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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What I Want From Christians

"The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:16" Image source.

I don't really get what the purpose of prayer is. Specifically, the type of prayer where we ask God to do things.

So if I ask God to do something- for example, I'm traveling somewhere and I want to have a safe flight- does that mean there is a greater probability that it will happen? Does prayer actually have an effect on the real world?

I think, after a defensive "yes of course prayer works!", a lot of Christians would answer by saying that you don't just pray for whatever random stuff and then there's automatically a greater chance that God will make it happen- no, you have to pray for something that's "in God's will." And then there's a lot of discussion over how we figure out what "God's will" is.

Alright, so how does this work? I can imagine a few different scenarios:
  1. I pray for something and (if it passes the "God's will" filter) then there's an increased chance that it will happen.
  2. Prayer can't change the probability of something happening, but if I'm able to listen to God well enough, then I will get some idea of what "God's will" is, and then I'll pray for those things, and they will happen. So it's not like prayer caused them to happen, but more like people who are closer to God have some ability to predict the future.
Situation 1, I have a problem with, because it means that people who believe in God (or believe in the right religion, or the right version of "God's will") have access to a power that can actually change things in the real world, and others do not.

That's not fair, and I don't believe in a God who would give some people an advantage over others just because they knew how to pray, and others didn't.

Certainly in real life, in practical situations, people who are lucky (or privileged) enough to have access to information and opportunities get to use them and have more success than people who don't. In a practical sense, of course it has to be that way. But that's an example of an inequality that should be addressed. Ideally, everyone should have access to opportunities for success. That's part of the kingdom of God, yes?

So I can't imagine God setting up a system where people who had the right information about God and prayer are able to access a power that can have real effects in the real world, and people who don't believe in God or pray the "wrong" way do not. God is not limited in ways that our physical world is- there's no reason God would have to limit that power only to people who had access to information on how to use it.

Let's look at situation 2. In this case, if you pray for something that is "God's will" and is therefore going to happen anyway, then it happens. If it wasn't going to happen anyway, then the prayer has no effect. I don't have a problem with the "fairness" of this scenario, because your prayer does nothing either way.

But all this talk of being "in God's will" is highly theoretical stuff that Christians talk about when answering deep questions about prayer and why Mark 11:24 doesn't mean what it explicitly says. But in day-to-day life, they don't think that way. In my experience, Christians just pray for tons of stuff, whatever they want, whatever they think is a good thing. Help us have a good day. Heal this person who has a minor cold. Heal this person who has a serious disease. Help me be less selfish. Comfort the family of this person who died. Help me get my work done faster so I'll have more spare time. Help me find a new job. Help me find a house for a good price. Help the people in this poor country to hear about Jesus and get saved. They're not stopping to consider "is this God's will or not?" before every request. They're assuming that their prayers will make these things more likely to happen. (Or maybe they're not thinking about prayer causing something to be more likely- they're just doing it all out of habit.)

In situation 1, people who know how to pray have an unfair advantage, and I can't accept that. In situation 2, prayer has no effect on the real world- so... what's the point?

Situation 1 could maybe be fixed if we say that God could allow other thoughts/emotions to influence the real world in the same way that prayer does. For people who don't believe in God but "send positive thoughts" when their friends are having a problem, God could count those as a prayer. (Also, groans that words cannot express would count as prayer.) In this way, everyone would have the same chance to influence real events in the world, based on their strong desires and hopes.

(But then you have to ask the question, Do we want everyone's "strong desires and hopes" to be able to *somehow supernaturally* influence the real world? That sounds ... risky. Maybe we need to bring "God's will" back into this. Prayer is not a democracy- it should be biased towards requests which further the kingdom of God. In other words, requests about things like justice and equality. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which have absolutely no relation to whether the pray-er is Christian or not.)

Alternatively, we could say the benefits of prayer are purely psychological and have nothing to do with God acting on your request to intervene in another part of the world. Maybe prayer makes people feel more positive, hopeful, close to God, etc. (In this case, I'm fine with people who pray receiving these benefits "unfairly", because it's just a practical consequence in the physical world, not something that God is actively causing.)

Under this paradigm, the point of prayer isn't to ask God to do stuff. You should only make prayer requests about things that are related to your own psychology and what you have control over. Maybe you pray that you want to become more patient, and because you're focusing on it and it's important to you, over time you do become more patient. Only requests along those lines would make sense.

(I've heard Christians say "Prayer doesn't change God, it changes us." That's pretty much what I'm proposing here. But the average Christian doesn't actually believe that, because they pray for whatever random stuff they want or they think is good, even though those things are out of their control, would require God to intervene, and having nothing to do with "changing us.")

Additionally, in this line of reasoning, most of our prayers shouldn't be about making requests. If it's about improving our own personality/ emotions/ feelings of closeness to God/ etc, we should focus more on being thankful, thinking of the good things in our lives, thinking about God's love, considering how to treat others well, etc.

So the point is, the idea of prayer- or at least, prayer causing real changes in the real world outside of my own life- doesn't make sense to me.

I titled this post "What I Want From Christians." What I want is to be able to talk about these kind of topics with Christians, and have them get it.

Actually, there's a lot of stuff in this post which would be totally okay to say in church. I've heard it preached in church before. The red flag areas are where I mentioned "sending positive thoughts" (that sounds way too "New Age-y") and the idea that it's not right for Christians who know how to pray "correctly" to have an advantage over others (because of course Christians have an advantage, haven't you read all those books about how it's impossible to have a good life/marriage/career/family unless it's centered on Jesus?).

Most of this we could talk about in a theoretical sense, but when it's time to get in groups of four and pray for each other, if I don't want to pray, they'll act like something's wrong with me. And if I don't want to share any prayer requests, because my strongest desire at that point in time is "I hope I can find Christians who actually accept me" (yeah I'm not saying that out loud), that's also treated as super-odd. (People have actually fabricated prayer requests for me based on previous small talk. "Oh, so you said you're starting a new job? Let's pray for that.")

I don't get the point of prayer, so I don't pray much. When I do pray, it's usually along the lines of "So... God... are you really a God of love, or not?"

I want to be able to talk about this honestly with Christians. I want to find Christians who believe the "it's not fair to non-Christians" bit is a legitimate concern. I want to find Christians who tell me it's okay if I don't want to pray.

