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Is Hulu’s The Path Any Stranger Than Our Own Faith?

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My latest for Think Christian:

Aaron Paul may have top billing in The Path, a Hulu original series, but the real star of the show is the cult known as the Meyerist Movement.

A combination of New Age conceits and 1960s drug culture, Meyerism is a fictional religious movement about how the “Light” will save people from their damage and grant them eternity in a “Garden.” Meyerists believe the path to salvation involves climbing a spiritual ladder, which manifests as literal rungs of maturity and leadership, from 1R up to 10R. Daily life is completely transparent and devoted to helping others unburden from their damage—with the help of hallucinogens and outdated, electro-stimulation devices.

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How You Read the Bible has Nothing to Do with Your FaithBelieving in God is not FaithIntellectual TerrorismFor the Sake of ArgumentNo Need to Believe
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God Doesn't Damn Anyone to Hell

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God is love. It's such warm and fuzzy, comforting thought. Even Christianity with its emphasis on forgiveness and loving our neighbors is undeniably beautiful. Until God goes and damns people to hell.
Christians try not to think about it, but the verses are there. We use our theology to anesthetize our fear by reducing our sovereign God to a passive figurehead who merely allows the things we don't understand. Yet Scripture says what it says, and it says that God predestined some people to destruction.
The passage in question is Romans 9. I don't blame you if you missed it in your daily devotions or weekly Bible studies. The preceding chapter and its whole "nothing can separate us from the love of Christ" schtick can be very distracting, especially to pastors and teachers who would rather cultivate ignorance than risk apostasy. Someone has to pay for their salaries.
By chapter 9, Paul had just finished encouraging the Christians in Rome that there was no condemna…

When Salvation is a Psychological Disorder

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Christianity is like an email scam. You get a message that there's an unverifiable problem with your account and then you're given an unverifiable solution to that unverifiable problem. Similarly, salvation comes through faith in a God to prevent us from a fate we take on faith.
That's a lot of faith. When skeptics say that Christianity lacks evidence, they're not wrong. We can claim that Jesus' resurrection has over five hundred eye-witness reports, but we still need faith to trust the veracity of those reports.
Evidentialist apologetics are less popular today, probably because someone figured out that non-empirical evidence isn't really evidence. Instead, many Christians are utilizing a more experiential apologetic--one of personal, miraculous deliverance.
Stories abound in the church of broken addictions and supernatural rescues from abuse. We hear of alcoholics recovering suddenly after decades of enslavement and domestic violence victims finding justice w…

There's Nothing More to this Life

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Going to church ruined my faith. From diapers to adulthood, church was all I knew about Christianity and it created a barrier between me and God. Especially the worship part of church services.

Half of my life was spent playing or leading music before a congregation of enthralled people. The enthusiasm and earnestness written on their faces evidenced an undeniable experience. Many spoke of being able to sense God's presence in a very real, almost tangible way.

While attending Moody Bible Institute, I was surrounded by hundreds of emotional worshippers during weekly chapels, and I often heard students describe how awesome it was to be singing God's praises together with so many fellow believers. They could really feel the Spirit moving.

I never did.

Skeptic that I was (and still am), worship was at best a meaningless experience to me. When I saw joy in the crowd, I assumed it was from a particularly sick drum fill or guitar lick, not God. When I saw tears, I assumed it was fro…

When Culture is Right and the Church is Wrong

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Support for marriage equality grew considerably after the turn of the century. According to a recent Pew study, 57% of Americans opposed it in 2001 and only 35% favored it. But in 2016, those numbers flipped with 55% of Americans favoring it and only 37% opposing it.
Though opposing marriage equality was the historic position of the church, Christians appear to be following culture as another Pew study shows 54% of them favored it in 2014. Among them, 70% of Catholics and 66% of mainline Protestants favored it with evangelicals lagging behind at 36%.
While the majority of all Trinitarian Christian sects now support marriage equality, evangelicals remain the only stubbornly opposed segment. And a big part of their opposition is found in the concept of cultural capitulation.
Apart from a hermeneutic that views most didactic texts in Scripture as universal, the reason most evangelicals refuse to even entertain favorable arguments for marriage equality is because they believe that congru…

Don't Buy Christian Easter Candy

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Last Easter, a man in a bunny costume got berated by a woman who lived in her car. Christine Weick stormed into the parking lot of a Tennessee church and rebuked the fluffy impostor for wearing a "pagan costume" saying, "Shame on you! Shame on this pastor!"

Her camera-person, Angela Cummings, also refused to be silent and chanted in the background, "Hugh Hefner, Playboy bunny! Hugh Hefner, Playboy bunny!" I imagine she said this for a reason, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it was.

Christians get defensive around Christmas and Easter because they reserve those holidays to celebrate Jesus' birth and resurrection. Bunnies may be cute and egg hunts fun, but they're ultimately just distractions to the "real meaning" of those seasons.

At the same time, Christians won't complain about chocolate crosses and jelly bean prayer tins. To the contrary, such confectioned contrivances are willingly gobbled down as pious protest…

Avoiding Women Won't Prevent Adultery

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Last week, Vice President Mike Pence made news for his dining habits. According to a resurfaced 2002 interview, Pence said that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife. In evangelical circles, this is commonly known as the Billy Graham Rule because of Graham's commitment to avoid, "the appearance of compromise or suspicion."

While recognizing Graham's reasons and the unfortunate frequency of extramarital scandals among pastors, writer Laura Turner says that the Billy Graham Rule, "locates the fault of male infidelity in the bodies of women." She leaves room for maintaining high profile reputations such as Graham's, but she condemns the blanket application of it.

Like Laura, I don't doubt that Billy Graham had genuine, legitimate reasons for his rule, and I also agree that the public eye requires a completely different expression of wisdom than the average person can appreciate. But in my experience, most adherents to the Billy Graham R…

Faith Costs More than a TV Show

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Our persecution complex is turning into professional martyrdom.

A few years ago, HGTV ended their plans to produce a show with two Christian brothers. David and Jason Benham had run a successful real estate company for over ten years and were set host their first show, "Flip It Foward", in the fall.

But in the spring, Right Wing Watch reported that David had led a prayer rally outside of the Democratic National Convention years earlier where he condemned the gay agenda and other "demonic ideologies". HGTV responded the next day:

HGTV has decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers' series. Posted by HGTV on Wednesday, May 7, 2014
As the persecution alarm sounded, evangelicals made an impressive show of solidarity. Faith Driven Consumer launched a #FlipThisDecision petition that garnered over 20,000 signatures. Ralph Reed hashtagged the decision #AntiChristianBigotry, and Laura Ingraham called the decision-makers "Stalinists".
The Benhams have…

How Bacon Proves that Homosexuality isn't Sinful

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Thanks to an ancient, shared history.

I used to laugh at Christians who supported same-sex relationships. The Bible was so clear it was inexplicable how anyone could claim to be a Christian and not confess that homosexuality was a sin.

Arguments in favor of it usually amounted to "a loving God would never condemn any form of love" or "the Old Testament is full of outdated xenophobia and racism". In other words, Christians who endorsed gay marriage simply dismissed Scripture to make their case. And being a fairly reasonable person, I wasn't about to accept such an irresponsible hermeneutic.

I wanted someone to prove to me, biblically, that homosexuality wasn't a sin. And for years, I was unconvinced because even the biblical arguments were terrible. Matthew Vines, an outspoken gay Christian, made a noble attempt with his book God and the Gay Christian, but his insistence that monogamous gay relationships were not within the Bible's purview felt weak and …

Yes, There is a Gay Agenda

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And every confessing Christian should support it.
When Disney announced that their live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast would feature the first "exclusively gay moment" in one of their pictures, the flood of evangelical opposition came as expected.
Franklin Graham said that he hoped Christians everywhere would "say no to Disney". Al Mohler warned that entertainment has the power to "reach our hearts". And Southern Baptist professor Denny Burk lamented, "Disney has put me and many other parents like me in the position of having to explain to very small children why this movie is bad for them."
The liberal rejoinder was no less surprising. Jonathan Merritt, a senior columnist for Religion News Service, responded with a piece entitled "Flaming Hypocrisy in Evangelical Christian Boycott". In less than 700 words, Merritt takes evangelicals to task for boycotting Disney's gay promotion while supporting a sexually-exploitative presi…

Stop Telling People about Jesus

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Saying his name is not the gospel.

Christians host weird parties. It's bad enough we produce "sacred" alternatives to culture so we never have to interact with real people, but the church's idea of community outreach is patronizing.

As Sundays shifted from mighty fortresses to football, Christians knew that fire and brimstone was no longer enough to fill the pews. They had to get creative. So they devised sinister game nights and movie nights under the pretense of love and compassion. Invite your friends, they said. They'll have fun, they said.

It's a trap.

A classic bait-and-switch. The community outreach events of the 80's and 90's were sermons in baseball caps. We lured our victims inside our walls with free food and wouldn't let them leave until they sat through a message that usually had more to do with sex, drugs, and alcohol than Jesus.

Culture is no dummy and got wise to our ploys pretty quick, so it was back to the old drawing board for m…

How You Read the Bible has Nothing to Do with Your Faith

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What you believe in doesn't matter as much as who.
Once upon a time, a talking snake tricked a naked woman into eating an apple with the power to curse the entire human race. In order to restore the world to how it ought to be, a sword-tongued, albino Jesus will eventually do battle with a seven-headed leopard-bear and his minions of horse-sized scorpion-locusts.

At least that's one interpretation.
Another suggests that Jesus' resurrection was metaphorical, his deity illustrative, and his existence more pedagogical than historical. God reveals himself in many different ways, and the Christian religion through its ancient myths and fables is just one of them.
Most Christians fall somewhere in the middle. Few take such a rigidly literal approach to cosmogony and eschatology and even fewer dismiss the texts as uninspired allegory. We're all more likely to nuance our hermeneutics according to literary genre and cultural context while accepting Scripture as the inspired wor…

For the Love of God, Read the Whole Bible

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And stop rewriting the parts that make you question him.
Liberal Christians love Jesus. They love his teaching and his example, and they have a habit of prioritizing his words above all others in Scripture.
They don't love the Old Testament or honestly much of the New Testament, so they often limit their faith to the gospels, particularly Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. It's filled with lots of left-wing ideology about love and pacifism and conveniently fits the average liberal's slacktivism without confronting their shallow theology of the living God. It's all about the love, so nothing else needs to be said.
If you know your Bible pretty well, don't bother arguing with a liberal Christian because they have the same answer for everything. Doesn't the Bible prohibit homosexuality? "No, that would be unloving." Doesn't the Bible prohibit women from preaching? "No, that would be unloving." It's an argument from authority where they res…

Don't Do Anything for Love

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Do the right things.

Being a 90's kid, I've seen every episode of Friends so many times. But my least favorite was the one where Rachel goes to London to tell Ross she's still in love with him--on his wedding day with Emily.
There's one particular scene where Phoebe tries to convince her not to go, but Rachel says she has to tell Ross how she feels so he can make an "informed decision". Phoebe retorts that the real reason she's going is because she's hoping Ross will say he loves her too. She then says that her going will only ruin his wedding and that it's too late. She missed her chance.
Of course, Rachel ends up going to London anyway with the support of a cheering studio audience. The Rachel and Ross story arc is beloved by fans because the will they/won't they narrative ended the way everyone hoped: they will. They were meant to be.
As they say, love will find a way. No matter the obstacle (including other people), love will win out in th…