Friday, May 30, 2014

Preparing to Be a Help Meet: God Needs Our Prayers - Part One

Debi starts each chapter with a title page containing a MORAL and a CAUTION.  With most authors, you'd expect the moral and caution to be tied in throughout the entire chapter in an over-arching theme.

Don't expect that out of this book.  You will be disappointed.

We're about half-way through Chapter One (of Eighteen....) and the moral and caution are finally addressed.

MORAL To The Story:  God wants, no, he NEEDS us to pray.

I'm very curious how an omnipotent God needs anything from his creation and, bluntly, this kept me reading through this book long after I would have stopped out of boredom.

A Caution: Don't pray amiss.

Debi's lost me already.  See, in my church, the purpose of prayer is to communicate with God.  There are all sorts of types of prayers and methods of prayer but the linking theme is that you and God have a nice little chat.    I don't get how you can talk to God 'amiss.'  

I'm sure Debi will illuminate me on this point soon enough.

God did something totally different in my love story.  When I was just a child he told me who I would marry.  He didn't tell my future husband - just skinny little me.  Why?  God always has a very good reason. I believe it was because my future husband needed, really needed someone to pray for him.  I prayed.  Is there a young man that you have met in passing that you thought would be a good husband? Have you been praying for him by name?

Maybe heaven waits on you.

This advice would have been an epic fail in my life.  You see, I met my husband for the first time when I was 28.   I can promise you that I never prayed for him by name before age 28 since I didn't know his name - or that he existed.  In spite of this monumental lapse, I'm a married woman.  Does that mean that my husband never needed prayers before he was 28?  Did heaven decide not to wait on us?  

So why did God tell me ahead of time who would be my husband?
One thing I know; Michael was God's man, a preacher that needed a faithful prayer warrior. He was in the thick of winning thousands of soldiers to the Lord, men who were soon heading off to a deadly war.

Since Michael Pearl has converted thousands of soldiers to God, why haven't I heard of him outside of his child-beating and spousal misery books?  You'd think if he was that successful there'd be legions of men praising his abilities as a preacher and missionary.   Come to think of it, the only legions of people I've seen have been aligned AGAINST Pearl......

He was tall, dark and awesomely handsome as well as half-famous. 

Now Michael's been downgraded to 'half-famous'.  I'm really starting to worry about the judgement of those church elders who decided having a bunch of teens listen to him preach was more important than avoiding a tornado.....

Hot females chasing after him would be a constant threat to his ministry, and they did chase after him - by the herds. This could have been an extreme temptation to his faith.

I don't buy the whole " afraid of the evil women!" argument.  If Pearl wants to convert thousands of soldiers during the 1970's,  logically he'd be way too busy to be continually tempted by women.

The "herds of women" makes me giggle and imagine Michael Pearl trying to out-run the Black Friday crowds at a Walmart or Target.....

Think about this: Several girls all thought it was God's will for Michael to be their husband. How was it that these fine Christian girls all truly believed he was the one for him, and, yet, were wrong?What if all these girls were RIGHT?

My thought when I read that part was "Oh, damn.  She's gonna start preaching in favor of polygamy."

Maybe they were being moved by God's prayer warriors to pray for this one man? It is possible that any of these girls could have been a fine help meet for Michael.  God was looking for the right help meet that would pray, not for herself to have a wonderful prince, but for a help meet to start HELPING this warrior of God to do the job God had for him to do.

*slow claps*

Look at the subtle way Debi manages to compliment herself as a solution to God's problem with Michael while insulting all the other shallow girls who merely want to meet a great guy to start a life with.

What specific thing are we told to pray for?
Our duty is to pray for those who are busy giving the gospel to those who have never heard. We can and do make a difference in eternity when we pray. If that were not true, it would be pointless to pray.
"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)
"Therefore he said unto them, The harvest is truly great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore that he will send forth laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

II Thessalonians 3:1-2 says, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you. 

Why did Debi leave out Matthew 6:9-13?  The Lord's Prayer is pretty famous and a standard answer to the question "What should we pray for?"  

Oh....but the Lord's Prayer doesn't really support her point, so best we sweep it under the rug.

I hate it when writers use two nearly identical quotes for synoptic Gospels to support one idea.  Use Matthew or use Luke but NOT both. 

Why does God want us to pray?
He tells us to pray that the word they are preaching may have free course.  The devils that would otherwise hinder them with sickness, strife or worldliness will not be able to slow down the gospel message! 
Verse two goes on to tell us how to pray for these preachers, "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. 

