Last week Dan Haseltine, a prominent Christian from Jars of Clay, reconsidered his political stance on the legality of civil, same sex marriage (as I discussed yesterday), and the conservative Christian internet got one of those eyelid twitches that happens during unexpectedly infuriating moments.
Last week Sarah Palin, an even more prominent Christian, bragged that if she were in political power, she would happily waterboard (torture) the state’s enemy prisoners as a way to “baptize them”… and much of the same conservative Christian internet that took on Dan Haseltine, didn’t care.
Two high-profile Christians made public statements– one that was simply questioning a civil issue in an honest attempt to learn and process, and one that actually advocated using one of the Holy Sacraments of the Church as a way to torture people.
As a true-blue “born again” Christian who has committed to giving my entire life to the way of Jesus, only one of those statements offends me. Only one makes me want to spit battery acid.
One of them was legitimate questioning…. and the other?
Well, the other was as much of an anti-Christ statement as I have ever heard.
As in, straight from the pit of hell kind of statement.
Yet, there are plenty of Christians outraged that Haseltine would question civil gay marriage, but don’t so much bat an eye at the practice of water-boarding prisoners.
My friends, this is a classic case of misplaced Christian outrage. You see, I actually do believe there is a time for outrage. There’s a time for anger. There is a time for righteous indignation. There is a time for all of it. But as American Christians, this type of wonderful, righteous and holy outrage has been horribly misplaced.
All this makes me think back to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In it, he chides them for their misplaced priorities by asking, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”
It is as if Paul is saying, “Are you out of your ever-loving-minds? Did someone cast a spell on you? Have you completely lost it??”
I can think of no more applicable scripture to this week’s events, than to recall Paul’s befuddlement with the Galatians.
American Christians: have you lost your minds?? Who is it that told you that you should freak out over someone’s political stance on civil gay marriage instead of Christian leaders who are advocating that we torture other bearers of the divine image of God? Did someone cast a spell on you? How is it that your righteous outrage got so misplaced?
You see, Jesus actually encouraged people to ask questions and wrestle with things. Remember? Jesus is the one who said that we have to come as little children.
Children ask questions… all. day. long. They’re infinitely curious, always asking questions, they’re willing to learn, and even willing to re-learn when necessary.
In this we see that not only is Jesus a big enough boy to handle our questions, he encourages us to ask them. Asking questions is a hallmark of being a Jesus follower, according to Jesus himself.
But torturing people and using violence against other human beings? Well, Jesus in fact did mention that too– many times, actually. He rebuked disciples willing to use violence (Mt. 26:52), commanded them to refrain from all violence (Mt. 5:39), and even went as far as saying that those wish to be counted as true children of God must nonviolently love their enemies (mt. 5:45).
So here’s the score between Dan Haseltine and Sarah Palin, according to the Jesus we find in the New Testament:
Questions = totally welcomed.
Willingness to use violence = not acting a true child of God. (Which by my math leaves only one other option)
That’s how the Bible compares the behavior of Haseltine and Palin.
You know, the book that I actually do affirm is inspired by God and authoritative for how we live our lives. Yeah, that Bible.
One individual acting as a child of God by asking questions and being willing to learn.
One individual acting like the Prince of Darkness (not Ozzy, the other one) by gleefully rebelling against the teachings of Christ and advocating that we use violence to torture people. AND, she actually compared that torture to one of the Holy Sacraments of the Church– the one where we believe that Jesus himself is divinely present!
Being outraged at Haseltine instead of Sarah Palin, is misplaced Christian outrage and leaves me with one simple question (hat tip to Paul):
You foolish, foolish American Christians! Who has bewitched you??
Looking forward to reading more. great article. Really looking forward to reading more books. cool. I really enjoy reading a thought provoking article. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!
I agree with your point of view, your article has given me a lot of help and benefited me a lot. Thanks. Hope you continue to write such excellent articles.
This is what happens when you don’t have an evidence based method of determining morality…
As an atheist, I praise Palins words, not for the content, but because she just ensured that another clutch of young Christians will be disgusted and will look more closely at the big picture of religious philosophy.
“Welcome to humanism kids. We wont pretend to have all the answers, but at least we are honestly trying to work them out.”
I also hope that a bunch of Christian kids will look more closely at the big picture of religious philosophy because of her statements, and I’m Christian. Being able to think critically is a lost fricking art.
I’m not saying I’m necessarily in favor of torture but the verses you used from the sermon on the mount have to include the caveat that they specifically apply to personal relationships. Legitimate governments have other guidelines to consider (Romans 13). Further is waterboarding really “violent?” I’m no expert but it doesn’t leave any kind of lasting affect on the person correct?
There’s a kind of violence that doesn’t leave a lasting effect on the victim?
And do you believe that pouring water into someone’s mouth, to the point that they inhale that water and fear they might drown, is this kind of “gentle violence”?
Because usually the next thing we here is how Dan Haseltine left Christianity and is starting a secular band. Christians who embrace gay marriage quickly become not-christians, and tend to jettison all the rest of the faith whether or not they keep it in name only.
Sarah made a bad joke, and you can repent from those. People who tend to think SSM is right don’t see any need to repent from it, and tend to start tearing down the rest of the Bible too.
They move away from Christianity because it has stopped acting like Christianity.
It is now becoming a legalistic Shari’a Law thing, where ANY questioning of the church’s bankrupt naked political advocacy is treated as evil & unthinkable.
Sir, YOU and that attitude is why these Christians leave your church. YOU and all the Falwellites and Dobsonites and Robertsonites and Rushdoonyites!
You don’t represent Jesus anymore, in any way. We do not recognize Him, that heart of unceasing and limitless love, in anything your greedy and power-hungry church teaches! He is not to be found among you.
I’m not talking about that. Even if fundamentalists are wrong, that doesn’t mean you change what you believe about Jesus. You don’t suddenly decide He is just a man, or start to take His teachings as figurative. God doesn’t judge what you believe on what the fundamentalists do, and He doesn’t change His words based on it.
What I see is that a lot of the Christians who embrace SSM do not also embrace things that are part of the Bible. They just act a lot like secular people, even to the point of other areas of sexual morality. I’ve even found progressive Christians defending polyamory. They’ll stop believing that we need to be saved.
Edit: If you’re a political conservative or liberal in general, I don’t see this. You can agree or disagree on things like war, the best way to help the poor, etc, and it really not affect your beliefs as much. This is because none of those things really affect how you view the authority of scripture or how you view Jesus. But SSM actually hits the authority of scripture hard, because you have to explain away those verses that are against it.
That mindset seems to creep over into the rest of a person’s life and affect the rest of their faith. I would debate on SSM with someone i assumed believed as a brother, and find out that they were willing to trash almost anything in the pursuit of justifying it, like the authority of the Bible or Paul’s ability to tell the truth.
*shrug* that’s all I see. Even Rachel Held Evans really seems to be the same way; her Year of Biblical Womanhood read like someone who doesn’t even get the scripture at all.
What did Jesus say about homosexuality and same sex marriage?
Author of Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
What did Paul say? A lot. And Paul was just as inspired by God; God used him to expound the theology behind sin and salvation so we could understand more of Jesus’s words. You’re already drawing curtains around parts of the Bible or beginning to debunk things in it you don’t like by restricting it to Jesus.
Even then, Jesus convicts us. He says we shouldn’t let sexual sin distance us from God; he used hyperbole and said it’s better to tear your eye out than do so. He also compared Christianity to a buried treasure in a field, saying we should sell everything we have to buy the field and dig up the treasure. Too many SSM advocates are really saying in their hearts “I want to keep my money; it isn’t worth being celibate for the kingdom of heaven.” They’d rather choose sin than it, or even being generous, choose earthly happiness over it.
I never see SSM Christian advocates struggle with this. Gay marriage is purely an unadorned good easily compatible with Christianity as they describe it. But even heterosexual marriage isn’t according to Paul and Jesus, that Christianity is a divisive force between all bonds.
I’m sorry if this comment is long, but the issue is not easily summed up in a few words.
sword – you seem to very easily dismiss those who believe differently than you, particularly in the matter of how scripture is interpreted. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush – it’s inaccurate, and may serve your purposes, but simply isn’t true. Those of us who understand the authority of scripture differently than you do are no less Christian than you are; nor is our faith less important or less authentic than yours. I know many “SSM Christian advocates” who have struggled long and hard with this and other scriptures, in an attempt to understand and be faithful to them – they simply come out at a different place on this issue than you do. It doesn’t take scriptural gymnastics to see the problems with this – just a little understanding of what these texts are attempting to address, and what most have seen, over the centuries, as a proper application and understanding of scripture.
It’s how they come out at that place is troubling, and it often leads to these people not having much of a faith left. The process they use to reconcile this is corrosive to other areas they think are unrelated, but aren’t.
If the progressive outlook could lead to sincere, devout faith in Jesus Christ that is orthodox in the things that matter; sin, salvation, the identity of Jesus, etc, I’d shut up about this and just accept that saving faith is more important. But I see when people hold this issue, the rest of the faith tends to corrode. You progressives aren’t creating Christians, but proto-atheists, at least in my knowledge; otherwise I’d be happy that at least people are being saved in more numbers, and God can iron them out in heaven.
Do you see my inbox that is usually flooded with people who walked away because of guys like you but came back to faith because of this blog? You might want to shut up now.
Fox News & expensively purchased RW propaganda radio, which shows little regard for truth OR democracy OR the American people.
As for Sarah, in my scriptural explorations, I encountered the idea of the Whore of Babylon, who “lives deliciously” and commits fornication with all the Kings and Merchants of the Earth.
I long ago decided the Whore was a metaphor for the collusion of oppressive governments, financial systems, and religious systems of control.
Or metaphor for the ego within all humankind…
Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
Jars of Clay is advocating expanding the ingroup.
Palin is advocating punishing the outgroup.
Conservatives limit the ingroup and punish the outgroup. This is a core function of conservative psychology.
First of all the two cases are unrelated. Both cases would need to be considered on
their own arguments. It is illogical to group them together or assert that one is not that bad compared to the other.
Secondly, who cares what either of them say? I don’t follow either of them and they don’t speak for my faith or the Christian church in America.
Thirdly, I take issue with this assertion Sarah Palin is a “Christian Leader”. At best she is a politician and also a Christian.
Fourthly, she is not being serious, and isn’t equating torture with baptism.
Fifthly, “Willingness to use violence =not acting a true child of God” is not biblical. Ever read the OT? Didn’t Jesus act violently when he cleared the temple? Violence isn’t a sin, the motive and reasons determine that. Torture = sin, violence – no.
Palin actually was serious and has reiterated that in followup interviews.
And no, Jesus did not act violently. The cleansing of the temple was a protest, but scripture does not state that he physically harmed people. Had he done so, he would have been arrested on the spot.
And yes, violence is prohibited (is a sin) according to the plain, face-value teachings of Jesus– exact references were in the article. One would have to say “the teachings of Jesus are simply metaphorical” in order to set aside all of his nonviolent teachings.
I’m not concerned with hashing out and defining what “violence”
is or what it is not. But since God commanded wars, and for people to destroy cities, and considering that Jesus affirmed the OT I think, “violence is a sin” is an incorrect statement and needs to be qualified.
More to the point, I take issue with the entire concept of placing any value on statements from people like this. The bigger problem is not that stupid people say stupid things; but that Christians tend to follow people and place more value than they ought in celebrities rather than THE one we should follow. If some singer or politician let you down by what they said then maybe you placed too much value on their position.
What Paul was talking about in Galatians was not being upset
with what celebrities said, but of false teachers perverting the way of salvation. These people aren’t false teachers. They’re just ignorant people with platforms who shouldn’t have them in the first place.
Well, calling violence a sin isn’t an incorrect teaching, but I can’t read the Bible for you. I guess you’ll have to work up enough curiosity to do it yourself.
But yes, you’re right that Jesus at times did affirm the OT, but at times he also disagreed with it and told his disciples to no longer follow certain parts– particularly, the part about retributive violence (the lex talionus), and repeatedly taught that Christians are to refrain from participation in any violence. It’s all right there, in the red words. Paul reaffirms it several times as well, even including a commitment to nonviolence as a requirement of a church elder or pastor.
The early church saw the difference between the apparent “violent God” of the Hebrew scriptures, and that which they met in Christ, that some thought they were two different deities. Marcion thought the God of the Hebrew scriptures was actually Satan, and believed it had no part in the Christian church! If one assumes that every word of scripture is as important and authentically the spoken “word of God” as every other word, it is hard to make the two jibe. That is why Christians have followed the rule of interpreting the “Old” through the “New,” interpreting the Hebrew scriptures through the lens of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. Seen in that way, these wars were Israel’s understanding that God was with them, and that he was true to his promise; that, not the Holy War theology, is the church’s understanding of these texts.
The cleansing of the temple by overturning the tables is a great metaphor! Where did Jesus say the Father (Spirit) dwelled? He said within the temple made without hands, you. So if he had zeal for the Father’s house, that house is within you. The Christ nature resident within all (Christ in you the hope of glory) is overturning the tables of our own ego-centric being, the part of us that is self seeking, self serving.
Author of Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
I only care in that as Palin is probably one of the most ignorant specimens of DNA to come from Homo Sapiens, there appears to be a number of Americans who seem to hang on her every misguided, ridiculous word and who give her a medium by which to spew her idiocy.
That bothers me even though I sense the majority of Americans find her unworthy of the attention she receives.
Both statements are very concerning.
One of the things I have noticed with the conservative stripe of Christianity is that attitudes towards homosexuality has become a litmus test to one’s orthodoxy. I have observed that homosexuality is worse than fornication, adultery, murder, and gossip and those who are even the slightest sympathetic towards gays and lesbians should also face the same fate. The subtext is “God loves everyone except gays and their sympathizers.”
I am glad that there are Christians (even in the conservative stripe) that are denouncing Sarah Palin’s corruption of baptism.
it’s more like I can tell that a person who believes in SSM will quickly start to deny things like Jesus’s divinity, or that hell exists. Or that they’ll start waffling on what Christianity even means. Like go over to tony jones’s and you see he starts saying things like premarital sex isn’t that bad. You get the sense that their faith is decoration to a mindset which is straight east-west coast knowledge worker leftist.
