Weekly Awful


Applying faith and reason in the pursuit of wisdom. Or simply facepalming the news every Friday. Like my Facebook page if never want a week without something awful.




5/26/17

Christian school banned teen from graduation

Awful Quote

"...not because she is pregnant but because she was immoral." full article here)

Why It's Awful

It makes a present judgment based on a past action. It claims that sex outside of a temporal government's biodegradable certificate is immoral. It inappropriately assumes spiritual responsibility for another by disciplining a student for something that falls under the authority of the parents and the church. It takes its inappropriate spiritual authority very seriously and holds the person accountable for a "grievous choice"... by withholding attendance to a meaningless ceremony.

How to Not be Awful

Christians organizations are one of the worst things that have happened to the church and America in recent history. On the outside, they look like any other business, non-profit, or school, but on the inside, they like to play church.

For example, every employer has a code of conduct for its employees. According to my current employer, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, inappropriate conduct includes things like theft, violence, insubordination, and sexual harassment. But when I started working for Moody Radio years ago, inappropriate conduct included smoking, drinking, and gambling.

As an interfaith organization, The Fellowship takes prayer requests during staff meetings, but Moody Radio required all employees to attend weekly devotions at work and an evangelical church at home (Episcopalian or Catholic churches didn't count).

While most organizations expect their employees to support the mission, like how The Fellowship would frown if I was anti-Semitic, I had Moody Bible Institute professors challenging my fitness for employment because they questioned my "spiritual maturity". Apparently, my stellar record as a radio producer who worked 60 hours a week was irrelevant.

A Christian school that imposes a Puritanical morality on its students is not a school. A school is a center for education where student conduct is judged by its affect on other students' ability to learn. A church is a community of disciples where conduct is judged by its affect on other people in general.

What a teenager does on her own time off school property is wholly irrelevant to a school and its mission to educate. But it might be relevant to a church and its mission to make disciples (though in this case, it shouldn't).

So don't overestimate your authority because you share the same faith. Leadership is appointed, not assumed. The former is a sober responsibility not to be accepted lightly, but the latter is fertile ground for heresy and cults.

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For more on fake sins, read There's No Such Thing as Premarital Sex.

5/12/17

Public healthcare stops people from being saved by Christianity

Awful Quote

"The person who's in need… they look to the government for the answer, not God, and I think in that way government has done an injustice that's even bigger than just the creation of an entitlement welfare state... it interrupts the opportunity for people to come to a saving knowledge of who God is." full article here)

Why It's Awful

It creates a false dichotomy between God's working in the world and the institutions he ordained to do his work. It turns God into a predator on the weak and the faith into a cult of opportunism.

How to Not be Awful

God wants us to trust him and depend on him. He wants us to be anxious for nothing and realize that all good things come from above.

Some interpret this to mean that the only truly good things are spiritual and we should pursue those things, not the things of this world. Felt needs, physical desires, none of those matter to our eternal, immaterial soul. In a nutshell, Neo-Platonism.

But that's not what God meant. He meant that all of the good things in this life come from him. In other words, he wants us to see him in this world, not search for good things in the clouds. Thus, no one can look to the government for help without also looking to God because God ordained government.

God operates through human agency. That's why James said true religion was helping the needy and why he scolded those who said "be warm and fed" but didn't lift a finger to warm or feed. Just as faith without works is dead, so our love for God without love for others in material ways is meaningless.

Furthermore, if God's plan was to coerce us into his will by exploiting our moments of weakness, he wouldn't send the rain on the wicked. Instead, he lavishes all with his good gifts because he doesn't want us to love him for what he can do for us. He wants us to love for him.

So don't blame the government for your low Sunday attendance. God doesn't want a church brimming with self-involved consumers. He wants the faithful few who are willing to selflessly pour out his love on a needy world--those who understand that depending on God means depending on each other.

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For more on loving what God does rather than who he is, read When Salvation is a Psychological Disorder.

4/28/17

Biblical Truth to the 'Things Only Christian Women Hear' Twitter Trend

Awful Quote

"Honestly, I get it. I understand the conflict of being an evangelical Christian woman watching other women march, other women stating their cases before audiences and influencing women of all ages, other women becoming CEOs, and other women breaking the glass ceiling in their professions." full article here)

Why It's Awful

It assumes that the women sharing their stories on Twitter are only doing so because they want to do something similar to the Women's March on Washington (an event over three months old). It dismisses the stories of "oppressed, mistreated, and abused" women with same the ideology that those women claim "oppressed, mistreated, and abused" them (i.e. circular reasoning).

How to Not be Awful

I'm not a licensed professional counselor like Julia (the author), but I would say the first rule of counseling is to listen. And not just to what is said but why it was said and what it means to the speaker. The women sharing their stories with #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear aren't rebelling against clear, biblical teaching. They're reacting to the messages such teaching conveys that contradict other biblical teachings.

For example, Julia only hears "You're too pretty to be a minister", but the writer was saying "My mind is not valued by God". She hears "Your ministry is raising godly children", but the writer was saying "I'm worthless to God if I can't have children". Time and again Scripture shows women to be valued for more than their looks or ovaries, yet "clear, biblical teaching" often tells them the opposite.

Naturally, Julia's response is to reiterate the very teachings that caused these women's cognitive dissonance in the first place. She never addresses the inconsistencies they see (like how the same passage that allegedly prohibits women from preaching also says that women will be saved through childbearing, not grace). She simply assumes that they were distracted or led astray by the culture and are in need of re-education.

There's a saying about doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Don't repeat your argument and assume the only reason it isn't accepted is because it isn't understood. If an idea is clear to you and not to another, it means they have other ideas that you don't. They may not be pertinent to you, but they are to that person. Sharing ideas is the whole point of having a conversation, so don't bother starting one if you're only interested in hearing yourself talk.

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For more discussion on gender roles, read The Bible Doesn't Prohibit Women from Preaching.

4/14/17

Is There a 'War on Easter'?

Awful Quote

"I just returned from Israel today, and I have the breaking news that the tomb of Jesus Christ is still empty, just as it has been for 2,000 years, and nothing a candy company does is going to extinguish that historic fact. That is the hope of Christians around the world." full article here)

Why It's Awful

It says that it's not threatened by Cadbury's removal of the word "Easter" from its annual egg hunt, while admitting that it's offended. It assumes that separating a nation from any sort of religious roots will affect the religion itself. It claims to know the location of Jesus' tomb. It misrepresents the hope of Christians as being in historicity, not the person of Christ.

How to Not be Awful

No one knows where Jesus was buried. Tradition and archaeology have provided a number of different locations over the centuries from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Garden Tomb, but it is an unequivocal fact that we do not know for sure where his body was laid.

However, pastors can count on the whole "the tomb is empty" thing getting a resounding Amen! and Hallelujah! Everyone believes this is true, but the historical evidence amounts to claiming that Jesus came back to life because a tomb that may or may not be his is empty. In other words, Christians believe regardless of facts.

So the desperate appeal to the post-Enlightenment mind of a historical Jesus and a historical resurrection isn't even evidenced among the beliefs and practices of the church. It is a clever ploy to make any rejection of Christianity a rejection of the prevailing culture's ideology.

Most of us would laugh at those who claim the Holocaust never happened because it's so well documented. In the same way, making the resurrection out to be historical fact holds America hostage to Christianity because modern Americans can't argue with history.

Thus, removing Easter from Cadbury's egg hunt is a rejection of the historicity of Christianity. And to that we all ought to give our heartiest Amen!

Faith is the evidence of things unseen as the writer of Hebrews says. Even Christians in the same century as Jesus struggled with the reality of his resurrection because so few of them witnessed it. Yet they chose to believe the apostles' testimony not through facts but through faith.

Historicity perverts faith into juvenile intellectualism, leading many to think that you would have to be stupid to not believe. Jesus didn't come to make us feel stupid for not believing in him. He came to show us how to live. Don't overshadow him because you can't accept that his example means being scorned by culture, not exalted by it on boxes of candy.

4/7/17

Mormon Leader Tells Followers To Always Pay Their Tithes, Even If It Means Their Families Starve

Awful Quote

"One day, during those difficult times, I heard my parents discussing whether they should pay tithing or buy food for the children." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It assumes that Christians are under a biblical obligation to tithe. It creates a false dichotomy between the the church's "mission" and the needs of the family. It ignores biblical teaching about the importance of caring for one's family. It claims that God's blessings flow from some sort of weird, quid pro quo symbiosis.

