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Monday, June 29, 2015

Blogaround

Hooray! Image source.
1. The Gospel is Not Clickbait (posted June 22) "But now we are left with the not-altogether-surprising fact that these supposedly Christian sites blatantly lied to us in order to get us to click on something."

2. The Confederate flag symbolizes white supremacy — and it always has (posted June 22) "White mobs at the University of Alabama carried Confederate flags when they threw rocks at Autherine Lucy, the university's first black student, before the university decided to expel her rather than protect her."

3. Obama said the n-word to make a point. The media's reaction proved him right. (posted June 22) "There's much more interest in covering discrete incidents of outright racism than there is in covering subtler but still influential ways that racial bias shapes society."

4. Pre-Flight Checklist: Remove Cat (posted June 23) "Never before has a man’s face said “there’s a cat on the wing of my plane” with such unequivocal clarity."

5. The Homophobia of Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham (posted June 10) "When Wells Fargo hosed and took advantage of the poor by giving them sub prime mortgages they couldn’t afford, Focus on the Family, Samaritan’s Purse, and Franklin Graham said nothing."

6. Is Your Trans Allyship Half-Baked? Here Are 6 Mistakes That Trans Allies Are Still Making (posted June 22)

7. Lego Wants to Replace Plastic Blocks With Sustainable Materials (posted June 23) "The company uses more than 6,000 tons of plastic annually to manufacture its products, according to NBC News."

8. Thoughts on Christian Marriage Teachings, Part One (posted June 23) "the idea that God had to be the center of my marriage, and all that entails, was disastrous for my marriage."

9. Dear Christians: Save Your Prayers If You Won’t Confront Racism (posted June 23) "So, unless you are ready to confront racism in America, save your prayers. They aren’t fooling anyone. They are not fooling me. And rest assured, they aren’t fooling God."

10. Jurassic World: The Series (posted June 22) "I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the successful park might have been more interesting than yet another installment of 'People Run Away From Dinosaurs: The Movie'." I AGREE 100%.

11. Rachel Dolezal Is Ruining My Light-Skinned Black Life (posted June 17)

12. Supreme Court rules states must allow same-sex marriage (posted June 26) Hooray!!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blogaround

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About the shooting in Charleston:

1. Why a Black Church? (posted June 19) "To this day, churches are the center of social and political life in the American black community—and they are clear symbols of black influence and power."

2. The Doors of the Church are Open (posted June 20)

3. Making Sense of the Charleston Shooting (posted June 19) "The most offensive word in expressions of sympathy for the Charleston shooting victims may be 'senseless.'"

4. Charleston shootings: Emanuel AME church to reopen (posted June 21) "It's a church of the Lord - you don't turn nobody down."

5. To donate to Emanuel AME church, go here: http://emanuelamechurch.org/ 

Other stuff:

1. The Execution of Michael Servetus & My Primary Deal-Breaker with Calvinism (posted June 15) "If Calvin didn’t understand something so basic as torturing and killing people is something a Jesus follower probably shouldn’t do, I have zero confidence that he ever understood the more complex theological issues."

2. Melchizedek: King, Priest, Time Lord (posted June 13) "It’s fascinating, really, to see what Jewish and Christian theology came up with based on an obscure episode in Genesis spanning just four verses."

3. Will your self-driving car be programmed to kill you if it means saving more strangers? (posted June 15)

4. How Watermelons Became a Racist Trope (posted 2014)

5. Let’s Talk about Rachel Dolezal’s Parents (posted June 17) "For those who are familiar with this subculture, you probably know where this is going. The CLASS curriculum is recommended by white supremacists, and as Kathryn Joyce has documented, black children adopted into evangelical families are often treated in a highly racialized way, punished more harshly than their white siblings and taught to denigrate their own culture."

6. Christian Complains That Neighbor’s Colorful Yard is Becoming “Relentlessly Gay” (posted June 17) "Yes... we must protect the children from the evil, wicked lamps!"

7. Ken Ham’s Reconstruction of Noah’s Ark Demonstrates Absurdity of Creationism (posted June 18) "Ken Ham needs more than $100 million, modern machinery, a huge team of labor, roads, lumber mills, AND tax breaks and never once thinks ‘You know... I don’t think a 500 year old man could pull this off with tools from the Bronze Age...'"

8. Why You Need To Know The Complicated History Of Pubic Hair Removal (posted June 22)

9. Let It Flow (posted June 22) Star Wars parody of "Let It Go." Yeah.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Dragon boat racing. Image source.
Hi everyone, today is Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duān wǔ jié) in China! This year it falls on June 20, but it's based on the lunar calendar so it's on different days (around the summer solstice) every year.

On this day, we eat 粽子 (zòng zi) and have dragon boat races. Now, what is a 粽子 (zòng zi), you ask? Behold, some pictures:

Image source.
In the above picture, you can see how the 粽子 (zòng zi) have a tetrahedral shape, and they are wrapped in leaves to be steamed or boiled.

Image source.
This picture shows what's inside the 粽子 (zòng zi). Mostly rice, with some meat or maybe red beans or other flavors added.

The legend behind Dragon Boat Festival is as follows (source: wikipedia):
The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan [屈原 qū yuán](c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.

It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.
I didn't race dragon boats or anything today- instead I went to see the new Jurassic World movie (侏罗纪世界 zhū luó jì shì jiè). Because, dragons. I guess?

Here's the cardboard movie ad they had at the theatre.
The movie was in English with Chinese subtitles. It still blows my mind how willing Chinese people are to go see movies in English and then read the subtitles. For Americans, if you have to read a movie, it's not really entertainment, it's more like "let's behold this cultural/historical work of art," right? But American movies are super-popular in China, so, that's the way it is.

My opinion about Jurassic World: Well I wasn't even sure if I wanted to see it or not, because I don't like movies that have violence- and you know this movie is going to have dinosaurs breaking out of their cages and eating people. But I really love dinosaurs, so I figured I should see the movie- if people in mainstream culture are going to be talking about this movie and dinosaurs, I don't want to miss out.

It was an exciting movie, but too violent for me. I liked the parts with the science and genetic research though. And my FAVORITE scene was the part of the theme park where children could ride little triceratops. So cute!!! If they could have just made a movie all about that, I would be totally on board.

And one more photo I took at the movie theatre:


Yeah... 小心地滑 (xiǎo xīn dì huá) should be translated "caution, wet floor" instead of "carefully slide." But whatever.

Anyway, hope you all have a great Dragon Boat Festival! 端午节快乐!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Speaking of Christian Music I Don't Hate...

Last week I wrote a post about how, though a lot of Christian music brings back memories of how much my total trust in God was betrayed, I still love the song "Oxygen."

Here are a few others I love:

"The Final Word" by Michael Card (full lyrics here)



"He spoke the incarnation and then so was born the Son
His final word was Jesus, he needed no other one
Spoke flesh and blood so he could bleed and make a way divine
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine."

"Unconditionally" by Katy Perry (full lyrics here)



"Unconditional
Unconditionally
I will love you
Unconditionally."

Yeah, I know what Christian music sounds like, and this song is EXACTLY IT. The sound, the rhythm, the words, the fact that it's called "Unconditionally"- this totally belongs in the genre of Christian music. Oh but it's Katy Perry, the personification of all things satanic. The gatekeepers would tell us it couldn't possibly be Christian music.

Yeah, okay. Try to tell me this song doesn't sound exactly like everything on Christian radio, and I will laugh in your face.

Love that song.

"God is a Girl" by Groove Coverage (full lyrics here)



"God is a girl, she's only a girl
Do you believe it, can you receive it?"

Well this one pretty obviously would never be considered a "Christian song" by Real True Christians. Whatever. God is a girl.

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So, readers, what Christian/spiritual/religious songs do you like?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Peter Enns Makes Me Want to Actually Read the Bible Again

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I just finished reading The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns, and YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. This book.

I thought I knew everything about the bible. I grew up in evangelical Christianity. I've read the entire bible multiple times. I was totally a master at sword drills. I did bible quizzing and had entire books of the New Testament memorized. I've read commentaries for fun. For years I would read the bible every day and journal about it, and when I came upon some strange things, I would look for commentaries to explain them. In high school I was SO EXCITED when someone gave me a bible concordance- one of those big thick exhaustive concordances. AND I ACTUALLY USED IT. Brought it with me to college and everything. I've read all the apologetics books. I've started and led bible studies.

I know all the little trivia things that you pick up from years and years of church experience. God's real name was Yahweh- that's the small-caps "Lord" in the Old Testament- but they weren't allowed to say it. The Old Testament is not in chronological order at all; for example, Kings and Chronicles cover the same time period. Ancient Hebrew poetry uses parallel structures. New Testament writers often used an ABCBA kind of form in their writing. The bible never says there were 3 magi. The word "God" is never used in the book of Esther. The concept of the Trinity is never explicitly stated in the bible either. Matthew's and Luke's records of Jesus' genealogy are different. And there is a lot of freakish bizarre stuff in the Old Testament.

And on and on and on. I know what the bible says. Oh I totally know what the bible says. And also the cultural background to help understand it. Or so I thought.

Bible quizzing trophies. In a basement somewhere, I have a massive collection like these. Image source.

That was then. And now all of my beliefs have changed.

I don't read the bible every day. (Or much any day, really.) On purpose. No, I'm not doing that Christian thing where you confess to your small group "hey guys... I haven't been reading my bible every day... I feel so bad, can you pray for me?" No. I don't read the bible because I used to believe that being a "real" Christian and being totally devoted to God meant you have to read the bible every day. Doesn't matter if you're getting anything out of it or not. All that matters is you're a failure if you miss a day or two.

That's legalism. And right now, the only way for me to believe that God loves me regardless of whether or not I read the bible is to not read the bible.

It's so strange, in my experience in evangelical culture, people constantly preached against legalism. We loved the stories of Jesus telling the Pharisees how silly they were, with all their meaningless legalistic practices. We made fun of Catholics because they have so many traditions- they think God wants them to follow all these rules, but they're so wrong. (Yeah I was taught a lot of false stereotypes about Catholics...) But we evangelicals also had so many rules, so many things you need to do to be a "real" Christian. We believed it wasn't legalism though- legalism would be if we had rules for no reason. No no no, our rules were all CLEAR and OBVIOUS results of having real belief in Jesus. (Conveniently, this allows us to judge people who don't follow our rules- obviously, they are not real Christians.)

