Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Rules

“Everybody’s got ‘em!”
  Before the official commencement of each semester, the students of the seminary are required to attend a short series of class sessions known as “orientation”, the primary purposes of which are to register for individual classes and to introduce the “rules of the school.” The Rules are a set of requirements that are binding and non-negotiable. Every student and minister assigned to the seminary must follow these rules, many of which remain in effect forever.
  The scriptural admonition to “obey them that have the rule over you” has, as has been demonstrated (see: Them That Have the Rule, within the article Anatomy of Power), little or nothing to do with an irrevocable obligation to follow extra-biblical regulations imposed by “leaders”. Yet NTCC enforces such non-supported directives as though this passage gives the pastor carte blanche to levy any capricious burden that comes into his head.
  Fellowship– “Obnoxious” does not begin to describe the rules concerning fellowship. In religious parlance, fellowship is both a noun and a verb. “To fellowship” means to get together, to talk, to visit, to associate. Students and ministers of NTCC surrender their hard-won right to freely associate. Permission must be granted from the leadership before people are free to socialize. Phone calls to other brethren must be “cleared”. No more than two couples may “fellowship” together at one time. Married couples cannot “fellowship” with single people. Stopping to talk in the parking lot at Wal-mart is frowned upon, as this may lead to “gossip”. It is known as “unauthorized fellowship”.
  When conducting the orientation sessions, the President of the organization will often elaborate on this rule with the following nuance: “Don’t come to me after you’ve already worked it out. Don’t invite some body over to your house and THEN come and ask me, NO–you ask me FIRST, and THEN you invite them over to your house. You have to get the permission first. Don’t make me look like the bad guy. And if I even THINK you worked it out ahead of time, I’m gonna say NO.” One can hardly comprehend the soaring arrogance of this admonition.
  The fellowship rules are unabashedly purposeful–they are intended to control information. Negative information about NTCC must be kept under tight security. Too many people getting together to compare anecdotes may reveal contradictions and inconsistencies. One person with a poor attitude toward the leadership of the group may infect others with the same. Thus every precaution must be taken, both practical and impractical, to prevent people from talking too much, or from talking without the constant pressure of realizing “They know we’re here, talking together.” The President of the organization is both intelligent and crafty, priding himself on getting to the bottom of things and figuring out Who said What to Whom. And brethren are encouraged–nay, instructed–to “rat” on each other when one is displaying improper actions, stating unapproved opinions, or violating even the most picayune standard.
  NTCC justifies this stance based upon the fact that “all organizations and companies have rules that the members have to abide by.” Yet the reason for tight lips within a corporation is to prevent the loss of valuable secrets to the competition, secrets that are nothing less than the intellectual property of the company. But the gospel is not a secret, and there is no danger of proprietary information getting out, unless NTCC is competing with other churches for some unknown reason. In addition, it should be obvious that The Rules for all Christians are already written in the Bible, and should suffice. But nothing is sufficient for those who desire unlimited Control over the lives of others.
  Ministerial Courtesy– The behavior of ministers and students toward their “superiors” is governed by endless protocols that smack of a military chain-of-command within the context of a professional or society guild. Great deference is rendered to those hailed as “Men of God”. They are esteemed as virtually infallible. To disagree with them is to have “a heart problem” and to “touch the Lord’s anointed”, The scriptural justification for this fear is missing in action. Sir, Pastor, and Reverend are the only terms of address allowable, unless one is speaking to a peer, in which case Brother is acceptable, although in the case of ministers, Reverend is still preferred. A prize goes to the first person who can find this in the Bible.
  Typically, NTCC supports this position with the reminder that all organizations, companies and societies have guidelines of respect and protocol. Yet they do not consider, once again, that the Spirit that guides Christians in their behavior toward one another is summarized quite well already. But as with other ordinances, the Bible does not suffice for NTCC.
  Funerals– Once you are convinced that NTCC is indeed the embodiment of godliness on Earth; you will naturally agree that the needs of the organization are paramount among all other concerns, and that no delay or inhibition of your training at New Testament Christian College is to be tolerated. Your only goal in life is to “get out there” and fulfill your calling, wherever “there” is. In this manner, the student is easily persuaded that his family, begin a hindrance to his work in the reaching of the lost, are to be shunned or, at the very least, ignored. They are hypocrites if they “claim to be saved”, because they adhere not to the standards of NTCC. They are amoral “beer guzzlers, rednecks, and cigarette suckers” whose influence the student is to avoid. The leadership is aware that any contact with close family members threatens to break the spell of the organization. The faithful student or minister has only one love: NTCC. One of the most evil manifestations of this mind-bending cult is the rule that concerns death in the family.
  The official position is that students and ministers must receive permission to take time away from their duties to attend the funeral of a family member. The criteria for inclusion into the allowable category are: the deceased must be an immediate family member (sister, brother, mother, father) or a “parental grandparent”. This term probably applies to natural grandparents (parents of biological parents) as opposed to “step-grandparents”, but some think it may refer to grandparents who raised you as though they were parents. The confusion persists because no one is willing to ask. Difficult questions like this are avoided if possible, because RW Davis holds the ministry of everyone in his hands, and to evoke his irritation is to risk one’s future.
