Life Without the Charismatic Celebrity

Many of my posts have been lost due a spamming “attack” a couple years ago. I’ve been able to track some of them down, though. Here are a few from the “lost files”…

I thought you might be interested to read about the latest shenanigans taking place among our favorite charismatic “soap opera” celebrities. Actually, all silliness aside, this is a subject that I take kind of seriously because of the spiritual abuse/manipulation that I’ve experienced at the hands of power-hungry leaders. Not to mention the sad fact that I eventually learned to give my own form of manipulative “ministry time” along the way. I’m still repenting…

So, this might be a bit depressing…and yet, as sad as I am, it motivates me to seek the ordinary/reject the theology and apostolic “covering” which produces this kind of mess and toxicity. I don’t want to see any more harm…least of all coming from those of us who profess to be followers in His name. My prayer: Lord, have mercy on us sinners.

Apostolic Bullshit

Apostolic Bullshit II

Apostolic Bullshit III

“Living Water, Bread of Life”: One Year Anniversary

I wrote this reflection about a month after beginning my Friday routine at the Jesus Center. It’s now almost a year later:

On Fridays between 2 and 4pm I sit on the lawn next to the front entrance (to be in the shade). I have two camping chairs I use to invite folks to come over and sit with me while I’m playing. If I talk to someone, I usually invite them to take communion with me (I’ve got a plate and cup sitting there on a little stool) or I’ll ask if I can pray for them. I’ve had some pretty good responses so far.

One guy I met last week came over because he was apparently moved by the music and seemed to want to play the guitar, so I asked him to sit down and play. While he was playing, I sang a (spontaneous) prayer for us. Afterward I asked him if he would like healing prayer for anything and he said yes (“I’m just trying to learn to be myself”). So I asked God to give him courage and understanding about how special he is as someone that God loves and created. He seemed interested in the prayers and looked very relaxed.

I asked him to come back the next time because maybe I would be able to borrow another guitar for him to play along. He had told me earlier that his guitar was recently stolen after leaving it unattended in a field for a few hours. My friend Grace and her 4 year-old daughter were there at the Jesus Center with me that day, too. A few days later Grace came to my house to give me her guitar (a nice one with a hard case) so that I could give it to him. So this morning, after setting up my things next to the “smokers”, I saw him getting off the Torres Shelter bus and you should have seen his face when I gave him the guitar. At first he thought it was just to play with while we were there, but then I explained to him that Grace wanted him to have it. He was pretty shaken up by the whole deal. Anyway, we’ll see what comes of our relationship. I’m praying that God does a miracle with him.

Life Without the Charismatic Celebrity II: Another Story

Many of my posts have been lost due a spamming “attack” a couple years ago. I’ve been able to track some of them down, though. Here are a few from the “lost files”…

I received a very heartfelt and sincere question/comment on my last post. As I wrote back in the comments section, I started to see that what I wanted to say likely wasn’t going to fit for a “normal” comment. Also, it occurred to me that our exchange could turn into something (as the commenter noted below) useful for another blog post about the subject. So, introductions aside, here is what Another Jason (the commenter) wrote, along with my reply below that:

Hey Jason, This is a very interesting post. I’m especially interested in your own personal experiences:

“this is a subject that I take kind of seriously because of the spiritual abuse/manipulation that I’ve experienced at the hands of power-hungry leaders.”

I’ve experienced what I’d estimate as a fairly heavy dose of spiritual abuse. It’s really hurt my spiritual drive, confidence in leadership (that is, both confidence in myself as a leader and confidence in my leaders), and my involvement — tangibly and emotionally– with my community. I love God deeply, but I feel somewhat crippled in these areas. After nearly 14 years, it’s still hard to move forward and be unhindered by these events.

Maybe this is for another post some time in the future — if you so choose — but I am very interested in your experiences and what you’ve done to cope and/or break free from the shackles of your own experiences relating to spiritual abuse.

Hi Another Jason,

Good to know there’s someone else out there donning our name with grace!

Most of what I meant above about “spiritual abuse” had to do with well-intentioned individuals and leaders (both in a local and national settings) who either implied or outright stated that whatever I was doing as a Christian was not enough–that I did not count until I was powerful and famous. They sometimes suggested I was missing “my blessing” or that I didn’t have enough “faith” or that there was “sin” in my life (those being the most common examples of statements pointing toward a particular deficit the culture was either promoting or fixing). Sometimes, however, I think the positive statements were the more damaging ones to my faith in Jesus. I was told to expect “great things,” “anointing,” “popularity,” “influence,” etc. and never given a framework (except for our USAmerican default, consumerism) to interpret this message. I now think the folks who administered these “gifts” were also building an empire (i.e., ministries) at the expense of naive and gullible people.

