Christian culture really likes this year's Miss California USA. In the interview round of the Miss USA pageant 2009, she was asked by Perez Hilton if she thinks gay marriage should be legal in all 50 states. She answered that it’s great Americans can choose that or “opposite marriage,” but that “in my country and in my family” marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Well, she came in first runner-up. She says that her answer cost her the Miss USA title and Christian culture seems to agree. It could even seem that she is being heralded in the right-wing media as a sort of martyr for her Christian beliefs.
It’s uncomfortable for Christian culture to entertain the idea that gay marriage might be anything other than flat-out wrong. They don’t seem to want to entertain the idea that maybe what could be more in line with Jesus’ teachings is being friends with gay people, seeking them out, and loving them well. People in Christian culture can’t seem to see themselves as being as sinful as they think gay people are.
Carrie Prejean has told the press, “I am praying for Perez Hilton.” Does she imagine that when that gets back to him and that when gay people read her quote that they are going to feel loved and validated? Does she imagine they will feel honored and humbled as precious people made in God’s image who deserve to be treated with dignity? Carrie also said in an interview, “'It's not about being politically correct. For me, it was being biblically correct.” This notion that her unchallenged beliefs are biblically correct is the same notion Christian culture clings to. But refusal to question what you are taught “in your family and in your country” and refusal to wrestle with Scripture or wrestle with God dooms all of us to repeat history as the Pharisees wrote it.
Why do you assume that she hasn't wrestled with what she believes, and come to a different conclusion than you have?
Maybe she did wrestle with the idea of gay marriage, and decided that it is wrong?
(I don't know her and can't say that's what she did, but your final paragraph implies that anyone who assumes that the Bible is anti-homosexual activity hasn't thought about it).
If she wrestled with the idea, that would have shown in her answer and in what she is now saying to the press.
I haven't come to any conclusion in particular, except that what Christian culture believes is NOT in line with what Jesus taught.
I agree that Christian culture generally has no idea what Jesus taught (or did), and appear to have never read the Bible at all.
Thanks for your response.
Oh, my! Where to start?
'... it’s great Americans can choose “opposite marriage,” but that “in my country and in my family” marriage should only be between a man and a woman.' In her country? If she's going to go for the Miss USA title, then isn't 'her country' the USA, and if so, then how is choosing opposite marriage great but marriage should only be man/woman? Does this add up somehow, and I'm the only one who doesn't get it?
'She says that her answer cost her the Miss USA title ... a sort of martyr for her Christian beliefs.' Yes, indeed! Christians love nothing better than to be persecuted for their beliefs. After all, the Big Guy Himself told them that persecution = blessing.
'Carrie also said in an interview, “'It's not about being politically correct. For me, it was being biblically correct.”' So why does it matter that she didn't get the title?
You know what strikes me is that I had no idea who actually WON the Miss USA pageant. I had to Google it.
There's a very confusing paragraph in a non-controversy-driven article from Digital City, as follows:
"Miss California USA, who has a similar build and look to Miss North Carolina USA, maintained her swimsuit and gown second-place scoring during the interview portion eventhough she seemingly offended an obviously unhappy Perez Hilton who had asked her if other states should follow Vermont and allow gay marriage."
I can't find any actual data about the scoring anywhere. Did she come in second in swimsuit? Or in interview?
Obviously, I don't know if she's wrestled with the Scriptures on this or not. More surprising to me is that she holds this view being a) in the beauty pageant world and b) from California. But that's my own personal prejudice.
What really boggles my mind is that Christian culture views being first runner up in the Miss USA pageant as a kind of martyrdom. Haven't they heard of Matthew Shepard?
Without engaging in an everlasting and unresovable debate, I wanted to say that I am really proud of you for engaging in this subject. It is SO theologically nuainced, and perhaps this forum isn't the easiest place to state all your thoughts, and for this I admire you.
You are totally right. :)
Perez Hilton made an awfully quick transition from respectable pageant judge to vindictive media beast
"But refusal to question what you are taught “in your family and in your country” and refusal to wrestle with Scripture or wrestle with God dooms all of us to repeat history as the Pharisees wrote it."
I couldn't have said it better. Thank you for writing this one.
Thank you, Stephy, again for an "in-your-face" post. It was the great Spanish existential philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, who wrote, Faith that does not doubt is dead faith. But then where would Christianity be without its "challenge" of Biblical literalism? Just read the Book: all the answers are in there (well, in a way they are, but not the way Ms. Prejean obviously means).
Though I was hoping when I read about this item that you would have brought out the humor. I mean, the dear, sweet thing's a beauty pageant contestant with blonde highlights (we won't mention the roots), and she squeezes her assets into bathing suits and gowns with plunging necklines. Don't they always ask idiotic questions at these cattle call shows? Wasn't Anita Bryant of Florida orange juice fame a beauty queen, too? Is American Christianity so desperate it needs "martyrs" of this sort? I guess Ms. Prejean provides a new meaning for the saintly ecstasy of the "Beatific Vision". I can see the holy card now ROFL.
And, just as Laura Toepfer above looked up the pageant winner, I had to google Perez Hilton. I first thought it was Paris Hilton...which made sense since I live in L.A. and, well, you know...it's Brittany or Paris. But then they support same-sex marriage, so...oh, it's all just so confusing! What was the question?
Miss California is totally fine to be against gay marriage. Her Jesus wasn't married but; He just lived with twelve guys and had Mary Magdelene on the side.
Thank you for this.
We're from the UK, and a friend of ours has recently been subsumed into a megachurch somewhere in California. A lot of what she's started saying has baffled and even frightened us - she appears to have completely lost the power of critical thought, in favour of whatever the pastor says. (she wasn't even allowed to read 'non-Christian' books, most terrifyingly of all - as if anything which doesn't come straight from another evangelical Christian is somehow dangerous and without worth)
Your blog's helping us understand where she's coming from.
So thanks, and keep it up...
