• Preacher Murdered His Wife Because Divorce Was Considered Unacceptable In His Denomination – What Does This Say About Legalistic Christian Teachings On Divorce?

 Preacher Murdered His Wife Because Divorce Was Considered Unacceptable In His Denomination – What Does This Say About Legalistic Christian Teachings On Divorce?

I watched a televised program about a preacher who hired two hit men to kill his wife of 20+ years, and one comment on this program that stood out to me was one that went something like this:
“He had his wife murdered because divorce was not acceptable in his denomination.”

This murder happened in the late 1980s.

The police detectives started suspecting the Church of Christ pastor, Charles Sennett (Senior), was behind the murder, one reason being, they discovered he was having an affair – and I believe he was having an affair with one of the women in his congregation (how much of this was 100% affair vs. a case of Clergy Sex Abuse I do not know, because the show did not go into great detail about this relationship).

As it turns out, the preacher lied to his mistress, Doris Tidwell.

Sennett lied and told Tidwell that he needed her to give him $3,000 for a legitimate reason (I think he may have told her he wanted to repay a loan) – but in reality, the preacher had to pay two hit men a few thousand to have them bump off his wife, who was about 45 years old at the time.

The mistress gave him the money – which he used to pay for the murder.

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• Parents Say Priest Emphasized ‘Suicide Is A Sin’ At Their Son’s Funeral

Parents Say Priest Emphasized ‘Suicide Is A Sin’ At Their Son’s Funeral

Some of the most un-empathetic people on the face of the planet are people who say they believe in and follow Jesus of Nazareth.

They often will prioritize cramming what they believe to be their correct doctrine down people’s throats over showing consideration of people’s feelings.

They will choose the wrong place and wrong time to lecture others on what they feel to be correct biblical belief, even if doing so causes additional emotional pain to the people within earshot. Even if doing so may push people farther away from Jesus of Nazareth.

And of course, a lot of Christians continue to hold negative, false views about mental health disorders and how they should be treated.

Parents Say Priest Emphasized ‘Suicide Is A Sin’ At Their Son’s Funeral

Funeral homily backlash: ‘We pull off funerals well, but we don’t do a good job preparing people for them’

Are Christians who commit suicide condemned to Hell?

Responding to the question of whether or not Christians who commit suicide go to Heaven, ethicist Russell Moore said that because the blood of Christ covers sins past, present and future, the “last thing we do” does not determine where we will spend eternity.

What to Remember After Priest Condemns Suicide at Funeral of Student Who Died by Suicide

On Dec. 4, 18-year-old University of Toledo student Maison Hullibarger died by suicide. Maison was a passionate, straight-A student and stand-out athlete adored by friends and family. Instead of celebrating his life, Don LaCuesta, the priest presiding over Hullibarger’s funeral, questioned suicide in the eyes of God. LaCuesta’s actions highlight the need for a better understanding of mental health and suicide in some Christian communities.

…According to Hullibarger’s parents, Linda and Jeff Hullibarger, they met with LaCuesta in advance and asked that he focus on Maison’s life, not his death. The Hullibarger’s told the Detroit Free Press they discussed their wishes in detail and LaCuesta took notes. During the service, however, LaCuesta focused his homily on suicide, even after Jeff walked up to the pulpit and asked him to stop.

“He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said ‘suicide’ upwards of six times,” Jeff told the Detroit Free Press. “There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing.”

…“The stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in Christian communities, keeps people locked in prisons of shame, refusing to admit that they need help,” Steve Austin, a pastor and mental health advocate, told The Mighty. “Yes, Christians can and do struggle with mental illness. People need to know that they are not alone, and you can still be a Christian and have a mental illness…. I’m a pastor and I once attempted suicidebecause my brain has an illness, no different from heart disease or cancer.”

Why It’s So Difficult for Catholic Priests to Eulogize Suicide

Maison Hullibarger’s parents describe the 18-year-old college freshman as “passionate and opinionated,” a strong student and a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

So when Maison killed himself on Dec. 4, his parents wanted to plan a funeral service that would capture the way he lived, not the way he died. Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with the priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance, Michigan, and requested an uplifting message.

To their horror, however, the Rev. Don LaCuesta delivered a homily that acknowledged Maison’s suicide explicitly and contemplated the fate of his eternal soul.

Jeff Hullibarger was so disturbed that he says he approached the priest in the pulpit as he spoke, and whispered: “Father, please stop.”


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1- 800- 273- 8255
Available 24 hours everyday


More On This Blog:

For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 1)

1 in 3 Protestant Churchgoers Personally Affected by Suicide

How The Bible Can Be Damaging to People with Depression via Patheos Blog

Regarding Grief, Sickness and Depression: Hold Your Tongue and Offer Your Heart Instead by Heather Plett

Dear Ray Comfort and David Barton: Depression is Not a Culture War Battle by Warren Throckmorton

One of the Best Things Churches Can Do for People With Mental Illness by A. Simpson

• Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity by L. A. Taunton

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity by L. A. Taunton

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity

Snippets:

When a Christian foundation interviewed college nonbelievers about how and why they left religion, surprising themes emerged.

by Larry Alex Taunton
June 2013

“Church became all about ceremony, handholding, and kumbaya,” Phil said with a look of disgust. “I missed my old youth pastor. He actually knew the Bible.”

I have known a lot of atheists. The late Christopher Hitchens was a friend with whom I debated, road tripped, and even had a lengthy private Bible study. I have moderated Richard Dawkins and, on occasion, clashed with him.

And I have listened for hours to the (often unsettling) arguments of Peter Singer and a whole host of others like him.

These men are some of the public faces of the so-called “New Atheism,” and when Christians think about the subject — if they think about it at all — it is this sort of atheist who comes to mind: men whose unbelief is, as Dawkins once proudly put it, “militant.”

But Phil, the atheist college student who had come to my office to share his story, was of an altogether different sort.

[The author discusses how he frequently talks with and debates atheists, and asks them, especially the ones who used to be believers,]

What led you to become an atheist?

Given that the New Atheism fashions itself as a movement that is ruthlessly scientific, it should come as no surprise that those answering my question usually attribute the decision to the purely rational and objective: one invokes his understanding of science; another says it was her exploration of the claims of this or that religion; and still others will say that religious beliefs are illogical, and so on. To hear them tell it, the choice was made from a philosophically neutral position that was void of emotion.

… To gain some insight, we launched a nationwide campaign to interview college students who are members of Secular Student Alliances (SSA) or Freethought Societies (FS).

These college groups are the atheist equivalents to Campus Crusade: They meet regularly for fellowship, encourage one another in their (un)belief, and even proselytize.

They are people who are not merely irreligious; they are actively, determinedly irreligious.

…Using the Fixed Point Foundation website, email, my Twitter, and my Facebook page, we contacted the leaders of these groups and asked if they and their fellow members would participate in our study. To our surprise, we received a flood of enquiries.

[The author listened to Phil the former Christian, now atheist, discuss why and how he had become an atheist]

….As the narrative developed, however, it became clear where things came apart for Phil. During his junior year of high school, the church, in an effort to attract more young people, wanted Jim to teach less and play more. Difference of opinion over this new strategy led to Jim’s dismissal. He was replaced by Savannah, an attractive twenty-something who, according to Phil, “didn’t know a thing about the Bible.” The church got what it wanted: the youth group grew. But it lost Phil.

An hour deeper into our conversation I asked, “When did you begin to think of yourself as an atheist?”

He thought for a moment. “I would say by the end of my junior year.”

I checked my notes. “Wasn’t that about the time that your church fired Jim?”

He seemed surprised by the connection. “Yeah, I guess it was.”

Phil’s story, while unique in its parts, was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country.

Slowly, a composite sketch of American college-aged atheists began to emerge and it would challenge all that we thought we knew about this demographic.

Here is what we learned:

 They had attended church

Most of our participants had not chosen their worldview from ideologically neutral positions at all, but in reaction to Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Christianity.

The mission and message of their churches was vague

These students heard plenty of messages encouraging “social justice,” community involvement, and “being good,” but they seldom saw the relationship between that message, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.

Listen to Stephanie, a student at Northwestern:
“The connection between Jesus and a person’s life was not clear.”

This is an incisive critique. She seems to have intuitively understood that the church does not exist simply to address social ills, but to proclaim the teachings of its founder, Jesus Christ, and their relevance to the world.

Since Stephanie did not see that connection, she saw little incentive to stay. We would hear this again.

They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions

When our participants were asked what they found unconvincing about the Christian faith, they spoke of evolution vs. creation, sexuality, the reliability of the biblical text, Jesus as the only way, etc.

Some had gone to church hoping to find answers to these questions.

Others hoped to find answers to questions of personal significance, purpose, and ethics.

Serious-minded, they often concluded that church services were largely shallow, harmless, and ultimately irrelevant. As Ben, an engineering major at the University of Texas, so bluntly put it: “I really started to get bored with church.”

The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one

With few exceptions, students would begin by telling us that they had become atheists for exclusively rational reasons. But as we listened it became clear that, for most, this was a deeply emotional transition as well. This phenomenon was most powerfully exhibited in Meredith. She explained in detail how her study of anthropology had led her to atheism. When the conversation turned to her family, however, she spoke of an emotionally abusive father:

“It was when he died that I became an atheist,” she said.

I could see no obvious connection between her father’s death and her unbelief. Was it because she loved her abusive father — abused children often do love their parents — and she was angry with God for his death? “No,” Meredith explained. “I was terrified by the thought that he could still be alive somewhere.”

The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism

When our participants were asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism–people, books, seminars, etc. — we expected to hear frequent references to the names of the “New Atheists.” We did not. Not once. Instead, we heard vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.
/// end snippet ///

As to this portion of the article:

Ages 14-17 were decisive

One participant told us that she considered herself to be an atheist by the age of eight while another said that it was during his sophomore year of college that he de-converted, but these were the outliers. For most, the high school years were the time when they embraced unbelief.
/// end snippet ///

I don’t dispute that author’s findings, but, in all my reading on deconversion stories, I’ve noticed that the vast majority (including people who accepted Jesus as Savior while children and who were quite devout) leave the faith when they are age 40 – 49, not in their teens.

I myself am currently in my 40s, I was a devout Christian for years, accepted Christ as my Savior prior to age ten, yet in my 40s, I find myself wandering away from the faith and doubting it.

So I am not sure how to take the author’s point that most of the Ex Christians he met were atheists by the age of ten or age fifteen. That has not been my experience at all, anecdotally.

As to this portion of the article:

They [ex Christians who are now atheists] expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously

Following our 2010 debate in Billings, Montana, I asked Christopher Hitchens why he didn’t try to savage me on stage the way he had so many others. His reply was immediate and emphatic: “Because you believe it.”

Without fail, our former church-attending students expressed similar feelings for those Christians who unashamedly embraced biblical teaching.

Michael, a political science major at Dartmouth, told us that he is drawn to Christians like that, adding: “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”

As surprising as it may seem, this sentiment is not as unusual as you might think.

It finds resonance in the well-publicized comments of Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian:
“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Comments like these should cause every Christian to examine his conscience to see if he truly believes that Jesus is, as he claimed, “the way, the truth, and the life.”
/// end snippet ///

I also find this quite odd.

Most non-believers I’ve run into get antagonistic with you if you try to share your faith with them – they get offended – so why bother?

Secondly, even when I was 100% on-board with the Christian faith myself, in spite of the fact I believed (and still believe) that there is an afterlife, I did not (and do not) want to argue or debate with anyone about any of this.

I am not usually going to try to cram my religious views down your throat.

I’ve always had a pretty much “live and let live, let’s get along in spite of our differing views” type personality, regarding most beliefs.

Further, I’ve always been a reserved, introverted person who does not relish confrontation and controversy, so it’s not in my personality type to march right up to people I don’t know (or even ones I do know) and start giving a “Jesus spiel,” where I try to sell Christianity to them.

