This year, I watched deeply disturbing documentaries about Jeffery Epstein and R. Kelly. The thing I found that was very similar between their victims, the survivors…was how vulnerable they were. But what does that mean? To be vulnerable?
When I heard the victims speak…it hurt my heart. Not just because of what happened to them, but how it happened. Ladies and Gents, I’m a staunch believer of accountability, that we’re all responsible for what happens to us in our lives and how we handle it. But these victims were all underage; seventeen and as young as twelve. I believe the predators were able to prey on them because of things these victims did not know.
By some accounts, the victims (now grown adults) kept saying how they knew what they were doing was wrong…but they were too afraid to stop or leave out of fear. They were afraid of death, of getting hurt, of having their careers or futures ruined. And yet…they kept coming back. They stayed. Some even returned with “friends” who ended up being subjected to the same thing. This is puzzling.
Honestly. I’m not trying to blame the victim, but to understand them. And the answer that keeps coming back was that they simply did not know what to do. Bear with me.
Think back to slavery…not just slavery in America, but Rome or even the serfs working the fields during the Middle Ages. Of those serfs and slaves, how many do you think KNEW they didn’t have to be a slave or a serf? At any point they could have fought for their freedom or fled.
Yes, you could say that they would have been captured and killed, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that they still had a choice.
Do this or die, is still a choice. A horrible choice. But a choice, nonetheless.
When it comes to vulnerability…Just like it’s the will of a parent to instill the proper knowledge in their child, to prepare them for this world and the dangers they face, God gave us the Bible for that same purpose. Without that knowledge, every single one of us, young and old, man and woman, are all vulnerable.
As believers we’re often pushed into guilt trips by other religious people about “how” we should be living our lives, what practices we should exercise, how to worship God, or how read the Bible itself.
This is how religion is and was used to oppress others for centuries. But that oppression ONLY WORKS if you lack the knowledge. If someone tells you that God wants you to do this, think this way, live your life a certain way or you’re going to hell…How do you know whether any of that is true or false?
If I said to you, that if you don’t donate money to me because I’m doing the Lord’s work by writing these essays, and you’re going to hell because you’re not contributing or giving back to God. Is that true? Did I just make that up? How would you know, unless you read the Bible for yourself? And yeah, you could lie and say you read the Bible just to win an argument, but if it’s that’s not true you’re only hurting yourself.
You’ve heard it say, you shouldn’t eat shellfish, or you have to say Hail Mary’s or confess our sins to a priest in order to receive forgiveness…is any of that true? How many times have you seen people turn away from religion altogether because they find it too controlling? Sometimes it can be too much. And in the depths of our anger and frustration, some of us say, “screw this” and just reject the Bible and religion altogether.
On the other hand, some people don’t question anything at all. Some people mindlessly submit, blindly agreeing with everything the church leader says, not knowing any better…and honestly, not caring to know any better. Why are they like this? Is it because they don’t want the responsibility of being wrong? Life can be easier if you don’t have to make any decisions. If you submit and just agree with everything a “leader” is telling you, then you can claim you were misled and tricked, that you were the victim…a helpless, blameless, pure, and innocent victim.
If I told you that in order to get into heaven, you have to kill the heretics plaguing a small town on the other side of the Alps, what would you do?
If I told you that a group of women were witches blaspheming Christ and that you were doing the Lord’s work by burning them at the stake…what would you do?
You don’t know any better. This is the “messenger of God” talking to you. The bad things happening to you and your loved ones are because of your disobedience. Because God’s not pleased with you! Now what are you going to do? Do you want your sick child to die?! NO? THEN OBEY!
I’m being a little dramatic, but you get the picture. And that’s the way it was for hundreds of years, for centuries. That’s why it’s called the Dark Ages. It was a miserable existence. The Roman Empire had collapsed. Christianity was on the rise, but not everyone had the education to read the Holy Scriptures for themselves. For that, they depended on the Roman Catholic church, the pope, and the priests to give them guidance. The common people had no choice but to trust in them, to trust in humans.
This was a tumultuous time. It was during this era that we saw the Crusades that resulted in the deaths of millions. Heretics were constantly burned at the stake. Relics were worshiped. Idolatry ran amuck. Humans used religion as a power to command obedience from the people who knew no better. Because the people were vulnerable. Sound familiar?
This is why, one of the Christian figures I respect the most was Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a German priest with the ability to read the Holy Scriptures. By reading for himself, his eyes were opened to the many misleading practices by the Roman Catholic Church. Such as the practice of indulgences…
For those who don’t know, indulgences were essentially documents the Catholic Church handed out to people almost like a Letter of Adjudication, absolving the person of a particular sin they committed. The people had to PAY MONEY for this. If you read the Bible for yourself, then you’d know that your sins were already paid for when Jesus died on the cross.
Martin Luther read the Scriptures and dared to ask, “What about what Jesus said about how salvation comes through faith alone? What about the whole reason why Jesus sacrificed himself…for our sins? Why are we paying indulgences? Why are we worshiping relics? Why?”
It’s not defiance or rebelliousness to ask these questions. Think about how you build a relationship with another human whom you’ve never met. What do you do? Start out with a greeting, sure. Then what? If you want to build a relationship with this person, chances are, you’re likely to start asking questions. Why? Because their answers allow you to get to know the person, who they are, what they like, what they don’t like.
Does God really want us to blindly submit without asking questions? Does He not want us to know why? I think He does. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have sent prophets, or apostles (which means messenger), or of course the Bible, where there are answers are on every single page.
Let’s bring it a little closer to home. Ever heard of a guy named Jim Jones? Jim Jones was a Christian who in the beginning, seemed to have good intentions with a Christ-like message of casting off the materialistic things of this world. But at some point, with his growing church and popularity in California, made himself a modern Messiah, putting on theatrics of healing that his associates were in on. And at one point, this dude actually picked up the Bible and said in the middle of the sermon, “WE DON’T NEED THIS” as he proceeded to chuck it into the center nave.
Right there, it should have been a red flag to his followers that this man was corrupted. If they read the Bible and believed its content, they would have known. But those who didn’t were vulnerable to Jim Jones. In the end, he led his flock to a mass suicide, the deaths of 900, including children and a murdered senator.
Remember David Koresh? I researched him years before watching that Netflix series “Waco” and I confess…I’m a bit critical of Hollywood’s underlining message of Koresh being this noble, yet misguided Christian while the big bad government was all about getting up in his business, looking to exert fascist control.
Koresh was a good-looking dude. Very charismatic. Very passionate. He claimed to have great insight on the Book of Revelations and to have memorized the entire Bible. If that was true, why would he possess an armory with the purpose of defending his compound against a government authority that the Bible encourages us to submit to. God will always come first, yes. We’re not to disobey God if the government tells us to…but the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans (13:1-7):
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Don’t even get me started about Koresh’s logic about polygamy and adultery. This man was bedding the wives of other men in a supposed attempt to spare them of “pleasures of the flesh.” This is blatant adultery and Jesus Christ himself said at Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
More than that, one of the main points of marriage, pointed out by Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 7:9, was to help prevent us from indulging in sexual immorality. Meaning, God knows we’re human. We like sex. Promiscuity and sexual immorality is a sin. So if you like sex, get married, and have sex to that one person.
Koresh was a controlling figure who used the Bible to keep his flock in submission. His flock was vulnerable, entranced and captivated by his presence…as any vulnerable person would be to Satan. In the end, 86 people were killed, including children and 4 ATF agents. And we could debate about whether that was the government or Koresh’s fault, it doesn’t change the fact that the vulnerable died.
Finally, I’ll take it to a personal level.
I used to hate religion. Growing up, I had a deep passion for martial arts, girls, and food. My brothers and I celebrated Christmas and birthdays until, at the age of eleven, my parents began studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and did their damnest to remove two out of the three passions from my teen years.
The results were that I became rebellious because I had to hide who I was, play “fighting” video games and recording kung-fu films behind their back, enjoying Christmas songs in secret, struggling with my lust, bottling up my sadness because speaking the truth only resulted in more restrictions.
In fact, one of the main reasons why I became a writer was because I created worlds the escape the one I was in. My G-Force series that I started publishing last year, are all stories I started writing when I was ten. It’s fan-fiction, in which I maintained the same daydream and grew up with the same characters, experiencing love and rivalry to the point that the best memories of my childhood are the ones I dreamed of.
I love my parents now, and I’ve come to forgive them. But when I think of the years between 11-18, hate, rage, and resentment comes to surface. Every time I was forced to go to the Jehovah’s Witness place of worship called the Kingdom Hall, most of the lectures were about how children should submit and obey their parents. I can’t recall a single meeting that talked about parents listening and comforting their children.
When I was 14, I told my parents I didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness and they said, “As long as you live under our roof, you’re going to continue to go.”
And it wasn’t just on Sunday mornings. After spending our weekdays going to a school where I couldn’t be myself, I came to a home where I had to hide who I was, and then on Mondays and Wednesday nights, we’d get dressed and go to additional JW meetings.
And what do you think happened after those meetings, meetings I had already expressed a desire not to attend? My parents would force my brothers and I to sit at the dining room table and talk about what we learned. These family meetings after the church meetings would go on for hours. IT WAS HELL! I usually had about 2 hours of patience before I lashed out with rage and disrespect, landing me in more trouble. Just typing it now, I feel my bones on fire.
And when my parents weren’t there, my older brother and other Witnesses would push me into guilt trips saying things like, “God gives us 365 days a year, 24 hours a day…you can’t spend one hour just reading this Jehovah Witness Watchtower article about him?”
Or, “If you’re not with the truth, then you’re part of the world.”
And by “the truth,” they weren’t just talking about being a normal Christian who believed in Christ’s sacrifice for us, they meant worshiping the way they believed, with their customs and practices. At 16, there was one Bible study where I was so fed up I literally said, “Then I guess I’m a son of Satan! Fuck this!” and stormed out.
The resentment I had for God at the time, was this notion that we were created “solely” for the purpose of worshiping him. That’s what I was taught, and I didn’t like it. To me, it was like a child creating figures out of Play-Doh and forcing each figure to bend over to worship him. What kind of God is that? How could I possibly love a God like that? And when it came to their vision of life after death, a world that consists of nothing but other Jehovah’s Witnesses like the ones that were oppressing me…that doesn’t sound like a paradise to me. I’d much rather just stay dead forever.
I must have carried that resentment well past the age of 27. At some point…I started praying again. I believed in God even though I didn’t fully understand him. I was grateful for how far I had come in life, having lost 178lbs, no prison record, no children running around by baby’s momma, surrounded by good people who took me in as a second family and provided a stable life for me. Something deep in me knew that this was God watching over me. So I started to pray and thank him. I prayed everyday and asked that he continued to be with me, blessing me with the strength, patience and wisdom.
My older brother, still a dedicate Witness, though not as pushy as he used to be, started to hit me with this logic, “It’s nice that you talk to God every day. But wouldn’t you want God to talk to you?”
At the time, I was a firm believer in that God sometimes talked to me through others. I was reluctant to pick up the Bible because it reminded me of my anger from the past. But finally…after watching an episode of NBC’s mini-series “The Bible” it made me smile. I remembered that the Bible isn’t just a rule book telling us what we can and can’t do…it’s a history book full of amazing stories.
That’s what prompted me to pick up the Bible at the age of 28 and start from Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1… “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
Just like that, I was hooked. I read a chapter or two every night and after two years…had read the Bible cover to cover.
In so doing, I had come to realize, my problem, my rage and resentment wasn’t with God and religion. It was with the people. We weren’t created with the “sole” purpose of worshiping him. Meaning, it wasn’t the only reason. He created us to enjoy life. It’s a gift. He encourages us to give thanks and obey his commandments to increase our chances of having a good life in this world and the next. If this was the message taught to me as a teenager, I might have been spared a lot of pain.
In my parent’s defense, they were new in studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They aren’t the same people they used to be…although the damage is still done. The scars are still there.
The most beneficial thing about knowing what is and isn’t in the Bible is knowing which practices were made up by man. As Christians, this is extremely important for examples previously mentioned, like Jim Jones and David Koresh.
As Christians, I truly believe most of us strive to do what’s good in God’s eyes. But without knowing for ourselves what the Bible actually says, we are vulnerable to charismatic Christians like Jones and Koresh who speak so convincingly, with such confidence and charm.
Even you’re vulnerable to me. As a commenter pointed out in a last essay, she accused me of making “false claims that hurt people.” How could this be if the whole point of my essays are to encourage others to learn for themselves? I’m revealing what I learned from the Bible. My interpretation could very well be wrong, but I’m willing to stand by my beliefs in the face of God on judgment day. Can you say the same?
Jim Jones actually picked up the word of God and chucked it into the nave of the church, shouting “We don’t need this!”
We don’t need the word of God? At that moment, if I was there with my family, I would have uprooted and left.
And it’s not just with figures like this. But as Christians, Satan and his wicked demons are constantly trying to throw rocks in our path to stumble us. Other people who “claim” to be Christians will take scriptures out of context and use it in debates to get us to acquiesce to their logic. Even that commenter I mentioned “claimed” she read the entire Bible…and yet still made statements like, “What kind of a god needs to kill children with cancer for its plan?”
This is a problem because anyone on the fence, wondering what to believe, what to think, can be persuaded against the Truth if we show ourselves to be Christians who merely inherited our faith without truly understanding what we’re talking about or what we believe.
Just recently, I debated a man who asserted, “All that is wrong with the world is a result of the failure of God or the intentional desire not to correct the mistakes.” and he used Isaiah 45:7 as the basis for his argument because in it, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
If I wasn’t a learned Christian, he might of had me convinced. Thankfully, I was able to explain:
“Isaiah 45 is part of a prophecy Isaiah was making about Cyrus, the future Persian ruler who would allow God’s people to return. The fact that Isaiah was making this prophecy a century before Cyrus was even born should be proof in of itself of the Bible’s authority. The scripture about God making peace and evil was a statement made to assure Cyrus that everything is going according to God’s sovereign will. It doesn’t mean he wants people to do evil. But through free-will we choose to do it and because he permits it, he creates it. Because he created free-will. Thus…it’s still on us. We’re at fault. Us. Humans.”
And sometimes, the argument can be with other Christians who feel so strongly that they’re way of worship is the only acceptable way, or the most accepted. This was the main strife between Catholics and Protestants when it came to Luther’s day. Some believe that when they take communion, the bread they eat actually becomes the real flesh of Christ by way of a supernatural miracle.
Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ died on a stake instead of a cross. To this day, there are a lot of Christians who believe Jesus Christ was Jehovah God himself in the human form…as in, they are the same exact person. Meanwhile, I believe that Jesus and Jehovah, the son and the father, are separate persons, yet equal and united in their purpose and authority.
That gets a lot of Christians mad at me. I’ve had these “loving” Christians call me stupid and ignorant and so many names under the sun. These disagreements, these conflicts…when you read the Bible from cover to cover, you come to understand how pointless all of it is. All of us will be judged as individuals, based on our own convictions.
So if you believe Jesus Christ died on a stake, while I believe he died on a cross…who’s the judge here? The answer is God. It’s pointless to quarrel amongst ourselves over these differences because whether I agree with you or not, you’re not the person I’m going to be held accountable to. It’s God.
Romans Chapter 14 should silence any and all debates and disagreements about Christ’s teachings. It was Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman congregation. He says starting in verse 1-4:
14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Ladies and gentlemen, that should give you some comfort whether you’re right or wrong. God knows what’s in our hearts and minds. If we’re doing our best to do what’s good in his eyes, if we’re seeking to draw close to him, to put him first in our lives…do you really think he’ll be like, “Oh, you thought I died on a cross and not a stake….Sorry, you’re out.”
No. However, I would be a bit concerned if I cared more about my money, fame, and popularity (glory). Like, if I cared more about what other human beings thought about me, than what God thinks about me. God sees that too. And of that, from time to time, I am guilty.
Because it isn’t easy. To take up the cross and try to follow Christ is a life of suffering, but that suffering comes from the fact that this world is run by Satan. If everyone, our peers, our co-workers, our celebrities, and politicians truly put God first…none of us would be suffering. All of us would be united and feel accepted because we’re all striving to put God first.
Moreover, what most people don’t understand is that it’s a voluntary thing to be a Christian. Even myself, as a 34-year-old virgin who’s waiting to get married before having sex…at any point I could disregard Christ’s teachings, claim I got caught up in the heat of passion and end up bringing what my father’s been wanting for so long…a grandchild.
Matthew Chapter 7:1-3 states, “7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
You’ll find a lot of Christians using this scripture to ward off criticism, to feel better about their shameful practices without the scrutiny of a discerning eye.
What they fail to take the heart is the strong statement in verse 2. With the judgment we pronounce on others, the measure of it will be judged against us. What do you think that means? Do they think that “frightens” us?
I welcome God’s judgment. I can’t wait for his assessment. Recently, I watched a documentary about Travis Scott. I’m not a fan of hip hop. Never heard any of his songs until yesterday. His fans worship him. He lives a very materialistic lifestyle. He had a baby out of wedlock. He does drugs. He encourages indulgent behavior…
And yet, I smiled. I didn’t tell myself, “that man and his fans are going to hell.” Travis Scott prayed before his concerts so I can tell he’s a Christian…but he may not know as much as I do about the Bible or the truths therein.
Thus…the measure by which Travis will be judged…won’t be the same measure by which I am to be judged. If I know more. If I have the truth, but ignore it…it’s worse than someone who didn’t know but claims to know the truth.
That’s alright. I saw the way Travis lived. He has the money, fame, and women love him. But I thank God I’m not part of his world. And I think this is what a lot of people, men and women, find intimidating about people like me…Christians who actively seek the truth.
We’re not vulnerable. If you pass drugs our way, we’ll decline. If everyone is having sex at some party and a woman offers herself, I’ll politely refuse. Again…it won’t be easy. But unlike the victims of R. Kelly and J Epstein, Christians realize there is a choice. No matter how hard, or life altering, or life ruining that choice is…it’s still a choice. And what did Jesus say on the matter?
Let me rephrase that. What did our Lord say about that?
In Matthew Chapter 5:29, Jesus taught that “if your eye causes you to stumble, then pluck it out. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
In John 15:18-27 Jesus prepares us with this most powerful warning, “18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,[a] but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
What this means, as John MacArthur once pointed out in his study Bible, “When people persecute and reject you for following Christ’s teachings…it’s not out of hatred for you, but for the one you represent.”