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May 14, 2009

Wild Hamsters

In my sermon "Losing Your Religion" I have an illustration where I tell about how my brother and I went to a circus in Hollywood on the day they were setting up for their show. We saw these little ponies on a treadmill trotting around and around. They were so cute ponyand happy with their little harnesses jingling and jangling as their little pony legs pranced to the sound of circus music. We were immediately drawn to them and like every red blooded American boy; each of us secretly wished we had one of our own. When I reached out to pet one a nearby circus worker shouted at me and said, "Hey.....don't pet the ponies!"

"Why not?" I said with the same look on my face that my kids get when they're about to do something I just told them not to do.

"They bite!" was his only reply.

I almost started laughing. Everyone knows that ponies don't bite. What in the world was this guy's problem? I just decided to stand there with my hands in my pockets and wait for the "carne" to leave. Five minutes later he was off frying corn-dogs or something and I stepped forwardbite and reached out my hand to pet my little circus pony. To my utter astonishment, he snarled and snapped at me! He showed his pony teeth and actually tried to bite me! And he growled. This thing was like a pit-bull in a pony suit. I couldn't believe my eyes. What in the world happens to ponies that makes them this angry at the world?

I thought about this for years. I racked my brain to figure out why these ponies were so angry and mean. Then, I put myself in the ponies place, and it made total sense. Imagine, being on a treadmill, forced to go around and around for the rest of your life. You long to just walk straight and explore the world but someone has tied you to a contraption that f orces you to go in circles your entire life. These particular ponies were wearing blinders on their faces so they could only see directly in front of them. They weren't allowed to even see the world to the right or left or anywhere beyond their treadmill. I could imagine becoming pretty pissed off if that were me.

This is precisely what I see in modern day Christianity. Christians are often times the meanest people you will ever meet. I used to own two businesses, and I can tell you firsthand that we were able to accurately judge whether or not a person was a Christian simply by how mean-spirited they were during our business relationship. I can't tell you how many times someone was downright rude to us, and as they walked away, my wife looked at me and said, "They must be Christians." We would find out the very next day that she was absolutely right. In my catering business, I finally had to make a rule that we would not cater parties put on by churches. I simply had to do this because my employees were so mistreated at these parties they would end up quitting on me.

If you go on most Christian websites where there is a comment section, a chat room or a forum that allows people to communicate with each other, you will see exactly what I mean. It's so bad that it's embarrassing. Everyone is biting and attacking everyone. The level of self-righteousness, and condescension is so thick it's difficult to even function in the midst of it all. People are selfrighteously rebuking and correcting everyone. It's an internet blood bath. For this very reason, I decided in my mind that when we built the Free Believers Network, we would never have a forum. I was terrified that Free Believers would behave the same way I've seen Christians behave for the last twenty years.

I was wrong.

I can honestly say that I have been totally blown away by how loving and gentle people are when they come to the Free Believers Network Website. We positioned people on the forum to jump in and warn anyone who was rude or looking for a debate to knock it off or freethey'll be banned from the site. Amazingly it almost never happens! In the last year, we have had only about 5 people leave rude comments on the Blog page. That's pretty amazing when you consider that hundreds of people visit our website every day leaving comments to the blogs and articles. Out of those five people who did behave rudely; every single one of them still attend an institutional church and would not consider themselves to be Free Believers. They either stumbled on the site by accident or they came because they had a Free Believer friend who referred them to the site.

The point of all of this is not to try and hoist Free Believers up above other Christians. I'm simply expressing what I have observed in the last year with this website. I am certain that the difference in attitude lies in the freedom. Free Believers are NOT on the religious treadmill they were raised on. They're not stuck "grinding at the mill" going around in circles week after week. They don't care to debate anything because they live by what they KNOW instead of what's been taught to them. They don't fight for points of doctrine because their relationship with the Father is their personal doctrine.

There is no denominational ties and boundaries among Free Believers. None of us consider ourselves to be linked to any denomination, so whoever comes into our path, is accepted as an equal almost right away. I literally watch this happen every day on this website! I feel a general spirit among us that resembles a group of people sitting in heaven looking back on their time on earth and laughing at how silly they all were. Once we've all made it to the destination, no one cares anymore what church you went to or whether or not you believed in the doctrine of the trinity or creationism. The Free Believer spirit is extremely laid back and secure.