I’ve never cared all too much if someone wants to accept Christ or not; I’ve always been wired this way. I recognized at a young age that an atheist (or other non-believer) cannot be argued into believing in Christianity, so there is little point, (unless the individual approaching me is sincerely inquiring about my faith and wants to truly know why I believed what I did), in debating or discussing the faith with them.

Jesus said don’t toss your pearls before swine – there is a category of atheist out there that does not give a rat about Christianity.

That type of atheist merely loves intellectual stimulation and debate for its own sake (or to feel superior to people of faith), and they hate Christians, so they love trying to make any Christian they converse with appear to be a backwards idiot – and that is what prompts one category of atheist to chat about the faith with believers, not a sincere desire to learn, exchange ideas, or to reach the truth.

A lot of atheists I’ve observed online have a lot of intellectual pride.

That is why, when I used to be a lead moderator at a heavily- visited Christian board, the moment I sensed an atheist visitor was at our forum just to argue with Christians, I would refuse to debate them.

I simply did not care if they believed or not, I respected their choice to disbelieve – and this would annoy, shock, or infuriate certain types of atheists.

So I am not sure what to say to this category of atheist who act like Christians who aren’t hell-bent to convert them are somehow wrong or insincere; I think it’s quite the opposite.

As to this portion towards the end, I agree with this:

That these students [who left Christianity and are now atheists] were, above all else, idealists who longed for authenticity, and having failed to find it in their churches, they settled for a non-belief that, while less grand in its promises, felt more genuine and attainable.

I again quote Michael:
“Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that.”
/// end snippet ///

I can echo Michael on that. That definitely played a role in my drift from the faith.

After my mother’s death, I had my eyes opened. Most Christians I went to in my time of need, when I was in grief, weren’t living out the faith; they didn’t care to actually walk with me through that grief.

(My mother, by contrast, actually lived the faith; she didn’t just talk about it. She would offer practical assistance to people in need, such as, she would drive frail elderly neighbors to their doctor appointments.)

Many of the Christians I went to for help (as in, emotional support) after my mother’s death are the types of Christians who attend church, they read the Bible daily to weekly, and they pay the faith lip service, but they don’t actually practice the faith (see James 2:16 and Romans 12:15).

I have also regularly visited spiritual abuse blogs in the last few years and have noted a pattern in churches – when dealing with victims of domestic abuse or child sex abuse, most Christians victim-blame the victim and defend the abuser, which is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Christians who have depression or other mental health issues are also shamed by Christians – they are not empathized with, or, they are told if they have anxiety or depression, that they must “never have truly been saved” to start with.

These churches seldom provide actual help to victims (such as paying for them to receive counseling, putting abused wives up in apartments for free as they divorce their abusive husbands, etc).

And how often do these spiritual abuse sites, and secular news ones, report on pastors (who are self professing Christians) who are caught having affairs or manufacturing or looking at child pornography? It happens quite often.

If Christianity were true, I’d expect to find 99% of its adherents actually living clean lifestyles and helping (not condemning) victims of abuse and ministering to those in grief and so on, but I don’t see this. I usually see the opposite.

(And note, I did not say I expect absolute perfection from all Christians at all times, but to see most of them, 99% of the time, living clean lifestyles. But that’s not what I’m seeing. I’ll give any Christian a pass for the occasional fail here or there, but not for consistent and persistent sinful lifestyle choices and habits.)

I’m not sure the one percent who ARE living the faith consistently cancel out or “make up for” the 99% who are not.

The one percent are a big aberration in my mind at this point.

I see most Christians either ignoring the wounded, or feeding them platitudes to brush them off as quickly as they can, or else, many Christians shame the wounded.

I’ve not seen how Jesus Christ has actually made a difference in the lives of most self professing Christians I’ve run into in real life, or who I’ve read about online.

At any rate, you can read the that article in its entirety here, on The Atlantic


Follow-up to this post:

On Atheists Respecting Christians Who Believe the Bible, a Caveat

• Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds By Carol Kuruvilla

Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds

Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds

Snippets:

Americans’ confidence in religious leaders’ honesty and ethical standards has been tanking in recent years.