Maybe they don't agree with me- maybe they see it from a different perspective, so they don't have the same objections I do. But I at least want them to say "yes, these are reasonable things to be concerned about, and I totally understand that you don't feel comfortable praying because you don't have answers to these questions."

I mean, I want to pray. There must be something to it, since the bible says so many times that we should pray. I have faith that prayer matters and is a very good thing. But how? And what is it supposed to be exactly? And what's the goal?

That's what I want from Christians- I want them to recognize that these are legitimate questions, and that if I don't like any of your answers, then it's okay for me not to pray. (Not only "okay", but the most emotionally healthy and non-legalistic thing to do.)

And "what's the point of prayer" is just the tip of the iceberg. I have tons of issues I really really want to talk to other Christians about- but only if they take me seriously and don't treat me like I'm just a clueless new Christian who needs to be taught the right answers. [And if you leave a comment on my blog that treats me like a clueless new Christian who needs to be taught the right answers, I will laugh at you so much.]

That's what I want from Christians.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Don't See Any Way Purity Culture Can Say Adam and Eve Were Married

Image source.
The Slacktivist has an interesting post called When did Adam and Eve get married?, which talks about how Adam and Eve weren't "married" in the way we define marriage today. He says:
They certainly did not get married in anything like the way that Tim and Anne Evans got married. Or in anything like the way the Slacktivixen and I got married. They had no clergy around to conduct such a ceremony (unless we want to have Melchizedek do the honors), and no one to serve as witnesses. They never seem to have exchanged vows. The strongest claim we can make for their marriage, based on the story itself, is that it was a kind of common-law arrangement.

In the story itself, Adam and Eve simply shacked up together. Although, of course, shacks — like clothing — had not yet been invented. Neither had marriage, for that matter. All of these things — shacks, clothing, clergy, marriage, common law — are anachronisms we reflexively project back into the story. But none of them can be found there, and the story itself works hard to prevent us from expecting to find them in it.
Christians say Adam and Eve are "the first married couple," which I would agree with (okay except that I don't think they were actual real people, but the point here is about what marriage is, not whether the biblical stories really happened). Genesis doesn't explicitly say they got married (it's almost like God created Eve already married to Adam?) but in my interpretation, "married" is the best way to describe their relationship. It seems to have been an exclusive commitment with an understanding that they would be together for their entire lives.

That's what marriage is, yes? [Mostly- I'm sure there could be exceptions.]

So, under that definition, Adam and Eve were married. Great.

But in purity culture, they're not.

This is interesting because purity-culture advocates love to use Adam and Eve as examples of how every man and every woman and every marriage supposedly are. All right, so tell me, purity culture, if I have an exclusive commitment to a member of the opposite sex, and we intend to be together for our entire lives, then are we allowed to have sex?

Ha. Haha. Of course not.

According to purity culture, God says you can only have sex when you are married- which means before the wedding you do not have sex, and then the wedding night is the first time you do.

Suppose you have sex while you're engaged. Oh what a horrible sin, you've made yourself impure before your wedding.

(When I was in purity culture, this rule fell squarely into the category of "I can think of no reason that this could possibly make sense, but God said it so we have to obey." I mean, you're already engaged. You already know you're going to marry this person. Why would it matter if you end up having sex before the wedding rather than after?)

Now you may be saying, well of course we can't judge Adam and Eve by that standard- there was literally no way to perform a wedding if they were the only 2 people in the world. Which is, of course, true and reasonable.

In other words, you'd need to have a different rule for when Adam and Eve were allowed to have sex, since their situation is so different. Which is, of course, true and reasonable.

But it's so NOT OKAY in purity culture.

The ENTIRE POINT of purity culture is that there can NEVER be a different standard about when it's okay to have sex. (That would be "moral relativism.") You want to live as if you're married without ever having a wedding? Haha, you're not fooling God. You're not married and it's not okay to have sex.

Yeah, except that's what Adam and Eve did.

(Also, notice how I've been equating "married" with "you are allowed to have sex." For unmarried people in purity culture, that's mostly what marriage means.)

So, which is it? Adam and Eve were impure and having sex outside of marriage? Or "marriage" (and non-immoral sex) can, depending on one's situation, be defined in a different way than "you had a wedding"?

Purity culture teaches that sex before marriage is pretty much the worst thing ever, ruining one's life and any hope of having a good marriage in the future. Then, when you are married, sex suddenly becomes the most wonderful gift God has given. Because there's such a huge difference, it's super-important to have a perfectly clear point at which it switches from one to the other. It has to be at the wedding.

For Adam and Eve, there was no such point. And if Adam and Eve are our model of the ideal marriage relationship, maybe romantic relationships now don't need to have that point either.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blogaround

Image source.
1. Rev. Franklin Graham: “We Should Stop All Immigration of Muslims to the U.S.” (posted July 19) Oh my god.

2. Death Of Woman Found Hanged In Texas Jail Cell Will Be Investigated As Murder (posted July 21)

3. “Some Responsibility”: Evangelicals’ Shifting LGBT Rhetoric (posted July 20) "You can’t call same-sex marriages “fundamentally sinful” and then act like this is somehow totally separate from the “contempt, disgust, and hatred” so many Americans still feel for gay and lesbian individuals."

4. This ask on Dianna Anderson's tumblr. (posted July 22) "All the people from my college fellowship would not think I'm a true Christian for these beliefs."

5. When Love Is Abuse (posted July 16) "I, too, would have rejected the idea that my mother did not feel love for me. I knew her actions were wrong, I knew that it hurt and that I only wanted out and that at some point I didn’t care if I ever saw her again (or so I told myself), but to suggest that my mother did not feel something for me—no. She clearly did, else why go through all that trouble?" Well said. Go read this post.

