What’s So Bad About Bad Words? or A Philosophical Rant About Abstract Representations

I’ve been told all of my life that there is a list of words that are “bad”.  You know; the “bad words”- the ones we don’t say in polite company.  The more I think about it, the more I think that these words are only bad because someone told us they were bad and we believed them.  Prior to that, someone told the people that told us they were bad words and they believed them- ad infinitum.  I can only guess as to how these words came to be wrong to say.  Somewhere, the church (or some subset of the church) decided that if they were bad, they must be sinful words.  So now, we don’t use those words, because they are bad words.  But what makes them bad?

I think they are bad because of the same reason a lot of stuff is “bad”: tradition- someone told us they were bad because they were told they were bad, and we all believed it.

But are they really “bad” words?  I don’t think so.  I mean, they function perfectly well as words, so that can’t be what makes them bad.  We all recognize these words and agree on their meanings.  When someone says one of these words, most everyone understands what they mean.  And last time I checked, that’s what makes something a word, right; we all recognize it and agree on the meaning.  For instance, “plugh”-  No one knows what that is; no one recognizes it as a word, and no one knows what it means.  That is a bad word.  But the word “shit”- We all understand that one.  We all agree on its meaning.  Shit is a perfectly good word.

Maybe they are bad words because someone, or lots of someones, don’t like what the words mean.  That sounds plausible.  That’s what it is.  Yeah.  … No that can’t be it.  I know people who won’t say shit, but they will say crap, or poop, or excrement.  So it can’t be the meaning of the word that they don’t like.

So it has to be that they just don’t like those specific words because they are those words.

Here’s what I think.  Someone, somewhere along the way decided that the concepts these words depicted were bad concepts.  For instance, fuck means to have sex.  That someone, whoever he, she, or they were, didn’t like sex, so fuck became a bad word.  Shit means … well it means shit, and that someone didn’t like shit, so shit became a bad word.  I think it is ironic that it’s OK to have other words that mean the EXACT same thing, and it’s OK to use those words.  It’s just that particular combination of letters that people don’t like.  I can say ship, but if I change one little letter, it’s suddenly not acceptable.  Sounds suspect to me.  The logic doesn’t make sense.

Many people are offended if you use the words piss, hell, ass, or damn.  They are probably the same people that revere the King James version of the Bible.  Ironically, pisshellass, and damn are all used in the KJV.

If we were in the UK, I might get in trouble for saying bollocks.  I can say that all day long here in the US, and no one will ever bat an eye.  Why?  It’s the meaning and value that we assign to words.  Except not all of us have agreed to those values!  Americans obviously have no issue with the word bollocks because we haven’t agreed that it’s bad.

Back to this idea of substituting other words for bad words… Why is it OK to say friggin’ or freakin’, but not OK to say fuckin’?  Why is it Ok to say oh my gosh, but not oh my God?  Why is it Ok to say crap, poo and shiznit, but not shit?  Why is it OK to say bum, butt, rear end, or back side, but not ass?

I do think it is interesting that all of the “bad words” represent concepts that the church is not OK with on some level or another.  The church doesn’t like to acknowledge that people like, want, and need sex- fuck is a bad word.  The church doesn’t like to talk about bodily functions in general- piss and shit are bad words.  The church doesn’t like to acknowledge that we have body parts with “undesirable” functions- dick, pussy, and asshole are bad words.

And why is it OK to use some of these words in one sense, but not another?  For example, it’s OK to have a pussy cat, but not a pussy.  It’s OK for Jesus to ride an ass into Jerusalem, but not for me to sit on my ass.  It’s OK to be named Dick, but not to be one.  It’s OK to discuss the souls in hell, but not to use hell as an interjection.  It’s OK to say damned to describe the fate of those in hell, but not to use that word to describe something you don’t like.  Sounds to me like a lot of double standards.

Here’s my final word: words are only abstract representations of concepts and objects.  There is nothing inherently bad about an abstract representation.  The value, quality, and morality of a word is something that people have made up, agreed upon, and passed down through the generations.  Those values, and meanings change over time, but that does nothing to the inherent goodness or badness of the abstract representation known as a word.  Words aren’t (and can’t be) bad.  If you are scared of the concept represented by a word; fine.  But don’t call me a sinner for using an abstract representation that is equal in all respects to your abstract representation except for the made-up goodness or badness that we have assigned to it.

Besides, the shock value of these words make them even more useful than most other words that convey the same concepts.  So, if you’re offended by this so-called foul language, get the fuck over it.


