Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Remember When Yesterday was my beloved's birthday. I won't say how old she was, but my birthday card was a little booklet called "1956: Remember When . . ." It listed others who were born that year: Joe Montana (greatest QB ever), Carrie Fisher (AKA Princess Leia), Bo Derek (numero diez), Kenny G, and Sinbad. The hit tunes were dominated by Elvis ("Don't Be Cruel," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender"). The Evil Empire won the World Series. More significantly, Martin Luther King organized a boycott of public buses in Montgomery, the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in instrastate public transportation, and Dwight Eisenhower was reelected. - - - - Religious Porn Two different people told me the same story in the last two weeks. They were in churches that had magazines out, happened to pick one up, and saw something about me. The first was in a Christian Church in Kansas where they saw an article I'd written on Christian unity. Must have been in Christian Standard or, perhaps, One Body (another journal that picked it up from the Standard). The second was in a Church of Christ somewhere. They told me they read an article that was attacking me for what I'd written on unity in the Christian Standard. It was in the Spiritual Sword, they said! Are you kidding me? I had no idea it was still being published. There was a time that I couldn't resist peeking at the heretic-detecting, faith-contending religious pornography that came through the office. But it's been a long, long time. I guess I hoped they'd gone out of business. But no -- someone brought me this copy back. It was strange holding it my hands, since I've sworn off religious porn for so long. Don't get me wrong: there are undoubtedly some edifying articles that have appeared in all of these. (Little known fact: long ago Contending for the Faith picked up something I'd written and published it. That was about 1979. So yes, I'm one of their writers.) But overall, the tenor of these rags has been so sour and arrogant. And by writing this little blog, there's a chance I'll reappear again soon in a magazine near you. But please . . . don't tell me about it.


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    By Blogger Mark Elrod, at 11/08/2005 06:35:00 AM  

  • I grew up in the church that publishes the Spiritual Sword. I remember when that church had over 700 in attendance. Today the average age is about 100 and the attendance is a bit less. I found grace when I was a senior in high school, or I guess I should say my journey toward grace began then. It is hard to believe that Rubel used to preach for that church and there is no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons why the attacks against him are so hard is that he was their bright and shining star and they will never forgive him for his betrayal. Not too long ago I was talking to my wife and we both concluded that we were probably raised in a cult. I wish I had the space to tell my whole story about how a sermon by Stanley Shipp, well known "liberal" of the 70's, challanged my thinking and made me decide that I would make decisions about people based on what they said and not what others said about them. That used to be my world. Praise God I am free.

    By Blogger RC, at 11/08/2005 06:46:00 AM  

  • In my first full-time youth ministry postion, the elders had a subscription to the "SS" for me and the preaching minister. Sadly, everytime they arrived we used to sit around a make jokes about how we could win the world with just that little magazine. I am now ashamed of myself for that, but still pray daily for those who believe in the need for that kind of material and still think it's effective.

    By Blogger CL, at 11/08/2005 07:03:00 AM  

  • One of the best articles from a publication of that sort came from the Seek the Old Paths newsletter (who even publishes the names of those who ask to be taken off their mailing list!). It was an article decrying Dan Bouchelle of the Alameda Church in Norman Oklahoma. This was right around the time OU won the national championship, and they were declaring Dan to be the new champion of the NCAA - the National Church Apostate Association.

    I'm glad that you describe these publications as porn. They are addictive, even when you don't agree with them.

    By Blogger Cary, at 11/08/2005 07:05:00 AM  

  • As a military family, we move around a bit and find ourselves having to seek out new church families. One thing that makes our job easier is the presence of that publication. When we see it displayed in a church foyer, we know to keep searching.

    By Blogger Karen, at 11/08/2005 07:19:00 AM  

  • A guy named Michael Lee has written a hysterical parody of that style of writing. It is an "attack" of the emergent movement. Hysterical stuff. Give it a look here.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 11/08/2005 07:32:00 AM  

  • Growing up in a conservative church of Christ (lowercase 'c') has made it hard for me, as an adult, to really understand grace and relationship with Christ. I was asked to leave the youth group and church after I encouraged clapping one Sunday night (that's what going to Kadesh will do to you), and I don't know that I've ever fully recovered from that. It's been six years, and I'm getting emotional even now. Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt.

    By Blogger Melanie Knox, at 11/08/2005 08:05:00 AM  

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    By Blogger c hand, at 11/08/2005 08:20:00 AM  

  • When I moved to Amarillo, some probably well-intended person signed me up to receive Spiritual Sword in my mail box. Later, I heard that it was another congregation in town that somehow got a hold of our entire church mailing list and had SS sent to everyone at our church because they were convinced we were all going to hell. My husband was a new Christian at the time and I was horrified at what I read and if I remember correctly, I told him to treat the SS like porn.. it was trash and that was where it belonged.