So I don't read the bible now. And I believe God cares about people's mental and emotional health, so God understands and is fine with it.

When I do read the bible, it's so hard for me to interpret it in any way other than the way I used to believe. I read a passage like Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and the goats, and even though Jesus is explicitly saying that at the judgment, people will be rewarded or punished based on whether they helped others, I know exactly how Real True Christians would interpret it away. "Oh, of course Jesus is not preaching salvation by works here! Of course Jesus knows that it's only by faith that we can get to heaven- it's so obviously understood by his followers that he doesn't even feel the need to mention it in the passage! What he really means is if we're REAL Christians, we will do the things like feed the hungry and stuff. But, you know, the bible is clear that it's the belief part that really matters, not our works. You have to interpret the unclear passages in light of the clearer ones." [Though I can't find anything unclear at all about what Jesus said in Matthew 25.]

(Actually, the parable of the sheep and goats is one of my favorite passages, and I totally don't believe the Real True Christian interpretation I outlined above. So now I just have to come up with a new interpretation for all the other passages too, and I'll be all set.)

My point is, it's so hard to break out of that mindset and realize that the things that "the bible clearly says" are not actually clearly said at all. It's so hard to even notice that possibility that there could be another interpretation. That's why I don't read the bible.

Image source.

Thank God for this book, "The Bible Tells Me So."

Enns paints an entirely new picture of what the bible is. Actually, it's probably not new. It's probably something that bible scholars all know about. How the accounts of taking over the land of Canaan read like typical ancient battle stories, and were really about understanding their identity as a people, not about giving an accurate historical account of what happened. How Jesus interpreted the Old Testament using the same methodology as all the other Jewish people at that time- and which would be totally unacceptable to modern-day American evangelicals. How the New Testament writers reshaped Israel's history around Jesus.

Reading this book feels like reading a new fan theory about the Harry Potter universe. Wow, I had never thought about that before, but suddenly so many parts come together and make sense. And I already have so much knowledge about the story, I can just take the fan theory and run with it, discovering surprising new ways of looking at what has always been so familiar to me.

I find myself asking "how have I never heard about this before?" but unfortunately, I know the answer. I know the answer too well.

I was always encouraged to read the bible and really know the bible, but there were firmly-established constraints on the ways I was allowed to interpret it:

First of all, the bible is true. Which means everything in it actually literally happened. To suggest that Jonah was not really swallowed by a whale is to call into question all of scripture. Only people who hate God would do something like that.

Next, the bible has no mistakes or contradictions. I love logic, so I read all the apologetics books and websites answering the supposed contradictions. Everything was a logic problem, and we had to come up with some kind of twisted explanation that could allow both passage A and passage B to technically be true, even though they seemed to contradict each other. I spent so much time examining these specific, explicitly contradictory verses, that I never thought about whether the big picture made any sense. Sure, I could tell you all about how this or that really is not a contradiction, but had I ever questioned how a loving God could have ordered the Israelites to wipe out entire cities? Nope.

And finally, evangelicals are required to believe that everything God does or says in the bible is right and good. God said to commit genocide? Well, that seems bad, but we know it must be good. We know that's the answer, we just don't understand why. No more of that for me- I now believe it's not okay, and there is no possible explanation you could give that would make it okay.

Evangelical Christianity does not allow people to treat the bible like an actual book, which came from somewhere, which had authors, which was written in a particular time and culture. We have to believe it is a series of absolutely true statements that fell from heaven. We have to believe it's a rulebook- this is the view that Enns challenges in "The Bible Tells Me So."

"Everyone says that they wish their life came with instructions, but it already has instructions, it's called the BIBLE." Yeah, no. Image source.
Anyway, my point in all this is I've realized I have so much more to learn about the bible. I thought I knew everything, but it turns out all I knew was the one narrow interpretation that good Christians are allowed to believe.

"The Bible Tells Me So" makes me want to learn more. If the stories in the Old Testament are part of an ancient genre which should not be understood as literal history, then can we find more examples ofthis genre of writing in other ancient cultures? Why did they use it? How are the stories in the bible different from other ancient writings? Why are certain things included- and why are certain things embellished and exaggerated? What was the purpose of writing each book of the bible, and how would this purpose introduce bias into what was written? How did the Israelites' perception of God change over time? (All of these are questions that you're totally not allowed to ask in church. But so incredibly interesting.)

I'm struck by how totally amazing the bible is. Especially when you stop trying to force it to be something it's not.

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My other posts about The Bible Tells Me So:

The Worst Bible Story
Blaming the Biblical Victim (And More Horrifying Implications of Scripture) 

The Bible's Contradictions Matter, And It's Not a Logic Problem 
The Bible is a Model, So Use Your Brain 
Jesus Takes the Bible Out of Context 
The Old Testament Does Not Predict Jesus 
Peter Enns Makes Me Want to Actually Read the Bible Again

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blogaround

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1. The Sleeping Beauty Problem (that's a youtube video, here's a link to the wikipedia page.) Fascinating math stuff.

2. Proportional Map of the World's Largest Languages (posted June 8) Cool!

3. This incredibly useful flowchart about when to use "tu" and "vous."

4. 400 people have been imprisoned in Riker's Island for at least 2 years without ever being convicted (posted June 10) "Call it what it really is - the injustice system, the New Jim Crow, modern slavery, but don't call it justice and don't call it an accident."

