Sunday, May 26, 2013

Comments to someone else's post

I'm a few years late coming to this discussion, but in the event you still read these comments, I wanted to add my 2 cents of gratitude for their being written.

I'm a recovering Pentecostal myself. I spent about seven years in the Assemblies of God, from around 1989 until 1996. I do not consider the Assemblies of God to be a cult, and I would defend it from anyone who would charge that it is. That said, I do understand why someone would make that claim.

There are a number of things about the Assemblies of God that encourage people to regard it if not as a cult then at least cultlike. At least when I was a member, there was a tremendous preoccupation with eschatology and the rise of the Antichrist, usually pertaining to how events of prophecy supposedly were playing out in the daily news.

This often was accompanied by alarm over generally innocuous or even generally good events, and a fear of the secular world. To this day I can remember the fear of people at my church that their children might attend secular colleges, like the one I was attending, and the harsh, alienating rhetoric about those outside the church.

Admittedly this was my own experience 20 years ago, in one church, but things I have seen since then haven't given me much reason to hope that the church has turned around. I know someone in another state who attends an Assemblies of God church, where his pastor recently inveighed against Easter and Christmas as primarily pagan celebrations that have corrupted the church.

I've also heard this person and his co-congregants repeat the lie that our president is a secret Muslim and possibly even the Antichrist, while they also rail against having a U.S. Department of Education. Let me repeat that: They dabble in jingoism, repeating the easily discredited lie that Preisdent Obama actually is a Muslim, because they feel that this discredits him; and they want to cut national funding and standards for education. Islamophobia and anti-education stands don't exactly endear them to the rest of society.

One can only imagine how they are reacting to the recent decision of the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay boys to participate in Scouting. My own Assemblies of God pastor was vehemently opposed to anything but the outright rejection of gay people.

He would try to portray that as loving the sinner but hating the sin, but the truth is that he only would welcome a gay person if they knew that he disapproved of their being gay and somehow were OK with that. (Compare that to Jesus, who never turned away anyone who wanted to be with him.)

Such fear of and disdain for those outside the church walls -- to say nothing of what happens to those who act differently within the church -- does a lot to cement the negative reputation the Assemblies of God has had for years, and encourages the rest of the world to view the church as a cult.

For that matter, I was a member in good standing for eight years, and there are times I have difficulty viewing it in a positive light myself.

Copyright © 2013 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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