6. When America Went To Hell (posted July 15) "Despite a great “revival,” a nation of Christians was thrust into a hell of cannonballs, Gatling guns, field hospitals, and amputation saws. Great cities were set aflame and fields were littered with thousands of rotting corpses. The fires were not quenched and the maggots did not die. What had gone wrong? Millions had “accepted Jesus” and shouted hosanna, but they did not know the things that make for peace. They prayed a sinner’s prayer, “got right with God,” and kept their slaves. They had a faith that would justify the sinner while bringing no justice to the slave. They had faith that gave them a ticket to heaven... and a highway to hell."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everyone Needs to Calm Down About Planned Parenthood and Go Read This

Go read this post: On science
I'm sure it won't be the last time I have to say it, but damn I'm getting tired of saying it....When a fetus is aborted by the D & X procedure, it's a wanted child but the pregnancy has gone wrong...horribly, horribly wrong. Sometimes the fetus has fatal or quality-of-life defects and the parents decide the humane thing is termination. There are other instances where the mother's life, health or future fertility are at risk.

And guess what, pro-lifers? If you get the fuck out of the way and stop playing "gotcha" and setting up front groups with no other purpose than to entrap a Planned Parenthood (only 3% of their work is abortions) official discussing a topic that is inherently unpleasant on hidden camera so they can heavily edit the footage, research can happen and less wanted children will die. These people are so monomaniacally stupid it makes me want to scream.
Seriously. Read. The whole thing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What if God thinks I "fell away"?

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9" Image source.
Every Wednesday, Dianna Anderson hosts "Ask Away Wednesday" on her tumblr, fielding questions mostly about sexuality and religion. There was one last week that really resonated with me:
Anonymous asked:

I've never been so confused about my religion and what I've been taught. I have different views I know many Christians would hate me for, like believing in gay marriage, premarital sex, etc. I believe these things but I'm afraid I'll go to hell for it. I love God but Im scared of Him because of what my religion taught me. How do you get over the fear of "what if this is wrong?"What if this is me "conforming to the world" and unknowingly sinning when I think I'm doing the right thing? Please help
YOU GUYS. I could have totally written that. This is how I feel (except that I've never been scared of going to hell). Because of therapy, I'm way less worried and depressed about it now than I was a year or so ago, but I still think "what if God agrees with that stuff I used to believe?"

What if God is like all those evangelical Christians who refuse to listen? What if God thinks "here is the right answer, and the only reason anyone would disagree is that they've been led astray by the world, they've been deceived, they just want to follow their own emotions instead of absolute truth, they love their sin and aren't willing to take up their cross"? What if God is like those Christians who could never imagine there could be a real reason behind someone's change in beliefs- no, it must be driven by sin. Sin- and therefore, separation from God.

What if that God is right? What if I'm not thinking for myself, I'm just under the influence of such overwhelmingly massive temptation, that makes me think all these new beliefs are reasonable when they're so obviously not? "What if this is me 'conforming to the world' and unknowingly sinning when I think I'm doing the right thing?"

What if no human is able to think clearly, and we're just helplessly sucked into the currents of various spiritual forces? Like the bible says, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" and "The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so." I was fortunate enough to be taught the right answers, and now I must hold to them, no matter what challenges come. That's faith, right? That's what pleases God, right?

Maybe if I was just some random person, I would have an excuse for believing the obviously heretical things I do. But no, I was the most real of Real True Christians. I really really really knew the truth, and it was my entire life and my entire identity, and now I'm rejecting it.

"Suppose we've chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we're just making him madder and madder!" - Homer Simpson Image source.

In Anderson's answer to this ask, she described the God of evangelicalism as "the angry, wrathful, hateful God" but that's not the one I believed in. God and I were so close, and I was so incredibly certain about which things God wanted me to do or not do. I prayed so hard- so so so hard- for God to help me do evangelism, help me start bible studies, make my friends believe in God. I was so close to God, and I knew he agreed that those would totally be things we want to happen. I prayed so so so hard about boys, about every crush, every feeling of "lust", because God and I both agreed that I should "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" and that God had destined exactly one boy for me.

I knew, I knew, I knew that's what God believed, and that's what God wanted. I worked so hard for God, and it hurt, but I knew God was supporting me. I knew God understood.

And then, my beliefs started to change- I started to believe God didn't actually believe those things. I started to think maybe one of religion's biggest problems is that people assume God agrees with them.

But... I can't bring myself to actually believe God isn't like that. All I feel is farther and farther away from God- that version of God, who believes all those Real True Christian things... and he's waiting, like the prodigal son's father, waiting for me to repent and come back and believe the right things again.

And I just can't get God to believe, no it's not like that. I'm TRYING to follow Jesus MORE. And God, the things you believe... that can't be what it means to love people.

It's not an "angry" or "hateful" God. I'm not scared of God punishing me. It's a God who loves me so much that he just wants me to come back and believe the right things- otherwise I'm so far off of "God's plan" that God can't even do anything for me at all. It's a God who's so sad at the way I've "strayed" and "fallen away."

What if God is like all those evangelical Christians who just don't get it?

"If you could repent of your sins and turn to God, that'd be great." Image source.
But Anderson's response makes me want to read the bible again.

She says,
Go back to Scripture and look not for the God of the Evangelicals - the God of wrath and fear and war. Instead, look with new eyes upon the God of Love, the God who is Love, who drives out fear with perfect Love. Look at the person of Jesus, the one who took it upon himself to serve others, to be kind to all he came across, and who declared love even as the state persecuted and killed him.
Well. Now that I think about it, the Jesus in the bible doesn't seem at all compatible with the "you already know the right answers, I'm so sad to hear that you've strayed from them by following human reason" version of God.

Hmm.

Yeah I better check that again.

Don't know if I'll ever be able to believe it though.

<3

Monday, July 20, 2015

Blogaround

Image source.
1. An Update on the Gay Debate: evolving ideas, untidy stories, and hopes for the church (posted July 13) "The Side B dream is one I truly believe in: it’s my lifelong goal to persuade people to make cross-country moves for friends, establish relationships across generations, share homes with married couples, and grow old with friends regardless. But it feels important for me to push for those kinds of changes as someone who also supports people in same-sex relationships so that friendship is promoted as a good in itself rather than a quick fix for the gay problem."

(And as for the posts about how sad it is that Rodgers has rejected Scripture or whatever, I have this to say: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.")

2. You Are Not A Princess (posted July 13) "They told you to hold still. Watch your tongue, say your prayers, tread lightly on tyranny. He will come for you. When you have cultivated your soul and learned to be content, when you are least expecting it, he will come for you. He will heal the ache in your heart, the one they put there in the first place. So just wait. High up in your castle where no one can hurt you."