In church this past Sunday the pastor made a call from the pulpit that “anyone who needs deliverance- whatever the situation may be: financial, healing, addiction, trouble in your marriage- Just come to the altar and God will deliver you.”

I’ve heard this same line, or some version of it, for most of my life.

After I left home and joined the Army, I picked up the habit of smoking.  A friend of mine offered me a cigarette one day on a whim and urged me to try it.  So I did.  I nearly passed out, but I realized why people smoke.  Nicotine makes you feel great.  But when it wears off, it leaves you wanting more.  So I slowly developed a pack-a-day habit.  I knew it wasn’t healthy, and I tried to limit how much I smoked.  I even tried quitting several times.  Before we shipped off to Saudi Arabia, I told myself that I was going to smoke all of the cigarettes I had before getting on the plane, and never smoke another one again.  I did that.  but then when we got to Saudi, they still sold cigarettes.  They even had bidis, which were pretty cool to smoke.  They were smaller than cigarettes, but were little leaf-rolled “cigars”, for lack of a better term.  So I kept smoking.  But I didn’t want anyone to know, so unless I was around my friends or alone, I didn’t smoke.

After I met my wife, we talked about it, and I tried to quit, but I could never completely get it under control.  So I would smoke while at work.  I would “need to go out to the store” for some random item so I could sneak in a smoke.  I don’t think she ever knew, but she always would mention that I smelled like crayons.

So I would quit for a few months or a year, then start back up.  Then I would struggle for a while, then quit again.  That’s been going on all of adult life.  I actually quit for about three years.  Then my mom died, and that set me off again.  At some point, I unconsciously realized that smoking made me feel better when I was stressed.  So I would always turn to that when I got down.  After mom died, I finally got it under control again, and have actually not smoked for about two years now.  Since then, I have only smoked on two occasions: one day during the middle of my latest bout with depression, and a few weeks ago I got the urge for a cigar.  Both times, I realized exactly why it was important to quickly discontinue smoking; it makes me feel like shit, mentally and physically, once the nicotine wears off.  And I can’t stand the way it makes me smell and the way my mouth tastes afterward. Ugg!

So I said all that to say this: during the worst of my battle against addiction, I would hear the preacher say to come to the altar for deliverance, and I would come.  I wouldn’t get the deliverance promised by the preacher.  “This kind only comes out by fasting and prayer” was another line they would serve up.  I fasted religiously for years- one day a week.  Still, no deliverance.

The reason I quit this last time was because I forced myself to think rationally about the situation, then I stopped smoking out of mental clarity and fear of what it was doing to my body.  That has kept me from smoking for about two years now.

After leaving the oneness church, I started looking at it all a little more rationally.  One of the main things was the realization that I was suffering from “Nice Guy Syndrome“.  Once I read Dr. Glover’s book, I very quickly stopped having the need to constantly bombard my mind with other stuff to quell the doubt, discomfort, and hatred of who I was.  I did not like myself, and I had to distract myself from who I was with self-destructive behaviors.  Once I figured this out, and I decided to like myself (change who I was in order to like myself), I didn’t need to distract myself from myself any more.

For me, THAT was deliverance!

Now, I realize there were other things I had been doing all along for this very same reason.  All of it was because of my Nice Guy Syndrome: the smoking, the drinking, the procrastination, the disconnect from others- all of it.  And the ultimate deliverance came not from going to the altar- not from fasting and prayer.  It came from understanding what was wrong with me, understanding the human psyche, and finally knowing how to fix it.

But why doesn’t the church’s method of deliverance work?  In a nutshell:

The church says that you have to put yourself last and serve others.  Dr. Glover details why that it is one of the Nice Guy’s biggest problems.  I had to learn to not only like myself, but to please myself and make my own needs a priority.

The church says to submit to God.  We don’t have any power in and of ourselves.  The godly way is to let the Holy Spirit work through us.  Dr. Glover makes it clear that we DO have power, and only by reclaiming that personal power are we ever going to overcome the crap that keeps us from living up to our true potential.

The church says that we should live our lives for God and work to serve his purpose.  Dr. Glover makes it clear that only by living the life you want- on your own terms- will you ever break free of the mental prison that is Nice Guy Syndrome.

So there it is:  The church’s method for deliverance never did work for me.  And it wasn’t for lack of trying.  I remember several times in my life thinking that I wasn’t praying enough or fasting enough, so I would ramp it up to the next level.  I would pray more and read my Bible more.  At one point, I was fasting three days a week.  None of it worked.  But when I read No More Mr. Nice Guy, I almost immediately found deliverance from these “demons” that have haunted me most of my life.

