27 February 2016

Cults, Families and some personal reflections


I watched the NBC Today Show exposé they title #Uncovered on their Friday 19 February. The story featured a woman and her parents and the Korean church titled "World Mission Society Church of God." The founder, a woman, claims to be the incarnate God, born in 1948. The church claims on their 'welcome' page to be "the only true church which God has established on this earth. (Acts 20.28)"

On their introduction page, they say "In 1948 the Second Coming Christ Ahnsahnghong restored the truth of life. The Church of God started as Christ Ahnsahnghong came to Korea." What is the reader to understand? That The church which Paul references in Acts 20 actually existed then, but not again (where did it go?) until 1948 in Korea when a woman was born and became the 2nd coming of Jesus. Wow, what hyperbole, what a leap, what narishkeit!

But the story caught my attention for another and personal reason. You see, after I came to faith in Yeshua in 1971, my family was at a loss what to say, what to do, how to win me back to rabbinic Judaism. My father had already thrown me out of the family home because I had announced "Jesus is our messiah." But sometime that summer, two Jewish men showed up at my apartment in Kansas City. One was from my past, a 20-something rabbi who had some influence on me in my earlier teens. Their purpose was to stop my new faith, to call me back to their understanding of Judaism, and to restore our family. I wasn't really sure what to tell them. If I had that chance again, if I could rewrite history, I would have asked the two to tell my family that I love them, and wish we could all have good time again together. But I cannot play "Back to the Future" so I have to live with whatever weak responses I actually gave.

Over the decade of the 1970s we had our ups and downs in family relationship. My parents couldn't bear to attend my wedding in 1977, even though it was held only a few blocks from their home. But after our son was born in 1979, they welcomed us back into their fold. Until I told them we were joining the organisation "Jews for Jesus." The last decades before they passed some years ago, we were in very good relationship. Or at least better.

So when I watched the Today Show episode, I was sad for the parents and sad for the adult daughter who seemed at odds, but when "I love them" came out of the daughter's mouth, something was different. The firm, staunch supporter and representative of the heretical group WMSCOG actually expressed a sadness, almost cry-like statement, and it touched my heart. I think that the main problem with so many of these religions is the dissolution of family. And although there is a verse or two about making right choices in this regard, most of the time, God's love is about the harmony of families.

I remember when I told my dad that I loved my mom as much as I loved the prostitute on 39th Street. He heard it the other way around. He heard me saying that I didn't love my mother in a special way at all, and that my love for her was as limited as it was for a hooker on the streets. What I was actually saying was that because of Jesus and His dying for us on the cross, that God demonstrated His own love for us (all!) and thus we should love everyone equally, the lowly and the high, the family and the non-family. I was actually elevating the love I had for my mother and saying that I could extend grace, kindness, and real compassionate love even to the seriously lost.

But it didn't go down well, to say the least.

Over the decades I've discovered that family love IS different and that I think about my own wife and kids much more than other people's wives and children. I pray for them more than others. I hope for their lives to be full of life and full of blessing. And no matter what else might happen between us, or in their choices of partners or religions or job or homeland, they are still family. And that's thicker than anything else. So I get what upset my dad. And I am sorry I caused him stress that day. And hopeful that my own family, sister, aunts, cousins, children...etc...all find eternity with God the most blessed estate. But even if they don't agree with me... we are still mishpochah. And #familymatters. (For some unpacking by opponents of the movement, see this Website )

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