I find that the institutional system teaches people about a freedom that they need to fight for, but they set it up so the people will never gain it no matter how hard they fight. Thefrreedom frustration and aggravation builds in people's hearts and they begin snapping and slamming one another. The goal for these people is heaven at the end of their life. With Free Believers however, I have noticed an entirely different world altogether. These people behave as though they have already found heaven on earth. Even in the midst of life's sometimes painful moments I watch the average Free Believer handle it so amazingly different from the average institutional Christian that the contrast is too huge to pass off as coincidence.

In the same teaching where I give the illustration about the "snarling ponies," I also end with an illustration about a hamster I owned as a child. His name was Brownie. One day I came home from school to find that Brownie had escaped from his cage. He evidently found a way to climb on the top of his treadmill and use it as a ladder to escape through an opening at the top of the cage.

We searched the house for hours for that hamster and couldn't find him. My father told me that if we didn't find Brownie within the next day or two, we would have to put him down when we did find him because he will become wild. This, as far as I was concerned, was an impossibility. You don't put hamsters "down." They don't become wild like Tigers or Bears. I honestly thought that was the most ridiculous thing in the world.

We didn't find Brownie in the next day or two. We didn't find him until a little over two weeks had passed. My brother started yelling from the basement that he had found Brownie. We all thundered down the stairs as excited as could be. Sure enough; Brownie was sitting quietly in the corner of the basement. I couldn't believe he was still alive. How did he eat? Where did he find water? It was nothing short of amazing that this hamster was still among the living. To top it off, he actually looked quite healthy!

When I walked over to pick him up - this hamster literally stood on his hind legs, showedhis teeth and hissed at me. I could not believe my eyes! He wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He was officially wild. My father was right! He actually preferred finding his own food in the wild, over having it freely measured in a bowl in his cage. He would rather search the house for water than sit in a cage and nibble it freely out of his straw like hamstercanteen. The only difference in Brownie's appearance was that he looked about fifty times stronger than he ever did before he escaped.

I go on to say in that particular sermon what I want to say to every Free Believer reading this article. Once you have a taste of freedom, don't ever allow yourself to be put back into bondage! I want to see you standing on your hind legs, showing your teeth and hissing at "religion" when it tries to cage you again. My goal is to raise a herd of wild hamsters who guard their freedom with their life! Wild hamsters who prefer to find food and water in the wild rather than have it portioned out to them by an owner.

"It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Stand firm, then, and do no let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

Darin Hufford


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  1. Gravatar

    Yeh, I recognize a bit of that in me. :) But, I must ask, what became of Brownie the Wild Hamster? Did he go back to the cage?

  2. Gravatar

    I think the misunderstanding (often, complete ignorance) of the truth of heaven on earth is another big stumbling block to Christians. I think it goes hand in hand with being tethered to walking in circles. The mindset becomes, if heaven is Tomorrow, we're still trying to earn it and secure it Today. Something else you wrote recently made me aware that I don't remember ever hearing any teaching at IC regarding heaven coming down to earth and being a reality now for Father's children...

  3. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    The same thing happened to Brownie that happened to the original Free Believers in the New Testament. He was put down. :)

  4. Gravatar
    Wade H


    I would surmise that Brownie got a couple of pairs of "cement shoes." Those wild hamsters are DANGEROUS and must be eliminated. If you don't put them down, they will teach all the tame hamsters to be wild. Then you'll have a wild hamster revolution to contend with....not good.

  5. Gravatar

    Well said Wade! A wild hamster revolution...LOL.
    Thanks again Darin for another insightful article. I am happy to be in the wild =D

  6. Gravatar

    Can relate..Bet that was kinda how Samson felt..round and round..powerless..until...whoops down came the temple..(of course him with it.)

  7. Gravatar

    So true Darin! The FBN forum is about the only online discussion group that I have felt comfortable posting on. I was actually scared to post on some other ones I have browsed because I wasn't looking to debate theology or prove that I was right. Some people seem like their goal is to make you feel stupid. No thanks.

  8. Gravatar

    Also, as a new resident of bear country, I have been learning more about bear behavior. The bears that become aggressive are the ones who have been fed by humans and get spoiled. I can see a parallel with our spoon fed Christianity versus finding God on our own.