When my pastor made that request to come to the altar this past Sunday, all I could do was cringe.  Then I giggled to myself a little.

Love and Beer

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  That saying has been attributed to Ben Franklin.  I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of it all, but I tend to agree with it.

I was raised in a strictly non-alcoholic family.  Anything above .01 proof was a sin.  If you smelled the vanilla extract a little too long, you might open the door to hell itself and start sliding in.  Of course, I’m exaggerating a little, but I didn’t even taste an alcoholic beverage until I was about 20 years old.  Back up… I did taste a Bartles and James wine cooler at a friend’s bachelor party when I was 18.  But it wasn’t until I was 20 that I actually drank a beer.  I don’t remember the scenario, but I’m sure it was one of the guys that lived down the hall from me in the barracks.  There were two friends of mine, Damon and… hell- I can’t even remember the others name now.  Anyway, they always had a fridge full of Bud light- maybe Miller light.  That was probably my first beer.  I don’t remember it.  That’s light beer for you, right!

I do remember the first time I got drunk. Another friend was going to the class six (that’s military for liquor store) and asked if I wanted anything.  I gave her a few bucks and asked her to get me a small flask-sized bottle of “any good whiskey”.  She brought me Jim Beam.  I took it to my room in the barracks and proceeded to drink it.  I even took notes on the experience for posterity’s sake.  I’ll have to dig around and find those notes and post them here sometime.

Over the years, I have been drunk more than I care to admit.  I hid my drinking for a long time.  About ten years ago or so, I finally started drinking at home in front of my family.  My wife was OK with it, since she was raised in a home that was OK with drinking (even though she was UPC- she wasn’t raised in UPC).  Somewhere along the way- maybe the last five years or so, I realized how crappy most beers are.  Budweiser, Coors, Miller… weak, flavorless, and less than satisfying.  I think tasting a Guinness or some other good beer was what made me realize this.  I started tasting other beers.  I even tried my hand at home brewing.  I have been extremely busy with some other projects these last two years, and haven’t brewed anything lately, but I plan on getting back into it.  It’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to talk about beer.  I like beer!  but only good beer. My absolute favorite is IPA, followed by a good stout or porter.  I generally don’t care for lagers.  I’ll drink them, but I prefer ales.  My favorite beer (of all time) is Good People‘s IPA- fantastic!  I love micro brews.  We recently went to a restaurant that had some 150 beers available, and I tried a few.  It’s interesting to see how different brewers interpret the same style.

For many years, I felt convicted (that’s oneness pentecostal talk for feeling like shit when you do something they tell you is wrong) for a long the about drinking in general.  But somewhere along the way, I started researching the topic of drinking and what it says about the subject in the bible.  From this study, I realized that in our canon, all of the verses about drinking fit into one of three categories: drinking is a normal part of life, alcoholic beverages are a gift from God (or at least to be celebrated), and drinking too much is bad.  Check it out yourself (Here is a great rundown of what the Bible actually says). There is no verse in our canon of scripture that even remotely hints that wine, beer, liquor, or drinking of them are a sin.  There are plenty of warnings against drinking too much, although I’m not even convinced that these verses refer to having too much to drink in one sitting.  I won’t make the argument, but it appears to me that most references in the Bible to drunkenness refer tot he state of perpetual drunkenness- making it a lifestyle and a controlling feature of your life.

Either way, I have no problem having a beer in public now.  Beer is good, and anyone that says otherwise is ignorant.

In the words of the psalmist,

“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.


Agnosticism, Peace, and Doubt

For a while, I have been questioning my spirituality, my religion, and religion in general.  It started back when I left oneness/UPC around 2009 or so.  Since then I have spent quite a bit of time studying not only scripture, but anything I could get my hands on that might help me figure out my place in the universe.  There are a lot of ways of thinking that look great on the surface, but when you start digging deeper, they have flaws.  My thinking since childhood was that I was in the one right and true religion and nearly everyone else had it wrong.  I remember thinking on occasion, “How did I get to be so lucky- to be born into a family that has the Truth…?!?”

Once I came to realize that the truth I had wasn’t very true, I felt the need to find the truth.  I have looked for it in a lot of places.  I have looked at the Orthodox Church, which has its appeal in that they claim to be the true descendants of the apostolic church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, who broke away from it.  But they have the same problems of corruption and scandal that most other churches do.  I looked at Islam for about a second before realizing they have the same foundational problems that the Mormons have.

