Thursday, December 28, 2017


A corgi laying with a stuffed porg. Image source.
1. Female evangelical leaders call on church to speak out on violence against women (posted December 21) "Emily Joy, who created #ChurchToo with fellow artist Hannah Paasch, said sexual abuse is an “epidemic” in all spheres of life, but there’s an “added level of trauma” when it occurs within a religious environment."

2. USA Gymnastics paid Olympian McKayla Maroney $1.25 million to keep quiet about years of sex abuse (posted December 20)

3. How a former sharecropper in an SUV helped drive Doug Jones to victory in Alabama's Black Belt (posted December 14) "She says she simply will not allow anyone to fall through the cracks or avoid casting a ballot in Lowndes County, which has a long history of fighting for voting rights."

4. The True, Secret, Hidden Religious Meaning of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ (posted December 19) "We like the idea of knowing the true, secret, hidden meaning of things. Gnoing the gnosis makes us feel special — far more special than we could ever feel just from studying the actual history and context and intent of this initially bewildering old text."

5. Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration (posted December 21)

6. Christmas Carols, generated by a neural network (posted December 20) "He was born in a wonderful christmas tree"

7. Redefining Events: Body Concept and Bodily Relationships for Cyborgs, Werewolves, Super-soldiers, and Other Altered Bodies (posted 2013) "Bruce [Banner], for example, has a not-worst-case-scenario RE [redefining event], but due to the dangerous and stigmatized nature of his AB [altered body], he spends most of his time coping with it alone, which impacts his ability to cope with these changes in a healthy way." Wowwwwww this is an analysis of the psychological effects of having one's body altered, with examples from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Note, though, that this is applicable to real life too- for example, pregnancy is a pretty common experience which alters one's body.) Wow I am so glad I found this article because the topic is SO INTERESTING.

And also this fanfic about Captain America dealing with the psychological aftermath of torture: The Healing Properties of Felt-Tip Pens

And this one about Bruce Banner after the events of "The Avengers", dealing with topics of guilt, touch-aversion, and self-harm, featuring a romantic relationship between Bruce and Clint: The Care and Feeding of Lost Causes

8. NPU removes Pastor Judy Peterson (posted December 27) "By now many of you have heard the news that Rev. Judy Howard Peterson, North Park University’s campus pastor, has been removed from her position for officiating at a same-sex wedding last spring."

9. So the World Uses a Calendar That Starts with the Birth of Jesus (posted December 26)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Welcome to China, Have a Christmas Eve Apple

An apple, along with several small boxes (the size to hold an individual apple). The boxes have images of Santa and Christmas trees and the words "平安果" (which I will translate as "Christmas Eve apple"). Image source.
Merry Christmas Eve everyone! On Friday at work, the company gave us all Christmas Eve apples. This is a tradition in China. Let me tell you about it.

First of all, you need to know that Chinese culture LOVES puns. For Chinese New Year, it's common to see decorations which have the character 福[fú] (which means happiness/ blessing/ good fortune) upside-down, because 福倒了[fú dào le] ("fu is upside-down") sounds like 福到了[fú dào le] ("happiness/ good fortune has come"). Every year has a different animal associated with it- when we were celebrating the year of the horse in 2014, there were puns EVERYWHERE about 马上[mǎ shàng], which means "about to happen" but if you take each character literally it means "on a horse." People would stick some money on a toy horse and be like "马上有钱" [mǎ shàng yǒu qián] which means either "money on a horse" or "getting money soon." And there are 12 different zodiac animals- new puns every year.

4 is an unlucky number because it's pronounced 四[sì] which sounds like 死[sǐ] which means death. And May 20 is a sort of unofficial Valentine's Day because 520 is 五二零[wǔ èr líng] which sounds like 我爱你[wǒ ài nǐ] which means "I love you." (Please note, though, that Hendrix thinks this 520 business is just silly, it's only been a thing for maybe 10 years, possibly made popular by the internet, whereas these other puns go way back to ancient China.)

My point is, Chinese culture loves puns.

And that brings us to Christmas Eve. In Chinese, Christmas Eve is called 平安夜[píng ān yè], which means "peaceful night" or maybe to get across the Christmassy meaning we should translate it as "silent night." And "apple" in Chinese is 苹果[píng guǒ]. So you see where this is going, right?

Anyway, so, you can buy apples individually packaged in cute little Christmas boxes. It is ADORABLE.

I searched the [English side of the] internet to see if I could find out when this tradition started. Found a bunch of articles about the fact that the Christmas Eve apple tradition exists, but nothing more detailed than what I've written in this post. But Hendrix guesses it started maybe about 10 years ago.

Merry Christmas Eve, and enjoy your apples~

Thursday, December 21, 2017


A cat peeking out of a box that's wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Image source.
1. Wil Wheaton Wears ‘Star Trek’ Uniform To ‘Star Wars’ FOR REAL (posted December 15)

2. Women often can't avoid men who sexually harass them — and men are using it against them (posted December 13) [content note: descriptions of sexual harassment] "Women who are subjected to unwanted sexual advances in the workplace say they can't afford to burn bridges and often wind up leaving a trail of friendly messages behind them — continued contact that men later produce as evidence to dispute their accounts and cast doubt on their credibility."

3. Conservative Evangelicals Have Shown Me Who They Really Are (posted December 14) "Like conservatism in general, American evangelism often centered around the individual — an individual conversion experience; an individual, personal relationship with Jesus Christ; individual sin; individual repentance. Racism, then, was always a personal failing, and one that, by and large, didn’t seem to matter in comparison to the horror of abortion or the perceived impending threat of same-sex marriage. Addressing racism was just never a priority in the churches we attended, or on the radio, or in the Christian music we listened to. That there could be a form of Christian faith that recognized these injustices never occurred to me."

4. Red and Yellow, Black and White: Evangelicals Miss a Wakeup Call on Race (posted December 14) "The campaign demonstrated no understanding of why people were upset, only a tone deaf insistence that using racial slurs was okay because Moore was quoting from a popular evangelical song."

5. When You Don’t Know What You Believe at Christmas (posted December 11) "I know that I have spent nearly a month holding virtual space for stories of abuse within churches, my own included, and the very churches implicated in these many threads are as we speak greening the vestibule and practicing their carols and preparing for Christmas pageants that tell a story that is, at its heart, about believing women."

6. Some notes and rules for a Christmas music playlist (posted December 15) "We will know the proper balance has been restored when it’s routine for someone to hear a song by, perhaps, the Clash or Bob Marley, and say, 'Hey, this sounds kind of ‘brought down the powerful from their thrones-ish,’ is this a Christmas song?'"