I see this so much that when a person says that SSM is spiritually okay. If they want to argue about secular legality its different, but spiritual stuff says a lot about how a person views the authority of scripture and what they think about God. For some reason it’s common in the ways that other things aren’t, even general leftism.
You’re not a Christian.
You’re a rule-Worshipper.
You are an Authoritarian Follower.
There is not one Christlike trait that emanates from you. You don’t know Him. You just like bossing people around.
The irony in this is you sound more fundamentalist than many fundamentalists that I know.
Just to clarify… You’re saying the reason you cling to your homophobia is so that you don’t start critically examining your views on other questions?
When did I stop beating my wife?
Assume bad faith from the start, and you win the debate every time, right?
Because assuming bad faith isn’t what you’re doing in your opposition to this progressive notion of being okay with civil SSM? Based on all your other statements here, that automatically starts the road to atheism?
(I mean, I’ve been okay with the idea of civil SSM for at least 20 years, and there isn’t an atheist bone in my body…)
The problem with the purest form of faith is that it leaves no room for doubt. What would have happened if Jesus told his disciple Thomas to “Just believe” rather than present his hands to be tested by touch? The first paragraph in your reply is riddled with slippery slope and straw man argumentation.
You also bring up Tony Jones’ statements and I have read some of them. Our world is very removed from the world of the authors of the Bible. Mr. Jones’ analysis re-connects us to the culture and the thought of the time which give us an even greater understanding to the passages. We have been taught the Bible one way but what happens when that comes in conflict with what went into the writing?
But at some point you have to have faith in the authority of the scriptures to tell us about God. If you don’t, you become unstable about everything. You cannot doubt the core of your faith in a meaningful way and remain a professing Christian for long.
I’m not even sure what doubt has to do with this. My point was that one particular belief seems to show that a person is often severely deficient in their Christian walk, and neglects basic fundamentals anyone naming themselves Christian should hold. This isn’t doubt as opposed to letting an alien belief system that isn’t Christianity influence your thinking.
Do you believe Ben has an “alien belief system that isn’t Christianity” influencing his thinking?
Possibly. Wouldn’t be the first Christian entertainer influenced, wouldn’t be the last. They have their own special dangers and crosses to bear.
So you believe those who differ with your interpretation of the Bible can never have a good idea, a point or knowledge you don’t have?
Frankly, I find that a bit arrogant. Ben is very knowledgeable in Christian history and theology (and not an entertainer, that I am aware of) and has studied the Gospels in the original languages. He might just have insights to offer. If you put up a wall around your ‘fundamentals,’ you’ll never be able to see them. That might be your loss.
The problem is guys like Ben feel more like they are dressing up the values of their social class in faith rather than having a genuine one. I’d listen to a progressive on other matters, but I keep getting this feeling every single time I read one.
Like let’s say we had a despot take over the USA. He will make into practice every single article of faith a left-leaning urban knowledge worker would want, but he would then outlaw Christianity. Everything: SSM in all fifty states, anti-homophobia measures, guaranteed minimum wage, caps on CEO salaries, perfect foreign policy, etc.
I want you to ask yourself this; apart from not being able to meet in a church once a week, what would you lose?
I don’t understand your question. Since I don’t attend a church, I guess, in your totally impossible hypothetical scenario I would lose nothing.
Back in the real world, however, do you feel your faith is more genuine than Ben’s? Why?
Let me speak in general.
I ask a progressive about SSM, he says it’s spiritually fine. I then decide to ask him about hell. He says “I don’t believe in it, it’s a barbaric practice.” He doesn’t believe in any form of eternal separation from God a man can choose; it’s not just about “I don’t believe God roasts people.”
Confused, I ask him about sin and salvation. Usually I get a muddled mess, because no hell and no separation means nothing to be saved from. Usually it’s in terms of politics, or maybe positive thinking/self actualization. Like if you go to Sojourners, you don’t really see them talking about stuff like that in their articles; very little sin/hell language unless its Hitler or the racist of the day or something.
Let’s say I forget about this. I say “how do you feel about premarital sex?” He says “It’s fine when two people are in love, but use protection.” Or Polyamory “I don’t like it, but as long as the people consent its fine.”
I notice when I talk to progressives, I essentially get the same things the world talks about, but maybe with a little more God on the side. There’s nothing we have in common, even if you isolate SSM as an issue. Everything is linked together, because beliefs as a Christian can’t be compartmentalized.
I understand you don’t share the same beliefs as progressive Christians. That’s fine. That’s what makes horses race. However, I don’t feel it should have anything to do with secular laws. People who don’t share your beliefs shouldn’t be bound by them. Live your beliefs. Celebrate them. And let everyone else do the same.
Well, I’m saying “spiritually fine.” The law is another matter. Fundamentalists used the law according to the rules of the democratic process, and lost. You have to let the unbelievers be unbelievers.
I would follow up by saying that your disagreement with progressive Christianity has no bearing on weather or not the faith of progressive Christians is genuine. You have no right to assume they are not sincere in their beliefs, any more than they have the right to make that assumption about you.
I can point out their beliefs are incoherent and tend to lead to them being functional or even admitted atheists, based on what I see. Anyone can be sincere about anything.
Yes, you can. You have that freedom. They (or I) can point out the cruelty, injustice and unreality we see in your beliefs.
However, you don’t seem to be doing that. You seem to be playing the “I decide who’s a “real Christian” game, where you (or the views you favor) decide who counts and who does not. This is something Ben is not doing. He may question your facts, the outcomes of your views, or your reasoning, but he is not questioning your faith. You appear to be questioning his. Why?
You are an anti-Christian demon attempting to lead people away from Jesus.
Your summary of progressives is absurd. You’re coming on the blog as if you know me or even the context of this blog, and you don’t. Saying “progressive” has become as broad as any other term, so to act as if we’re all the way you described is outright ignorant. What you are describing is the far extreme, most liberal unorthodox example.
Well done, Ben. I can’t imagine a better example of the dangerous obsession with sexual behavior and the willingness to ignore any other sort of immorality that has, sadly, become a feature of much of conservative Christianity in the states.
A loving, monogamous, supportive and happy same-gender marriage? Abomination! The brutal torture of someone we think might be an “enemy,” and invoking a sacred ritual in the process. Patriotic!
How twisted is this?
It also shows a terrible and unhealthy conflation of an earthly “kingdom” (the United States) with the kingdom of God. 1 Peter and Hebrews talk about our being “pilgrims and sojourners,” aliens in the land, because we live under the reign of God, and are members of God’s kingdom. There is far too much idolatry of the United States among evangelicals.
I was just trying to make that point to someone who was complaining that we would be “dishonoring the Kingdom (presumably of God)” by allowing something in law that he believes God condemns. I tried to explain that we don’t live in any kingdom, at least physically. We in the U.S. live in a democratic republic. We pass laws to prevent harm. We don’t pass laws regulating actions based on religious beliefs. If we did, if the dominant religion changes, we could see laws banning blood-transfusions, most medical care, many forms of banking, eating pork or shellfish, some kinds of insurance, vaccinations and more. Do we really want to go there?
Not much you can do as a Christian. I think too many of us conservatives got used to the brief time when spiritual and secular culture aligned, and forgot that we are almost always like Daniel in the lions den. Our values aren’t always the world’s values.