5. Exploring what it means when police refuse to provide medical attention to their victims (posted June 2) "What is the appropriate ethical human response to shooting or injuring someone who you soon find didn't actually pose the threat to you that you expected?" This is a must-read. #BlackLivesMatter

6. J.R. Daniel Kirk on the heart of the gospel (This is not an Official Statement of a stance on an issue) (posted June 10) "And he knows that just because certain biblical texts unambiguously state one claim, that does not make that claim the final or the only biblical teaching on the matter."

7. Are the Duggars Victims of Christian Persecution? (posted June 8) "Indeed, I’ve long been concerned by the prevailing media narrative about the Duggars. The girls’ courtships have been portrayed as wholesome and quaint, with all of the layers of control and unhealthy teaching papered over."

8. About Rachel Dolezal the Undercover Sista and Performing Blackness (posted June 14) "It’s a one way street, and it’s really just another privilege that white people can claim. They could put on wigs and be Black because they listen to Jay-Z but we cannot be white no matter how much Barry Manilow we love. And no matter how straight we make our hair."

9. The problem with saying race is fluid is that it only applies to white people (posted June 12) "Claiming that race is fluid seems to be yet another example of white privilege."

About McKinney:

1. Texas Police Officer On Administrative Leave After Pulling Weapon On Teens During Pool Party (posted June 7) What the hell.

2. Protesters seek firing of Texas police officer who drew gun on teens at McKinney pool party (posted June 8)

3. This Is What It's Like (posted June 8) "I need you to know that whatever feelings I had as I watched this unfold, whatever pain I felt, whatever reaction I had, God had tenfold. God felt every yank and pull. God felt every shooting pain and press of the body. God felt her sobs. For God knows the violence of this world, is intimately aware of state-sanctioned brutality."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Old Testament Does Not Predict Jesus

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Chapter 6 of Peter Enns' book The Bible Tells Me So is about how the New Testament writers handled Jesus' death and resurrection- a "surprise ending" to Israel's story.

Again and again, Enns emphasizes this point: If you just read the Old Testament, on its own terms, you will never guess that a crucified and resurrected messiah would be the next part of the story.

This is shocking to me, because I've always heard Christians talk about how there were totally so many Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. And we always laughed at the disciples for not getting it.

But seriously. What happens in the Old Testament? God creates the world, but then people sin and there are all kinds of problems. So God creates a nation- God's chosen people. God brings them into the promised land and gives them the Torah, a covenant which guarantees God's blessing and protection if they obey. There are kings- some good and some bad- there are prophets warning the nation to repent, interpreting disasters as signs of God's judgment against sin. (Though I don't think God literally sent disasters as punishment- I think the prophets just used whatever bad things happened to be going on to argue that the people should repent. Because if you literally believe God caused a disaster because of people's sin, you get into some really horrific theology.) Eventually God's people get conquered and taken into exile. Later, some of them return to their homeland, and there are promises of God's blessings being restored.

So, what do you think happens next in the story?

Well, if you're an optimistic person, you probably would guess that God's people- the Jewish people- follow the Torah again, God gives them freedom so they are in control of their land, and David's line of kings continues. And all is well.

I've heard Christians say so many times, the disciples didn't "get it" because they expected the messiah to be a political leader who would challenge the Roman government. Well, yeah. If you just read the Old Testament, what else could you possibly think?

Yeah, so they came back from exile but still were controlled by the Roman empire. And then God appeared in human form, did miracles and taught people, and got killed and resurrected.

I... what?

How does that fit?

The New Testament writers had to make it fit. They had their history, culture, religion, and traditions on one hand, and their experiences of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection on the other. And make it fit they did. They reinterpreted everything with Jesus as the center.

Enns brings up two big concepts in this chapter, which would have been totally new and radical for Jews living in the time of Jesus. First, God's love was not limited to just the Jewish people. Jesus was the savior of the entire world- Jews and Gentiles. Second, keeping the Torah wasn't really the point. It was just temporary, and Jesus brings a new and better covenant.

To modern Christians, these ideas are totally not a big deal. Yeah, of course everyone can be a Christian. Of course we don't have to follow the Old Testament laws. But you can read in the New Testament about how this stuff was totally controversial. (See Acts 10-11, Acts 15, Romans 3:9, Galatians 2:11-14, and also everything else in the New Testament.)

Peter and Cornelius. "God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean." Acts 10:28. Image source.
There's one question I would like to ask, based on what I read in this chapter: If God appearing in human form didn't "fit" with what the Old Testament said, and they had to go back and reinterpret everything, then wouldn't it have been just as possible for God to appear in human form in the context of a different religion and culture? Was there anything special about first-century Jewish culture? Or could it also have worked with many other religions?

What if Jesus had appeared, say, among people who were polytheistic and believed in the whole group of Greek gods and goddesses? I believe Jesus would still be among the poor- his care for those who are oppressed is an essential part of his identity. Would that polytheistic religion then have been adapted and reinterpreted around Jesus? They could keep the parts that fit with the character of God/gods as revealed in Jesus- love for everyone, resurrection, justice, etc- and sort of ignore the other things their religion had previously taught them. It would be a new religion. And then that would be Christianity?

