The Myth of “Biblical Christianity”

Brandan Robertson is a brave, articulate, passionate, and intelligent queer Christian who, on the basis of having met him once, I am proud to call a friend. He recently participated in a debate with Michael Brown, Justin Lee, and Anne Paulk on “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” The program hour was titled “Gay Christian or Biblical Christian.”

That title is both fascinating and disturbing.

Similarly, the Facebook page “Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity” recently shared an image of a banner for a series being done by a group of eight churches in Phoenix, Arizona.

"Progressive" Christianity: Fact or Fiction?

 

In their letter to the editor in a local paper, the pastors of these churches celebrate their “healthy unity” as they stand as Christian pastors against… another church. Which one? A quote from this article from Phoenix’s Fox affiliate describes The Fountains United Methodist Church as “the only progressive church in Fountain Hills.”

Their objective is to answer three questions, the first of which is this:

What is the difference between “Progressive” Christianity and Biblical Christianity?

The quotation marks around the word “Biblical” are conspicuous in their absence.

Another blogger from the Evangelical channel on Patheos wrote a post titled What Is Progressive Christianity? What Do They Believe? Is It Biblical? As you may have guessed, the answers are “Heresy,” “Lies,” and “Absolutely not,” though not in those words.


“Biblical Christians,” as they call themselves, assume that the Bible is flat like a textbook, each word and each verse containing ultimate truth from God. If any of it is anything less than perfect for every reason, then all of it is. If the Genesis accounts are myths, then we have no reason to believe in the resurrection. The Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It contains everything we need for life and godliness, and principles of wisdom we can extrapolate into helping with just about anything.

The “Biblical view,” as it is called, has several serious problems. Continue reading

Todd the Obedient

Rated PG.

Todd’s mother disappeared when he was three.

Todd’s father tried to always be there for him. He did everything he could to love Todd and keep him safe. “Never cross the street without a grown-up around,” he said. “Always eat your vegetables.” “Be a good boy.” “Don’t take candy from strangers.” “Be nice to everyone.” “If somebody’s hurting you, or touches you down here, hurt them and then run away.” “Always respect women and girls.” “Make sure you’re always in bed by ten.” “You’re too young to drive a car.” “It’s okay to be seen as weird.” “Don’t watch TV shows meant for grown-ups.”

Excellent advice for a young man, that.

Todd’s father died in a tragic video gaming accident when Todd was ten. Todd found himself in foster care. His foster parents were, well, lenient. They told Todd he could do whatever he wanted and stay up as late as he wanted. But children need boundaries. So late one night, he hopped on his foster parents’ computer and typed up as many of the things his father had told him to do as best as he could remember them and printed them out. The sound of the printer startled him, but his foster parents didn’t wake up. He folded it up and kept it with him all the time. Continue reading

7 Lies Churches Tell

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* Only authorized questions. As long as you’re looking for information about what the right thing to believe is, and if you’re just confused, your questions are always welcome here.

If you have questions that challenge what we believe, or questions we can’t easily answer, or if you don’t believe our answers, then your questions should probably hitch a ride with you back to hell where they belong. Continue reading

How to argue with (and like) a fundamentalist

I lived long enough in the fundamentalist world that I became well-versed in how they argue. Sometimes it’s fun to flip the script. It may not be right, but it’s fun.

1. Know your Bible well. Like really well. Or at least know the important verses that make your point. Fundamentalists know their Bible freakishly well – or at least the important verses that make their point.

2. Proof-text. Context doesn’t matter to your fundamentalist friend. He or she believes the words in the Bible are all equally true, except for the parts that are metaphorical. So quote lots of verses.

3. Question their belief in the Bible if they don’t agree with you, because, for fundamentalists, not taking literally every verse that isn’t obviously metaphorical means not believing in the Bible. And as every fundamentalist knows, if you don’t believe in the Bible, you’re not a Christian.

4. Force them to choose between your perspective and “not believing in the Bible.” There’s a beautiful scene in Mark 11 where the chief priests, scribes, and elders try to trap Jesus by asking by what authority he’s doing what he’s doing. Jesus replies, “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Tell me, and I’ll tell you.” This is checkmate.

5. Strike first. Your fundamentalist friend will launch every single one of these attacks on you, if given the chance, and if they find out you’re not a Biblical literalist before you trap them into not being a Biblical literalist, they’ll accuse you of not being a Christian and discredit anything else you have to say about God and the Bible.


A sample conversation between you and a fundamentalist to demonstrate:

You: I think something fundamentalists believe is a lie.

Fundamentalist: How dare you think that! The Bible —

You: Yes, the Bible! Why, in chapter X verse Y, it says Z.

Fundamentalist: Now wait just a minute!

You: And in another place, it says this.

Fundamentalist: You’re misusing that verse.

You: And of course, in Romans 4:27…

Fundamentalist: You’re cherry-picking.

You: I’m just telling you what the Bible says. Don’t you believe in the Bible?


Proof-text. Question their belief in the Bible. Strike first.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this conversation so many times it’s not even funny, so every now and then it’s fun to flip the script.

But there’s something you should know: this will never work. It may leave you feeling smug and self-justified, and it may leave them speechless, but it will no sooner convince a fundamentalist to change his beliefs than quoting Dawkins will.


Roger Wolsey has apparently repeatedly said,

Atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.

While some atheists have denied this, at least the part about how fundamentalists read the Bible is largely true. If you’re aware of that when you’re talking to fundamentalists and don’t share that view, you can take the conversation to some pretty interesting places.

The sad part of this? “Strike first” is rule #5 because if you don’t strike first, hardcore fundamentalists usually will.

I’ve found that arguments with fundamentalists are un-winnable. The best you can hope for is a stalemate, but on the bright side, fundamentalists take anything other than absolute victory as defeat.

On the not-so-bright-side, fundamentalists hate losing, so as fun as it can be to flip the script, it might ruin a relationship.

Another Post on Why Millennial Culture Warriors Surrendered

Facebook felt I should know that one of my friends, a friend I expected would know better, liked this Charisma Magazine post, titled with a click-baity “Here’s How the New Christian Left Is Twisting the Gospel.”

It starts out with the usual “Here’s why millennials are leaving the church” thing, and it’s filled with wave after wave of traditional nonsense about how we millennials adore compromising with The World™ and we’ve dropped out of the culture war because it’s just too damn hard or uncomfortable. Like this, paragraph 3:

Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals. [Emphasis mine]

Yup. We’re just preaching tolerance and coexistence and keeping out of it.

Oh wait. No we’re not. Continue reading

Ode to United Healthcare

A Bad Poem About a Worse Company

You trick us into premiums
And refuse yourselves to send
payment for the bills those premiums
we paid so you would end.

You gave me quite the runaround
A month, then two, then three
“The lab was out of network.”
and then “Send us an appeal.” Continue reading

Why Doubt is my Nuclear Option

When Love Wins came out in 2011, I read it. I cried. I thought it was beautiful.

A lot of other people read it (or just watched the trailer for it). They cried too, but not for the same reasons. They thought Rob Bell had denied central tenets of Christianity and were saddened to see him leave the fold.

I researched Universalism and slowly became convinced of it. This was not Rob Bell’s goal.

Then I found another post arguing against Penal Substitution. I thought it was beautiful. I thought it made a compelling and beautiful picture of God, centering on God’s cruciform and self-sacrificial love. Though everything else was shaking, this cross-centered love, love alone, for all, with no caveats, exclusions, or liabilities, became the core of my faith.


During the Universalism debate, everyone was worried because my doctrine was wrong, and dangerously so.

During the Penal Substitution debate, everyone was worried about me because they thought it meant I wasn’t a Christian – which, for me, wouldn’t have mattered because I considered myself a hopeful Christian Universalist, which is to say, God is saving everybody.

In one debate, I argued that God was good and loving to everyone, even to the enemies of God, and the cross proved this.

In response, they reminded me of passages where God commanded genocide. This did not convince me that God was angry and violent. Because God had become for me, at the core, this enemy-loving God, and because my Philosophy of Religion class had given me lots of room to doubt, this made me wonder if God was there at all.

I was an atheist for a good fifteen minutes. Continue reading

The Book of Evangelical

As I was scrolling Facebook, I came upon a friend’s acknowledgment of having doubted God’s existence for a while. Don’t worry, my friend is fine now. It reminded me of a verse from the Book of Evangelical, chapter 12 and verse 23:

“Thou shalt not acknowledge thou art having a crisis of faith until certainty hath returned.”

A friend commented and said he remembered reading that verse. I think plenty of us are familiar with the Book of Evangelical, but when I ran a google search for it, I couldn’t it anywhere, even on Bible Gateway. I checked my NRSV and, though it even contains the Apocrypha, it’s missing the Book of Evangelical. I think my NASB has it, but I lost it somewhere and haven’t seen it for years.

All that to say, I’m sorry. I don’t have a full copy to post, but I memorized a few passages in Sunday School. If you remember any verses I forgot, I’d welcome the addition.

Without further ado,

book-of-evangelicalas best as I can remember it.

Chapter 1: God’s Opinion About the Bible

1:1: The Bible is the inerrant word of God. It is historically and scientifically accurate, except for the parts that are obviously metaphorical, which thou shalt know by their disagreement with well-established and indisputable science and history.

1:2 The Bible hath no contradictions: As it is written, “Thy word is truth.”

1:3 The Bible doth not condone anything we now acknowledge to be wrong, such as slavery.

1:4 God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me. Continue reading

David Platt’s Radically Incoherent Gospel of the Gospel and Disciples and Stuff

A friend of mine shared a David Platt video on Facebook this morning. I concentrated his seven-minute video for you. Because I like you.

1.notmakingdisciples

Fantastic start, David. Just fantastic. Tell people they’re not disciples of Jesus. Good job.

And if you don’t feel like God’s calling you to make more disciples, you’re probably not a Christian.

It is SO not “pray this prayer.”

5.Damning

7.fullpicture

“My boyfriend is a wonderful person. Sometimes he causes people to be tortured for all eternity, and he might do that to me, but he’s absolutely great.”

8.deadmeansdead

Greek and Hebrew Bibles exist so your pastor can look up words to find that they mean exactly what every English translation says they mean.

“Christians go to heaven and non-Christians go to hell, but if you haven’t heard the gospel, you get a free pass.” Apparently, 72% of white evangelicals believe this, though I’ve never met anyone who does, and most evangelical outposts explicitly disagree, but whatever.

10.diedthedeath

The Bible never says anything remotely like this… so I’m pretty sure it’s not the gospel.

11.thegospel

I tend to doubt it.

I admit, he didn’t actually ever say he wasn’t going to tell us what the gospel is. He just never did.

I think I know why David Platt annoys me. There’s a verse in Proverbs about zeal without knowledge, and, to his credit, there are few people as zealous as David Platt, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how he convinced anyone to give him a Ph.D. Maybe Southern Baptists just give Ph.D.’s to charismatic people who pledge to use the phrase “the gospel” at least twenty times per sermon, because the “gospel” in this clip is no gospel at all – in fact, it’s worse than no gospel; it’s nothing. The emperor, as the tale goes, has no gospel.

I don’t know; maybe he thinks the gospel is that line about Jesus living the life we could not live and dying the death we should have died. Platt correctly identifies the sinner’s prayer as not being found in scripture, but the line he cites is not found in scripture either, and though it’s plastered all over the internet, I couldn’t track down its origin.

Platt condemns everyone who is not a disciple of Christ to eternal damnation by proxy (God’s going to do it, not him) and then refuses to tell anyone how to be a disciple! Is it something you believe, or a vague “obedience” to rules that he doesn’t tell you? Is it just believing that little ditty from earlier? How does one become a disciple?

Platt isn’t going to tell you.*

And that’s why he annoys me.

If you’d like him to annoy you, here’s the video clip.