One time in particular I remember attempting to reach for “my calling” by getting as close as possible to a Famous Worship Leader (FWL) while attending his worship conference in Tennessee (it wasn’t actually his conference, but he was the headlining act, so same thing, right?). Anyway, without any thought about my own integrity or the consequences, I deceived the conference director about a “difficult situation” that really needed a remedy, hoping it would persuade him to introduce me to the FWL and perhaps convince both of them of my “gifting.” Quite easily, he saw right through my lie (as well as generously offered to help me out by giving me his own money) but wouldn’t allow me to access the superstar. I was completely humiliated and ashamed of my intentions. The hours after that conversation were spent in an empty hotel room by myself, filled with doubt, confusion, and fear. I was ashamed to even be seen.

Years later, I can see why I believed it would be necessary for me to see him and become his friend. I thought my identity would be secured within his “popularity” and “influence.” I thought it was necessary for me to become more than I already was. I didn’t perceive myself as someone deserving of much of anything. The Charismatic System I was a part of, though well-intentioned, created certain “celebrity” expectations for myself and others–which were carried out through celebrity music, books, conferences, personalities, programs, etc.–and were marketed/sold as a consumerist identity to well-behaving Christians seven days a week.

My freedom eventually came in the guise of obscurity and “ordinary” friendship. Given my propensity to hype, I didn’t have the time or energy for more spectacular events, singing, and prophecies. I just wanted to believe again. And this faith finally found me as I crawled my way toward a downwardly mobile and small (what some would call “insignificant”) local community. Every time I got too proud, they reeled me in and graciously offered me something better than fame and popularity: a radical friendship rooted in truth and the way of Jesus.

Anyway, that’s my story. What yours?

For all of us sojourners on the way, how has wisdom and friendship been able to find you in spite of the weariness and shame of “spiritual abuse”?

Eternal Life on a Silent Retreat

Here’s some journaling from March 2008 while at the Abbey of New Clairvaux:

After breakfast I decided to go to the guest center and ask someone to contact Father Paul [my grandfather-like spiritual director and friend of many years]. No one was there for me to tell, but as I was browsing their books, Father Paul walked in. We greeted each other with a hug and talked for a few minutes. He told me that he had thought of a book he wanted me to have, that his sister and brother-in-law were visiting him from out of state, and that we could meet up for spiritual direction around lunchtime. He also told me that he will be having surgery Monday morning to remove a tumor. I asked him, “Will you be ok?” He looked scared. I wanted to hear him say something reassuring, like he always does, but his voice was more realistic, “I guess we’ll have to see.”

Later on, after terce, I found him leaving the kitchen and we decided to go from there to the chapel, where we generally meet for spiritual direction. We talked about love, our living and eternal love for others: brothers, sisters, Jesus, family, saints. We concluded that God’s mission for our life does not end just because our body is dead in the ground. Our love, forgiveness, and virtue continue on; and there is a reciprocal relationship between those who are being perfected through prayers, love, and forgiveness. Between Jesus and his followers, the living and dead. We decided this strengthens our love both now and beyond. Our life is not obliterated by death but given a new name and transformed. We haven’t stopped caring just because we’ve died, and our intercession, care, and protection lives on in God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–held together and connected with love.

After two and a half hours of talking, it was time to use the bathroom and call it a day. At some point, however, the stark reality of Father Paul actually dying–during surgery or elsewhere–hit me like oncoming traffic. I have had older mentor types/spiritual directors pass on before (like one of my professors from Chico State), though not anyone with the kind of immediacy and depth that Father Paul has. This brought to mind a dream I had a few nights ago. I remember walking through the mundane routines of my day (like writing my Analytical Review [AR], going to classes, working with kids, being at the office, etc.), but I couldn’t keep myself from crying–bitter and painful tears–because everywhere I went I was reminded of a person who had recently died (not sure who it might have been). Now I wonder what to make of everything. Even though I don’t put much stock in a dream, I’m worried for Father Paul and sad.

For the rest of the evening I prayed with the monks at vespers and then worked on my AR before reading a book. And, finally, at 11pm I fell quickly into peaceful sleep and soul rest. Here’s one of my favorite lines from the chants today:

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.”