I have no freaking idea where Debi comes up with the idea that Second Thessalonians 3:1-2 implies that devils are inflicting sickness or worldliness on people spreading the Good News.   

Called to Pray
God uses the prayers of his saints as as much as the message of the preacher.
"Verily I say to you, Whatsoever ye bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  (Matthew 18:18)

Matthew 18 is a series of parables and discourses on FORGIVENESS.  The word 'prayer' never appears in the whole chapter in either the KJV - which I dislike strongly - and the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition) - which is my study bible preference.   Poor verse choice, Debi.

 (Note: I believe everyone should be able to read the Bible sections to make their own decisions about the verses chosen and the application/interpretation Debi gives to those verses.  To facilitate that, I've linked Bible Gateway to each section with KJV and NRSV open.  You can use the pull-down menu to chose a different translation if you prefer.)

Debi created a natural stopping place here before moving into her next topic about how God uses prayer to do prayer is to God as gasoline is to my car.  The next section alternates between rib-crackingly funny and agonizingly painful.

Anti-Pearl:  This is a favorite prayer of mine when I'm dealing with anxiety.  St. Teresa of Avila, who was in the process of trying to curb corruption in the Catholic Church, wrote this in the flyleaf of her prayer book.

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Preparing to Be a Help Meet: Debi and Michael's Love Story Part One

To be clear, Debi and Michael's story is NOT a love story.  There is precious little love involved and a whole heap of red flags.

I had just turned thirteen when I first saw him and knew, just simply knew, he was my man.  If he had glanced over and been able to read my mind he would have surely laughed.  (...)The whole community had been talking about the famous, young preacher who had been invited to speak at First Baptist Church's Teen Retreat.  (...) My young mind quickly assessed him.  He seemed bigger than life, a super, in charge type of man. I guessed he must have been at least 21 years old. (...)
Anyways, God had never talked to me before; why would he start now and tell me this? I was just a kid.

Debi has a crush!  That's really neat and totally age-appropriate for her.  

There was a serious storm warning that day.  Tornadoes were expected.  The church leaders almost decided to cancel the youth event due to the storm, but since the preacher was so important, they decided to take the chance.

Wait, what?  The elders of your church saw that severe, dangerous weather was on the way and decided that the youth of the church were better off RISKING THEIR LIVES to listen to the preacher than rescheduling the meeting.  Me thinks some hyperbole is slipping into Debi's story.

I sat at the a lodge with about 30 other teenagers, all who seemed years older and way cooler than me.
The teenage girls were acting like they were afraid of the storm.  Obviously they thought their twittering would make them appear more femininely attractive.  The boys were playing macho, "Bring it on, we can handle a silly old tornado."  Looking around, I groaned with disgust.  All this teenage nonsense was so stupid.  (...) I did not relate to the hormone-driven game.  (...) Why should I have to go to the retreat with a bunch of old snobs?  It wasn't even our church, so I didn't know many of the kids there.  It was clear they dismissed me as a snotty kid not worthy of any notice.

This is Debi's trademark way of dealing with women.  If women don't give her unconditional respect, Debi runs them into the ground.

When girls act scared and boys act macho to attract each others attention, modern English has a term for that behavior.  It's called FLIRTING.  While Debi is clearly scornful of the girls who were flirting by acting scared,  she misses the main point which is that the boys were responding positively to the girls' fear. The other teenagers were having fun!  By flirting!  How horrible of them!

 My mental image in this section is that Debi's body language is screaming "I'm so much better than all of you pigs" while she actually feels lonely or afraid or bored.

Finally Michael, the big brother, began to preach.  I don't remember if it happened at the beginning of his message or in the middle or maybe even towards the end, but sometime while he was preaching the gospel, God spoke to me.  "He's the one you will marry."
Whoa, I thought, I don't even need to wear a bra yet, and God is letting me know who I will marry?  I clearly remember thinking, this is just too weird... he is too old and I am just a little kid. (...) Anyway, like the child I was, I simply believed in God.  I was too young to realize what a monumental thing had just happened.

Debi, in all honesty, I wish for your sake you had gone with your first instinct.  He was too old and you were a little kid.  Over the next few years, you were so blinded by the fact you thought God told you were going to marry Michael that you missed some huge red flags showing Michael's narcissistic tendencies.  I believe you have suffered much over the last four decades because you ignored the common sense that God gave you and married a man who, bluntly, doesn't deserve you.