This author, and many MANY others are TOTALLY missing the point. Dan Hastline ALSO said “The scriptures are not at all clear on anything regarding morality” Can anyone tell me what is so unclear about “Thou shall not kill”? Dan was nothing more than a judas goat, leading his christian flock to the slaughterhouse.
Any doctrine that wants to prevent the state from recognizing a loving, consensual gay relationship while ignoring calls for torture is a sick, damaged culture.
Christians kill. Just talk to The Irish Atheist about that. Why, if “thou shall not kill” is so straightforward, are Christians often enthusiastic supporters of wars, sometimes firm “2nd amendment solution” advocates and often happy with the application of the death penalty. I’m sure you’ll raise arguments about self defense, defense of the nation and punishment of crimes. So, “thou shall not kill” is not simple at all, is it?
There is room for nuance in “thou shall not kill,” but no room for nuance in other places?
Jewish scholars always regarded scriptures as a conversation with God; in fact, they have held that the Torah that is not written is more important than that which is. Many of the laws in the Hebrew Bible have not been followed for more than two thousand years – many, such as stoning of disobedient children, have no evidence that they were ever followed. Jews and Christians have been discussing the meaning of “thou shalt not kill” ever since the laws inception (actually, “you shall not murder” is a better translation). The passages regarding homosexuality are even harder to pin down – exactly to what do they refer? Do we accept the Levitical code as applicable, while clearly rejecting other parts of it? And how does Biblical law apply to Christians today – the early church, as a statement of their freedom in Christ, did away with the central laws of the Hebrew scriptures (Sabbath observance, circumcision and dietary restrictions); and Paul clearly rejects the law as a basis for a relationship with God. Luther said there are two uses of the law: civil law, which can be changed but which protects us and orders life; and as an instrument to drive us to Christ. Melanchthon added a third use: that in it we see, as it were, the back of God, and so understand what is of concern to God. In this sense, it can be a guide, nothing more.
That was the point I was trying to make to Mr. Hunt. Mr Roth. You made it much better than I.
The whole idea that many Evangelical Christian folks seem to have, that they can read the King James Translation of the Bible in English and gain every bit of information they need to live ethically and morally in the 21st century is, in my opinion, both dangerous and foolish. Our culture, technology, language and understanding of human rights are profoundly different than the ancient world.
For me, if I had a belief that required me to treat other people badly, to make a special effort to make their lives worse by trying to pass laws denying them basic rights, by openly regarding them as lesser beings, I would take a very hard second look at my belief. Ideas that tell us we must hurt each other in the name of righteousness belong in the dust-bin, in my view.
Nuance, yes, clarity? crystal clear.
Many would argue that there is more room for nuance and interpretation in the few Biblical texts that refer to homosexuality that the many that condemn violence and greed. Yet those texts are often “nuanced” to the point of favoring war and rampant exploitation, while the “clobber verses” regarding homosexuality are magnified out of all context. From an outsider’s perspective, the clarity that you see isn’t there.
he meant the entire content of the bible, not just certain parts. he is a judas goat and has destroyed his and his bandmates careers
Where are you getting that? I read his questions, and they don’t say that at all. You seem, frankly, hyper-sensitive about the questions he asked. (Judas goat, indeed.) Do you know why?
If he’s destroyed his band’s career, that is a black-mark against you and those like you, who demand total conformity and refuse to permit someone raising a simple, honest question.
It won’t hurt my pocket book…it will EMPTY theirs!
And, again, that is a statement against you and those who condemn anyone who does not march in lock-step with your rigid beliefs. It hurts you, because harming someone else is never free.
Hooray! Christians having their careers destroyed by other Christians is a cause for celebration, right?
I think all the goats shall be dancing, yes? (Except the Southern Baptist goats.)
This post, along with your earlier words about Haseltine, keep the words of Brennan Manning echoing in my mind:“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world
today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out
the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving
world simply finds unbelievable.” Thank you for calling this out, Benjamin.
A good point. Well said.
I think there is also a question of scale. Dan Haseltine is front man for a Christian Rock Band and Sara Palin is a former vice-presidential candidate. The whole uproar over Dan Haseltine’s asking a question about marriage equality is an in-house dispute that means nothing to most Americans. Sara Palin’s remarks will be heard by many more people in the US and around the world. Even though she was not speaking in any official capacity many people will see her remarks as confirmation of the negative view that much of the world has of America. Torture is an evil that needs to be thrown on the scrap heap of history.
Not only does it influence others’ understanding of America, and the nuttiness that goes on here; it influences people’s ideas about Christianity, and what it is all about. People almost universally have a negative image of Christians, particularly in the U.S. as narrow-minded, gun toting, kill-them-and-ask-questions-later types who reject education, science, and anything beyond about the fifteenth century.
The more I hear from Huckabee and Palin the more I’m glad they never made the presidency.
My sentiments exactly! I read your post yesterday and was so saddened to see Christian leaders (as in Michael Brown at Charisma) so willing to toss a fellow pilgrim aside just for asking a question. The Palin controversy also shows a deep flaw in what some Americans pass as Christianity. Many years ago, back in the early 1980’s my own Southern Baptist state convention passed a resolution supporting the use of nuclear weapons. I wrote a letter to the state Baptist paper expressing my being appalled that followers of the Prince of Peace would so easily side with the earthly princes or war. My letter was published, but Baptists and many Evangelicals have always supported a culture of war rather than peace. I left the Baptist over that and many other reasons. Glen Stassen, who died just this week was an example of a Baptist scholar who labored against the grain to pave a way for peacemaking in a culture that tends to side with the war machine of the state. He was a man of true consequence, staying within the fold and advocating for a path of peace. Thank you for your contributions here as well.
Charles, I wonder, do you think your letter would be published if you were to send it in today?
Joy – I know it would not be published today. For one thing, that particular editor, may he rest in peace, though a Baptist minister, was also committed to the craft of journalism and always wanted to let all sides be heard. He was a true statesman for the faith. For another thing, the fundamentalists who commandeered the Southern Baptist denomination are much less inclined to entertain questions or to have their decisions challenged.
Thank you for the reply, Charles. Your answer is what I expected but hoped it wouldn’t be.
Christianity has lost touch with its namesake. What would Jesus do? Would he torture for the American cause?
Author of Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
Who would Jesus waterboard?
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Jaguar only from working off a home computer… Recommended Reading CashDuties.ℂom
Is that the same Jesus who wears the robe dipped in blood?
Lester – Valuable reply! The robe dipped in blood is metaphor for the human race that divinity occupies – it is robed in our humanity, the blankets of flesh and blood.
Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
You are certain of this, Author Barbara Symons?
Dave, lol. As certain as anyone can be when they see things metaphorically. I see most scripture (if not all of it) as metaphor and allegory.
Interesting… So you don’t accept the death and resurrection of Jesus as literal, historical events??
I believe the historical account has virtue, yes. But to me the metaphorical interpretation has so much more value.
There is a scripture that says, “These things happened to
them as examples (patterns) for you upon whom the end of the age has come.” This New Testament scripture alludes to Sarah, Abraham’s wife and Hagar his
maidservant. One woman represents the Divine birth and the other what is birthed through the mind and effort of man.
So even the Bible is telling us to see things figuratively, and does so five times: And the scripture compares itself to “allegory” at least five times. (Ezekiel 17:2, Galatians 4:24, Proverbs 1:6, John 10:6 and John 16:29). So we must view some, if not all of scripture as having metaphorical or allegorical value.
I choose to embrace the mystery, understanding that
literalism has its place, but also understanding that, “The letter kills. The spiritual gives life.” This literal understanding of historical events brings death (mortality). What do we have to loose by leaving the history and
embracing the mystery? Contrariwise, we have everything to gain. We have the opportunity to apprehend the mysteries of the ages if we shift our focus and begin to intuit the parables and other scriptures to discover their
No exodus, no nation of Israel, no Babylonian captivity, no Peter or Paul or the spreading of Christianity? All of this is metaphor and allegory?
It is your choice to view things historically or metaphorically – they are not mutually exclusive. One does not negate the other. There is so much more information that can be found if things are viewed figuratively.
I will send you a copy of my book either Kindle or paperback if you would like. It offers figurative interpretation on several scriptures. You can contact me through my website http://www.barbarasymons.com if you are interested.
Barbara, I agree with you that they are not mutually exclusive – for example, I believe in the literal virgin birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, including all of the miracles documented in the four gospels. I believe these events literally happened to real people living in a real place, at a real time in recorded history. At the same time I can see metaphorical lessons in all of the above. The presence of metaphorical truth does not in any way negate the historical facts. I do have concerns, however, with the approach I have heard from many who, upon coming across anything that smacks of the supernatural, assume it must be allegorical and not factual. If we accept the existence of an all-powerful God, then the supernatural is not only believable, but expected. I understand certain parts of the Scriptures are to be understood as figurative language (The “Bride of Christ”, trees clapping their hands, and *hopefully* Jesus’ instruction to lop off an arm or pluck out an eye that leads us into sin). I have conversations with many, however, who lump these obvious examples in with any part of the Bible they simply struggle to believe because it’s outside the realm of our experience or ability to explain (6 days of creation, the flood, Jesus walking on water, the existence of an actual being known as “the devil”, and so on). The wholehearted rejection of the miraculous, explained away by the assumption these stories must be allegories and nothing more, suggests to me a belief system which centers around a god much smaller than the One presented in the Bible. Not saying that is where you are coming from – just sharing my concerns from multiple conversations I have had. Also, while I agree it is our choice to view things metaphorically or historically, I believe holding onto the metaphor exclusively and rejecting the historical leads into dangerous territory. Thanks for your comments!
You may have read this in another post but I have been where you are having spent 43 years within Christian fundamentalism. I understand your views and rational for the most part, quite well. I have left behind the system of Christianity, forsaking it all to find the hope that has inspired the ancients. I departed in 1999 and have searched diligently for almost 15 years, including exegetical studies including the original language in Genesis. You might find it interesting what I have discovered; the language used to interpret this most valuable text is at best a shadow. We have chosen to believe in someone else’s idea because it has been reinforced with repetition and fear. There is no dangerous territory that I fear. If God be for me, then who or what could possibly be against me? I encourage you to study (for yourself, without the use of commentary or lexicon) the original language in the first four chapters of Genesis. It will rock your world.
My story is similar to yours but with a different outcome. I grew up as a PK (preacher’s kid) in a Christian home. Never questioned my beliefs until my last couple years of HS and first year of college. I was baptized at age 15, and experienced God in a life-changing way. Many of my friends saw significant and noticeable changes in me and wanted to know what happened. I had several difficult conversations with friends who wanted what I had but struggled to accept the biblical basis for it as truth – I tried but could not answer their questions. Fast-forward to my first year of college where I had multiple professors who questioned and attacked everything I believed – and that was a very good thing. All of this brought me to a place where I was forced to ask, “Why do I believe the things I believe? Just because my parents told me so, or are there deeper reasons?” So I began to dig in and study the questions, research the language, and challenge my assumptions. I came away more strongly convinced than ever of the beliefs I had been taught from childhood. My conclusions were not in any way based on commentaries. While I understand their value I’ve never been into commentaries – I figure my mind is capable of comprehending what I read and study, and the Holy Spirit is capable of communicating to me on His own, without the opinions of others. Years later I have a couple decades of pastoral ministry and several years of professional counseling under my belt, all of which has been shaped by my belief in the Scriptures as historically true and inspired by an almighty God. The result? Hope, peace, joy, and transformation. I have seen hundreds of people set free from years-long addictions, experience physical healing, marriages and parental relationships restored, and the hopeless finding hope and purpose. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for the many ways I have seen God transform lives through prayer, the study of His Word, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
I am genuinely happy for you and understand the rational behind your story. I began my journey at age five when our neighbor’s daughter (she was just two years old) was healed of inoperable cancer. My parents were
introduced to the faith movement (Oral Roberts, etc.) with this occurrence. I saw many lives changed including my own and felt the presence of God move in my
life and others over forty-three years. The stories are countless.
When miracles happen they tend to validate whatever system of belief one finds themselves within.
So the God of fundamentalism is the God that healed my neighbor and so in my mind I thought that that God was the one I needed to believe in. The fact is, however, that Divinity works within the midst of our flawed systems, and always has. Divinity is everywhere – omnipresent
– even in the depths of despair it is there. This is why there are those that have killed for the crusades and why there are those that kill for Allah.
After my forty-three years within the system of fundamentalism I began to become deeply disillusioned when during my study I found that I had been taught some fundamentals that were (grossly) incorrect. That same Holy Spirit that filled me with gifts had now begun to fill me with wisdom, understanding and love. I came to know the God that Jesus spoke of, Elohims,
not Jehovah of the Old Testament that showed up in Genesis Two after the “fall” of man. Most fundamentalists have a skewed version of God because we have been
spoon-fed a mixture of Jehovah and Elohims. They are not the same.
My message is not for people like you that are satisfied with their journey. If you have joy and peace as you say it is good for you to remain. Why would you move? Rather my message is for those that have had the root of Christ break the “pot”, the structure of their religious concepts.
There are many of us out there that in good conscience can not longer support the judgment and intolerance that fundamentalism employs.
I return, time and time again to my love for Divinity as it
challenges the religious structures that confine and imprison the Christ within. I no longer know Jesus after the flesh, the ways and systems of man but have found Christ within where Jesus said it would be found.
I began by stating I understand the rational behind your story and I do. Recently I spoke to a friend of mine, an apostle that has raised the dead. She is an amazing woman of God and I have great respect for her. This is
an excerpt from my book:
“As we talked, I could tell that my evolving
spiritual stance was throwing up a few red flags in her although she has always been accepting and loving. I said,
“Everything is inside of us! Jesus said
the kingdom is within you. Hell is not a place but is a state of consciousness and Satan—well Satan is our egocentric nature. It is the creative component
within that is an ADVERSARY to our Divinity. As such it creates and maintains our mortal world. The Old Testament tells of the ego’s journey that needed
rules, regulations and boundaries until the time when the Christ seed was deposited into Mary and grew. And metaphorically we are Mary! This is the new
story or the NEW TESTAMENT! We are the ones that were overshadowed by the Divine and impregnated with Christ! This Christ is being birthed in us, through
us, as us—It is not outside of us, it is inside of us! The manger is within! The Garden of Gethsemane is within! The temptation in the wilderness is within our consciousness as the ego tempts us to follow it! The disciples are the twelve different aspects of our consciousness that surround the Christ! Judas
is the aspect of our self that delivers us up to death time and time again. Luke is our healer! Peter is the aspect that can hear the voice of the father. John is closer than a brother. We are being built into a multidimensional
habitation of the Divine just like it says in the Book of Revelation. Our multidimensional body is the New Jerusalem that descends out of “heaven.” And heaven is a higher state of consciousness just like the “upper room” where we meet Christ. It’s all INSIDE OF US!!! It is not
external! This is the Divine Inversion! Consciously, reality as I have known it, is inverting!”
I blurted this all out to her in a matter of
seconds. She stared blankly at me for a moment or two and then slowly, deliberately and authoritatively she said:
“Barbara, you cannot say there is no
hell for I have been there. You cannot say there is no devil for I have stood before him.”
Like I said, Nell has experienced a wide
variety of unusual spiritual phenomena and I did not want to discredit any of it. It was all valid and useful in its time.
I had been leaning in speaking to her and so I straightened and replied,
“These things will appear externally as long as you need them to.”
And so I will end with that. I know my views are controversial but I have to chase after the truth that has been revealed to me. My message is for those that know there is more to apprehend and that will not be found in structural limitation that corrals the mind with fear. Fear of
separation, fear of disenfranchisement and the fear of hell will keep many within the same religious structures that Jesus drove out with a whip, from the temple within man – the temple made without bricks and mortar. The “tables” (platforms) are indeed overturning as zeal for the Father’s house (you) is expressed by the Christ within.
Where you are is a useful and valid part of the journey. I would not trade one step of where I have been. It has all added to the rich tapestry of my experience. However, I am no longer there and I must continue migrating as the Spirit within leads and directs. We are after all, just trying “to walk one another home.” (Rumi)
I see the value in what you are describing, plumbing the metaphorical depths of the Scriptures because there is much to learn there. At the same time I would emphasize the necessity of a well-developed doctrinal framework upon which the metaphors may build – without a solid foundation of truth what you are describing becomes very subjective and one can assume interpretations which are deceptive and dangerous. In his book “Velvet Elvis” Rob Bell suggests that we should view theology through a more fluid lens, saying it should be seen not as a solid brick wall but rather a trampoline we invite others to bounce around on with us. While the analogy sounds cute it fails on a basic level. I’ve seen and used trampolines and one thing I know is that without a solid frame that holds the mat in place, they are basically useless. It’s only as they are constrained by a frame, which is set upon a solid foundation (the earth or some other solid surface), that they can fulfill their intended purpose. Similarly, the frame by itself isn’t much fun either. Both are important. The frame provides the tension and safety that is required, and the bouncy mat provides flexibility and greater enjoyment. If one is missing, the picture is incomplete.
Regarding judgmentalism, I agree there is far too much of that. It is not, however, the exclusive property of fundamentalists, literalists, evangelicals, Bible-thumpers, or whatever other label people seem to enjoy throwing around. It’s not a religious condition – it’s a human condition. I’ve heard every bit as much judgmentalism from those who reject the Bible as from those who affirm it. I’ve been labelled “hateful, intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, and disgusting” by people who know nothing about me other than the fact that I believe the Bible is authoritative and truthful. As a follower of Jesus (the historical Jesus, as described in the four Gospels) I strive to follow His example as shown towards the woman caught in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you (grace, forgiveness, a second chance); go and sin no more (repentance, growth, life change, embracing the truth).
Dave, I so appreciate your kind demeanor and the thoughtfulness of your replies. It should be stated that there are between 38,000 and 41,000 differing (and some disagreeing) Christian sects in our world. Which one should I choose for my framework? You see, I have been where you are, fundamentally at the same understanding. The place of disillusionment in 1999 propelled me out from all doctrine and dogma espoused by any organization, forsaking it all for what is written on my heart. Because there is so much disagreement and opinions, I choose to seek the source. I don’t consider the Bible the “Word of God” mainly because of the numerous edits and inconsistencies when viewed historically and literally. Frankly, his word is not limited to a book, the framework of which was decided by men predisposed to cultural judgments in the first few hundred years after the advent of Jesus. Jesus never once directed us to the Bible but rather always within. He saw the foolishness of the rigid adherence to systems that had been pulled past their season of relevance. He was relentlessly hard on the religious. Frames are for control and at that time, human consciousness needed such rules, regulations and boundaries. But when one comes of age one must put away those things meant for children. You mention safety and danger – I appreciate the warning and would never give the keys to my car to an eight-year old. But if I hold the keys even after they have come of age, then there is dysfunction. We must begin to think and discern for ourselves – to stretch the intuitive self and to interpret the mysteries resident in scripture. The coming of age person must be trusted to discern for themselves lest we foster a consciousness that remains tethered to the parent. The present church system does not cultivate healthy adults when the threat of hell and separation always looms overhead. At some point LOVE becomes the beacon and decisions are made based on this “system” that never, ever fails.
Thanks, Barbara. I too appreciate the spirit of the discussion. We should be able to have honest discourse about such matters and a willingness to learn from each other. Regarding the wide variety of sects and denominations under the umbrella of Christianity, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I believe there are a variety of types of churches because there are a variety of types of people and needs. Paul talks extensively in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and elsewhere about the “body of Christ” and I believe different sects serve different but equally valuable roles much as the parts and systems that make up our bodies vary in appearance and function but all are necessary, and all are as Paul points out, ultimately directed by the Head (who is Christ). I have many close friends from several different denominations, and while we may have differing views on a wide variety of issues (worship styles, spiritual gifts, modes of baptism, etcetera), we agree on the majors (who Jesus is, why He died on the cross, His resurrection, etcetera). In other words we agree on far more than we disagree on. If we can show grace to one another in our areas of disagreement we give those who do not yet believe another reason to believe.
I like your analogy of learning to drive a car and for the most part I agree. I would also note, as the father of a 16 year old daughter, the task is equal parts being willing to hand over the keys and trust that she will make wise and responsible decisions, and ensuring I have taught her well and continue providing the appropriate guidance to protect her and others. At some point she no longer needs me (I both dread and look forward to that day) but my hope always is that as she continues on her journey it will be largely shaped by the example I have set, the love I have shown, and the lessons I have taught her. In other words, after my hands are off the wheel so to speak, I hope she will continue to refer to the guidance I have provided in order to ensure an enjoyable and effective life. When I was younger, I thought I knew it all. The older I get the more I realize how little I know and the more I realize how desperately I need wisdom and guidance.
I have attended countless Christian churches in my 56 years of life and they vary in doctrine and dogma. There was not an appreciation for differences however, their relationship with one another was more adversarial in nature.
A friend of mine recently said this of the church system: “The religious systems of this world will hold you back. They had to “come out” to see & hear Jesus in his day, and they will have to come out to see & hear the Christ today.”
There is a new wineskin (thought process, consciousness) available for us if we are willing to “leave behind the former things.” The old always resists the new.
Jesus was a revolutionary and the pattern he set is not recognizable in our modern church structures. Once they resisted his message (having been threatened by it), he taught in fields, in boats, gardens and mountainsides.
