Icons in the Mind

I have described the process of converting a very young mind to the belief in the one true church.  As I have mentioned, this process begins with an infant on it’s mother’s lap.  The things I have described are not necessarily wrong, in fact all of them are good, in and of themselves.  It’s good that a child is secure, sits quietly and is well-behaved. It’s good that the family is in church together. Hymns are very nice, extremely beautiful when sung together in harmony.  There is nothing wrong with feeling safe and being surrounded by loved ones.

So, where is the problem? The problem arises when a child begins to feel superior and begins to exclude others.  All of this creates an idolatry that is extremely subtle and difficult to root out. In the past year I paid a visit to a Catholic church with a couple of friends.  I watched in amazement as the citizens of the community arrived for mass on a Saturday afternoon.  The building was beautiful; breathtakingly so.  The colors of the plaster, the idols in small alcoves lining the ceiling, the detail and the gold leaf were amazing.  This church is old but has been so beautifully maintained that I was stunned.  I took a seat well ahead of the starting time and observed the worshipers as they arrived.  They walked down the aisle, and when they reached their seat, before entering their pew they paused to genuflect and make the sign of the cross. What were they  bowing to?  I presume the large crucifix at the front of the church.  An idol depicting Christ as he hung from the cross.  There were idols placed all around the sanctuary.  The service was incredibly boring, as they followed the priest through the ritual, repeating, standing, sitting, kneeling, and eventually receiving the Eucharist.  It was not the type of service that moves me.

The fact that the people of the town turned out for this service in great numbers on a Saturday afternoon is impressive.  Islamists bow to Mecca five times a day and pray. They willingly blow themselves to bits, kill and are killed for their religion. Movie stars join the cult of Scientology.  It seems to wield a tremendous power over their minds.  Mennonites, Baptists, Pentecostals and denominations of all stripes commit with unrelenting zeal to their religions.  Does this mean that they are right?  Does the fact that a child who is reared in the Holdeman religion and loves it and follows it prove that it is right?

The country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma is an example of powerful idolatry.  The country is poor and politically repressive, but the citizens are very devout in their worship.  One of the major ways that they prove their devotion to their religion, which is predominantly Buddhist, is to press sheets of gold leaf to statues of the Buddha, or to large rocks which are worshiped as shrines.  The people are poor, but a great deal of time and money is spent in manufacturing gold leaf, and purchasing it.  Imagine someone who is in desperate poverty spending the little they have on a packet of gold leaf so that they can go press it to an idol.  Some of these idols and stones are covered with a thick layer of pure gold.  Would we view this sacrifice as proof that they are right?

Religion has a tremendous power to capture the minds of human beings.  Add culture and family to this mix and you have an unbreakable spell.  People will do many things, suffer hardship and deprivation, even martyrdom for the sake of religion.  None of these things mean that the thing they are dying for is right.  It might seem fairly obvious to Christians that bowing down to an idol is wrong, in direct opposition to the ten commandments.  However, it is a little more difficult for them to see themselves when the idol they bow down to does not take the form of a wooden or stone image.  What if the idol is invisible, only an icon embedded in the mind?

What is the veneration of a lineage and the teachings of the forefathers if it is not idolatry?  Take all of that away and what do you have?  Try it and see.  I’m in favor of the family being the first and foremost institution in a child’s life.  Not church, not the ministry, not the school, but the family. I’m in favor of the parents being so loving and involved in a child’s growth and development that peer pressure is not an issue.  The parents are the child’s peer group. In other words, the parents are so dearly loved and respected that their love and approval is of the greatest importance to the child.  How about a family where the father teaches the bible to his children without interruption from a minister or a church doctrine?  What if he is free to say anything that he believes or has on his heart?  What if the father and the mother are so fond of one another, so much in harmony, that they are able to create a place of comfort and security in their home that far surpasses anything that can be provided by the religious organization?