The little bit I've covered so far has left me wiped out so I'm gonna stop here for today.

I'd like to end each post with what I think of as an Anti-Pearl - a quote that supports a healthier worldview than the Pearls.

Marriage should be a duet - when one sings, the other claps.

Preparing to Be A Help Meet: Debi and Mike's Love Story - Part Three

In the two previous posts on Debi and Michael Pearl's 'love' story, Debi discusses how God told her she was going to marry Michael when she was 13 and he was 21.  She spends from when she was about 16 to 20 being Michael's ministry flunky and finally gets his attention by showing up with a pretend fiance.  He's pissed because he doesn't want to lose his flunky to another man.

Sounds like a match made in heaven, alright.  Let's dive into the last bit.

So, [Michael] still didn't give me the time of day...but I knew he was different.  I often caught him looking at me like he was contemplating.  When I looked back at him he just continued to stare as if trying to read my soul.  

Does that sound creepy to anyone besides me?  Plus, he could talk to her......

Several weeks after my trick, he called me at work and asked if I would go with him that evening to a gospel meeting. (...) He needed to have a female helper because he had always been very careful not to allow himself to be in a compromising or tempting position with females.  He always avoided any one-on-one counseling with the opposite sex, even to give the gospel.  He has maintained this rule all his life. (...) Michael was well-known for not touching ladies (even old ladies who wanted to shake his hand after a church service.)

Oh, scrupulosity.  I had thought you were a Catholic creation; alas, no.  Here's my simple definition of scrupulosity - trying to control uncomfortable feelings through excess religious compulsions.  Michael's fear of touching women to avoid sexual feeling is something I've seen first-hand at my parish before.  When I was in college, a seminarian was placed at our chapel for an internship.  When introduced to our family before Mass, he shook hands and made eye contact with my dad, my mom, and my younger brother.  I got a vacant, deer-in-the-headlights stare over my left shoulder.  Pretty soon, he'd be skittering around the small entryway of the church building trying not to look at me or any females under the age of about 40.  He'd jump about 20 feet when I said "Good morning!" on my way into church and nearly run to get out of the same room as I was in.  The guy left the seminary not long after that which was a good choice.  Celibacy is not a cure for fear of sexual feelings....neither is marriage as I think the Pearls found out.  

[Michael] even told me where to meet him.  He'd always made a point to never give me the courtesy of going to my house to pick me up like a man would his date. 
Picking someone up is polite especially when you are using them as free grunt labor for your 'ministry'.  "Never giving a courtesy" means you're a jackass.

Debi spends a page and a half describing how much better Christians converted others back in the good ol' days.  I'll spare you the drivel and take you to the point when a bunch of 'hippies' are starting the whole salvation process.

I was still on my knees with my hands laid on the chair in front of me when I felt someone slip in besides me, and then a large hand grasp mine.  I opened my eyes, startled.  It was Michael.  He stared into my eyes, then dropped his head in prayer.  I confess, at that moment I ceased praying.  Michael was well known for not touching ladies (even the old ladies that wanted to shake his hand after a church service.) Now he held my hand while he prayed!

To abuse Shakespeare: Some relationships are born great, some relationships achieve greatness, and some relationships have the first touch grabbed in the middle of a prayer service without advance notice to the woman.

He never spoke on that long hour trip home.  We even stopped and had something to eat, and yet he remained embarrassingly silent.  I was so rattled I talked non-stop.

This sounds like a comically bad first date.  Oh, wait.  It's not a date because Michael didn't pick her up from her house.  Since he picked her up from the church, it's a total non-date. How silly of me to compare it to a date.  Mike did hold her hand, though.  So many mixed little time.

When we pulled into the church parking lot I moved to get out and he reached out and grabbed my hand again, yet he remained totally silent.  It was late.  I was exhausted. (...) My emotions were spent. I wasn't even keyed up, I was so tired. I sat now silent and unmoving, then my tired tongue softly spoke my thoughts.  I reminded him of the young boy he had baptized the previous Sunday evening.  I talked about how the boy kept jumping up in the water so he could see his parents.

Debi's description of the baptism moves me.  She does a nice job of describing a sweet scene of childhood joy and familial love.

