charismatic-chaos.jpg I’m not always the best at responding to comments here on the blog, but I read everything. Sometimes I compose responses in my head, which only helps on those occasions when I get it out through the keyboard and into the comment space. Then something comes along like, oh, Christmas, and I get sidetracked without ever having properly replied. So a week or more ago, my critical review of the Dunn/Crowder CD prompted a more serious discussion. First, Barb asked me a direct question in her comment on the post, and I wanted to be sure I responded… and it’s a good question. She wrote,

Bro. May, could you answer a question for me. I can’t get anyone to sit still long enough to have an intelligent conversation about this.

My problem with all of these kids is that I think we adults started the fire that they are flaming into this insanity. Here’s how. We took the verses where the disciples came down from the upper room and it was said of them that they must be drunk and made a whole culture of people acting “drunken” under the power of the Spirit. They stumble around and behave in the most disgusting fashion. I did it. We called it good. We encouraged it. Now these kids are only taking this a bit further and “getting high” off the Spirit.

Here is my point. Could it be that the disciples were assumed to be drunk because they were loud and rowdy and full of joy – not stumbling around as if they were drunk?

When I see the teachings and videos of the younger charismatics I am full of repentance for my part in paving the way into their deception. We did this.

At least that is what I think. How do you read those verses? How does that line up with what you saw in the Groups you were a part of. I think it is wrong to tell these kids they are wrong without repenting first of our part in it.

Now, in my head at the time I read this, I was responding to say that yes, I think perhaps we did do this. I remember using the same passages to excuse some of the behaviour that was going on. I think you’re right that there’s no reason to assume they were acting drunk and falling about the place — inexplicable joy may have been enough. I remember at the time we were in a season of “revival” and saw this stuff routinely, we said it wasn’t about manifestations and not to focus on them, but it was pretty hard not to. If people didn’t fall over when you prayed for them, they were branded “HTRs”, for “hard-to-receive,” meaning for some reason these people didn’t “receive” from the Holy Spirit as easily as everyone else. Pretty sad.

When I largely left my charismatic days behind, my participation in some of this grieved me, and I was sorry for any place where I participated in any of the flakiness, or let it go under my watch. So now, inasmuch as I want to say “you’re wrong,” it’s informed with a kind of “Listen, I know, I’ve been there. I was wrong then, and you’re wrong now.”

Before I could get that out through the keyboard though, Joseph chimed in:

Piggybacking on Barb’s thought provoking comment…

Because the boundaries for being billed as Pentecostal or charismatic were deliberately stretched to include many odd, quirky personality types & manifestations & antics, it is attractive to many extroverted types claiming they have the anointment & directive from God to make exaggerated claims & get paid while doing it…

Now it is true the conservative, non-charismatic types have their own brand of oddballs, but they seem much quicker to address such abuses & in getting the word out that no, this individual is not considered a bona-fide member of their particular denominational flavor & to cease-and-desist immediately.

Pentecostal/AoG/charismatic expressions are more interested in letting the Spirit loose than keeping unchecked character restrained. What results is the attention grabbing ministries become more a parody than what the kingdom is really about.

Crowder is a prime example of AoG upbringing, indoctrination & ultimately a ‘top this’ attitude. He is making mysticism ‘hip’ for the disinterested youth turned off by grandma’s old time religion. I think he may have a sincere desire to repackage Christianity as a supernatural adventure instead of the dour go-thru-the-motions format it is measured against. Not sure such sincerity or zeal trumps reality & truth & a respectful representation of the kingdom though…

Crowder is deliberate in offending the old guard. It is his act of religious martyrdom that legitimizes his claims in the eyes of the youth he wants to influence. Since I am an outsider looking in, I would say he is more goofy than genuinely Spirit inspired. More silly than sincere. More repulsive than reverent. But you make the point that what was permitted before has opened up the door to even greater antics billed as real encounters with God here on earth.

Should we be surprised? Nope. Are ‘we’, the collective older generation to blame? Nope. Has charismania taken on its own screwy identity? Yup. Can we get what we consider that ‘bad genie’ back into the bottle again? Nope.

Ever consider the dear saints of old that were considered mystics? As far as I can determine, they were always an exception, not the rule. They may have been pious, but how much of what they experienced was genuine or a personality quirk or a result of an austere lifestyle where severe asceticism was the norm? How much was hallucination vs. divine encounter? We only have their stories to appreciate. There is no way to look into the claims with our current understanding of personality disorders or how physical deprivation affects the mind. I can accept their stories without translating that into the new bandwagon everyone gets to climb aboard.

Once you set a theological precedent of the exception & claim it is the right of every believer to have the same or even greater experiences it sets people up for a grand disappointment. There are going to be exaggerated claims of God doing this, or instigating that, or moving here, or breaking out there, or stirring up revival here, or doing new/strange things there until the end I suppose. And not all such claims are insincere or improper. I think the approach needs to be the sober one. Test it. Speak up about it. Point out the inherent problems. Challenge the claims. But as it is in the secular realm it is a ‘buyer beware’ world we live in with its myriad brands of snake oil being peddled today. The ranks of the disappointed glam-glory chasers are growing. Post-charismatics are speaking up more. And it will be those that want to reestablish the authentic gift expressions sans hype that will create a soft place to land for those that ended up flying higher than was needed or expected…

So Joseph has a slightly different perspective than mine, and he poses some further good questions. How does one respond to some of these? Is the present excess of the charismatic movement a direct result of what’s been sown into it in terms of expecting the ‘weird’ and exceptional, or is the wild shenanigans of the current crop all down to them, having departed from the respectable side of the charismatic movement?

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