    I was doing a search on the Internet for Rick Atchley - I couldn't remember the name of the congregation he preaches at and a friend of mine in Dallas was looking for a good church home... I think the same group is responsible for a website that I refer to as the "I Hate Rick Atchley, Rubel Shelley, Lynn Anderson, Jeff Walling..." website. I can't specifically remember if your name was listed on it or not. I have come across this before and it had a listing of churches that were headed the wrong direction as well...

    I had a few thoughts occur to me as I read this sight. First of all there was so much writing! Lots of analysis to justify a point - and it sounded like jibberish. My spirit could not discern a spiritual point or application in all of it - same as the SS. And I thought about where we are warned about false prophets who talk like they know what they're talking about; but they really don't.

    The 2nd thought was that I know how much time all of that must have taken to do. Just think what a smart, intelligent, Spirit-minded person with that kind of time and passion could do to make a POSITIVE impact on God's Kingdom!

    The 3rd thought that came to me: I hope I make their "list" some day! I hope my church family makes their "list" someday! Because that means we're probably doing something right!

    By Blogger Melanie Morales, at 11/08/2005 08:23:00 AM  

  • When I married the first time, my brother in law was a rebel in the CofC back in the 60's. He joined the ministerial alliance and even (gasp) preached in the Christian church. He was regularly featured in the SS and their propaganda.

    When I was engaged, a well meaning sister asked me if my fiance was kin to preacher soandso. I replied "yes", and she said, "Is he still out in left field?"

    I love her dearly to this day, and realized more than likely you are insecure in some manner to be that rigid, and do not understand the grace of Jesus Christ.

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 11/08/2005 08:32:00 AM  

  • Mike's crowd?
    OPPOSES traditional marriage?
    Maybe you have been reading those rags too long. The man who performed my wedding ceremony seemed very much in favor of tradtional marriages, and I am pretty sure his name was MIKE COPE.

    And Melanie~ I am so sorry that you were hurt. Nothing gets under my skin more than stories like yours!!! I just wanted to say (though I am sure you already know this) that no church family who truly loves God would turn one of His young children away for clapping. That is just crazy!

    Mike~ I love that you are not afraid to push the "comfort" envelope and call a spade a spade.

    By Blogger SG, at 11/08/2005 08:36:00 AM  

  • Thanks, SG. A wonderful wedding it was in beautiful San Angelo.

    The context for your first words is gone. (I deleted a comment.) I expect lies about me to be spread in the religious porn I talked about. I don't intend for them to be spread on my own blog. Disagreements are fine -- even welcome, however.

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/08/2005 08:48:00 AM  

  • "Spiritual Porn" is a great phrase for the junk that SS regularly puts out. We used to refer to them as the "Brotherhood rags" but I like your phrase better.
    SP is even more hurtful when a sister or brother in one's home church writes it. This happened to me a few years ago. I was a member of a church hooked on a weekly diet of "SP." While at this church I was a co-coordinator of a week of Bible Camp. A sister at our church wrote the camp board asking for my removal when the word got out that I had attended a Promise Keeper's Rally.

    The folks that write and read "SP" are not only going to be surprised by those from other denominations who will be in heaven, they'll also be surprised by their very own brothers and sisters who will be there as well.
    xrkbugqo (a second coup by a group of bugs)
    hekwu (frustration voiced at having to verify a 2nd time)

    By Blogger cwinwc, at 11/08/2005 09:23:00 AM  

  • Being a youth minister in good ole Mississippi I can surely empathize with how pushing the 'envelop' can get you labeled as "liberal" or "sinful' or whatever other names can be made up.

    I grew up in the conservative, "holier than thou" church, and am the youth minister at the same place. There is hope, however, because we have grown and continue to grow to be a church that is open to be a spirit led people, filled with God's love and grace, even worshipping before with "other" denominations. We have caught much flack from area CoC's, because of our "liberal" views, refusing to succumb to the denominationalism prevalent in CoC's of Mississippi. We have handled it, I believe, with the love and respect of Christ. We even recently hired a minister who previously spent some time ministering in the "Christian Church". Wait til' everybod finds out about that. Gasp!

    I have never heard of the Spiritual Sword, however, but am sure if word gets out about us, we may be on "the list".

    Praise God for open minds.

    By Blogger Matt Warren, at 11/08/2005 09:28:00 AM  

  • Melanie -- funny you mentioned Kadesh. It "ruined" me, too. I trace my spiritual awakening back to the summer of '88, when my youth minister/dad sent me to "ACU's new camp" to try it out before he took the youth group. I have not been the same since that week. God is a real, living being that I can have a relationship with. I had never understood that before. And God and the Church of Christ are two different things. I can love one while thinking the other is screwed up as heck.

    Of course, the elders at my church then didn't want us going back because Kadesh allowed the wearing of shorts...