As the church structure was established we were taught that the five fold ministry was put in place for the training and equipping of the people. There comes a time when we leave behind our theoretical application and enter into the practical. Those things mentioned must find their place in our history if we are to enter into the mystery.
The things we learned were foundational and more importantly, in part. We are building a warehouse on our property and the foundation is in place but this place is useless without a multi-dimensional building erected in its place. Come up here! we are exhorted. There is much I want to show you!
Barbara, from the very title, I know I would value your book! I was sucked into Mammonism, I mean, Dominionism, from about 1980 until 1986!
Judith, I was in fundamentalism for 43 years. While I value the experiences learned, I am glad to be free of it. There are so many misconceptions and mistranslations and it is nice to view the teachings of Jesus without the lens of dogma, separatism and intolerance. There is so much valuable allegory and metaphor that if we can see clearly we would apprehend the mystery of the ages.
Author of Escaping Christianity ~ Finding Christ
I don’t know how Sarah Palin was Baptized, but I have never poured water down anyone’s throat to simulate drowning while administering the Sacrament. The living water that Christ offers is not meant to simulate drowning. The initiates are to “confess” faith,not confess crimes.
Actually, baptism is a “simulated drowning,” of the old Adam or Eve in us, the drowning of our sinful self, and rising to life in Christ. That she would use this as a means for torture is blasphemous. In baptism, we put on the new life we have received as a gift of God in Christ, we enter the womb of the church, to be reborn as God’s beloved children. It is, as Henri Nouwen said, his personal statement to each of us, as he said to Jesus, “you are my son/daughter; this day I have begotten you.” To suggest that we turn this into a means of torture is despicable.
“Who is it that told you that you should freak out over someone’s political stance on civil gay marriage instead of Christian leaders who are advocating that we torture other bearers of the divine image of God? Did someone cast a spell on you? How is it that your righteous outrage got so misplaced?” — two words, Fox News
A friend of mine from Northern Ireland is writing down an account for me of how she used to watch Protestants drag off ‘suspected terrorists’ to be tortured (their chosen technique was bashing in the knees). I intend to post her account myself.
The world Palin is advocating for is not a pretty place.
I’m not sure that it was strictly bashing in the knees, there seems (from my understanding) to be some sectarian variation in that the Catholic terrorists would place a pistol behind the knees of their victim (they were usually petty criminals, and the terrorists were pretending to be law enforcement within their own community) and fire forward, whereas the Protestant terrorists would use a power drill instead of a pistol.
As it turned out, actually fracturing the kneecap itself was comparatively rare (there was a paper published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in 1989 which examined 80 victims of kneecapping, and only two of them had broken patellas)
I feel sure that those people who one side or the other thought were “suspected terrorists” or “suspected informants” rather than petty criminals or drug dealers would be “disappeared” – interrogated, tortured, shot in the back of the head and buried in an unmarked grave.
Aye, I’m aware. Bashing, drilling, shooting, etc.
I wrote more about it here.
The outrage over Palin’s advocacy of torture is well-placed, but I find the reaction to Palin’s use of the term “baptism” to be over-dramatic. It’s clear to me that Palin used the term as a figure of speech and not to refer to the actual sacrament. She didn’t even use the term as a figure of speech properly. If anything, her speech reinforces my belief that she is nothing more than a provocateur.
I agree with your central argument, though, that Christians should be far more outraged about issues like torture than issues like civil gay marriage.
The problem, though, is that I can think of few groups that don’t suffer from this tendency to inconsistently apply their supposed beliefs. What you described about the view of asking questions as being tantamount to sacrilege among conservative Christians is as true among progressive Christian circles as it is among secular political groups.
The response to Haseltine’s questions about civil gay marriage is not unlike the response to my asking questions about religious gay marriage among progressive Christians, the response to my asking questions about the Iraq war among political conservatives, or the response to my asking questions about abortion among political liberals.
This is an American culture problem, not just a conservative Christian problem. Absolutists and extremists hold to their views as being obvious truths and skewer anyone who challenges those views. The Church should be above the culture.
I agree– you’ll get the same response from the far left. Jesus offers a third way.
Thanks to you for doing a splendid job of presenting that third way. I was raised in a conservative Christian environment and fell away from the faith for practically all of my twenties. People like you who express a third way I had never been exposed to are helping me find my way back.
I appreciate this thread. For St. Paul, the chief evidence of the resurrection as not the reanimated body of Jesus, but the breaking down of barriers between people: men & women, Jew and Gentile, etc. One of the most valuable contributions the Christian community could make to our culture these days would be to be a place where people with differing ideas could discuss them, be evaluated, and be valued, rather than attacked for doing so. As a pastor, in my last church, when we built a new sanctuary, I told the people that it mattered little what it finally looked like, or what color we decide to make the carpet; what was more important was how we made those decisions, and cared for those with whom we disagree. That is the test of our faith.
Anthony, you hint at what occurred to me yesterday, which is how quick we are to label people, based on comments as well as simply honest questions, as either on our side or on the other side. It’s pure cancer to any kind of humble and sincere learning. Especially since anyone who challenges our current paradigms, even if they’ve been on “our side” in the past, is quickly demonized and labeled a heretic in an effort to preserve our bubble of safety.
Anthony, that’s a very good observation. Yes, it is a cultural problem, and an extremely pervasive one touching into virtually everything. Personal opinion has become sacred, no meter how uniformed or poorly thought out, how dare any question, challenge, or even express difference. Even if from a perspective of valid facts and information. When people then appeal to god as ultimate authority granted upon their own opinions and beliefs by attaching some bible reference or religious dogma/doctrine to even opinions about the most mundane and banal matters, as a belligerent defense against question or challenge as equivalent to challenging god, is this not having made a psychological move into positioning oneself AS God?
I’d like to ask a question about “The Church should be above the culture” because I feel like I may be missing your point. If the Church were part of the culture (I think it is, but doesn’t like to admit it,) we could understand the people in the culture and could love each other better if we know what we’re all part of. Does this make sense? Sometimes I feel like the Church is so wound up in “after” that we forget that this moment is a gift where we can experience communion with God and with one another. Culture is the pool we’re all swimming in, and it’s full of beautiful things. Also of rotten things, yes. But all things it seems we should know about and appreciate. Would you be willing to talk about “The Church should be above the culture” a little more?
Hi, I’m Stacey, and I’m clearly some kind of hippie freakshow.
That’s a great question (even if you are a hippie freakshow 🙂 ).
What I meant was this…..
The culture is moving in the direction of polarization, extremism, absolutism, etc., and away from centrism, moderation, and the ability to see shades of gray in any particular issue. The American political climate can be characterized in this way. One need look no further than cable news, talk radio, blogs, etc., to find evidence of that. Too many people have no interest in learning from people who hold different views. Rather, differences are viewed as threats, people who hold different views are demonized or infantilized, etc.
Christian culture in America is trending in the same direction, it’s suffering from the same problems. When I said the Church should be above the culture, I wasn’t suggesting the Church should be separated from the culture (and I agree with what you had to say about that).
I was suggesting that too many Christians are getting swept up in the broader cultural trends and one would hope the Church wouldn’t be so susceptible to that. One would hope that people who profess to believe that all human beings are made in God’s image and are called to love one another would work harder than the secular culture to disagree in a more agreeable manner, to understand each other, etc.
