Saturday, September 10, 2016

'thus says the lord' (part two)

I feel I should say that I no longer have doubts about the fitness of our church youth group leader for that role.

If you're a regular reader of this blog -- though, to be honest, I wonder at times if I am the only person still to use this platform -- you may recall that back in June, I had some concerns about the things Paul G. was teaching in youth group. At the time, I even described his teachings as Froot Loops and suggested that the activities he was encouraging were too extreme even for Socially Awkward Penguin.

I no longer have doubts. They are resolved, and I am determined that he will not be teaching my children anything. I'm meeting with a few church leaders to make the case that he needs to be removed.

Youth group at our church meets Friday nights. Last night, he approached a few of the teens -- and it just hit me that every teen I've heard whom he approached was a girl, why are they always girls? -- with a word he had received from the Lord about what they should do with their lives. I wasn't there and I don't know exactly what happened, but since Middle Daughter was one of the children approached, I asked her repeatedly to tell me what he said. I wanted to know the wording, because that can make a big difference.

Middle Daughter is an actor. She aspires to be one professionally. Now a student at a performing arts high school, she plans to attend college in New York and launch a career performing on Broadway. She's passionate about this. If you talk with her for five minutes you'll discover that it's so.

So it's not surprising that Paul G. knows. And while it might be a little odd for him to weigh in on her career goals, that's what he did Friday night. From what my girls told me, Paul G. approached Middle Daughter and said, "I was praying, and I think God wants you to go to Hollywood."

And that is completely inappropriate.

Let's not make any mistakes about what is going on here. Paul G. has been entrusted with providing some spiritual education to the teens of a church. It's one thing to use teach doctrine like "it is impossible for the unsaved to understand the things of God," it is something else to get sidetracked into irrelevancies like six-day creationism, and something else again to get into extrabiblical mysticism like claiming authority over and rebuking spirits, and visualizing people to verbally harass at Walmart.

There is no justification or excuse that will ever cover claiming to speak on behalf of God and tell other people what they should do. And let's not be coy about it, that's exactly what he did. He may have added a qualifier like "I think," but when you are talking to someone under your authority and a potentially impressionable child, the take-away is not "I think" but "God wants."

There is nothing positive to say about this. At its worst, such talk is abusive, controlling and manipulative. Even viewed charitably, it is horribly misguided and shows a tremendous lack of good judgment. If you're going to presume to speak for God, you'd better be prepared to put your divine imprimatur on the table for inspection. I have left churches over this sort of thing.

So I am talking to the lead pastor-guy on Monday morning, more in his capacity as a friend of mine than as the pastor-guy. And then I plan to speak to the elder in charge of the youth ministry, and I expect I'll talk to Paul G. as well. I need to talk with them by Friday, because Friday evening the youth group leadership is going to talk with the parents during the youth group meeting, and I really would rather have this dealt with before Friday than blow the whole thing up on Friday. But the truth is, this has to be discussed in the open, and it needs to be clear either that church leadership is OK with this kind of teaching going on at youth group, or it needs to be clear that they are not OK with it, and are dealing with the issue head-on.

I am not OK with it. If he continues to lead youth group, my children will not attend; and I know one pair of parents that's even angrier than I am.

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