Spiritual Persuasion

In these times, probably more than any other, it is important to have a spiritual foundation.  Personally, I do not prescribe to any religious dogma, however, I am capable of saying this based on my upbringing in the church.  I have always been a very spiritual person and having a faith to ground me in helped me to grow as a person.  As I was always curious about religion, I continued to explore and be curious.  Then one day I began to realize what I needed was already there. 

If you are raising a child then it is important that you think about their spiritual growth.  A child is too young to make the most important decisions about their spiritual intellect as a young person.  They need a foundation to get them started.  A foundation based on free-thinking is more confusing to a child than one based on religious dogma.  Children need values.  Just because you think a child should be given free rein to think as they please – this is your own psychological issue, left from your childhood.  Children want to be taught, so they know how to make choices. 

My step-father was angry with me at 18 when I began to venture out and explore religion.   He said I had been confirmed in the church at 14 and it was my obligation to stay in that belief since I had sworn an oath.  My argument was that a young girl was not capable of making such an intelligent decision and that I had done what I was told, not what I had earnestly understood.  This is no different from raising a child with NO religion, and then expecting them to have some basis for forming an opinion as an adult.  You have to start somewhere but you cannot expect a committment to be solid when it was formed as a child.  I am not saying that a child will not stay in their family religion, or that they should venture out.  It really depends on the person.

My path began in political science my last year of high school.  My teacher brought up ideas for writing a term paper and one of them was religious cults.  At the time, this was the year after the Jim Jones massacre which had been my first time to hear the word cult.  I was curious about how people could do such a thing, as to follow a crazy man to another country.  In researching information about my paper I learned to my amazement that there were other religions besides Christianity and Judaism.  This was interesting to me.  I wondered who these other people were and what they were like.  Growing up in my isolated world in Ohio kept me on a limited worldview, there was my state and my stepfather’s family in Hungary.  The rest of the world did not exist outside of my box.

The main objective of my thesis, which I kept returning to was the fact that all these cult worshippers generally came from a vacant shell in childhood.  People who went to cults were desperate for spiritual acknowledgement.  Most had no real religious background to begin with.  This was odd to me because I couldn’t imagine someone not going to church.  It didn’t make sense to me.  Of course now when you see what happened to kids like River Phoenix – the eldest child raised in a cult by his parents, it goes several generations.  As most psychological problems do.  Spiritual confusion is one of those diagnoses.  It is not in a major category as it is something one can work through and does not require medications.  Thankfully!

The other folks who went to cults were people who just came from really bad places in their life.  Jim Jones preyed on the weak and vulnerable on the streets of Oakland and San Francisco.  A place I later ended up working as a social worker, encountering pimps who did the same thing to little girls.  People who have no one in their life will turn to anyone who helps them; when you are desperate to eat, sleep or just to be loved a smile can often keep you from looking in their eyes.  It will also stop you from trusting your instincts.

Religious cults begin with leaders who are wanting to be accepted as well, though they tend to be good sales people who realize they have a knack for con.  Once they’ve gotten a good group together, people who do what they want, their ego just gets the worse of them.  This is a trait we also see in celebrities – we should never allow anyone to think they are too good.  Ego’s destroy people.  Everyone needs a grounding network.  Something to make them realize they are just an ordinary human being and it could all be gone tomorrow.

I used to see the Reverend Terry Cole-Whittaker every week in San Diego, in my early 20’s.  She was a very inspirational woman.  Her sermons were optimistic and without dogma.  She had been ordained in the Religious Church of Science of the Mind (Not Scientology and not Christian Science).  Even still, she felt a need to break away from this belief as she too wanted more than the limits placed on her at the time.  On her own she became an international sensation.  She was on television, radio, newspapers (there were no computers back then).  She wrote several books as well.  Her religious teachings helped me on my path to metaphysics, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many other forms of thought.  It wasn’t what she said necessarily but a minister giving me the right to search and have an opinion.  I believe that had I not had my  Christian based background, I would have been led to some cult rather than to Terry Cole-Whittaker.  The people at the church came from various religious backgrounds as well.

