Many have experienced it first hand. Others have heard stories about it. It has been immortalized in films and novels, and joked about and parodied in the Sunday Comics. It is the moment when the raw recruit steps off the bus and receives his first official helping of verbal abuse at the hands of the drill sergeant. The recruit is repeatedly insulted, shouted at, instructed to do impossible tasks (such as, to pick up his bags without bending down or touching them, then to put them down as if he is too stupid to know he is supposed to put them down, then pick them up again). He is called a maggot, fly larvae spawned in dead flesh. This is where the recruit first learns that he is a nobody, that he will be lucky to survive this training, that the Drill Sergeant has become his father and mother, that the Military owns him now. All independence is simultaneously galvanized and shaken loose by this sudden jarring of the conscious mind. Bombarded with contradictory information, insults and incongruities from every direction, the mind is being washed clean and prepared for conditioning and conformity. Perhaps the term that best describes this is “shock treatment”.
NTCC strives for a degree of uniformity that is extreme while subtle; extreme in that a certain absolutism is required in loyalty to the leadership and to the Program, subtle in that this uniformity is enforced gradually and carefully. Over time, you will find that the stereotype of the rabidly loyal minister or minister’s wife is taking control of your life, while your real personality is fading into shadow. Faithfulness to Christ is secondary to conformity to the group and its doctrines and practices. To find fault with anything you see taking place around you is tantamount to apostasy. “Hell is your home” if you should be so “rebellious” as to disagree with doctrines that are clearly opposed to scripture; because your leaders, in their high-priestly offices, are appointed by God to determine the meaning of the Bible for you. This forces you to make a choice between truth and conformity. Incongruities of this kind cannot survive long in a thinking mind, and must be
reconciled. But you have been brainwashed into accepting the leadership as an infallible Christian hierarchy, so the contradiction is always reconciled in favor of conformity.
You will be taught “how things are done” within the NTCC sphere, and some will be strangely contradictory of scripture. These contradictions are manifold. For example; Jesus taught very clearly, in a way that all could understand without fail, that He expects his followers to be very forward in giving to the unprivileged and underfed, to widows and orphans in particular. Yet all of the finances channeled so forcibly into the bank accounts of NTCC are directed very rigidly toward the purchase and upkeep of infrastructural facilities, the promotion of attendance enhancement, and the personal incomes of the ministers and leaders.
The organization justifies this stance in a most transparently disingenuous fashion. They offer for consideration the episode of Jesus, the woman, and the ointment. When onlookers protested the “wasted” oil used by the woman for the anointing of the Lord, Jesus drew attention to their insincerity. What he told them in effect was: This woman is doing good to me. Her gift arises out of her faith and love for God, and I will receive it as such. You have been surrounded by poor people all this time, and only now do you show concern for them, because I am the one receiving the precious ointment. This is relatively obvious. Yet NTCC seizes on these words of Christ from the King James: “For the poor always ye have with you…” Ripping them mercilessly out of their context, they use these words as a weapon against the Spirit of Christ. They take the entire meaning of this event to be: “There will always be poor people, and poor people will always remain poor, so there is little use in doing anything for them. You’re just wasting your money, so give it to the church instead. Widows and orphans are not the Church’s problem–the preacher and the program come first.”
Furthermore, this twisted, anti-Christ frame of mind leads to the following reasoning: That money collected by the church (through begging, guilt and condemnation no less) is intended only to make sure that church buildings are purchased, the grounds are beautified, large-scale programmed promotion takes place, and the “Man of God” always goes in style.
The Christian spirit is one of giving to those who have not, ministering to those who cannot enrich you, and demonstrating hospitality toward them that are unable to reciprocate. Yet NTCC blatantly contradicts this Spirit and invites judgment upon itself, teaching for commandments the opinions of ambitious men. The very hypocrisy that Christ was addressing is embodied in this organization from the top down. This arises not so much from the leaders’ crude personal stinginess as from a mentality that places programmed church growth and pastoral income above all other concerns.
