Dec 10, 2012

Conclusions To Be Drawn From My Experiences In Kip McKean's Church

Money is King

Kip's church is, as far as I can tell, much more focused on money than the church in the Bible. Minister compensation, while not as exorbitant as in some denominations known for pastors in giant mansions and brand-new sports cars, is a far cry from the vow of poverty of the original church or even that of nuns in the modern Catholic church. (Here is a longer post with my observations about minister compensation in Kip's churches).

In my meetings with Kip to discuss the abuses suffered under VGSr's leadership, I got the definite and distinct feeling that the main concern on Kip's mind was how much...

My Journey From Faith To Reason

"P.S.: If you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't want to know" - Linus Van Pelt, writing to The Great Pumpkin

After becoming increasingly religious throughout high school, I met "disciples" at college my freshman year. I loved the church and the fellowship....

I was also drawn to the clear morals and the sense of purpose for my life. I felt I could find a much better woman there than anywhere else (and many years later I did find an excellent woman, whom I invited to church and baptized).

I was very involved for many years, moving several times for reasons of faith, including two times to help start new churches, once to Phoenix, and again to Los Angeles.

During this time I advanced my knowledge of both the Bible through personal study and attending informal Bible seminary classes, where I excelled. I also studied science, including college biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry, all of which I excelled in, too. In addition, I have been a voracious reader as time allowed, of books on apologetics (reasons to believe in Christianity) as well as newspaper articles on advancements in science.

As time went on, I became interested in figuring out how science and the Bible lined up. I had an incredible emotional investment in Christianity, which was my primary source of satisfying very deep needs such as meaning, friendship, community, and happiness in my life. As an intellectual and part of a very evangelistic and growth-focused branch of Christianity, I wanted to get all of the tools at my disposal for winning others for Christ. So I studied all of the arguments I could get my hands on for why the Bible is trustworthy and how to convince others of it's validity. I read works by Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, and Lee Strobel - all of the best minds available on the subject.

Meanwhile, my curiosity had me reading all about science and its advancements, including evolutionary biology. I slowly developed my ability to think rationally and as cause-and-effect. And the more I read about science, and then about the Bible, the more science started making tons more sense than the Bible. The more I knew about the Bible, the more my faith in it was chipped away.

Some of the steps I followed:

1. The Bible is infallible and every word is God-breathed.

2. Well, the Creation in Genesis is not exactly a literal description, it is more of a moral description written to the needs of the ancient israelites.

3. Well, Jesus just called diseases demons because that is how people understood them at that time.

4. Noah's flood of the whole world was just of the whole known world, or whole world of the Jewish people at that time, not the whole world as we understand it today.

5. Jesus' superpowers seem to come and go like a poorly written Superman comic book.

6. People evolved from lesser beings. If this is not true, then God put a whole bunch of evidence there to lead all of mankind astray, not too cool.

7. Whoah, 99.99999%+ of all mankind is headed straight for eternal damnation. And God set this all up, and supposedly loves us? (Actually an argument of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I believe).

8. Wait a second, where the heck is Heaven located? And Hell? If life after death exists, why was it never mentioned in any books of the Bible until just a few hundred years before Jesus was born? Shouldn't science have at least some kind of minimal theoretical possibility of where these fantasy locations could be located?

9. Every little quirk and thing that we do as humans has an explanation in evolutionary biology.

10. How come there is so much detail written about what Jesus was doing before the crucifixion, and almost zero afterwards for the 40 days that he spent talking to his astonished followers? (Just that he ate a broiled fish).

11. Why is it that the disciples had to rewrite so many of Jesus' main teachings after his death?

12. Why do apologists working for my church have to twist around the words of Albert Einstein, who dismissed the Bible and the biblical God as "childish", to try to make it sound like he believed in Christianity or its underpinnings?

13. Just when during the course of human evolution did we begin to have a soul? Do non-human animals have a soul? Apes? Are their partial souls?

As you see, when you start making basic, scientific questions to questions of faith, it starts sounding pretty silly, pretty fast. But should I be wasting my entire life, money and free time for this thing if it isn't, you know, true?

And so on until my faith was hanging by just one thread: the disciples who lived with Jesus every day for years were so convinced that he was, in fact, the messiah, that they were willing to preach that message up to their violent and untimely deaths. They could never have been willing to die for a lie.

But then I read a fascinating book, Influence, by Robert Cialdini, which is about human motivation. In one part he talks about a group of people who were convinced that aliens were coming from outer space to save them and destroy the world. They sold everything and got ready for that date. When the date passed without anything happening, they suddenly became very evangelistic for the first time and tried to explain to outsiders why things had changed and the aliens had spared the earth. They already had so much invested in their religious dreams and lifestyle, that they doubled down rather than admit their error. Multiply their sacrifice and investment by a hundred and you have the early Christians. The first disciples were already getting cut off from their families and society and were much bonded to each other than anyone outside their group. So the idea that they could have been mistaken became easier for me to accept than the idea that all of modern science and medicine is completely wrong about the nature of matter and the universe and everything else that I would have to believe in order to continue believing in the Bible.

So there you have it, in a nutshell. I identify with the words of Charles Darwin:

"But I was very unwilling to give up my belief... But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct." - Charles Darwin, autobiography

Contrary to my wishes and years of attempts to reconcile the two, the Bible is not compatible with science. If God exists, I am certain that He does not resemble the God of the Bible in the slightest way.

And you know, the evil sh*t that people did to me at church was it's own type of hidden blessing, allowing me the extra push I needed to step out and leave organized religion. It's a type of growing up, leaving faith for reason. Now I am responsible for my own actions and for making my own decisions.

Hopefully many more can join me before I am done.

My Life After Leaving Kip McKean's Movement of Churches

The Good

After leaving the church, I felt several things. I felt free. I felt suddenly flush with cash. I suddenly had lots of free time, time to actually see my kids. I felt more in line with my true self and my deepest beliefs. And I felt very surprised to find myself somewhere that I never, ever planned or expected.

How Much Money Does It Take?

In my judgement, one of the biggest ways that Kip's church* differs from Jesus' church of the first century is how it deals with money.

Kip's church is, and always has been, very money-focused. Money focused as in, constantly pressure all members to give more of it to the church. There is a weekly contribution to which members are "encouraged" to give 10-plus percent of their pre-tax income. Then a separate weekly offering for the poor. Then a once-or-more-per-year "Special Contribution" where members are sent out to fund-raise amounts expected to be 10-15x of their regular weekly contribution...

FB Responses To Kip's McKean's Threats To My Family Post

Below are some of the responses and controversy spurred by this post about Kip McKean threatening my family (and other church abuses) when I posted it recently on my Facebook page. (All names have been replaced with "---" to conceal the identity of the commenters.) ...

Lying, Stealing, and Threats, Part III

(Intro) (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (En Español)

So that fateful day, not too many months after the lies, stealing, and threats, described in the part one and part two of my story, VGSr asked to meet with me and my wife at his apartment, which was near where I lived.

We went there and met him, and he had another married couple there waiting, DJ and VJ. VGSr told me that he was concerned about how I was doing spiritually. (The issue was that I had not given my weekly $$$ to the church for the previous couple of weeks). I told him that I was not sure if I wanted to remain a member of the church, and that I did not see eye to eye with the church on some different issues any more (I won't bore you with the details about the differences in beliefs right here, but might do so later for those interested in such things).

VGSr got very mad. He started telling me why I was so wrong and messed up, that I would become an enemy of God and end up going to hell...

Lying, Stealing, and Threats, Part II

(Intro) (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (En Español)

So a couple of years went by. My doubts of the integrity of VGSr continued to mount. Ever since I met him, I would constantly get this feeling like he was lying. Except I could never catch him in a direct lie. It was usually over things that I could not verify, and the couple of times that I asked him about things he seemed to get offended, so I didn't press. I figured, if he really is lying, it will eventually come out - he can't hide it forever. If he's not, I'll just be making a fool of myself.

So after undergoing the same sensation dozens if not hundreds of times, or possibly every time VGSr opened his mouth, the time came where I was able to definitively prove for myself whether my suspicions were well-founded or not...

Lying, Stealing, and Threats, Part I

(Intro) (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Para leerlo en Español)

Small bits of money lent bit by bit, and always with fervent promises of soon paying back everything, turned into thousands of dollars (yeah, I know, I was pretty dumb). Part of it was from lending a phone line in my name, which added a couple of hundred dollars every month for several months.

But it came to the point where I realized that the promises to repay were empty at best, and blatantly deceptive at worst. I watched as VGSr* spent money all over the place on many frivolous things that I would consider much less important than trying to pay back even a dollar of what he owed me. So I cut him off.

But being the wily and manipulative sort that he is, and me being the slow and over-trusting fool that I was, let myself get trapped one more time...

Why I Left the City Of Angels International Christian Church

(En español)

The description of my experiences has been divided into three main parts:

Part One, where one of the main leaders in the church bilks me out of thousands of dollars with lies and tricks and then threatens me (temporarily) into silence;

Part Two, where it it revealed that the lies go much farther than had at first been evident; and that going to top leadership (aka, Kip McKean) is useless,

Part Three, where Kip McKean and other leaders in the church threaten to try to destroy my family.

And finally, conclusions that can be drawn from all of this.

Please note that I have since left the City of Angels International Christian Church and its respective "Sold-Out Discipling Movement" and moved far away in an attempt to protect my family and our respective mental, social, spiritual, and physical health.

These things are far from pleasant for me to talk or write about. However I am sharing my story here publicly so that others can be made aware and in the hope that I can prevent at least someone from having to go through similar trauma or abuse.

Thank you for reading and for sharing these posts with others.

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