The last service performed by Terry Cole-Whittaker was in the mid-80’s prior to any of the major disasters we have seen since then.  She left because people were looking at her as some sort of guru, rather than a human being.   Since I had done my paper on religious cults back in high school, I understood what she meant.  She did not want to chase her shadow and end up like one of those nut cakes, like we would later see in David Koresh or the Nike guy.  She saw that she was becoming too much of a celebrity and she did not like the way it made her feel.  People saw her as their savior rather than as a teacher – she told them she was not responsible for their actions – if their life had become greater based on her teachings it was based on their actions, not hers.  Unfortunately, not all great leaders see these things.  Perhaps there would have been a way to do what she did and not let it get that far but she needed a break.  She continues now to teach workshops, write, and lives on an organic farm in Oregon.  A far cry from the upscale snooty neighborhood of La Jolla that she left.  I have always admired her for this and for everything she gave me.  Everyone needs a good spiritual leader to look back on.  Though I have had more than one.

When you have learned what you need to learn from a teacher, you move on.  Either they go away or you keep moving forward.  A good teacher knows this and respects this. 

So how does one find a good spiritual master to follow when you are seeking answers? 1. It is helpful to have something to start with when you branch out – so first make sure you raise your children in some type of legitimate religion. 2. You should not start branching out until you are an adult and have begun to move forward in your life. 3. Don’t follow a flashy person. Stay away from people who need an entourage. 4. Follow the person who you feel called to.  What are your first thoughts when you meet them?  Trust this. 5. Take the information that is relevant to you and let go of the other bs.  All teachers are great gifts to us but the more established ones do dish out some bs from time to time. 6. When you are ready, it is time to move on.

A person who is on the path toward spirituality is on a journey with themself and no other.  Therefore, it does not matter which club you belong to; your higher power is with you no matter where you go.  The best places I find to be in nature.  When you are out in the world, experiencing the sun, the trees, the moon, the grass, the river/ocean/creek/lake, you are with your God then.  No beautiful piece of architecture can ever give you anything as pure and logical as the great Earth.  Inside the sanctuary you have the energy of the masses and all of their opinions.  Outside you and your God are there together, alone.


One thought on “Spiritual Persuasion

  1. Hi Jeannine:

    Your commentary above got me thinking, so I decided to write my own. Yes, I’m a Christian, but I like to think I haven’t abandoned reason, nor have I committed intellectual suicide to believe in Christ my Savior. Regardless I thought perhaps you might find my perceptions below of some interest.

    I’ve noticed in my conversations with people these past few months on social networking sites such as Facebook, or in person, that there seems to be a prevailing sense we’re on the cusp of something major. Something global. Something ominous. And perhaps we are, however, it’s my opinion that it’s best to do one’s homework when discussing such an important issue, and much of the source material must come not only from the headlines, but also from established history and, for all those who call themselves Christians, from the Scriptures too.

    So let me begin by pointing out that in the more cultured parts of the world, particularly in Europe, the people of the United States are widely regarded as shallow, pleasure seeking, self-absorbed and, for want of a better word, just plain dumb. My own parents, having been raised in Hungary and other parts of Europe both before and after World War II, have told me a number of times over the years that having a firm grasp on history was considered a valuable asset in their part of the world. Still is. And clichés like “those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it,” seem to confirm that belief. The message is that we cannot know who we are until we know our past. And we can’t know our past unless we make it a point to know – objectively, with an open mind and without prejudice or fear.

    But let’s talk about the present for a moment.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based nonprofit organization that monitors hate groups and other fringe organizations, in a report entitled, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” notes that “there are groups that define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines. They see the federal government, politicians or certain individuals as part of a plot to impose ‘one-world government’ on liberty-loving Americans.” You hear chatter about the Vatican, the Illumanti, the Trilateral Commision, the European Union, the Federal Reserve, and even the Masons (courtesy of Dan Brown) as all part of some world-wide network of evil vying for control of the earth.

    What disturbs me is that many conservatives, including some born-again Christians, are falling into this mindset and are preaching it with an apocalyptic zeal. The latest focuses relentlessly on President Barack Obama. His initiatives are being compared to the tactics of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro and Karl Marx; that he’s a socialist with an agenda to thwart our liberties and turn the United States into totalitarian regime; a “Big Brother’s watching you” entity. That said, I think it’s good to note that when history appears to repeat itself, which it often does, it’s not always a bad thing. Consider for example the 1930s and the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt understood that you could not have recovery without jobs. That’s why he made public works programs the centerpiece of the New Deal. The New Deal, which was passed by Congress under Roosevelt’s presidency, was signed into law in 1933. The legislation included economic stimulus programs aimed at jump-starting the economy. The New Deal relied on providing relief for those suffering, helping in the recovery of the country’s economy and urging reform of the financial system and health care. But it provoked the creation of the Liberty League, an organization fiercely opposed to Roosevelt’s New Deal as something that was going to take away our freedoms and destroy the Constitution.

