BE ANGRY BUT SIN NOT

Now that I no longer believe the blasphemous doctrines of Brother H, the leader of a cult church I once attended, and suffer Sister R’s misguided admonishments about getting “all fussed up,” I understand the correct use of anger. As June Hunt pointed out to me, the self-centred variety is sinful and destructive while others-centred righteous wrath is condoned in Scripture. Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord.”

Neither should anger be suppressed. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”

In every organization, there will always be that minority who refuse to heed entreaties. Christ laid out the steps for dealing with problems between believers in Matthew 18:15-18. Even so, I learned the hard way that there are some folks who have no interest in cooperating. Experience has taught me to agree with Paul when he wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

The previous paragraphs came from my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir. I also have two other books in print. When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) tells the touching story of my long-eared companions and the amazing things I learned from them. Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) recounts what it was like to be sent to a distant institution for months at a stretch. Both paperbacks can be purchased by Clicking here. Information about my writing and these books is also on that page.

INCONSISTENCY AND THE GOLDEN RULE

Adults admonished me repeatedly since early childhood that hitting others is always wrong. One example was when Mom scolded me one July afternoon for becoming enraged at my brother, Roy, and scratching long bloody streaks down his back with my fingernails. I felt guilty and shocked at the sight of what I had done and vowed never to do that again.

Imagine my consternation on another summer morning when my family visited my uncle Bob, who lived just down the sidewalk from us, and somebody brought out an inflatable punching clown toy. It was the sort that had sand in its rounded bottom so that it would always return to an upright position after being hit.

“Go ahead, punch him. Hit him as hard as you can,” Dad repeated as I hesitated in front of it. The very thought horrified me. I didn’t want to punch that nice clown who never hurt me, even if he wasn’t real.

The other adults burst out laughing and insisted it was all right to hit the clown since it was only a toy. Suddenly I felt terrified. Everybody seemed to be hungrily ganging up on me.

Finally my fear of them overcame my dread of hitting another person and in frustration I socked the clown balloon. I felt absolutely miserable. “Hit him again,” people kept encouraging. A queasy feeling welled up inside me as I hit the clown toy a few more times to make them happy. It seemed fundamentally immoral to do that but everybody urged me on.

I had another crisis of conscience when Dad took the initiative to teach me how to fight one sunny summer afternoon. “Go ahead and punch me. Put up your dukes and hit me as hard as you can,” he urged.

Again I felt horrified. Weren’t we supposed to love our parents and do unto others what we wanted done to us? That ghastly feeling of doing something terribly wrong swept over me but I gave in and made a few half-hearted swats with my tiny fists.

Fortunately for me, Mom came into the master bedroom, where this madness was occurring, and put a stop to it. “He has to learn how to fight so he won’t get beat up,” Dad argued. Mom would have none of that and I was spared any further fighting lessons.

I wish Dad had fought harder on my behalf during another summer afternoon. A government agent came to convince my parents that they should send me to a distant institution called Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. I wrote about the consequences, both good and bad, of their fateful decision in Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School). Information about this memoir of residential school life, and how I survived it, is available by clicking here.

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SIMILARITIES

Having just read My People, Myself by Mary Lawrence, I was struck by the similarities between her ordeal of being an aboriginal child in two rigid and uncaring institutions and my experience of being a disabled child sent hundreds of miles from home for months at a time. Though the two schools that Mary went to were worse than Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, reading her book brought back memories of similar situations in my life.

First of all, we both were sent away, she by her grandmother and me by my parents, in the belief that we would receive a good education. The Indian Agent assured Mary’s grandmother with the same sort of propaganda as the Government of British Columbia representative used to convince my mom and dad that I’d be better off in a blind school.

Mary and I had difficulty adjusting to the regimented institutional life. We came from homes that were dysfunctional but caring. Both of us had plenty of freedom to play and wander wherever we felt like. Suddenly, we were confined to our respective school grounds with uncaring adults watching over us and forced to live with many strange children.

Both of us were disciplined for rebelling against the dorm rules. Her school in Cranbrook and mine in Vancouver were inflexible when it came to such things as bed times and religious preferences. Though I wasn’t forced to go to mass each day as Mary was, I was sent to the Anglican church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.

Though Mary was sent to two foster homes and I was sent to live in Edmonton with a couple families so I could attend public school, we both weren’t allowed to stay permanently at home after being released from our boarding schools. I was fortunate that those people looking after me didn’t physically molest me but Mary and I both suffered psychological abuse.

When we became adults, our paths were different but we had plenty of emotional baggage to deal with. By God’s grace, I didn’t turn to drugs and alcohol but I did attend a cultic church for fifteen years.

We both walked a long road to recovery as well. Mary’s was through the Twelve Step program and mine was through various psychological therapies and finding out what true Christianity is from proper Bible teachers.

Mary and I were greatly helped by writing our experiences down and having them published. We were able to face our monsters and deal with them through confronting them head on.

Mary’s book can be found at the Harbour Publishing  site. My Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir is available from the InScribe  page.

THE FOOLISHNESS OF HAVING FAITH IN FAITH

This deals with spiritual abuse that I suffered in a cult church.

