Wednesday, August 6th 2014
Calvary Chapel of San Diego, Simply Jesus Redux – http://calvarysandiego.com/
I’ll admit, I am a glutton for punishment. I have the deepest of desires in giving something a fair chance, and this does usually extend to people. It has the tendency to bite me in the ass, but I would rather be sure with a bite mark than still left wondering in painfully willful ignorance. That’s what the sheep do.
Despite my lengthy and topically sound review of the usual Sunday morning sermon and worship service at Calvary Chapel, I did not feel as though I got a good and succinct amount of their dogma and statement in my hour and a half spent. This may of course be do to the fact that my subsequent discussion and debate with the friend whom had accompanied me was, by a vast majority, infinitely better than the actual service itself. But, as to the fact that his views as a Christian and on Christianity were more intelligent, insightful and personally motivated than anything that the Pastors had promoted as truth and fact, perhaps the waters from before were muddied from the ale and good company that came later.
Thus, I felt the need to attend a service “solo meo” and to have a period of reflection afterward. And as it so happened, every Wednesday night they have a Bible Study type session which caters to the members in the congregations and by all accounts (according to my friend Barry) isn’t designed with non-believers and outsiders in mind like the morning service is. More of a, “Keep the regulars coming back” vs. “Let’s get more poopers in the pews” type of deal. As I am not attending these out of any desire to “Find God” (I see him every morning in the mirror, give a positive salutation to that boy like countenance and I’m on my merry way) or to “Accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Lord and Savior” (both functions I perform quite successfully for myself thank you) my true motivation is to hear aloud the verses best thought of to be used to relate into teachings from the Pastors to the congregation. I quite figured that a Bible Study type engagement would fill in the gaps in desired experience where the morning sermon had been found lacking.
Now, when one thinks of a Bible Study you probably think of a small group, perhaps a dozen or so people sitting in a circle with Bibles in hand, picking passages from the book and relating them to present day instances or attempting to define the hypocritical gobbledygook that is ever-present in their holy Canon. At least, that is the most likely scenario with which my wife and I imagined would await me, and this was confirmed by a few others whom attend Bible Studies of various kinds at their Churches.
In this case, we were mistaken.
I arrived at ten till seven that evening, later than I had expected to be but for perhaps the best of reasons. I had lost myself in reading stories to my daughter and practicing her ABC’s after we had supped. Full bellies make for full brains they say. And much to my surprise, the Church grounds were awash with activity. Dozens of children with parental chaperones were milling about, playing games and enjoying some physical activities as the sun was setting. The AWANA club had apparently just gotten done with their indoctrina- I mean lessons and were making sure the children came back for more, attributing the lessons of being miniature fonts of servile debasement with adrenaline filled sack races, ball catching competitions and three large bounce houses. (Actually, the massive pink and purple fairy princess bounce house looked like a HELL of a lot of fun. My childish interest was peeked. Well played Bible boasting brainwashing bastards, well played. )
Finishing my travail through the carnival like atmosphere to the front doors I had visited a couple of weeks ago, I found the inner Chapel portals shut. And with only a handful of people in the entryway waiting room, I was dismayed to think that the study would not be going on. It had turned exactly seven a couple of minutes later when I asked an older fellow with a nametag, Greg, if the Bible Study would indeed be commencing that evening. Either he had been deep in thought or my appearance unsettled him (my usual vested attire) and he awkwardly responded that yes the service would be happening, the doors would open at seven. I queried as to its location, thinking that there would be a separate area in a smaller room that held the discussion, but that was not the case. He replied that it was in the chapel and that it would be opening in a minute. I did not point out that it was at this juncture past seven and instead thanked him, stepping away to wait in silent observance. Again, that damn fairy jump house caught my eye.
After a few minutes more, I noticed that Greg had left and was opening up the side doors and allowing people in piecemeal, almost on the sly. I decided to wait out of curiosity, observing this interesting “invitation” that I was seeing in those wishing to participate in the chambers within. Every time he opened the door, the sounds of acoustic guitar and singing could be heard. Finishing up my notes from the area without, I entered through the doors and Greg smiled, welcoming me within.
The immediate assault of the song Glorious in a strong male voice and acoustic guitar pervaded me as I entered. All in a nights work I suppose. I gathered a Bible (I have resolved myself that I should get one to take with me, but I quite enjoy the process of borrowing and returning one “on the house” and the significance I think it signifies in my visit) and found a seat at the middle rear of the area not roped off for families with children and the disabled. And unlike my previous venture here, I was pleasantly alone in my location and left to my own devices.