How to Not be Awful

On multiple occasions, God's prophets scolded his people for not understanding their own religion. Though we tend to focus on ancient Israel's idolatry, their real problem was how they treated each other.

Despite many unfortunate modern expressions, Christianity is very other-centric. As much as God holds each of us individually accountable, he expects us to be communally responsible. For example, the Israelites' tithes were ultimately given to those who couldn't support themselves (i.e. the poor).

Taking care of one's family was understood in the Mosaic Law, but Paul made it abundantly clear to Timothy that we put our religion into practice by caring for our families. Failing to do so, he said, was equivalent to denying the faith.

Not surprisingly, the Latter-day Saints sprang up during the foreign missionary movement of the 19th century. Though the "great commission" is a phrase never found in Scripture nor its preeminence in Christian service ever recorded, transportation innovations and exploration tempted Christians with the ability to proselytize the whole world.

The church hasn't been right ever since. Rather than living out their faith at home by caring for their families and local communities, Mormons and many Protestants still view foreign missions as the highest calling and priority.

This is not Christianity. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not to see children starve on its behalf. The gospel brings life, physical and spiritual, to the needy.

Anyone who tells you to give to the church at the expense of your family is not of God. Don't succumb to the false sacrifices of oligarchic prophets lest their coffers become the coffin of your faith.

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Read more about why Christians Don't Tithe and how to stop Hating Your Family for Jesus.

3/31/17

#KeepPrayerFree & stop T-Mobile from charging callers for prayer on free conference lines

Awful Quote

"By forcing them to pay additional fees for these calls, T-Mobile is effectively cutting off a spiritual lifeline for its loyal customers who cannot afford these charges." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It equates charging cellular customers a fee for calling out-of-plan numbers with attacking "the right to pray for free". It misunderstands the difference between a toll-free number and a cellular carrier (of which the Terms and Conditions explicitly state, "the components and amounts of the Surcharges are subject to change without notice"). It undermines its case by openly admitting that, "many T-Mobile customers call into prayer lines multiple times a week to pray with others for long periods of time" thus explaining why the carrier might have increased fees to maintain its network. It overstates its case with a petition signed by less than 1,600 people. It attempts to blame the carrier for the irresponsibility of Christians who would rather incur surcharges for praying over a conference line than pray with their local church family like a normal person. It claims that a cellular carrier adding an additional surcharge is discriminating against people of faith.

How to Not be Awful

According to T-Mobile, they charge $0.01 per minute for calls made to chat lines, radio broadcast lines, and similar services because those calls tend to cost the company more to complete. Freedom to Pray, the organization created a month ago for no other productive purpose than to petition against this change in the service agreement, thinks this is religious discrimination.

Apparently, "chat lines" includes FreeConferenceCall.com which hosts prayer lines. Of course, it also includes radio broadcast lines. But the overwhelming response to the petition must indicate that the prayer lines were the target, not the tens of millions of radio listeners. Clearly, the war on prayer is as meticulous as it is surreptitious.

Who knew it needed to be said, but you don't need prayer lines to pray. Prayer is an activity of the church that connects us with the divine part of who we are: the very Spirit of God. We tap into that by interacting with each other, especially through the intimate moments of confession, supplication, and praise that prayer creates. Through prayer, we know each other and through each other, we know God.

Keeping prayer free is something an American would say, not a Christian. Prayer cannot be taxed or restricted in any way because it is a spiritual connection through a supernatural carrier. Phones lines can be taxed and conference calls can be restricted, but these tools do not enable or even enhance prayer--they are peripheral.

Fearing that a surcharge could affect the spiritual life of the Christian demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of prayer, placing one's faith in the American religion of consumerism and self. Don't blame a cellular carrier for your anonymity-seeking, self-involved approach to prayer. Go to church, be vulnerable, and grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

3/17/17

Why Are Millennials Protesting? (because they're all mentally ill)

Awful Quote

"Many of these Millennials coming from broken homes then subject to all kinds of radicalized teaching on our college campuses, and all types of identity politics, and told that what matters most is how I feel about things, and how I want to be known and identified, and on and on it goes." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It chalks up Millennial activism and interest in social justice to mental illness. It implies that the only reason Millennials think the way they do is because their mental illness was exploited by the left-wing agenda. It suggests that Millennials are protesting various social issues to medicate their own "personal pain" and "personal guilt".

How to Not be Awful

I'm not a college student. I've never protested anything and, unlike a certain 62-year-old college professor with professional headshots, I've never paid for my selfies. But I'm still a Millennial.

I'm a Millennial who's been married for nearly 10 years, has a 3-year-old daughter, owns a home, and could buy a decent car with the current balance in my retirement plan. You would think that someone with a Ph.D. could do the math and figure out that those born between 1980-2000 would include more than the early twenty-somethings, but I digress.

I am, however, the product of a broken home and I'm currently taking an anti-depressant. According to Dr. Brown, I was the perfect target for leftist manipulation when I was in college. And considering that I now find the Republican party and evangelicalism repugnant, you might think that he's right. Except that my alma mater is Moody Bible Institute.

I was raised in an evangelical Christian church and home, I went to an evangelical Christian college, and I began my career at an evangelical Christian radio station. The closest I've ever been to the left-wing agenda was the occasional Facebook rant from a Lutheran friend, but even he couldn't convince me that evangelicalism was just self-worship consecrated with American consumerism. The Bible did.

I read Jesus' words in Matthew 22 and wondered how the Great Commission hijacked the greatest commandments. I read James 1:27 and 1 John 3:17 and wondered how Neo-Platonism excused physical needs. I read Isaiah 58:6-7 and Zechariah 7:5-6 and wondered how religiosity replaced righteousness. I read Colossians 2:21-23 and wondered why false piety continued to distract us from holiness when we had countless examples of this Scripture.

I didn't leave evangelicalism because some leftist wingnut in a suede jacket told me to. I didn't adopt progressive ideals because my depression drove me to seek self-fulfillment and identity in hip causes. I left evangelicalism because in it I found the very thing this author applies universally to Millennials: self-centeredness. And my ideals progressed because the Bible I read doesn't condone such puerility.

Don't paint your opponents as weak-minded fools simply because they don't share your beliefs. In this case, it's an argument that amounts to calling liberals retarded which the author sees as empathetic, not juvenile and offensive.

His broad brush strokes aside, there are certainly those who fit in his uncharitable cookie cutter. But no more so than his own hyper-individualistic generation and their conveniently-unaccountable hermeneutic. By all means, condemn selfishness wherever you see it in the church. Just be sure you're looking in your own church as well.

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3/3/17

Christian Leaders Urge Parents to Boycott 'Beauty and the Beast' Over Inclusion of 'Gay Moment'

Awful Quote

"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." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It whines about how difficult it is to explain a questionable ethic to children.

How to Not be Awful

My daughter is three-years-old. She can't read, she can't write, and she can't fully reason. But she understands one fundamental, elementary concept: danger.

When we bought her a scooter last fall, she took to it immediately. Within days, she was scooting around the block as fast as her tiny legs could propel her. And then it happened. One, unfortunately-sized crack in the sidewalk and head over handlebars she went. Thanks to her trusty pink, kitty cat helmet, she walked away with only a couple of scuffed palms. But she's never ridden as fast since.

Even at such a young age, people understand the concept of pain and the potential for it. Which is why explaining things that are dangerous to kids is relatively easy. If it hurts, it's bad.

"Why do I have to go to bed?" Because your body needs rest and going without sleep hurts it. "Why can't I eat as much candy as I want?" Because too much sugar hurts your stomach and your teeth. They might not always accept these answers, but it's certainly not an uncomfortable position to talk to our kids like people if our rules are truly for there safety.

Blaming an entertainment company for having to explain our rules to our kids raises an interesting question: if you find it awkward or difficult to tell your child why he or she can't see a certain movie, do you really have a good reason to prohibit it in the first place?

Defending our ethics to our kids has nothing to do with cognitive development or the ability to understand "social issues". We tell them to buckle up for the same reason the government tells us to click it or ticket. There is no higher brain function that adults possess to understand danger--it's universally understood from the moment we learn to walk.