7. Two Couples Have Exchanged Vows in Australia's First Same-Sex Weddings (posted December 17) Hooray!

8. Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Josh and the Big Wall" (posted December 20) The "lesson" in this VeggieTales movie is EXTREMELY BAD.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

That Time Jesus Didn't "Stand Up For What's Right"

Image from VeggieTales "Rack, Shack, & Benny," before they are thrown into the furnace. Image source.
[content note: mention of gun violence and martyrs]

So we've come to a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry interrrrrrrrrrrrrresting passage here. Matthew 21:23-27.
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
So basically, the chief priests asked Jesus a question he didn't want to answer, and he avoided answering it, by asking them a question they didn't want to answer either.

I've been in bible studies before where people were puzzled over why Jesus wouldn't want to answer. We decided that if Jesus had just straight-up told them he's the son of God or whatever, it would have been dangerous for him, or would have messed up his plans. Maybe the religious leaders would have tried to kill him earlier. Maybe he wanted his followers to learn more about him and come to their own conclusions, instead of telling them what to think.

And that's all well and good, those are fine reasons, in my opinion. I don't have any issue with Jesus refusing to answer questions.

But here's the thing: This explanation is totally at odds with Christian folk tales about martyrs and "standing up for what's right."

Anybody who grew up in white American evangelical culture has heard the urban legend about a school shooting where the shooter asks people "do you believe in God?" or "are you a Christian?" and the understanding is that if the victim says "yes," they will be killed. And the victim is a hero and a martyr for saying "yes"- they did the right thing, they "stood up for Jesus" even though it was dangerous. And the message is: Would YOU be brave enough to say "yes" and get yourself killed?

There are lots of stories about martyrs that work just like this. The bad guy asks the Christian to say something, and if the Christian gives a direct honest answer about their Christian beliefs, they know they could be killed. (Sometimes God intervenes and saves them- as in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.) The Christian is held up as a role model for us to follow because they gave a direct, honest answer. Because they didn't consider the risk when they answered.

The sermons ask us to consider what we would do in that situation. Would we "stand up for God" and give a naive, honest answer that completely ignores the risk? Or would we "deny Christ" and say something a bit less straightforward or even a bit dishonest, in order to save ourselves?

Back then, we read these bible verses:
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Matthew 10:32-33

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Romans 1:16
And we beat ourselves up over our failure to mention Jesus in conversation with our friends. Someone asked me what I'm doing tonight, and I said "homework" when in reality I'm going to a worship night, it's because I didn't want to explain what a "worship night" is, ohhhh I am "ashamed of the gospel." And so on.

So the message was this: If somebody asks you a question where the answer is something about you being a Christian, you need to give a straightforward, honest answer. Even if there is danger of violence. Even if you don't really feel like talking about religion right then. It is wrong to consider the situation you're in and adjust your response accordingly. If you don't give a direct answer, that means you are "denying Jesus" and "ashamed of the gospel" and you are a bad Christian.

And yet, here in Matthew 21 we have the chief priests asking Jesus, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" Surely the honest answer here is "I am the Son of God, I have the authority to do this." But that's not what Jesus says.

Is Jesus "denying God"? Is Jesus "ashamed of the gospel"? No, he's just considering the situation that he's in, his goals, and how it's not really a good time to announce publicly that he's the son of God. Which, as I said, I agree Jesus is being reasonable here and it's fine for him not to answer, but THAT'S NOT WHAT WE LEARNED IN CHURCH about martyrs and persecution. We learned you HAVE TO ANSWER, and you have to answer in the most honest and straightforward way. We learned that we have to "stand up for what's right" and trust that God would protect us. Look the bad guy in the eye and say, "But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Jesus doesn't "stand up for God" here. He doesn't want to answer the question, so he uses the chief priests' embarrassment over their opinion of John the Baptist to weasel out of it. That's clever, and it required him to have an awareness of the situation, his goals, the chief priests' feelings and motives, and rules for polite social interaction. Yes, we learned in church that, when prompted with a religion-related question in a possibly-dangerous situation, you should always blurt out your deepest core beliefs about God, without a second thought- but reality is not like that at all.


Christians and Tests
OF COURSE Martyrs Don't Work That Way
Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Rack, Shack, & Benny"


This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew. 

Previous Post: That Time Jesus Got Hangry (Matthew 21:18-22)

Next Post: The Parable of the Wedding Banquet is Extremely WTF (Matthew 21:28 - 22:14)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Music Round-Up

Hi everyone! I love Christmas music. I'm that person playing Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving. ^_^

So here's my annual post of my favorite Christmas songs. Leave a comment with your favorite Christmas/holiday songs too~

"Let There Be Light" Point of Grace

"Joy to the World" Whitney Houston

"Gloria" Michael W. Smith

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" Casting Crowns

"Happy Xmas [War is Over]" John Lennon

"All I Want For Christmas Is You" Mariah Carey

"Emmanuel" Michael W. Smith

"O Holy Night" Celtic Woman

And my new favorite version of "Mary Did You Know":

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Four kittens laying around. Image source.
1. Roy Moore: Last Time America Was 'Great' Was During 'Slavery' (posted December 7) HOLY SHIT.

2. For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics (posted December 8) "As I watched Donald Trump announce that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move our embassy to that city, I could only think of one thing: my high school youth group Bible study."

3. Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 62. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052. (posted December 8) "The analysis compared the number of deaths for each day in 2017 with the average of the number of deaths for the same days in 2015 and 2016."

4. Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly (posted December 5)

5. 'Grieving in a Fishbowl' (posted November 13) [content note: gun violence] "Survivors of mass shootings recount their experiences coping with trauma in the public eye."

6. Robots are being used to deter homeless people from setting up camp in San Francisco (posted December 12)

7. Why I Believe 'To Siri With Love' By Judith Newman Is A Book That Does Incredible Damage To The Autistic Community (posted December 8)

8. How Coco Fits Into The Pixar Theory (posted December 12) [content note: spoilers for "Coco"] "Basically, as long as a single memory orb of you exists in any living person's mind, anywhere, you get to continue on living as a skeleton."

And also that video contains THE MOST ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF BIBLICAL APOLOGETICS I HAVE EVER HEARD: "Because how everything fits into the Pixar Theory is endlessly entertaining and we love talking about it here. But to continue calling it a 'theory' at this point almost feels like the wrong word. It seems more like a game or a challenge. People are constantly telling me that they have 'broken' or 'disproved' the Pixar Theory, and my response to every single one of those people is: You don't get it. Because the goal is to make it work. If you've 'broken' it or 'disproven' it, you haven't done that at all, you've just uncovered a plot hole that the theory needs to be adjusted to explain so we can better understand this universe that Pixar has built."

9. Evangelical Blogger: Christian Leaders Need Extra Protection against Allegations of Sin (posted December 11) [content note: silencing victims] Libby Anne's response to a post by Tim Challies, and WOWWW Challies's post is BAD.

10. Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Larry Boy And the Fib From Outer Space" (posted December 14)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christians Are Supposed To Feel Bad Over Not Reading the Bible Enough (and Here Are the Receipts)

In last week's post, It seems I can't make an exercise plan because I used to be evangelical, I talked about my experiences with guilt related to daily devotionals. I said that I was taught that good Christians need to read the bible every day, and that if we didn't, we should feel bad about it. I often saw other Christians perform guilt over their "sin" of not reading the bible enough. And even if you do read the bible every day, you may be reading it with the wrong attitude or something, and that's bad too. We internalized the idea that we can never be good enough and it's our fault.

Perhaps there are some readers who find it a little hard to believe, that Christians are required to perform guilt over their failure to read the bible Every Single Day. Well. Here are some receipts. Here are some links where this exact idea is being taught.

The Real Reason We Avoid Time With God
I rolled over and hit the snooze button on my alarm for the third time.

I had planned on getting up a little earlier than usual in order to spend some time reading my Bible, but, like many other mornings, in the fight between extra sleep and good intentions, sleep won out.

Sure, I was tired. I probably needed that extra sleep. But I somehow didn’t see time with God as something I needed.

Maybe you can relate.

In the daily struggle to balance different areas of our lives and the limited time we have, almost everything else wins out over spending time with God.
We don’t really see it as “avoiding” time with God, we just think that between everything else we have to do, we don’t have time. When we really look at our lives, though, we know that’s not true. We’re all busy, but we could set aside some time. Why don’t we?

The truth is that often, deep down, we lose sight of who God really is and who we are in light of that. When we view God as anything less than who He is, our desire and motivation to spend time with Him wanes.
How to Make Your Relationship with God First in Your Life
If you decide to make your relationship with God first in your life, everything else will naturally fall into place in the right order, creating the fulfilling life you hope to enjoy. Here’s how you can make your relationship with God your top priority:
Get to know God better through his Word and prayer. Cultivate your relationship with God through personal devotions. Every day, schedule some time to focus on reading and meditating on God’s Word, the Bible. Then pray about how God wants you to apply the passages you’ve read to your life, listen for the Spirit’s responses in your mind, and pray about anything else you’d like, too. Keep a journal in which you can record the biblical insights God gives you, as well as how he answers your prayers.
Image text: "Imagine if you checked your Bible as much as you checked Instagram and Facebook." Image source.

Why Have a Daily Quiet Time?
The key to a joyful and meaningful spiritual life is having that close relationship with God. First you must know Him as your Savior. Then daily seek to draw close to Him. As surely as nutritious food helps the body, so a daily quiet time with the Savior feeds and nourishes the soul. It’s impossible to growth significantly without it.

But your daily quiet time is not just for you! John 4:23 reminds us that the Lord Himself desires your fellowship and delights in your worship. He longs for that one on one time with His child just as any parent would. Why not determine right now, if you haven’t already, that you will make having this special time with the Lord a daily priority?
7 Bible Verses Showing The Importance of Quiet Time With God
With our busy lives it is sometimes hard for us as believers to have consistent daily time with God. Many times we get busy. But, the truth is no matter where we may be, we can do our best to find a nice quiet place to reach out and speak with God.

Having alone time with God and being able to collect our thoughts in a peaceful state of mind is very important. Below are 7 Bible verses that stress the importance of the Bible and quiet time with God:
Do You Read the Bible Enough? This article says that if you ever think you've done enough bible reading, YOU'RE WRONG, and if you can't manufacture constant desire for more and more bible then you are a bad Christian.
Rather than asking ourselves what is the least amount of Bible we can read and still meet the “required” amount, I propose we never stop asking, how much of the Bible can we possibly get into our hearts and minds. With this mentality, we should all say yes to the Barna question — we all should want to read more of God’s word — not from a sense of duty or obligation, but because they are the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

In the end, that is why we read the Bible, memorize it, and meditate on it: to get more of God’s word into us. Because, as we delight in the Scriptures, it leads us to delight in God himself. As we employ Bible reading plans, habits of memorization, or strategies for Bible meditation, all of which are good, that is the goal. Not to check off the time as a duty fulfilled, but to treasure Jesus more as we see him in his word.
"I Celebrate the Day" by Relient K (lyrics)
Because here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Years Eve
And from the lack of my persistancy
We're less than half as close as I want to be
"Background" by Lecrae (lyrics)
And it's a shame, the way I want to do these things for You, yet
Don't even cling to you, take time to sit and glean from You
You haven't read your Bible?!!
He ran his finger over the cover and dug out a ditch in the dust, and looked at me and said, "You haven't been reading your Bible". Oh, I was so ashamed! What excuse could I come up with? There was none! The dust laid heavy upon it due to my months of not touching it, and the dust, oh the dust, it condemned me on the spot! The dust stopped my mouth and showed me guilty before God! The dust was the seal of my condemnation! He might as well have just wrote "condemned" in that dust! The dust was my shame!
There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write "damnation" with your fingers. There are some of you who have not turned over your Bibles for a long, long while, and what think you? I tell you blunt words, but true words. What will God say at last? When you shall come before him, he shall say, "Did you read my Bible?" "No." "I wrote you a letter of mercy; did you read it?" "No." "Rebel! I have sent thee a letter inviting thee to me; didst thou ever read it?" "Lord, I never broke the seal; I kept it shut up." "Wretch!" says God, "then, thou deservest hell, if I sent thee a loving epistle, and thou wouldst not even break the seal; what shall I do unto thee?" Oh, let it not be so with you. Be Bible-readers; be Bible-searchers."
Why You Need to Make God Your First Priority
Just like a tree needs roots to go down deep and spread wide in the soil for it to grow strong, healthy branches that can withstand the elements, Christians need to develop deep spiritual roots in Christ. Our lives need to be deeply rooted and grounded in the Word of God and in His love – not our "stuff."
You may wonder what it means to seek God's face. Maybe you aren't used to hearing that term. It just means we need to take time to cultivate a relationship with God…to get to know Him. We need to learn who we are in Christ and trust what His Word says about us. And with prayer, Bible study and time, we will.

We are to pursue God in prayer, crave time in His Word, and go after a relationship with Him with all of our heart and strength, even if it means sacrificing some of our desires. Because the Bible never tells us to seek things, but instead, "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

Image text: "If you don't have time to pray & read scriptures, you are busier than God ever intended you to be." Image source.
Question: "What is a quiet time?"
A quiet time is an important part of a Christian’s everyday life, for this is when he goes to a comfortable and rather secluded place in (usually) his own home, where he can draw close to God with no distractions. It should be a place where there are no interruptions from TV, telephone, family member interactions or traffic noises, in other words, silence. A quiet time is a set-aside part of each day for a meeting between a believer and God. It consists of reading a part of the Bible of the believer’s own choosing, and praying.

