Aug 152011

Yes, they’re my two favorite subjects to write about, apparently, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I like to read about them. Here are some good things I’ve found lately on the subjects of worship and spiritual abuse, and (in one case) both together:

Things that Will Make You Think: Songwriter Matt Blick (whose Beatles Songwriting Academy is a very fun look at the musical techniques of the Fab Four) turns his attention to a perennial question: What Is a Christian Song? He presents 16 specimens for your examination, some Christian, some secular, some showing that the line between the two is more fluid than you might have thought. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed which one was by Freddie Mercury. Try your hand at identifying them here, then read his analysis here.

From the Department of Ridiculous Stuff for Church: If you think contemporary churches have an exclusive claim on Awful Art, then clearly you haven’t seen the blog of Bad Vestments. Yes: there are Tweety Bird stoles, chasubles with tropical parrots, and my personal favorite, the Giant Papier-Mache Calvinist Puppets of Doom. The comments on this blog are a treat, too. (h/t Ironic Catholic; thanks, I think.)

Spiritual Abuse and Worship Leaders: A newish blogger on the Spiritual Abuse scene, Incongruous Circumspection, already has my respect for being one of a small but growing number of men to speak out against the false doctrines of “Biblical Patriarchy” and its attendent abuses. (Lewis Wells is another who calls spades spades. Note to other guys, feel very free to step up to the plate here.) Lately he’s been posting– and has already taken some heat for– ongoing installments of a remarkable conversation between his brother Zach (a worship leader) and the “Rogue Pastoral Team” of his church. They’re a husband-and-wife duo who exemplify everything that’s wrong, hard-hearted, and abusive about the spiritual abusers’ lethal cocktail of authoritarianism, manipulation, and self-righteousness. It starts here and continues for several posts. It’s not for the faint of stomach, but if you want a really detailed picture of abuse of pastoral authority run amok and how it affects other ministers, it might be a good cautionary tale. Particularly noteworthy is this startling statement from Part 11:

Annah: ….But you can’t come in here and say, “…I want to learn. I might be really excellent at music, but you know what? I’m laying all that aside. I’m just going to learn to, you know, go with what they want, and not have to have my way.” You’re going to learn it sooner or later…

Zach: It’s not my way. I was okay with my relationship with Jesus until all of a sudden you guys are talking about, “You’re not submitting.” Therefore, that puts something in between me and God.

Annah: I hope it does…

Monstrous Regiment: No, not the Terry Pratchett book (sadly enough). For those who want a good understanding of what this whole “Patriarchy / Quiverfull” movement is about, there’s a nicely researched overview and assessment in this article. It’s a review of the P/QF-promoting film tellingly entitled “The Monstrous Regiment of Women.” The author pegs a morbid distrust of feminism as a root of many of the reactionary notions of modern Patriarchy. This is some solid research that’s well worth a look if the topic is remotely interesting to you.

The movement’s emphasis on creating a Christian army to fight against depravity and the moral downfall of society also places importance on creating the “right” type of Christian families, which takes on an us vs. them mentality as the rest of society is seen as the “enemy at the gate.”

Unredefining Grace: The name of Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles is familiar to many folks from a certain kind of conservative Christian background. For those who haven’t heard– it seems to be gaining traction very quickly– there’s a new website, Recovering Grace, by folks who have come out of this high-control group and are shining light on their experiences and healing. The tone is commendably gracious yet firm in sorting out the precious from the worthless. General rule: Anybody who defines grace as “the desire and the power that God gives us to do His will” is probably messed up in other theological areas, too.

By the way, that site may interest you for another reason: While I’m not so foolhardy as to discuss politics online, it is worth pointing out that a number of prominent presidential hopefuls have very strong ties to IBLP and Gothard’s quirky doctrines. (You can find out which specific ones easily enough with a bit of Googling; like I said, I avoid politics here.) Understanding this system of doctrine can be surprisingly useful in deciphering their views and emphases. Pundits, take note.

Well, all that is some rather heady stuff, so here, to lighten the mood, is an angry bird:

Cheers and thanks for reading, as always! I’ll have some new posts of my own once I get some time to collect my thoughts instead of other people’s.