    Sound familiar?

    In a radio address in January 1944 President Roosevelt reminded us that, “This republic had its beginning and grew to its present strength under the protection of certain inalienable political rights. Among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. We have come to a clearer realization of the fact however, that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous (needy, impoverished) men are not free men. People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

    Well, we survived the Great Depression. And nobody is being wisked off in the middle of the night by the secret police. The Constitution still lies enshrined in a very public place in Washington, D.C. for all to see and read. We can still go vote without being harassed or threatened by fanatics with guns and bombs. And there are no government soldiers or tanks patroling the streets of our major cities to make sure we obey all the rules. In otherwords, as flawed a nation as we are, we can still take comfort in the words of Winston Churchill who said, “A democracy is the worst form of government on the face of the earth – except for all the rest.”

    Consider the imprisoned nations of China, Iran and North Korea which certainly don’t enjoy the precious freedoms we have here in the United States that some either take for granted or don’t seem to appreciate. Despite all of our faults, there’s an enormous difference between those countries and us. I don’t think any rational person would claim that conditions in the United States are as bad as they are there. China doesn’t permit families to have more than two children. Mandatory abortion (or imprisonment) is the rule after the limit is reached. Consider the violence and censorship which the Iranian government perpetrated upon its own people after they objected to the elections of June 2009, which most neutral observers considered fraudulent. And 1 million people perished in a famine a few years ago in North Korea because its regime, ruled by a communist fanatic, chose instead to enrich itself and isolate that impoverished nation from the rest of the world by pursuing nuclear weapons and issuing military threats almost on a weekly basis. Yes, we can quote the words of Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx in an attempt to justify a conviction that the U.S. is headed toward socialism and tyranny, but we also fortunately have at our disposal the wisdom of Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, to name a few. My parents actually lived under Hitler’s Third Reich, a fanatical system founded on a belief that a one-world order, racial superiority and military might would solve the world’s problems. And my parents knew that such a tyranny cannot take hold here – an imperfect democratic nation – because the Constitution and even good old fashioned capitalist greed utterly prohibit it.
    But let’s take it a step further. There are those who quote the Bible to justify a belief or world view. That tactic is as old as Scripture itself (even Satan did it with Jesus in the wilderness). For example, a Christian militia headquartered in Michigan and Ohio, called the Hutaree, was broken up by the FBI after it was determined that they were on the verge of murdering a police officer and then killing the mourners who would later attend his funeral. The rationale behind it was to bring down the “anti-Christ” federal government. On their website they say:Christ.
    We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. All Christians must know and prepare, just as Christ commanded. Luke 22:35-36 says “And he said to them, ‘When I sent you without money, bag, knapsack and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’ Then he said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it; and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” This clearly states the reason for the preparation and training of the Hutaree. Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.

    Not surprisingly, Jesus’ words are quoted out of context. And, of course, the “equipment” to which they refer is machine guns, hand grenades and other weapons. Somehow they conveniently forgot about the sin of murder. Or Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek. Or Proverbs 21:1 which clearly reminds us that: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” And that means there’s little to fear because God cannot be hoodwinked by any person or government on the face of the earth. All of it is under His sovereign control every moment of every day. God is the God of the impossible. And while He might not always do something that’s possible, He’ll never do anything that’s absurd.

    Biblical prophecy alerts us that one day the Anti-Christ will come. The best scholarship out there is of the consensus that whoever this person is, he’ll most likely emerge from either Europe or the Middle East and be a Jew. Why? Because Bible passages suggest that he’ll rule over a sort of revival of the old Roman Empire which will consist of at least 10 nations once under old Roman rule, and that involves much of Europe. Many theorize that perhaps the European Union will be a factor. In my mind that’s plausible. Also, because the Anti-Christ negotiates a false peace with Israel, it’s reasonable to assume that as cautious as the Israelis are, it would take a Jew to convince them to lay down their arms. Additionally, since the Anti-Christ is a satanic counterfeit of Christ, who Himself was a Jew, being a Jew makes even more sense. And there are other reasons too, but the fact is that no one knows for certain when and where this person will take the stage. But one thing is clear about him in Scripture: he does not hail from the United States nor is he even a power broker from here, like our President. His roots and sphere of influence will emerge from the other side of the world. So, for those who think Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ, perhaps they should consider that some Christians also believed Ronald Wilson Reagan was too because each of his names had six letters in them – 666. Now, that’s real scholarship there, let me tell you. Adolf Hitler was a far better candidate for the role, yet even he wasn’t the man though many believed it at the time.