Every believer needs a quiet time with the Lord. If Jesus Himself needed it, how much more do we?
Drawing near to God is a rewarding experience, and once a regular habit of quiet time is created, a specific time for study and prayer is eagerly looked forward to. If our schedules are so full and pressing that we feel we cannot carve out some time daily to meet with our heavenly Father, then a revision of our schedules to weed out the “busyness” is in order.
7 Practical Bible Study Tips for the Easily Distracted
Despite all of these wonderful tips that have truly transformed my Bible study from a time of frustration to rich deep communion with God, sometimes nothing seems to help me focus.

I’m learning to except these times for what they are—a blatant demonstration of my deep need for grace and mercy.
Image text: "I'm too busy to read the bible every day", with a picture of Captain Picard making a very skeptical face. Image source.

Confessing “Safe Sins”. This article is making a point about how we're not really being authentic and vulnerable with each other if the only "sin" we confess is some little "safe sin" like not reading the bible enough. I'm including it here because it bears witness to the very real phenomenon of Christians "confessing their sin" of not reading the bible enough.
Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.
The Importance of Scripture Memorization
Last Sunday I emphasized the importance of making time to spend with God every single day, and I also linked to some ways you can find time for God even when it feels like you can hardly even breathe.

One of the things on that list was the importance of Scripture memorization so that you can always have it in your mind to meditate on throughout the day and even at night as you fall asleep.

If there's one thing I've learned about Imperfect Homemakers, that is that we tend to procrastinate on things because we don't have the perfect system all figured out yet (or maybe we do and we don't have time to implement it.)

Maybe you're waiting until you've got some fancy Scripture memory plan, or maybe you've got something elaborate in mind, but you just can't find the time to do it. Stop waiting until you have the time to memorize scripture and just do it!   

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.  Psalm 119:11

If you are a Christian, it is crucial for you to have God's word hidden in your heart, and you don't need to put it off another moment!

Instead of watching that TV show — memorize a verse.
Instead of reading that blog post — memorize a verse.
Instead of browsing your Facebook or Instagram feed – memorize a verse
Instead of playing that game on your phone — memorize a verse

You find time to do all those other things; you can find time to memorize Scripture too!
The Danger in Our Daily Devotions. This article is about how, even if we're doing our daily devotions, we might be doing them WRONG and that's BAD.
Do we really need to read our Bible every day?

Happy is the man who does (Psalm 1:1). “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). God’s words revive the soul, grant wisdom, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, and endure forever (Psalm 19:7–9). “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

Need has to be the wrong question. Why wouldn’t we want to spend time in a book like that every day?
An image of a bible, with the text: "The Unread Bestseller. We have free and ample access to God's Holy Book. Yet, 64% of Americans fail to read the Bible because they claim they are just too busy." Image source.

Making Time for God
 If you are like most women, you probably begin your day early, rushing to get your family fed, dressed, and out the door. You probably have a list of chores and errands that must be completed before supper time. After your evening meal, you might spend some time catching up on chores that went neglected during the day and bathing children. By the time your head hits the pillow you are sound asleep, only to wake up in a few hours to do it all over again.

So where does God fit in? You know you should spend more time praying, but you are already pressed for time. You think, ‘God understands. He knows how I struggle just to get the laundry done.’

Yes, God does know. He understands each and every struggle of your day. And He wishes you would tell Him about your day.

Have you ever thought that perhaps your daily struggles would lessen if you simply began your day in conversation with God? If you made a small commitment to rise a little earlier, you could ask God to take the cares of your day and make them His own.When you first make that decision to spend the first moments of your day in prayer, it may be difficult to get up earlier. It may be difficult to stick to it. But I guarantee the rewards will out weigh the costs. You will begin to see incredible changes in your life. The blessings will abound and you will have an inner peace that you have never known.
Lesson 63: No Time for God (Acts 24:24-27)
Every week, we all face opportunities for spiritual advance. There is the opportunity to set your alarm a few minutes early to get up and spend time with the Lord. Or, you can sack in and miss that opportunity.
Image text: "God is never too busy to listen. Don't be too busy to talk to him." Image source.

Here are some articles about what's wrong with us that makes us not read the bible enough. Or about how to change our thinking so we are able to keep the habit of reading the bible. All of these are based on the unspoken assumption that daily bible reading is the ideal which all Christians should be working toward.

Why Christians Don’t Read the Bible
Why Christians Don’t Read the Bible (yes, a completely different article with the same title)
Lee Strobel on Why People Don’t Read the Bible
Three Reasons Why You Don't Read Your  Bible
Why Don't We Read Our Bibles?
Make a Habit of Spending Time with God

We were taught that we needed to read the bible every day, and that we needed to enjoy doing it and be motivated by love for God, rather than thinking of it as a chore. If we didn't keep up the habit and manufacture the correct emotions about it, then we were bad Christians. Back then, I had a pretty-close-to-perfect record of reading my bible every day. I did it because I did genuinely love God, but also because missing a day here or there just WAS NOT AN OPTION. And so, looking back on that time, it's difficult to untangle my motivations. (Which is why CONSENT is so important- people have to be able to freely choose to do something or not.) And as you can see from the links above, this is exactly how the church taught me to view "daily devotions." We need to read the bible every day, or if we don't, we at least need to act like we feel guilty about it.


Related: Christianity and "Selfishness": Here are the Receipts

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Sum of My Attempts Thus Far to Visit the World's Largest Starbucks

So the world's largest Starbucks just opened in Shanghai last week. As it happens, I live in Shanghai, so I decided to go and see it and bring back pictures for you all. It's at exit 3 of the West Nanjing Road subway station.

However, when I went there, there was a huge line of people waiting outside, and Starbucks was only letting in a limited number of people at a time, so I decided not to actually try to go in, this time around. I'll go back in maybe a month or two when the crowds are smaller.

Anyway, here are the photos I took of the outside of the building:

Here's the same picture but zoomed in.

Here's the entrance. Apparently the Starbucks mermaid has 2 tails? What?

It's called "Starbucks Reserve Roastery."

People waiting in line to go in.

Apparently it has a bakery.

Here's another shot of the bakery.

Lots of people taking pictures on the street.

This guy brought a whole camera with a tripod.


If you want to see more posts like this, consider supporting me on patreon~ When I reach my goal of $20/month, I'll do a series of blog posts about various aspects of life in Shanghai. With lots of photos. ^_^

Thursday, December 7, 2017


An image of a heart with the text "I didn't actually know what love was till I left Christianity." Image source.
1. Actually, Creationists Do Believe in Evolution (posted November 29) "Yes, really. Let’s think about the timeline here. According to Answers in Genesis, Noah’s flood occurred in 2348 BC. The Tower of Babel occurred in 2242 BC."

2. The Love/Life Principles Seminar: (Not) Making Friends and Influencing People. (posted November 30) "We never learned what acceptance really was, nor that it’s quite rude and controlling to treat others like DIY fix-it projects."

