbation beliefs.

In Genesis 38 we are told of Onan who instead of raising up, what he believed would be his brothers children(They had no idea how sex worked), instead chose to pull out and cum on the ground. If anything it is a condemnation of trying to deceive god or at worse a condemnation of the pull out method. Nothing at all to do with masturbation.

The second comes from the words of Christ:

“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28

In this we see a condemnation of thought crime. It isn’t about a physical act but a thought, and that thought is lust. As a pentecostal child I remember ministers preaching on the sin of lust, probably more often than any other topic. Lust is blames for numerous other sins in the world. Without lust we wouldn’t have rapists, we wouldn’t have homosexuality, or divorce. It is thought that if we can just control our lustful desires that we could truly become the people that god wants us to be.

There are a couple other passages that deal with the emission of semen in the Jewish law, but these deal with any type of emission and do not deal just with masturbation. So with that in mind I have left them out of this discussion. If you feel the need to read one of these other passages check out Deuteronomy 23.

As a child it is ingrained in your mind that lust is evil. It is never said that without lust we would have no marriages, no love, and no children. Lust is never treated as a natural desire and so anything that attempts to deal with feelings of lust, outside of prayer and fasting, is deemed as a product of Satan. Children feel the urge to masturbate because Satan is attempting to kick their lustful feelings into overdrive, this will in some way allow him to control the child later in life.  Masturbation is the gateway drug to murder.

These anti-lust teachings go even further in some churches.  They teach that the fruit, which eve tasted in the garden of Eden, was not an actual fruit but was her experiencing an orgasm for the first time, through the help of the serpent.  Think of the rush of chemicals that are produced when you orgasm and maybe you can see how they would say it is mind altering and expanding, hence the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve then took what she had learned and brought Adam to orgasm. Those raised in religious indoctrination can speak of the guilt you often experience after sex, thus we see how Adam and Eve saw themselves as guilty and naked before god. Sex is evil and so masturbation is evil as well.

Only when the thoughts of lust enter your mind does the act become something that makes the baby Jesus cry.

I remember once being told that the physical act of masturbation wasn’t evil, but the thoughts in your mind, while you masturbate are. It was said that as long as you can commit the act without thinking of anything lustful, it is perfectly fine. Only when the thoughts of lust enter your mind does the act become something that makes the baby Jesus cry. So the next time you choose to do this, attempt this method, clear your mind of all thoughts, don’t allow a single image to pervade it, and have at it….let me know how it worked in the comment section, because I really don’t see it happening. (Please don’t actually let me know how it works in the comment section)

The truth is that masturbation is perfectly natural and fine, it isn’t going to lead you to a fiery hell or make the baby Jesus cry. It is something healthy that almost everyone does from time to time.  It doesn’t make you dirty, it isn’t one of Satan’s tricks to steal your mind. It is an evolved trait that we share with other members of the animal kingdom.  So as long as you do it in a safe and healthy manner, it’s perfectly fine.  So play with your joystick or toggle switch as much as you want. Enjoy your bean or your pleasure button to your hearts content. It’s safe and fun. Have at it.