Karen Carpenter

12 02 2013

I am not sure I have ever loved a voice like that of Karen Carpenter. I grew up listening to the Carpenters. I identified with their love songs and somewhat melancholy lyrics. I could date events in my life by their hit songs. Richard wrote and played keyboard, his sister Karen sang and played drums. Last Sunday was the 30th anniversary of Karen’s passing, a victim of Anorexia.

I don’t live a life of “what ifs”. For example, “what if Karen was still alive, what songs would Richard write for her to sing?” You can not change the past and you can not make the present something that it is not. I can talk about me as I lived through events in the past. Allow me to share a memory for the sake of those who could learn from it.

After I trusted Christ as my Savior, I was the poster child of zeal without knowledge. I blindly followed a strong and popular fundamentalist leader into a subculture of Christianity that preached without compromise against sin, believed without question the Bible, and sought with strong passion the salvation of the lost. None of that was bad of itself, unless it is tagged with a deceptive lifestyle in which I now call “legalism”. Legalism is a highly demanding set of what I thought were Bible principles, keeping its followers in tune with God and meriting His approval. Some have defined it as a list of man-made “do’s and dont’s” given equal status to clear Bible commands. It is a brand of Christianity that prides itself on being right and if there is one not like them, they are in some degree wrong. “Compromise” was a word used to define non-legalistic Christians. In the New Testament, the Pharisees would be comparable to this way of thinking. You will never know its magnetism unless you are a part of it. I received two college degrees from one the strictest of all Fundamental Baptist institutions called Hyles-Anderson College in Hammond Indiana. All of us pictured ourselves as the next Jack Hyles (its founder) and leading our congregations into a highly disciplined, God-loving, sin fighting, uncompromising, separated from the world, soldiers for Jesus.

Karen Carpenter died in 1983 when I was drowning in a sea of legalism. I gave up on all such “worldly” music for the glory of God. I was a Youth Director then, and ready to spread condemnation to the world and to anyone who happened to disagree with my opinions. When Karen Carpenter passed away, it barely registered on my radar, I was that far gone.

30 years later, I consider the spiritual blackout of legalism as a damaging time for me and my family in which we may never recover. I consider it a black hole that caught me by its powerful force and sucked me into a period of spiritual paralysis. If you are there now, please consider my words, run to the grace of God.

Karen Carpenter, thank you for the music and memories. You are missed.

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