Maybe first-century Judaism wasn't the "true religion" at that time. Maybe Jesus just happened to show up there.

I suppose you could make the argument that Judaism still exists today, while most of the other ancient religions do not, so there is something special or "more true" about the God who is revealed in the Jewish scriptures.

Anyway, the point is that if you just read the Old Testament, you would never suspect that the next thing that happens is God shows up in human flesh. And I wonder if the same could be said for a lot of religions.

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My other posts about The Bible Tells Me So:

The Worst Bible Story
Blaming the Biblical Victim (And More Horrifying Implications of Scripture) 

The Bible's Contradictions Matter, And It's Not a Logic Problem 
The Bible is a Model, So Use Your Brain 
Jesus Takes the Bible Out of Context 
The Old Testament Does Not Predict Jesus 
Peter Enns Makes Me Want to Actually Read the Bible Again

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"You Are My Oxygen"

Image souce.

Ever since I changed my religion from Real True Christian to fake Christian, I've had a really hard time getting on board with a lot of common worship songs. There are songs I used to love, songs about giving everything to God, about how we feel so so SO close to God, and now all I hear is how my trust was betrayed. Yeah, I bought into all of it, and it wasn't real. I can't trust God. I gave everything to God back then, and now I've lost everything. (Yeah that's a long story, we won't go into it now. "Everything" is mostly referring to my identity.)

I'm never giving everything to God again. I don't even believe in the concept of "giving everything to God." First, you have to decide which version of God you believe in, and what you mean by "give everything to God." Those are choices each individual has to make (or, you know, just go along with what your pastor says), and they by definition cannot be "given to God."

But there is one Christian song that I still love. "Oxygen," by Avalon.



Full lyrics can be found here. This is the chorus:
You are my oxygen
I breathe you in, I breathe you out
You are my oxygen
You are my love, you are what life's about
God is like oxygen.

God is the source of all life. In God we live and move and have our being. Every day, God is here, God is with us, and that will never change.

It doesn't matter if we know what oxygen is or not. We still breathe, day in and day out. It doesn't matter if we believe in God or not. God is still with us.

If I "feel" far from God, it's okay. It's not about conjuring up certain feelings. God is always here, giving me life.

If I don't read the bible. If I don't pray. If I can't read the bible or pray. If the only way I can believe God loves me regardless of whether I read the bible, is to not read the bible. It's okay. I breathe you in, I breathe you out.

God's love reaches so much farther than some Christians would have you believe. God is not limited by our beliefs (or lack thereof) about God. God's love is inescapable. God lives in every human, because we are made in God's image. Even if they don't know. Even if they don't believe in God. We all feel God and experience God, through everything good and right in the world.

To imagine that God can only interact with people who know the correct information about God is ridiculous. As if God is only able to bless you if you are aware that 2000 years ago in Israel, God lived and died and rose again. As if God can only make God's presence felt to those who would explain their experiences using language like "God's presence."

I really believe what Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Neither correct nor incorrect beliefs. Nor our inability to perform the correct religious actions. Nothing. Nothing, and I mean nothing. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

You are my oxygen.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blogaround

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1. When a child goes to war (posted June 1) "The flat portrayal of child soldiers necessitated by the state of international law says these children can either be traumatised victims or they will become invisible."

2. I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing (posted May 28) "The victims were electrically shocked, suffocated, and beaten into false confessions that resulted in many of them being convicted and serving time for crimes they didn't commit. One man, Darrell Cannon, spent 24 years in prison for a crime he confessed to but didn't commit. He confessed when officers repeatedly appeared to load a shotgun and after doing so each time put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger."

3. 23 Struggles Kids Today Will Never Know Or Understand (posted June 3) Oh my goodness, remember MapQuest?

4. God Calls Caitlyn By Name (posted June 2) Amen.

5. Jon Stewart Made a Brilliant Point About Caitlyn Jenner That Nobody's Talking About (posted June 3) "I have to ask the most important question: Does she have a better body than Kim Kardashian?"

6. Toilet swirl (posted June 3) 2 videos which sync together, about the question of whether toilets in the northern and southern hemispheres flush in opposite directions. Totally worth watching.

7. June 4
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8. China cruise ship death toll exceeds 400, victims mourned (posted June 7) I want to know how God could let this happen.

9. And here are all the links you could ever want about the Duggars:

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s Interview with Megyn Kelly: Minimize, Deny, Obfuscate

The missing pieces of the #DuggarInterview: humility, responsibility, understanding

Defending the Duggars is defending rape culture

A Parade of Lies: The Duggar Interview Review.

In a Duggar world, the real victims take a back seat to their parents

Why Jill & #JessaDuggar were not "speaking for themselves" in their interview with @megynkelly

A Homeschool Alumna's Thoughts on Megyn Kelly's Interview of the Duggars

What happened to the Duggars could happen to your family. Here’s how to prevent it.

Megyn Kelly Asks Duggar Girls: Show Us On The Doll Where The Liberal Media Touched You

The Voice of False Submission and the Duggar Sisters’ Interview.

And one more thing: During the interviews, the question was raised of whether people are going after the Duggar family because of their "Christian beliefs."