3. Post-it burkas and the ongoing anti-Pentecost backlash (posted July 13) "But this concern about such objectification is a bit hard to take from men who are also celebrating their “keeping it clean” by covering up women’s dirty, filthy skin with Post-it notes."

4. 9 Signs You Grew Up Watching the Original Trilogy (posted July 14) "Any time you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, you respond with, 'But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!'"

5. The Firmament of Genesis 1 is Solid but That’s Not the Point (posted July 15) "To make a distinction between what ancient texts say and what it is presumed people actually thought is hard to justify. The only reason to argue this way is because it is already concluded that the biblical description of the sky and modern scientific observations cannot be fundamentally at odds."

6. The Hopeful, Heartbreaking Ads Placed by Formerly Enslaved People in Search of Lost Family (posted July 13)

7. Can bisexuals be monogamous? (posted July 15) "These circles often portray gay people in particular as claiming, 'I was born this way...so to be true to myself, I need to be able to act on all my sexual desires.'"

8. Unused Icons on Your Desktop (posted July 16). Lol.

9. FBI Joins Investigation Into Death of Sandra Bland (posted July 17) Yeah this is suspicious as hell.

10. The Pitch Meeting for Wishbone (posted July 15) "Like they just never acknowledge he’s a dog?"

11. The spiritual struggle of fighting the church (posted July 17) "I know brave children who testified against the person who hurt them only to look out in the audience and see the courtroom filled with elders and other church members supporting the accused sex offender. Upon witnessing such a spectacle, a girl victim once asked me 'does this mean that God is against me too?'"

12. look at this loaf of bread dreaming (posted July 19) So cute!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Somebody Tell Ken Ham Lying is a Sin

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For some reason, this post at Answers in Genesis caught my attention: An Ark Legacy, 20 Years Later. As with everything AiG has ever said, it's laced with lies.

Here they are:
When I was only about 19 or so and attending university in Australia, I remember the time our church handed out a booklet to the congregation. It contained a devotional about the Flood of Noah’s day, but it stated that the Flood was just some local, not global, event. I remember my father, a schoolmaster, becoming quite upset with the false teaching. He had made sure our family understood that the Bible clearly taught a global Flood.

My father led somewhat of a crusade to lovingly but firmly confront the booklet’s publisher (a fairly conservative organization theologically). He saw the booklet’s teaching as an attack on the authority of the Word of God.

...

My dad was burdened that people in the church were being led astray by secular teaching. ... He knew that the compromised teaching he read in the devotional booklet was an attack—coming from inside the church—on God’s Word.
Oh geez, seriously? "False teaching"? "An attack on the authority of the Word of God"? This is how AiG characterizes anything that doesn't agree with their young-earth-creationist interpretation of Genesis.

(And that "lovingly but firmly confront" bit is also nasty. Uggh.)

I used to be a young-earth creationist, and a huge fan of Answers in Genesis. Why? Because they said things like "this is what THE BIBLE says" and "this is what REAL Christians who REALLY believe the bible believe" and "this is what God CLEARLY teaches." Those old-earth creationists and gap-theorists and theistic evolutionists didn't just have a different interpretation, no, they were rejecting the bible in favor of "man's wisdom" or some crap like that.

Because, as Ken Ham said, if you don't believe what the bible says in Genesis 1, you'll end up not believing the parts about Jesus too. It's a slippery slope to rejecting the gospel.

I wanted to be a REAL Christian, totally committed to Jesus, totally believing the bible. So I was drawn to the fringe extreme groups that claimed "this is what God says, and everyone else is a fake Christian." They said we can't even listen to what other ideas were out there, or we might be led astray. They said everything was an "attack" on the bible- there would be no honest evaluation of alternate explanations.

(I said "fringe extreme groups" because, they are, but mainstream evangelicalism creates an environment where such groups can totally exist. Evangelicals promote this idea that many/most Christians aren't actually REAL Christians. So when someone like Ken Ham comes along and says "People who claim to be Christians but don't believe the earth is 6000 years old aren't real Christians," it fits perfectly. I haven't seen anything within evangelical Christianity that takes a stand against this kind of, ahem, false teaching.)

It's all lies though. It's a horrible misrepresentation of their fellow Christians- a sinful misrepresentation, in fact.

"People who don't believe in a young earth don't take the bible seriously!" No. No. We do. We just think that's not what Genesis 1 actually was trying to say. And we would appreciate if you didn't bear false witness against us. (Or take the Lord's name in vain. "This is what God clearly said!" Yeah okay.)

Everybody needs to CALM DOWN. We can have a conversation about this without THE ENTIRE GOSPEL being at stake. We can listen to each other without worrying that our minds will be infected by devious twisted ideas from the devil.

If you think that Christians mentioning that they think the flood was not a global flood is "an attack coming from inside the church," maybe you should take a step back and look at yourself. You're the one attacking "from inside the church."

And if you reject the clear teaching of Scripture from Exodus 20:16, it won't be long til you reject the gospel too.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Total Depravity and Totally Missing the Point

Image source.
This post at Desiring God, From Depraved to Disciple, talks about how each person is "totally depraved" and how this is the source of sin/violence in the world. The writer, Jemar Tisby, starts out by talking about the killer who shot 9 people at Emanuel A. M. E. Church, and explains it this way:
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, pundits on television and people on social media labeled the tragedy “inexplicable” and “senseless.” While well-intentioned, these words are inaccurate. This young man’s deadly violence is indeed explicable. It does make a sort of twisted “sense.” We know why these nine people were murdered. We know why sex-trafficking thrives. We know why we cheat on our spouses. The reason for all that is wrong in the world is summed up in one word — sin.
In other words, every person has a sinful nature. Tisby explains that the idea of "total depravity" doesn't mean we are all as bad as possible all the time, but that sin affects every part of our lives.

Throughout this whole article, the focus is on individual sin. Apparently, every person is the same in this sense. Apparently, "Total depravity implies that the same seeds of murderous anger that led a young man to slay nine people in a Bible study reside in us as well. Just because we haven’t committed particular sins doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of doing them or worse."