The problem is that we can't define any real danger that would come from our kids being exposed to a "gay moment" in a movie. The celluloid isn't going to rape them nor is the image going to burn their brains.

Evangelicals will say that the danger is spiritual because it normalizes sexual immorality. But assuming you believe homosexuality is a sin, this suggests that engaging in or endorsing homosexual behavior is sinful enough to dilute the blood of Christ. Further evidence that those who oppose homosexuality do not understand the gospel.

The only reason to prohibit your children from viewing harmless movies is because you don't want them to think differently than you. Scary and violent movies can introduce unnecessary fear into underdeveloped minds, but a gay moment is simply a depiction of affection, whether you like it or not. Don't try to censor life if you can't even explain why to a child.

2/24/17

CPAC will have a panel on Heaven, walls and extreme vetting

Awful Quote

"If heaven has a gate, a wall and extreme vetting, why can't America?" (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It equates a culturally-understood, metaphorical approximation meant to convey a transcendent reality with literal gates and walls. It grossly misunderstands the free gift of faith leading to our salvation. It compares national policy to divine ordination.

How to Not be Awful

The apostle John describes the Holy City (not heaven) as having twelve gates, each made from a single pearl, and a great, high wall with twelve foundations. The wall was one hundred and forty-four cubits thick (216 feet) and each side measured twelve thousand stadia long (approx. 1,380 miles). It was made of jasper (a variety of quartz) while the rest of the city, including the streets, was made of pure gold.

Either the Holy City is structurally unsound or the book of Revelation uses figurative, apocalyptic language (spoiler: it does).

Pure gold has a hardness of 2.5-3.0 on the Mohs scale which makes it only slightly harder than your fingernails. A 1.9 million-square-mile city (a little bigger than India) made entirely of such a material would look more like a bad acid trip than heaven. Perhaps the city is just a giant shower because that's the only place you'll see quartz walls. But good luck getting in because the largest single pearl ever found was only nine inches in diameter.

There are a number of clues in this passage that indicate it's not meant to be read literally. First of all, the number twelve occurs so many times it's even squared at one point. John shouldn't have to spell it out, but he does: the twelve gates represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve foundations represent the twelve apostles.

Secondly, pearly gates, jasper walls, gold streets, and precious stones adorning the foundations all bring to mind the ancient tabernacle, temple, and other articles which Scripture describes as shadows of heavenly things. In other words, even the figurative gates and walls were allusions to symbols--a point clearly missed by those with the biblical literacy of a St. Peter joke.

Heavenly gates and walls do not represent security or extreme vetting. They represent the better place Jesus promised through the faith built on the great cloud of witnesses before us (Israel and the apostles).

Of course, not everyone will be able to enter as Jesus himself said the figurative gate was narrow. But that doesn't mean there will be spiritual refugees outside banging on the walls for all eternity. Anyone can enter. Scripture is clear: if you confess that Jesus is Lord you will be saved. There is no vetting system for potential apostasy.

To the denier, Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." To the doubter, he said, "Put your hand in my side." Don't make God an alt-right hero or heaven a literal gated community. Unlike our President, God is gracious and unlike America, heaven has open borders. Compare the two if you want, but be prepared for a national policy only God's kingdom can sustain.

2/17/17

Taco Bell has joined in Tasteless Advertising

Awful Quote

"This inappropriate advertisement is airing during primetime when children are likely watching. It is extremely destructive and damaging to impressionable children viewing the commercial." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It misunderstands the meaning of the words "crude" and "foul". It fears children repeating a word that's available in a dictionary. It places the responsibility of raising children on a fast-food franchise. It implies that children grow up best when exposed to only one set of messages (otherwise known as indoctrination). It claims that hearing and/or repeating the word "hell" will damage children without offering evidence or examples (i.e. begging the question).

How to Not be Awful

The Bible uses the Hebrew and Greek words for hell 77 times (she'owl 65 times, geenna 12 times). And in that time, it was essentially a euphemism for death or the grave. Comparing one's morning in America to such an extreme may smack of first-world problems, but there is nothing innately wrong with a word used so ubiquitously in Scripture.