Well, yeah it absolutely is because of their beliefs. Not their "Christian beliefs" though- it's because of their quiverfull/ purity culture/ Christian patriarchy/ anti-LGBT beliefs. It's because all these years, their message has been "This is the CORRECT way to have a family. This is GOD'S way" and now we learn what kinds of nastiness are hiding beneath the surface- and I believe it is their belief system which allows that abuse to happen and to be covered up.

These beliefs need to be attacked and destroyed.

(I'm all for Christian beliefs though. ^_^ You know, things like resurrection, justice, love, caring for the least of these. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Josh Duggar's Real Victim Was God (So It's Okay)

Josh Duggar. Image source.
[trigger warning: sexual abuse]

(Or, how conservative Christianity's "gospel" tells us that sexually abusing children is normal.)

You may have heard Christians say "all sins are equally bad." Let me explain what that means, and how it leads to Christians covering up for Josh Duggar.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that "the gospel"- the central message of Christianity- goes like this: We are all sinners and deserve to go to hell. But, fortunately, God loves us and doesn't want that to happen. So God sent Jesus to die- Jesus takes the punishment, so we can be forgiven. But only if you decide to believe in Jesus and commit your life to him. Then you can go to heaven when you die- yay! Otherwise you go to hell.

Let me break this down further:

"We are all sinners" - everybody does some bad things sometimes, right? Have you ever lied before? Yeah? Okay, you're a sinner.

"and deserve to go to hell." - Now you may say "wait a minute, I haven't done anything that bad. I don't deserve to go to hell." But every sin is a rebellion against God. Since God is infinitely good, every sin is infinitely bad, and deserves infinite torture in hell.

"Jesus takes the punishment" - Jesus is the only one who could bear the punishment for us, because he is the only person who is perfect and never sinned. You see, sin deserves infinite punishment, so only an infinitely perfect and good person could satisfy that punishment in full.

"But only if you decide to believe in Jesus and commit your life to him." - Yeah, Christianity is about having a relationship with God. You need to ask God to forgive your sins. You need to have a truly repentant heart. That's the only requirement. Doesn't matter what you've done in the past.

So, readers, you can decide for yourself whether this holds together logically or not. Back when I was a Real True Christian, I would have explained it in a more persuasive and logical-sounding way, but basically that's the idea. (To clarify: I'm a Christian, but you guys, that is not the gospel.)

In this ideology, "sin" is defined as doing something that breaks God's laws. How do we know what God's laws are? Well, they are all very clearly laid out in the bible. (Except that they're totally not.) We are to read the bible, and use it to compile a list of "God's laws" that apply to us now. (Just ignore the ones that only applied to the ancient Israelites. It is totally clear and obvious which ones those are. Except that it's not.)

"God's laws" may or may not have any logic or good reasons behind them. Sure, many of them make sense morally- don't steal, don't kill, etc- but that's not really the point. The point is, God said these things and we must obey them, regardless of whether there's a good reason.

And, according to evangelical Christianity, why is sin bad? Because it breaks a person's relationship with God. The relationship with God is the most important part of a person's life, and remember, God is infinitely good, so God can't come into contact with anyone who has even the smallest trace of sin. Sin breaks our relationship with God, but if you ask Jesus to forgive you, then it's all good again.

Maybe you lied. Maybe you thought about sex a lot. Maybe you haven't been reading your bible every day. Maybe you molested your little sister. All of these sins are completely intolerable to a holy God. Your relationship with God is completely broken. But, ask Jesus to forgive you, and it's back on. Phew.

Based on this teaching, some Christians will say, "all sins are equally bad." But in my experience, there's a bit more nuance to it. Christians know that not all sins are equally bad in terms of the practical, real-world consequences. Furthermore, sins that take the form of an addictive habit are more spiritually destructive (ie damaging to your relationship with God) than something you just did one time because you weren't thinking. So even in terms of spiritual consequences, not all sins are equal.

But still, the focus is on one's relationship with God. That's the most important thing. The effect that one's sin has on other people is just a secondary concern. It doesn't come into play in your typical bridge-diagram gospel presentation at all.

Sin is bad because it breaks God's laws. It breaks your relationship with God. I mean, maybe it also hurts another person, but that's not the point. It definitely hurts God more, because God is so much more infinite and perfect.

This view of sin is so individualized and spiritualized, and honestly, I believe this is a way for white American Christians to get out of our responsibility to care about oppressed groups within our society. Oh, sin is just an individual matter! Just between me and God! Everyone is a horrible sinner, but of course this wouldn't give rise to, say, institutionalized racism or anything like that! Just me and my relationship with God! Everyone is equal before God! See, we are all poor spiritually! We are all the same! We don't need to help with people's physical needs- all that matters is our spiritual needs!

So let's come back to Josh Duggar, who sexually abused 5 girls- including 4 of his little sisters- when he was a teenager. Christians from all corners of the internet are proclaiming that we have no right to judge him- we are all sinners. Yes, that's exactly what evangelical Christianity teaches. All of us are utterly horrible, we don't even realize how horrible we are- if we're not careful, we might molest children too. Just because you haven't committed this particular sin doesn't make you less of a horrible person than Josh Duggar. As Michelle Duggar said in the interview with Megyn Kelly, "I know that every one of us have done things wrong. That's why Jesus came."