Then I said the unthinkable: "You know, someday I would love to give you a son."
To my memory I had never ever thought such a thing, but what's said is said.  Michael reacted like a rocket.  Out of the car he shot and into the dark; around the building he ran.  

When I read that bit to my husband, he said in that situation he'd run.  He'd run as far and as fast as he could to get away from a woman who declared she wanted to have his baby on their first date/non-date ministry outing.  

He came running straight to me, then grabbed me around my waist and threw me in the air while shouting, "Let's get married."  And we did, just eight days later on a Sunday evening.

Wow.  Eight days from a hand-clasp to married.  In my church, we have a mandatory 6 month waiting period before you can marry.  I strongly recommend the wait time.  Perhaps six months would have given Debi - and her family - some time to consider what life with Michael Pearl would be like.
Aletha at Yllom Mormon has covered Michael Pearl's book Created to Need a Help Meet.  In the first installment, she reviews Michael's remembrances of his understanding of his sexual desires from childhood onward and Debi and Michael's honeymoon.  Read with care: Michael's treatment of Debi during the honeymoon is brutal and abusive.

The next few posts are more theological in nature as Debi decides use a bunch of randomly strung together Bible quotes to prove that Debi's God is both incredibly petty and incapable of doing anything without human prayers.    It's a hoot and less triggering than the last few posts.


When love is found
And hope comes home,
Sing and be glad that two are one!
When love explodes and fills the sky,
Praise God and share our Maker's joy!

Preparing to Be A Help Meet: Debi and Michael's Love Story - Part Two

In Part One, Debi goes to a youth gathering at a local church and is told by God that she's going to marry Michael Pearl.  She's 13.  He's approximately 21.  Yipee.

Debi goes home and tells her mom the good news:

Then I casually told her that God had spoken to me and told me that, when I grew up, the preacher guy would be my husband.  I handed her the flyer from the Teen Retreat. "Here's the preacher man's name."  My mom acted like it was everyday fare.  I think she really believed me.  She was a new Christian and I guess these things as new to her as they were to me.  She just said "Well, you need to start praying for him.  Being a preacher means he will need a lot of prayer."

Debi, finding out your thirteen year-old daughter has a crush IS everyday fare.  You fell fast and hard for a man you didn't know at all.  That's part of the fun of being a young teenager.

I think Debi's mom responded well to her daughter's crush.  I know I had a ton of crushes on totally unreachable men during my early teen years.  These heartthrobs were a safe way for me to daydream about the romantic and sexual feelings I was starting to have without having to deal with messy reality of junior high boys.  

When Debi is sixteen (and Michael is around 24 years old), they meet again when she's a camp counselor:

Guess who was there?  You got it: my future husband, Mr. King-in-Charge, Famous Preacher Man himself.  He was the special speaker all week, so I had plenty of time to check him out.  All the time I was checking him out, he was checking out one of the other girls at the camp.  I didn't really care, as I had no emotional attachment to him.

I had two thoughts when I read this bit.  First, I hope that the "girl" that Michael was checking out was over 18 and not a teenage camp counselor.   Second, why bring up the fact that Michael was checking another girl out if you didn't care?  It didn't bother Debi at all that the man God told her she was going to marry was scoping out other women?  I find that hard to believe..... (I think I'm gonna be writing that phrase a ton during this series.)

That same summer our regular pastor left our church for greener pastures.  My daddy was on the pulpit committee (the group of men responsible for finding a pastor.  The men called several different preachers to try out. [Debi lists a bunch of reasons none of the other pastors were good enough.] Finally, I said to my dad, "Hey, that preacher guy that was at camp was pretty good.  He is still in Bible college, so maybe he could fill in when you can't find someone else to preach. (...) Anyway, my dad called the college and asked Michael to come and preach at our church for the next Sunday.  Over the next year the young preacher filled in as the speaker on Sunday mornings or evenings several times a month.  Finally, the men decided to ask him to come on as our regular pastor.  So now I called my future husband "Brother Pearl."  We became great friends, but he still treated me like I was a kid.
I am confused. Exactly how famous was Michael?   Four years previous, Michael was such an amazing youth preacher that a church decided to risk 30 teenagers being hit by a tornado rather than cancel (or postpone) his speaking engagement - or so Debi claims.  Fast forward to the summer of the Great Pastor Search and Michael isn't even in the first batch of people called.  In fact, no one on the search committee thinks of him until 16 year-old Debi brings his name forward.

Perhaps Debi is the original and only member of the Michael Pearl Fan Club......

