Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Is Truth?

John Lennon
Ever since I started getting on the Internet regularly in 1999 I've enjoyed forums and message boards. One discussion group I was a part of for a long time, probably two and a half years, revolved around what is known as "Jesus Music", Christian music released between 1967 and 1979 which grew out of the Jesus Movement. I've traded recordings, I've purchased stuff, and in the process I've managed to build up a pretty sizeable collection on my computer.

The discussion centers around Jesus Music but isn't limited to it; for a couple of weeks near the end of 2005 we talked about John Lennon. The 25th anniversary of his death came and passed and people talked about what his music meant to them. Then someone claimed that John Lennon had become a born-again Christian a few years before he died. Proof? I asked. Sure, there's proof, he said, and provided a link to this story. Wow. The quoted lyrics of the unreleased song sure sounded Christian enough. That would be pretty cool if he had become a Christian.

But I couldn't bring myself to embrace the story. Not just yet. It has been my experience that a lot of Christians feel the need to interject themselves in every story about a dead celebrity or a national tragedy. When Johnny Carson died I saw the "Carson got saved" rumors pop up immediately. When James Cameron's movie Titanic was released, I heard a sermon illustration about the "real hero" of the Titanic, who supposedly ran around the ship preaching to people and even stood on some wreckage in his final moments to proclaim the Gospel. When a person dies there is really no way to prove or disprove some of these tales; it must help people to hold on to the belief that someone who they knew only through the media, never face to face, surely wouldn't be weeping and gnashing their teeth in a hell reserved only for really bad people like Adolf Hitler, the Starland Vocal Band and the guy who first decided that beets should be eaten.

If these lyrics were from a John Lennon bootleg, then I should be able to find some mention of them on a legitimate Lennon bootleg site. So I went on a quest. I Googled "john lennon born again". I Googled "john lennon TV preachers". When I Googled "john lennon you saved my soul" I hit paydirt. John Lennon most certainly did write a song called "You Saved My Soul." He did indeed write it in the mid-seventies after a long period of bad times. He wrote it... for Yoko Ono. Not for Jesus Christ. The lyrics that the Lennon sites had printed were nowhere near the lyrics presented in the article my Jesus Music buddy posted a link to.

When I presented my findings, you would have thought that I had killed John Lennon myself. I was subject to statements like "I don't know if this is true but I won't judge a brother". Arguing that I wasn't judging a brother because there was no proof that Lennon was a brother was like bashing my head against a brick wall. Finally the moderator of the group got ahold of the bootleg and posted it on his website so we could hear it for myself. I downloaded it, listened to it... and was proven right. I said as much, and the original link-posting Lennon fan told me to STFU. Figure it out for yourself.

Jack Hyles
In independent Baptist circles, the kind of churches that sell bumper stickers reading "1611: straight from heaven" and don't like women to wear pants, the kind of people who edit children's coloring books so Jesus doesn't have long hair, Jack Hyles is the Pope. Or was the Pope- he died in 2001. Hyles said it, they believe it, and that settles it. The man who could do no wrong. He pastored a church with 100,000 members (although only about 10% of them actually showed up for church on Sunday). His church baptized more people in one day than the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Jack Hyles- the icon, the showstopper, the main event in any arena.

In 1989 Robert Sumner published this series of articles in his magazine The Biblical Evangelist. The gist is that Jack Hyles had a secretary in 1971 named Jenny Nischik, a married secretary whom he took a liking to. He gave her an office next to his with an inside door connecting the two, a door which was disguised with a curtain. Jenny's husband has written his own book claiming that Hyles had an affair with Jenny and encouraged her to divorce him. Voyle Glover has authored a book going into detail regarding sexual and financial improprieties by Jack Hyles.

"It's all lies!" screamed the Hyles zombies. "There's no evidence!" When others replied that there certainly was evidence and here it is, the Hyles crowd shouted even louder that it was biased untruthful crap and they wouldn't read it. Robert Sumner was crucified for breaking the silence of fundamentalism and publishing what he knew. Even now, independent fundamental Baptists influenced by the Hyles brand of Christianity won't stand for anything to be said against God's man", and by extension the local preachers educated and ordained by "God's man". "If you criticize my preacher I'll rip your face off!" the sheep brigade will testify.

