Monday, September 30, 2019

"My Evangelism Isn't Working" is a Very Creepy Thing to Say

Two points, labelled "Point A" and "Point B" with a straight line between them. Image source.
I came across this article from The Gospel Coalition: 3 Overlooked Ways to Do Pre-Evangelism by Randy Newman. It's about some things one might say to one's non-Christian friends to possibly make them more receptive to hearing about Christianity.

At the beginning of the article, Newman tells us about his attempts to present "the gospel" to a high school friend he had recently reconnected with after 50 years. He says:
Today, I continue to pray for him, reach out to him with phone calls and emails, and talk about meeting up when I’m nearby (we now live more than 1,000 miles apart). I’m convinced I need to pursue some pre-evangelistic conversations with him before he’ll be ready to hear the gospel in a way that can penetrate. I’ve tried the direct evangelistic approach several times, and that hasn’t worked. I need another strategy.
Umm. So let's talk about what's wrong with this line of thinking. Well, it's pretty well summed up by the line "I've tried the direct evangelistic approach several times, and that hasn't worked."


What does he mean by "hasn't worked"? Well, it means he didn't get the result he was trying to get. Which is to say, his friend hasn't become a Christian.

Isn't that bizarre? To think that we should try to get people to change their religious beliefs, to think that there's some "strategy" we need to figure out in order to get people to change, to think that if it's "not working" that means we need a new strategy that will hopefully "work."

See this is what I mean when I say Christianity definitely did NOT teach me about boundaries, and in fact taught the exact opposite. All this evangelism stuff is based on the assumption that there's something wrong with people having whatever personal religious beliefs they have. And that as a Christian, I should try to get people to change their beliefs to match my beliefs. Instead of just respecting that that's none of my business and people have the right to believe whatever they believe, I should try to convince them to change. And if I can't get them to change, I should try harder, and get advice from other Christians about how to make my evangelism "work."

Now that I'm not in that ideology any more, and now that I know about boundaries, the whole thing sounds incredibly messed-up.

Yes, very very creepy to say your evangelistic efforts "aren't working" because your friend continues to believe whatever he wants to believe, as is his right.

And another thing I'd like to point out from the article:
Here are three strategies for pre-evangelism that might help your friends move from “Are you crazy? Christianity is ridiculous, narrow-minded, homophobic, and stupid!” to “Well . . . maybe I need to rethink this” to “OK, I’ve not been fair in the ways I’ve pigeonholed religious people” to “All right, I’ll take a look at that book about God you gave me.”
Imagine your non-Christian friend's beliefs are at point A. Your Christian beliefs are at point B. Now, A and B are so far apart that it's not realistic to think your friend can simply move from A to B. No, this article advises us about how to add points C, D, E, and so on in between A and B, and gradually move your friend along toward point B.

All of this is based on the assumption that point B is the perfectly correct set of beliefs. That I, a Christian, am not going to change my beliefs at all. We're not going to learn from each other. Nope. Sure, Christians pretend they want to "have a dialogue" and "listen" to other people- I know I did, back when I was all about evangelism. But it's all fake. We wanted to change other people. We didn't want to learn from them and change our own beliefs.

"But wait," you might say, "surely you do this too! When you meet a friend who believes some very wrong things, you try to persuade them to change." And yes, I do. But here's the difference: In boundaries morality, you can offer your reasons for why your point of view is correct, and you hope that the other person will agree rather than continue to follow their bad ideology, but you recognize that it's their right. If they believe something really harmful and nasty, you can't change them, but you can choose not to interact with them anymore. In boundaries morality, we don't believe there's some magic strategy out there that can manipulate other people into agreeing with us.

And the other difference is, when I talk about beliefs that people might have that I would want to talk them out of, I'm talking about things like racism. Things that are actually harmful. Not religious beliefs. I don't care what religion people follow; I care how they actually treat people in the real world.

It's extremely messed-up that I used to believe it was my job to talk people into changing their religious beliefs. I didn't know about boundaries. I thought it was about me- how I should pray, how I should talk to them, how I should show them God's love, and if I did all this correctly, then it would "work." I didn't know that other people's religious beliefs belong to them, and no matter what I do, I can never "earn" the right to make them listen to me and agree with me. It just doesn't work that way.


Yep, I Totally Did This Creepy Evangelism Strategy
From "Virtues Morality" To "Boundaries Morality"

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Charizard. Image source.
1. Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group (posted September 19) "I shared that I was unaware that a request for permission was needed to commemorate Black History Month with the rest of the country."

And then this post and this one from Relevant Magazine, apologizing for the issues raised by former Relevant employees Andre Henry [linked above] and Rebecca Marie Jo. It's good to see they are apologizing. I hope they follow through with the changes they say they will make.

2. Walking Whales On Board Noah’s Ark: The Inevitable End-point of Creationists’ Post-Flood Hyper-Speciation Belief? (posted 2017) "Similarly, how did a massive chaotic flood killed all the sea reptiles but no sea mammals? This makes no sense."

3. Is Star Trek Actually Less Progressive Than You Think? (posted September 25) "Did he 'some of our best friends are black' an entire planet?"

Monday, September 23, 2019

When You Don't Know You're Queer Because You Only Have One Story

A closet full of identical blue shirts. Image source.
When I was a teenager, I heard a lot of fearmongering about "the homosexual agenda." Apparently, there was a nefarious group of perverts who were trying to destroy marriage and society, or something.

Christians told me that LGBTQ people were bad- they were rejecting God, they were queer because of some terrible trauma in their lives, they wanted to mess up everyone else's families, and so on. That was the only story I heard about being queer. Certainly none of us good church kids were queer.

No, they told us good church kids what desires we would have instead. They told us that if we're girls, then we're attracted to boys, and if we're boys, then we're attracted to girls. Boys want sex all the time and don't really care about the emotional or romantic aspects of a relationship, and girls want the emotional and romantic parts and will only be interested in sex when it grows out of those aspects. And so on.

So we had these stories- only these stories. And we tried to fit ourselves in, to match up our experiences with the desires we were told we had. But some of us are queer, so it didn't work.

I've heard from gay Christian men who at first didn't know they were gay- they reasoned that they weren't attracted to women because they just respected women so much. The only story available to them was "boys are always objectifying and lusting after girls, that's so terrible and sinful." So instead of realizing "oh actually it totally is possible to be a good person and be gay", they thought "maybe it's because I respect women so much, so I don't lust or objectify them, and actually I'm SO good and godly that I don't feel attracted to them at all."

And I've heard from bi women who took a long time to realize they were bi. They thought "oh, all girls feel this way about their best friend." They didn't have any story available about being bi- just some stereotypes that didn't fit. They didn't realize it was an option for them.

And me- I'm asexual, and I also didn't know it because I assumed I fit into the story they told about what attraction is like for women. I didn't know people actually explicitly desired sex, because I didn't hear people explicitly talking about sex and sexual attraction. It's not seen as "decent" to talk about those things. We just use euphemisms- and so I assumed they were using the euphemisms to mean the same thing I used them for. There was only one story, so we must all be talking about the same thing. Right? 

Ha, no- OF COURSE there is more than one story. OF COURSE it's absurd to think that another person can tell me how I experience attraction. Why on earth did I ever believe that?

Instead of just one story, we need to hear from a whole diverse group of voices. We are all unique, and it can be complicated to figure out our own desires and our own queer identities. So what we need is NOT some authority figure saying "everyone feels X, Y, and Z"- instead, we need a lot of different examples, and the freedom to decide which ones are close to our own experience and which are not.


Here are some links to where I've written about my own story, as a straight, married, asexual woman coming from an evangelical Christian background:
On Purity, Asexuality, and Timing
I’m Really Really REALLY Glad I Had Sex Before Marriage
For This Asexual, Purity Culture Was All About Fear
My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life
The First Time I Heard Of Asexuality ...


This post is part of the September 2019 Carnival of Aces, whose theme is "telling our stories."

Friday, September 20, 2019


A child petting a rabbit. Image source.
1. Everyone gather 'round and laugh at Al Mohler, who claims "to be human is to be a parent." (posted August 27) Wow, what on earth? That's so nonsensical it's not even worth responding to.

Hey, anyone remember Mohler's 2016 sermon about how God wants people to marry young, and it's unbiblical to be a single adult? That was so bizarre! In my blog post responding to it, I said, "I'm not even angry about this, it's just so FUNNY how he's totally making shit up and claiming it's what the bible says."

2. This life-threatening pregnancy complication is the next frontier in the abortion debate (posted September 11) "And yet some abortion opponents have started making the argument that terminating an ectopic pregnancy by medication or surgery is not medically necessary. ... In general, though, doctors, including those who identify as pro-life, say the science is clear: ectopic pregnancies are not viable, there’s currently no way to transplant them, and if left alone, they can and do result in a pregnant person’s death. "

3. The Lion King - Circle of Life acapella arrangement! (posted 2015)

4. Legal Immigration: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (posted September 16) Yes, this is very important. I especially appreciate how Oliver, who is an immigrant, talks about his own experience and how stressful it is worrying about bureaucracy and paperwork and the possibility of being kicked out of the country. I am an immigrant in China and a lot of that is true for me too.

5. Christopher Eccleston Reveals He Was ‘Very Ill’ With Anorexia While Filming ‘Doctor Who’ (posted September 16) It's good that he's talking about it.