June Hunt, a Christian counsellor and conference speaker, recently sent me an 8 CD set of talks entitled, Spiritual Abuse:Religion At Its Worst. As I listened to the disks, I realised anew the extent of how I ran on a treadmill of false expectations during my time at a cult church. Being an untutored convert, I knew no better and believed this church to be the only one with the complete truth of God.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming manuscript, How I Was Razed, in which it was obvious thirty-five years ago that I had my faith placed in my own faith rather than in the heavenly father.

—————————————————————–

Though I played guitar during the worship services that summer, I felt increasingly superfluous. “I really don’t feel like I’m doing anything for the Lord,” I confessed to Sister R at supper one Wednesday. “I’ve learned a lot from Brother H but I still feel unfulfilled.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m not able to witness to people much since I can’t easily read the Bible. I still haven’t been healed either.”

“You pray every day, don’t you?”

“Well yeah, but what good is it?

“What good is it?” she exclaimed. “The apostle, Paul, wrote that the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. You’re able to run interference for Jesus by your prayers. They help him win spiritual battles.”

“Really? Wow! I didn’t know that. You mean I can actually help God just by praying?”

“Of course you can. There’s power in prayer. You’re praying in the name of Jesus. Demons tremble at the sound of it because they know it unleashes God’s power.”

As I ate, I pondered what Sister R had told me. Maybe I wasn’t as useless as I felt. Throughout my life, people had given me the impression that I was a problem to be dealt with instead of an equal. Because of this encouragement, I prayed longer and more determinedly.

Perhaps it was another coincidence that Brother H taught on prayer and the unjust judge a week later. Turn to Luke Eighteen, verse eighteen,” he instructed. Then he read aloud, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, ‘There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, “Avenge me of mine adversary.” And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”‘ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?'”

Brother H looked at me and said, “This teaches us that we must keep our faith strong. Many people don’t receive what they pray for because they give up too soon. Remember what James wrote about the man who is unstable in all his ways? It’s imperative that you never give in and quit believing that God will give you what you ask for.”

As soon as Sister E drove me home and I was safely in my room, I sat on my bed and begged Jesus to give me my sight. Though my vision grew no better, I worked hard to stifle my feeling of discouragement.

—————————————————————–

I mentioned my Christian faith briefly in my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoirs. In How I Was Razed, I document my journey from naive convert, through the many years in which I was deceived, my rebellion against what I’d been taught, and final acceptance of God’s real nature as revealed in Scripture. Feel free to e-mail me or visit my InScribe Writers Group page for more information.

THE COST OF PENTECOST

While editing my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, I realized that I had neglected to post about a holy day peculiar to charismatic denominations and some house churches. As most people may not be familiar with Pentecost Sunday, occurring fifty days after Good Friday, an excerpt from my manuscript may serve to explain a little of what this day means to some Christians. The origin of this observance is recorded in The New Testament portion of The Bible in The Acts of the Apostles, chapter two. Here’s how I was introduced to it.

—————————————————————–

The Lutheran and Anglican churches that I had attended as a child celebrated only Christmas and Easter, preceding them with Advent and Lent. In June, Thee Church celebrated a holy day which I hadn’t heard of before. “Pentecost is next Sunday,” Sister R informed me after the worship service. “You’ll want to ask Jesus to heal you then.”

“How come?

“Because that’s when the power is the greatest. The Holy Spirit is present strongly on that day so people are healed more often then.”

I felt electrified by that news. “Perhaps,” I thought, “this would be the day when my faith would be strong enough to overcome my doubts and I’d be healed.”

The Pentecost Sunday morning sunlight shone like my optimism as I walked to church. Because of my poor vision, and as it made me feel a part of the service, I sat in the first row of chairs. Excitement coursed through me as I waited for the service to begin.

After we sang a few hymns, John, Sister R’s son and pastor of Thee Church, asked, “Is there anyone here who wants to be healed or who wants prayer? Please come forward now.” I immediately stood up and walked to the chair which he placed in front of the congregation.

“Take your glasses off,” Sister R ordered. I removed them and set them on the pulpit.

“Those who wish to can come up and lay hands on Bruce and pray,” John invited. A knot of people formed around me as he lead them in prayer.

“Lord Jesus, we come now to you, believing that you will reward our faith.” Then John asked, “Bruce, do you wish to be healed of your poor sight?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then in Jesus’ name, receive your sight.”

The congregation began babbling in tongues as they laid their hands on my head.

“Can you see any better?” John enquired after the congregants had finished. I looked around and willed my eyes to see clearer.

“I don’t think so. Everything still looks the same.” The congregation redoubled their efforts to transfer the Holy Spirit’s power to me.

“Now, can you see any better?” John asked. Though I stared hard at the furnishings of the room and the people around me, nothing had changed. The same thing happened the third time when the praying and tongue-speaking stopped.

“Keep your glasses off,” Sister R advised. “It might take a while for your sight to come and you don’t want to ruin your miracle by a lack of faith. God may be testing you by not restoring your sight immediately.”