I mentioned in a previous post that I currently consider myself to be an Agnostic Christian, but I’m not so sure about the Christian part right now.  Let me explain a little before I come back to Bart Ehrman.

As I understand it, agnosticism is not defined as “not being sure if there is a deity.”  It is best defined as its name implies: not being able to prove or disprove the existence of a deity because of lack of knowledge.  The greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge, preceded by a, meaning without: without knowledge, or to clarify: we mere humans have no way to know for sure if there is or is not a god.  The more I considered the evidence, the more I realized that all of the arguments for the existence of a god were lacking proof, and all of the arguments against the existence of a god were also lacking in proof.  So I came to the conclusion that there is no way I can know if there is or is not a god.

But that’s not the same question as “Do you believe in god?”  When I consider the arguments for the existence of a god, I see how they make sense to a point.  Why shouldn’t there be a creator who, through his benevolence, created life, the universe, and everything?  It’s a nice idea.  But then I consider the evidence that the universe came to being through the manner proposed by science.  That actually makes more sense.  I have also considered the idea that God, in his infinite wisdom, set the universe on its course of existence and created in a way that it would become what he intended through the mechanisms he set into place that can be explained by science.  That is the most appealing, sense-making explanation I can come up with.  It satisfies my desire for an answer to “what caused the big bang?” and it also satisfies my wondering of where God is when we need him most.  After all, if God is perfect, why wouldn’t he create a perfect universe from the beginning that would take care of itself?  I am still waiting on proof-positive that he intervenes in our world or has anything to do with us on a regular basis.

What about Christianity?  A while back, I realized that in Jesus’ last prayer before his crucifixion (as recorded in John 17), he asks the Father to make all of his followers “one”.  As we see from history, that has not happened.  There are more Christian beliefs that any other religion in the word, it seems.  This seems to be the case from the very beginnings of Christianity, even as shown in some new testament scriptures where Paul or another warns those to whom he is writing to watch out for those teaching “another gospel.”  So here’s my premise for doubting the authenticity of christianity: If Jesus can’t even get his prayer answered, what chance do we normal humans have?

Not to mention the irony of Christianity.  Here’s what I mean…  The center of all of the religions of Moses (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is Jerusalem, which literally means the Foundation of Peace.  Paul refers to “The God of Peace”.  Yet who has perpetuated more hatred, hostility, death and destruction than anyone?  Those who claim to follow this god of peace.  Let me give some examples: the crusades, the inquisitions, the holocaust, the current state of hatred of muslims, the hatred of gays, and the list goes on.   All of these situations caused be christians in the name of god.  I’m not saying that I disbelieve in the God of the Bible, I’m saying that we have an interesting way of serving the God of Peace; hatred and death and destruction.

I decided on all of that a while back.  I came to the conclusion that we humans have screwed up a lot of shit in the name of god, but that doesn’t prove or disprove his existence.  I was raised a christian, so that’s what I was comfortable with.  And the tenets that Jesus taught were worth trying to emulate.  That’s how I came to regard myself as an agnostic Christian.

But then I read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus Interrupted.  In this book, he provides evidence and examples of the discrepancies in the Bible (specifically the new testament) and the human element in the writing, transmission, and interpretation of the Bible.  All of these things point to only one thing for me: the Bible is not infallible, inerrant, or perfect.  If my belief about the religion I was raised in can be disproven with fact, why not the very foundation of that religion as well.

What does all this mean?  I’m not sure.  I finished the book late last night.  When I went to church this morning, I kept superimposing a mental image of the prophets of Baal (from 1 Kings 18) on my fellow worshippers: doing everything they could to get their god to pay attention, but never making any headway- No answer, but a lot of trying to get one.  No wonder they are always preaching about keeping the faith; that’s ALL they have.  I suppose if you want something to be real bad enough, you can eventually make it real for yourself.

As of now, I will continue to claim agnosticism.  I can’t prove or disprove the existence of God.  I would like there to be a god, but it appears that if there were, he keeps his distance from us.  The God of the Bible is looking less and less like the true god.  I would like him to be, but the evidence seems to be stacked against him.

Edit 1-14-14:  I don’t mean to say that I do not believe in God- even the god of the Bible (I think that agnosticism leaves room for belief).  It’s just that all of the evidence against any reliability in the historical accuracy of the Bible makes me wonder how accurately the Bible portrays God.  I mean seriously: a lot of the Bible is myth, we don’t know who wrote most of it, we don’t have any of the autographs, what we do have has been changed in many places and for many reasons over the years, so we can’t even be 100% sure of what it originally said, and even if we did know all these things, no one would agree on it any way!