(Meanwhile we have bloggers from outside of Real True Christian culture saying "Sexual exploration as a teenager is normal. Molesting your little sisters while they're sleeping is NOT NORMAL." But in this branch of Christianity, all of it's normal- and all of it is forbidden. All of it's sin, and we're all sinners. Who knows what we could be capable of?)

Evangelical Christianity gives no way to measure whether one sin is worse than another. In fact, comparing sins is actively discouraged. If you think you're not as bad as someone else, then you might think "I'm doing pretty good, I deserve to go to heaven" but you DON'T. You deserve hell and don't you ever forget how goddamn unworthy you were before Jesus found you.

It doesn't matter what your sin was. All that matters is this: Are you repentant or not? THAT'S the one sin that's unacceptable to God- to believe that you are not actually sinning.

This is why, in the interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, they defended their advocacy against LGBT rights, and don't see themselves as hypocritical at all. Josh sinned and repented, so it's all good. But those LGBT people... oh my, they actually think it's OKAY to be LGBT. They are unrepentant. And to evangelical Christians, that's the worst thing you can be.

Image source.

Josh Duggar sinned. That sin manifested itself in a way that had something to do with his sisters, but the real victim was God. (As David prayed in Psalm 51, after raping Bathsheba and murdering her husband: "Against you, you only, have I sinned.")

And guess what? Jesus already forgave Josh! Jesus, who was hurt so much more than Josh's other victims. Oh and don't forget, those victims are also sinners, deserving of infinite torture in hell, and Jesus forgave them too. Now wouldn't it just be selfish to not forgive Josh? God already forgave him, do you think you know better than God?

One more thing: Christians love a redemption story. We find people who did all kinds of really bad things before converting, and we ask them to share their testimony in front of huge crowds. You were in jail? You assaulted someone? You were addicted to all the drugs? You were a prostitute? The worse the "before" story is, the better. (It's very common for kids who were raised in the church to feel bad that they don't have a huge rebellious past that makes for a cool story.) Christians even like to point out that our biblical heroes "weren't perfect"- Moses killed someone, Rehab was a prostitute, Abraham lied, Jacob was all kinds of messed-up, David was an adulterer (*cough* rapist *cough*) and murderer- and wow, isn't it great how God used them to do wonderful things in God's plan?

I mean, isn't that just great? Look how bad their sins were- and those things were bad because God made a rule that said they were bad, and by sinning, they broke their relationships with God- and God forgave them and they went on to do such cool things! Wow, the fact that David murdered someone is bad because it means he's a bad sinner, and you'd think such a bad sinner wouldn't be able to have a good life and a good relationship with God after committing such a bad sin! But with God, it's possible! Come one, come all, and follow this God who doesn't care what you've done!

Meanwhile, anyone who's ever been a victim, who's been silenced and told to just forgive, is like "how on earth do you people not realize that this man is dangerous and should never be allowed near children again?"

That's why Jim Bob Duggar said, "This isn't something we wanted to come out, but if people can see that Josh, who did these very bad things when he was a young person, that God could forgive him for these terrible things, then I hope other people realize that God can forgive them and also make them a new creature." Christians imagine that this is a selling point. There's hope for even the worst of sinners. As for the victims- eh, what victims? Sin is mainly a problem because it breaks your own personal relationship with God.

If that's the gospel, count me out.

----------

See also this post by Elizabeth Esther: "When everything is evil, NOTHING is actually evil."

Also these:
Josh Duggar's "Sin" Doesn't Matter Because Being Pure is Really Hard
Josh Duggar and His Victims are "Damaged Goods"

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Josh Duggar and His Victims are "Damaged Goods"

Josh and Anna Duggar. Image source.
[content note: sexual abuse, rape culture]

Last week, the news broke that Josh Duggar sexually abused at least 5 girls back in 2002. People all over the internet have opinions about it. And I'd like to talk about a particular point in the story which those who are unfamiliar with purity culture likely misunderstood.

Anna Duggar, Josh's wife, says that she knew about it before they got married. Actually, in purity culture, you're supposed to "confess" all previous sexual experiences and romantic relationships to your partner before getting married.

Why? Because, according to the teachings of purity culture, if you have sex before marriage, you have ruined your chance at ever having a good and healthy marriage. If you do other "impure" things- sexual things, kissing, dating and breaking up- you've also hurt your chances. Basically, purity culture promises that if you come into marriage knowing absolutely nothing about sex, having had no relationships other than the one with your husband or wife, you will have a perfect marriage.

It's all about the initial conditions. I've heard so many times "The best gift you can give to your husband is your virginity." You guys. This is bullshit. The best gift you can give to your husband is being a good marriage partner. It's not about what you did in the past. It's about who you are now.

But in purity culture, it's ALL about what you did in the past. What were you supposed to be doing in the past? NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And if you did something, then your future marriage will be suffer for it. Forever.

So before marriage, people who follow purity culture have to "confess" their relationship/sexual histories to each other.

Furthermore, people who are "impure" are unworthy of a "pure" husband or wife. The pure person has worked so hard to stay that way, and God owes them a perfect spouse. A virgin deserves a virgin. A person who has never been kissed deserves a person who has never been kissed. Etc.