And that's it. That's the reason. Every person is sinful and is capable of doing unimaginable evil, and that's all there is to say. We can't really do anything to address the problem, besides get individual people to accept Jesus and be transformed by him. Tisby even warns of the dangers of "progressivism," which says that we can help society to become progressively better over time. Apparently, this is impossible because humans will always be totally depraved.

Let me ask you something. Don't you think, maybe, if humans are totally depraved, they will probably create a society full of inequalities, where minorities are systemically oppressed and it's easy for those with power to just ignore it?

Or do you think they would create a society where everyone is equal and people are mostly affected by the consequences of their own sin? And everyone is equally hurt by others' sin?

Really?

Evangelicals focus so much on our individual sin, and then can't bring themselves to believe that this sin causes deep problems in society. They have a hard time believing that a society mostly run by totally depraved white men could possibly have a problem with covering up abuse of women and children or murdering black men.

Really?

(At this point, I'd like to mention that Tisby is black and, from looking at his personal blog and twitter page, I see that he does talk about the fact that American society systemically oppresses black people. So... okay. His post on Desiring God implies that everyone has an equal chance at hurting others with their sin, and doesn't mention any larger trends in society, or the idea that certain groups suffer disproportionately for others' sin. So I'm just replying to the ideas in that particular post, because that line of thinking is a huge part of the type of Christianity I was taught. And it's way too individualized.)

Being "totally depraved" means it's easy for us to just go along with the racist/sexist/oppressive culture that we live in, and imagine it's totally normal.

Being "totally depraved" means it's easy to just focus on ourselves and imagine that our sin only affects us, and that if we don't experience discrimination, that means it doesn't exist.

Being "totally depraved" means inequalities will always exist in our society, and WE TOTALLY SHOULD ADDRESS THEM and fight against them, rather than think that "progressivism" is a lie that leads us away from Christ.

It doesn't lead us away from Christ. No. Just the opposite. Bringing justice and correcting the problems in society is what the kingdom of God is.

Christians need to do the work of God by fighting against the sinful structures in our society. How about we do that instead of constantly bemoaning our own personal sin?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blogaround

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1. Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems (posted July 6) Yep.

2. No, Adam really, really doesn’t hate you... (posted July 6) "That’s what articles like this mean, when they say that they love gay people: it means that they love them so much that they simply can’t allow them to live out their life unharassed, without being told constantly how much they’re hurting themselves." THIS. This this this this this.

3. Here’s What The Lion King Trailer Would Look Like If It Was Made In 2015 (posted July 9) Nice.

4. ‘Ceremonial law’ folklore is no substitute for an actual hermeneutic (posted July 7) "'Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed,' Tim Keller writes – a sentence that would have baffled Moses, Isaiah, Paul, Luke, and Jesus of Nazareth."

5. The Sequel to God’s Not Dead Happened in My Classroom, But In Reverse (posted July 10) "now that the word is out that I’m an atheist, no one is going to want to hire me."

6. Dear Dana: I’m Afraid I’m Going To Cheat On My Husband With My Co-Worker (posted July 10) "I’m not saying you shouldn’t have sex with this dude, but I am saying COME ON. You are a grown ass woman and, “I’m afraid I’m going to cheat on my husband,” is such bullshit. You gotta decide if you want to cheat on your husband or not. If you don’t want to cheat on your husband, then it’s pretty easy: Don’t."

7. Typhoon Chan-hom: Almost 1 million people evacuated in eastern China as powerful storm crosses coast (posted July 11)

8. I, Racist (posted July 6) "Ask any Black person and they’ll tell you the same thing. The reality of thousands of innocent people raped, shot, imprisoned, and systematically disenfranchised are less important than the suggestion that a single White person might be complicit in a racist system."

9. Ray Comfort's Audacity: A Review and Discussion with the Film's Star Travis Owens (posted July 12) Friendly Atheist podcast episode about Ray Comfort's movie on "how to evangelize to homosexuals."

10. Why We Shouldn’t Say “Modest is Hottest” (posted July 10) "The fact that a teen or grown adult man could become sexually aroused by our uncovered knees and shoulders was viewed as normal."


11.  Logical Fallacy Ref

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Because of who they love" means nothing in purity culture

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In the conversation about LGB rights, I've often heard people say that "you shouldn't discriminate against people because of who they love." And back when I was in purity culture, this argument meant absolutely nothing to me, because purity culture believes that love- of the romantic kind- is bad and dangerous.

Purity culture teaches that any romantic feelings/ sexual attraction/ dating relationships that don't result in marriage damage people irreparably. Therefore, you can't just have a crush- no no, stamp that out, you need to "guard your heart." You can't just go date someone- oh dear goodness no.

I fully believed that it was God's will for me to be single at that time, and that if I started dating without approval from God, it would show that I was "not trusting God" and "following my fleshly desires" and "not waiting for God's best."

And not just me- purity culture teaches that this is how everyone should live. There is, apparently, one person (of the opposite sex) that you are destined to marry, and you gotta pray a lot to get God to tell you who it is. If you haven't met them yet, too bad. You have to be single, and nobody knows how long.

If you make any kind of move without approval from God, it can only end in disaster.

These are the rules for straight people in purity culture. We are not allowed to love- not in a romantic way, at least. And then to hear people arguing for LGB rights by saying "because of who they love"- no, it just makes no sense.

I believed romantic attraction and love had nothing to do with each other. If you're dating someone without God's approval, then you're dragging them into a relationship that will destroy their purity- you don't love them, you don't care about them, you just want the instant gratification instead of waiting on God's plan.

Romantic attraction would only be love if "God brought you together."

"You can't discriminate against people because of who they love"- as if it's okay to just go and, you know, love someone. As if it's perfectly normal to initiate a relationship with a romantic interest. As if spending time together, going on dates, and getting to know someone has anything to do with love.

Unmarried followers of purity culture don't realize it's not normal to be so repressed. They don't realize that what purity culture demands of LGB people is so much more restrictive than what it demands of straight people- all they can think is "well I'm not allowed to be in a relationship either." 

Followers of purity culture are terrified of love, terrified of being in love. You won't get anywhere with an argument that includes the phrase "because of who they love."

Friday, July 10, 2015

"And if you don't believe in God, even better."

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In James McGrath's post When Churches Make People Need Therapy (or Why Anti-Gay Christianity is an Abomination), he shares a video where youtuber Shane Dawson talks about his struggles with depression and accepting himself as bisexual. McGrath focuses on the parts of the video where Dawson mentions religion:
By the end of the video, we learn that he still believes in God. I was moved by his discovery of the reality that a God who made him this way will not condemn him for being the way he is.

But I was particularly struck by his statement that, if unlike him you don’t believe in God, so much the better.

This video is a great illustration of what the anti-gay forms of Christianity are doing to people. Making them miserable. Making them need therapy. Driving them to the brink of losing their faith. And when they cling to it, making them feel as though those who don’t believe in God are better off than they are.

As a progressive Christian, I have to say that the conservative forms of Christianity that make people feel this way about themselves – and about the love they feel for others – are something terrible.

Indeed, let me suggest that there is one word that seems particularly apt…

Anti-gay Christianity is an abomination.
At the 13:30 mark of the video, Dawson says:
Love who you wanna love. Life is short. Nobody's gonna hate you for it. God isn't gonna hate you for it, cuz God loves you. And if you don't believe in God, even better. But if you do, like me, and you're scared, you don't wanna piss him off and you don't wanna go to hell and all those things, you just have to remember that God made you who you are for a fucking reason. I'm this way for a fucking reason.
That one line- "And if you don't believe in God, even better"- stood out to me because ... I feel the same way. Wouldn't it be so much easier if I didn't believe in God anymore?

I want to be a Christian, and I write this blog and say things like "Christianity is good news" and "God doesn't think you're dirty and worthless because you broke the rules of purity culture" and "God doesn't send people to hell for being the 'wrong' religion" ... but it's such a hard sell. It really is.

Because the God I want to believe in is so incredibly different from the God I learned about in church. As far as the east is from the west.

I say "God is love" and I always need to clarify "love" really means love, it doesn't mean "you're a massive screw-up and I really hope you change so you can be acceptable to God"... I say "God is love" but it rings hollow. The idea that God truly loves us and understands us and doesn't judge us by some ignorant unreasonable standard- no, we all know God's not that good.

We all know that if something sounds like good news, then it can't be the real gospel- it's "watered down."

Evangelical Christianity has made it so hard for me to believe in a God that actually is love. Instead, I'm haunted by the idea of a God who knows I'm wrong and am therefore screwed, and the shame I feel over breaking the rules- the depression- is God "convicting" me of my sin. A God who knows that I was taught "the right answers" and there is no excuse for my turning away from them now. A God who believes that whatever new beliefs I have now, and all the reasoning behind them, all the time I've spent thinking and researching- it's all just a sinful attempt to justify my sin.

I am 100% certain that it's better to believe in no God than to believe in that God.

But I still think God is love. Real love, not "you're so full of sin, I just can't even with you, unless you devote your life to [this one particular interpretation of] Jesus."

I want to tell you that God is love, but who would believe me? If you don't believe in God, even better.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Blogaround

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1. This Insider’s View of Schizophrenia Proves That Neurotypical Privilege Exists (posted July 1) The title is totally misleading, but anyway, go read this comic about what it's like to be schizophrenic.

2. If Your Church is Not of the Marginalized, You Are Not of the Church (posted June 29) "This is the perfect crystallization of why the American church has stepped away from Gospel and instead has become a power-hungry domain of the privileged."

3. After gay marriage, expect conservative amnesia (posted July 2) "They’ll forget they supported damaging ex-gay therapies."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

40 Answers about Rainbow Flags

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Kevin DeYoung has an article at The Gospel Coalition called 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. I do not have a rainbow flag, but I guess I am going to answer.
If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.
Wait... you're writing these questions because you think pro-marriage-equality Christians haven't thought about "what the bible says" before? Ai ya. The intention of the questions is for me to realize how completely baseless and wrong my perspective is?

You know what, it doesn't matter. I'm not answering because of Kevin DeYoung- his position as a writer and pastor at The Gospel Coalition is 100% dependent on his continuing to assert, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that it's impossible to be a Christian who loves the bible and supports LGBT rights.

Instead, I'm writing this for Christians who are actually willing to listen. Maybe you're like me a few years ago. You really love God, love the bible, love people, and it just tears you up how everyone seems to think Christians are being all "homophobic" and "hateful" just because you can't agree with that lifestyle.

Here are his questions, in bold, followed by my answers:

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated? 

I think maybe since 2012?

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind? 

The biggest thing that led to me changing my mind was this argument from Justin Lee at the Gay Christian Network. (I also recommend you read his book, Torn.) As far as bible verses go, he cites the 6 clobber passages and explains why they were not referring to committed, consensual, same-sex partnerships. But the main point of his argument is Romans 13:8-10, which says this:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In other words, we don't have to hunt around for specific meanings of obscure Greek words, we don't have to search the bible for rules on a particular topic, we don't have to find a biblical scholar with the most credentials. We can know right and wrong just from this: Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I guess it's because of this that my definition of "sin" has changed. Before, I thought some action or thought was a "sin" because God said it was, and there must be a reason why God said it was- maybe an obvious reason, or maybe we'll just never know- but really, the reason didn't matter. God said it's a sin, and that's that. (So we have to read the bible with a fine-tooth comb and compile a list of rules, then we have to do a lot of interpretation to figure out which ones still apply to us nowadays, we'll hem and haw over super-theoretical issues of historical context and biblical exegesis for a long time, and in the end we'll end up with a list of absolute commands, which may or may not seem completely arbitrary but hey, that's what God said. Deal with it.)

But now I believe in the definition of sin given in Romans 13. (Hey, if y'all gonna talk about the "definition of marriage given in Genesis 1" when there is no such thing, well, two can play that game.) Sin is treating people (including yourself) in a way that's not loving. Sin is doing something that hurts someone.

Who does same-sex marriage hurt? No one. Who does opposition to same-sex marriage hurt? How about all the LGB children who are taught by the church that they are not good enough and they need to change in order for God to accept them? How about the LGBT kids who are kicked out of their homes and make up 11 to 40% of the youth homeless population? How about the LGB youth who attempt suicide at a rate 4 times higher than their straight peers?

Love does no harm to its neighbor. The bible is clear.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated? 

See above. 

Okay wait wait, I'm sorry. I don't want to be too snarky here- I actually want to write something that would be meaningful to someone in my position a few years ago. And I just realized that my above statement "Who does same-sex marriage hurt? No one." needs to be explained a little more.

You may be thinking that if one is in a same-sex relationship, one is hurting oneself, because there is no way such a relationship could be healthy.

Let's back up though. Because for me, this is very much tangled up with purity culture. So I need to explain about that.

I'm a woman who is interested in men. And Christian purity culture taught me that my desires are good and God-given, but also INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS and must be subjugated at all costs. Yes, I'm supposed to like men, and then sometime in the distant future- no one knows when, but God has it all planned- I will get married to the one special guy that God has chosen for me, and until then, NOTHING. Until then, I MUST NOT have a crush. I MUST NOT date anyone. I must not feel.

I spent a long time totally terrified of my own attractions. I was sure that I was going to ruin my life by liking a guy "too much". Which is not a euphemism for anything. It actually just means liking a guy too much.

(And I mean, can you imagine what it must be like to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual and grow up in purity culture? Wow. So much worse.)

Anyway, the point is that I imagined all romantic relationships to be horrifying vortexes of destruction, unless the relationship had been specifically okayed by God at its beginning. Within this ideology, the idea of a healthy same-sex romantic relationship was unimaginable.

And thank Jesus I don't believe in that purity culture stuff anymore. I'm not afraid anymore. We don't have to be all freaked out and terrified over our own desires. It's fine. The world's not going to end. You're not going to ruin your life.

People have healthy relationships all the time. Based on things like trust, honesty, and communication. Not based on "did you pray about it REALLY REALLY REALLY hard and worry and worry and worry before even saying anything to the person you liked?"

I promise you, there are LGB people in healthy same-sex relationships. Go do some googling and read about their experiences. And I pray that you will be free from purity culture.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church? 

What even is this question? Why are complementarian Christians so obsessed with forcing every marriage to "depict Christ and the church"? Who cares?

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship? 

Back when Jesus was on earth, that wasn't really a thing, so I have no idea if he would have "been okay with" it, or what it would have meant in that culture.

But today, in modern American culture? Yeah sure. But Jesus is probably way more concerned about how we're treating those who are poor or oppressed. (There are many issues affecting LGBT people besides marriage equality.)

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman? 

Please show me where the word "marriage" appears in Genesis 1-2 and then we'll talk.

(Unless you're talking about elsewhere in Genesis, where Abraham's wife [ahem, sister] convinced him to sleep with his servant? Or when Jacob married both Rachel and her sister Leah, and also their two servants? Which definition of marriage were you referring to?)

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding? 

Well like I said, I think "sin" means hurting people, so he probably meant using sex in a way that hurts people. Rape, abuse, trying to manipulate someone using sex, you know, that sort of thing.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful "exchange" Paul highlights in Romans 1? 

Yeah, Romans 1. To be honest, I don't know much about this argument- I recommend you go read Matthew Vines.

I've heard that Romans 1 is about sex in pagan temples, not committed, monogamous relationships. I've heard that Paul's use of terms like "unnatural" is the same as in passages where he says it's "unnatural" for a man to have long hair, so take that with a grain of salt. I've heard that the whole second half of Romans 1 is just a set-up to get Paul's Jewish readers to judge those perverted pagan people, and then Romans 2:1 hits them with "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

All of these points may have some merit, but honestly, the nuances of interpretation of Romans 1 don't really matter to me. As mentioned above, Romans 13 says love is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus said so too. And I believe the best way to love people is to actually listen to them talk about their lives, and believe them when they tell about their own experiences and their own needs. Rather than drawing conclusions about them based solely on my interpretation of a translation of an ancient middle-eastern text.

("I didn't choose to be gay." "Yes you did, it says right here in Romans 1, they abandoned natural relations with women." "..........wut?" This is legitimately the argument that the conservative Christian side expects to be having.)

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven? 

Ai, things that may or may not keep people out of heaven, now that is a very serious subject. I'm not even going to speculate on that. But I will say that sexual immorality is totally a sin and is totally bad, and by "sexual immorality" I mean immorality that also involves sex. Immorality is like lying, stealing, hurting people, etc. It doesn't have a magically different meaning when you attach it to sex.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to? 

Rape, abuse, human trafficking, child molestation, etc. Like I said, things that hurt people, and also relate to sex.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp? 

I... wha? Well bravo on your very pointed question. You must be so proud of yourself. But no, I don't think I understand the bible better than other Christians from history. I think what's different is our modern understanding of marriage.

The idea of marrying for romantic reasons is sort of new.  The idea of men and women being equal is sort of new. The idea of even having a sexual orientation is very new. In the past, marriage was, more or less, about a man owning a woman, and it was arranged by the families. In that sort of context, you wouldn't have same-sex marriage because it didn't make any sense- who was supposed to own whom?

But nowadays, people date and choose their own marriage partners, and marriage is generally understood to be an equal partnership. (I'm referring to American culture here.) That's why the issue of same-sex marriage is just coming up now.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned? 

Well as luck would have it, I live in China. I don't feel the need to go around and argue with Chinese Christians about this though. Why do you?

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman? 

No. I think they just had some mistaken ideas about LGBT people, based on some hateful stereotypes. Stereotypes which conservative Christian organizations are still actively proclaiming.

Lying is a sin, you know.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father? 

Geez, this whole "children deserve a mother and father" argument has never made any sense to me. Even if it's true that two opposite-sex married parents is the "ideal", so what? Everybody's family has problems. No family is "ideal."

How can you use the gender of the parents as some kind of universal standard, and say nothing about having a loving environment, no abuse, etc etc? Those are the things that children really need.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion? 

I don't know, go google gay parenting or something. I'm sure they really love their kids. The kids will be fine.

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad? 

Do you believe children do best in an environment which doesn't tell them something is horribly horribly wrong with them if they are LGBT?

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment? 

Eh? I don't know, I'm not married. Maybe it could be different for each person.

(I know the answer you're looking for though. It's totally about Christ and the church. Or glorifying God. Or showing the gospel by having sex. Am I close?)

18. How would you define marriage? 

When two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives building a new life together.

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

No. Also, why are you asking me? Am I in charge of this?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people? 