I obediently placed my glasses in my shirt pocket and kept them there throughout the rest of the service as well as during lunch.

Back in my bedroom, my vision hadn’t increased at all. Even though I was familiar with my surroundings, not wearing my glasses made me feel uncomfortable. By the time Linda began preparing supper, the urge to put them on was unbearable. I finally gave in, feeling like the worst of cowards.

“Please forgive me, Jesus,” I begged. “I can’t stand not wearing my glasses. I’m sorry for my weak faith. Please forgive me and heal my eyes anyway.”

—————————————————————–

During the fifteen and a half years I attended that church, this disappointing scene occurred repeatedly. I left and avoided houses of worship for nine years, blaming God for not healing me. I eventually realized that God is sovereign and his plans are always for our benefit.

I have previously written When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School). Both of these paperbacks are available from the www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison page. Information about my writing activities and blurbs regarding these books are also on the page.

WHERE ARE THOSE GOOD SAMARITANS?

Why should Christians help the less fortunate in their neighbourhood? After all, everybody is busy with work, family, and recreational activities. It’s summer as well and we all want to spend quality time with our children at the homes of relatives or at camp grounds. Apart from that, isn’t it the government’s responsibility to look after the needy?

Most folks are familiar with Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan. After a priest and a scribe walked on the other side of the road to Jericho in order to keep from being ceremonially contaminated by a robbery victim, a Samaritan not only bandaged the man’s wounds and took him to an inn but paid for his lodging. Nobody forced this “half breed” to help the man whose culture looked down upon his kind but he did it out of compassion. It was as remarkable in the first century as a Palestinian helping an Israeli mugging victim would be today.

Fewer people realize the eternal consequences of helping or not helping the less fortunate. In Matthew 25:31 -46, Jesus explained what would happen when he returned to judge the nations.

First, he will divide the righteous from the wicked. As Matthew recorded, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’ Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?’ And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'”

Though I could be accused of having a vested interest for writing this, being that I’m almost blind, I believe that my busy friends are missing out on a blessing. In fact, there are many worthy persons who need help. Rural seniors have a difficult time travelling to dental and doctor appointments. These folks need rides to grocery stores as small town shops are closing due to lack of business. Single mothers can’t work to support themselves because they can’t afford to hire somebody to take care of their children. In many ways, Christians could easily be helping the Lord by helping others.

In my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoirs, I recorded how friends helped me when I really needed it. From a pastor’s assistant moving my possessions 95 Km to another town, to a night nurse giving me a Kraft caramel when I was forced to stay at the school over the Easter holidays, I’ve been helped and encouraged greatly by sighted friends. More information on my books can be found on my www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison page.

Please also check out my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com post regarding “staycations.”

GOOD RIDDANCE TO A BAD SCHOOL

Why must adults humiliate children by making them sing sentimental ballads about institutions they despise? Moreover, why do grown-ups coerce older students to do their dirty work? Forty years ago, I was roped into singing on a talent contest stage at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. As the adults controlled all aspects of our lives, we had no choice but to suffer punishment or comply. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here’s how that embarrassing evening went.

—————————————————————–

One of the last events that school year was a talent show, held in the deaf students’ auditorium. The children who were not returning in September were singled out before the rehearsal and Patricia announced to us, “Since you will be leaving Jericho, you’ll have to sing a song. I’ll sing it for you so you can learn the words.”

The lyrics she sang made me wince. The song was one of those saccharine ballads, filled with sentimental longing for old classmates and school days. There was absolutely no way I would ever miss the place which kept me away from my loved ones for the better part of six years. Leaving Jericho was a dream come true as far as I was concerned. My conscience tormented me as I realized Patricia, representing the school, was coercing me to lie concerning my feelings.

The only interesting part of the show, from my point of view, came when a senior boy named Ron played one of his own songs on his electric guitar. He was as close to being a rock star as any one of us could be, making his performance a special moment.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, there are some students who will be leaving us,” Patricia announced. “We’re sorry to see them go and we wish them every success in life. They’d like to sing a song for you about how they feel about leaving their friends here at Jericho Hill School.”

Somebody began playing the piano as we launched into our selection. My conscience railed against such enforced hypocrisy as I mumbled the lyrics which the rest of the group sang. How could I utter such obvious falsehoods and live with myself? I turned my back and tried to hide my shame behind the other children.

Patricia marched up to me after we left the stage. “You shouldn’t turn your back on the audience. Don’t you know you’ve embarrassed the school?” I couldn’t answer her because my mind was filled with rage.

I felt profound relief once the show ended. As I shuffled up to the dorm, I reassured myself that soon I would be away from this humiliating institution.

—————————————————————–

In my memoir, I wrote about similar humiliating incidents but I also described the mischief we caused. Blind and partially-sighted children are basically the same as able-bodied kids and we made our fare share of trouble. The http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison website features my two books and my freelance writing work. The page is equipped with PayPal buttons too.

Please also read my www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com page. I publish excerpts from my books there too. On June 28th, I’ll be a guest blogger on http://inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com where I’ll post about a sublime father-son moment I had when I came home from Jericho in June, 1965.