We all know that the father can teach nothing to his family other than what is taught by the church. If he does, the child will come into conflict and begin to doubt the ministry and the church.  This will show up even further when it comes time to take a series of doctrine classes as part of the study in youth meetings, or when it is time to be baptized and the father has secretly confessed that he believes immersion is the way to do it.  What if he tells his wife that as the Bible states that a headcovering is a sign of subjection to the husband, he should be the one to tell her how to wear it, and he in fact loathes the little black beanie and would prefer something different. If we let our minds wander down this avenue we can clearly see that the father is not the true authority in his own home. Something else stands between the father and his children, the father and his wife. THE CHURCH looms ever before him when he wishes to take the role of husband, father protector and spiritual leader.  The wife and the children are under such a spell that if he were to say that he feels that God is impressing it upon him that the wife should homeschool the children and they should in fact withdraw them from the religious training at the church school, he will be met with opposition. His word is worth nothing if it is in opposition to that of the ministry.  What is the father to do?  Continue to create conflict and force his opinions?  If he does this he may very well lose on a large scale.  There is nothing left for him but to mash down the specter of manhood that was seeking to rise and let the preacher be the head of his home.  What a terrible dilemma.

My advise to fathers and mothers is this; love one another.  Speak honestly and openly to your children.  Teach them to pray, and to be critical thinkers.  Let them know that no matter what choices they make in life, you will support them and love them.  NEVER give the slightest hint that if they leave the church, whether it be to take a spin around the world, or to seek God in a more meaningful way, that they will ever experience shunning and rejection. Let them know that if they make this choice, and the preacher tries to discipline the parents for not shunning, they will tell them to have a go at it. It is the insecurity of not knowing that the parents will be there no matter what that causes children to act out, or to become more religious and judgmental. It can go either way.  The goal should be to teach them to think, to read the Bible, to love others, to do away with judgment and superiority, and to be ready to suffer. If  you are not, or have not suffered, it’s a fairly good guess that you are practicing religion.  That’s not to say that people don’t suffer for religion, but the truth remains that often people think that just because they are not suffering, they must be right.  If it is too easy, if it requires no cost in blood or heartbreak, it is most likely a false religion.  The bible tells us that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)  It says nothing about how to dress, how to conduct a church service, what kinds of bylaws and doctrines must be held to, nothing!  Just to love one another and keep oneself unspotted from the world.  Being unspotted from the world might be a whole lot different from what we have been led to believe.

I hope this gives you some food for thought.  We’ll talk about it some more!

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12 Responses to Icons in the Mind

  1. rlee says:

    Just curious, I know how you can love a child that makes what would be seen as a wrong decision in life (which we all have done and which most of us quite possibly regret), but how do you propose supporting this child? I know there are different ways of understanding ‘support’. I think one way would be being intolerant of the lifestyle your child has chosen (such as homosexuality, which is Biblically sinful). Is this ‘support’? Jesus Christ was entirely intolerant of sin. Jesus Christ was entirely loving and devoted to saving the sinners and the publicans. He ate with them and was clear to them in His teachings about sin. A loving church group that meets to pray and sing and worship should be a flock that notices when one is missing and lights the ‘lower lights’ and sends out a rescue party. This seems like a safe shelter if Jesus is in it. I think a Church group such as this would be a help to those homes where father is not around to be a ‘real man’ or where father’s teachings take a turn for the cold world or for the false christs arising in every corner of our earth today. Draw an ember from the fire and the ember will grow cold and die out. Christians need each other today possibly more than at any other age in history.

  2. Holdemanlady says:

    A loving church group relies heavily on the family unit, whenever possible. Men in the Holdeman group are to be pitied, especially fathers. In reality, they are not the leaders of their families. Metaphorically, they must remove their testicles, and cordially hand them to their minister. Its quite revolting. I hope for a day when fathers among Holdeman People can experience the freedom to be a father.

    • cagedbutterfly says:

      So very true, holdeman lady! I just told my husband and a friend last night
      that the holdeman men lose them when their an infant. I know of very few men, if any, that have what it takes to stand up and say, ENOUGH! The big fear is I might get in trouble. Always FEAR! I also know of a couple situations where the staff got ahold of teenage children and ask questions that play the child against the parent. It’s wrong!

  3. rl says:

    I am just curious, how is it that the fathers do not have the freedom in this group to be fathers?

  4. Thanks for asking. I’ll be glad to tell you.There are many ways in which you are allowed to be a kind father. You can take them hunting, buy them presents, take them to see the ocean or the mountains, bounce them on your knee, tuck them into bed, take them to the doctor, spank them when they’re bad, choose their clothing and games, but when they are older, they belong to the preacher. Try standing between the preacher and your child or the preacher and your wife and see what happens. As a man, you are useless and weak. A preacher can come into your home and bully your wife right in front of you and if you tell him to leave you will be next on his list. There are three people in your marriage, the man, the wife and the preacher. If the husband is out of line, the wife will cling to the preacher before she clings to the husband. The preacher can order you to come to a meeting where he will tell you what you can and cannot do to your your wife or with her or whatever, in the privacy of your own bedroom. Of course he doesn’t know if you are listening to him, but he enjoys watching you sit and listen, all the while knowing you are burning up inside. He can ask you what you do and you have to pretend to be telling the truth, even as you cater to his strange desire to hear about other people’s private lives.