The more I think about it, the less I have a problem with the god of the Bible; I do have a problem with his “followers”.  They can’t agree on anything- they are the antithesis of unity, they have caused more harm than good, they argue with everyone else, they hate anyone not like them, and I believe the world would be a much better place if they would all shut up and quit pushing their (unbiblical) agenda on everyone else.  I don’t want anyone to think that all christians are like this, just the ones in my family and most of the ones I know.  In addition, it amazes me how little most christians know about the history of their religion.  I include myself in this, since I don’t know that much about it.  I am trying, though; and isn’t it interesting where learning about my religion has lead me…?

It’s OK

I just put my kids to bed.  That’s my thing-  I have to tell them to go to bed.  I have to make sure they brush their teeth first.  I have to tell the one to take his meds.  I have to tell them to hurry up, like what… 50 times.  Then I have to talk  about their day (all those silly insignificant details, that I really couldn’t care less about, because my youngest just drones on and on, but it’s important to him, so I listen careful, all while trying to get him to please hurry up) as they are climbing into their beds and cleaning up legos.  I have to tell them “I love you.”  I make sure I say that to them every night because I don’t want them to ever feel unloved.  I have to turn on the lightsaber they use for a nightlight.  I have to turn off the light and tell them to go to sleep and that I love them, again.  I close the door and go back to watever I was doing before bedtime.  I have to do that every night.  I told my wife that if I ever die, she would have to put the kids to bed.  And by put the kids to bed, I meant all of what I do.  Exactly like I do it.  Because I think it’s extremely important. It’s my thing.

So tonight I’m in the process of doing that and as I go to check on my youngest who is brushing his teeth, I notice a pea sized speck of blue toothpaste on the floor.  So when he finishes brushing his teeth, I say to him, “get a piece of toilet paper and clean up that toothpaste.”  Then I criticize him (which I didn’t realize I was doing at the moment) by saying, “I don’t understand how you always make messes wherever you go.”  (He is very messy for a 4th grader.)

He immediately got that look in his eyes.  I remember having that look in my eyes when I was his age.  I remember feeling just like he did at that moment.  I felt ashamed.  I felt humiliated.  I had made a mistake, and I was supposed to be perfect.  I didn’t make mistakes, but here I was again screwing something up.  That’s not who I am.  And then revolting frustration.  It’s as if I didn’t like who I was.

And that’s what I saw in my little boy’s eyes.

He started trying to explain why he dropped the toothpaste.

I told him that he didn’t have to explain himself.  And the look got worse.  He head and eyes drooped to the floor.

I immediately grabbed him and whispered in his ear, “It’s OK to make a mistake.  It’s OK to be wrong.  It doesn’t make you less of a person to be wrong.  No one can expect you to be perfect.  NO ONE is perfect. No one can ask you to be perfect, and no one expects you to be perfect.  Everyone messes up and breaks things and screws stuff up.  EVERYONE! Including you.  And that’s perfectly OK.  It is OK to make a mistake and it is OK to be wrong.  I will love you just the same if you mess things up as if you are perfect, and no one will ever change that.  It is OK to be wrong.  You try to do things right, but it’s is perfectly OK to mess up sometimes.  And when you do, you admit it, you try to fix it, then you go on with your life.  It’s that simple.  I’t is OK to make a mistake.  And when you do, it doesn’t make you any less of who you are.  You will always be the perfect you.  Mistakes and all.  And that’s why I love you; because you are the perfect you.  You don’t have to explain yourself.  Just try to fix it, and then just keep being who you are.”

“Do you understand?”

Tears started running down my face as I asked him that- just as they are now as I write this.

I hope he understood.

I don’t want my son to have to think he has to be perfect all the time.  That’s my problem.  I’m doing much better now, although I did struggle with this for as far back as I can remember.  Well, I think I do remember, but that’s for another post- still working on that one.

I don’t want my son to struggle with the same emotional shit I’ve had to deal with all my life.  I got it from my mom.  I’m pretty sure my mom got it from the way she was raised.  From the stories my uncles tell about their dad… and the way he treated their mom and them.  So what they say about psychological problems being hereditary- absolutely!  It’s passed on from a parent to the child- though the way the parent interacts with the children.  My grandfather apparently tormented my mom and her siblings.  Looking back on it now, I am pretty sure my mom was exactly like I have been.  I  don’t want that for my boys!

