Monday, April 29, 2019

The Bible Stories As I Read Them Were Never Actually In The Bible

Clipart image of Sherlock Holmes looking for clues. Image source.
[content note: discussion of a suicide in the bible]

Here's an interesting article from Libby Anne: How Did Judas Die? Why Evangelicals Seek to Explain Away Contradictions. She talks about a post on Answers in Genesis which "resolves" the supposed "contradiction" between Matthew's and Luke's (in the book of Acts) accounts of how Judas died.

I remember reading the "answer" to this contradiction a long time ago, in an apologetics book. Basically the issue is that Matthew 27:5 says:
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
And Acts 1:18 says:
With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.
So like... uh what exactly happened to Judas?

The "answer" from Christian apologetics is that Judas hanged himself, and then his dead body hung there for a while and eventually fell down and burst open.

I've known this answer for a long time. And so, every time I read Acts 1:18, I read it as "Judas bought a field, there he hanged himself, and then after a while his dead body fell headlong and burst open and all his intestines spilled out." As it happens, I had this verse memorized back when I did bible quizzing- so I knew that the literal words written in Acts did not say "hanged himself", but that was still the meaning I got when I read it.

It's only right now, in 2019, reading Libby Anne's blog post, that I am realizing that's not what the Acts passage says.

It's only RIGHT NOW, that I'm realizing, if we just read Acts and not Luke, we would get the impression that Judas took the money he got from betraying Jesus, and happily went off and bought a field, feeling like he'd gotten away with it. But then he ended up accidentally falling off some tall thing that was in the field, and died from the fall. Perhaps this is God's justice- he didn't "get away with it" after all.

Or, well, I'm embellishing- we can't say for sure if he "happily" bought the field, we can't say for sure if this is a little morality story to show you can't actually "get away with it" ... I kind of added those. But reading it as "Judas was remorseful so he went and hanged himself" is also embellishing. The remorse is in Matthew's telling of the story; that's not the way it's told in the book of Acts.

Luke (the writer of Acts) is telling a different story.

And of course, the idea that Acts tells a different story than Matthew is completely unintelligible for Christians who believe the bible is inerrant. Everything in the bible happened in the same universe, which is also the universe we live in. Therefore if one passage says Judas did this and another passage says Judas did that, the correct account of Judas's life would include both. Indeed, if you read the bible this way, you would see it as quite helpful that Matthew tells us Judas was remorseful even though Luke doesn't- if we only had Luke's account, we might misunderstand and get the impression that Judas's death wasn't a suicide. Isn't it nice that Matthew gives us more information, to help us understand what Luke wrote?

Or rather, isn't it nice how we're not actually reading the story that Luke wrote, we're changing it by bringing in details from a different story...

Yes, if you believe in inerrancy, then this is definitely how you have to read the bible. But I don't believe in inerrancy any more. I won't get into all the reasons why; it's kind of too much to put into this blog post (but if you're interested, maybe read my review of Peter Enns's book "The Bible Tells Me So"). The bible has errors, it has stuff that wasn't true at all but was added for political reasons, it has embellishments that the authors made up to help communicate whatever point they were trying to make- and that's not necessarily a bad thing, because ancient readers wouldn't have expected they were reading a 100% true factual historical account. 

And all this stuff about "resolving contradictions" completely misses the point. It makes us unable to actually read the words that are right in front of us and understand the story that each individual author is telling.


Note: In this post I said Luke was the writer of Acts, but hey maybe that's not true either.


The Bible Lied About Lot's Daughters
This Star Wars Fan Theory Is EXACTLY How Apologetics Works
"The Author of Leviticus Would Have Been Cool With It"

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Movie poster from the 2012 Avengers movie. It shows the 6 original Avengers and Nick Fury at the battle of New York. Image source.
1. The Disciplines Where No Black People Earn Ph.D.s (posted April 19) "In more than a dozen academic fields—largely STEM related—not a single black student earned a doctoral degree in 2017."

2. God Our Ally: A worship album by queer Christians and allies (on Kickstarter) Wow cool!

3. Answers in Genesis Adds an (Impossible) Ice Age to the Bible (posted April 18) "Ur can’t actually have been continuously occupied from 38ooo BC on because the Bible says there was a global flood in 2350, and it can’t have been founded immediately after this Flood because science says there was an Ice Age; science says this Ice Age must have occurred after the Flood (because the Ice Age deposits are found on top of the pools of subterranean oil, which of course were created during the Flood); and, finally, science says cities were not founded until after the Ice Age."

