Sunday, June 17, 2012

A useful resource on the abuses by "covenant communities"

BluAquarius on Scribd, a collection of illuminating documents by Servants of Christ the King co-founder (and one-time P&W songwriter) John Flaherty.

There's A New "Covenant Community" In Town

Looks like the covenant communities/shepherding-discipleship movement is alive and well in Maryland, and within walking distance of where I used to live.

Its website describes Triumph of the Cross Community in Frederick as "an ecumenical charismatic Christian community of disciples on mission" (translation: If you're Catholic, yours will be the compromised beliefs).  And they're also part of the "Sword of the Spirit," the umbrella organization of such communities which imparts even more top-down structure and doctrine without the ecclesiastical authority to do so (example: SOS' page on "media resources," not for contact with the media, but how to control the media in one's home.  Far be it for parents to try doing that alone!).

Like the Lamb of God Community from which I escaped, TCC (their abbreviation) has weekly "community gatherings" that are half prayer meeting, half teachings of some sort.  Chances are that like in LOG, you're expected to attend these meetings before all else, and they're more important than Mass or other services.  Also, woe be to you if you're not experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit through "praying in tongues" "words of knowledge," or best of all, being "slain in the Spirit."  All experience of the presence of God is emotional, right?  And I won't even start about the "praise and worship" music which feeds such hyper-emotionalism.

TCC also has weekly "celebrations of the Lord's Day," a Christianized verion of the Hebrew Shabbat.  Having been part of them, I question the need or the basis for such ceremonies, especially given the celebration of the Eucharist at each Mass; is the purpose of the celebration to make the leader into a quasi-priest?  Finally, regular attendance is expected in men's and women's groups, where it's highly possible that members will get pastoral counseling from those who have zero experience or training in it.

It appears TCC largely arose out of the Mother of God Community in Montgomery County, and thus is not as "new" as the title of this post would make it appear (thanks LC).

Perhaps TCC will be an exception, but I wouldn't surprised if it eventually yields many of the same problems that besieged LOG and other such communities:

  • Who watches the Watchmen?  No oversight of leaders 
  • Leaders like Jeff Smith proclaiming they know God's will for the community and its members (I was listening to one of his community gathering teaching talks on "fraternal and pastoral care."  #shudder#)
  • Leaders implying that disobedience of them is disobedience of God
  • The community and its highly structured activities supplanting the family in importance
  • Groupthink (dissenting opinions are quashed, no exchange of ideas)
  • Leaders learning of private personal issues that are none of their business
  • Lack of transparency about the community's finances
  • An inward focus, even in "outreach" activities (by that, I mean the ultimate point of outreach, say, to universities and youth, is not to improve their spirituality or religion, but to bring them into the community)
  • Consequent suspicion of outsiders
I hope I'm wrong, but it sure doesn't look like it.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Guilty Pleasure: Parking Wars

Not having cable, we have to resort to Netflix to see more of pop culture than what's on the broadcast networks.  A friend of mine tipped me off to A&E's Parking Wars, and we've been enjoying it ever since.  The shows are nice and short, and include an array of fascinating and passionate characters.  Each episode includes almost as many bleeps as your average Gordon Ramsay show, although almost never from the parking authority workers (to their credit).  And I love the cartoon-esque sound effects and graphics.

Yes, it's Reality TV, part of what's made cable channels stray afield from their names.  For example, when's the last time TLC had anything truly educational ("The Learning Channel")?  Only occasionally does A&E's History Channel swerve into anything historical anymore; I thought it was becoming the new all-Hitler channel, like A&E ("Arts and Entertainment") once was (O Jack Perkins, where art thou?).  And MTV, well, you know.  But shows like Parking Wars are popular and, more importantly, cheap to produce.

Anyway, things I have learned or remembered from watching Parking Wars:
  • I'd never do so, but I can see why people whose cars aren't worth much choose not to pay tickets and let their car get booted, towed, and auctioned off.  Of course, they still have to pay anyway.
  • I bet the various parking authorities didn't have quite as much to do back in the 1970's and before when each house had one car . . . maybe.
  • People lose all sense of time when they park illegally.  Only in the store "ten seconds"?  Really.
  • While it's important not to park in handicapped spaces, and they are needed, it's also true that, generally speaking, there are more handicapped spaces than necessary.
  • I regularly check to make sure my current registration and insurance are in the car.
  • Flashers/hazard lights never excuse illegal parking.  Ever.
  • In college, I frequently parked on a street where parking was only allowed during off-peak hours.  Never stayed too long, but I remember there was a fire hydrant.  I may have parked too close to it a time or two (not blocking it), but I wasn't ticketed.
  • Philly ticket writer Brian has the proper attitude to be a pro wrestler or wrestling manager.  My other favorites include Sherry and Garfield; Marlene, a "hon" who would fit in perfectly in my former home of Glen Burnie, MD; and DeAndre "Ponytail" from Detroit.
  • Philadelphia accents bear a strong resemblance to Baltimore ("Bawlamer") accents.  The neighborhoods of the two cities also look a lot alike.  So maybe the show makes this Bawlamer boy a little homesick, although it's not set in Charm City.  Yet.