The mentally disabled are not spared the brunt of NTCC’s coarse materialism. The organization clings firmly to the passage of scripture that exhorts believers to “comfort the feeble-minded…” proclaiming the meaning of these words to be: “Just be nice to them if you can’t avoid them. Comfort them only–do not do anything else. They don’t have jobs, so they don’t give or pay tithe. They are retarded so they cannot understand the gospel as we can. Just leave them alone. Don’t give them anything, don’t encourage them, don’t waste your time or money on them, and for God’s sake do not bring them to Church. All they will do is make a scene. They make noise at inappropriate times, so it is disruptive and takes attention away from the preaching. Keep them out of here. It makes us look bad when we’ve got a Church full of kooks.” This is not hyperbole for the sake of embarrassing NTCC. These sentiments accurately reflect the attitude (and parrot the words) of RW Davis and NewTestament Christian Church, right down to the word “kooks”. The “feeble-minded” can’t get saved (so it is thought), and they can’t help you reach your personal goals, so they must go through life undeserving of anything greater than the bare minimum of love, fellowship, companionship or attention.
A thoughtful absorption of the scripture yields a startling view in that Christianity offers a high degree of sexual equality, and Jesus is seen to be history’s greatest liberator of women. Yet, contrary to the Spirit of Christ, the typical NTCC wife is a non-person. She lacks initiative because her husband is supposed to provide all of it. She lacks drive because she is supposed to wait for him to tell her what to do. She lacks ambition because she needs none. She has no important personal goals except to lose weight, because her husband tells her to and her pastor humiliates her publicly for her obesity (even though the Church itself, being an oppressive cloud of unfulfilled hopes, boredom and pressure, has caused the problem to begin with). She lacks imagination because she has allowed her creative energies to lapse. She begins to feel trapped, and wonders at times if she is losing her mind. There is even now an undercurrent of grave discontent among women within the organization. Scores of preachers’ wives long for freedom from this abusive cult, and yet they fear their husbands will discard them if they voice their innermost feelings. RW Davis does not care. He believes they are simply “rebellious”, and “will split hell wide open for hindering their preacher-husbands.”
In spite of your constancy in giving, in spite of the many gratuities with which you lavished your local pastor and his program, you will not find understanding here at NTCS. If you are scraping to get by, having moved your family to Washington State with no certain job prospects, your lack and (possibly) your indebtedness will be blamed on your lust, your foolishness, and your irresponsibility. RW Davis will declare you a failure, even planting in the minds of your wife and children the idea that you are utterly contemptible. You will join the ranks of hundreds who wander the sidewalks of the seminary with their heads spinning from the condemnation and verbal abuse. The Graham pulpit is no stranger to the words “idiot”, “asinine”, and “dummy”. And yet still more of your time and resources are demanded, and twice-annual pilgrimage quests to the heartland for meaningless “conferences” are required. Yet in all your frugality and doing-without, your meager existence will be blamed on your “stupidity”, the fact that you are “stupid”, and your unfathomable addiction to “stupid pills”, which must exist, because nothing else could explain the fact that you are so “stupid”.
These contradictions and incongruities, these pressures and absurdities, will take many forms, including untenable doctrines that NTCC’s ministers are forced to swallow simply because they reflect the opinions of the leaders. You will find at times that you must buoy your attitude by way of self-talk; “Don’t think like that, it’s for your own good, don’t think those things about the Man of God, don’t touch the Lord’s anointed or God will destroy you, don’t think this is a contradiction, don’t think this is un-Christian, don’t think about these things, don’t think, don’t think, STOP THINKING!!”
Your leaders will naturally characterize these episodes as an accumulation of various pressures that are in the process of trying you as by fire, and you are to understand that this is part of the test of your faithfulness to God. They will place the blame squarely upon your shoulders for the turmoil that swirls within and about you. They will say that you have a love of sin and the World, that you have invited the devil into your life to sit down and have a Pepsi with you, that your dedication is lacking, that you have a “heart problem”, that you must change, become a leader, get your head screwed on straight, get saved, or get the Holy Ghost. However, this is not some divinely appointed examination of character; it is your mind’s effort to wrestle with irreconcilable contradictions.
This article is a part of a series entitled “What Can I Expect From New Testament Christian Seminary?“