Instead, the vitriol between conservative and progressive Christians is practically identical to the vitriol between their secular counterparts.
Thank you so much! Yes, I was missing something for sure. I happen to agree 100% about the direction of culture — I usually say this about “conversation” because we are barely having one. The extreme ends of the spectrum (political, in this case) are the sexiest ones, therefore getting all the airtime. [Sidebar: Matt Stone and Trey Parker are my favorite social commentators, saying, “The guys at both ends of the spectrum are the same guys to us.”]
Polarization is just *one* of the things I spend a lot of time worrying about; I currently perceive it as something beyond my control/influence. The complete inability of people confessing to know Christ to have conversation has made me ache to the point that I know I’ve been part of the problem more than once. You see, the hippie freakshow is ALL about my beloved fellow humans knowing they are seen and heard at their core. So, when we act like there’s an us and them, I tend to come a teensy bit unglued. I’m considering grounding myself from the Internets. (Insert both winky-face and total seriousness here.) It’s a TINY thing to do in the face of the problem, and even more nigh-unto-invisible thing to do in light of God and all of space-time. But, it’s what I have.
Thank you again for your reply and for your message. I want to be part of the healing of this whole thing. Not part of the problem.
Hi Stacey. haha you made me laugh with yr comment. I am always asking questions that make me feel like that. I have a question… if the world is becoming more and more like the Kingdom, with 100,000 people a DAY becoming christians, won’t the culture overtake the world and governments etc to become Christ like in its thoughts and ways anyway? If Jesus/God is growing his kingdom at that rate – the government must change surely. LIke i said somewhere else – Roman times had church and culture mixed, and in the OT we see it too. Why are we so against it?
I’m against it because when a government favors one religion, it necessarily discriminates against the others. Roman Pagans did it. Ancient Jews did it. Medieval Christians did it. Moslems did it.
Savage wars were fought over trying to impose a religious belief. Whole societies were wiped out. People were brutally tortured, burned alive or dismembered for being the wrong religion, for asking questions. That’s why our founders were so against it. That’s why any sane person is.
Did you really not know any of this?
Yes i do know that there have been wars all throughout history over who is running the show. I am just looking at it from a Christian perspective. If the growth rate of Christianity stays or increases from what it is now…. you will start to see a lot more influence in governments. All I was asking is, is that a bad thing? It did actually work in the OT in times of peace and good government. Its humans that mess up the governments, not the other way around. God introduced law and order as a good thing. He instituted governments and rule. So…. what I am asking again – if a whole country became Christian – how could it not be run under a Christian government?
Actually, theocracy did not work well at all. Ancient Jews enslaved whole tribes of people they conquered. They themselves were conquered and enslaved. They killed their own people who broke with their beliefs. They were just as cruel and aggressive as any other tribe in the middle-east. I don’t regard that as working. Do you?
If you want to see a theocracy in action, look at the middle-east today. Iran comes to mind. I promise you, it would be no better here. How do I know? I have studied the middle-ages. Christendom was savage. Christians fought wars of conquest against different flavors of Christian. Christians called other Christians heretic and tortured and killed them. Christians aren’t immune to the problems that come with secular power.
In order to have a Christian government, our constitution would have to be voided and our current government overthrown. That would take a war. And you would never have a country that was “all Christian.” Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans and Atheists are all well-represented in the U.S. Would try to convert them by force?
Christians don’t even agree on the meaning of the word. Some sects claim anyone not in their sect isn’t a “true Christian.” Many evangelicals, for example, don’t regard Catholics as Christians. Who decides exactly who qualifies as a Christian? You?
What happens to the people who aren’t Christians? How would you deal with them? Deny anyone who isn’t Christian jobs? Take their property? Discriminate against them? Deport them? Round them up? Kill them? There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who aren’t Christian, and they don’t deserve that kind of treatment, do they?
I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ve thought this through.
(And, Christianity is actually shrinking in the western world right now. I gather it’s a matter for concern in many churches.)
You are right – 🙂 i haven’t thought it through, and i also haven’t studied the middle ages etc to understand and appreciate fully all of what went on during that time. Which is why I was asking for thoughts from people as well… I was just wondering why people were opposed to it. But thank you for your explanation. Its good to try and understand different points of view. 🙂
Thanks for being willing to consider another point of view.
Didn’t work in the OT. That’s why God kept sending them into captivity, why he sent the prophets to rebuke them for their lack of social justice, etc. Plus, part of the whole point of the OT was to show what doesn’t work– Paul calls it a “shadow” (an example by negation, negative object lesson) and says not to return to it.
Plus, we already are the majority and hold almost every governmental office, so a few more percentages wouldn’t change anything.
Amen and Amen!!!!
Maybe we inhabit two different internets, but I’m finding plenty of Christians who were anti-Palin baptism comments. Vox, The Federalist, Rod Dreher, and many more have come out condemning Palin for her comments. In fact, I’m finding it hard to find anyone who will support them (outside of commenters on sites like WND and The Blaze).
Joe Carter on The Gospel Coalition was number 3 on google when I did a search for the story. I agree. I haven’t heard a single religious leader support this statement.
I don’t think it’s the leaders who will agree with her- at least in public. It’s the rank and file who think Palin does no wrong. That’s who agrees with her.
Maybe, but I think that is actually a pretty small group as well. Again, I am friends with a number of very conservative people and none of them publicly agreed with her comments.
You think it’s a pretty small group of folks who approve of water boarding terrorists? I haven’t seen a poll, but I’d be surprised if it were just a fringe group of folks.
No I think there are far too many that support waterboarding. What I think is small is the number of people that think that Palin’s comments were appropriate. They offend just about everyone (except clearly those in the audience.)
Polling suggests that Christians support waterboarding more than non-Christians. And Evangelicals are the most supportive group. So I absolutely think that too many Evangelicals support torture.
The only thing I question here is whether people actually support Palin’s comments. Certainly I have heard no public Christian figure supporting them. And in my small world, no non-public figure is supporting them either.
And I am thankful for that. Maybe her comments will shock enough people to actually think about why they support either her or torture. Rethinking either (or both) would be a good result.
Whether the majority of American Christians would support torture today or not, let me assure you that nearly all of those who support torture are Christians. American Christianity is developing a well-deserved reputation for being bloodthirsty.
Good point– I was thinking of some specific people who took the time to castigate Dan but were silent on Palin. I’ve adjusted some of the wording to better reflect what I was getting at. In the end however, I think the outrage is definitely misplaced and completely out of balance.
Excellent post! I’m starting to enjoy these types of public disagreements: they tend to bring out the true nature of professing believers for all to see.
I agree this recent tend toward such open expression of opposing extremists positions is certainly revealing, bringing into to open expression, the true nature of many, I can’t say it is entirely enjoyable. While at the public level, largest social and religious structure levels, making their true nature manifest has to be positive, it is awfully uncomfortable, conflicting, and even painful as it is likewise revealing the nature of people and institutions we have loved, and realizing they are not who/what we had thought is hard.
Perhaps I should replace my word “enjoy” with “benefit.” I certainly don’t derive any actual pleasure from bigots and racists; so perhaps “enjoy” was a poor word choice.
Absolutely spot on!!