  No employer would ever place his own needs above those of a worker should that worker be faced with the news that his or her father or mother is in the final throes of life. The company would not come first. Yet this church that compares itself to the corporate world when defending its extensive system of rules cannot bring itself to view such a situation as of critical importance. The program comes first, so that workers and ministers in the field are often discouraged from leaving their “post” in such times of family distress. One risks being viewed as an irresponsible baby without a proper sense of duty. Furthermore, the requisite permission must be obtained. After going through the proper channels and transducing the bureaucracy, should the worker arrive too late to say a few last words, that’s just too bad.
  The leaders of NTCC are not fundamentally without natural affection, and permission is normally granted and exceptions routinely entertained, but the fact that one must receive permission to begin with is almost beyond the pale of reason. To give notification would be a reasonable professional courtesy, but permission? Not to mention the fact that, exception or no exception, the official position is clear–immediate family only. Not only is it unallowable to attend the funeral of a step-sister or a cousin, aunt or uncle, but the atmosphere prevails in which people are afraid to ask for exceptions, which might be made in many cases. To ask to be excused invites questions as to “why” you would want to neglect your ministry to go cry on the shoulders of a bunch of cigarette-sucking adulterers. It cannot be reasonably argued that Jesus’ imperative to “let the dead bury their dead” has any relationship to the topic at hand, but of course NTCC never bothers to argue reasonably. They do not have to, because they are “God’s men”.
  Ironic on this note is the growing trend among local NTCC pastors to supplement their incomes by freelancing for the funeral parlor. They spend a couple of afternoons per week performing services for deceased persons whom they have never met, seeing the event as an opportunity to be paid and to recruit disconsolate family members in need of comfort. Apparently, grieving for the dead is wrong unless you make a buck off it.
  The Stakes– All the more alarming is the tendency to equate one’s own opinions and personal prohibitions with the commandments of God, which thing ought not to be. In this vein, an assortment of miscellaneous regulations is imposed (with the presumed backing of God) upon students and ministers alike. Bowling alleys, baseball games, all other organized sporting events, gum chewing, colored shirts, sleeve length, trouser length, hair length, and on and on and on…all defended by the notion that “Everybody’s got rules”, and yet the stakes involved in these rules are much higher than those of any other organization or company. Yes, everyone has rules of one kind or another, but not everyone invites you to spend Eternity in the Lake of Fire as the penalty for non-compliance.
  The President of the organization is forced to spend hours entertaining phone calls, handwritten notes, and swarms of brethren queuing up in the parking lot to obtain permission. This is made the more galling because they are often sharply rebuked for asking “stupid” questions, being “stupid” enough to call for permission at an inappropriate time, hanging around looking “stupid” and conspicuous, or taking the rules to extremes and thus making the church look “stupid”. The various episodes in which the students misapply the rules result from their desire to err on the side of caution, inspired not only by the hair-splitting nature of the rules themselves, but also by the eternal stakes involved. No one ever dares to suggest that these well-meaning and sensitive souls are simply acting in good conscience within the limits of “stupid” rules. Rarely in this country have so many adults been treated like children without protest.
  The Pledge– When the orientation is complete, you are asked to agree to all of the foregoing rules and regulations by means of an official pledge. The pledge seals your consent to submit to all governing authorities of the school, and to obey all rules and directives with a right attitude and spirit; which is to say, cheerfully, happily, and unquestioningly. This pledge must be signed by all students who wish to register for classes. Now that you have moved yourself and your family across the United States to set up house, it seems hardly practical to change your mind, so there really is no going back from here. The pledge amounts to nothing more than a loyalty oath, and will be waved (figuratively) in front of your face quite often. You will feel the creeping of your guilty flesh crawling coldly up your back as you listen to the Man of God preaching, knowing in your heart that you called someone on the phone without permission, or stopped to talk too long while standing
in the freezer section at Fred Meyer. Then you will repent in sackcloth and ashes as he bellows, “You signed a pledge!!” You are going to submit yourself and your family to years of questionable doctrine, abusive leadership, and tedious hard work, knowing that the school is not qualified to grant degrees and will not transfer your credits. And on top of everything else, you are about to sign a piece of paper that says you are glad to do it. Strictly voluntary, of course.
  Much is made of the notion that participation is voluntary, that “everyone who is here is here because they want to be here”. Frequently heard from the pulpits of NTCC is the expression, “There’s the door–if you don’t like it, get out!” This is supposed to promote the idea that no one is forced to stay. And yet it is undeniable that the students are guided by a set of assumptions induced by logical progression, to wit:
  A) You desire to “preach the gospel”, and since
  B) The devil did not put in your heart, evidently…
  C) God is the one who has called you, and being as…
  D) His gifts and callings are “without repentance”, you must heed the Call. Further…
  E) Since NTCS is the only non-compromised school in the Galaxy…
  F) You must attend and complete this course in order to go to heaven, and…
  G) While accomplishing this purpose, you must obey them that have the rule over you.
  It is a question of absolute obedience to the non-scriptural rules imposed by the leadership of the organization in exchange for Eternal Life. One is persuaded to believe he will suffer everlasting damnation for questioning, or doubting the efficacy of, the rules–for to do this is to question the Man of God, which is to attack God Himself, thus paving your road to the Lake of Fire. This can hardly be described as voluntary participation in any respect, and adds a certain macabre, foreboding, pipe-organ-infused sense of dread to the words, “There’s the door”.
This article is a part of a series entitled “What Can I Expect From New Testament Christian Seminary?“

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