* I hope they talk about this in seminary, because I don’t know how I would tell someone how to become a Christian / disciple, but it’s not David Platt’s way, which is no way at all, and it’s not the evangelical way of “pray this prayer” that he condemns, either, though it might be. Seminary is going to be fun. Did I mention I’m going to seminary?

The Five Stupidest Responses to #Ferguson, Debunked

I’m leaving out responses like “Racism isn’t real.” It’s wrong, but it’s not so easily debunked, so I can’t so easily categorize it as stupid. Yes, there are horrible new stories coming out about Tamir Rice and Eric Garner – and they are horrible, but this needed to be written.

1. Black On Black Crime Is Worse

There are so many ways to respond to this.

1. White on white crime is an equally large problem. In 2012, there were more white-on-white murders than black-on-black murders. This is totally irrelevant.

2. Darren Wilson is a cop. A freaking cop. It absolutely. blows. my. mind. that I have to explain, to anyone with an IQ higher than a potato chip, why police killing unarmed people is worse than bad guys killing unarmed people. If you don’t understand that, I’m not sure how I can make it clearer. But I’ll try.

Police are supposed to be the good guys. They’re supposed to protect and serve. Bad guys are supposed to kill people. Not good guys.

Okay, let’s try it this way: If you’re watching a Lone Ranger episode and the bad guy kills 10 unarmed people, you gasp and go, “Oh my goodness, how awful.” And it is, because anybody killing anybody is a tragedy. But if you’re watching The Lone Ranger and all of a sudden that masked man shoots and kills 10 people, that’s truly terrible for many more reasons, not the least of which are (1) in a move the police departments in the US would be wise to emulate, he vowed to shoot to wound, not to kill, and (2) WHY IS THE LONE RANGER KILLING PEOPLE?! He’s not judge, jury, and executioner, and neither are cops. But we’ll get back to that.

2. Michael Brown Was A Criminal Who Robbed A Store

If I didn’t know how much it hurt, I would be slamming my head into a wall right now. I’m still tempted.

1. According to CNN:

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson — hours after documents came out labeling the 18-year-old Brown as the “primary suspect” in the store theft — told reporters the “robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown.”

 Other sources indicate that Brown actually did pay for those cigars.

2. Again, I have no idea why I need to explain this to anybody, but theft is not a capital offense. Theft is not punishable by death. It boggles the mind that Americans need this to be explained.

3. Even if Wilson had stopped Brown over the cigars, which he didn’t, and even if Brown stole those cigars, which seems highly unlikely, and even if theft of a box of cigarillos was a capital offense, which it is not, police are not judge, jury, and executioner rolled up in one! This is a mindless character assassination. Was Wilson acting in self-defense in killing Brown? I think it’s unlikely. Was the possible robbery justification for Wilson gunning down Brown in broad daylight? Hell, no. Why even bring it up?

3. The Grand Jury Found Wilson Innocent, So Justice!

There is so much wrong with this statement.

1. Grand Juries don’t find people innocent or guilty. They decide if there’s enough evidence to bring the case to trial. And, as former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler of New York said, a prosecutor could convince a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich” if he so desired. Essentially, what happens with the grand jury depends on the prosecutor, which leads to (2).

2. Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch worked with the police regularly. It’s what prosecutors do. His father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. If you think that a guy whose job it is to believe what police officers tell him and prosecute other people the police say were misbehaving – if you think there’s not chance this guy has a conflict of interest, may I recommend a brain scan. To see if you have one.

3. McCulloch, the prosecutor, defended Wilson and didn’t ask the grand jury to indict him. This is not the work of a prosecutor. Prosecutors want to make sure the case gets to court so they can win, but for McCulloch, “winning” meant the case not going to court. He didn’t cross-examine Wilson for inconsistencies in his testimony, while he did cross-examine witnesses who indicated Wilson had misbehaved. Judging on actions alone, McCulloch seems more interested in defending Wilson than in prosecuting him, and prosecuting Wilson was his job.

4. Wilson should not have been allowed to testify at his own indictment. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 1992:

It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented. (ThinkProgress)

5. The prosecutors, in their defense of Wilson, included a Missouri state law that was outlawed by a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision that said police could shoot to kill a fleeing felon. If Brown was fleeing and this law was correct, there would have been no cause to indict. But this law was deemed unconstitutional in 1985.