However, up until modern profanity shifted towards sexual and scatological references in the early twentieth century, blasphemy was considered the most inappropriate type of language. Words with religious undertones like "damn" and "hell" were offensive because they were loosely associated with the third commandment prohibiting taking God's name in vain.

Apart from being a severe semantic stretch to classify "hell" as blasphemy in the vein of "oh my god", it completely misses the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law as it regards cursing and blasphemy.

First of all, Jesus expands the requirements of love from not only prohibiting murder to prohibiting calling each other names. Certainly saying to a person "damn you" or "go to hell" qualifies but no more so than calling someone stupid or foolish. In both cases, what's in the heart matters more than what's on the lips.

Secondly, taking God's name in vain wasn't about careless usage of morphemes but about carelessly ascribing his name to vows (hence why we also call it swearing). And here again, Jesus expands on this by abolishing the practice of oaths and vows and telling us to simply answer "yes" or "no". In fact, he says that anything beyond this is evil. Hear those words clearly: duplicity is worse than our choice of words, and being equivocating or noncommittal is just as profane.

Clean speech falls into Paul's category of false humility; it's useless in our sanctification. But if you still fear using certain words based on their associations, at least be consistent. Don't buy angel food cake or ever say that it "tastes like heaven" because those words are religious too.

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For more discussion on profanity, read the post Christians Should Swear More.

2/10/17

Bigoted Valentine card causes uproar, anger at CMU student group

Awful Quote

"My love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It treats death like a punchline. It compares the love of an insensitive college student to the stench of charred flesh. It appropriates the memory of murdered souls for effect rather than reverence. It subjugates the obligation of love to the desire for free speech.

How to Not be Awful

We all use extremes to make a point. When we want someone to work really hard, we ask for 110% to illustrate that we want them to go above and beyond their normal effort. But in a culture where a turkey sandwich can be awesome, extreme is never extreme enough prompting some to seek shock value in the crass and inappropriate. However innocent or simply misguided it may seem, it reveals a dangerous attitude.

Intentional or not, saying, "My love for you burns like 6,000 Jews" is really saying, "I love you so much I would burn 6,000 Jews for you." Society today may glorify violent affection as romantic, but this is a fundamental misunderstanding of love.

Love does no harm. And not just to the object of our love, love does no harm, period. The situation where a spouse's life is threatened and we take the life of the perpetrator to save that of our spouse is not love. Taking that person's life is saying that no one has the right to take our spouses away from us. Treating people as things to have rather than lives to share is not love but possession.

Don't let your love devolve into possession. We're all tempted to feel entitled to another's embrace, but love is not never letting go; it's treasuring the moment of them holding you back, for as long as it lasts. Enjoy it. Because owning a person will never be sweeter than their unearned affection.

2/3/17

Boy Scouts' Transgender Policy Is a 'Rebellion Against God; It's Time to Get Out,' Christian Leader Says

Awful Quote

"It's the end of the Boy Scouts of America as we know it. They have a proud history but they have been infiltrated with the politically correct culture and now they can't even differentiate between a male and a female." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It eulogizes an organization for changing its ideology. It builds a strawman by accusing the Boys Scouts of being unable to tell boys from girls rather than entertain the possibility of a genuine transgender reality for the sake of argument. It attempts to justify its position by prophesying the demise of its opponent. It encourages Christians to avoid people they believe to be living in sin--in direct contradiction to Paul's words to the Corinthians. It misrepresents gender confusion as a cultural issue instead of an individual one where a person feels trapped in the body of a different gender. It accuses people who feel a certain incoherence between their mind and body as being rebellious.

How to Not be Awful

Most conservative Christians and evangelicals don't accept the LGBT community. However, a number of them have come around to accept that people can be born gay with the caveat that homosexuality is just another permutation of the fall affecting our minds as well as our bodies.

A few years ago, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention boldly denounced ex-gay therapy saying, "Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone's attractions are going to change." Even places like Moody Bible Institute employ openly gay (but celibate) faculty members.

The irony is that evangelicals are still resistant to the transgender community. They may be evolving past the "all gay are pedophiles" narrative, but they still view transgender folks as sexual predators and deviants. Which is odd because if homosexuality can be explained away as a very real condition not to be acted upon, the same applies to being transgender.