    And then there’s the question of Barack Obama’s citizenship. Some maintain that his birth certificate from Hawaii is a forgery. And for a moment let’s assume that it is. What happens next? Well, either some exception is made and he gets to stay in office, or he’s removed. If he remains, he’ll be another politician with questionable ethics holding the highest office in the land. Others with skeletons in their closets have come and gone and we’re no worse for it. Men like John F. Kennedy and his presumed philandering with Marilyn Monroe and other women. Richard Nixon and the Watergate coverup. Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair. These men certainly shouldn’t have done those things, but as President of the United States I’m of the opinion that they generally did more good than bad for the country at large regardless of any personal failings on their part. For example, during John Kennedy’s administration the Peace Corps was established, the civil rights movement was brought to the forefront, a belligerent Soviet Union was put in its place at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed and the challenge of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 60s was raised. With Richard Nixon, man actually landed on the moon several times, the Vietnam War was ended, and relations were normalized with the world’s most populous nation – China. Those were significant accomplishments to say the least despite the many challenges which still remain for mankind to overcome. Yet if people strongly disagree with the actions of our President, short of death threats, they can bad mouth him to their heart’s content without any fear of reprisals. Try that in a totalitarian regime like Iran. It’s interesting to note how quick the public is to forgive the indiscretions mentioned above. And that’s likely because it knows that none of them will result in the end of the world as we know it. And speaking of the end of the world…

    The Latest Version of the Truth

    Let’s do some sampling of established, verifiable history. We’ll start with something called “The Great Disappointment.” The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th century American Christian sect. William Miller, a Baptist preacher, understood by studying the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14 “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”) that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. A more specific date, that of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Although thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, awaited expectantly, Jesus did not appear as expected on the appointed day and as a result October 22, 1844, became known as the Great Disappointment.

    More failed predictions followed, but let’s move to our “enlightened” age. In 1970 Hal Lindsey released his very popular best seller, The Late, Great Planet Earth. I read it myself. He focused on end time events which he stated began with the rebirth of the nation of Israel in May, 1948. He refers to Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32 in which Jesus, when talking about end time events, proclaims, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Mr. Lindsey started the end time clock ticking at 1948 and assumed that a Biblical generation is 40 years. So, he predicted that Christ would return no later than 1988. When that didn’t happen the date was reset. The end times now began in June 1967 following the Six Day Arab-Israeli war in which the Jews recaptured the city of Jerusalem. So, then Christ must return by 2007. That didn’t happen. Now, evangelist Benny Hinn says that a Biblical generation is 100 years, so, using Hal Lindsey’s calendar, that means Jesus will come back either by 2048 or 2067 at the latest. And let’s not forget the Y2K hysteria which anticipated a worldwide computer meltdown on January, 1st, 2000 and which some Christians predicted would launch the apocalypse and the Seven Year Tribulation Period. Those never happened either. And I could go on. Jesus’ statement that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” should, in my opinion, be best viewed as something which will occur noticeably faster than the history preceding it, which is why the Bible compares it to a woman with labor pains increasing with frequency and intensity (though it still takes nine months to have the baby), or Daniel’s prophecy that “many will travel to and fro, and knowledge will be greatly increased.” Those are indeed happening at a quicker pace these last hundred years or so but it may still take longer than 40 or 100 years to finish, but perhaps not hundreds of years as in previous history. Again, just my opinion. For those of us who keep setting dates or approximate dates, we clearly violate Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” And while it’s true that Jesus says in Matthew 16:3, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times,” He warns us to be vigilant yet not jump to conclusions, so that if we do perceive some bad thing on the horizon we must do our homework, be reasonable, prayerful and constructive about it rather than to hurl groundless accusations against the President or other elected officials because we think they have a deliberate agenda to destroy all our freedoms, or are in league with the devil – hey, if we don’t like ‘em so much, we can vote ‘em out of office. Yep, we can still do that here in the good old United States, thank God.

    2nd Peter 3:3-4 says, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” Every generation has seen them. However, if we maintain we’re truly near the end of the world, then we owe it to that world to be more informed about our faith and be ready, in the spirit of love, to make a sound defense “for the hope that is within you.” (1st Peter 3:15). The way to do this effectively is not by quick acceptance of information interpreted by questionable sources, but to carefully study and understand the reasons for why we believe what we believe. This will prepare us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” as Paul said we should in 2nd Corinthians 10:5.