3. ‘All right, then …’ (posted November 29) "Tear up the letter. Turn the raft around. And if you can think up anything worse, do that too."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

That Time Jesus Got Hangry

A breba fig. It's the first crop of the year for a fig tree and is usually inedible. In the photo, it is green like the leaves. Image source.
Today let's read Matthew 21:18-22. It's short, so I'll just copy-paste the whole thing here:
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
So, wtf is going on here?! Why does Jesus curse the fig tree? Was it because he was hangry and had an irrational emotional outburst?

Okay, I did some reading, most of which took me to websites of the "bible is inerrant" bent (which means they could be biased toward forcing the bible to make sense when it actually doesn't), but I found what they said was backed up by this non-religious webpage about fig trees:
Fig trees produce two crops every year, but only one of them may be edible. The first crop, called the breba crop, occurs relatively early in the year on the previous year's growth. These fruits are frequently small, acidic and inferior in texture, but may be useful for preservation. The second crop occurs later in the year on the current year's growth and these figs should be edible.
So, even though it wasn't the season for figs (as Mark's account tells us), the fig tree should have still had breba figs. But Jesus found only leaves, which means it wasn't a healthy tree that was going to produce figs in fig season either.

The idea is, even though the tree appeared good, it really wasn't, and when Jesus cursed it and caused it to wither, he was exposing its true nature. He wasn't letting it get away with looking like a good tree when it actually wasn't.

So maybe it's a lesson about hypocrisy and how "there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed." Recently in the news we've found out about sexual assault and harassment committed by famous and powerful people, victims have shared their stories with #metoo hashtag, and people have also talked about sexual abuse in the church with the #churchtoo hashtag. A lot of this has been covered up for a long time, and it's good that people are finding out about it. Just as Jesus cursed the fig tree, let's curse the corrupt systems that cover up abuse- let them wither so everyone can see how evil and rotten they are.


All right that's all well and good, I could just end the blog post there, but I still think this fig tree story is freakin' weird and we could also talk about these aspects:
  • If the fig tree was already unable to bear fruit and Jesus was just exposing that fact, then why does he phrase his curse as "May you never bear fruit again"? It really makes it sound like the tree would have had fruit in the future, but Jesus decided not to let it, as a punishment for having only leaves right now. Seems like if this interpretation is true, Jesus should have said "you will never bear fruit again" or "you are a fruitless tree" or something. Is this a translation issue? Is the interpretation about exposing a fruitless tree wrong? Did Jesus phrase it in a weird way to make some kind of point?
  • Was Jesus angry? Did Jesus do a bad thing here? Was he being unreasonable when he cursed the fig tree? Did Jesus ever do anything he later regretted?
  • All right, it is super-not-okay what Jesus tells the disciples about "if you have faith and do not doubt" you can move mountains and "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." This teaching leads Christians to believe that they have to manufacture certain emotions in order to make their prayers "work." Which is really bad for mental health (and I touched on this in my post Prayer Rates Don't Correlate With Actual Risk). It means you can't be honest about how you really feel, because if you allow yourself to be aware of your belief that something you prayed for isn't likely to happen, then it's YOUR FAULT when it doesn't happen.
  • It's also worth noting that the fig tree is used in the Old Testament as a symbol of the nation of Israel. This passage could be interpreted as a judgment on Israel for their hypocrisy and lack of "fruit."
  • The account of the fig tree is a fun one for apologetics because Matthew says the fig tree withered "immediately," while Mark has it withering by the next morning when they walked past it again. Here's an apologetics site that explains "Actually, if we want to be particular, that's not what Mark says. Mark says nothing about when the tree withered; he says that the next day Peter in particular noticed the withered tree." To which I say, ah yes, and Obi-Wan didn't "remember ever owning a droid" even though we saw him with R2-D2 all the time in the prequels because Jedi don't technically own property as individuals. Right. Yeah, that's why. Sure.

This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: Clearing the Temple Was Not a "Peaceful Protest" (Matthew 21:12-17)

Next post: That Time Jesus Didn't "Stand Up For What's Right" (Matthew 21:23-27)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

Monday, December 4, 2017

It seems I can't make an exercise plan because I used to be evangelical

Three women doing a workout routine. Image source.
So I said to myself, I should exercise, so I can be healthy and strong. I've been really trying to do that- maybe a few times a week I stand up and move around/ stretch/ jog in place/ do crunches/ jump/ etc for 15 minutes or so while I'm watching youtube. And that's a good start, but really it would be better if I had some kind of a more organized plan. Something more structured than "do whatever exercise-ish things come to mind, if I feel like it."

Something with clear goals. Where the number of repetitions or length of time is determined beforehand, so I push myself to finish it instead of stopping because "I'm tired." Something like "on Monday I'll do these exercises for 30 minutes, on Wednesday I'll do these, on Friday I'll do these." Probably there are apps that can recommend a plan and keep track of it all.

But whenever I start to think about making a plan, I feel like I'm trapped and I have to get out. I feel anxiety. And it's because of all the time I spent as a good Christian reading my bible every day.

See, here's the way it works: When you have a "personal relationship with God", you need to "spend time with God" every day, which means taking some time to be alone and away from all distractions, and reading the bible and praying. This is how you grow your relationship with God. This is how you be a good Christian.

We all knew that was the ideal: having a "quiet time" every day. But that's quite a high standard to reach, and most Christians don't actually do that. And so we need to perform guilt about it. People show up at bible study and "confess" their "sin" of not reading their bible every day. Pastors talk about "Jesus loves you so much that he came and died for you, and you can't even set aside 10 minutes every day to be with him?" Christians blame themselves for not having a better relationship with God, saying it's their own fault for being too busy and making excuses rather than spending time every day reading the bible.

It was an impossible standard- but "the gospel" we believed was all about impossible standards. We only deserve to go to heaven if we can be perfect- that is, never ever sin any time throughout our entire life. Never be mean to anyone. Never be selfish. Never be jealous. Of course that's impossible, and therefore we all deserve to go to hell. Those bad "worldly" people think that as long as their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, they'll be able to go to heaven- well, my Sunday school teachers warned me about how wrong they were. See, the bible [supposedly] says it doesn't matter what good things you've done- all that matters is that you have done a nonzero number of bad things. And therefore you are bad and deserve to go to hell, but God loves you anyway and you should be forever grateful for that because you suck and there's no logical reason God should ever do anything nice for you.

I was the best Christian, back then. I did read my bible every day. Maybe I missed a day a few times a year.

I remember there were times I had so much anxiety- when I was traveling so my schedule was all weird and it would be evening already and I would be all stressed out, thinking "I haven't read my bible yet today", trying to find a time to sneak off alone and do it, worried about how I could explain to friends if they saw me sneaking off, telling myself "well maybe I don't need to get my bible out, I can just think biblical thoughts and we'll say that counts", giving up on it when I get to the hotel room and there are people sleeping so I can't turn on the light.