Ai ya. Well some people are poly, which means they want to be in more than one romantic/sexual relationship at a time, and they are honest about it with their partners and everyone is okay with it.

I honestly have no idea how that would work. I am not poly. I am monogamous. To me, it sounds like a terrible idea, but I guess for some people, it works. So, good for them!

So maybe marriage could be for more than two people. Sure. Not for me though.

(I know, now you're going to say I've totally lost track of the bible. No no. Remember what I said about love? Love means listening to people and believing them when they talk about their own personal lives and needs. There are polyamorous people who say this is what works for them, and it doesn't hurt anyone. It's their life- I believe them.)

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married? 

It's not my job to say who can or can't get married.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license? 

Geez, why all these questions about legal stuff? Yeah there should be an age limit.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? 

Not "any meaningful relationship" but if it's a partnership between two consenting adults, then sure that sounds like marriage.

24. If not, why not? 

n/a

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion? 

Well. Hmm. I'm gonna go with no.

See this is a really really tricky thing. There are Christians who believe they are acting in obedience to God by treating LGB people as nothing more than symbols of sin. This is such a tough issue, because I get how those Christians feel. I know what it's like to "stand up for what's right" even when everyone's against you, even when it seems to make no sense- to follow what you believe God is saying, regardless of the evidence, regardless of the results, because that's what faith is, right?

(Note: no, I no longer believe that's what faith is. Or that that's something to be commended.)

The bright side, though, is that those Christians are wrong. We actually don't have to wrestle with the issue with how to be loving while still preaching the gospel because THEY ARE NOT IN OPPOSITION. Christianity is good news, y'all. Do you believe it?

So I guess I want to say I care about those horribly-mistaken anti-LGB Christians, but actually what's more important is caring about the LGB people who are discriminated against, who actually are an oppressed demographic within society. That's who I'll stand up to defend.

In my opinion, there have been cases where somebody's anti-marriage-equality comments get blown way out of proportion, and the media is all over it, and the person ends up losing their job, etc. I don't think that's fair, because I understand where those (sadly mistaken) Christians are coming from. I know what it's like to hold those beliefs and try so hard to word things in a way that doesn't sound hateful.

I blame the conservative Christian organizations who have been pumping out bullshit anti-LGBT propaganda- lies against people made in the image of our God. I'm looking at you, Alliance Defending Freedom. World Magazine. The Gospel Coalition. Focus on the Family. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin. Such things must come, but woe to those through whom they come.

Well we've strayed pretty far from the original question, about anti-LGB Christians who want to "exercise their beliefs." From a rights-of-American-citizens perspective, you should totally be allowed to have whatever religious beliefs you want, as long as they're not hurting other people. (That doesn't mean you have the right to be free from criticism for those beliefs.) From a Christian perspective, ai... I mean, I get it. But I wish they knew they didn't have to live that way.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue? 

Will you speak up for LGB Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics? 

Yes. And will you acknowledge that LGBT kids get bullied way more than anti-LGBT Christians supposedly do?

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles? 

First comes the destruction of purity culture. I'll get back to you on this after I've finished that.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline? 

No, I don't think the church should get involved with judging and punishing people for their romantic/sexual choices. The bible is not as clear as you say it is.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage? 

I don't think sex outside of marriage is a sin. I believe sexual immorality is a sin. Which means immorality that has something to do with the topic of sex. Like when you use sex to hurt people.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found? 

I don't know, man. I'm not in charge. I sure hope it's different from all the shame-based/ fear-based stuff I found in evangelical Christianity.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love? 

Ah, yes, this is really important, because my definition of love is one of the biggest things that has changed. I've already said a bit about what I believe love is, so how about I tell you what it is not.

I used to believe that, as a Real True Christian, I knew all the right answers for other people's lives. I knew that everyone needed to become a Christian or else they could never be truly happy. I knew that people would always regret it if they had sex before marriage. I knew that gay people should just submit their lives to God and they could live just fine without a relationship. (All of this was based on what the bible supposedly said. Not based on any real-world evidence.)

I knew all these things that other people needed to do, and the horrible pain and hell that would befall them if they didn't do it. Therefore, because I loved people, I needed to force them to do it.

I loved people so much, and it meant I didn't respect their choices. Because I knew what was best and they didn't. I loved people so much, and it meant I wasn't honest. Because if they knew my goal was to manipulate them- by any means necessary- into becoming a Christian, then they definitely wouldn't give me a chance.

This is what love must mean, if hell is real, and if it's true that people's sinful natures have rendered them all unable to actually know what's good for them. It's a "love" that comes across as hate. And I am SO DONE with that.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition? 

Romans 2:14-15

Genesis 1:26-27

Humans are created in God's image, and have a conscience. I am done with applying the word "love" to actions that I can only perform after I've tranquilized my God-given conscience.

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love? 

Can I ask you a question? Does love shape the way you read the bible? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make? 

Yes. 

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith? 

I've told you already, and now you want me to tell you again. Why? Do you want to become an ally too?

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost? 

I'm not really an evangelical anymore. You lost me at the World Vision debacle in 2014.

As for all that other stuff- if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples? 

Yeah I don't go to church because they all seem to be full of people who want to give 40-question-long quizzes to see whether I qualify as a "real Christian."

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead? 

Yes, definitely. ^_^

... wait.

What are you trying to say with this question? Do you hope to become more committed to the church/Christ/scriptures too?

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind? 

Wait, how are we back at Romans 1? Like I said, I'm not too concerned with the specific interpretation of Romans 1, because I already know the greatest two commandments, and I know nothing will override those.

How about I ask a question instead: How do you interpret Peter's statement in Acts 10:28 "But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean"?

Or how about Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." How about you go find out what LGB Christians have to say, and then tell me about the fruit of your preaching against marriage equality. Can a good tree bear bad fruit?

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All right, that's the end. And I want to say I understand how hard it can be to be in that position, where you really care about people but really believe God can't approve of same-sex relationships. (It's hard, but nothing like what LGB Christians deal with. So don't complain too much.) If that's you, I recommend you continue to learn about this topic. Seek out more information, read people's blogs and personal stories. And love your neighbor as yourself.

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Please also read Matthew Vines's list of 40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality. These are really important questions.

And this response by R. L. Stollar.

And this one from Buzz Dixon.

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