There are some real wackos out there in cyberspace. I recently got an email from a guy asking about our church. He actually tried to join the Freedom Vineyard Newsgroup. Having been burned before by letting just anyone in I have taken up the policy of telling them a bit about us before approving their invitation. This guy was friendly enough, but he kept directing me to this wacky little fundamentalist page called Olive Candle Voice. After some back and forth and me trying to explain politely that I didn't buy into a form of Christianity that blatently exchanged grace for legalism he politely informed me that I was not of the "True" church of the Messiah and that I should examine a few proof texts that apparently clenched my damnation. I politely snipped to the end of his message and replied with a thanks for his time and informed him that Freedom Vineyard would not be a good place for him to grow in his faith.
I could have left it at that but I had this nagging inside that maybe he was the Olive Candle Voice guy just trying to get me to read his heretical webpages and the phrase "twice the sons of hell" kept playing over and over in my head. So I decided to drop a nice friendly email to "Archie" the admin of Olive Candle Voice and see if he knew the other guy. Archie was quite rude, I suspected he had a dislike for pastors. Anyway, after one rude message I thanked him for his time and then got a surprise - don't you love surprises? He was deeply offended at something about me - but it was my name??? Apparently in his twisted little world having a name like Emanuel is blasphemy. (I hope he never catches wind of how common the name Jesus is in Latin countries, he'd have an aneurism.)
Despite Archie's displeasure in my family name, and yes it is the name I was born into. That name has denoted, to me at least, the rich blessing of God's presence in my life. It ever reminds me that God is near.
Well being the responsible individual that I am, I sent one final message to the original guy warning him of how warped this Olive Candle Voice group is. I said I didn't expect a reply and really I felt it a moral obligation to warn him of the dangers of such a group. I'm usually quite open to different expressions of Christianity, but having seen close friends involved in a cult this encounter made all the warning bells go clanging off in my head. I think the website is self-explanatory. My original contact forwarded my email to Archie who sent me a cute little reply saying he'd archived the message (guess he'll count this as being persecuted for his faith) in which I "slandered" him. I saved a copy myself, just for fun.
What frustrates me most about this situation is not being misunderstood, but that I know so many folks caught in a less blatent form of fundamentalism that completely blinds them to the value of other expressions of Christianity. They have been force fed proof texts and uneducated guesses at contexts so that they can't even think for themselves anymore. I used to be that way too. Now I can only remember with irony how me and two other fundamentalist pastors had a debate with some Jehovah's Witnesses, thinking they only know how to leap from choice verse to choice verse - yet we did the same damnable thing every Sunday.
So I'll end with a toast: Here's to not knowing everything. Watch out for the wolves people, enjoy God and enjoy life and don't let anyone rob your joy.