    The same things hold true regarding your child. The preacher has the right to take your young child for a private visit, and boy or girl, ask them personal questions about things they term “self abuse” and such. The preacher will tell your child whether they can access the internet, what kind of cell phone they can use, whether or not they can watch a movie or listen to music. These should be lessons for the parents to teach to their children. If your son or daughter is seen spending more time than usual visiting with a member of the opposite sex, the preacher can ask them personal questions, questions of a very embarrassing nature. If the preacher decides that some invisible boundary has been breached, he can expel the child. The parents will have to sit in horror and watch a young teenager suffer shame and humiliation over something that should have been left to the parents to deal with. The preacher can twist your child, harm your child, and do away with your child. The preacher can tell you how to handle your child. Most of the time the father sees nothing wrong with all of this because he is a slave to the preacher in his mind and he thinks that everything is fine. Go ahead and believe that you are the final word in your child’s life if you want to. You are nothing more than a figure head, a care-giver, one who pays the bills. The preacher owns your child. If you get upset and leave the church, the preacher will be your child’s new daddy. I hope I have made this clear to you.

  5. Holdemanlady says:

    That was very well stated brotherhiram2. I am speaking from a woman’s perspective, but I believe most Holdeman Mennonite marriages are emotionally unfaithful from the very beginning. When a young couple arrive at the point of consummation of their marriage, the beautiful moment is encumbered by fear that one or the other has been told that certain behavior is wrong. Depending on who spoke with them, this can be very bizarre. I know women who have spent their entire married life in extreme frustration. They feel their husbands are incapable of forming an opinion on the most trivial issues in the home. These men have been giving up their manhood to another man since they were young, and it is very very sad.

    • lotsaquestions says:

      Some years ago ( 6 or 7 ) at an Annual Meeting the subject of the birds and bee’s between MARRIED couples was addressed. Some wanted to place a judgement on what was ok and what wasn’t. PTL the younger ministers wouldn’t allow it.

  6. How true and how sad. I don’t know if I have mentioned it here before, but this perversion of the sanctity of the marriage relationship begins when the preacher proposes to another man’s true love. He is the one to see her blush with happiness, tremble with excitement, and give her answer. He often then waits an unconscionable length of time, holding the bridegroom in unbearable suspense while he takes his sweet time reporting the answer, sometimes even toying with the poor wretch just a bit. This intrusion into the most intimate of marital relationships continues on into the marriage. On some level the wife believes that the preacher stands between her and her husband and she owes some type of loyalty to him that even supersedes her loyalty to her husband. On some very deep and primal level the husband knows he has been usurped, but can’t put his finger on it because he also believes that the way things are being done is right. I strongly encourage young men to propose to the bride themselves, if nothing else, ask her father, not the preacher. When did he insert himself into romantic affairs?

    • lotsaquestions says:

      Holdeman ministers are god’s, that’s why. And have you ever noticed that when a marriage is in trouble it’s always the womans fault?? Almost always. I’m waiting on a post that addresses the suppression of Holdeman ladies. All the way from the headcovering to “tim buk two.” If you study the women of the Bible it is amazing to realize the glorious roles they played. H ladies are not allowed to really glow.

      • I’ll keep it in mind to work on this, and in the meantime, why don’t you write a post as a guest blogger? I am very much interested in input and participation? Women are allowed to speak here and are considered to be as valuable as men! Join me in the position of anonymously sharing important information without ever being allowed to get the credit! 🙂 That’s a test of your humility!

  7. Furthermore, I have heard stories of a preacher never delivering a proposal, or waiting an extreme length of time to do so, or in many other ways throwing a wrench in the gears and preventing a marriage that he personally believes to be one that should not take place. It is often years down the road that two youngsters who were deeply in love discover that their future together has been thwarted by some twisted pervert of a minister. This may sound harsh to you, but it has happened and I can think of no better way to describe the monster who would do this. I’m sending out a memo today…young men, take charge of your bride, your home and your family. Kick that preacher out the door. He has a place, but it is not in your home.

  8. Yes, the business of the ministers meddling in marriages, marriage proposals and family life is a situation that is out of hand.

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