I settled myself and looked around, the thirty people present were in the majority aged above forty, with a handful being younger late twenties or thirties couples. No teenagers or children did I spy at this time. There were four WW’s (worshiper wavers) enjoying the song and worship in the air, which ended as I looked up to read the words on the screen. But if any disappointment at the song ending was around me (for it was most certainly not within myself) it was allayed by the hit classic (aren’t they all?) Hallelujah Jesus. And damn, was it a fucking hit. No clapping or contemporary accompaniment, just classical worship. Most of the now fifty attendees were singing softly along and eight magical WW’s were feeling the awe-spiring power of Jesus. AMEN!!!
*** Note; I will admit that at times of increased emotional outpouring and pervasive animation of those around me, it is difficult to not feel a sense of “fun” at the atmosphere cultivated. By fun I mean in a Renaissance fair, Disneyland or Theme Park kind of way. It all seems so fantastical and obvious in its willing subversion to setting aside reality in a desire to “connect” with some external entity or idea in a personally peculiar way. Which, I believe I just described as how I would Greater Magic, ritual in effect, of the kind Satanists do. This may just be my own personal way of defining the lunacy around me in relation to myself and what I understand, for I know that while it isn’t “real” to me, it is most certainly completely “real” to them. And while my personal release of reality for the time within the ritual chamber is something that is a temporary condition, the insanity of constant belief in the unbelievable is a daily routine for the believer. ***
The next song, How Great Thou Art is one I find that I actually know some of, having heard it many a time from my overly religious and zealous minded Grandmother during my youth. It has a slower, more subdued cadence and I will admit that the tune has a certain catchiness to it. The first half of the song I rather enjoy and from a personal perspective, being my own “God” can even appreciate and connect with;
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the *worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the *rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Obviously, for one to turn this proclamation of Christian bent inwards, some liberties to the meaning must be made. But if I’m going to try and enjoy any of the music being presented, I’m sure as hell going to think on how it could be a proclamation to myself rather than some otherworldly benefactor. And the knowledge that this “claiming of the title” is a purely blasphemous deed rather sweetens the deal. We all have our dirty little secrets.
The second half off the song is one hundred percent John 3:16 silliness, death of the son for our sins and the beauty of it nonsense;
And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then *I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!
At the culmination of the musical portion of the worship, (which thankfully did not last as long as the previous “Contemporary” worship had) over seventy (nearly all long toothed and affirm in their devotion, yes it does give off an… aura or odor… probably both) members were in attendance. And a couple of the older couples had brought their young children (most likely from their previous AWANA program activities) which rankled my paternal persona a tad as it always does, and probably always will. But to my pleasure, the classical worship service which had just concluded held no interest (read: boring as dog shit for children) to the few little cherubs scattered amongst the flock.
A powerfully built black fellow mounted the dias and at first, the lighting was rather askew upon his face and gave the distinct impression of some horrible accident having happened at one point in his life. Something involving fire, acid or ritual mutilation (circumcision anyone?) crossed my mine. “Oh great!” I thought, another survival through Christ story. I know the type and find them to be despicable in their pronouncements of giving credit for all of their hard work in returning to serviceability as a functioning creature to God and Jesus. But then the lighting kicked corrected itself and the wax-melted visage dissipated instantly. Yet now that I reflect upon it, it was rather reminiscent of all of those Hollywood horror movies with demonic faces, terrifying and misshapen at a glance then perfectly normal the next. Not a bad analogy considering that although he was not an example of survival through Christ, his message was every single bit as disgusting. He might as well have been for all the respect it garnered (or didn’t in this case) him from this Citizen.
A Word on the Orator *** Mr. Mike Dotson, the speaker for the evening is the College and Career director of the Chapel and also teaches 7th and 8th grade students at one of the local high schools. His pupils are special education needs and by all personal testimony he enjoys teaching his students and watching them grow. As long as he keeps his holier than thou drivel to himself and simply teaches important curriculum to those within his care, personal beliefs be damned. Which, I’m sad to say I’m not completely sure he does. And the reason I feel that perhaps this is not the case is because of a couple of personal stories that he related to the congregation about his place of employ. He quoted Malachi (3:6) though only in part, “I the Lord do not change” as proof that God is immutable. (This is incredibly out of context, yet is such a generic statement it could be applied to anything. Look up Malachi 3 for the full setting.) He talked of his lesson to the students on the basics of science, where current science promotes that all life comes from the sun in one form or another. Which I would assert as highly debatable, considering the plethora of underwater life around deep sea vents and other subterranean entities that use the heat from the Earth rather than the light and heat given from our Sun to sustain their existence. But I digress. Mr. Dotsons main point being that life comes from light, and God is life, so he is the light and the life of the universe. He simply cannot be anything which he is not. And while he did not make the proclamation, it does indeed reek of what believers would purport as “scientific evidence” from the Bible.
