Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Toleration and Acceptance Therapy

This post will contain a story.  It is totally fictional.  I don't know of anyone in particular who this story represents.  It represents no one in order to represent many.  I chose a name that would protect anyone who I happened to hit or that even someone thought I was hitting, because I know no one named "Mack."  I wrote it like this because I think it is typical today.  I was actually thinking of something very different than this story and I chose this sin to avoid what I was actually thinking of, in case someone might think I was going after someone.  So, I chose a sin for which I know no one whom it represents.   I say all this previous in this paragraph because it is typical of many readers to try a guess'em game.  There is nothing or no one to guess.  Take it for what it is.

The story has a purpose you'll get toward the end, if you can't read it in the title.  Read the story and be patient to get the point.


Think about a typical scenario with me.  This isn't a thought experiment, because it is now the norm.  You don't or won't need to experiment -- just think about it with me.

Mack professes to be a Christian.  He grew up in a Christian home and was afforded almost every possible benefit and opportunity to be a good Christian.

(This is not a post about whether the Bible teaches if it's right or wrong to drink alcohol at all, but it is assuming that readers could at least agree that all drunkenness is sin.  I believe it's wrong to drink any alcoholic beverage, but that's not my point here, so let's resume the story.)

Mack is faithful to all the services of his Bible-believing and practicing church because he doesn't have an alternative.  His family and he attend church faithfully.  Mack doesn't complain.  It's his life.  He's always there and really grows up in the church too.

(This is not a post about what kind of church people attend.  It's not about whether it's consistent, harsh, authoritarian, loose, worldly, holy, or whatever.  That might cross your mind here, but it's not what it's about.  It is very possible that the kind of church in which someone is a member as he grows up will affect what I'm writing about; however, that's not my point.)

When Mack turns 18 he goes to college.

(This might be a Christian college or a secular college.  Again, that's not the point of the post -- about whether someone is more likely to do something wrong if he attends whichever.)

At college, he grows weary of the arduous schedule and regulations.  He doesn't like all the study.  He isn't thrilled with all the teachers.  He's around some people that are different than when he grew up.  They think it's great to get drunk.  The guys talk about it and laugh about it.  (The authority may or may not know.)  They ask him to drink with them, because it's so great and there are so many great drinks that will make him so happy and they'll have a better time together, if he does.  He says no at first, for awhile even.  It seems to Mack to affect his social life.  He's got less friends.  It seems to him that fewer guys like him very well and even that no one does.  He decides he will participate.

Mack goes to his first drinking occasion with these acquaintances and friends.  He drinks.  They drink.  They drink more.  He thinks he'll stop, but he keeps going and keeps drinking.  They all get drunk, including Mack.  On the way back to their place of residence, everyone is drunk and the one driving is the least drunk.  It isn't Mack.  This is the first case of drunkenness for him and he's out of his mind.  Mr. Least-Drunk drives home, and he weaves all over the road, driving drunk, and barely makes it back without crashing.

The next morning, Mack is sick.  He throws up again and again, and has a gigantic headache.  He goes to class, but he's definitely out of it physically and mentally.  He tells himself that he doesn't want to do this again.  The friends and acquaintances all talk about how great the night was.  They brag to Mack about it, and brag on him, stating how great it was.

Truth be told, there were people who saw Mack and his friends and acquaintances, who were not drunk, who didn't drink at all, and they were disgusted with them.  They were loud, obnoxious, and uncivil.  Mack and the others couldn't even see it -- the slurred speech, the crazy laughter, with others a short fuse and temper, staggering, smell, foul language, and other symptoms of drunkenness.  What they remembered was that they had a good time.

A little time passes and another occasion comes to go drink.  They invite Mack again, and with a little pressure, he goes again with them, and they repeat the same behavior together.   This time, however, a few people who know Mack, who know he is a Christian, call others who know him, who call others who know him, and it spreads to everyone at Mack's church, including his parents and the church leadership.

The next day, Mack has another headache and more vomiting, and more physical and mental disability, but with some coffee and time, it goes away.  He's back to his right mind.  He gets a call from his parents about the situation, and he denies it.  He lies about it.  His parents believe him.  They are concerned and feel anxious, but they try to believe him.  Sunday comes and everyone at church knows about it.  There is even more information about even the first occasion of drunkenness.  His parents now believe it is true that he was drunk. There are too many witnesses who couldn't be making this up.

Mack's parents know it's wrong to be drunk.  They assume that Mack knows it's wrong to be drunk, but they don't want to come down too hard on Mack, because they're afraid he might turn on them, that he might decide he doesn't want to  come back to church.  They decide to take it easy.   They'll include biblical aspects about drunkenness in future conversations and generally treat Mack the same, as if he never did it.

During this time, Mack shares some of his feelings with some other of his Christian friends, some who have been drunk and others who haven't, but who don't think it's right to confront others for such activity.  They are all supportive of Mack.  He is not going to lose their friendship for what he's done.  They're going still be fine with it.