I want to break the chain.  I DO NOT want my son to have that same mindset that I did.  I want my son to have a happy- a truly happy life.

I think I’m extremely sad and extremely pissed off at the same time that I had to live the first 30 some odd years of my life with THAT mindset.

I’m still working on it, but  I will conquer this!

People Whose Views Have Influenced Me

One of the reasons I am writing this blog is to encourage others to critically question their mindset.  That’s how I got out of the toxic theology known as oneness pentecostalism.  If it weren’t for information and a critical mind, I would still be sitting fat, dumb, and happy (so to speak) on a oneness pentecostal pew and nodding “amen to that” whenever the preacher connected some ill-interpreted scripture with some stupid reason to make myself feel even more like shit than I already did.  It’s been a long journey coming out of oneness, and there have been many authors, bloggers, and internet posters who I have read that have influenced me in one way or another.  There are too many to name them all, and frankly, I’ve forgotten some of them.  I want to credit those who have helped me along in order that some other poor soul will possibly read this one day and be helped in turn.

One of the earliest works I read was Josh Spiers’ site, whyileft.org.  Josh’s testimony about leaving the UPC was extremely encouraging to me.  His responses to the different “holiness standards” were also very helpful.  He explains most of these issues in a way that makes it easy to understand why they are not only unnecessary, but unbiblical.  Thanks, Josh!

The guy who writes the website Experto Creed, whoever he is, also had a great influence on me.  His testimony and explanations of why the UPC and oneness doctrines are less than biblical helped me realize even more why I needed to get out.  His tale of the goatee rebellion and spiritual blinders really resonated with me.  I, as well, have always questioned the facial hair bit that the UPC holds on to.  It makes no sense, even when you accost it as truth.  Because of EC, I was able to understand what spiritual blinders are and remove them from my own eyes.  Thanks, EC.

Brian LePort’s story at Near Emmaus was also helpful and encouraging.  Thanks, Brian

The testimonies at Spiritual Abuse were encouraging as well.  Thanks, Spiritual Abuse.

The Studies for Pentecostals that Buddy Martin has put together were like water to my parched soul.  He also has some great studies in the Hebraic Foundations section that helped me understand a lot and make some important choices for myself.  Thanks, Buddy.

One of my favorite pastimes was to read and post on the oneness forum at CARM.  If you want to see the oneness mindset in action, go read a few posts.  The lack of logic and twisting of scriptures will be readily apparent to anyone with half of a brain.  CARM also has some great articles on heresies and other things pertinent to any discussion about oneness.  Thanks, CARM.

Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus, lead me to a better understanding of the scriptures, and how to read and apply them to my life.  I know this probably wasn’t his main reason for writing this book, but it opened my eyes to some realities that oneness people will never admit, and probably don’t even know.  Thanks, Dr. Ehrman!  I’m planning on reading his other book, Jesus, Interrupted soon.

One of the biggest influences on me was Thrice Holy’s Answering Oneness.  Talk about big guns.  If you can read all of this information and not want to get out of oneness, you’ve got bigger issues than I want to know about.  It will take a while to read through all of this great information, but it is well worth it.    Thanks, Thrice Holy!

These are the most important resources I have used I my journey out of oneness.  There are many others that I have read and viewed.  There are several books that I have read, some of which I mentioned here.  Hopefully, if you are struggling with your oneness beliefs, these resources will help you come to the understanding that oneness is not biblically sound doctrine.  The only way to truly break free of this toxic mindset and theology is understanding.  I know I don’t understand everything yet (and probably never will), but I know enough to know that oneness is not biblical.  If you get out without understanding, you’ll probably end up with a case of “Talihina Syndrome” and continue to be mentally dominated by their toxic mindset.

Hopefully, these resources will help you understand where I have come from and what I have gone through.


Talihina Syndrome

Kings of Leon put out a new record a few months back and one of the songs on it got a lot of airplay on the radio.  I had heard of Kings of Leon, but I wasn’t familiar with any of their music.  For the last few years (since I split the UPC) I have been trying to catch myself up on all of the good music happening in the world (there is a lot of it!) and Kings of Leon was one of the bands I needed to know more about.  Supersoaker starts coming on the radio, and as I typically do, when I find something that interests me, I read a bunch of stuff about them and learned enough that I could say “I know who Kings of Leon are!”  I mentioned KOL to my brother-in-law, who in turn mentioned Talihina Sky.  He told me a little about the history of KOL, and that they were raised UPC.  My interest peaked, and I decided that I needed to watch this movie.  When My brother came to visit for Christmas, we watched it.