He also saw fit to give credit for his job to God. “I know the Lord gave me the job of taking care of educationally impaired kids. You see, I had been applying to different schools in the district, and a friend called me up and had recommended me to (what is now my current High School) the principal there. They called me up and invited me to come in, but before we even got to the interview phase, they showed me around a bit before directly asking me if I wanted to work there. Of course I said yes, because I knew it was God’s will.” If you need to digest on that one a second, please feel free. I settled for an internal guffaw and continued writing. Not his education, experience, personality or ability to cultivate a resume, nor his friend’s obvious good word and vouching are given any amount of acknowledgment, because according to Mr. Dotson those things don’t matter. Because it was God’s will. And everything that led up to that moment were miraculous gift’s from God. ***
He welcomed everyone on this fine evening to another time of worship and study of the Lords great works and asked for a bowing of heads in prayer. Thanks for coming to the meeting unscathed (how he knew everyone who had intended to come had actually arrived, I don’t know. Rather pretentious of him I think) and a clarion call to God was given, asking that our hearts be open to his words and message and that the richness which his love gives would penetrate and impact our lives. Which sounded like another obtuse and roundabout way of asking for a good and welcome ass fucking. And for those of us comfortable with our passions and carnal nature, we know how important it is to have communication in the bedroom. So if you want a little “backdoor Banzai!!!”, just fucking say so!!!
A low and reverent Amen followed the calling for Gods “penetration” and he continued with a brief talk on the relationship between God and the followers of his way. It’s ok, you can titter at the word penetration.
Mr. Dotson continued on, “When we are asking God for our desires, we find that God gives us that which we need and what is within his will, not what we want. For what we want is usually not God’s will, but simple greed and avarice.”
He spoke further, that the pursuit of worldly things was recognized as earthly and material, and that they should not be put above the treasures of heaven and the reward of God’s mercy and love. This was promoted in the following verses;
Which, at least for me requires pause and reflection. The quote seems to be “do my will and what I want of you, learn what I want you to do and do so with a passive and demeaning air, which will allow you to have no measure of guilt or responsibility in your heart.” And of course, what could be better for a disciple of Jesus to promote than, “bow down and do what we tell you to, submit and don’t worry because we told you to do it, and our power comes from an almighty awesomeness you cannot even imagine”.
Luke (12:17-21) – 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” 20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided.” 21 So is he who lays treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Quite obviously, this equates to the decrying of the pursuit of vanity and in seeking the “bigger” things in life. Your creature comforts and earthly pleasures are most certainly not within the caring purview of God. Well on that we can most certainly agree. I don’t think your God gives a two-tin horn shit about you.
He then spoke of the hardships to come for those of faith as laid down in the latter parts of the Bible.
Revelation (2:10-11) – 10 Do not fear any of those things of which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Revelation (3:11) – Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
For some context (which the speakers of such sermons rarely give), Revelations 2 and 3 detail what Jesus supposedly wrote as a revelation from God for him to show his servants, of events which would shortly take place.
He sent this Revelation via his angel to his servant John, whereupon John had a vision, the important part being seven golden lampposts below seven stars, the lamp posts signifying the churches to be given the Revelation. Or more specifically, the angels of the churches. The specifics can be found in the aforementioned chapters, 2 and 3. But we will deal with the two verses that I quoted above for the purposes of this review.
As I understand it, Revelation 2:10-11is a call for the allowance of suffering and imprisonment, even death to be borne by the faithful as a test. I love you, but I need to make you suffer to make sure you love me too. I’ve been in a counseling session with a friend who needed help getting away from an abusive husband, and it sounded a hell of a lot like Revelation 2:10. The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, right?
The crown of life which is being spoke of is not everlasting life as an immortal being (at least from what Mr. Dotson’s definition belied) , being gifted through the passing of your test simply makes it so you are one of the saved when the second death comes around.
