23 November, 2007

Anatomy of an Apostasy

I met Jeanine (pseudonym) in 1989 when we all decided to move to the same neighborhood and start a home church together. She lived two blocks away, and my wife and I both loved her. Most everyone did.

She was one of those very positive people, and one of the people who was always building, not destroying. She added something to every meeting, and did a lot of the behind the scenes work that so often gets forgotten. As one of the oldest people in the church, and oldest in the Lord, she was pretty highly respected and did a fine job of living up to those expectations. Mostly, she was just a lot of fun. She knew how to enjoy wine, people, and laughter and her husband was brilliant to boot.

I still miss Jeanine.

She was predisposed toward ecstatic experience. She dripped of life and imagination, so for her to experience everything to the full was only natural. She had already progressed a good way down the path to successful contemplative prayer (I'm tired of typing this, so I will call it ConPrayer for the rest of this post) before she ever joined us. Under the tutelage of our leader, she took to it like a fish to water. She was a trailblazer all the way.

Of the thirty or so of us, there were 5-10 who really got it, 5-10 who were doing something other than ConPrayer but thought they were getting it (I was one of these), 5-10 who mostly slept, and a handful whom we never quite figured out why they were there at all. (Some things never change.) Jeanine was in the first group.

I suspect initial success at ConPrayer is personality-driven, though its practitioners assure everyone that anyone can do it. Either way, Jeanine shared loads of her experiences and we all got to know her experience of ConPrayer pretty well. Some of the group resented her openness, feeling that she was faking or at the least grandstanding, but I was fully convinced that she was experiencing the things she described, and that her personality would have grated on her detractors in any case.

In the seventh year of our home church experience, everything started falling apart at the foundations. The church was in dire crisis, and the pressure it put on everyone individually and as families was incredible. I think about half the marriages in that church have already ended in divorce, and hers was the first. My marriage was broken during that period as well, though we held on for another six years.

Handling her divorce was hard for everyone: her, her husband, and all of us who had to decide how to act and react. She and her husband were both hurt in the proceedings, but for better or worse we muddled through. The decision was made that her husband should leave the church, and he did. That left Jeanine with the solace of fellowship, and we hoped it would be for the best.

One day we learned she was in love again.

Her new man was a little bit older than her, an acknowledged pot smoker, and into Native American spirituality. He was the prototypical old hippie who had not decided to adjust. He was a good guy, but semi-unemployed (which is a deal-breaker with me - don't bring no unemployed man home to me and hope for a blessing.) He was not even remotely Christian. That should have been a deal-breaker to Jeanine. It was not.

Jeanine had changed over the years.

She had discovered the intoxicating glory of ConPrayer, and discovered that it worked no matter whether it was Jesus or "the God force within us all" that she invoked. She was right. She found that as she threw off the fetters of narrow Christian law, her prayer times were only better, not worse. She found freedom, love, and acceptance by everyone except the Christians who had rejected her divorce in the first place, and now rejected her new live-in arrangements.

I talked to her a few months ago. It seems she has finally found a stable man, and settled into a productive life. I'm happy for her, of course. And she keeps praying that I will continue to follow my interpretation of God. She has outgrown my interpretation, of course, but she understands and accepts me the way I am. I can only return the favor to a degree. I accept and love her still, but cannot accept the decision that sets her in opposition to Jesus Christ.

I still hope some day to embrace my sister again. May the Lord so bless us.

2 comments:

Weekend Fisher said...

Poke: Either way, Jeanine shared loads of her experiences and we all got to know her experience of ConPrayer pretty well. Some of the group resented her openness, feeling that she was faking or at the least grandstanding, but I was fully convinced that she was experiencing the things she described ...

---

Let's say she was experiencing the things she described. Did she ever describe meditating on Scripture? Did she ever describe meditating on Christ?

Which is just my way of saying, if those aren't any part of the contemplation/meditation, then what exactly is Christian about it?

Take care & God bless
WF

codepoke said...

> Did she ever describe meditating on Scripture? Did she ever describe meditating on Christ?

Yes. Yes. In spiritually inspiring, theologically accurate terms.

If you've ever been around New-Age thought, then you know it can pass as Christian under a cursory examination. In this case (one of several) I watched something clearly Christian drift - first into passive reception of spiritual experience, and later into self-confessed New Age experience.

I've avoided explaining the meditation techniques we were taught, but the soteriology was "every grace comes through Christ - atonement, justification, adoption, fellowship, resurrection." Our prayer was a gift from Christ, and it was a reflection of the fellowship Christ shared with His Father. And the exclusive tool we used for prayer was the scripture.

Everything Jeanine shared was rich with scripture and Christ.

Even after she left Him.

Emptying ourselves to share in the fellowship of the Father and Son sure sounds safe, but emptying ourselves is never shown in scripture. In the end, maybe Jeanine was describing her experiences more than she was describing her Lord, but that's a fine line to interpret. Whatever she was doing, she was able to continue doing it long after she renounced Christ.