I remember when I had a really long streak, where I hadn't missed a day in a long time, but I still felt bad because, you see, sometimes I would put off my "quiet time" til the evening. I would be so tired, and sitting up in bed for a few minutes, just reading the bare minimum amount and then falling asleep. I believed that was a sin too- I should be making God a priority, not putting it off and then trying to do a "quiet time" when I was too tired to think straight. I felt a lot of guilt over that.

I was so sleep-deprived in college- one day I slept through my alarm and somehow didn't wake up til 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I had missed all my classes except one. But I decided to skip that last one, because I needed to read my bible. God would be my first priority, and since I was obedient, I trusted that God would deal with whatever consequences came from skipping class.

When I came to China... there's a 12-hour time difference, and I wondered how to count a "day" when I was traveling, because I needed to make sure I read my bible every "day." I don't remember what my solution was. Maybe I read the bible on the plane, just to be sure. Maybe I gave myself some leniency on that day.

I did love God, and I really did love reading the bible and praying. I don't want you to think that I did it just because it was a rule- it was much more complicated than that. But when "no" isn't an option, what does "yes" really mean?

Then, probably around 2013, my relationship with God was falling apart and I tried to keep reading the bible every day. The only thing that kept me going was the guilt- that if I don't do it, then I am a bad Christian, I am bad, I am bad. I would read a passage and be overwhelmed by a mountain of questions- the "clear" interpretations I learned in church didn't cut it any more- and be so stressed because of the questions, stressed because "quiet time" is supposed to be about feeling closer to God and I wasn't feeling that at all, stressed because stopping wasn't an option- that would mean I am a bad Christian.

Eventually I came to the belief that God's love for me is not affected by whether or not I do all the "good Christian" habits like praying, reading the bible, and going to church. And I decided that it would be healthiest for me to actually stop doing all those things, for a period of time- to really put my faith in my belief that God's love isn't dependent on them. I decided it's okay not to read the bible every day- and what's more, it's okay not to feel bad about it. And that has been so incredibly healthy for me, these past few years.

So fast forward to right now, and here I am thinking about making an exercise plan. And all I can think is I've never been very good at exercising, so I'm definitely not going to be able to stick to the plan 100%. Maybe I'll plan to exercise 3 times a week, but some weeks I'll end up not exercising at all. Maybe I'll lose interest entirely after 1 week and abandon the whole plan. And when I fail- because, anything short of 100% is a failure, our good deeds are like filthy rags and all that- then that means I am bad and I should feel bad.

When I think about having a plan, I don't feel like "this is a good thing because if I work hard I will be stronger and feel good." Instead the only thing I can imagine is all the shame, all the shame from each day that I miss. One after another after another. Just a pile of shame from all the things I've done wrong, all the good habits that I haven't kept.

(In my analysis of the VeggieTales movie "Rack, Shack, & Benny," I talked about how harmful it is to equate healthy habits with morality. Yeah, turns out that kind of teaching makes me not exercise because I'm too scared I'll "sin.")

Readers, can I let you in on a little secret? I don't really want to write blog posts about the gospel of Matthew. I'm just doing it because 5 years ago I said I would do it, and I feel guilty over the fact that I never finished. Like, don't get me wrong, I think the Matthew posts I've written recently have been good posts- but I would actually prefer to spend my time and energy blogging about other topics. But see, I have this guilt hanging over me. This thing I said I would do 5 years ago, and I still feel bad for not finishing it. I blog about Matthew to make the guilt go away. I wish I didn't have to.

Okay. I have to relearn this. Let's say I make an exercise plan that says I'll do this or that 3 times a week, but then one week I don't do any of it at all? What is the meaning of missing a few days? If it doesn't mean "I'm bad and I'm a failure", then what does it mean? How can I understand this? That belief needs to be replaced with something healthy- but I'm not really sure what.

Here's what I have so far: I don't have any urgent medical issues going on right now, and therefore it's a good time to start exercising. It doesn't matter what exercise I did or didn't do in the past- don't feel bad about the past, just look ahead to the future. I can always improve and get better, and that's a good thing. Don't compare myself to other people- instead, compare my current situation with my potential.

But what if I miss a day? Or a whole week? Or more? What does it meannnnnn? Does it mean I am bad? If I can miss a day without guilt, then what's the motivation to stick to the plan?

Or maybe if I miss a day it means on that day there were other things that were higher priorities than exercising. And that's also something people feel shame over- you're supposed to feel bad about "I would rather watch tv than exercise"- but why? Wouldn't it be better to be honest with yourself about it? To just accept that it's the honest truth about how you feel, and it's not necessarily good or bad? And then you realize that your short-term desires contradict your stated long-term goals, and you can decide how to handle that. Maybe you decide the goal isn't worth it- and that's fine, nothing wrong with making that choice, you don't have to feel guilt about it. Or maybe you decide the long-term goal truly is important to you, and therefore it's even more urgent that you alter your day-to-day behavior- and that's your motivation, instead of "I am bad." Ideally, you find a form of exercise you enjoy, so it doesn't feel like a giant pain to stick with it.

My point is, the first step has to be honesty about what you really want and how you really feel. Without that, all you have is socially-mandated guilt that doesn't actually motivate you to do better.

So. Years of believing that daily "devotionals" were REQUIRED in order to be a good Christian have left me too stressed to be able to set goals about exercise and other good healthy habits. Back then, it was all about impossible standards and sin and guilt; we weren't allowed to be honest about our priorities, because it just wasn't acceptable to have other things that were- even on the time scale of one day- more important than our "relationship with God."

Readers: Have you had similar experiences with "daily devotionals" and guilt? Any ideas about a more healthy perspective on what it means when you make a goal but it doesn't work out?

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Cat touching a Christmas ornament. Image source.
1. China Marks Transgender Day of Remembrance With National Survey (posted November 20) [content note: anti-trans violence] "Based on more than 2,000 valid responses — the largest such survey to date — the Beijing LGBT Center’s report points to a lack of access to medical treatment, domestic violence, campus bullying, and workplace discrimination as issues that take a heavy toll on the lives of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in China." Also their video is worth watching.

2. Shocking sexual abuse allegations at a kindergarten in Beijing has China on edge (posted November 24) [content note: child sexual abuse] "On Friday, Beijing’s major newspapers barely mentioned the case. Yet the allegations still went viral on social media websites in China, where decades of draconian family-planning policies have engendered a society-wide obsession with early-childhood education, and pervasive censorship and corruption have engendered a deficit of social trust."

3. Wishful Thinking, Forced Intimacy, and The Nashville Statement (posted November 15) "Due to my work, I read a recent article at John Piper’s website by Nashville Statement signer Rosaria Butterfield. In it, she gives some of the worst advice I have ever read to a woman in a mixed orientation marriage."

4. Nazis Are Just Like You and Me, Except They're Nazis (posted November 25) This is a parody, and it's HILARIOUS.

5. Translating Away Justice (posted November 20) "The noun, for example, is usually translated as 'righteousness,' not as 'justice.'" As a bible nerd, I am ANGRY about this. All bible nerds should read this post.

6. #ChurchToo: abuse survivors speak out about harassment in their religious communities (posted November 22) [content note: sexual abuse] "It’s certainly true that many religious communities’ insularity, combined with their frequent focus on women’s sexual purity, renders these spaces as particularly fertile ground for sexual harassment or abuse." Yes. Focus on women's "sexual purity" is DIRECTLY CONNECTED to abuse- and that's something I never would have suspected back when I was in purity culture. See, "purity" teaching creates an environment where victims are ONLY able to come forward and be believed and be treated as innocent and deserving of sympathy and justice IF they have NEVER BROKEN ANY OF THE PURITY RULES.

7. The Nationalist's Delusion (posted November 20) "What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked."

And this post based on the above article: Blasphemy. "Many white churches support white nationalism and Trumpism. Other white churches allow the option of not supporting it. But it is only that — an option, one that is permitted and tolerated, but never demanded. This, too, is blasphemy."

8. If you believe that only “bad” theology and twisted scripture could result in the sort of abuse #churchtoo describes you must also believe that the following are all examples of such bad theology: (posted November 28) A must-read Twitter thread.

9. Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "The Toy That Saved Christmas" (posted November 29)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"The Author of Leviticus Would Have Been Cool With It"

An image showing a hand holding some kind of old-fashioned pen and writing on a scroll. Image source.
So let's suppose I'm writing the bible, and God "inspires" me to write this:
Kids played soccer outside the church.
Let's assume we believe that the bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God. So, based on this one sentence, can we make any conclusions about God's opinion on the pressing issue of "is it called 'soccer' or 'football'"?

Well, you might say, this passage uses the term "soccer" because the author was an American. But the passage doesn't say that "soccer" is the only correct term and that "football" would be incorrect.

All right let's say I'm "inspired by God" to write this:
Kids played soccer outside the church. Some people think it's called "football" but they're wrong.
So here we find, in the inspired word of God, the statement that referring to soccer as "football" is, in fact, wrong. And, you know, the bible is inerrant, so that means this is The Definitive Truth on the "football vs soccer" debate. It's a sin to call it "football." The bible is clear.

Let's suppose I'm "inspired by God" to write it like this:
Kids played soccer outside the church. There was a British man there who was not very intelligent, and he called it "football."
Heh. Now what can we say about this? The text- the inerrant text- tells us two things: the British man was not intelligent, and the British man called it "football." Clearly the author intends for readers to link those two things together- the author is saying that people who call it "football" are less intelligent, and just plain wrong. But if you look at the actual words of the text itself, it does NOT explicitly say those two facts are at all connected.

So my question is, what part is "inerrant and inspired by God," exactly? Just the text, or also the not-exactly-explicit messages that reflect the author's own biases?

Yeah I'll admit my own biases on this- I'm not a fan of British English because I'm an American and I'm living as a minority here in China, where the English that's taught in schools is way more British than American. I'm homesick and I'm tired of recalibrating my English so it's compatible with silly British stuff that Chinese people learned in school. I'm tired of trying to explain that this is pudding and this is jello and this is jelly but the translation software might tell you otherwise because British people have a totally different understanding of what's pudding and what's jello and what's jelly.

(But on a rational level, I do realize that the rest of the world all calls it "football" and there's no objective right or wrong about language. And obviously the bible wasn't written in English.)

But here's my point: If you believe "the bible is inerrant and inspired by God, and God used imperfect people to write it", then why is there so much study and debate over "what the author intended"? Maybe "what the author intended" was actually wrong. When people claim that the bible is inerrant, are they actually claiming the author's thoughts and intentions and opinions while writing were inerrant? That is quite a claim.

(And again, let me be upfront about my biases: No, I no longer believe the bible is completely inerrant and inspired by God. Maybe some parts are, but definitely not the whole thing.)

Here's an example from the bible: Genesis 30:25-43 describes how Jacob put striped branches in the water the goats were drinking, so then they gave birth to striped offspring. (Jacob did this because he had made an agreement with Laban that all the striped or spotted goats in Laban's flock would be Jacob's.)

Now, the text itself only says that Jacob did this, and then the offspring were striped. It doesn't technically say that striped branches actually cause goats to give birth to striped baby goats. And I used to be an apologetics nerd; I know that when somebody comes along and says "hey that's not how genetics works", the correct answer is "well yes, we know from genetics that striped branches won't cause the offspring to have stripes. Really it was God who made the offspring striped, because God wanted to bless Jacob. Jacob thought it was because of his little striped-branches scheme, but that really had nothing to do with it."

But let's imagine we're interested in "what the author meant" and we're having a conversation with the author:
So, what did you mean when you said Jacob put striped branches in the goats' drinking water, and then they gave birth to striped offspring?

I meant that when female goats look at striped branches, they are more likely to have baby goats that are striped.

Did you mean like, just in this one particular case that's what happened, or did you mean that's something that's true in general?

Yes that's how it always works. Anyone who wants striped goat babies can try this at home.
I believe that, based on their ancient understanding of science, the above hypothetical conversation is "what the author of Genesis meant." Would Christians who believe in inerrancy accept that this incorrect understanding of science is "what the author meant" but then claim it doesn't matter because it's not what they wrote? What they wrote can still be interpreted as inerrant. So... no issues for inerrancy?

Or, let's suppose the apologetics explanation I mentioned is actually "what the author meant." Let's see how that conversation might go:
So, what did you mean when you said Jacob put striped branches in the goats' drinking water, and then they gave birth to striped offspring?

I meant that Jacob thought his striped branches were causing the baby goats to be striped, but actually that's not how science works. Actually it was God intervening to make them striped.

What do you mean by "God intervening"?

I mean that God favored Jacob- not Laban, not Esau- so he chose to bless Jacob by giving him more goats.

What do you mean by "God favored Jacob"? Why would God like Jacob better than Laban or Esau?

"Jacob" is just a way cooler name, obviously, so that's why God liked him better.
Okay it's a silly example, but my point is, you can keep asking "what did you mean by" questions- to anyone, about any topic- and sooner or later you will inevitably hit upon some bizarre/ignorant/nonsensical belief that they hold. Because we all have beliefs and biases that aren't really rational or true. So what I'm asking is this: For those of you who believe the bible is inerrant and are SO INTERESTED in "the author's intended meaning", where do you draw the line between what's inerrant and what's just the writer's own flawed beliefs?