    Mike, as one who used to sit at a desk in the Highland office and skim SS for your name, I'm glad you let the porn go. But please tell me you still have those old anti-dancing tracts! I remember sitting on the floor in your office and reading those and laughing until I was in tears.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 11/08/2005 09:30:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Your name doesn't come up much. Rubel and Max are still their favorite two whipping boys.

    They still quote the same passages and interviews from both of them. Both in their lectureships and their publications.

    By Blogger Phil, at 11/08/2005 09:40:00 AM  

  • When I served a previous church (in Amarillo - another convergence point for SP :-) possibly because of the presence of Dan Bouchelle?), members (and other staff) would highlight portions of SS and other porn and shove them under my office door while I was out. That spiritual guerilla warfare did affect a big change in me...but probably not the one they were looking for. I was being written up myself before long. Keep up the good work.

    By Blogger Neal W., at 11/08/2005 10:37:00 AM  

  • Are we not as guilty when we bash their view? Is our attitude being Christ like? "Religious Porn" is a very strong description.
    There is a way to deal with an opposing view without lashing back. Let us take the high road of love and grace.

    By Blogger TS, at 11/08/2005 10:40:00 AM  

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    By Blogger c hand, at 11/08/2005 10:48:00 AM  

  • Suggestion: Read Matthew 23. Jesus' main response to the world was compassion; his response to divisive, picayunish religion was rebuke. Religious porn is exactly what it is: it's addictive, it's based on lies, and it masquerades as the truth that frees.

    Just my humble opinion. :)

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/08/2005 10:49:00 AM  

  • C Hand - If you'll publish an e-mail address, I'll respond to you personally. Things like this will NOT remain on my blog. Disagreements are fine; untruths (like the one you first published today) are not. And please understand -- my family is off limits for your attacks. Mike Cope

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/08/2005 10:55:00 AM  

  • Do you realize you may have offended the porn industry? :)

    By Blogger David Michael, at 11/08/2005 11:08:00 AM  

  • I gotta admit...
    I have had to limit my studying time in the library, because I am so easily "sucked" toward the rack of Church of Christ literature. My two favorite journals are Living Oracles (from Tennessee Bible College in Cookeville) and the aforementioned Spiritual Sword (because my dad sometimes gets written up!). I've really had to limit this recently because I find myself brimming with anger and sometimes even hatred! (it's also an unbelievable time-waster, though it is fun)

    If I didn't know any better, I'd think those journals (and I use that term loosely) would rather I went to a state school or the University of Satan than ACU. They are unbelievably harsh to my alma mater!

    Anyway, I say all that to say this: If you, too, are addicted to "SP", take the first step by admitting it. If you need to talk to someone who has been in your shoes, e-mail me.


    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 11/08/2005 11:44:00 AM  

  • I remember standing in the library at HUGSR (about 15 years ago) as Jimmy pointed out your name in some "journal" that was blasting you for being a false teacher. I was stunned! That was the first time I had ever been exposed to intolerance and mean-spiritedness directed at one I held in such high reguard. Since that time I've become all to aware of the mud-slinging and abuse within God's family. Why isn't this energy focused on the real enemy?

    BTW: Mike, thanks for blessing us on Sunday. You'll never know how much that meant.

    By Blogger Angela, at 11/08/2005 11:58:00 AM  

  • It I just feel there is a way to disagree without being negative. To spend time on what someone says falsely about us is a waste. It is usually because we are hurt by what they said that we feel the need to say something. Jesus did not waste his time on the religious leaders who wrongly accused him. He had more important things to do.

    By Blogger ts, at 11/08/2005 12:04:00 PM  

  • I heard someone say the only thing worse than being self righteous was being self righteous about not being self righteous. Odd play on words, but true statement.
    Dear God,
    Keep us focused on You! Keep our vision clear enough to see the Savior we are seeking and strength of mind to see the enemy who is trying to distract us!
    Thanks Mike for this forum. You bless me!

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/08/2005 12:14:00 PM  

  • And by the way. "Porn" was the correct word to use (In my humble opinion). It explains the depth of self gratification that is involved in slanderous writing under the disguise of spiritual teaching.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/08/2005 12:32:00 PM  

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    By Blogger c hand, at 11/08/2005 01:10:00 PM  

  • I too was an occasional reader of spiritual porn. My favorite was “Contending for the Faith” and I loved the almost cartoon character-like personality of Ira Y. Rice, Jr.

    Then one day I heard “the rest of the story.”

    During the early preaching of African American minister R.N. Hogan in the late 30’s - young Ira would travel with him and at times share a bed with him.

    And then during the Second World War when members of the church of Christ were interned into camps for being Conscientious Objectors. It was Ira Y Rice that ministered to them and got them supplies that they needed.

    Good deeds and I am sure that there are others, done by a man that was laughed at time by me and others.