I believe that Miss California did exactly what she was asked to give her opinion. Are we not allowed to give our opinion in this nation anymore? If we are not expected to really voice our opinions when asked, why would the question be asked in the first place. Why can't we agree to disagree, why does it have to be I'm right you're wrong and stupid if you don't agree with me?
I am thankful for people like Miss California and I hope the stand that she took will be a great example for all people to not be afraid to voice your opinions or beliefs. This is why we have been called the greatest nation on earth because of our freedom of beliefs as well as many other gifts of freedom our country has fought for now and in the past 200 years.
You stated..."They [Christian culture] don’t seem to want to entertain the idea that maybe what could be more in line with Jesus’ teachings is being friends with gay people, seeking them out, and loving them well..." and for that I agree with you and walk the same path. BUT I fear that your statement "...Christian culture can’t seem to see themselves as being as sinful as they perceive homosexuals as being..." has too often caused Christians to feel the tension to either decide between loving the homosexual or declaring it sin. I propose the idea that we embrace both. We love and embrace the person, we pursue a relationship like Jesus did but we also remain married to scripture and contend for the faith which I believe sets out a biblical foundation that homosexuality is in fact a sin. I dare to suggest the idea that with both of these options we become true followers of the way of Jesus; Loving and reproofing. I am convinced that the way of Jesus embraces both.
Stephy, what a great and courageous post. Rather than fill up your Comments I have blogged my thoughts here:
(I know - it is a shameless plug)
Quick thought - What if a Musilm woman had said the same things would that have caused the same reaction? (Before someone says a Muslim woman wouldn't have entered they should see some of the girls in Croydon where I work - I remember seeing one with a traditional Muslim headscarf croptop, bare middle and skin tight jeans!!!)
To the Anonymouses (Anonymousi?) - yep, she gave her opinion - that's totally great and isn't the point of my post. The point of my post is the fact that her attitude towards gay marriage is the same attitude that Christian culture embraces, and that is what is sobering. Christian culture thinks that opposing gay marriage is the stand Jesus would take, when he didn't speak to the issue at all. He said loving your neighbor as yourself is the first and greatest commandment.
I just want people to ask themselves, am I loving people well, the gay community included, by opposing gay marriage? How does the gay marriage issue affect my relationships with gay people?
One sort of side note I think I should make is that it's very likely the people who oppose gay marriage don't have any gay friends. Having gay friends (and any other variety of friend) is the most basic act of loving them well, as Jesus commanded. If someone who opposes gay marriage says "I do have gay friends!" I want to ask them, do you have them over pretty often? Do they know they can call you if they have a bit of a crisis, as friends do? Do they feel safe with you and not judged by you, but that they can be themselves, flaws and all? I think these things make up friendship as Jesus commanded, i.e., loving people as yourselves. If Christians don't show this kind of love-in-action to gay people (or Muslims as Still Breathing said, or ANYONE) then THIS IS A GIANT PROBLEM within the Christian subculture.
He said loving your neighbor as yourself is the first and greatest commandment. Actually that would be the 2nd great commandment (after loving God) ;)
haha you're totally right, it's the 2nd great commandment. whoops!
Ha! At this rate she's be to the non-dom's what the Virgin Mary is to Catholics. Maybe bigger...
I thought the moment was hilarious and she was a great representative, both of pageant culture and of Christian culture. Neither wants you to strain yourself in answering, just to look good doing it. And in both cultures, instead of saying what you really think, you should try to say what you think your judge(s) would want to hear. (Maybe there's a blog post in there about why Christian culture seems to like pageants in general-?)
I think what happens on the issue of gay marriage (and abortion, for that matter) is that we--yes, I have to be intellectually honest enough to include myself in this--the evangelical Christians in America, go after the issues with such vigor, passion, and anger that this translates into how we come across to individuals who are dealing with these things.
The Gospel says that the ground at the foot of the Cross is level. . .LEVEL. Does that mean there is no such thing as sin? Not at all. It does mean though that this idea that somehow certain sins are worse than others is just flat out unbiblical.
By the way, I do think there's a BIG-TIME double standard going on here, but I'll save that for another time!
It's this attitude that has made the world the way it is today...totally immoral and heading to hell in a handbasket..as the old folks say...
And who knew that saying you are praying for someone..when they have spoken vile things about you...which would be the equivalent of turning the other cheek ....which is also Scriptural....would evoke such a negative reaction from the 'christian' community? lol
This kind of stuff absolutely boggles my mind..
Today was my first visit to this website..and certainly my last...
Tamara in Missouri
Even though I believe that scripture validates the idea that God loves gay people, I don't know that it supports the idea that God loves Perez Hilton.
Usually, I try to steer clear of posting anything too constructive, but, Tamara, in case you ever do come back. . .
To me, when you say you are praying for someone in the context that she did it makes the prayee feel condescended to. It seems more 'having the last word' than 'turning the other cheek'.
I find it kind of sad how evangelical Christians spend so much time complaining and wildly gesticulating about pretty much everything having to do with homosexuals when there are children in this country prostituting themselves and sleeping on the streets.
Paris Hilton has gained so much weight...it's embarassing.
God does not exist and neither does Santa Claus. Miss California 2009 is perfectly suited for the career she has chosen.
Miss California really can't play the "Christian" card, because her beauty pageant lifestyle doesn't square with the Bible: "Women are to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes" (1 Timothy 2:9). The Bible tells her: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4). Then why is she persisting in such a blatantly unbiblical lifestyle?
And why isn't she speaking out against what's really causing the breakdown in marriage and family life -- adultery, cohabitation, divorce (up to 50% now) and out-of-wedlock childbearing (up to 40% now) among the vast heterosexual majority? That's what's really hurting marriage and family -- not a tiny homosexual minority wanting to wed though they legally can't. So why is she and the so-called "religious right" silent about heterosexual sabotage of marriage and family?
"Perez Hilton made an awfully quick transition from respectable pageant judge to vindictive media beast"
Respectable? I don't think Nomad really knows who Perez Hilton is. I love Perez, but respectable, he aint!
P.S. I don't think Miss California is very attractive and it's not just because she opposes gay marriage.
Miss California...god bless you for your integrity, and your honest answers. There will be eternal rewards for you. There are millions who stand with you.
Forget about this Hilton Pig Gay Man.
And bless Miss California at least for having the balls to say what she thinks (as short sighted as it may be) while identified unlike Anonymous over here. Clearly pig people come both gay AND straight.
Miss Australia looks way better!!!
Sure - she is 320 pounds, 5 foot 2, has a a a speech impediment, slight limp (only because she's missing a leg) and could do with some dental work (well teeth actually) - BUT she has a very nice personality and that's all that matters - isn't it?
Those of you who seem overly critical of this post, or those of you who get your panties in a wad because you love carrie prejean and her new status as Gospel Jedi... this blog is about you.
splinter meet plank,
topless pictures of Ms California?!
yup, most likely posed for after the breast augmentation.
A good christian woman evidently likes to keep good christian men, uh ,,, motivated,
she is not hiding her lights under a bushel basket! She has them right there in pixels for all to see and wonder at, uh, er, God's creation?
*BRAVO* Stephanie for addressing this issue!
I wasn't aware of this Miss America controversy until I read your post.
I'm hopeful for this girl because she is still young and will encounter many life experiences (like this one) which will help formulate a possible new view on homosexuality and marriage. It's a shame that she feels she's entitled to use her body in any way she chooses, yet believes others do not have that same basic human right.
Christian Culture has such a narrow view of Human Rights. And they forget that marriage, the way the bible presents, is a spiritual union (often with the option of being recognized by the state). It really is a cultural thing and (praise the Lord!) our culture is shifting and our perspective on marriage will (eventually) follow suit... even Christian Culture's. :)
BTW is anyone aware that the Bible gives examples of eight different types of marriage covenants without condemnation? That is, one man plus one woman; one man plus more than one woman; one man plus one or more women and concubine(s); one man plus one woman plus her female property/slave; one man slave/one woman slave; one man rapist plus his female victim (bought and paid for); one male soldier and his female POW; and one man plus his dead brother's wife. Yet today we have only one form which we approve and endorse. Of course, plenty of Christians will say how these are Old Testament hook-ups, so they don't apply to the New Testament Christians. Yet Jesus came to fulfill the Law, so Christians can't really just ignore everything before the Gospels because doing so denies the truth God gave to the Jews, who remain his chosen people. And, after all, inerrancy means that the whole salad bar is to be eaten, not just the olives and the cucumbers.
My college group leader explains it this way: the Old Testament is accurately recorded, but God certainly didn't like everything that His people did.
My take on the issue above is that people shouldn't constantly be going around telling other people how to live their lives. This is called "being a busybody." God is the one who changes hearts, not people, and certainly not a law forbidding two people to marry. Forbidding gay marriage will produce the same results as Prohibition: NONE.
I wonder if Christians still like her after this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8035438.stm
Let me first state that I like your site... it's funny. Not, however, entirely. I'm pointing here to your treatment of Miss California.
She may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier. She has every right to her opinion. She also has every right to be photographed semi-nude. What she doesn't deserve is to be intellectually raped by a bunch of politically correct, mob-minded haters. And she isn't being a 'busy-body,' she simply stated her beliefs... she didn't ask you to change. Her opinion didn't fall into your way of thinking, so you pillory her.
She stood up for her beliefs, and it pissed you off. Lighten up.
I'm not exactly a Christian (I have far too many questions along those lines that remain unanswered for my taste), so don't go listing me among your "Christian anons." The reason you get"most anons" are Christians is because of the hate that's spewed as humor... they just do not want to join! So, your anonymous argument is a lie.
However, I do believe in integrity and honor, and you are not really exhibiting much of it right now. I can not and will not validate gay and lesbian marriages until a god (lowercase, note) or gods come down from Valhalla or Mount Olympus or heaven or wherever and decree it so. Then, I will think about it. In the end, it's my choice to agree or not, as it is Carrie's to decide for herself, as she already has. If you disagree with that, I really don't care, nor most of the rest of the country.
PC types make me a little uneasy. What happened to "Although I disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it."?
You believe she is wrong; cool. Instead of coming up with a valid argument or alternative that would bring us all together as a country, you condemn her en masse. Anyone who attacks as a faceless mob is not honorable.
I personally have nothing against full legal unions for gays; just don't call it marriage. Make it legal, yes--I'm in full agreement of equal rights under the law. I do not feel that what you want is correct in terms of history (3 or more thousand years' worth) to 'add' same-sex unions to the definition. Messing with ancient definitions is by nature a dicey thing to do. Next, you'll want to establish a "Department of Language" to make words mean what you want, not what they intrinsically mean.
This word, marriage, is the sticking point--if you want it bad enough, for Jeebus' sake, call it something else! If you don't, prepare for decades if not centuries of anger, recrimination, and battles.
No sane person would want this. Unless you've been fighting so hard for so long that you don't know how to do otherwise... it saddens me to even imagine it.
Peace, love, and joy.
Don in Phoenix (a staunch Democrat, who is all for equal rights)
Oh dear, Don, you missed the part where I didn't say she did anything wrong. I don't believe she was wrong to state her opinion. Posing questions and making objective statements about the culture is different from criticizing or condemning it. The vigorously perturbed reactions to my posing questions and making statements on how the culture operates makes me wonder why people feel so defensive of it. To react this way you have to have a lot of emotional energy and/or identity invested in Christian culture, or in Don's case as he does not align himself with Christianity, he has a lot of energy or identity invested in...intergrity and honor, he says.
Don, I do think marriage is the right word although over hear in the UK they are called Civil Partnerships. Oddly, when they were introduced, there were people complaining that there wasn't anything equivalent for hetrosexual couples!
Ellipses as telling as yours, Steph, show me I'm not worthy. It's use wasn't really objective, either. Does objectivity really let you better handle a discussion that is in its essence an emotional, subjective issue? I really don't know the answer to that question.
Let's look at the end of your reply, for example:
"To react this way you have to have a lot of emotional energy and/or identity invested in Christian culture..."
I really don't. I just care about words. Period.
"or in Don's case as he does not align himself with Christianity, he has a lot of energy or identity invested in"
It's your written pause here that unsettled me:
"...intergrity and honor, he says."
Very true. I am about honor and integrity, and words (everyone's!) are important to me. I'm also open to more than you realize, but you'd need to get to know me. ;-)
Steph, I'm only telling it as I see it. If this isn't how you wanted to read it, that's how life goes. Of course you are welcome to your opinion, and I applaud it! If we differ, it only opens the door to honest debate. Or, you can dismiss and ridicule any opinion that doesn't jibe with yours. I'm not trying to pick a fight, Steph. I'm trying to open the door to rousing debate!
Open the debate? Or dismiss? As always, you have the choice, as do I.
Steph, in the end, our word is all we have. It's really all we are. This is what I mean by 'honor' and 'integrity.' I am true to my word. I have noticed that you do try to be objective, and that's cool. Just wanted to express my view.
It just ticked me off that so many people were ganging up to pick on a single individual. Guess I'm always taking the side of the underdog. Sue me! :-)
Still Breathing, I appreciate your thoughts on this, even if we disagree. I couldn't find the stats, but I don't think there were as many heterosexual people complaining as there would have been had the government's choice gone otherwise. I'm also sure that the UK's choice in wording will generate far fewer future problems than the U.S. will see if we continue on our current path. It is only my opinion that they made (intentionally, I'm sure) a wise, if not a PC decision.
"When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live."
- Greg Anderson
Don in Phoenix
In the words of the right honorable Robert Nesta Marley:
"Jah say leave all judgement unto him".
It is interesting to me that this blogs' disdain for traditional Christian culture has put in one site all that is so pitiful about modern evangelicalism, especially that practiced by people under thirty. I have noticed that someone has also noticed the trend, and has started a blog niche-marketed at people who are distressed by this blog's postmodern puerility: matthewdavidcameron at wordpress dot com - dedicated to the eradication of evangellyfish. Sounds like it was written with you in mind.
Chinaman Dan, first you seem to have missed the point that what passes as "traditional Christian culture" is, in fact, just "traditional culture" that thinks it has a monopoly on understanding the infinite Godhead and has very little to do with the core values of Christianity as taught by Jesus (and Paul).
Secondly why, once I covert the address of the bog you advertise to the correct format, does it try to log me in as the user? This, to me, looks rather suspicious.
While I agree with you that parading Carrie Prejean as an example of Christain morals is wrong I suspect none of us would be good examples if the press were to dig through our lives.
What I worry about is the obsession within the western church with sexual sin - jesus hardly mentioned it but did talk a lot about justice and helping the poor and needy.
YES! YESSS! Y.E.S.!
When asked about what he thought Jesus would say on the issue of gay marriage today, my [brilliant] theology professor said the following, which I'll never forget.
"I think if a gay couple came to Jesus and told him that their state wouldn't give them a marriage license, he would tell them, 'Take a fishing rod and go down to that lake. When you catch a fish, open its mouth.' Slightly confused, they'd obey and catch a fish, then open its mouth and pull out a marriage license."
This isn't to say that Jesus would be pro- or anti- gay marriage...but Jesus sure operates differently than we'd think. Never put Christ in a box by assuming you know the "Christian response" to a societal issue.
thanks so much for that. That is exactly what I want people to think about when they read this blog - "Never put Christ in a box by assuming you know the 'Christian response' to a societal issue."
Amen to that.
and - Yippee - this post finally made 50 comments. I thought it would hit that number but it's been a long wait.
Stephy, is it possible to condemn the act, but not the person? You make it seem as if saying that an act is wrong is, well. . .uh, wrong! When my children hit one another or disobey me, I don't have to "wrestle with Scripture" to know that their behavior is wrong. I didn't need to take a parenting course or read the latest book on how to raise a good kid to realize that something's not right. I instinctively know that it's wrong, and I deal with it accordingly. When I express my grievance over their choice, am I no longer "loving them and treating them with dignity?"
In like manner, believing and/or communicating an unfavorable opinion about gay marriage doesn't mean that you are condemning the person who chooses to engage in that activity. Moreover, I didn't need to hear an eloquent sermon complete with exegetical expository teaching to know that homosexuality is wrong. For that matter, I didn't need to "wrestle with God" to know that adultery, fornication, and uncontrolled anger were wrong either. Those are all pre-Salvation beliefs for which I now have Scriptural backing.
Should we, as Christians, seek to build authentic relationships with people of all walks of life? Yes, but not on the condition that we never offer our opinions on their lifestyles when it is appropriate or asked for, whether it be gambling, overindulgence or homosexuality. Jesus sought those relationships, and He unapologetically spoke His mind about their circumstances. (see John 4) So should we.
"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Therefore, a gluttonous self-righteous church-goer is no better than a smart-talking, irreverent homosexual. As a matter of fact, there are many in the Religious Right who will bust hell wide open, if they don't focus more on their commitment to Christ and less on their commitment to a political party.
Nevertheless, Perez Hilton does need prayer. Not necessarily because of his lifestyle choice, but because of his uncontrollable anger, unbridled tongue, immature conflict management skills, and blatant disregard for basic human decency. In addition, Carrie Prejean could use some spiritual intercession for her apparent lack of biblical modesty and virtuous womanhood. It's the state of the heart that's the issue, not how its debasement is expressed in our daily lives.
Finally, why is it politically correct to say that adultery is wrong; rape is deplorable, and parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit is just not nice, but if someone says that the gay lifestyle is wrong, then people get their feathers ruffled and their undies in a bunch? Scriptural wrestling and strangle-holding God are not required to come to those conclusions. Why the political favoritism for practicing gays?
thanks for thinking about this and asking questions. The point underneath this is to have a tender heart and own your own fallenness. How did Jesus approach others? I think we could learn a lot from asking gay people how they feel about being told by Christians that they are being prayed for. If anyone who is gay is following this, how does is strike you when a Christian tells you that they are praying for you? Do you feel cared for and honored?
I'm not sure what you mean by "and He unapologetically spoke His mind about their circumstances. (see John 4” I’ve re-read it and at no time does Jesus make any comment about the rights and wrongs of the woman's situation.
On another issue I do find it necessary to "wrestle with Scripture" because the meaning is rarely clear cut. Bible scholars, including evangelical ones, are increasing turning away from a literal view of scripture (which is a modern invention) to the view held by the church fathers and the leaders of the reformation which is to try and discern what the passage meant to the writer. For example you used the word fornication which, in the western world, has come to mean any sex outside marriage but the latest research is suggesting that the original Greek word may only have been used in connection with temple and shrine sex.
Just in case I seem to be having a go at you I do agree with your comment about the Religious Right even if it isn't an issue here in the UK. What we do have, which I suspect is also a problem in the US, is old cultural values which have got mixed up with Christian values - untangling them isn't easy.
I must admit that I’ve never considered nor heard of anyone being offended by prayer. I’m very interested to hear from others if that is the case. I suppose if it is offered sarcastically or out of a motive of vengeance, then certainly there would be cause for indignation. But from what I gathered, Carrie was not praying, “Lord, rain down fire and brimstone upon Perez Hilton!” Of course, I wasn’t in on her personal prayer time, so I really have no idea what went on between her and the Lord. However, I suspect that her petitions on his behalf were more along the lines of seeking forgiveness and being shown God’s love and His will in a practical way. If homosexuals are indeed vexed by that sacred act, then I’m sure that prayer will be the next item catalogued on the ever-growing list of hate speech.
Thank you for taking the time to dig into John 4! I applaud you for being of the Berean mind-set! I personally thought that it was pretty cut and dried. But with your liberal slant on Biblical interpretation, I can see how you may not see the passage as I do. Jesus took the time to enter into a conversational relationship with the Samaritan woman (v7-9). He then addressed the issues of her heart (v.10-15). Lastly, he called attention to the sin that was expressed in her daily life (v.16-17). Now, He didn’t stamp His feet and wag His finger in her face, but He didn’t gloss over her lifestyle choice either. He gently shined light on her escapades done in the dark.
As I was studying the Word, I came across John 8 in which the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery before Jesus with the intent of catching Him in a theological trap. (On a side note, I’ve always wondered why the man who was participating in the act with her was left out of this process. If you have any insight on that issue, I’d love to hear it!) After refusing to play the blame game with the religious elite, Jesus responds with such love and conviction, “Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." This passage, in essence, answers my initial question which was “Is it possible to condemn the act, but not the person?” Jesus condemned her “life of sin,” which was adultery, yet He still treated her with dignity, honor, and love. A good example to follow, I think.
BTW, Stephy, thank you for initiating this dialogue. I am finding your insights to be extremely thought-provoking. Your graciousness is appreciated.
I am gay, I was brought up Christian and can appreciate your earnest thoughts on this explosive topic. My sexuality is not who I am, but it does color my days a different shade than yours. There's so much to respond to and I don't want to get into moot territory by addressing all of what's been touched on here. The key issue, as I see it, is that you believe homosexuality (and in this thread, specifically gay marriage) to be wrong, a sin in fact. I don't. It is not my intention to debate you on nature vs. nurture or politics as I am quite certain I'm not going to be able to sell you my vacuum cleaner if you already have one you like. However, I do have some thoughts on prayer in which I hope you will marinate.
I find the idea of someone praying for me (or my homosexuality) to be extremely offensive, condescending and abusive. When Christians pray for someone who is gay, I have to assume they are praying for them not to be gay, that God will take residence in their heart and expel their gay tendencies. Prayer is also a way to pity and feel shame for someone, though I am sure that is not your or most Christians intent. I pray, and when I do it fills me with hope and comfort. However, prayers for my sexuality, even coming from a good heart, inevitably end up making me feel deeply flawed on a fundamental level. I believe there are many things wrong with me, but my sexuality is not one of them. When Christians pray to cleanse me of my sexuality, no matter how you spin it, it is meant to wish me away. And I find that horribly offensive.
I'm not at all ashamed of my sexuality but am ashamed of the people I encounter who are. I see the irony in that way of thinking and I pray that you see the irony in yours.
Kindly and without malice,
Ryan, I believe that your comment was the most intelligent, thought-provoking, and sincere to date!! Thank you so much for taking the time to put these ideas into words. You are wise to not get into a debate over whether or not homosexuality is actually a sin. I am not trying to convince anyone to buy into my brand of thinking. It is refreshing to see you doing the same.
I must admit that the idea of prayer being "offensive, condescending, and abusive" truly is a new concept for me! I, for one, am all to aware of my own brokenness, flaws, and sin to not covet the prayers of others on my behalf. I see prayer as an personal, intimate exchange between an individual and God. It is a time of reflection, meditation, supplication, confession, and thanksgiving. If during that private time with the Lord, someone comes to my mind, then I pray for them. I never stop to think that this person may be completely affronted by my mention of them to the Father. In my previous comment, I attempted to make it clear that his sexuality was not the main issue, but the workings of his heart as they were displayed in relation to others.
Ryan, dear, I am sorry if other Christians have made you feel pitied and shameful. You are a precious creation of God, and your humanity shoud be treated with dignity and respect. However, I do not think that something as intimate and sacred as prayer can or should be censored and restrained because someone may feel condescended to by it. At that point, it ceases to be a prayer closet and become more of a prayer theater with onlookers, critics, and politically correct prayer cops waiting to snap your connection with God at the first mention of a known homosexual's name.
Perhaps the best approach is to keep our prayer list private when in the company of gays. Would that help?
I just want to say I am so, so gratified and touched to see an exchange like this taking place, and this is exactly the aim of my blog (if my blog has any sort of aim) - that we can facilitate a bit of understanding and grace. Sigh. *happy*
Thank you for the response. The fact that we're able to speak (or blog) back and forth is a very reassuring feeling for anyone who hits a wall when they try to express themselves. I feel heard and I hope you do too.
Firstly, and because I didn't address it directly before, when you write, "...his sexuality was not the main issue...," you're speaking about Perez Hilton, who is a product of U.S. media-hungry pop culture and someone whose handling of Carrie Prejean's gay marriage response was neither tactful nor deft. It was all emotion without give. Though I think Perez would have something curt to say about it, I don't think you're off the mark to want prayer and healing for him.
I feel prayer is a powerful tool. The idea of someone wanting and praying for the best in someone they love or a random person on the street is a selfless and admirable act. Prayer is only offensive to me when it feels like a proverbial pat on the head as you dismiss a child up to his/her room until he/she knows better ("I'll pray for what's best for you because I know what's best for you."). I want for us all to grow and fail and learn and grow some more, for I think that is the way Jesus wanted his disciples to live their lives only to come to know Him after they've been tried. Our journeys are all different and telling someone how to travel can result in a screaming mess.
I do not pray for the Christians who follow Jesus, just the Christians who follow Jesus blindly--though, as you put it, it's probably best that I keep that to myself. I want the desire to grow for us all and believe you and me have sprouted a little here.
Candid Wanderer and Rye, thanks for the refreshing exchange. Seems very beneficial and useful. Grace in action!
Candid, I just wanted to add to the subject of praying for someone being offensive. Being an atheist I get some of that too and I also find it offensive and irritating. It has the sort of vibe like when a child ask one parent for something, gets a "no" so asks the other one in the hopes of getting a yes. The offense is not in your desire to pray for someone, but in telling them so. It's like that person praying is going past whomever they are praying for to have them fixed and being flagrant about it. Since prayer is between a person and God, there's really no point telling the person who does not believe they are doing wrong you are praying for them. Obviously, anyone can see the intent is a positive one, but the act of telling a person is almost like saying "Well, you're a mess and God's on my side but we'll try and sort you out." I feel that overtone, even if the person advising of their prayer doesn't consciously mean it that way. Whether or not it is successful, it feels like an attempt to undermine a person. In some cases, though I'm sure not yours because you appear very sincere, some people will use that as an exertion of power or a way of passively aggressively making a point, "God is on MY side, not yours." Not cool.
Also, as an atheist, if someone told me they were praying for their sick parent, I'm not about to say "That's not going to work, you know that don't you?" so it's showing a similar respect not offer a solution to someone that you know they don't agree with or believe in.
I hope I came across as nicely as Rye!
Very well put, Simone. Never thought of it that way (though (un?)fortunately I haven't been tempted to tell anyone I'll be praying for them in the contexts of these comments in many years).
This last post should be distributed to every church in America - good first step towards showing people Christ's love could/might/should be not offending them.
Not believing in gay/lesbian relationships does not, necessarily nor automatically equal disliking, personally judging, non befriending, or even hating gay and lesbian people. There are a lot of people who do not like gays and lesbians and a lot of them are not Christians. True a lot are but that is because of their own personal short comings. It is always interesting to me how people who are not Christian try to tear down the Christian faith by pointing at imperfect humans and use that as their excuse, as to why, they are validated in not being a Christian? We are all sinners, we are all imperfect and we always will be, even as Christians. Maybe even, especially as Christians?! Which means that we will continue to screw up! Why is it that Carrie is being judged for, what seems like to some, judging?! Like you said Stephy...that is not what Jesus taught.
It is certainly true that God loves gay people and that jesus would have ministered to them. However God has a set of standards and he does not compromise on them. He calls sin what it is. As disciples of christ we must do the same. Our God is a Holy God and while he accepts us a sinners he made a way for our transgression and made us capable of walking in newness of life. We are to abandon our sinful ways. Nowhere in the bible does it say being a homosexual is ok. Thats just the truth of the matter.
I haven't made it all the way through your list but I've been enjoying it so far. I'd have to suggest pretending to be persecuted a la Carrie Prejean.
It's like a pastime with the Christian set.
I'm amazed that so many Right-Wing Christians have embraced her, considering the topless photos of her floating around the internet.
That's conveniently ignored because it doesn't fit the conservative agenda.
Kevin, Don't you mean "Right-Wing Chritians want to embrace because of the topless photos"? ;)
Condemning gays is cheap grace for the Christian culture. They get to feel superior (and persecuted!) without having to make any real sacrifices (like giving up their own gluttony, sloth, envy, pride or second wives and husbands, for instance).
Anonymous, I think you hit the nail on the head. Jesus talked a lot about social justice and very little about sexual issues, the church today does it teh other way round.
I apologize in advance for my long comment, but oftentimes things which warrant being said warrant being said well, and oftentimes short answers to not allow the diligence which important topics deserve.
Your writing is excellent and your observations keen. I appreciate the vast majority of your reflections on the ways in which (American, mostly) (Evangelical, mostly) Christian culture has failed to provide an effective, meaningful presentation of the Gospel to the rest of society. In most of your posts your writing is amicable, charitable and fair, and has little to indicate that your viewpoint anything other than that of an orthodox (non-denominationally) yet reflective Christian. On a handful of issues, however, I feel that your viewpoints have strayed from the biblical worldview in favor of our modern cultural prejudices, that the tone of your posts changes away from the potential towards constructively critical dialogue, and that your derision of the doctrines and practices of Evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox (denominationally) is as judgmental as you believe the individuals and groups who hold these beliefs are.
These issues are:
2.) Other Sexual Issues (Masturbation, Pornography, Fornication)
1.) On homosexuality,
It’s uncomfortable for Christian culture to entertain the idea that gay marriage might be anything other than flat-out wrong. They don’t seem to want to entertain the idea that maybe what could be more in line with Jesus’ teachings is being friends with gay people, seeking them out, and loving them well. People in Christian culture can’t seem to see themselves as being as sinful as they think gay people are.
Given that there are several major denominational communions in the United States who have recently schismed from their root organizations in order to allow actively gay members and/or pastors, this statement is far from true. The issue of how to properly defend/understand biblical teaching on homosexuality and to reconcile it with the call to love all individuals regardless of their particular sin-afflictions is one which has been well debated in many areas of Christian culture in the last 20 years. Amazon lists over 2,000 books with the words "Christian" and "Homosexual" as keywords, among them:
Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would: A Fresh Christian Approach
God's Grace and the Homosexual Next Door: Reaching the Heart of the Gay Men and Women in Your World
Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Revised and Updated: Positive Christian Response, A
Also, such eminent scholars as N.T. Wright (one of the most acknowledged authorities on first century Christianity) have addressed this issue extensively, defending the traditional view of homosexuality as orthodox, correct teaching of Scripture, the Apostles, and Natural Law:
I think your goal of "being friends with gay people, seeking them out, and loving them well" is in line with what Jesus taught, but I think your interpretation that loving them well means morally approving of their sexual lifestyle is a reflection of the endemic modern error of moral relativism. Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) addresses the dynamic between being uncompromising in our defense of the truth, while still being charitable in our dialogue for it. To this end, some US Catholic Bishops have recently said that pro-life activists have not always remained charitable and loving in their dialogue with people of differing beliefs. Regarding the Prop 8 "Gay Marriage" referendum, Californian Catholic Bishops have issued similar statements regarding the inherent dignity of homosexuals and called for respectful, loving dialogue with them.
Scripturally this is clear as well, since God is Truth (and Love), proclamation of His Truth is Love, and to abandon truth for fear of offending those who live in error is not a biblical solution:
“….when you hear Me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
With respect to Christ's call to Love and condemnation of the Pharisees, recognize that Christ's condemnation was typically moral, not doctrinal. The Sadducees were the theological liberals of their day, and Christ's condemnation to them was specifically theological. With regards to the Pharisees, he said "do what they teach, but not what they do". As there were no theologians proclaiming the legality of same-sex marriage in His day, Christ did not have to refute that error; if anything, given a reasonable presumption of He would have known of common Greek culture, his silence on the issue affirms the traditional Jewish teaching. Furthermore, what he did say confirms this:
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
With regards to Same-Sex Marriage specifically, I recommend (again), Robert P. George as a voice of clarity absent of sensationalism:
One Man, One Woman: The case for preserving the definition of marriage.
Beyond Gay Marriage
Redefining Marriage Away
I won't go into the specifics of your positions on homosexuality (which you in other places say you have not formed, yet still deride those who have formed their positions based on traditional Scriptural hermeneutics) because I believe they have been thoroughly refuted by many much better than I; the data is all there, one only has to be willing to have their conscience formed by the teaching of God through Scripture rather than seeking more so to confirm Scripture to the "wisdom of this present age."
2.) On sexual issues, I find your dismissal of the issue of pornography and masturbation greatly saddening. I admit I am making a small assumption here, but given the near-universality of pornography use as the method and input of masturbation (most especially among men, but increasingly so among women), I think your comments about one necessarily imply the other. The endemic divorce rate in the developed world is one testimony to the powerful impact of this medium of pervasive, systematic degradation of women and men. Pornography is a drug, it impacts the brain in the same manner as cocaine, and can be as addictive as such, and even as damaging, although the effects of its harm manifest in more subtle and more long-term ways. The combination of the visual stimulation of pornography combined with the natural high of masturbation/orgasm creates a neurological bond which assures that the majority of men continue using pornography well past their adolescent years, well into their first, second, and third marriages. This provides something a real life person, a spouse, can never compete with ¾ a lifetime of tens of thousands of specimens of near physical perfection engaging in any action, any time the user wishes, without regard to the other person's desires or situation. This creates needless conflict in marriage and robs marital sexual union of the intrinsic blessing it was intended to be by making it only one version of the sexual act, one which has to occur within the limitations of a single spouse's body, beauty, personality, arousal level, boundaries, and dignity.
Contrary to your analysis of traditional Christian sexual morals, marriages in which both individuals are virgins at the time of marriage have the lowest divorce rates (< 10%) and highest rates of marital satisfaction, and even frequency of sexual activity, as cited by Rick Warren. This drops off significantly after a single premarital partner, again with a second, and then continues to rise to greater than 50% for those with 10+ sexual partners. Furthermore, in defense of traditional Christian sexual ethics (of all Christian denominations until the Anglical Communion changed their beliefs in 1930) couples who practice Natural Family Planning (NFP) (which means not using contraception) have a divorce rate of less than 2%. (Sorry, I wish I could find these statistics, they were in a presentation by Janet Smith which does not appear to be online). Teaching people contrary to this, and deriding those who teach this, deprives people of one of the greatest blessings of their lives, and impacts their families and children for generations to come.
One would think that Christ's words about lust would make it abundantly, unambiguously clear of the grave moral evil which is represented by pornography and masturbation (which cannot be accomplished without lust of one form or another).
28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)
On these topics, I recommend
The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography
Contraception, Why Not?
3.) Why would I mention abortion, given that you have not explicitly raised the spectre of it? Firstly, because it falls into the general pattern of secular cultural accommodation and the bending of some scriptural truths to override others which I believe is at the root of all three of these issues. Secondly, because you did raise the issue of "Not..." Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama. Certainly you know that the reason Christians of all persuasions are opposed to these politicians is because of their advancement of the Culture of Death (see Evangelium Vitae). Given it's prominence in the American Evangelical scene which you profile, I am surprised that after nearly 100 posts you have not found time to comment on "Not Abortion", or "Not killing children." I suppose that this is because the topic is too grim to discuss in light-hearted condescending humor, but also because you know the topic is infinitely more defensible than "Christian Guitar Hero", et al. I know many orthodox Christians who would have liked to have voted for Barack Obama were it not for him being the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in the history of the United States public office. I know many Christians who desire to have politicians of a democratic persuasion who support the works of social justice while not abandoning the works of moral justice (Abortion, Euthanasia, Stem-Cell Research, Gay Marriage). As early as 90AD-120AD, the Didache explicitly forbade abortion, and the unanimous consent of the Church Fathers continued this teaching until the last 40 years.