The only solution that could potentially make sense is to say the literal words of the text are inerrant, but "what the author meant" is NOT necessarily inerrant- though it is certainly useful and informative to discuss "what the author meant." I don't see any way to separate out "what the author meant" about one particular bible passage they wrote, such that their opinions on that specific passage form a closed, inerrant system of beliefs that is in no way connected to their imperfect understanding of reality.

But what does it even mean to say the words of the biblical text are inerrant, but "what the author meant" by those words is not? How can words have a meaning which is separate from what the author meant by them? I'll give you an example: Suppose I use the term "red shirt." What does "red shirt" mean? Well it's a reference to the characters on "Star Trek: The Original Series" who wore red shirts and always died in attacks or accidents, and the main characters didn't care about them- their deaths were just a way to show the audience that our heroes were in a dangerous situation.

But then you say "no no, apart from the context of Star Trek, what does 'red shirt' mean?"

That question doesn't make any sense. If I, as a trekkie, say "red shirt", there is no possible way to understand it besides as a Star Trek reference. You can't remove it from the context of my experience watching Star Trek and expect to understand my meaning. It's not like I'm using some intrinsic, context-independent definition of "red shirt" and then adding the Star Trek thing on top of that. No, the Star Trek thing is the entire meaning.

In the "red shirt" example, it's easy to see how it's possible for a word or phrase to literally not have any meaning at all if one attempts to separate it from the opinions and lived experience of the writer or reader. But it's not just because it's a term from a TV show. I believe ALL OF LANGUAGE is like this. ALL OF LANGUAGE has no meaning apart from the lived experiences of people.

See, I know this because I speak Chinese. And in the process of learning Chinese, I didn't just read a dictionary and memorize an abstract definition for each word- no, if you want to learn to speak a language, you have to study by speaking the language. It's about being in situations where you use the words. It's about talking to people. It's about experiencing the culture. How can you talk about what a word means just by itself, without situations, people, and culture? There is no meaning apart from those things.

In sci-fi movies, characters can "download" a language into their brain, or there's a "universal translator" so everything is in English- but here in the real world, languages don't work that way. Tell me this, after you "download" Chinese into your brain: What is a 发票 [fā piào]? A dictionary will tell you it means "invoice" but I'm here to tell you it doesn't. Personally, if I absolutely have to translate it into real English words, I call it a "fancy receipt"- it's a special kind of receipt that serves as proof that the seller paid tax on the income from the sale. There are regular receipts, and then there are fapiaos. At a restaurant they'll give you a normal receipt when you pay, but if you are getting reimbursed by your company or something, that receipt isn't good enough- you need to ask your waiter to give you a fapiao. And usually the waiter will direct you over to a cashier with a special printer just for fapiaos, and the cashier will ask you if they should print your name on it, or your company's name, or what. The fapiao is usually printed on narrow paper like a receipt, and always has a very officially-looking red stamp. For some people, depending on how the salary structure works at their job, some of their income may be tax-exempt if they can submit fapiaos for it- for example, at one place I worked in China, I submitted fapiaos for the rent I paid on my apartment, and then I didn't have to pay tax on that part of my salary. It's a very special, very official type of receipt, and there is no equivalent concept in the United States.

Try downloading that into your brain. It's impossible to really understand what a fapiao is without that lived experience. Without ever having the feeling like you're lost in a giant bureaucracy and you're just screwed because you don't have the right fapiao. (International people living in China actually say "fapiao"- we don't really try to translate it to English. Whereas a lot of Chinese people call it "invoice" when they're speaking English because they don't realize that we don't have that concept in English- they don't realize it's not something you can just easily translate like that.)

Here's another example: I was talking to an American friend, let's call him Mark, who also learned Chinese. He mentioned the fact that the Chinese word for "giraffe" is "长颈鹿 [cháng jǐng lù]", which, if you translate each character individually, is literally "long neck deer." He said, "Before I started studying Chinese, I never thought of a giraffe as being like a deer, but ya know, it kind of is." Then I told Hendrix (whose first language is Chinese) about what Mark said, and how it was true for me too- it had never occurred to me that a giraffe is like a deer. Hendrix was SHOCKED. How could someone live their entire life without realizing that a giraffe is like a deer????!!!!!

My point is, language is connected to the way we think. If someone's first language is Chinese, they probably conceptualize a giraffe as being like a deer but really tall and with a long neck. Whereas if their first language is English, they think of it as just an unusual animal that's not really similar to any other animals. Obviously no matter what language you speak, you are able to study biology and find out what animals a giraffe is actually like- but those biological facts will be layered on top of the implicit assumptions you were taught when you learned your first language. Language affects the way we think. And vice versa.

All of language is like this. Words mean nothing without culture, without people, without experiences. So how can someone say the literal words of the bible are inerrant, but the "author's intended meaning" is not? The "literal words" have no meaning by themselves. And how can someone say the "author's intended meaning" is inerrant, but the author is still a flawed person with an imperfect understanding of reality? Where is the line between the author's thoughts on the bible passage they wrote, and the rest of their opinions about the world?

I titled this post "the author of Leviticus would have been cool with it" in reference to the argument, made by some queer Christians and allies, that "in the bible, where same-sex relationships are condemned, it's always in the context of rape or pedophilia or other exploitative relationships, not consensual relationships between equal partners. If the writers had known about consensual same-sex relationships, they wouldn't have condemned them." I don't agree with this argument- though I do believe it can be an important first step for people coming from a "the bible is clear" background.

Because, who cares how the author of Leviticus would have reacted in this hypothetical situation? Seems like the only reason someone would even be talking about this is if they believed all the author's opinions were inerrant- not just the ones they wrote in the bible. But that's ridiculous- I've never heard a Christian make a claim like that. Usually they say "the bible is inerrant and inspired by God, who used imperfect humans to write it."

Maybe the author of Leviticus would not have been okay with same-sex consensual sex, but God was okay with it so God didn't "inspire" them to write that particular opinion of theirs in the bible. [That is, if you interpret what they did write as only referring to coercive relationships- which the text doesn't say explicitly, so again this gets into what the author wrote vs what the author meant.] Or, we could invent all kinds of hypotheticals about "God's opinion was this, the writer's opinion was that, this particular aspect is inerrant and this one is not." Maybe it's a fun game, but I'll just put my cards on the table here and say it doesn't actually matter to me because I don't believe the bible is inerrant. I believe the bible got lots of things wrong.

When you actually start to think about how "inerrancy" would work, how it could be that imperfect people wrote a perfect book, you'll see it doesn't really make sense. And it makes even less sense for Christians to be so concerned about "what did the author MEAN by this?" Are they really claiming that not only the bible is inerrant, but also everything the authors "meant" when they were writing the bible is inerrant? How can that be? That's not how language works, and it's not how humans work.