For the next few pages, Debi lays out how exactly she and Michael ended up married.   For me, it's a list of RED FLAGS that Debi missed.

Mike started a ministry for military where he needed a flunky, someone to carry out plans.  We became running buddies.  We worked side-by-side handing out tracts, sharing the gospel, setting up meetings and cleaning up after the ministry was finished.  And I prayed...really prayed that God would use him to minister to the lost.
I'm glad the two of them had interests in common - running and proselytizing don't appeal to me, but hey, whatever works.  My only concern is that Debi describes herself as a flunky for Michael.  For some reason, Debi's contributions to the ministry are of lesser value than Mike's.  That's a bad sign.  If you are working with someone who cannot see the value in what you do, don't get in a relationship.  

Michael usually had a girl friend with him for all these events. Sometimes, I had a boy friend.  It was truly strange. His girl friend would sit between us so he would have to lean forward to talk to me about the meetings or strategy or whatever we had going on.  There, right between us, sat his date with nothing to contribute.  Sometimes we would pray together with some girl sitting there as if she were a non-being.
When normal adults are dating, they put their best foot forward to impress their date.  If you are ignoring your date, discussing topics that don't concern them at all, and pray around them, you are a jackass.  If your date ignores you because a ongoing, non-emergency project is more important than common courtesy,  run away.  

If your date brings another person to all your dates, run away.  

If you are being treated as a non-being, run away.

He never had a clue that I believed he would be my husband.  He even laughingly told me of occasions where other girls approached him and told him that God wanted them to be his wife.  
The times he told me about the other girls, I was glad I kept my mouth shut.

Why was Debi glad she kept her mouth shut?  Michael would have mocked her behind her back just like he was mocking his former girlfriends.   Blatant disrespect for others is a bad sign.

[A few years pass.  Debi graduates from high school, starts and drops out of a Bible college and holds down a job.  She sees Mike being "pushy and demanding"; he sees her mad.  They don't get emotionally involved.]

I find this next passage chilling.
When I turned 20 I knew the time was drawing near.  Still, Mike had never seemed to notice that I was a female.  After seven years, it was beginning to irritate me, so I played a trick on him.  (...) Anyway, on this particular Suanday I asked a young serviceman, who was a cool guy and a good friend of Mike's if he would help me play a trick on my pastor.  With my arm tightly linked with this young man's arm, we walked up giggling to where Brother Pearl sat talking with some other men.  I sweetly looked up at this guy's face then down at Michael and said, "Brother Pearl, I'm getting married."  I don't really know what I expected him to say.  His expression immediately sobered me, making me wish I had not played the trick.  He looked aghast....horrified.  Of course, I tried to laugh it off, saying it was a joke, but I knew at that moment something had changed.  He did not think my trick was funny.
After we married, Michael told me that at that moment he suddenly saw me in a whole different light.  He said he had always taken for granted that I would be there as his buddy, his friend, his helper.  Now he knew I had grown up and would soon be gone.  I would be another man's wife, another man's buddy and another man's helper.  He decided he didn't like that idea.  Can you believe how thick-headed this guy was?  All those years, I was his right-hand man and he just never noticed. (emphasis in the original)

To Michael, Debi has one reason to exist - to serve Michael Pearl.  Michael marries Debi, not for love or companionship, but to keep her as his servant.  

That's really screwed up.

Anti-Pearl:  My husband (Nico) and I had been dating for a month or so when we went to a local tavern to see a Irish music concert.  The tavern was packed!  We were seated at a table with a group of folks we didn't know.  One of the men was a frail elderly man named Joe.  We introduced ourselves and my husband mentioned he was a farmer.  Joe's whole face lit up. Joe started telling Nico about all of the different tractor models and companies he remembered from the last 50 years.  When talking about the tractors, Joe was animated and shared stories from his youth and adulthood.  The wistful expression in Joe's eyes made sense when he explained that he had recently moved into the city to live with his daughter.  He loved his daughter and was glad she could care for him, but he missed living in the country. 
While the band played, it was too loud to chat with Joe, but between sets, Nico would laugh and listen to Joe's stories and the two of them would banter happily about the changes both good and bad in tractor design.  Watching Nico interact with Joe reaffirmed to me what a kind, gentle and loving heart Nico had.   That night, I knew that if Nico was that kind to a stranger we would never see again, I could trust him to be gentle with me and my heart.