Idol-Worshiping Sheep

This is the second part of a two-part series. Your may read part one here. You are strongly encouraged to read the part one before proceeding.


“The Human Heart is a factory of idols.”

– John Calvin

A few years back, I completed a custom painting for a baby boy’s nursery; one that would complement the minimalist style, warm color scheme, and the simplistic, one-dimensional pattern of the bedding set of the new baby’s African Animals-themed nursery.

After creating the landscape and sun, mimicking the simple, leafy shapes from the bedding’s pattern, I created a one-dimensional, dark silhouette of a giraffe.

Lastly, using a wide, fanned brush, I added a slight hint of depth to the painting by dragging layers of cream, coral, and red paint up from the bottom edge of the painting.

DSC01117 (3)

Contrast my very simplistic painting of the giraffe with the intricate, detailed painting of the leopard that my mother created and which I used in my last article.

20181213_172439

While both paintings were created for very different purposes, my mother’s painting of a leopard is, quite clearly, far more representative of one of God’s complex creatures.

My painting of the giraffe, on the other hand, is but a shadow of this truly magnificent creature.

 

Predators in the Pulpits and Prey in the Pews

An even starker contrast between the two paintings is the subject of each: one a predator, the other one, prey.

In my last article, I discussed the concerning phenomenon of authoritarianism, of predatory leadership afflicting some Evangelical churches in America. This phenomenon appears to be on the rise and, since my last article was published, I have learned is far more widespread than I had initially suspected.

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the authoritarian church leader as [1]:

  1. Idolatry: “[T]he sinful desire to always be in control, especially the control of the lives of God’s sheep. Such sin is but a thinly veiled attempt to play God for His people. And make no mistake, such men become as God to their flock. It is hardly surprising that pastors with such a sinful tendency will eventually attain near papal infallibility in their churches [and beyond]. Paul’s command to young Titus in 2:15 (‘…rebuke with all authority…do not let anyone despise you’) is their ‘life verse’ in practice if not in precept. Usually this idolatrous sin of always needing to be in control is accompanied by a wrathful, berating, anxiety-producing spirit as the controlling leader will tolerate no loose electrons in his personal universe of control (Cf. Ezekiel 34:4 & ff.; Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:3). Such self-deified leaders produce congregations which are more afraid of displeasing the leaders than they are of displeasing their Lord and Savior. Men who must be ‘God’ to their people ironically lose the authority of God’s Holy Spirit by their sin. Then their God-given authority is replaced by fleshly control maintained by manipulation, intimidation, verbal coercion and the ecclesiastical version of pulling rank (e.g., ‘Now, I’m your elder and you had better do this, or else…’!) The Apostle John’s description of Diotrophes seems to fall under such a category of sin (3 John 9-10).”
  2. Prayerlessness: “[A]uthoritarian pastors and leaders do not rely upon prayer for their people as a primary instrument ordained by God for the edification and protection of His people. As a result, they verbally coerce and bully their people into conformity… Such fleshly shepherds expend far more labor scolding, threatening, manipulating, confronting, ‘counseling’, and ‘EXERCISING DISCIPLINE’ to get their people to knuckle under to their will.”
  3. Unbelief: “[M]any leaders in churches do not believe the declarative statements and promises of God contained in His Word…  In this pattern of unbelief, following hard on the heels of their own prayerlessness, authoritarian shepherds develop the mindset, ‘If I don’t make them do this, they won’t!’ or ‘If I don’t make them do this, who will?’ They really do not believe that Christ will shepherd His sheep and the Holy Spirit guide and convict the saints while they are away from the human shepherd… Sadly, such pastors and elders create a ‘police-state mentality’ in their congregations: everyone’s life is carefully monitored and scrutinized for any deviation, and any ‘sins’ or questionable activities are to be reported to the church leadership immediately.”
  4. Lack of love for the sheep:Many pastors love to study, preach, teach and manage but they just do not like the people. Even their time counseling people is only to ‘fix’ problems that might mess up the church. Compare such attitudes with that of our loving and compassionate Lord for the sheep-like sinners of His earthly ministry (cf. Matt. 9:36 and 14:14; Mark 1:29-41 and 10:21). Do you see how far removed our Lord’s shepherd ministry is from many pastoral examples today?
  5. Pride: “[A]t root, all the above mentioned sins of office bearers stem from an inflated sense of their own importance. John Calvin once observed that from the king on his throne to the scullery maid in her kitchen, each of us harbors a kingdom in our hearts. Such is the sinful pride of the human heart… How unlike their Master!

 

But there is a flip-side to this coin: idol-worshiping sheep.

“But it has also been my sad observation that a reaction has set in among some churches and leaders. ‘Authoritarianism’ has risen among some pastors and officeholders such that whole churches seem to be little more than idol worshipers of ‘the great man’ and the ‘omnicompetent elders’. Instead of wounded shepherds victimized by their flock, we now have the specter abroad of wounded sheep victimized by the very men called to feed and protect them.

Who is to say which set of sins is worse or brings more shame on the name of Christ and the gospel of grace?

 – Pastor Steve Martin

At least one university lecturer and researcher, Charles Chilimampunga, believes that the trend towards pastor/leader worship “is mostly due to the fact that such church leaders are taking advantage of people’s deprivation,” [2].

 

Pastor Steve Martin of IRBS Theological Seminary has identified the sins of the idol-worshipping sheep as [3]:

  1. Idol-Worship: “[S]inful flesh is not content with the unseen reality of the one true God. It wants to fashion an idol in place of the invisible God who is spirit. There is always the temptation to act like the Jews of Saul’s time who wanted a human leader that they could see, rather than the unseen God Himself (1 Kings 8:1-18). But God shares His glory with no man, not even ‘called men’ who are promoted to demi-god status by their adoring flock. Such flocks too often find for themselves a man who likes to lord it over the flock. Thus a sinfully symbiotic relationship is complete with an abusive authority figure coupled to idol-worshipping minions (e.g., Jer. 5:30-31). Such people populate churches that boast of their preacher but speak little of Jesus Christ!”
  2. Fear of Man: “[T]oo many sheep are more gripped by the desire to please a man or more fearful of displeasing a man than they are of pleasing or displeasing Almighty God (cf. Prov. 29:25; John 5:41-44)… Men-pleasers have little stomach for potential conflict or simple disagreement. They would never dare question their exalted leader, no matter how respectfully. They would never ask for the biblical basis for a decision made by the leadership, even when that decision seems to fly in the face of clear biblical teaching. Such men-pleasers crave the smile of a man’s countenance more than the smile of God and they will not speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:15).”
  3. Unbelief:“[T]oo many believers do not believe that God still guides His people today through the means of prayerful meditation upon the Word of God and the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit…  It is not surprising that Christians who put men of clay on pedestals, who then cravenly serve these idol-leaders, and who do not believe that God still guides should fall prey to abusive leaders. It is only the grace of God that it does not happen more than it does… Perhaps authoritarian shepherds are God’s chastening rods upon the backs of idol-worshipping, men-pleasing, unbelieving sheep who will not have God to be their God and who substitute a mere creature in His place (cf. Isaiah 2:22 and Psalm 33:13-19)?”