The second part, from Revelation 3:11 is rather taken out of context (isn’t everything), as Mr. Dotson used it as a quote for the soon and timely arrival of Jesus and that we should hold fast and stay pious so that no one can take your crown of second death defying. That rather sounds like a very useful artifact from a Dungeons and Dragons module. Pardon my nerd-gasm. The verse is actually part of the revelation writing to the angel of the church of Philadelphia (labeled The Faithful Church) and the proclamation of coming quickly does not appear in any of the other writings to the other six. Another example of the Bible Buffet that so many pick and choose from. Coming quickly is a relative term anyway. Just ask any seasoned escort of the evening.
John (chapter) 10 was used as further support for this “trial through suffering for reward” but the verse really has nothing to do with the above scripture from Revelation. It is actually Christ talking to Jews on the day of the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem about how they don’t believe in him and only his flock will have eternal life, never to perish. And also that his flock was given to Jesus by God… much like I just gave my little girl some stickers to play with while writing this. And if you care to know, she is two years old and is putting them on her face screaming, “sticky stickers!” But here, see for yourself. The verse, not my daughter. I didn’t take pictures.
John (10:28-29) – 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. 29 My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s Hand.
Quite obviously, this can be used for whatever reinforcement desired by one wishing to show how Jesus takes care of and loves his own. But just as a quote of me extolling, “Mmm. mmm good!” after eating a delicious sandwich can be cropped, captioned and used for an out of context purpose towards me having a desire to molest pigeons in the park, so too can most nearly any verse in the Bible be used to suit another purpose, however out of sync it may be. I’d ask that the whole context be given relevancy as proof of intent, instead of snippets and middle of the paragraphs sentences. But I know, I know, that is too much to ask for.
Using a story from the Bible in reference to being tested in faith, he quoted the story in Proverbs (7:6-27) which details a “a young man devoid of understanding” being taken in by his desires for a harlot and her wiles, upon which he is ultimately slain by an arrow to his liver never knowing it would cost him his life to consort with the harlot. Honestly, it sounds like an analogy for not sleeping with married women and the fool got what he deserved. Though there very well could have simply been too much alcohol and the odd rampant sexually transmitted disease in their somewhere. Pun intended.
Here is the quote from scripture detailing the exchange;
Proverbs (7:6-27) – 6 For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, A young man devoid of understanding, 8 Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house 9 In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night.10 And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. 11 She was loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home.12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner.13 So she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him: 14 “I have peace offerings with me, today I have paid my vows. 15 So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. 16 I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; 20 He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day.” 21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him.22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks 23 Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life. 24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: 25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; 26 For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. 27 Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.
Mr. Dotson’s point was thus; if we do not understand and accept from the beginning that we will refuse to act sinfully, than we have already lost. And to live in sin and win out, we need Jesus and God in our lives. There is no room for interpretation as far as he is concerned, or “there is no allowance for doubt or discernment” as was preached to the congregation. You must place complete and total faith of yourself in Jesus Christ and allow him to work within your life, dictating what you do and how you do it. We see much the same thing in North Korea and the supposed God-hood of their ruler. Who by the way is deceased. In the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, it is a true Necropoly. While the current supreme leader is Kim John-un, his dead father Kim Jong-il is the “Eternal General Secretary” and Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current leader is the “Eternal President”. I’d say it doesn’t get much crazier than figure worship of a dead leader… but I’ll attest that in the case of worldwide religious doctrine, North Korea is a very small, if tart tasting, piece of the pie.
He then spoke of another way in which we can be subverted from God’s path and the love of Jesus, wrath. Apparently and by his own admission, he is a very angry person. I can certainly empathize with that. But while I think it is a healthy and all together useful tool (and oft times quite fun), Mr. Dotson does not hold to such indulgences. “Wrath does not lead us to be Godly people or righteous servants of his will. As people of God, we must be slow to wrath, slow to speak and swift to listen. In emotionally charged situations, we must control ourselves. Only by doing this can we be righteous and Godly people.” I wonder what the Jihadists, Crusaders and Zealots of the world would have to say about that statement. But Mr. Dotson admitted how he has to quite frequently count to ten and take a minute to sublimate his anger over a great many things that bring him distress. “I tend to get riled up and upset myself, over certain things that just catch me the wrong way and I have to take a step back and ask God for help or forgiveness and then allow his will to work its goodness in me.” All of which would be well and good if he considered himself his own God… but when his actions and outbursts are kept in check and dictated by an imaginary belief, and this is the chief thing that keeps him from freaking out and hurting people, I would not call that a good thing.