    That is not to say that “’Contentious’ for the Faith” was not a thorn for some people. – But I always felt that if my name had appeared in that publication – then I would have finally arrived as a bona fide liberal.

    By Blogger J A Pierpont, at 11/08/2005 02:13:00 PM  

  • With all this back-and-forth that comes across as self-righteous on BOTH sides, it's no wonder people leave...

    By Blogger X, at 11/08/2005 02:13:00 PM  

  • c hand,

    This really is inappropriate. Matt has not commented today, and thus having you trying to draw a thread between his involvement in this med school organization and your obvious beef with Larry or Mike is way out of line.

    By Blogger Paul W, at 11/08/2005 02:17:00 PM  

  • When I lived in TN, everyone at our congregation was given a complimentary subscription to one of these rags (I believe it was SS).

    After one particular nasty issue that, besides Mike, also targeted Andre Resner and John Willis, I knew I had to just throw them in the trash unread.

    One evening I was visiting with one of the elders there. I told him that I had come to know Mike through our small group and his sharing from the pulpit. I also told him that, while I didn't know if I agree, point for point, with everything that he preaches, I could honestly say that Mike is motivated by a heart for the souls of the lost and a God-given desire to share the love of Christ with them. I do not personally know the people writing for those publications, but the venom from their pens looks nothing like the love of the Christ that I know.

    Don't read that garbage, Mike. If there is any error in your teaching, I'm convinced that God knows your heart and He will show you your error. I also have faith that if you have erred (and I'm not saying you have), you are a big enough man to correct it just as publicly as you've preached it.

    God bless, dude.

    By Blogger abileneblues, at 11/08/2005 02:33:00 PM  

  • TS - Exactly. That's why I quit reading the trash. Better stuff to do.

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/08/2005 02:56:00 PM  

  • Hey, Mike:

    What about Cody (from that newspaper article)? What does HE think about gay marriage? Furthermore, what does he think of this Lanny James person?


    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 11/08/2005 03:01:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    Thank you for the following words of truth: "Joe Montana, the greatest QB ever."

    My beloved 49ers are a shell of the team that they used to be. The QB position is so important.

    I remember wanting to be just like Joe. He was a great QB and an inspiration to me.

    Thank you for quarterbacking Highland so well.

    You are my Joe Montana.

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 11/08/2005 04:41:00 PM  

  • These great words today from Ed Fudge's GracEmail:

    Jesus once indicted a religious crowd with the charge: "You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned" (Matt. 23:15, The Message). The recipients of this accusation were long on religious theory but short on practice. They valued doctrine more than they did the people on whom they piled it like a load of bricks. They scrupulously observed the most insignificant practices of their religion while totally neglecting the things that mattered most. And at the end of the day, Jesus had nothing for them but warnings and woes.

    Healthy teaching ("sound doctrine" in the King James Version) is important. Not for doctrine's sake, but because it shapes and motivates a godly life. The goal of Christian instruction is not primarily mental modification. Its real purpose is a transformed character: "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5). Without this target, doctrine soon degenerates into fruitless discussion. Worse than fruitless, doctrine apart from godliness as its goal finally leads to an ungodly mess: "a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions and constant friction . . . " (1 Tim. 6:4-5).

    How can we recognize wholesome doctrine and distinguish it from teaching that is unsound? Look at its fruit, Jesus tells us. "Every good tree bears good fruit, but the rotten tree bears bad fruit" (Matt. 7:17). Teaching that has Jesus' approval regularly results in lives that look more like Jesus. Even unbelievers can recognize that when they see it . . . and also tell when they do not! It's a shame that Christians sometimes have their heads stuck so deep in doctrine that they miss seeing the obvious. Are you curious about the validity of a particular teaching? Watch how those people behave who feed on that teaching. It's not the only way to assess doctrine but it is an important start.

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/08/2005 04:42:00 PM  

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    By Blogger c hand, at 11/08/2005 07:45:00 PM  

  • It is addictive. Infuriating. And seductive.

    Not an episode of my life that I'm proud of.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 11/09/2005 07:30:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I agree with your comments about "Religious porn". I went through one church problem that involved the Boston movement and I never want to go through it again.
    We left the church where the problem started but were rejected by the couple that went with the Boston movement when we did not go with them. We ended up at another church and are still there.

    It is discouraging to me when people split over women's issues, instrumental music and any other subject you can think of.

    My question to you is this: How do I challenge my own faith tradition without destroying relationships that I have built in the church?

    To tell you where I am at, I went to a PromiseKeepers meeting in 2000 and was enjoying the singing. Being from the c of c, I was not able to raise my hands past the elbows. Then I realized nobody was watching me and I was able to stand up and raise my hands to God.

    In His Name,

    Glen Aus

    By Blogger Glen, at 11/13/2005 08:37:00 AM  

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