 

Unlike a giraffe on the Savanna who will put of a fight against any predator looking for a meal, idol-worshipping sheep willingly allow themselves to become fleshly prey animals for predatory church leaders.

As Pastor Martin has pointed out (emphasis mine) [4]:

Flocks of sheep with paralyzed decision-making faculties reveal exposure to shepherds who played ‘God’ for them. Thus the sinful tendency noted in John Milton’s wry observation (‘New presbyter is but old priest writ large’) returns to haunt the churches. And even more sadly, some idol-worshipping sheep love it to be so.”

Christ described those who would flock to such false shepherds, warning, “For wherever the carcass may be, there the vultures will be gathered,” (Matthew 24:28).

For those who wish not to become vultures, it is imperative to remember that the Word of God advises us “to check themselves and make sure they are not elevating pastors to a place that belongs to Christ in their hearts. Whilst we are to appreciate and love pastors, we need not give them the worship that is due God,” [5].

It is important to recognize and avoid systems of toxic faith.

A horrible and shocking thing

has happened in the land.

The prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule by their own authority.

My people love it so,

but what will you do in the end?”

(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

The Toxic Faith System

There are several notable features of and rules within an environment wherein Christian fellowship and Christian worship has morphed into a system of toxic faith, a system which enables Nicolaitan leaders to persecute their idol-worshiping sheep:

  1. Control: “When the toxic-faith leader struggles with control on a personal level, he or she also attempts to be in the center of control within the system. The leader desires to have the final say in every decision, whether minimal or monumental… so that total control, or at least the illusion of total control, can be maintained by the leader… The more the person seeks to control all details, the less likely that person will be able to maintain a clear vision of the larger issues,” [6].
  2. Blame: “When problems arise, immediately find a guilty party to blame. Almost every toxic believer caught in a public scandal has relied on this rule to explain or minimize the scandal,” [7].
  3. Perfectionism: “A toxic-faith system traps all its religious addicts into the tyranny of perfectionism. Because they are taught that they belong to an elite system, followers believe they can attain perfection, think they need to attain it, and feel terrible shame when they fail… This rule against making mistakes increases shame and fear and motivates members of the toxic system to deny and repress their humanness. A mistake is considered a reason to fear that their faith lacks strength. Fear becomes the motivation to work harder to compensate for a lack of faith that has produced the mistake… The toxic-faith system has no room for error and no room for people who make mistakes. Since people in need, people who mess up, and people who reveal their humanness glaringly point out the weaknesses of the toxic-faith system, they must be removed. Their expulsions also motivate others to measure up to the perfect standards of the organization. They try harder, lest they be thrown out too… The perfectionist practice of faith becomes product-oriented; the relationship with God becomes less important than the product of acceptable behavior. Anything short of perfection elicits the shame of not being quite good enough… The toxic believer… endeavors endlessly to avoid the shame and pain of not measuring up. He or she always hopes that “this time I’ll do it right,” (emphasis mine) [8].
  4. Delusion: “Never point out the reality of a situation. Religious addicts aren’t interested in reality. They don’t want to know how things are. They are interested in how things should be and how everyone can work together to create the illusion that everything is the way it should be. Anyone not creating that illusion will be discounted or removed. To talk of reality is to commit organizational suicide. If more faithful followers were willing to commit organizational suicide and become outcasts, all the other religious addicts would be forced to face reality and change to meet the needs of the people the ministry is supposed to serve,” (emphasis mine) [9].
  5. Perpetual Cheerfulness: “Never express your feelings unless they are positive. Religious addicts don’t care about people. They don’t care how people feel or what their needs are. They care about their own feelings and their own needs. Addicts who know the rules will never reveal a thought, feeling, or doubt that would make the toxic leader feel uncomfortable. The leader wants to be reinforced only with positive feelings and statements of affirmation. No room exists for those who are negative, depressed, or worried about a problem. In a toxic-faith system, followers must always wear pasted-on smiles. Individuals who make known their problems are considered outcasts and are ostracized,” [10].
  6. Spotless image: “At all costs, keep up the image of the organization [or leader(s), or movement]. The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… The toxic-faith organization and the toxic-faith family exist in a world of denial. They deny everyone’s humanity, including that of its leader. One foundation for the growth of a toxic organization is the image of a godlike leader. The leader must be presented as having a level of perfection that others cannot attain… This rule is never observed 100 percent, however. Some members of the organization or a family always come to see the group for what it is and challenge the false perceptions. They become outcasts, but as they go out, they force a crack in the delusive image of the leader, the family, or the organization. Eventually, enough cracks destroy the facade completely, and people recognize the organization for what it is… All rules in a toxic system have something to do with maintaining religious addiction. Rules are designed to fuel the addict’s ego, protect the addict’s position, and perpetuate the status quo. This is the central poison in the family or organization and in the faith of the addicted followers,” (emphasis mine) [11].
  7. Blind Loyalty: “Don’t ask Questions, especially if they are tough ones. Religious addicts must be blindly loyal. Questions, especially the tough ones, reveal that a follower has some doubts and lacks faith. Any questioning is considered resistance to the organization or the leader of the family. Questions are met with responses that indicate certain issues are not to be mentioned. Expenditures of the organization, for example, are said to be beyond the understanding of the followers… There was a time when everything in the solar system was said to revolve around the earth. Those who questioned this belief were cast out, and some were punished. In a system of religious addiction, the toxic-faith leader believes that the ministry or the family should revolve around him or her. Anyone questioning that approach, or suggesting that the ministry revolve around people’s needs, has no place in the system,” [12].
  8. Conformity: “Don’t do anything outside of your role. A toxic-faith system doesn’t permit personal growth. Those who remain in the system must learn their roles and not deviate from them. Otherwise they will be perceived as rebellious and unstable. The toxic-faith leader doesn’t want individualism; he or she wants predictability and conformity. If a person can’t adhere to the rules of the assigned role, that person must be ejected from the system… A toxic-faith system is intent on maintaining the homeostasis of the system, that is, keeping the boat from rocking… The toxic-faith system gets victims to stick to their roles by shaming them. Those at the top encourage followers to shame the rebel to intimidate him or her back into submission… The only individuals who can exist over time in the toxic system are those who stay within the bounds of their roles and continue to find new ways to serve the leader. The more a person can accomplish for the toxic-faith leader, the longer the person will stay and the more respected the person will become,” [13].
  9. Mistrust: “Trust is discouraged so that the system’s leader maintains allegiance of power… Religious addicts exist inside a system based on false reality. Rules are made up, and those living within the rules are unreal. No one can trust in a system where no one is being real. When people do not say what they think or express what they feel, no one can be trusted. Where one must sacrifice the reality of what one thinks, feels, hears, and sees, trust is impossible. In the absence of trust, manipulation and fear grow. Victims allow themselves to be manipulated as long as they remain in the system. Unable to rely on anyone but the leader, they permit that leader to reign over them,” [14].
  10. Elitism: “Religious addicts are at war with the world to protect their terrain and to establish themselves as godly persons who can’t be compared to other persons of faith. In their attempt to maintain and protect their beliefs, religious addicts line everyone up in two camps; there is no middle ground. A person is either part of the toxic-faith system or against it; a person is either supportive or destructive. The toxic organization fosters this mentality until its followers believe that everyone on the outside is a threat to the ministry, has no understanding of what is “really” going on, and must be ignored if they challenge the beliefs of the religious addicts. At the point of any new threat, the leader and the religious addicts are ready to go to war. Individuals who have not made a similar investment will be perceived as enemies ready to strike at any moment… Religious addicts often cease to react and operate like human beings. They show no compassion for the hurting or those who feel trapped in sin. Zealous addicts make sinners feel alienated and hated. The attractive, gathering nature of Christ is lost in the religious addicts’ desire to set themselves above and apart from all the rest. Self-righteousness replaces the humble service to God that probably characterized their walk of faith at the beginning… As the ministry grows, it will come under closer scrutiny, and some of its toxic beliefs will be revealed as such by those who suspect the motives of the leader, the addicts who follow, and the entire organization. When these investigations begin, religious addicts are manipulated into believing that they are being attacked by the enemy. The prudent course would be to admit the mission has gotten off track, confess the wrongs, and bring it back in line with biblical teachings. But religious addicts would never do that until every other option had been taken away,” (emphasis mine) [15].
  11. Labeling: “The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious addict. Labeling attempts to dehumanize critics so that dismissing them or their opinions becomes much easier. The religious addict chooses not to address a critic individually but places a negative label on all who would disagree… Rather than say that John Smith has asked some questions, the addict proclaims that there are “detractors,” “traitors,” or “malcontents” who would destroy the ministry or organization. The labels become rallying points used to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment… By labeling John and by persuading other church members to believe that label, the insecure pastor was able to avoid dealing with disagreement. The military uses labeling to enhance the “killability” of the enemy. The last thing a military leader wants a soldier to think about is that the person in his rifle sights may be a father of five little girls who will starve without a daddy. The enemy is given an ethnic label in an effort to dehumanize him. The soldier is better able to kill one hundred of them than one father or husband. Religious addicts use the technique well, and when they use rumor and innuendo to kill the reputation of a sincere critic, other followers are more apt to go along if a label can dehumanize the dissenter. The purpose of labeling is to separate and divide… The approach is transferred to the person’s individuality. The person is shamed and demeaned for beliefs that have little to do with the person’s value or unique gifts from God. Disqualification by labeling hurts the victims and allows persecutors to continue in their toxic faith. It is sheer poison… Because it is difficult to rally against rational-thinking people who have distinctly different views, labels must be used to polarize the opponents and energize the followers to fight those opponents… Labeling discounts and dismisses the opposition and establishes the superiority of religious addicts. It does not invite the exploration of the beliefs of others; it reduces them to objects of scorn. Labeling becomes the perfect weapon to attack the enemy or defend the toxic-faith system, its beliefs, and addictive practices. Labeling allows religious addicts to define truth, uphold that truth as defined, and destroy anyone who would dare to question that truth,” (emphasis mine) [16].
  12. Sheep Become Co-Conspirators: “[The sheep] are addicted to religion as the means by which they feel accepted and significant… conspirator. In large organizations, more than one co-conspirator usually exists. Several co-conspirators work together to form a team of yes-men and yes-women who will do anything to protect and defend the persecutor. They feed into the persecutor’s ego and further blind him or her from reality. When conflict arises, they usually find a way to agree with the persecutor and support his or her position. They are loyal and supportive of the persecutor in every way. If it were not for them, the persecutor’s empire would fall quickly. In a toxic-faith system, these are the most dangerous followers. They are as driven and misguided as the persecutor, and because they are close to power, people trust them. Because they so deeply believe in the persecutor, many will continue to support that person when trouble, rumor, or admission of wrong surfaces… The primary role of a co-conspirator is to make the persecutor look good… In a typical crisis, the co-conspirator comes to the rescue of the persecutor… Co-conspirators believe their actions are genuine. They say, “I know God’s hand when I see it, and his hand is on this person.” They see everything from the point of view of the persecutor, that he or she has been called of God to head the family or run the ministry and that everything must make sense in light of that divine calling… and further enhance the delusions of the persecutor. Each co-conspirator sees the evil plot as out to get the persecutor [“a faithful minister”] and takes it as a personal mission to protect the persecutor at all costs. If it means that lies and distortions must be propagated, then lies and distortions will be devised. If it means lying to prevent the authorities from taking children out of the home, then lies it will be. For this willingness to lie, thus continuing the delusion of sincerity and purity, the co-conspirator is rewarded with gifts, power, money, and prestige,” (emphasis mine) [17].

“For from the least of them to the greatest,

all are greedy for gain.

From prophet to priest,

all practice deceit.

They have dressed the wound of My people

with very little care,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace at all.

(Jeremiah 6:13-14)

Turning Sheep into Vultures

As you have likely now noticed, the toxic, pack-like environment of a toxic faith system turns the sheep into simplistic shadows, into silhouettes of the Christ-loving people they once were… They lose all ability to empathize with others whom they view as “wrong” (for any reason) and are incapable of humility and forgiveness.

They become caricatures of their former selves.

Consider the below, highlighted passage from page 33 of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s book, “Tortured for Christ.”

4

The sheep became predators, joining in the hunt for His sheep.

Thee became vultures.

These vultures will lie and slander without pause.

These vultures will stalk those deemed “opponents,” both virtually and in person.

These vultures will put good Christians in harm by doxing them.

Some vultures have even gone so far as to send, via “snail mail,” fallacious and defamatory letters to one blogger’s church members (including the janitor), “as well as denominational leaders, the chancellor of a wellknown local university medical center, the chiefs of certain medical divisions, the president of a related denomination’s seminary and a cardiology practice,” and also “all of the members of a community board on which” she and her husband sit [18].

Worst of all, these predatory sheep have sacrificed their relationship with Christ for the worship of a toxic leader and a toxic faith system, and have smeared their once-Christian witness to the world.

“They were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Conclusion

I did not write this for those who have already dedicated themselves to such idolatry (and whom I know will be seeking out and reading this article due to their predatory impulses).

I write this for those who have not yet forfeited themselves to a toxic leader, those who do not yet posess “paralyzed decision-making faculties,” as Pastor Steven Martin describes, and for those precious Christians who, currently, may be feeling trapped in a Nicolaitan fellowship.

Christ is a gift, not a curse.

Christ is humanizes, not dehumanizing or heart-hardening.

If you find yourself in a system where you are being pulled in a direction of becoming a vulture, get out now!

Never create a golden calf out of any human, no matter how much you admire him or her.

Keep your focus on Christ and never let him go!

 

Citations

[1] Pastor Steven Martin, Authoritarian Shepherds and Idol-worshipping Sheep, Abuse of Authority in the Church, IRBS Theological Seminary (2016). Retrieved at: http://irbsseminary.org/abuse-authority-church/

[2] Brenda Twea, Are we idolizing church leaders?, The Nation, retrieved at: https://mwnation.com/are-we-idolising-church-leaders/

[3] Ibid. [1].

[4] Ibid. [1].

[5] Ibid. [2].

[6] Steven Arterburn & Jack Felton, Toxic Faith, WaterBrook Press (2001), P. 216-217.

[7] Ibid. [6], P. 217-218.

[8] Ibid. [6], P. 218-221.

[9] Ibid. [6], P. 221-222.

[10] Ibid. [6], P. 222-223.

[11] Ibid. [6], P. 229-231.

[12] Ibid. [6], P. 223-225.

[13] Ibid. [6], P. 225-226.

[14] Ibid. [6], P. 226-227.

[15] Ibid. [6], P. 154-157.

[16] Ibid. [6], P. 164-168.

[17] Ibid. [6], P. 191-197.

[18] The Wartburg Watch, How a Letter Meant to Hurt Dee in Her Church and Community Gave Her a Precious Gift Instead, retrieved at: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2017/08/16/how-a-letter-meant-to-hurt-dee-in-her-church-and-community-gave-her-a-precious-gift-instead/

In search of doctrinal clarity…

This is Article #6 is a series on confronting apostasy in the church. You can read the last article HERE.


I began redefining my tree painting, bringing focus and detail to the blurred foliage. Adding dots of color, greens and blues, depth and visual clarity slowly returned.

Clarity… that magic word…

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many of us seek?

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many churches have forsaken?

 

 

 

In my last article, I discussed the three preliminary principles of motivation for confronting apostasy in one’s church:

  1. First, love must be your motivation in confronting apostasy.
  2. Second, self-sacrifice must be this love’s demonstration.
  3. The third principle I want to reiterate is this: Biblical truth is the issue.

If you have not read the last article, please do so before proceeding.

What the Bible says:

Dr. Paul M. Elliott of Teaching the Word Ministries has written an excellent series on what the Bible teaches us about confronting apostasy.

As he correctly points out, we have been given instructions through God’s Word:

So let me now come to the process itself. We find the process for dealing with apostasy, in fact for dealing with offenses of all kinds, given to us in Matthew 18:15-17. We find there a process set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said this:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Here we find a four-step process:

  • First, go to your brother alone and make his offense known. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. The force of the original language is that if your brother will pay attention to what you are saying and will repent, you have helped your brother to escape from evil.
  • Second, if he will not hear you, take one or two others with you and speak to him again.
  • Third, if he still refuses to hear, bring the matter before the church as a body.
  • Fourth, if he refuses even to hear the church, then treat him not as your brother, but as an unbeliever.

Be humble, but alert:

Pastors are humans and make mistakes. A single departure from scripture may simply have been an honest mistake.

Still, it is prudent to keep in mind the words of John Calvin:

Truth is not always nurtured in the bosom of the pastors…

Private situations versus public situations:

Private sins should be confronted privately, while public sins should be confronted publicly.

The risk to souls posed by the public teaching of false doctrine is acutely emphasized by Dr. Elliott:

If someone has persisted in false teaching from the pulpit, or in a Sunday school class, or in a home Bible study, or has persistently written false teaching in books or other publications, this is a public matter. It is not a private sin. And so it immediately becomes a matter to be dealt with by the church as a body, and not on a private basis. That is because there is more than the spiritual welfare of one individual or a even handful of individuals at stake. The spiritual welfare of the entire church is at stake.

There are several Biblical examples of public confrontation, including:

  1. in the epistle of Third John: Apostle John said he was going to publicly confront Diotrephes, the pastor of a local church, about his falsehoods;
  2. and in Galatians chapter two: Apostle Paul publicly confronted the Apostle Peter at Antioch when Peter publicly strayed into legalism.

Expect hostility in return:

If there’s one thing you can count on it is resistance. In fact, the simple act of politely questioning, for example, a popular evangelist, is the one of the easiest ways to make yourself unpopular.

Dr. Elliott even gives real-life examples and probable outcomes to prepare you, which you can read about here.

Remember to be humble and steadfast in your defense of God’s Word. Accept hardship. Remember that souls are at stake.

The Truth is the goal.

Examples of public confrontations:

Public confrontations may take on different forms. Some choose to write, such as myself, others use technology such as Twitter or podcasts. Also, some people may choose local vestry meetings, et al.

Example 1:

What I am about to say may make you angry and cause me to lose favor in your sight. Nevertheless, I will proceed with love and with truth: Beth Moore is a hugely popular evangelist. She says many scripturally-based things, but, through her lack of Berean-diligence, a lack of exegesis and through her insistence on undisciplined allegorical interpretation, she has become, over the years, more and more prone to veering wildly off course (scripturally speaking).

For example, in November of 2017, Beth Moore tweeted the following:

BM1

In response, a minister tweeted a response:

BM2

It is utterly bizarre that Beth Moore would paint Noah as having some sort of negative instinct and then extend that negativity upon the rest of us.

Noah acted on faith:

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in godly fear built an ark to save his family. By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7

Noah’s faith in God is a positive example for us, not a negative one. The minister was right to correct Beth Moore’s scriptural folly.

Example 2:

Recently, at the MLK 50 conference, the ministerial visionaries of a world-infected doctrine – a false gospel obsessed with the aesthetics of pigmentation ratios in the pews – preached a false doctrine of superficial, identitarian justice.

In a brave response, two black theologians who rightly and Biblically reject the false category of race – Darrell B. Harrison and Virgil Walker – released two different podcasts (which I encourage you to listen to) denouncing the growing apostasy of this mankind-driven false doctrine within evangelical churches:

  1. MLK 50 CONFERENCE
  2. SIN BY PROXY

Harrison has also written an article for the Christian Post entitled, The Misleading Language of the Social Justice Movement.

***Since then, Harrison and Walker have also put out a podcast addressing false teachers, which can be found HERE.

Here’s the takeaway:

If you wish to save souls, if you wish to liberate others (and yourself) from the shackles of sin, doctrinal Truth is the answer. Those possessing a deep concern for others and a genuine love of Christ must safeguard The Word.

You will face many obstacles. You will face rejection from every direction; from foes, as well as from friends and from those with whom you believe you have alliances.

As I clearly state in the disclaimer to my website, “readers of this blog with likely be presented with an inconvenient truth at one point or another.”

The Truth matters.

Every voice matters.

Your voice matters.

Clarity matters.


There will be one, final post in this series. It will be the most difficult: What to do when your church fully rejects Gospel Truth?

Antibodies of the church, soldiers of Christ

In this way, each of us has a special role to play: the role of a righteous antibody. – We are the antibodies of the church: righteous fighters, salvation’s soldiers.

Project 3, post 5: We are the antibodies of the church, the soldiers of Christ

This is the 5th part of Project 3. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, Part 3 HERE, and Part 4 HERE.

 

Periodically we are treated to the sight of a rainbow stretching wide across the sky, or vivid sunsets of red and pink, purple and blue. During such times, the colors that we typically spot in the landscape of God’s plentiful earth, we can also find high above, beautifully complimenting the pastel sky.

 

To mimic these stunning moments of symmetry, testaments to the splendor of the Almighty, I began bringing the colors found in the sky and in the foliage of the tree in my on-going piece down into the grassy meadow below.

 

Note: Painting involves mixing paints to create various colors. Because of this, it is important to stagger the stages of your painting, keeping in mind the paint you wish to use in multiple areas should be carried out in a fashion that does not lend itself to the premature drying-out of your paints.

 

Artistic process:

 

  • First, I redefined the border between the meadow with a simple, thin brown line. Next, I used a matte black to define the roots of the tree, creating shadows. White was added to define highlights and add the illusion of texture and dimension.

 

  • Using the tip of my pinky finger, I smudged the black paint onto the canvas, drawing it out away from the roots, creating depth. I also smudged black along various areas of the grass away from the roots of the tree.

 

  • Again, using the tip of my pinky finger, I smudged teal paint along the outside of the shadows beneath the tree. The dark, teal-gray paint was the same color I used as the base color for the foliage of the tree. Like the black, I carried this color into the broader body of grass.

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I observed the many shades of reds and oranges and flecks of yellow which were so vibrant in the sky of the piece.

 

Keeping in mind that the tree’s broad branches would, in real life, cast a shadow upon the ground below, I plotted areas toward the edges of the canvas that would remain brightly lit from the vibrant sun.

 

  • Using a half-inch wide, flat-faced brush with stiff bristles, I used left to right dragging stroke to punctuate the grassy field with reds and oranges and hints of creamy yellow. The yellow was used to emphasize the most sunlit areas of the landscape.

 

When painting landscapes, the infusion of darks and lights and various colors can serve to define elevation changes of the earth.

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Sprigs of grass can be added to these elevation indicators to further develop the impression of fluctuations in elevation, such as with small mounds or sloping hills, as seen in the example (below) of a different painting.

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  • Mixing paints, I created five different shades of green, from very light to very dark.

 

  • Using a small, very thin, round-tipped brush, I applied sprigs of grass with brisk strokes upward; starting at the base of the blade of grass and then sweeping upward.

 

  • I also used the green paint to further define the earthen base for the grass. I applied a few random lines, from left to right, and pulls blades of grass out and upward from each.

 

  • Lighter shades of green were used in areas of direct sunlight; darker shades in the shadows.

 

  • I made sure to sporadically group clumps of grass around the roots of the tree to create depth.

 

I stood back a few feet from the painting and observed the balance of color. Having carried colors from the sky and the dark grayish-teal down into the meadow, I decided to add one last touch.

 

  • Using the same, round brush I had used to apply the vibrant, deep blue “dots” in the foliage of the tree, I carried that color and the dots down into the grass.

 

  • I applied the dots heavily around the base of the tree; then thinned them outward.

 

The below image shows the painting as completed after the above steps.

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Reflection:

 

As I stood back to take in the piece, at all that I had done thus far, those bright blue dots popped out at me. Those vibrant dots felt as if they were alive; tiny balls of energy, as if the very life source of the meadow and of the grand ol’ tree itself.

 

As I gazed up my painting I realized that those splendid bits of blue were symbolic embodiments of the souls of Bible-believing, faithful Christians…

 

Throughout this project – dealing with the need for the body of Christ to reclaim our churches from the grips of apostacy – I have written at length about the need for each one of us to take responsibility for both reading and studying God’s precious Word, and for safeguarding His Word from misapplication and abuse. We must hold tight to sound doctrine.

 

In this way, each of us has a special role to play: the role of a righteous antibody.

 

Scattered amongst the branches of the tree and sprinkled in the meadow below, each vibrant blue dot – each dedicated, Bible-believing Christian – acts as an antibody, serving to prohibit the infection of heresy from progressing. If we each do our job, we prevent the disease from running rampant.

 

For this reason we have a very important task: In essence, we must be missionaries within our own congregations, apostles within our own churches.

 

We are the antibodies of the church: righteous fighters, salvation’s soldiers.

 

And, that’s a pretty cool thing indeed!

 

So, now I wish to close from a few verses from 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 2New Living Translation (NLT)

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

11 This is a trustworthy saying:

If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
12 If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
13 If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.

The Illusion of Holiness & Shadow-barren Trees

Project 3, Post 4: The Illusion of Holiness & Shadow-barren Trees

The is the 4th part of Project 3 which covers the state of the church here in America. You can read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

(Col.2:8-9, NASB).

Artistic Process:

  • After first identifying what direction the sun would be coming from in this painting, I added highlights to the branches of my tree using a bright off-white. Using a thin, straight brush, I created clean, crisp lines across the topside of each branch. Next, I used a dark grey to define the underside of each branch, as seen in the image below.

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  • I selected a dark greyish-teal to form the base of the tree’s foliage. Using a 1/2” wide, rounded, soft brush, I dabbed the dark teal paint into the canvas. Since trees do not have leaves all over each branch, I scattered the teal around the branches. Notice: I added some teal along the length of the branches, but often not covering the branch itself. This allows for the foliage that appears from behind each branch.

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  • Next, I added shadows, very dark shadows. For this I selected a flat back. I followed along the same pattern of the teal I had already laid upon the canvas, but also took the black across the branches in several areas. I did this, because leaves that are closer to the viewer would undoubtedly cast a shadow behind them. In other words, the dark shadow was applied to create depth.

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  • I then selected a slightly lighter shade of teal-blue paint. After allowing my brush to dry, I dabbed it into the paint. Keeping the width of the brush parallel to the bottom and top edges of the canvas, I briskly tapped/dabbed the teal paint upon the canvas. This created rough edges, creating the illusion of leaves. I applied the teal paint in clusters. Some of these clusters were applied across the branches of the tree. Once this was finished, the distinct illusion of leaves had been created.

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  • Finally, I used a long, straight brush with a circular tip to dab on tiny dots of dark blue paint. This added texture and dimension to the foliage of the tree.

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Reflection:

While reading the Bible, 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 grasped my attention. Here, Paul says:

If some people are not Christians come to your church meeting while all the people are speaking in special sounds, they will think you are crazy. But if a man who is not a Christian comes to your church meeting while you are all speaking God’s Word, he will understand that he will understand that he is a sinner by what he hears. He will know he is guilty. The secrets of his heart will be brought into the open. He will get on his knees and worship God. He will say, “For sure, God is here with you!”

 

Paul’s main point here, put very simply, was to point out the fruitlessness of preaching in tongues/languages that others can not understand. Obviously, it is quite difficult to impact others meaningfully without speaking a language they understand. However, Paul’s words also point out the power God’s Word has on others. Thus, we can see the importance of straightforwardly speaking God’s Word for others, as the Word has the unique power to convert souls. This power lies in the Word’s ability to illuminate the darkness of sin, to bring it to the surface of one’s conscience. It is through the intimate illumination of sin which takes place within a person’s soul that leads to repentance and conversion. For this, I am reminded of Jesus’s words (John 3:20), “Everyone who sins hates the Light. He stays away from the Light because his sin would be found out.” Jesus is the Word, and the Word is the Light.

 

The composition of the tree’s foliage in my ongoing painting is symbolic of American churches which contain both darkness and shadows, as well as light. Some churches have become places of darkness, where scripture twisting and sin validation commonplace. Like the illusion of foliage in my painting, the illusion of holiness is maintained in unholy houses of worship. It is this illusion of holiness that sustains the false teachers’ positions of authority. As the scattered blue dots among the leaves, there may still remain a few congregants in the darkest churches who remain genuinely filled with the Light of the Holy Spirit. However, the majority of the congregants in the darkest houses have been led astray by the wolves.

 

How does this happen?

Notice in the image below how the foliage has overtaken the black shadows that I had laid down.While the shadows are still visible, the light has returned to prominence. In many churches the opposite is true: their trees are barren; the shadows having overtaken the branches. Like a garden unattended, weeds were left unopposed and passively permitted to flourish without reproach, and the Light of God’s Word was slowly, selectively, and purposefully twisted into language incomprehensible or kept locked away from the ears of the flock. The flock has been led into placid captivity.

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Still, there are others who actively engage in their own entrapment and in the entrapment of others. These sheep, having fallen asunder through indoctrination into worshiping the false philosophies of men, will fervently reject God’s Word when it is spoken. They will bray incessantly with anger and rage to all those who plainly speak God’s Word. These are like the swine who trample pearls beneath their feet (Matthew 7:6).

“Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Our jobs a Bible-believing Christians of all denominations is the same today as it was in Jesus’s time, in Paul’s time: we are to be a spirit-filled force of holy opposition, holding fast against the forces of darkness. We must keep ourselves directly opposite to those who espouse falsehoods. Only through our steady withstanding can we expect to bring God’s Light and His Word into our shadow-stricken churches. Only through our unwavering example can all sinners hear the language of Christ and repent, sheading their chains of sin.

“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.  “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

(Acts 20:27-31 NASB).

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Trees Are Not Brown… And Other Truths

Project 3, Post 2: Trees Are Not Brown….. and Other Truths

In my last post (the first of this series), which can be read HERE, I described my inadvertent ruining of a once promising piece… My creative experimentation doesn’t always turn out well. I had accidentally turned a painting full of light into one now blanketed in darkness.

As I mentioned this is not dissimilar from the current state of our American churches… It is we who must confront ourselves in order to restore our churches to places of light and Truth.

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Artistic Process:

I kept looking at my poor picture – that poor tree – and kicking myself for what I had done. The whole thing… It was just a big mess! My error left me feeling a bit deflated and a lot confused. What do I do now? How am I supposed to fix this? I can’t take the wax off… How do I save my picture???

As I stood there pondering my canvas catastrophe, my thoughts slowly grew in clarity and I was able to identify a new “starting point.” The streams of melted wax had blurred the boundary between the sky and the ground…

And so began the process of renewing my painting…

I mixed into being variations of yellows and greens, darks and lights (all acrylics). After determining where the horizon line would be formed, I began applying the paint using short, brisk stokes, creating grass. Using dark greens and browns I slowly created elevation changes and shadow. At last, a clear division between land and sky had been established. The mess I had made of my painting had regained a small semblance of order. Once I finished the border area I went on to rejuvenating my poor, darkness enveloped tree.

 

Many people don’t realize this, but tree trunks and branches are far closer in color to gray than to brown. Sure, we all grow up coloring brown trees with green leaves, but that isn’t actually representative of reality, of truth. I challenge you to go outside and find a tree. Walk up close. Is it brown or is it more of grayish in tone? HERE is a fairly simple, scientific explanation. 🙂

I carefully reformed the body of my tree using shades of gray paint. Darker shades were applied against lighter shades to create clear and distinct shadows and highlights. Grays aren’t the only colors found on the trunks of trees, however. Many trees often play host to interesting molds and fungi, many of which are greenish in tone. Therefore, I took a splayed, dry brush and dabbed small sections of the tree trunk and branches with olive-colored paint.

…Little by little I was able to uncover my lovely, knotted-old tree from that dark mess of which I had made. I could see its form, its beauty. No longer was it hidden. At once, it was as if I felt a heavy load had been lifted off my back.  Truth and clarity have that effect on us.

BELOW are pictures representing various stages of renewing and redefining my tree.

 

Reflection:

There is a clear border between land and sky, right and wrong, good and evil. However, if trees are gray instead of brown, what is the Truth about good and evil, about right from wrong? The world of fallen men has a tendency to creep into our idea of right and wrong. Have you lost site of the border, the boundary between good and evil?

Do you follow Biblical scripture or do you follow worldly scripture? Do you even know the difference?

We (Christians) of all people should be the most diligent in knowing what is Truth. That comes from diligence to knowing and understanding God’s written Word.  Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11, for their scriptural diligence, writing “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

“…If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15:14

Right now, many Christians live in a state of ignorance. We conflate nice with good. We conflate position with honor. We are lazy and far too trusting. We assume that the lessons from the pulpit are honest and truthful and based in scripture. If you assume that your minister is preaching Truth simply because he became a minister, was hired at your church, and seems like a nice guy… You could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute.

When is the last time you read from your Bible? Do you check the sermons and the words of others against scripture to determine Truth? If you don’t, you could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute!

Our jobs as Christians isn’t simply to receive sermons or try to be better people. Our job is also to safeguard the Word of Christ Jesus and his message, ensuring that it is delivered to others in Truth! The Word of God is precious. However, harmful and fallacious doctrine results when the word is taken out of context and twisted around by fools. From now on, understand that you are the keeper of the Word. If you don’t read the entire story and seek to understand it, you only contribute to the abuse against it. If you do not double check references to scripture made by others, including ministers, including ME, you could be allowing the Word to be abused and misused.

If you do not seek the Truth, you do not and will not have the Truth. You do not and will not know gray from brown. You do not and will not know the difference between right from wrong and good from evil.

We must stay diligent seeking God’s Truth. We can not renew our churches without first being able to SEE the clear border between right and wrong, truth and lie. By reading God’s Word, our own failures and sinful nature come to light. – I know, because God’s Word continually  reminds me of my fallen nature as a human and the Holy Spirit is my inspiration for my continuous quest toward living as God wishes. Christ saves me from myself and he lifts me up, carrying my burdens. He walks with me and guides me forward. It is imperative that we continually renew our own spirits in Christ and in Truth, confronting ourselves. God’s Word brings the border between truth and lie, right and wrong into clear focus.

Today- rededicate yourself to God’s Truth through his Word. Pray for full understanding. Renew your soul.

This is your own new starting point! Go, now. Off your tuckuss!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

Project 3, Post 1: Melted Crayons & Smothered Light

Project 3, Post 1: Melted Crayons & Smothered Light

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Introduction & Artistic Process:

A few months back, I found an unfinished painting behind my wardrobe. It was a picture of a leafless tree against the backdrop of vibrant yellow and red (shown above). I decided to finish the piece. It was to be a bumpy road… one which I am now going back and reflecting upon.

I love experimenting. In 2015, I created a painting of dandelions using acrylic paint and melted crayons (pictured below). I had been somewhat disappointed with the finished project, but – as with many of my pieces that I feel are flops – others adored my dandelion creation. It had long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating endeavor, but the piece became a fan favorite!

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So, gazing upon my leaf-barren tree, I decided to experiment with melting crayons once again…. Yet, I was about to reminded that not every experiment turns out well.

I began by cutting and then gluing tiny fragments crayons onto the grass areas of my piece. Next, I used a hair dryer to melt the crayons, holding the canvas at a tilt so that the liquefied, colored wax would run upward like shoots of grass. Hmmm… I thought to myself. That doesn’t look right…

Undeterred, or oblivious to the gravity of my mistake, I made things even worse. I added bits of crayon to the branches of my tree, melting the colored wax into what turned out looking like a dark blob with sporadic offshoots like fingers. Ahhhhh! What have I done??? My tree looked like a “swamp thing.” At once I realized that I had destructively altered a painting. It had been full of bright light, but I had smothered that light. The painting was now heavy and dark and seemed as if it had entered a state of madness. The few areas of light remaining had lost their vibrancy and seemed completely at odds with the dark and heavy wax now covering so much of my piece. The light seemed almost as if was now locked in battle with the swamp thing itself.

 

What had started with a small number of tiny crayon fragments, scattered around the base of my tree, had grown into weeds, casting shadow upon and overtaking the grass below. I could have stopped this invasive species right then and there. Instead, I allowed it to spread… I participated in its invasion upward. It only took a few minuscule flecks of crayon, settling in among the branches of its intended victim, to ultimately blanket the poor tree on a thick coat darkness. The weeds had spread and shut out the light.

“A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” ~Galatians 5:9

Reflection:

What had been done to my tree is not dissimilar to what is being done to our churches and to the body of Christ. Weeds live amongst the scattered grasses in every area of the world. These weeds have even taken root in most of the branches of Christianity the world over. It is their constant desire for and their coveting of others’ nutrients to drain that compels the spread of the weeds, just like kudzu, the plant that ate the South.

Subversives are as old as time… “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The Christian church has always been under attack. Christian themselves come under attack from the very moment they devote themselves to Christ; a fact of which, unfortunately, many Christians are never warned. Perhaps, though, one of the most tragic aspect of Satan’s slow march toward church destruction and Christian enslavement is that so many of us actually aid the enemy himself. Our precious nutrients are what Satan and his servants rob from us and consume. Courage, conscience, certainty, trust, faith, conviction, foresight, clarity, honesty, kindness, generosity, chastity, and reason are just a few of our nutrients upon which the subversives feed upon in service to their master.

“This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.”     ~Galatians 2:4

Confronting our own participation – whether accidental, passive, or purposeful – in Satan’s schemes is essential. Just as I was forced to contend with what I had done to my poor painting, we Christians must contend with the darkness we have allowed to progressively blanket our churches in darkness under our watch.

In my next post, I will cover my first steps toward saving my painting, and, God willing, I will discuss the issues we must contend with and the steps that we must take to renew the Body of Christ and our churches. Remember: God is our savior, our everything! The road won’t be easy and I am sure to receive some unwanted attention from the dark realms. I ask you to join me in this journey, and to please pray for my protection and for your protection as, together with God, we delve into this pressing matter.

Project 2, Post 9- Quantum Theory, Subatomic Particles & Sub-humans: Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Election

 

Project 2, Post 9- Quantum Theory, Subatomic Particles & Sub-humans: Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Election

“FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, THE PIONEER AND PERFECTOR OF FAITH. FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM HE ENDURED THE CROSS, SCORNING ITS SHAME, AND SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.”

~ HEBREWS 12:2

Artistic process:

Continuing with Project 2, I decided to break from my original plan (just briefly). I found a beautiful blue and decided to try a little experiment… I added water to the blue paint; enough to make it very thin, but not so thin that it would be transparent. I filled one of my husband’s shot glasses about half-way full. I stood, shot glass of blue paint in hand, peering down upon my canvas lying on my kitchen floor. After a deep breath and a split-second of hesitation I did it… I turned the glass over. I poured/dumped the blue paint right onto my painting below. I watched as the paint pooled into a large puddle. I loved it! I repeated this process a few more times, varying the amount of paint in the glass in order to ensure that each blue puddle or spatter was not uniform in size, etc.

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Reflection:

Standing back, I began to see my blue spots as clusters of subatomic particles…

Teeny, tiny subatomic particles do not adhere to the laws of physics and gravity. Instead, subatomic particles (also called theoretical entities) – like electrons – break the “laws” of physics, lacking definite positions and momentums. “A single particle isn’t really a ‘particle’ as we understand the term, but instead can act like a wave (while not being a wave either). ‘Particles’ are smeared, ghostly entities unlike anything we can visualize or even imagine” (Stokes, 2016).

Every splash of blue on my canvas is different; shape, size, location, etc. The only similarity appears to be the blue hue of each peculiar puddle. This started me thinking about the intellectual, geographic, moral, etc. variances among American voters. Americans tend to see each other as either blue (a Democrat) or red (A Republican).

There are two dominant theories in Theoretical Physics. “Quantum theory tells us about the domain of the extremely small world of subatomic particles, while general relativity tells us about everything else, particularly about the very large and very fast – about reality on a cosmic scale” (Stoke, 2016). Both theories actually need each other, because neither theory alone can account for reality. The two theories are like spouses, each complementing one another through a division of labor (aka areas of study and application). However, Quantum theory and General Relativity have also been known to prove each other wrong, mathematically speaking: for this reason theoretical physicists only use general relativity in its respective domain, and likewise only use Quantum theory in its respective domain. As physicist Brian Green Writes, “When the equations of general relativity commingle with those of quantum mechanics, the result is disastrous. The equations break down entirely.” Michio Kaku has stated, “the great mystery of the past five decades… has been the total incompatibility of these two theories.”

Doesn’t that remind you a bit of Democrats and Republicans?

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Typically, we Americans assume that all Democrats agree on every issue, and likewise for Republicans. However, many people do not adhere to party politics by settling into mass consensus on policies or issues… The results of the recent presidential election is an interesting illustration of blues, reds, purples, women, men, Latinos/as, blacks, whites, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc… defying our superficial stereotypes of each group of voters by ultimately voting for and electing Donald Trump to be America’s next president.

As such, we now know that the pre-election polls were wrong – way wrong – showing a far fewer number of Donald Trump voters than there actually ended up being. The majority of Americans, regardless of their vote, were equally surprised at just how many people actually voted for the now President-Elect Trump.

The news media & their pundits, along with those who are often referred to as “elites” were especially stunned by and have appeared generally unprepared to cope with the election results. If this were physics, we might say that this could be an example of what is called the “Problem of Unconceived Alternatives.” In Social Psychology, however, we would call this the “False Consensus Effect” – a common occurrence for people or groups who have a high degree of “egocentric bias” (Mullen, 1983) (Greenberg, 1983).

Within the faulty pre-election polls and political insider predictions also lies another underlying issue regarding the election that is worthy of discussion; the prevalence and effects of name-calling and ad hominem attacks.

To spite each of the presidential candidate’s flaws, one group of Americans became thrust into the election as if they too were one of the presidential candidates. Instead of candidate attacking candidate in normal, predictable campaign fashion, the American citizens actually found themselves targets of widespread slander and defamation for political purposes. It took almost no time at all for citizen-shaming to replace policy discussions. In this process something extremely critical occurred: no longer seen as an intelligent, informed individual making voting decisions on policy, the American voter is now seen as an extension of – a synonymous being of – his/her chosen candidate. Therefore, any American voter siding with the “wrong” candidate is worthy and deserving of humiliation, violence, and ultimate take-down. It isn’t only guilt by association, but eternal, social damnation by association.

“IN THEIR OWN EYES THEY FLATTER THEMSELVES TOO MUCH TO DETECT OR HATE THEIR SIN.”

~ PSALM 36:2

As multiple members of the press have now publicly acknowledged, their coverage of Donald Trump and of Americans who might vote for Donald Trump was extremely negative and nothing less than an attempt at total polarization of the American populous. Therefore, looking back at the polls, it is certainly reasonable to imagine that some of the Americans who were polled – out of fear of reprisal – may not have truthfully answered, “Who will you be voting for?”

The real damage done to the American public hasn’t been flawed polls… Personally attacking American citizens – American voters – has, perhaps irreversibly, shut down any hopes of open, honest and constructive discussion and deliberation of important issues and policies effecting  our country.

“HATRED STIRRS UP CONFLICT BUT LOVE COVERS ALL WRONGS.”

~ PROVERBS 10:12

For example: Over the past two or three years I have been called a bigot, a racist, a flat-Earther, a hater, uneducated, and more. Exclusively due to my Christian faith, numerous people have, on multiple occasions, spoken or written horribly cruel words to me that go something like, “I can’t wait until all of you people go extinct.” Or, “Pretty soon all of you will be dead and extinct.” Or, “Please, just give the world a break and go ahead and die!” Or, “I hate your kind.”

My kind?

“…BUT WE ALSO GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT SUFFERING PRODUCES PERSEVERANCE;”

~ ROMANS 5:3

Most notable, however, is that my attackers’ maliciously-motivated, vicious acts of name-calling against me have been uttered in seemingly random and nonsensical ways having little to no relation to an issue being discussed…

For example: Amidst a conversation with of friends, both of us mutually expressing the tragedy of and discussing the heroin epidemic effecting so many people around the country, a topic that has been nationally reported by a variety of national news agencies (such as the Washington Post for example), I shared information that I had read about heroin – specifically regarding the geographic sources funneling heroin into the US and Canada – from the official White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy website. (Heroin entering Canada is mostly produced and smuggled into Canada from Afghanistan. Heroin entering the United States is mostly produced in both Mexico and in a few South American Countries – such as Columbia – and, then, that heroin is subsequently smuggled into the United States through Mexico.) Suddenly and without warning, I was screamed at and told that I was both a racist and an anti-immigrant bigot.

Wait… WHAT???

I was under the impression (apparently a false impression) that we were openly discussing a bipartisan, human issue: I assumed that any facts about the drug at the center of the issue (heroin) was relevant to the discussion, and that the free exchange of information regarding this drug was both welcomed and appreciated. I was wrong! In my friend’s eyes (in her view), my informative act of sharing statistical information from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy website in an innocent attempt to contribute to the conversation, I had – unbeknownst to me – completely changed a bipartisan issue about heroin and the heroin epidemic in the US and Canada into a very partisan issue; a bigoted, racist, all-out war upon all non-whites and upon immigrants.

In spite of the fact that my friend and I had never discussed anything having to do with immigration, border control, NOR the fact that immigrants, race, immigration, etc. had NEVER even been discussed during our “heroin talk,” her political bias weaponry system went into automatic hyper-drive.

The entire situation makes absolutely no sense! I’m still left grappling with a combination of emotions: hurt, confusion, bewilderment, frustration, powerlessness, etc.

“WITH THEIR MOUTHS THE GODLESS DESTROY THEIR NEIGHBORS, BUT THROUGH KNOWLEDGE THE RIGHTEOUS ESCAPE.”

~ PROVERBS 11:9

In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky stated “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no question that this “ridicule rule” has been utilized repeatedly over the past few years. Yet, that very same rule is also one of the main reasons Americans now find ourselves in our current state of complete communication breakdown, as well as a breakdown of societal civility.

*It is also worth asking: Just how many Americans (democrats and other typically unlikely to be Trump voters) were actually driven into voting for Donald Trump after innocently stumbling into a situation in which they found themselves under attack, such as my own experience that I discussed above?

Paul Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreements is a good tool for examining the issue of insults and ad hominem attacks (see the image below).

grahams_hierarchy_of_disagreement-svg

Here’s how it works: The lower that an argument falls on the pyramid, the less productive it is. In critique of the typical “liberal” argument, we can place those arguments into the bottom two categories: “name-calling” and “ad hominem.” (Sometimes, though, liberal politicians will also utilize “contradiction” arguments for personal and party gain.) As social creatures, humans seek acceptance. Thus, name-calling and ad hominem attacks are successful in shutting down discussions, as well as in peer-pressured coercion. Silencing decent and pressuring peers into conformity may initially further the goals of a specific interest group or a specific cause, in the short-term. In the long-term, however, these types of attacks harm both greater society and any other societal/cultural groups who may end up being ostracized or persecuted by the constant attacks from the domineering group.

Name-calling and ad hominem attacks spread fallacious stereotypes and prejudices, and also skew our sense of social reality. It is impossible to understand members of a society – their lives, hopes, needs, etc. – when large portions within that society have become silenced, relegated to second-class citizens. It also becomes difficult for government leaders to address the needs of a diverse populous when one group has forced another group into mute submission. It order for our representative democracy to flourish, we must to move beyond dehumanizing those we disagree with. We must extend respect to every single American citizen, affording all people basic human decency.

“WHOEVER CONCEALS HATRED WITH LYING LIPS AND SPREADS SLANDER IS A FOOL.”

~ PROVERBS 10:18

“SHOW PROPER RESPECT TO EVERYONE, LOVE THE FAMILY OF BELIEVERS, FEAR GOD, HONOR THE EMPEROR.”

~ 1 PETER 2:17

We can all be passionate about issues that are near and dear to our hearts. However, we can’t continue to hurt and to shame and to demonize and to punish and to silence those whose views aren’t in cultish-unison with our own. We don’t have to find agreement… What we must find is the ability live alongside one another as unique cultural communities. Is someone else’s opinion truly a threat to your own ego?

“MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH EVERYONE AND TO BE HOLY; WIITHOUT HOLINESS NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD.”

~ HEBREWS 12:14

A true test of a person’s strength is the ability to listen and to actually consider the ideas and beliefs of others, without name-calling and ad hominem attacks, and to ultimately allow others the human decency to hold and to live by views contrary to your own.

Quantum theory and general relativity are both valuable theories in the physics realm. Thus, isn’t it possible that Americans, though different, may each posses valuable insights to solving America’s issues?

“IN EVERYTHING SET THEM AN EXAMPLE BY DOING WHAT IS GOOD. IN YOUR TEACHING SHOW YOUR INTEGRITY, SERIOUSNESS.”

~ TITUS 2:7

REFERENCES:

http://paulgraham.com/disagree.html

Greenberg, Jerald. Overcoming Egocentric Bias in Perceived Fairness Through Self-Awareness. American Psychological Association. Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 2 (June 1983), pp. 152-156

Mullen, Brian (1983-10-01). “Egocentric bias in estimates of consensus”. Journal of Social Psychology 121 (1): 31-38

http://matthewvadum.blogspot.com/p/saul-alinskys-24-rules-for-radicals.html

“How to be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough” http://www.mitchstokes.com/about.html