Keeping the Faith (part 3)

Continuing with my study of Ben Giesbrecht’s book, Keeping the Faith  and I find a few more things I want to address.  First of all, let’s take a good long hard look at this;  on page 104 he is speaking of the Inquisition.  He says, quoting a former Catholic priest, “I, like the Catholic pilot of the Nagasaki plane, ‘The Great Artiste” was heir to a Christianity that had for seventeen hundred years engaged in revenge, murder, torture, the pursuit of power, and prerogative violence, all in the name of our Lord.”

I know it is a very broad generalization to begin to compare the actions of the Holdeman church during the purge of the 1970s to the Catholic Inquisition, but one must not overlook the similarities.  On page 100 Ben says “The Inquisition was one of the most cruel processes devised by man.”  Instead of looking at the methods used to bring people under control, let us focus more upon the motives.  I think it is stated clearly in the first quote, mentioned above. “The pursuit of power.”  Now, they might say they were cleansing the church.  They look back on it as a great revival.  Let us define more clearly what actually took place.

The church had come through a time of prosperity and relative thriving, and many of the practices that held it in check were eroding and becoming blurred.  Ben put it well in the statement he made about the teaching of the one true church being necessary in order for the church to have power. Hence, the cruel knuckles of the purge.  The power to beat the members came from enforcing the belief in the one true church.  People were called in for visits.  Paneled, as it were.  They were called in for “interviews.”  In these interview, questions were asked and people were then given a “writing.”  Often there were people who believed they were walking with God.  They wanted nothing more than to be a part of the church and be a Christian.  Much to their shock and surprise, they were told they were lacking. Some were told on the spot that they would be excommunicated.  Others were given a limited amount of time to “come up with an experience.”  The experiences that allowed people to survive and retain their membership had to do with bowing to the authority of the church, and asserting convincingly enough that they bowed to the ministers and their assessment of the individual’s spiritual condition.  The terror and dismay caused by all of this was unimaginable. I knew a woman who had lost a son in a car accident many years ago and she said that the ordeal that she endured in the paneling was worse than the death of her son, and she was never even put on repentance.  How do you figure all of this?

Let me quote another passage from the book. Where Ben uses the words “Catholic Church” as you read, change that to Holdeman.  “Why do we give so much space to the errors of the Catholic Church?  Is it because we think Catholic people are not good people?  No, Catholic people are like other people.  Among them there are many good people.  We might say that as a people they are neither better nor worse than people of other religions or beliefs.  The Catholic Church has done many great works of charity.  There are many highly principled Catholic individuals.  But this can be said of any people.”  This is true.  The people do not make the system evil, but rather the beliefs and practices.  I can hear what you are saying now.  You are saying, So you think that there is nothing good in the Holdeman church? No, I am saying that the whole system is simply wrong. You could go out there and change systems, find one that more realistically fits your needs, and still be wrong. You are to come OUT of systems entirely.  Systems are worldly.  The world is full of systems, religious,  political, corporate. They are all the same. They all operate on the same principles.  They are a power structure, and the ones at the top will control the ones at the bottom or there will be chaos.  All systems are wrong when it comes to being a Christian.

Among those with spiritual discernment, there is an uncomfortable, embarrassing difference between the power and practice of the New Testament Church and the religious organizations and denominations that have since come into existence. What began as a living, Christ-centered faith has evolved into something far removed from what Jesus intended when He declared: “I will build My Church (Ekklesia), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

What IS this Church that Jesus is building? What does it look like? Where is it located? Who is in charge of it? Do the religious institutions and leaders of today really represent the faith that was first given to us by Christ, taught by the apostles and confirmed by the Holy Spirit? Or has Christianity been replaced by “Churchianity”?

Some say God is calling us to restore the Church to what it used to be. They believe the answer lies in preaching, repentance, reformation, and working from within the system to repair it.

But a growing number of Christians say that the Church as it exists today was never God’s intention in the first place. They have forsaken the “old wineskins” and religious structures of Christendom to follow Jesus in the simplicity that the early Christians followed Him. They are not called to fix the system, but to come out of it altogether. They still love the people, and are concerned for the people. They do miss something of the fellowship they once thought they had. And sometimes they miss it so much that they do go and visit other churches, trying to fit in, trying to find a place. But try as they might, something in them just cannot go along with it anymore.

If we continue to nail down every precept, doctrine and tradition, we have missed completely the message that Jesus came to bring.  He came to make us followers of HIM, not followers of a lineage or a religious tradition.  He came not to enforce rules, but set us free from rules. He came to put the law in our hearts, not on paper or stone.  Can you not see this my friends?  Are your eyes blinded by tradition, love of ease and acceptance?