This is not justice. This is not even a miscarriage of justice. This is a deliberate abortion of justice, and the doctor who did it is Mr. McCulloch.

4. Wilson Was Afraid For His Life

Bullshit. Just bullshit.

The official report states that Brown was killed 153 feet from the police car. A hundred and fifty-three feet and nine inches away from the front wheel of the car. This means that if Wilson shot him because he was afraid, either Brown was seriously far away, or Wilson had chased him. If you chase a guy who just got through slugging you the way Wilson claims Brown did, I submit that when he turns around, you’re probably not afraid for you life, or you were stupid to chase him in the first place.

5. But Rioting!

Fine. Let’s talk about the rioting.

1. White people riot over stupid things. New York Magazine curated some tweets with images of white people rioting over basketball games and baseball games and football games. At least the riot in Ferguson was about justice.

This one is especially stupid:

2. Rioting works. It gets attention. If those protests were peaceful, you wouldn’t hear about it. Riots get attention. In a peaceful protest, you might see a couple seconds of video footage of people walking down the street, but there wouldn’t be TV news coverage of them. “Peaceful protest” doesn’t grab the attention in quite the way “RIOTS!!!” does.

3. Rioting is the language of the unheard. As Martin Luther King, Jr, said,

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

Bonus #1: Blacks Kill People Too!

1. All of those black people killing white people? They got arrested and prosecuted. Darren Wilson? Neither. No one is outraged, rioting, or protesting simply because a white cop killed a black kid. Nobody. That on its own is something that sometimes happens and is horrible and tragic. The fury and the outrage is coming from the fact that he got away with it. He faced no charges. There was no trial. He got away with it. That’s why everybody is outraged.

Bonus #2: This Cop and Black Kid Hugging Means Racism Is Dead

1. No it doesn’t.

2. One of Devonte’s two moms (a fact ignored in Fox News’ coverage) described the incident thusly:

“He asked Devonte why he was crying. His response about his concerns regarding the level of police brutality toward young black kids was met with an unexpected and seemingly authentic (to Devonte), ‘Yes. (sigh) I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ The officer then asked if he could have one of his hugs.”

In Fox News’ coverage, they predictably cut off the quote after “He asked Devonte why he was crying.”

 Bonus #3: If you go for a cop’s gun, you deserve to be shot.

When you say this, you only demonstrate your total ignorance of the facts, specifically, that Brown was shot to death 153 feet away from the front tire of the police car.

I’ll break down the claim.

  1. Brown reached for Wilson’s gun.
  2. Wilson shot brown dead in self-defense while Brown was reaching for Wilson’s gun.

Ignoring the fact that reaching for a cop’s gun isn’t a capital offense (one for which you can be executed), and ignoring the fact that police officers aren’t judge, jury, and executioner rolled up in one… ignoring those facts…

Brown had reached through the window, grabbed Wilson’s gun, and Wilson shot him dead immediately – 153 feet away from the car’s front tire.

I’m not going to assume that people who make this argument understand basic physics. They very well may, but this argument indicates either ignorance of the distance or ignorance of physics, so I’ll explain the problem: basic physics will show that an object (or a person) cannot be in two places at once.

To wit, a person who measures less than seven feet in any direction cannot be reaching into the front window of a police vehicle and be 153 feet away from the front tire of that vehicle at the same time. It is physically impossible to be shot dead while reaching into a vehicle for a police officer’s gun and fall down and die from that gunshot wound, moving toward the vehicle, 153 feet away from the vehicle.

This is incredible.

This response continues to astound me. That I have to explain the whole two-places-at-once thing, to adults, blows my mind.

EDIT: The only way this explanation could possibly make sense would be if Brown was in possession of a teleportation device, which would probably make him dangerous, and if he had a teleporter, who knows what else he had, so the shooting was justified.

EDIT 2: If Brown had had a teleporter, I think somebody would’ve noticed.