I posed this same question back when Caitlyn Jenner went public. If, according to evangelicals, it's ok to be gay so long as you're celibate, shouldn't it be ok to be transgender so long as you're not in transition?

I ended up defending this thesis when I worked at Moody to a faculty member who ultimately forced me to take the post down (don't worry, it's back up now). When I challenged him that my position wasn't any different than Moody employing his gay colleague, he simply replied that not everyone agreed with the Institute's position on that.

Ideas are easier to dismiss than disprove. Too many people don't actually have good reasons to oppose LGBT folks, they just want to thoughtlessly accept tradition rather than evaluate all of the arguments. For the record, doing the latter will only sharpen your beliefs, not compromise them. Don't inbreed your theology by never considering the merits of your opponent's arguments, no matter how wrong you think they are.

1/27/17

Women's March Was 'A Blatant Manifestation Of The Jezebel Spirit'

Awful Quote

"It was a manifestation of the Jezebel spirit that I think has been seeking to and to some degree has taken a huge amount of dominion over our whole country." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It invents a modern-day spiritual condition based on a character in an ancient narrative. It assumes a measure of "meanness" and "rage" in the marchers based on their signs, not direct interactions. It objectifies women for being "unattractive" in demeanor. It equates women marching for rights and equality in protest of a man who affords them neither with a woman guilty of mass murder.

How to Not be Awful

The Women's March on Washington last week produced an unprecedented turnout due in large part to President Trump's deplorable treatment of women. Even prominent evangelicals like Beth Moore, Sara Groves, and Kay Warren refused to keep silent but rather scolded their male peers for not standing up for women.

Clearly, the disapproval of the newly-minted President crosses even the highest of demographic boundaries, just as the march's guiding principles intended. Yet the march itself failed to represent such diversity. The Washington Post reported that most of the attendees were white despite being in a highly diverse city. Likewise, the New York Times quoted a civil rights activist saying, "If you want to come to the march you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman's right to choose."

In fact, a National Review commentator who attended the march indicated the overall tenor of the attendees was not very welcoming to conservatives even though many of them also oppose the President. However, this didn't stop him from saying that the marchers he saw were "unfailingly polite". Sure there were signs calling President Trump a shithead, but the marchers were hardly "mean" or full of "rage", at least according to one conservative eye-witness.

Judging people by their protest signs is the same as judging a book by its cover. The message may have been visceral and at times crass, but that doesn't mean the people were bloodthirsty Jezebels. Don't condemn passion and determination as sin just because you don't agree with it.

More on biblical relevance of the "The Jezebel Spirit" next Monday.

1/20/17

Trustee email ignites debate over separation of church and state

Awful Quote

"If I ignore my Christian beliefs, what will happen to my soul when I die?" (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It suggests that salvation depends on opposing homosexuality. It references Scripture that, if taken to condemn homosexuality, would equally condemn every greedy American as well. It concedes a selfish, conflict of interest. It makes significant assumptions about a community's education philosophy.

How to Not be Awful

If being a Christian means loving God by loving people, then it follows that sin is hurting God by hurting people. Unlike the pain of rebuke which is self-inflicted through the ego, hurt is intentional harm. In fact, almost every biblical prohibition relates to avoiding harm to some degree.

For example, the popular anti-LGBT passage in 1 Corinthians condemns those who cause harm to marriages, property, other people, other people's wallets, and even their own bodies. Indeed, while the first four of the ten commandments deal with God, the last six all deal with human interactions.

So in determining which things are sin, the most important question to ask is "did anyone get hurt?" Again, hurt must be distinguished from the bruised ego of the professional victim who wasn't harmed as much as confronted with cognitive dissonance. In other words, there is no harm done by supporting gay people to those who think that homosexuality is a sin.

To the contrary, one would be hard-pressed to find any harm peculiar to homosexuality that isn't common in all relationships such as infidelity or abuse. It's no wonder that many opponents nimbly conflate homosexuality with pedophilia because the notion of two men loving each other intimately lacks a dimension of horror needed to mobilize voting blocs.

The only harm to be found in these situations is that imposed on gay people by those who dehumanize them with traditional values and mock the imago dei present in the gay and straight alike. Which means that the fear for salvation shouldn't come from the support of the LGBT community but from the marginalization of it.