A healthy delusion is still a delusion after all. I quite attribute the notion to that of a Functioning Alcoholic. They may be loaded up and sauced, but they attend to theirs lives perfectly well (according to them). But seek to take their poison of choice away and see what happens. For those of us who have, it is not a pleasant scenario. And that is with a legal beverage created and endorsed in one form or another the world over. Were some revelation or breakthrough to be made that convinced or at the very least brought serious doubt amongst the majority of believers of their God’s existence… the repercussions would be truly world shattering for people like Mr. Dotson. Of which, within the walls of the Church there are countless many.
To sum up his sermon, Mr. Dotson reinforced the following, “Everything we have we get from God. You may think that your job, your family, your happiness and your lot in life comes from your hard work, dedication and ability to be a good person… but all of that comes from God. I have a wonderful wife and beautiful little girl, and those things came from God. I might like to think that I won my wife through my big grin and sense of humor, but I know deep down that God gave us to each other.” He even went so far as to relate the story of being in the delivery room when his daughter was born. How, when the little ones head was crowning and he first saw her for the first time, all he could think about was “Oh God, how great are you to give us such a gift? Thank you God!” Now I’m sorry (not really, just a figure of speech) but I like to give my wife 99.9% of the fucking credit for bearing and birthing my beautiful baby girl. (The other .1% was me doing everything I possibly could to help her through the pregnancy and birth. I’m pretty decent I suppose.) The medical staff gets kudos for being there for a relatively easy birth. So through the beauty of a woman being what a wonder of anatomy she is, my loving support and the medical professions assistance I have a lovely little imp that I adore more each and every day. Mr. Dotson has… a gift from God. But in her own way, my little girl is a gift from God. For his child’s sake, I’m really quite sorry that he cannot see things that way.
And it was this final proclamation that everything we have or don’t have is a gift from God, and his will is what matters and we must strive to remove ourselves from the pleasures of the world for there is no treasure to be found on earth that ended any further desire to immerse myself in the teachings at Calvary Chapel. I had got what I had come for. That we must put stock in the rewards of the time after death rather than explore and express ourselves naturally during our lives, the only time we can positively affirm does indeed exist is absolutely deplorable. They can keep their dreams of something better, I’ll make the most of the here and now and exult where they lament. Though why they lament so often is beyond me, given how much their God loves them and cares for them. If they truly believed in a heaven and the afterlife and of wonderful things to come, why mourn at all? Wouldn’t you want your children to go to such a pie in the sky place? A deplorable thought. One I would not have the heart to stimulate for fear that the idea might catch on. Infanticide is in their history after all.
With the finishing of his glory to God speech, he asked for a bowing of heads that the final prayer might be given. “God, we ask for your blessing. We want to be worked by you and used to your purpose. Not out of our own hubris, but for your ends. Keep our faces on you that we might resist temptation and the devil. Equip us so we may do good works in your name and serve your glory through what you give us. Amen.”
I kept my seat, jotting down a few more notes and took stock of the people leaving around me. More than a dozen people shook hands and thanked Mr. Dotson while an older fellow, perhaps one of the Pastors of the Church was chatting with him. I couldn’t help but grimace and sigh, only guessing at how many present that evening had bought into and believed every single word, or in all likelihood already did and just needed that weekend fix to reaffirm their complete lack of accountability and acclaim for anything they do, receive or accomplish in this world. I waved a cheery goodbye to Mr. Dotson and the man with him, which was returned with a smile and I returned the Bible to its stack on the back table.
As I made my way outside, I decided the night was not yet over. It was only around 8:30pm but my wife and daughter would already be asleep, no reason to rush home. A few drinks and some sushi at the Lounge across the street would be a delightful addition to the evening. What better way to reflect and review upon the evening’s experience?
And so my journey ended a couple of hours later, two Sapporo’s and a crunchy roll having sated my hunger for something more fulfilling than the last hour and a half of crazy talk, and several more pages of notes and musings contained within my journal. I do feel that I got what I wanted out of Calvary Chapel in the way of experiencing what they have to offer, and as I joined them twice I feel I received a more than adequate perspective of their creeds and beliefs.
And that is going to conclude this follow-up review of the Calvary Chapel of San Diego. As always, this Citizen wishes you the best in your dark endeavors and I thank you for coming along with me in this, another of my adventures in being A Spy in the House of God.