Awesome movie, but I felt sad at the end; Sad for the guys in the band-  So it turns out that they were raised in the UPC, believing a lot of the same theology as I was raised on.  Their dad was a traveling minister, an evangelist, who carted the family around the southern US preaching for churches.  It turns out that he was a closet alcoholic and eventually divorced the guys’ mom.  This prompted them to quit the church, get a record deal, form a band, learn to play (in that rough order) and then become world famous stadium rock gods.  Cool story, but they didn’t seem happy.  What I got from the film is that they were out of the UPC/ oneness movement, but they all acknowledged that they still held on to those beliefs, and considered themselves sinners.  If I remember correctly, one of them made a statement something like, “we’re all probably going to hell.”

The problem, as I see it, is that they rejected the toxic teachings of the UPC, but they didn’t have a justification for rejecting them other than “we don’t like it.”  I think in order to completely divorce one’s self of toxic a theology/ mindset such as that of oneness, one has to have a rational justification based on information and knowledge, rather than just knowing there is something wrong, but not knowing what that is, then quitting over it.

Thinking back on my own experience, I knew (somewhere in the back of my mind) for a while that there was something wrong with the theology and mindset of the oneness movement, but I couldn’t identify what that was.  For me, that alone wasn’t enough to justify quitting.  I didn’t want Talihina Syndrome (yeah, I just coined that term!) like the guys in KOL.  I read theology.  I read the bible.  I read anything I could get my hands on to learn as much as I could about the whole situation before I made a decision to quit oneness.  When I left, I knew why I was leaving!  I didn’t know everything (still don’t), but I had enough of a knowledge base and understanding that I could not only quit physically, but mentally as well.  And that, I think, is what the guys in KOL have not done.  They are still checked in mentally.  And that might be even more toxic than just giving in to oneness.

My Story: The Basics

I’ve been through a lot these last few years.  The more I think about it, the more I think someone else might benefit from  my experiences.  So I thought I’d start writing about what I’ve been through and how it has affected me and my family.  So here I go…

I was raised in a oneness pentecostal (hereafter referred to as oneness) family.  My great grandfather was a oneness pentecostal minister, as were my grandfather and my dad.  My dad eventually became a pastor and served in that capacity for a couple of decades.  From what I understand, my mom was the reason her family was so involved in oneness.  Her older siblings (still) don’t want anything to do with oneness, and the younger ones are either ministers, pastors, or are very involved in their churches (as are their kids).  Coming up, we were in church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  Most months, we went to at least one “fellowship meeting” where several churches from the area would come together for a full Saturday of singing and preaching.  There were the many annual conferences, youth camps, and other special church functions that were the center of our family’s social world.  Our mindset was something like “God first, church second, family third, and everything else last”.  I remember hearing the verse about “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first” many times growing up.  Our entire life revolved around church and serving God.

If you don’t know what oneness pentecostalism is, you can read about it on Wikipedia.  If you do know anything about oneness, I’m sure I’ll get something wrong according to your understanding, since there are as many versions of oneness pentecostalism as there are microbreweries.  To those who buy in to a particular version, it is the one true religion, and (most of) the rest are as wrong as the day is long.  The biggest, and most well known of the oneness pentecostal organizations is the UPC, the United Pentecostal Church.  If you want to know more about the history of the UPC/oneness and the mindset that goes along with it, get a copy of Dr. Thomas Fudge’s book, Christianity Without the Cross.  After I joined the Army and left home, I attended and made a UPC church the center of my world for over 15 years.  I met my wife at a UPC church.  I still consider some of the people at that church friends, but others I couldn’t care less about.  The organization we belong(ed) to growing up, however, was a smaller, much less well known group that had cut ties with the UPC many years earlier.  I remember my mom criticizing the UPC because they were too legalistic.  (legalistic: that’s the term oneness folks use when criticizing another group for being more concerned about how people wear their hair and clothes than they are.)  That’s why we didn’t like, or associate, with the UPC church in our town; they were too legalistic.  Te men always wore long sleeved white shirts, and the women didn’t wear culottes.  Yeah, that’s what we were concerned about.  It turns out that that particular church eventually broke away from the UPC and became independent because the UPC didn’t hold to the same “standards” as they did; the UPC was too lax. (standards: that’s the term oneness folks use to refer to their dress code.  They claim it’s biblical and related to how holy they are…)  The UPC church I attended didn’t do the long white shirt sleeves thing, but they did do most of the rest of them.

If you’re curious, I’ll give a quick rundown of the “holiness standards” as taught by my former UPC pastor.

Women must not cut their hair.  Their hair gives them glory before the angels, and cutting the hair is a sin.  Some go as far as the “holy, magic hair doctrine”, but not at this church.  Women must not wear makeup.  Jezebel wore makeup, so it’s a sin.  Women must not wear pants; skirts and dresses only.  Pants are a man’s garment, which is explicitly forbidden in the Mosaic law.  The skirt or dress should at least cover the knee.  The favorite women’s garment is the ankle length denim skirt.  Neither women nor men can wear jewelry because the apostle Paul said to not let the wearing of gold be your glory.  Men may not wear shorts because they are immodest.  Men cannot wear facial hair because (and I quote)  “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” and when men leave the UPC (oneness, the truth, whatever the hell you want to call it) the first thing they do to rebel is grow facial hair (hmmm, really!?!?).

So THAT’S what makes us holy: the way we dress, essentially.  Which makes no sense to me (now) since the reason we are supposed to be holy is because it is written, “be ye holy, for I am holy”, but God doesn’t have a body (God is a spirit) so if you think about it, emulation of God’s holiness has nothing to do with our physical bodies, but that’s what the UPC and oneness would have you believe.

By the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I no longer identify with the UPC or oneness.  Currently, I attend an Assemblies of God church, but I have issues with their theology/ belief system as well, and I am considering getting out of Dodge there as well, if I can ever get the balls to make a move (more on that later: I’m such a Nice Guy).  Or maybe after I finish the degree I’m working on we can move to a new town which will necessitate choosing a new church… (not pentecostal).

Anyway, back to my story (sorry about explaining so much, but I can imagine that it could be confusing to the uninitiated).  Somewhere around 2009, I started getting burned out with my level of “service” at my UPC church and started questioning things.  I think (looking back on it now) that I always had questions, but I only admitted the concerns I had once I started getting burned out.  So my “service” consisted of a couple of time consuming activities: I lead worship at our nursing home service and I ran sound for the church.  I was leading worship once a month at a local nursing home service.  That consisted of an hour and a half service on the second (I think) Saturday of the month where I played the guitar and sang three or four songs.  The guy in charge of the service (great guy) would preach or get someone else to, then I would sing a couple songs during the altar call at the end.  Two or three months a year, there was a need for me to do the same at a second nursing home in town.  As far as running sound at church, for approximately eight years, I was “in charge” of the sound booth at the church I attended.  I ran a 32 channel mixing desk and we had some other guys who alternated on the audio recording computer and the slideshow display computer.  I was there every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night, and every special service the church had, not to mention choir practices at least an hour before every service, and the service we did on our local military base for several years between Sunday services (that made for a looong Sunday).  When we finally quit the UPC, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with all that extra time (I still don’t sometimes).  But needless to say, I was burned out.

One day, I was walking though my house, and I had this thought: “Jesus is the Son.”  (Oneness believes Jesus is all there is to God; Jesus is God’s name, for heaven’s sake), so for me to have this thought was pretty revolutionary for me.  At the time, that thought was so powerful to me that I perceived it as an audible sound; God spoke to me.  I know there are going to be those out there who will think I am denying God speaking directly to me, but I’ve analyzed this in more ways than one, and my current thinking is that I was so hyped up and into the mindset of oneness that a thought that God was speaking directly to me.  Now that I think about it, it is completely normal for someone in oneness to have an idea that is contrary to accepted thinking and think it is God speaking to them.  That’s how oneness got started in the first place, for goodness sake! (see the references to John G. Schaepe in the Wikipedia article).  Because of this epiphany, I started doing some research as to how the rest of Christianity viewed the person of Jesus Christ and realized just what the Bible says.  (Hey! The whole trinity thing may not be as wrong as I was taught all my life.)  That’s why we quit the UPC and looked around for a few months and ended up in AOG.  I like the people in my current church.  They are essentially good people, but the more I learn, the more I realize how wrong they are (theologically).  They have a lot right, but they have a lot wrong as well- but they have less wrong than UPC.

I am still walking this path called life trying to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong.  As I learn more, I’ll let you know.  I’m long since done with UPC, and I’m pretty sure pentecostalism in general isn’t biblical.  So where am I now?  If you’re wondering, I consider myself an Agnostic Christian.  I haven’t put that out there for my people as of yet, but right now, that makes the most sense to me.  But then, I’m still learning.  If you read this, I’d appreciate your prayers to whatever God you serve, if any.  Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.