Don't grow weary doing good to all by letting your selfish distaste for another's preferences rob you of the joy of your salvation. Running the race to win means means persevering against the sin in your own heart first, so don't forfeit the prize because you couldn't see the lack of love in your harmful piety.

1/13/17

Christians Upset: Kids Magazine Shows Same-Sex Couple

Awful Quote

"It is not a magazines' job to introduce so called 'social issues' to children. That is a parent's role." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It paints any display of inclusivity as capitulation to an agenda, not a genuine desire to be inclusive (an accusation that's especially unlikely given Highlights' refusal to capitulate to the same angry conservatives that exposed World Vision's proclivity for capitulation). It implies that the real victims are older conservatives who were reminded that gay people exist. It mistakes a for-profit children's publication with some sort of severe social contract by calling the controversial drawing a "deal breaker". It reduces gay people to social issues.

How to Not be Awful

Social issues are matters of disagreement in how government regulates society. For example, the Civil Rights Movement was a social issue dealing with unconstitutional legislation that oppressed African-Americans. Black people were not a social issue; the unjust treatment of them in America was (and still is).

Likewise, gay people are not a social issue either. There may be disagreement over what rights and freedoms apply to them, but they share just as much of the imago dei as white, heterosexual, cisgender, males who watch football and eat red meat. They're people. And the fear of homosexual normalization is unrepentant dehumanization.

The argument goes that normalizing homosexuality, or allowing its portrayal in everyday life, is the same as endorsing it. Which is lot like saying that showing a panda in its natural habitat is encouraging you eat bamboo. If you see a panda eating bamboo, you're just seeing a panda being a panda. In the same way, if you see a gay couple packing their car for a family trip, you're seeing gay people being people.

Sneering at this depiction as indoctrination is to say that gay people shouldn't be seen as people. It's saying that they're nothing more than a social aberration--a mistake at best and a disease at worst. It denies them their creator's signature and applauds spiritual murder as righteousness.

It is not a parent's role to raise their children to see certain people as social issues, but rather to see all people as people and treat them accordingly. So don't hide behind your kids because seeing gay people acting like people offends you. This isn't about your kids or even homosexuality. It's about you only seeing the things that you want God to judge, not the things that God wants you to love.

1/6/17

Parents "Pray for Healing" as Adopted 7-year-old Dies on Vomit-Soaked Mattress

Awful Quote

"The Johnsons acknowledge that, despite them myriad of concerning behavioral changes, they never took (Seth) to a doctor because they had 'issues with going to doctors.' They were concerned that a doctor would put (Seth) on medications and believed that they got better information from their own research." (full article here)

Why It's Awful

It excuses negligence with fear. It assumes that doctors are little more than Google searches with faces. It treats children like property with which parents can do as they please, not individuals with the same blood that God will avenge. It tests God by expecting him to shoulder the burden of the parents' irresponsibility.

How to Not be Awful

God is all-powerful. There is no disease that can thwart his will nor any medical condition beyond his complete control. If he can bring people back from the dead, he can heal 7-year-olds with pancreatitis.

But praying to God for your son's healing while dancing at a friend's wedding is not trusting him, it's testing him. Scripture says that Israel tested God at least ten times, asking for things like food and water. But they didn't ask in faith; they asked with the contempt of an spoiled child who has never experienced "no".

James explains that faith without works is dead, noting that the faith that wishes another to be warm and fed without providing clothing and food is worthless. Likewise, Pope Francis once said, "You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That's how prayer works."

God can certainly answer prayers for healing, but don't expect any miracles if you're simply waiting for him to do all the work. As James said, Abraham wasn't justified because he waited for God to justify him. He was justified because he believed God.

In the same way, action is not a lack of trust or a feeble attempt to circumvent him. To the contrary, faith empowers us to act while action demonstrates our faith. It's easy to have the faith to wait for a miracle from some disease, but it's much harder to have the faith to fight a disease with uncomfortable methods. To have the confidence that God is, indeed, the rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.

Faith does not wait. Faith takes leaps and it takes action, not because it doesn't trust that God can but because it trusts that God will. Don't mistake your prayer closet for piety if it never gets you out of the house. Don't pray and wait to see what God will do. Pray and see what God does through you.




photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc