As I mentioned in my review of the movie the Book Of Eli – the conflict in that movie between Eli and Carnegie – Carnegie’s pursuit of the book that Eli has and his motivations for wanting that particular book has caused me to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on experiences I have had.
In the middle of this movie the character played by Gary Oldman – Carnegie, gives a powerful speech about how with the book that Eli has he (Carnegie) would have the words he needs to be able to enslave people.
The book that Carnegie is referring to is the King James Bible. Sadly as soon as I heard that impassioned speech come out of Carnegie’s mouth, I thought of people who had been enslaved by those who misuse the Bible.
First I thought of myself and I reflected back to a time before I was pastor and I had a pastor who very much misused Matthew 18 ( a chapter in the Bible found in the Book of Matthew).
Matthew 18 does, in my opinion, contain excellent teaching by Jesus. However by the time that pastor was done with me I could not even hear someone say the words “Matthew 18” without flinching internally and it was years before I could/would once again read that passage of Scripture.
A few years later while pastoring/church planting in MN, I came across a very helpful book – The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Dave Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen. This book talks about (among other things) certain Biblical passages that abusers tend to use. Guess what Matt 18 ranks right up there!
If you have ever felt that you have been abused by someone with authority in a Christian context I encourage to read this book. It might help you to heal as it did me.
What is interesting to me is that a few years later while pastoring/church planting in OR I was able to use that book and the things I had learned from it to help an individual who has been abused themselves by a pastor. As Max Lucado wrote long ago in one of his books – “God leads you though a storm when you are younger so that when you are older , He can use you to lead other though a hurricane.”
The other group of people who end up enslaved by a misuse of the Bible who came to my mind while listening to Carnegie’s speech is all of the people who sincerely think that their particular brand of Christianity is God’s True Church.
I know of at least three brands of Christianity where it is common for its adherents to believe that their brand of Christianity is God’s True Church.
Back when I used to be a Christian ( I gave that up to follow Jesus) I was in Greece on a mission trip.
Important Tangent – If you follow Jesus and you get the opportunity to go to Greece – do so!!
First the food is amazing!
Second – you will never read your Bible the same way again. I was actually in Philippi and even today when I read the Book Of Philippians or when I read Acts 16:11-40 I am impacted because I was there. I can’t explain it, just trust me on this, actually having been in Philippi gives my Bible reading depth it did not have before that trip.
I have to tell you when I was in Greece, I was asked to preach in Thessaloniki, and having preached in the same town as Paul had planted one of the early churches was and still is to me – quite a thrill and honor .
End of tangent!
Back to people who think that their brand of Christianity is God’s True Church. People who believe this way also belive that if you are not part of thier brand that you are not part of God’s True church. Case in point when I was in Greece walking along this waterfront sidewalk –
I was stopped by a woman who heard my speaking English. English was not her first language , however she had learned English as an adult and she was delighted to get to speak English with me.
In the course of our conversation it came out that I was pastor and that we each were at that time affiliated with different brands of Christianity. This kind woman went on to pray for me and encourage me to become part of her brand of Christianity so that I would not go to hell. She told quote “it would be such a shame to have such a nice pastor as yourself go to hell”. Her paradigm was that her brand of Christianity was the only right one to be in and that if you were not in hers that you would be lost.
I know of another brand of Christianity were people get greatly distressed over a loved one who ends up not having membership in their brand of Christianity, because they are convinced that you cannot be saved unless have “membership” in the right brand. Also to actually lose your membership in that brand is an tragic shameful thing to many in that brand and losing your membership is equivalent to being lost (being hell-bound).
I am aware of more that one brand of Christianity that openly among themselves use the phase “God’s True Church” when referring to themselves.
I am sorry – your brand (however wonderful it is) is not the “True Church”. God’s Church – The Body of Christ is bigger than the name on your organization’s incorporation papers.
Salvation is not found in being part of the right brand and no one brand has been given the exclusive distributorship for the Kingdom of God that Jesus references throughout the New Testament.
No amount of twising Scripture will make your Christian brand the only right Christian brand.
What is most sad to me is that leaders in those various brands do not speak up and make it plainly clear that those perspectives are patently false.
The failure of those leaders to do this is tragically sad because because people sometimes end up staying in those various brands not because they find it to be meaningful but because they are afraid to leave “God’s True Church” and they do not want to face the shame and community disproval they will feel if they leave God’s True Church.
Sadly Carnegie’s sick vision of enslaving people with the Good Book is being fulfilled every day in America.