But wait... there's more. In 1993 Detroit Michigan Eyewitness News produced a series entitled Preying From The Pulpit. (The audio of the series can be downloaded at the link provided). Here are a couple of the major low-lights of the story, involving men directly involved with First Baptist Church in Hammond:

A.V. Ballenger, a deacon and bus route driver at Hyles' First Baptist Church Hammond, was convicted in March of 1993 (and sentenced in July of 1993 to five years in jail) of molesting a seven year old girl. (This crime occurred in a Sunday School room of the church! Incredibly, after conviction, but prior to sentencing, Ballenger was allowed to resume his FBCH bus route!) The highlight of the sentencing hearing was the testimony of three young women. Each was molested by Ballenger when she was a child, and in each case, before age seven. Jack Hyles, who testified on Ballenger's behalf, defiantly declared the outcome of the trial null and void, claiming that the courts had no jurisdiction in this matter. Hyles told the girl's parents, "Deacon Ballenger just likes little girls."

David Hyles, Jack Hyles' son, had affairs with at least 19 different women at Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, during the time he pastored there. (He was dismissed when a janitor found photos of Hyles having sex with a deacon's daughter.) Back in the Chicago area (Bolingbrook, IL), and after David's divorce from his wife, David was cohabitating with a woman by the name of Brenda Stevens. Brenda posed for pornographic pictures in Adam and Chicago Swingers magazines (in an advertisement for group sex) during the time she and David wereliving together. After David married Brenda, Brenda's 17-month-old son by a previous marriage was found battered and dead at the Hyles' home. The police still consider the case a murder and continue to view David and Brenda as prime suspects. At the coroner's inquest in 1985, Brenda was a no-show, while David Hyles pleaded the Fifth Amendment. [In June of 2003, it was reported that David Hyles had been kicked out of another church (Pinellas Park Baptist in the Florida Keys), this time over a 9-woman sex scandal. Nevertheless, David Hyles still keeps a full itinerary of speaking to churches on Sunday School growth.]

I post these examples not to "expose" fundamentalism and blame Jack Hyles for all its failings, but to point out the head-in-the-sand attitude that many Christians take to avoid confronting the truth. (And believe me, there are many more examples. See The Fundamentalist Roll Call of Shame, the Preying From The Pulpit link, and this link to an ABC PrimeTime Live transcript, detailing the tragic story of Esther Combs.) When confronted with the evidence that they say doesn't exist, fundamentalist preachers who graduated from Hyles-Anderson College cover their ears, close their eyes tight and scream "I'm not listening! I'm not listening!" And then go on to prepare their Sunday morning sermon series on the pedophilia scandal plaguing the Catholic Church and how this proves that Catholicism is from the pit of hell.

The Catholic Church
And as I detail the sexual crimes of fundamentalism, Catholic apologists are licking their chops. If there is an opportunity to kick a Protestant to the curb quite a few Catholic apologists will polish their steel-toed boots and take a running start to give that kick an extra bite. Don't start rearing back just yet. You're next.

If anyone out there doesn't realize that the Catholic Church has had a bit of a problem on their hands recently, then they must have had one heck of a hangover to sleep that long. There have been crimes committed against youth by priests, crimes that were covered up for many years. When this story broke a few years ago, Bernard Cardinal Law was taking major heat for transferring priests to new parishes and giving them jobs with youth when they had abused young people in the past. The response online in Catholic forums was eerily similar to fundamentalists discussed above- "We don't know what really happened"... "We shouldn't speak ill of God's man"... blah blah blah. Anyone up for an ostrich egg omelette? Because I'm seeing a lot of heads in the sand.

Here's a thought. Perhaps a little humility would have gone a long way. Instead of defending Cardinal Law, or attacking accusers over the veracity of their claims, maybe, just maybe, someone could have apologized. Maybe, just maybe, some sorrow could have been shown. Often lost in the discussion of diocesan cover-ups and priestly sins, the flinging of Catholic Answers tracts at such situations, is the fact that a child was defiled. A crime was committed against someone's son or daughter. These occurrences are not a chance to make some college money in a court of law, nor are they a chance to stomp an apologetic mudhole in someone attacking the Church and walking it dry. I don't think that the pressing of charges against priests who are senile for crimes they committed 35 years ago is the answer to this scandal. Neither do I think that the answer is to circle the wagons and accuse any reporter covering the facts of the story as being a pawn in the liberal game. God will take some vengeance here.