Mack's parents generally shield him from personal criticism.  They know some people are talking, but they are not sure how many.  They think that this has hurt their own Christian testimony and standing for ministry in the church.  They are willing to suffer that, but they are afraid that if Mack is made to feel the same way, that he might not be willing to spend time with them.  He might get discouraged and fall out in school.  Worst case scenario, Mack might go off the deep end.  They aren't sure how strong he is.

Mack has a twitter account.  Sometimes he'll tweet his personal feelings.  He also has facebook and will communicate some of how he feels on there.  Lots of different followers and friends show their support with comments.  Some are telling him not to worry about what people say.   Some email him privately to tell him that his chief critics are all sinners too.  Nobody is perfect.  "Who are these people preaching against you, Mack?  Do they think they do no wrong?"  He agrees.  And he figures that these angry and bitter -- they are the ones who are the haters in all this.  He doesn't want the haters to get him down.

He starts writing about suffering in different ways, and how that he is taking in a lot of criticism and that it just doesn't seem Christian.   He's received comfort and help from certain evangelical authors.   He doesn't want to feel discouraged and he's trying to boost his feelings by thinking about forgiveness.  He says that Jesus is with him and is helping him hold up in the midst of the shots people are taking at him.  He thinks that, good for him, he's got these Christian friends who still accept him when he's down like a real Christian should.  On the other hand, there are those that are judging him, trying to heap guilt upon him.  He's just going to have to get through this, the pain of rejection from those who are looking down on him.

Mack has this sorted out.  The people saying he's wrong -- they aren't his friends.  Those supporting him, just telling him they'll be there, don't worry about his critics or those taking shots at him -- they are his friends.  That's how this all works.   A bad way to get over this is to hear about how bad you've been or that you've done wrong or to get around those kind of people who preach against what you've done, and just bring you down.  A good way to get over this is to avoid those people and not return their calls or emails.  After awhile, they'll give up.  Just avoid them.  Spend time with the affirming, the tolerant, the accepting.  Enjoy church leaders who don't get too nosy, who aren't investigating or wondering -- just giving affirmation and kind words.  Generally, it feels good to have behavior accepted and even if there is bad behavior, to have it ignored.  Time heals all wounds.  He'll get through this.  He'll get over the rejection he feels from those who disapprove of what he's done.  He's really grown through this, because now he knows how to get through times like these, when he's suffering.  Now he knows what a real trial is.


George Calvas said...

"Truth be told, there were people who saw Mack and his friends and acquaintances, who were not drunk, who didn't drink at all, and they were disgusted with them."

Any real Christian that cares about the body of Christ would have been man enough to confront him and point out his sin IN PRIVATE (Matthew 18:15). If it happened to be more than one that saw him at the same time, then ALL go (Matthew 18:16). If he does not take heed, tell it to the church (Matthew 18:17). This does not mean, tell it to the pastor and he decides what to do, but rather the pastor will decide when they will go in front of the church as witnesses and explain to the body of Christ that they tried to help, but he would not listen.

This is the biblical process that will stop this distorted behaviour of madness in light of malicious backbiters, whisperers and other such sins (it is not only the drunks fault!) before God and man.

I do not know how many times I have dealt personally with this issue, pointing out the wrong of those who would not do it right! Some listened to my biblical admonition and others did not.

"I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren" 1 Corinthians 6:5

Ken Lengel said...


I have a question for you, and you can answer privately if you wish. Isn't this scenario of toleration and acceptance therapy applicable to how one views orthodoxy vs heresy, and essentials vs non-essentials. The people who tolerate multiple views of doctrine are really ok and your friends, while those who those who hold to very one view are intolerant, divisive, schismatic, "everythingists", etc.?

Curious of your thoughts...

Paul Brownfield said...


About Matthew 18, that is for private matters between individuals. "Mack" sinned in public and should be automatically dealt with by his whole church.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

It says if "thy" (singular) brother shall trespass against "thee" (singular)

Mack trespassed against his entire church and family. He ultimately ruined his testimony. But, since he sinned a public sin like that,

See 1 Corinthians 5. Paul wrote the letter to the church at Corinth. Now, Paul did not say to send someone to the fornicating man and tell him his fault between him and that man. Paul instead tells the church to put that man away from among them. This was a church issue dealing with a sin that was commonly reported of such as the case with the fictional character Mack.

If someone sinned publicly and is confronted by the church, they can repent. The church would not have to put that person out of the assembly them but it must be done in front of the whole church since it was a public sin.

Thanks for reading
Paul Brownfield

George Calvas said...


I see your point, and after consideration of Ken's story, I believe that your assessment is correct.

You are also correct about private matters between brother's must be in accordance to Matthew 18 because the singular tense is used, therefore since we are to assume in that story that man is a Christian, his public humiliation toward God and his body is to be dealt publically before the church.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Mack's pre-college scenario continues to disturb me...greatly. The source of my concern easily lies along the strong themes in your encouraging Brandenburg family post (a man's fruit is his family) with your conclusion that, "None of this is an accident."

I haven't weathered all of the parental seasons, but I hope I wouldn't let even myself off the hook that easily. A child's pre-college life is foundation and strength for post-college. I am not saying that there couldn't be Mack's particular leap into trouble. But there are other Macks who are having to reconcile formative years characterized by hypocrisies and lack of strong, humble connection by at least one parent.

Some parents need to apologize for their failures to their Macks. Instead, they continue to be inconsistent and hypocritical in other ways to make up for past failure or to protect their image. Yes, Mack must assume the responsibility of his own wrong choices and reactions and take God's Word for Himself. But those in spiritual leadership cannot be glossed over when potentially they have offended "the least of these".

Anonymous said...

Maybe the best way is to explain what I mean is with "Mary's" story. Mary's testimony would resemble Mack's. Digging a little deeper into the pre-college years, we would find that Mary's well-respected family were heavily involved conservative Christian ministry. The family lived and breathed "ministry"--always busy about the "Lord's work".

With all the ministering, the family had little "family time", and when they did, Mary's family assumed that because they were in the ministry and Christian school, that Mary was developing without much spiritual conversation from them. Later, the parents could be heard saying, "but we gave Mary all the best opportunities" and Mary would say, "They never had time for me."

As Mary became a teenager, she became more inward. Without having a parent that took time to interact with her, all the questions of life were either answered by her heart or her friends. There was also the pressure of being expected to be the "good" kid because of her parents' ministry. Thoughts of "why rules", "how can Dad be a deacon and treat my Mom that way", and "why don't they have time for me when they can mentor other Christians"are unresolved.

Mary seeks counsel from a reliable source. She is met with disbelief and pat answers. Mary is left in a mire of emotion and longs for freedom. Until then, church is rote, Bible verses are platitudes. She is in survival mode as she seeks acceptance wherever she can.

Mary recounts many nights crying in her bedroom over awkward and questionable things happening in the Christian school and in her own life that she didn't "dare" bring up to her parents--dreading both their reaction and their non-reaction. As she continues to distance herself emotionally, her parents sense something of a "teenage streak of rebellion". They begin a cycle of arguing with Mary, allowing Mary to do things they normally would not have allowed (attending questionable churches with friends), giving her more freedom so she will feel happy and loved--putting inadequate and improper bandages on deep injuries.

Now, Mary enters post-college years almost identical to Mack's.

I would add that just as we do see parents trying to adjust their personal beliefs to meet their child halfway and trying to excuse more and more in their child's life (out of regret for failure or wrongly applied love)...so we see churches doing the same--loosening or excusing things we once taught against--in the hopes of making up for past mistakes or to meet the prodigal sons more than halfway.

There has to be a better solution to this. If I had to take an amateur stab at it, I would say we need a heavy dose of humility in our families and churches along with our firm Christian beliefs. Maybe then we will have done what we could for the Marys and Macks as God continues to work in their lives.

For now, Mary has progressed through all of Mack's post-college steps. Truth is turned upside down in her world. She is a very vocal activist for her lifestyle. She is gaining popularity across the country. Most would regard her church/family with pity (and my parent's heart aches with them as well). But as Mary touts love and acceptance over truth, I can't help but go back to those pre-college years and wonder if something else went very wrong.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I thank all of you for your comments and I will be interacting soon with them. They are very interesting and nice additions to this discussion.

I will say this briefly. I was attempting one point really and that is how that we have turned Christianity into therapy, the therapy of toleration and acceptance. There is a theological underpinning to it, but many kids out there have connected to a view of love and forgiveness as acceptance and toleration.

I'll be back later today hopefully.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Yes, I think the essential/non-essential belief leads to the acceptance of toleration/acceptance therapy Christianity. In a sense it's very similar to religious liberalism thinking that it could save Christianity, which it did. The purveyors of toleration think that this will warm the world to Christianity. It's good strategy to keep everybody together -- that's the acceptance. I don't think the Mack's of this world believe this because some thought out position, but because this is the dogma of pop Christianity. They think this is love and forgiveness, and holiness for that matter.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I have to be honest. I wish I could keep my anonymous commenters straight, because there are several now. Do you guys could give yourself a fake name or persona, a meme. I won't say you're lying. Then keep commenting under that fake name at least. Let's call it a pseudonym.

OK, to your comments (if they're both yours). I liked your Mary story and basically agree with it. You're talking about a different point than the purpose of my post. I wanted us to think about how people react to what Mack did, but I needed a fully orbed story to look at that portion.

I agree with your point that Mack's are more likely produced by bad theology, bad parenting, bad conversion, and bad church life -- all unscriptural.

Thanks for coming by and good comments.

Doulos said...

This is the rebirth of at least one of your anonymous commenters. I take responsibility for both of the anonymous comments under this post. Thanks for the permission. This is best for me at this time. I'll alert you if I change my name again.

I took the post a little too personally, I think, and could not rest till Mack had a fair hearing on his pre-college life.

I'm in complete agreement with the post-college failures of Mack. Just as he will find no true peace by having people accept/tolerate his sin, we show them no Biblical love or truth by compromising and offering a substitute.

It is a cycle that seems to have no end. We fail a generation, our failure produces guilt that over-reacts by compromising truth/love which creates a weaker generation. In our revised love and truth, we both fail the next generation... Our Christianity seems to be turning to a false gospel on many fronts.

I have been told to withhold judgment until it's my own child struggling...