6. Evangelicals and the Gay Gene (posted September 17) "Telling evangelicals that there is a 'gay gene' is tantamount to telling them that we have discovered genetic proof of our sin nature."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"Parenting Forward": A Book About Valuing Children For Who They Are

Book cover for "Parenting Forward." Image source.
For my ex-evangelical readers, I very much recommend this book: Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness by Cindy Wang Brandt. 

In this book, Brandt presents a progressive view on parenting, which is refreshingly different from most other parenting advice I've heard. It's about respecting that children are already full human beings whose thoughts and feelings have value. Children already have something to contribute to society- it's not like we should only start taking them seriously when they're "mature" enough. It's not like we teach them all the correct beliefs first, and then after that we value their opinions.

In this parenting philosophy, children are given the space to develop themselves. Parents value their children's unique creativity and individuality, instead of trying to teach them what they're "supposed" to be like. We let them experience the world and form their own opinions, instead of presenting them with the "correct" beliefs they're "supposed" to have.

The book focuses on social justice, with chapters about racism, sexism, caring for the environment, and so on. Brandt gives examples of how children experience these societal problems, and how parents can talk to their children in age-appropriate ways.

This is a good book for ex-evangelicals- and not just for those of you who are parents. When I was reading it, I wasn't thinking in terms of "this is how I will raise my children" but "I wish I had learned to value my own emotions in this way when I was a child." Personally, I have sort of picked up some of these ideas from various blog posts here and there, but I find it very useful to have the whole thing laid out in a book.

The chapters are short and easy to read. Brandt includes examples from her own childhood, from her experiences raising her two children, and from recent events we've read about in the news over the past few years and how children have been affected by them.

Overall, "Parenting Forward" gives a very good overview of a parenting philosophy which values children for who they are, instead of trying to control them and make them hold the same beliefs as their parents. I love how healthy it is.


In the 2019 Reader Survey, one of the most highly-voted topics was "being ex-evangelical." Hence this post. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2019


A frog. Image source.
1. ‘They love him like he is the second coming of God’ (posted August 21) "So you would quickly take steps to distance yourself from the statement, making it clear that you recognize it is not accurate or true, that you do not think of yourself in this way, that you do not approve of its sneering ignorance or of its idolatrously worshipful tone."

2. Is Hagrid Secretly A Millionaire!? | Harry Potter Theory (posted September 3) "Why is this allowed to happen? Because Hagrid must be such a high roller, his vault must be so full of gold, that he just gets this kind of insane special treatment."

3. Why isn’t the Space Force in the Bible? (posted September 5) "Their problem isn’t merely a howling anachronism, but a narcissism that won’t allow them to seek or to find anything but their own reflection."

4. Young-Earth Creationism Leads the Short-Necked Okapi to Identify as a Giraffe (posted August 19) "This barely qualifies as a hypothesis much less a theory. For what I have called young-earth evolutionism (YEE) to be true, much of what we know about genetics, ecology, evolutionary processes and even some principles of chemistry, must be completely wrong."

5. Famous Viking Warrior Was a Woman, DNA Reveals (posted 2017) "Since the remains were found alongside swords, arrowheads, a spear, and two sacrificed horses, archaeologists had considered it a warrior’s grave—and, thus, a man’s."

6. High school students offer a silent ovation while a classmate with autism receives his diploma (posted July 9) Well I have *feelings* about this. It's presented as a heartwarming story, but... I'm autistic- not in the same way that the student in this article is, because in my case people don't know I'm autistic- but yes, like him, I have sensory issues about sound (he isn't okay with applause, but in my case it's other sounds; applause is fine for me). And everything surrounding that, the way people respond, the way people treat me, it's the biggest emotional trauma of my life. Imagining myself in a similar situation to what this article describes, it's ... it's not good enough that they all didn't clap. I would still experience all the fear and all the trauma. The article presents it as if because everyone didn't clap, it was a good experience for him. Is that really the case though? If it was me, it would still not be a good experience. You can't undo a lifetime of trauma with just a few minutes of everyone politely not clapping.

7. How To Be A Woke White Person Online (posted September 2) "People of color have to interact with your racist family member in all their oblivious and intentional racism."

8. A Nation That Isn't Crazy About Labor Celebrates Labor Day (posted September 2) "The thing about Labor Day is that while it was, at least for a few decades during the "Progressive Era," something that workers and unions actually marked with parades and demonstrations and stuff, it's been a long time since Labor Day has really been marked by anything but furniture sales and the mandatory newspaper piece on The American Worker and/or the Decline Of Unions."

9. ‘I Keep Getting Rejected for Jobs I’m Perfect For!’ (posted September 10) "It sounds like you’re thinking of getting hired as pass/fail: If you’re good enough, you’ll get the job. And if you don’t get the job, you’re not good enough … and possibly a horrible failure in general. But that’s not how hiring works."

Monday, September 9, 2019