By Carol Kuruvilla

The level of trust Americans have in clergy members has dropped to a record low, a recent Gallup survey suggests.

The polling organization found that only 37 percent of 1,025 respondents had a “very high” or “high” opinion of the honesty and ethical standards of clergy, according to a report published on Thursday. Forty-three percent rated clergy’s honesty and ethics as “average,” while 15 percent had low or very low opinions.

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• When Men Rule the World by Andrew Bauman

When Men Rule the World by A. Bauman

I do think that in some ways, complementarianism may be worse than “wordly” sexism, because Christians take sexism, slap some Bible verses on top of it to justify it, and say it’s all “God’s design.”

When Men Rule the World by A. Bauman

Snippets:

Women were less than. No one would have said that out loud, but growing up in my white evangelical utopia deep in the South, we all knew it was true: men ruled the world.

My presidents: always men, my pastors: always men. Most CEOs, elected officials, and anyone I knew who had real power, authority, or influence, was, like me, a man. I wanted power, too. I genuinely wanted to make a difference in the world and thought that developing a domineering masculinity was the answer.

American culture taught me that women were sex symbols; subjects for my lust and objects to be taken advantage of, not honored.

What I learned from the Church wasn’t much different, it just looked more respectable on the surface. Sexism was just as present, objectification just as potent, and the subjugation of women was actually worse, because it was cloaked in “Godliness”.

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• At the Evangelical #MeToo Summit, Christians Grappled With Just How Deep the Church’s Sexual Misconduct Problems Go by R. Graham

At the Evangelical #MeToo Summit, Christians Grappled With Just How Deep the Church’s Sexual Misconduct Problems Go by R. Graham

At the Evangelical #MeToo Summit, Christians Grappled With Just How Deep the Church’s Sexual Misconduct Problems Go by R. Graham

Dec 14, 2018

Snippets:

Within weeks of the ignition of the #MeToo movement last fall, activists with ties to evangelicalism began pointing out that abuse in Christian contexts often has its own awful dimensions.

Church leaders—typically men—are generally assumed to have God-given authority, for example. Scripture and theology can be used as weapons to perpetuate silence and shame.

And institutions pressure whistleblowers and victims to muffle potential scandals in the name of protecting God’s work. The activists called their movement #ChurchToo.

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• The Marginalization of Single Women Via The Billy Graham Rule, Fleeing the Appearance of Evil, and James Dobson

The Marginalization of Single Women Via The Billy Graham Rule, Fleeing the Appearance of Evil, and James Dobson

There is much more I could say about the Billy Graham Rule (sometimes also referred to these days as “The Mike Pence Rule”) than what I am writing about here and now, but for this post, I wanted to narrow it down a little bit.

In the context of the Bill Hybels scandal discussion, news sites and abuse survivor blogs are mentioning how mega-church preacher Bill Hybels told one of his targets that under the advice of Focus On The Family’s James Dobson, he wanted to watch some pornography movies.

So, Hybels  – who was married – asked his target, an unmarried woman staffer at his church, a Pat Baranowski, to run out and buy or rent porn, then he watched it with her while wearing nothing but a bathrobe. Baranowski also lived with Hybels and his wife in their home for approximately two years.

One of the spiritual abuse survivor blogs covering this whole ordeal is The Wartburg Watch in this post, where one of the TWW bloggers, Dee, wrote this:

James Dobson was part of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in the latter half of the 1980s. Note how Hybels cleverly used something that was true to give him plausible deniability.

Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.

Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.

I am opposed to the BGR (Billy Graham Rule), for a few reasons, one of which is because it (like a lot of complementarian teachings, though side note: I don’t believe Hybels was complementarian) assumes several obnoxious things and perpetuates sexist stereotypes: it assumes that men, all men, are unable (or maybe unwilling?) to control their libidos, that all single women are sexual temptresses who have loose sexual morals and are willing to have affairs with married men.

Because of these assumptions, some Christians believe that men and women should not be alone together, especially not married men with single women.

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