So do not think for a moment that Josh Duggar telling Anna about his past had anything to do with "oh no, this guy has molested children, he's a predator- could he be dangerous?" No. No no no no. It's because Josh had had sexual thoughts and sexual experiences, and was therefore impure. I don't know about Anna's past, but assuming she was "pure", Josh was unworthy of her. The question in her mind would then be "oh... for my whole life I've dreamed of having a perfect marriage to a pure guy, who was saving himself for me... this is a huge step down but I love him... should I still marry him?"

(Note that this situation would be exactly the same if, say, Josh had had consensual sex with an ex-girlfriend.)

Text: "I'm so worth waiting for." Image source.
[content note: victim blaming and generally awful rape-culture stuff]

And... you guys... in purity culture, the victims are impure too.

Yes, of course it's not their fault. But still, the reality is there. Your body and all your sexual experiences belong to your future husband or wife. It's not the victims' fault, but still, they have been damaged, and a "pure" person deserves better.

In this ideology, the reason rape and abuse are bad is that they destroy what should belong to a person's husband or wife. (This is why it's very hard for purity-culture followers to even understand the concept of "marital rape".) Similarly, if you had consensual sex with your ex, you destroyed what was supposed to belong to your future husband/wife. In the logic of purity culture, consensual and non-consensual sex both make a person impure and incapable of ever having a healthy marriage.

Oh, and another thing about "it's not their fault." Umm. Right. In purity culture, if you "put yourself in a situation with too much temptation," then it is your fault. (It's times like this I wish I knew how to swear better, because this is effing bullshit.)

So Josh Duggar had to "confess" his past to his wife, because he was impure.

In the same way, his victims will have to "confess" to their future spouses, because they are impure.

(But who are we kidding? A woman being "impure" is seen as much worse than a man being "impure.")

Bullshit, that.

Text: "To the husband God has for me: I will wait for you." Image source.
And let's talk about forgiveness.

Actually, this sort of situation happens a lot in purity culture- where one partner is more pure than the other, but the pure person decides to "forgive" the impure person, and they get married.

But the pure person can totally hold it over your head for the rest of your life. Wow, what a gracious act of charity they did for you! You were so unworthy, and yet they forgave you and married you anyway! (I mean, the whole premise of purity culture is that any "mistakes" you make before marriage will haunt you forever. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

(In my opinion, what's more likely to "haunt you forever" is the shame and fear that purity culture heaps on everybody.)

So that's what forgiveness means. No tangible consequences, but a lot of shame. Incidentally, this is also how evangelical Christians view God's forgiveness. Jesus died to forgive our sins, but we should feel bad about it forever.

Text: "Stay pure till marriage. That is the way God set it up in the bible." Lololol yeah no. Image source.
One more thing I'd like to say here: You are not "damaged goods." Your body belongs to you, and if you choose to have sex with a consenting partner, well just be safe and healthy (physically and emotionally) about it, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you were raped or abused, it was not your fault, and it is totally not okay for someone to do that, because your body belongs to you. And you deserve whatever time, therapy, etc you need in order to heal.

Purity culture promises a perfect marriage if you just follow its rules and stay pure. Instead, it makes everyone feel ashamed, and sees victims and abusers as more or less equally "impure."

-------------

See also: 
Josh Duggar's "Sin" Doesn't Matter Because Being Pure is Really Hard
Josh Duggar's Real Victim Was God (So It's Okay) 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Blogaround

Image source.

1. ‘Erotic liberty’ — Al Mohler’s new slur is really a sad confession (posted May 21) "The phrase, as Mohler is trying to use it, only makes sense if you accept Mohler’s premise — which is that “erotic” has, and can only have, negative connotations."

2. Jesus and the Beelzebul Controversy: A Devilish Synoptic Puzzle (posted May 20) Cool stuff.

3. Why I Hate The Most Popular Verse on Twitter (Philippians 4:13) (posted May 21) "In short, Philippians 4:13 has become about winning."

4. Out of Sight (posted 2014) "In terms of being able to live a quality, independent life without sight, the Internet has been the most dramatic change in the lives of blind people since the invention of Braille."

Links about the Duggars:

5. When a Good Offense is the Best Defense for Abuse (posted May 25) "Growing up Quiverfull taught me to hide family secrets through misdirection, offering up my ultra-modest wardrobe and political rants and Bible memorization trophies to public scrutiny so that no one would guess the horrors happening behind the scenes."

6. The Duggars: How Fundamentalism's Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior (posted May 23) "He can't think about sex, because that is sin. Of course, he can’t masturbate either, because that is sin. He can’t even be friends with a girl. In fact, he his kept physically separated from them. He is staring at having to completely satisfy his future father-in-law before he can even try a relationship, and that could be many years down the road if financial prosperity doesn’t come quickly."

7. I’m Tired of Talking about Bill Gothard & the Duggars (posted May 26) "I’m tired of watching them fumble around with dramatic heaviness the “oh my god can you believe this scandal?” when it was my fucking life for twenty years."

8. It's Not Only About Josh Duggar, It's Also About An Entire SYSTEM of Abuse (posted May 27) "Especially in spiritually abusive environments, people are told that forgiveness is the same thing as reconciliation. We are told we must accept the abuser’s apology and allow him/her back into our lives."

9. All of these posts from Libby Anne:
When the Perpetrators Matter More than the Victims
How Christian Culture Excuses Sex Offenders
Josh Duggar’s Lies, Damn Lies, and Half Truths
It Took This for People to Listen?

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