Wow, Answers in Genesis makes the most *complicated* fan theories.

4. Supporting Rachel Held Evans (Official) A gofundme page for Rachel Held Evans's medical costs. <3 <3 <3

5. Avengers: Endgame Cast Sings "We Didn't Start the Fire" (posted April 22) WOW THIS IS SO COOL!

[Don't worry, this video does not have any "Endgame" spoilers]

Also, "Avengers: Endgame" started showing in China on April 24. Yesssssss ~ usually we get movies AFTER the rest of y'all but this time we get it BEFORE.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Bible, Trans People, and Names

Book cover for "Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians" by Austen Hartke. Image source.
I just read Austen Hartke's book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. I loved it, and I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in how trans Christians read the bible. There were a lot of fascinating biblical interpretations that I had never thought about before.

For example, chapter 6 is called "What's My Name Again?" and it's about how the common trans experience of choosing a new name can be related to bible stories where a person gets a new name. I find it so interesting how, for many trans people, changing their name is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, and therefore the bible stories where someone gets a new name have special meaning for them. I never paid that much attention to that when I read the bible. Yes, of course I know "Jesus gave Simon the name 'Peter' to show he would be the rock on which the church is built," but I had never considered how a name change can be so emotional and important.

This is why it's so important for Christians to read theology and bible interpretations from many diverse sources. There are so many things in the bible that I would hardly pay attention to at all, but someone from a different background would find incredibly important and meaningful.

In this chapter, Hartke introduces us to a nonbinary person named River, who shares their story about how they chose the name "River", and their experiences with family, Christianity, mental health, etc. The chapter touches on many different aspects of trans people and names- different sources that trans people might use when brainstorming a new name, how it feels when people use your correct name, how family members might refuse to use it, and so on. Hartke also gives many examples of bible passages where a person gets a new name, and talks about what it meant in each situation.

I love this because I've read the bible so many times and never really thought about this before. For mental health reasons, it's been a very long time since I've done any kind of "daily devotions" or sat down and read the bible... it's stuff like this that makes me want to read the bible again.

The whole book is like this. Very cool bible interpretations, along with stories from real trans people about their lives and their experiences with religion. I think it's especially good how Hartke included stories from nonbinary people, and from trans people of color, talking about how their trans identity intersects with their racial identity.

So in summary, I recommend this book if you want to read about how trans Christians can find meaning in the bible. I also recommend Hartke's youtube channel where he posts a lot of videos about queer/trans theology and the bible. Makes me love the bible again.


Remember, it's so important to call trans people by their correct name and pronouns! (That is, the name and pronouns they told you they want you to call them.) One study found that when trans people are able to use their correct name, their risk of attempted suicide drops by 65%. Wow.


Trans Theology on Binaries and Genesis 1

Thursday, April 18, 2019


A cat sleeping. Image source.
1. Cleaning Up After Your Husband Is Not A "Blessing" (posted April 11) "Confronting the men in their lives won't lead to change, and rather than facing that uncomfortable truth, they'll guile themselves into believing that they are choosing this imbalance. They'll convince themselves that indeed a mess is a blessing, because they've been taught that wanting anything else is a sin. It’s ungrateful. It’s unwomanly. It’s ungodly."

2. The first picture of a black hole opens a new era of astrophysics (posted April 10) Cool!

3. Dozens investigating what caused massive Notre Dame fire (posted April 17) Oh nooo.

And I'll take this opportunity to share one of my favorite "religious" songs: "God Help the Outcasts" from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Monday, April 15, 2019

What My Marriage Is Actually About (It's Not Sex And It's Not Jesus)

A clip-art image of a boy and girl and dog and rabbit holding the letters L-O-V-E. Image source.
When I was growing up, Christians told me a lot of things about marriage. Things like, it's going to be a super huge big deal whether or not you have sex before marriage. Your spouse will really really want you to not have had sex with anyone else, and if you have then you'll feel guilty about it forever and have marriage troubles because of it. "Your virginity is the most precious gift you can give to your husband."

And, based on what people in church said, it seemed like the biggest difference between being married and not-married is that if you're married you're allowed to have sex, and it's amazing and mind-blowing and all that.

Also, they said the #1 thing you need to do in order to have a happy marriage is to have Jesus be the focus of your marriage. You and your spouse have to both be Christians, you should pray together, and so on. And the husband is the leader and the wife should submit to him.

All these ideas I had of what marriage was like. And now that I'm actually married, I'd like to tell you, no, my marriage is not like that at all.

My marriage is not about sex, it's not about Jesus, it's not about wifely submission, it's not about how guilty we feel over having exes, it's nothing like that at all. Yes, Hendrix (my husband) and I have sex [starting long before we got married], and it's important to me and as an asexual I have a lot of opinions about it, but it's nowhere near the most important thing. And no, my marriage is not "based on Jesus"- I'm a Christian and my husband is not, but I'm the kind of Christian who believes God gave us the ability to make our own decisions. I don't believe in "surrendering to God" anymore. As for "wifely submission"- HA, nope, don't believe in that at all. If Hendrix ever told me to "submit" to him, I'd laugh in his face. And our feelings about our exes... I mean, who cares? That was such a long time ago. Why would that matter to me now?

My marriage isn't about any of that. Instead, it's about all the ways we show love to each other every day- big ways and small ways. It's about how happy I am I get to see his cute face every day. How I can always talk to him about how I feel and he knows just what to say to support and encourage me.

It's about the slice of chocolate cake he buys for me, as a surprise, if he happens to be somewhere that has slices of cake for sale.

It's about how he pays more attention to dates of movie releases than I do, and so he's the one who's always asking me "do you want to go see [whatever new movie] this weekend?" Or he opens the app on his phone to buy tickets and hands me the phone and says "pick what day you want to see [whatever movie]." (And if I say "eh I don't know if I really want to go see it", he tries to convince me by saying "you could write a blog post about what 'good Christians' would think about it"- oh he knows me so well.)

It's about how I mentioned that my favorite flavor of yogurt is kiwi, so then he didn't eat any of the kiwi yogurt cups in our fridge- he always ate the other flavors so I could have all the kiwi.

It's about all the mental health stuff I've struggled with, throughout my whole life- how I've told him about it and he's been there to support me for all the years we've been together. And he knows what to say and what to do and how to help me better than anyone else.

It's about the time I told him I was having trouble scanning my Shanghai subway card, maybe because the card is a bit torn up around the edges, and he found one of his old cards that he's not using and gave it to me.

It's about the photo album I gave him, with vacation photos from the time we went on a cruise. He told me "before I met you I never really thought it was important to take so many pictures and save them and remember all the good times we've had, but now I'm really glad you do that for us." (Also, apparently when we were on the cruise I said "this is better than Disneyland" and Hendrix WILL NOT STOP reminding me of that.)

It's about going to aquariums and looking at fish. So many fish. I never knew anyone would be so interested in looking at fish! (He says "I like fish because they are weird.")

It's about one person cooking dinner and the other washing the dishes.

It's about how he knows what I want even when I don't say anything. This one time during dinner, I put my cup on the table and looked at it sadly and he said "you want me to get you more water" and I was like "???? HOW DID YOU KNOW? I DIDN'T EVEN SAY ANYTHING!"

It's about me scrolling through twitter, seeing a picture of a cat, saying to my husband "do you want to see a picture of a cat?", he says "no", and we both just continue with what we were doing.

It's about communication. About knowing each other so well, because we've lived together for so long, that we've both developed all kinds of little habits that complement each other. And actually, none of this is really "what marriage is about"- none of this was caused by us getting a marriage license and having a wedding. Instead, it's because we're in a long-term, loving, committed relationship. And as the amount of time we've been together increases, we gradually come to know each other more and more. It wasn't anything that happened suddenly on the wedding day when we made the transition from "unmarried" to "married." There isn't anything magical about the legal status of being married. No, we had a wedding to celebrate the reality of our relationship that already exists. We got a marriage license to reflect the reality of how we're already committed to each other. But other couples could be equally loving and committed and choose not to get married, and that's fine.

So all those things that I thought marriage would be about- sex, Jesus, caring about your spouse's exes- no, my marriage is not about that at all. It's about all the little ways that we love each other every day, and how we're able to do that because we know each other so well. And actually, none of those things even require us to be legally married.


My Marriage Is So Good, I Forgot "Unequally Yoked" Was Supposed To Be A Problem
Stats (a post about my "purity" and my marriage)


Thursday, April 11, 2019


Baby giraffe. Image source.
1. All My Life, People Have Told Me I'm "An Inspiration." Here's Why It's So Harmful (posted April 5) "From outside the disabled community, my accomplishments are rarely seen on the basis of their own merit. Instead, they’re often viewed as the cute hobbies and inconsequential actions of a disabled girl, seen as merely 'inspiring.'"

2. How Can We Teach Consent If We Don’t Teach About Pleasure? (posted 2018) "The thing about bad, one-sided sex is that you can be sexually active for years and not realize how bad or one-sided it is — that you’re missing out on a wide array of joy and pleasure."

3. If ‘we’ didn’t know, now ‘we’ know (posted February 10) "But who exactly is this 'we' who didn’t know before the arrival of the '#MeToo Era'?"

4. If Only He Knew: This’ll Be On the Quiz (posted April 2) "He replied, 'I think he’s largely full of [cow byproduct]. I’m only doing this because it entertains you for some reason.'" That's real love. <3

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I Wanna Preach the Good News of Masturbation

A woman in a lab coat and goggles, looking at a beaker. Image source.
A few weeks ago Libby Anne posted this article, Hey Focus on the Family: Masturbation Is Actually Important, which is a response to a Focus on the Family post telling teenagers that masturbation is bad.

Her whole post is very good, so you should read the whole thing. I want to talk about the 2 main points she makes about why masturbation is important:
  1. "First, masturbation has a place in marriage. There will be times when one partner wants sex and the other isn’t in the mood. There will be times when one partner wants sex, and the other can’t have sex. (I’m thinking in particular of the weeks that follow labor and delivery, but there are other times as well.)"
  2. "There’s a second problem with Focus on the Family’s logic on masturbation: for women especially, but also for men, masturbating before marriage is a good way to get to know your body, and to get to know what you like and what brings you pleasure."

About #1: Yes. Wow. Yes. If masturbation is an option, that is a total game-changer. I've been married for almost 2 years, been having sex with Hendrix for 4 years, and it's only just very recently I've realized that I don't have to stress myself out about making sure I offer to have sex with him as much as he might "need" it. I can just tell him to masturbate himself. WOWWWWWW.

Even though, before we even started having sex years ago, Hendrix told me that there's nothing wrong with masturbating- he told me it's not "cheating" or anything like that. Still, I was stuck in this ideology that says I'm responsible for meeting all his sexual needs. It never occurred to me that, if he has "needs" and I don't want to have sex right now, THAT'S OKAY because he can just masturbate.

This conservative Christian ideology, which teaches that masturbation is NOT ALLOWED, immediately sets up this totally unnecessary conflict, if one partner wants to have sex and the other doesn't. It doesn't have to be that way! People can masturbate! Praise Jesus.

And yes, I know that masturbating is different from having partnered sex. My husband prefers having sex with me, rather than masturbating. Because it's different, having the human connection and the emotions and love that go with that. Honestly, because I'm asexual, I can't really speak to the concept of having "sexual needs" in general and how meeting those needs with masturbating is or isn't different than meeting them through sex.

But I will say this: If you prefer partnered sex because you want the emotional connection with your partner, wouldn't that emotional connection only be good if both of you actually want it? If one person is only saying "yes" because they feel like they're responsible for their partner's sexual needs, then are you really able to have that loving connection?

Wouldn't it feel a lot better and loving if you always knew there was another option available, that everyone has the freedom to say "no" because their partner can just masturbate and take care of themself? Then when people say "yes" to sex, you know it's because they actually want it.

And about point #2, learning about one's body through masturbation: YES. Dear god, I am CONSTANTLY BAFFLED about why more people aren't talking about this.

I can only speak for myself here, but: WITHOUT MASTURBATING, IT WOULD BE LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO LEARN HOW TO HAVE SEX IN A WAY THAT FEELS GOOD. Is this not the case for other people? This was such a huge life-changing revelation for me. Why on earth isn't everyone who cares about sex-ed shouting this from the rooftops?

Like, why? Really, why? Ever since I started researching my body through masturbation, I have been trying to come up with some plausible explanation for why this is apparently not a big deal to other people, even though it's SUCH A BIG DEAL to me. Here are the possibilities I've come up with:
  1. Maybe for most people, they are able to have sex that feels good, even without having experience with masturbation.
  2. Maybe for most people, they masturbate a lot when they're teenagers and learn about their bodies that way, and maybe they don't even realize that's how they learned it. They don't think about how clueless they'd be if they had never masturbated. 
  3. Maybe most people (or maybe people with vaginas in particular) are *not* having sex that feels good, but they don't talk about it.
Like, does anybody have any insight into this question?

My experience with trying to figure out how to have sex would have been SO DIFFERENT if someone had given me this advice: "You shouldn't have partnered sex if you've never tried masturbating before." Seriously, that is THE #1 THING I WISH I'D KNOWN. Is this not the case for other people? Is it because they're able to have sex without ever having masturbated and it works fine for them, or is it because of course they've masturbated, everyone has masturbated, obviously, so this isn't even worth mentioning?

Before I met Hendrix, I had never ever masturbated. Never ever. Never even considered it. Because of course it's a sin, right? I did have a tiny bit of experience with using my hand to feel around "down there", a little bit, but I did it like a kid breaking the rules, sneaking around afraid of getting caught, trying to be done as fast as possible. (Please note, I lived alone, I wasn't worried about getting caught by *other people*- I was worried it was a sin and meant I was a bad person.) Now I research my body like a scientist- confident, unashamed, pursuing knowledge because I deserve it.

But that was how it was, the first time I tried to have partnered sex. I naively assumed it would "just work" even though I only had the vaguest idea of what a vagina was, and no understanding at all of the concept of being able to put something inside my vagina. Spoiler: the sex was not that great. (But for mental health reasons I'm really glad I did it- you can read more about that in this post.)

As I went through the process of rejecting Christian "purity" ideology, I changed a lot of my beliefs about sex and relationships. From "unmarried sex is a sin and will ruin your life" to "unmarried sex is okay." From "masturbation is a sin and will ruin your life" to "masturbation is okay." But then I realized, I have to go even farther than that. Masturbation is not just "okay"; masturbation is SO EXTREMELY GOOD. Like, holy crap. I'm asexual, so I'm sure my reasons for liking masturbation are different from most people... mostly it's because I want to learn about my body. And having sex with my husband would be A THOUSAND TIMES MORE DIFFICULT if I wasn't also masturbating.

Wow I want to tell people! This is important! Highly recommend!

Of course, since I'm asexual, I know that there are a lot of asexual people who aren't interested in masturbating, and of course that's totally fine. People can live a happy life without masturbating! (Uh, that's what I did before I met Hendrix.) But I VERY VERY STRONGLY advise against having sex with a partner if you've never *tried* to masturbate before. Like, at least feel around with your hand to get a basic sense of the geometry of your genitals and what it might feel like to have a sexual partner touching them.

So yes, masturbation is not a sin. And it's not just "okay"; it's better than that. For me, it's ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. And wow, I wish I had known that before trying to have sex.


A Post About Masturbation
My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life

Monday, April 8, 2019

Unaffirming Church Bingo

Great news! I have made this incredibly useful bingo board, for when you ask a Christian if they are LGBTQ-affirming and they give you a non-answer. See how many of these squares you can check off!

Here ya go:

This is why we need Church Clarity~

Thursday, April 4, 2019


1. The “Good News” Starts with Bad News (posted March 27) "Look around and see if you can find a guide to sharing the gospel that doesn’t start with bad news. I don’t think it exists." She's absolutely right, which is why I reject that "gospel."

2. The Violence of the Cross and Children: Thoughts Before Holy Week (posted 2018) "Under no other circumstance would we give five year olds a coloring page with a man whipping another man."

3. I Use A Wheelchair & Dating Involves Way More Planning Than It Should (posted March 29) "I’ve called ahead to ask a restaurant if it’s wheelchair accessible only to find that when they said “Yes,” what they actually meant was, “Yes, except for a couple steps and the close-together tables that actually make it very much not wheelchair accessible.”"

4. More Evidence that Young Earth Creationism Is Literally Unfalsifiable (posted April 1) "Take a moment to notice the question Chaffey is asking: Could Noah’s ark as described in Genesis have successfully remained afloat, or did it take a miracle? Now consider the question Chaffey is not asking: Could Noah’s ark as described in Genesis have successfully remained afloat, or is the story impossible?"

Monday, April 1, 2019

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Lord of the Beans" (2005)

Toto is so hesitant to use the bean to do ANYTHING. Until he's CERTAIN he knows the correct answer about "what it's for." And that's portrayed as a good role model. No trial-and-error allowed.


To see all my VeggieTales reviews: Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales (Master Post)