Tom comes back to church by late fall and he is in his Mr. Charlie Church mode again, except he doesn’t exactly get with the program.
During that summer many of us, myself included, started going off to conferences many weekends, to places like Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship or Life Center to the Voice of the Apostles weekends in Harrisburg PA. I added in going down to Brownsville AoG revival in Pensacola and flying off to Fresh Fire in Abbottsford Canada.
If it was November we’d all be at Global Awakening’s Voice of the Apostles conference. If it was July we’d been in Toronto for the Worship Party Conference and all over the place the rest of the time. We averaged between one and two conferences a month.
All of these places were revivals that originated at the TACF revival. During those years when myself and many of my friends immersed ourselves in the new teachings coming out of the revivals we didn’t pay much attention to our home church, attending infrequently. This really infuriated our pastor. During those days he lectured and hectored us from the pulpit that going to conferences was all well and good but you’d better be tithing your proper amount at your home church at the same time.
It galled our pastor that we’d go out in droves to sit under the teachings of the Arnotts, Heidi Baker, Todd Bentley, Patricia King, Bill Johnson, Randy Clark and others. It galled those of us Conference junkies to have to go back to our little non-denominational church, sit on the pew and listen to lots of scary sermons about sin, hell and death. How slippery that slope was.
What was taught instead at these places was that love was the final message, our love for each other, our love for God and the ever present unconditional love of God. For me it was the message I most needed to hear at that moment. They spoke on helping others, being healed of all the emotional garbage in your life. There was nothing said about submitting, having as many babies as possible to further God’s kingdom. It was uplifting words and love. Teachings that said we had to rescue the church from being the Church of the Don’ts to be the Church of love and God’s favor.
We got downright rowdy at our church too! You could count on a spate of holy laughter breaking out at our services now. When we worshiped things really started to get wild, we’d dance. Someone brought in beautiful worship flags and waved them around. Indian drums pounded during worship. Someone else might lay on the floor and soak in the Holy Spirit. I know it looked very weird to our pastor and the more conservative members.
For me it was an awakening of the spirit. My spiritual life went into a completely different direction than that of a submissive woman trying to live up to the impossible standards evangelical fundamentalism put on me. The best way I can explain it is to say that it was like that point in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy steps out of her home, out of the dull grays and into a world brimming with beautiful color. I let go of many things I’d learned in my years at the church, I let go of guilt, of trying all the time to measure up to impossible standards. I began to live naturally supernatural.
Tom Smith and Tina didn’t go to the conferences with the rest of us. They stayed back to sit in the pews like the faithful at the old church. During that time they were both quiet, well behaved for a change. But life was handing them some hard hard challenges. Everything Tom touched turned to crap. It was like Karma had finally found Tom and was dishing out what he’d earned by his actions.
First he lost the teaching position he’d taken at a business college unexpectedly. Then he wrecked him car and could ill afford another. More visits from the FBI trying to complete another background check before rejecting him again and again and again..followed by him being fired from another job for sexually harassing a coworker…followed by being banned from working with any of the youth at church due to the sexual harassment firing. Finally Tom was arrested on charges of stalking for sending a stream of vituperative letters and emails to his sexual harassment victim defending his actions, claiming he hadn’t sexually harassed him, merely witnessed to her and she took it wrong according to him.
If Tom didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all.. He was also very humbled by all of this, quiet and still for a change. He didn’t harass anyone in the church. I was left alone by Tom completely. Finally! Happy, happy, joy, joy!
When an African minister visited our old church and singled out Tom for revelation and personal words of knowledge I started feeling kind of sorry for Tom even as he was reaping what he’d sown. In front of the entire congregation the minister pretty much spilled out every Tom wrong-doing and bad behavior. He said God had said Tom has to get it together and quickly because Tom was on the wrong path. Details were said, very loudly, Tom was exposed. It was awful. Tom left the building.
And then it started, the people at church began to split into three factions, us conference crackheads, the very conservative that said we were trucking in the demonic and the pew sitters that agreed with whoever they spoke with last. Cathy and I stopped being friends during that time because she called me up and said that she could not be friends with anyone fooling with the realm of the demonic via TACF. I told her that it was nice knowing her and I’d be sorry to lose her friendship but I could not deny what I believed to be real and true, love not fear teachings.
Cathy and her faction tried mightily to have those of us who’d been married before banned from our church, crashing an Elders meeting to demand that and the church denounce the revival movements plus the members who attend the conferences. Our pastor refused to. Cathy and friends left to start a home church.
While all this was on going Tom and Tina didn’t take sides. They, for once, stayed out of the drama. Eventually they turned up at a conference and joined the rest of us in crackheadom. I’d started seeing them at all the same conferences the rest of us went to. You could always see Tom dancing at the very front during worship, screaming out praises and dancing.
I hated to admit it but I could see that the conference hopping was changing Tom. He was suddenly much less angry. We reached something of a detente between us. Too bad it didn’t last..
Thank you everyone that mentioned my husband’s battle with kidney cancer in the comments after the last chapter. You’ll be pleased to know he’s now been cancer free nearly ten years now.
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Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce