What are your thoughts?  In what ways is the church the devil's playground?  In my former career as a pastor, I had quietly come to this realization because of the injustices I often saw Christians commit against other Christians within the church, as well as to others outside the church.  It was often disheartening to see Christians talk so high and mighty about how worthy they were to "the Lord,"  and yet all the while be exactly the opposite.  It was even more damning and disgusting when I became the target of such ill will, when it came to putting child safety over church politics.  So I wonder what any of your thoughts were - particularly those who are former Christians.  What say you?

Please note, that I use the term "devil" not in it's generally accepted theological sense of an actual anthropomorphic being, but as a more loosely personification of the concept of evil and the injustices human beings often commit against each other.

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Oh, I know.  They are not for everyone, but I have always enjoyed the art - even as a child.  One of my father's friends had one on his for arm and another on his bicep and I always thought it was cool.  My father on the other hand often threatened expulsion from the house if I ever did such a thing - particularly anything unique or "outside the box" of what he deemed appropriate.  Funny thing was that he and my mother rarely did this with my other siblings. 

I always seemed to be the favored target, and I grew quite used to it over the years - numb that is.  I, of course, took them at their word considering at three or four years of age, they did in fact kick me out in the cold dark of night after I challenged what I saw as favoritism towards my siblings.  I threatened to run away and their response was, "Fine.  Leave," and they showed me out the sliding glass door - left in the fear of the darkness and the strange noises outside.  I, of course at that age, screamed to be let back in and they did - eventually. 

This particular event has seemed to be a defining moment in my life - one that is deja vu all over again.  The last church I was at appears to be the straw that finally broke the camel's back.  Oddly enough, though, despite my parents' failures, I still find myself loving them and finding compassion for them - after all, I have come to know that their pasts are full of tragedies and that strangely makes me want to help them.

Sounds like you've ALWAYS been the family troublemaker!

But seriously, you can't change the past - they made mistakes with you, just as you will make mistakes with yours, and holding resentment is no solution to anything. As you get older and have more experiences, in some instances you will find yourself saying, "hmm, now I know why they did that," other times you still won't AGREE with their reasons, but you'll be closer to understanding them. The time will come, regardless of what you believe, when you will never see these people again, ever, and if you're going to get things right with them, the time is now.

Even if you stick to the conviction that you're all going to wind up in heaven, and hug, and hug, and hug, reverse Paschal's Wager and pretend, just for their lifetimes, that it isn't going to happen that way, that you really don't have all eternity to clear up misunderstandings - you'll be glad you did.

You are right.  You can't change the past, but you can change how you respond to it in order to change your future.  That is what I have been doing.  I have a legacy to protect - my three sons, and I do not want them burden with the "sins of the father" that were past on to me, nor do I want my "sins" to be past on to them.  It took a tremendous amount of will and strength to change so unilaterally, but I did it - no, I am doing it. 

As for my parents, I've begun working on them already.  At first, it scared them, but slowly they are coming around to knowing that my compassion for them outweighs any burden of hate or ill will that may have been birthed within our relationship when I was a child.  I know they were once fearful of what this past year had brought because I began digging into my past to find the source of my suffering, but they will see there is nothing to fear. 

At the end of this journey, they will see that I will not leave their side as a son - but things will be different because they will be better and so will I, regardless of whether there is a hereafter or not.  It will happen, it has already begun.

Steven Pinker in "The Better Angels of our Nature" argues that we humans have been getting progressively less violent throughout our history (and Jonathan Haidt has said that we are domesticated apes, remaining childlike and playful all our lives, instead of turning into mad aggressive beasts like the wild primates do as adults). 

Your story sounds like one of "breaking the cycle".  Perhaps all through our history as a species, people have been "breaking the cycle". 

Interesting, Paynton, that you didn't post this on the discussion about the three boys who murdered the Australian jogger for the fun of it.

IF it is true that, "we humans have been getting progressively less violent throughout our history," I attribute it to at least three factors:

  • The rise of women's influence in the world, that modified the "mine's bigger than yours" philosophy that has sent men to war for at least the past 20,000 years.
  • The increase in global education - it's less likely for an educated man to behave irrationally, and
  • The shrinking of the globe, by telephone, television and now the internet, that allows Humankind to see that we are more alike, than we are different.

Are adult apes "mad aggressive beasts"?

Simon is our closet theist - his bio says atheist, but he believes in things spiritual and extols the words and deeds of Jesus, whom no one can prove ever existed. Here's one of those vicious beasts now - careful, he'll rip you to shreds!

@Simon.  Yes, you would be correct.  I have often used the Biblical language of "the sins of the father" to refer to cyclical nature of dysfunction and abuse in a family unit, and in my case this is exactly what I have been breaking away from.  The church as an institutional system suffers from the cycle of generational sin that can only be overcome by those willing to face it and make the hard decisions necessary to overcome it.  Sadly, however, most people avoid such tasks due to their daunting and costly nature of restoring health, much like chemotherapy is hard on the physical body of one suffering from cancer. 

Coincidentally, I am tickled that you mention "breaking the cycle" to describe what has been taking place in my life.  I have three other individuals indepedently mention such a thing to me, and they even had less of a descriptive narrative in terms of my experience because I was actually in the midst of it at the time.  Now I am at the tail end.

Oh, and also, to one of their credit, she had caught on to it long before I had even gone through such an experience, and had told me (almost in a prophetic way) that I was responsible for breaking the cycle - her exact words were breaking the chain.  That woman happened to be my mother, and she saw what I was capable of even in her own dysfunction.  It's nice to have a mom like that, even though her personal wounds of the past were in play in my childhood.

But remember this about your mother Barry (and I must assume that goes for your father, as well), her wounds are as real as your own, and she's carried them far longer. Strikes me, her acknowledgement laid the groundwork for a bridge between the two of you.

I have plans for two more, but that is just what they are: plans.  The money could be better spent elsewhere.

When the time is right, I might go back again, but time will tell.

Well, I was planning on showing off the finished product tomorrow, but sadly he wasn't able to finish it in the time allotted.  The wings and sun are last.  The appointment was for two hours, and the he had another customer coming in after that, so it will have to wait.  He gets booked pretty solid, so I may not be for another two months - but that might be a good thing.

Wish you hadn't mentioned the tattoos, Barry. Now we have to go through all the nonsense of getting together a group of sinless believers, booking space, ordering stones....so much trouble. Couldn't you be more considerate and avoid sins which force others to enact bronze age dogma?

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