    Delivering the commencement address at the University of Michigan, President Obama said, “What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us. Throwing around phrases like socialists and Soviet-style takeover, fascists and right-wing nut – that may grab headlines, but it also closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. At its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”

    Hence the Hutaree Militia which I mentioned earlier, along with other radical elements getting emboldened elsewhere in our country. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s report was indeed appropriately entitled: “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism.”

    Think, for example, about the new term for conservative talk radio today: “Hate Radio.” When Rush Limbaugh spoke of the incident of a white boy being beaten on a school bus by blacks, which the police later determined was not racially motivated wrong as the act was, Rush said on his program which is listened to by millions that white students should be segregated on their own buses with bars in the windows and accompanied by armed guards. And the frightening thing about it was that he was serious. When a caller disagreed with him Rush’s reply was quite disconcerting…

    “Well, that’s Obama’s America.”

    So that incident was President Obama’s fault. Oh, I see.

    I watched this man on Fox News rant to Greta van Susteren about how our President’s a traitor, and I quote, “a goddamn liar.” Yes, on Fox News. He spewed that Obama hates this country, how he’s America’s enemy bent on obliterating us all. Rush spoke with the urgency of imminent destruction at our threshold and with the fanaticism of a corrupt televangelist. And there are millions out there who believe him which is even scarier then the hate he proselytizes with apocalyptic zeal. This man urged our schools to censure the President’s broadcast encouraging children to complete their education and make something of themselves. While I’m happy for Rush that he’s no longer addicted to pain-killers it seems he hasn’t resolved his obsession with hate mongering.

    Think about conservative Ann Coulter who once remarked “I know Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that’s all I really need to know,” but had no compunction posing nude for Playboy Magazine. Whose response to a female Muslim college student complaining that she shouldn’t be judged just because she isn’t permitted to drive was “then ride a camel to class.” While I think it’s good she knows Christ died for her sins, apparently that’s really all she does know. And did I mention Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly? After the presidential election I watched Bill O’Reilly assail Barack Obama as Karl Rove (President Bush’s former chief of staff and no pushover himself) looked on in frustration. Finally Mr. Rove interrupted and said, “Look, I voted for John McCain. But he didn’t win. Barack Obama is going to be our next President. Give the man a chance.” Yes, that’s right. Karl Rove defended Barack Obama

    Think about the hateful Republican gathering Senator John McCain attended in 2008 forcing him to rally to Obama’s defense by reminding those in the raucous crowd, some of whom chanted for Obama’s death, that they needn’t be afraid of Barack Obama.

    When I came of voting age years ago I chose Republicans. I supported Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. I cast my ballot for Bob Dole and for both George Bushes (the latter of which I came to regret). I’m a conservative. I’m a born-again Christian. But I no longer consider myself a Republican. I’m an independent who supports not a party but rather values. Civility. Reason. Common sense. Qualities which seem to be vanishing from our current political and religious landscape.

    What’s happened to them?

    I think that’s the question Bob Greene, author, CNN contributor and a former Columbus native, ponders in his article entitled “America on a Collision Course.” He quotes from Richard Nixon’s first inaugural address, “We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another.” Mr. Greene continues in his own words, “But maybe that has become impossible…our engines are roaring too loudly for any calming voice to be heard. We seem to be approaching the bad part of the movie. The part where we find out that no one wins.”

    Perhaps that’s why the President felt it necessary to remind us that “they can’t get enough of conflict; it’s catnip to the media right now. And so the easiest way to get 15 minutes of fame is to be rude to somebody In that environment I think it makes it more difficult for us to solve the problems that the American people sent us here to solve.”


    So, I’m left wondering. As Christians, are we going to continue to perpetuate the prevailing mindset that we as Americans are just plain dumb? Will we continue to make baseless proclamations against our own government through hearsay, prejudice and historical ignorance? Do we believe the end is near because there is sound Biblical evidence to back it up, or because it feels better contrasted against the backdrop of our miserable and unfulfilled lives? How can shoddy arguments address important questions by souls searching for the truth? How does this kind of behavior effectively point toward the Cross? Where is the balance between reason and faith? Since most people, even if they’re not religious, can spot the difference between the rational and the absurd, why can’t many Christians? We’re supposed to be the “light of the world.”

    “But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23).

    It makes me wonder what God must truly think about all of this. Of us. Really.

    Just me, a believer from Columbus,

    Karl A. Jeney

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