______________________________


I find it ironic that people who claim to serve the One who said that He is the way, the truth, and the life refuse to acknowledge the truth when it is brought to light. In these instances and many others, the confronting of truth head on could have prevented a multitude of other sins.


"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

6 Comments:

Blogger Jeri said...

Sean,

You are going through a tough time, but I will tell you this: the evil of the Catholics does not mitigate the evil of the Independent Fundamentalists; the evil of the Independent Fundamentaltists does not mitigate the evil of the Catholics.

Paul tells us in Romans chapters one and two that when God visits these sins upon a federated group of people (like a church, or a city, or a culture, or a religion) it is the sign that He has given them up to their pride, and He is calling His own to come out of them. Roman Catholicism bears the mark of apostasy on itself. As does Fundamentalism. It is a horrible and shameful and terrifying curse. But there is only one remedy for this curse from God. Leave the apostasy.

Here on earth, among sinful men, we compare as though there were a difference. But the mark from God shows there is no difference. We say "Catholic"and "Fundamentalist". God says "Apostate". And all apostates are condemned together. The job of anybody who fears God is to get out of the apostasy and love God more than the hold of a culturally entrenched religion. The evidence of His curse on them both is abundant.

Jeri Massi

5:47 PM  
Blogger Gordon said...

Sean,

Being a Fundamental Bible Believer does not make you Jack Hyles. Mostly we are Independant Baptist. That is to say that Fundamentals do not have a "home office" that supports Hyles with some kind of doctrinal statement. They all have the ability to support who they will. It is true that many fundamentalist do speak well of Hyles, but I do not, and I never will. Thank you for the information though.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Jeri said...

One great sin of Fundamentalism is its toleration of child molesting and other gross and perverted sins within Fundamentalism. It's ironic that the men who rail against movies, mixed swimming, slacks on women, and the Democratic party are stone silent when it comes to what goes on in many Fundamentalist churches.

Somehow the sins they condemn in others become acceptable to tolerate in Fundamentalism as long as they can consign these matters to being "a local church matter." You will find that the Bible, which the Fundamentalists claim to read, does not support such an abdication of moral responsibility. Indeed, the complete apathy of Fundamentalists to enforce accountability and moral responsibility among themselves is similar in tone to guilty Caine's laconic reply to a just God: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

7:21 AM  
Blogger The Watchman said...

Here is a site you might want to take a look at
http://dictatorpastors.yolasite.com/

7:50 PM  
Blogger AV1611 said...

Jeri:

I am no defender of Jack Hyles, the school that bears his name, or any child molester. I am a fundamentalist because I believe the Bible to be literally true (and yes, I have read all 66 books, to include the tough chapters you cite).

Tolerating child molestation is not a mark of Fundamentalism any more than it is a mark of Catholicism. It is a mark of sinful men for whom I will offer no defence. I evaluate denominations, doctrines, preachers, etc., by what the Bible says and by what their own words say. I have left churches when the pastor has decided that the Bible is no longer supreme (and while thankfully I have never been in a church where any of the crimes mentioned have occurred, any preacher who would either commit such crimes or cover them up is in violation of Scripture). There are local church matters; child molestation (or most any crime) is not one of them. The only 'church matter' angle I might apply would be to discipline them (i.e., remove them from membership), but that would only be in addition to whatever the civil authorities would do.

For the most part, nearly every church I have attended or been a member of (admittedly none have been 'Hyles' churches because I believe Hyles taught error) would agree with these statements. You paint with an extremely broad brush in your condemnation.

The term 'fundamentalist' is fairly new; most of the evangelical preacher from before 1900 would likely be classified as 'fundamentalist' in that era before textual criticism became fashionable. The term, as you probably know, arose in the first half of the 20th century for reasons outside the scope of this discussion, and included members from a number of denominations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals). God never views an adherent to His Word apostate, regardless of what tag might be applied by man.

- Steve

1:05 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

To All it may concern,

It is sad to know there are many new christians that get caught up in these churches looking for the Truth, but when they find no Truth they walk away believing there is no Truth. I spent many years in a FBC being chided for not wearing a white shirt and tie. Pulling my family out of that church was a long hard process. As far as "Truth" is concerned He exsists as surely as does a lie and we can point those out anywhere. Truth does not need our belief or our validation in order to be, it simply is or as he said "I AM".

12:45 AM  

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