When we speak of power, what should we be speaking of?  On the day Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out.  He came with power.  What kind of power was this?  Was it the power of one man to control others?  Did it endorse the power of a system to force people to follow under pain of great loss?  No, this power was personal, individual. It was the power to overcome sin. It was the power to actually cast out demons, heal the sick, and the Bible actually says to raise the dead.  Look at what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew chapter 10  (v.8)  “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”  He tells them how to go about doing all of this.  Then in verse 17 he says “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;”  I feel that is a verse that someone could claim when they have been cast out of the Holdeman church for no particular sin, but simply that they undermined the power structure of the leaders and the one true church system.  Have you been delivered up to a council?  Have you been scourged in the church?  If you have and you have an experience to tell, we would like to hear about it here.  There is further liberty, as they say.

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6 Responses to Keeping the Faith (part 3)

  1. Do you not see the truth my friends? NO force should ever be used by the true church of God. NO one should ever suffer a nervous breakdown, the breakup of a marriage or other family relationships due to interference of the church in their private life. When these things happen they are given as examples of the purity of the church, the power of the church, and the consequences of not believing the truth. My friends, have you ever heard of IDOLATRY? Think on this very carefully. Where is your love and devotion? What would you die for? What would you lie for? Would you be insincere in order to retain your membership? Would you actually blaspheme? People do, you know. What will you say if they call you in for visits (interviews?) Will you say what they want to hear, or will you say what God has placed in your heart, regardless of the cost? Are you a disciple or a puppet? Do you desire truth or ease? Where do you stand?

    Some say the paneling took place in the 70s. Well, the initial surge was identified at that time. However, the tactics continue to prevail. The pattern for their “revival” was created at that time. Today in the “revivals” the relentless purging continues. The system of extended visits, demands, requirements for an “experience” which no one knows for sure how to concoct (there is only the hope of doing it right) goes on and on. Congregations are denied the sacrament of communion for years while the ministers try to beat the sheep into some sort of submission. Friends, this should never be. Who will be the first to stand up and say no? Will you suffer loss for Christ?

  2. ”Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” He tells them how to go about doing all of this. Then in verse 17 he says “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;” I feel that is a verse that someone could claim when they have been cast out of the Holdeman church” What Jesus was actually saying here was that when you have the real Holy Ghost power, you will arouse the hatred of the leaders of organizations and systems. They will feel a need to cast you out as the “leaven” of your faith could affect others and eventually undermine the power that they so dearly love. Expect this my friends. When you walk by faith and in the true power of the Holy Spirit, you will be led out, and you will go out with the stick of the Holdeman church beating you from behind.

  3. The late-70s Purge deserves a whole book. In Manitoba, some Holdeman nurses in Steinbach’s Bethesda Hospital refused to care for patients if they were expelled. Numerous marriages were “torn asunder” by preacher decree – spouses were shipped to the far side of the province to live with a stout & devout child until the expelled person submitted. Then sexual relations were allowed to resume. Businesses, like feed mills, were deemed to be worldly and some owners were forced to sell and be farmers like the Lord wanted – or so the preachers claimed. At least one farmer had to cut his barn in half because it was too big. I think that individual left Greenland and moved to Beausejour or Whitemouth, that heathen pariah state, to regain his membership…

    • lotsaquestions says:

      I have heard horror stories of these events. Many members will attest to the fact that this was a awful time but there are still plenty that laud and praise what went on. What’s so pitiful is that it is going on today. 2 years ago in my congregation a couple was forced to put their home up for sale. PTL it never sold. Today it is off the market, but the emotional drain it had on them an others was terror. I told them not to do it, but the contol the preachers had on them was like an iron jacket. Of all the things that go on today, the control issue festers with me the most.

      • Hiram says:

        The control is an amazing thing. What do you think is involved in all of the control? How do you see it being enacted against people? It’s interesting that the house was judged to be outof line, it was put on the market, didn’t sell, so there is nothing more that can be done to the individuals, and today I suppose the issue is at rest. As you can see, the main thing was just checking to see if they were “willing.” Once they proved they were willing, the matter was dropped. Obviously, what else could happen at that point? But I think it is easy to see that the main point was not the house, but how far these people would go in listening to the voice of the church. Were they willing to LAY IT ALL DOWN….

  4. Hiram says:

    Do you have information on which preachers were involved in carrying out these atrocities? Did any of them ever repent?

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