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    You have me in the hamster army, mister! Our hamster soldiers will take care of Europe, yours will take care of USA. In the end we make a Hamster wars movie. International cooperation and production. In 50 years wild hamsters will overcome even Mars.. ;)
    BUT wait a minute, what Bible verse is the Hamster doctrine based on!!!!!??!!? :D

  10. Gravatar

    Good illustration Darin! I've seen that mean spirited attitude too many times before on various Christian blogs. 'Shunning' and 'cliques' are also connected to the same attitude. Throw them in a bowl and mix 'em up and you've got a variety of 'performance snags.'

  11. Gravatar

    Kind of makes me wonder what the real threat to our countries'(usa)well being is! IC or the Taliban!

  12. Gravatar

    Makes me wonder too! The IC...?

  13. Gravatar

    Actually, I think it's religion in any form. I've found that can even be manifested outside of the IC.

  14. Gravatar
    David Backus

    I bare my teeth constantly. A wild hamster I most certainly am. I fought tooth and nail to get my freedom, one would have to pry it from my cold dead hands!

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    It is hard not to extrapolate a life lesson from the pony analogy. This is a true story: When I was a child, my dad traded Little Lady, a sweet and gentle lamb, for Skeeter, the meanest pony that ever lived. I don't know what made Skeeter so mean, but roaming freely on acreage and the gentle love of children did not improve his disposition. He continued to bite, kick, and knock people to the ground. How different he was from the lamb that nuzzled and played with us. But I remember that originally we wanted Skeeter and eagerly let Little Lady go. Finally, much to our relief, Skeeter departed too, and we were left with nothing. Though I was unsure of his fate, I now consider that my dad dropped Skeeter at a local church, and he is running the show today! Thanks for the memories.

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    Shannon Brown

    Oh to be FREE and living in the wild...there is nothing like it!!! I will NEVER go back to that cold,dark,stinky cage.

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    I worked for a Christian boss twice and dont knwo if I ever do it again. They treated me like no "worldly" boss would fired me in a way that was just mean...without any qualification-meeting or other clarifying talk. The way one of them fired me was actually illegal...
    I think also that christians in the institutional church are trained to be nice and not offending that there is a boiling pot in their heart with all the feelings and thoughts they never are allowed to express, so it just bursts out of them once in a while.

  18. Gravatar

    Wow! I thought it was just me who felt that way! I am new to this and still finding my way and I have loved how I can ask questions and be real and don't fear somebody is going to jump on me with both feet. But at the same time you are straight about what (or I mean to say WHO) you know.

  19. Gravatar

    Not all Christians are bad, rude, or whatnot. I'm a Christian and I love God and Jesus with all my heart. You say that Christians are judgemental, but look at yourself. You're judging us. Jesus died for us ALL and He saved us from sin and going to hell. He loves you and cares deeply for you. Only HE can save your sorry judgemental self.

  20. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Ronni did you even read this article? Your post doesn't even make sense. If this is what you came away with, you seriously need to ask a close and trusted friend to sit with you and explain exactly what is being said here. I honestly think you missed about 70% of this entire blog. My guess is that you got mad about a third of the way through and just posted an angry comment before finishing reading what was written. This isn't about pointing the finger and blaming Christians, it's about explaining why so many people in the Christian world are so short fused and ready to snap at the drop of a hat.

  21. Gravatar

    Darin, am I right? When I first read it, it sounded as though you were blaming Christians...Some are rude and hateful. Some churches try to win salvation by getting the most people to come to their church and to get saved (as though it's a contest). I'm sorry that I misread your blog. We do need to stay firm in our faith in Jesus Christ. We need to fight for HIM. Everyday is a constent battle between Satan and God. I'm free from the bondage of sin, death, Satan. I'm not going back. Forgive me. I was half asleep when I stumbled upon this website the first time.

  22. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    :-) No problem Ronni, I've done that several times before. I understand. You sound like you are new here. How did you come across this website Ronni??

  23. Gravatar

    I was looking up pictures on google for a new story I'm writing...Inspiring Romance. I'm thinking of Prisoned Hearts for the title. And I just saw this when I clicked on the picture with the heart behind bars with the light shining through.

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