"you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten" (Didache, Chapter 1)
On this topic, I recommend most strongly Peter Kreeft's thorough, sophisticated, and compassionate Socratic dialogue:
The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion
Three Approaches to Abortion: A Thoughtful and Compassionate Guide to Today's Most Controversial Issue
Finally, on a partially unrelated note, but one which I will tie back in to the thrust of my argument/comment, as a former Atheist, Emergent, Evangelical, and now (Roman) Catholic, I thank you for your post regarding Evangelical/Protestant's suspicion of the salvation of Catholics as an entire denomination. However, making a few assumptions about the reasons for which you disagree with the Evangelical suspicion, I have to also state that I disagree with you strongly on this stance as well, and respect the orthodox Protestant/Evangelical position. Those of Protestant denominations who deem the Roman Catholic system to be in gross error do so on the basis of systemic doctrinal/theological differences going all the way back to core principles at the root of exegesis, the rule of faith, and ecclesiology. Given those root suppositions which they have, it is indeed correct to hold the salvation of Roman Catholics in question. Papal and Conciliar Infallibility; the Intercession of the Communion of Saints, the Adoration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; the special role of the Mother of Jesus as Mother of the Church, Chief Intercessor to Christ, Co-Redemptrix, and her Immaculate Conception, sinless life, and Perpetual Virginity; the doctrines of Purgatory and remission of temporal punishment through Indulgences granted from the Treasury of Merit. None of these are easy concepts for Protestants to integrate or accept in any manner in their theological worldview given their presuppositions and axiomatic theological starting points. As Catholic Philosopher Peter Kreeft says, "Either She (the Roman Catholic Church) is what she says she is, an infallible institution established by Christ, or she is the most blasphemous of earthly institutions established by Man, there is no middle ground." (Paraphrased from his paraphrased Catechism). I respect their disagreement with Roman Catholicism because they disagree with Her doctrines, and because doctrines matter, ecumenical harmony can only be found after acknowledging the errors of the other party from within one's own system. While the Catholic Church has no problem affirming both Her supremacy as the Church founded by Christ and the possibility of salvation of non-Catholic Christians, non-Christian Theists, and even Atheists, many Protestants do not have a developed theology allowing for such, and until they do, I do not reject them based on their rejection of me and my Church. However, you are certainly no Catholic, yet you casually disregard the objection of your fellow non-Catholics to the Catholic system, and I make a presumption that you do so on a basis of another error of relativism as I have indicated in the cases above.
On these topics, I recommend Dave Armstrong's apologetic site for all matters (Roman) Catholic. As a former convert from the Evangelical system, he understands and has lived the same errors you preach about.
On the issue of relativism more generally, I again recommend Peter Kreeft's Socratic treatment of the subject:
The Journey: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims
A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews With an Absolutist
Stephy, I don't know you, so I can only speak from the limited exposure I have had from your posts, I make no intimation about the state of your eternal soul or your faith as a believer, but only a prudential judgment based on your writings and the limited amount you have shared about your upbringing. As I have said, I agree with a great deal of what you have written, and did so throughout all the phases of my religious career (even as an Evangelical). There are two things that I hope:
1.) I hope that something of a spirit of charity is present in your writings, and indeed in the posts of those who respond to them, especially those who claim the name Christian, towards those of the persuasion and belief system you are describing. As I have said, most of your posts are fine and humorous, but I believe that some of them reflect a more cutting edge disrespectful towards the cherished beliefs of people of good faith with you disagree, a disrespect which is analogous to how you appear to believe they feel about you, non-Christians, homosexuals, and "sinners", etc. I hope that you will understand that all people are fallen, and all fail to live up to the call of God on their lives, but that more importantly a great many of the people you mildly mock and occasionally strongly condemn are people who sincerely seek to do so to the best of their abilities, and within the best of the understanding the Church has provided them. The Church itself is made of men, and is of course full of obvious examples of failure in all ages, and the moral example it has provided to Christians and to non-Christians has confused the call of God, and in every age the winds of secular culture influence the doctrines of the Church to varying extents. The call of your writing should be to call Christians back to genuine communion with Truth and Love, and to do so in Truth and Love, especially if you continue to claim the name Christian for yourself (which I am not clear if you do), and not merely to mock them.
2.) I hope that you can forgive us (broadly, the Church, your parents, your spouse's parents) for failing you, and providing a poor example of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the world. I hope that you and your readers will not let the silliness of present and past cultural expressions of Christianity prevent you from seeking to find the fullness of them throughout your life.
Sincerely (not anonymously),
Nope, I don't believe in morally approving of them, just as I don't expect them to morally approve of me. God doesn't morally approve of me, or of anyone. He's not impressed by our morals. That is why we need Jesus, not this stupid culture doing horrible things in his name.
If you are not morally approving of the homosexual lifestyle, then why not just say it? Why does it have to come with an equivocation? Just deal with one issue at a time. Yes, you are a sinner. I am a sinner. And, yes, homosexuality is wrong.
Also, is it just as easy as John 3:16? There are a lot of other verses about transformation of the mind, conversion of the soul, purity of the heart, cleansing of the mind, etc., etc., in the Words of and words about Christ. He is not impressed by our morals, but he does call us to faith AND works. He does have laws and rules to abide by and has some devastating Words about where people go who call him "Lord, Lord" when He did not know them. So, do we just say "oh, we're all sinners? So be it, go about your way" or do we use the Bible as a tool for correction, guidance and encouragement?
Finally, there seems to be a lot more in the comment(s) from "Ken" that you did not respond to. I am curious to hear your response to all of his three areas of disagreement.
I enjoy your blog,
A lot of people want me to respond to everything they ask, and I won't. This isn't the forum to answer everything and it's pretty gay (haha!) to argue and persuade from keyboards. This blog is silly and unofficial and all I'm doing at the very best is posing some questions and stating some views. If anyone stumbles upon something that troubles them it would be great if they would mull it over and wrestle with it, instead of filing it away.
Yeah, I don't get this one either. She's really not a hero. And think it's pivotal that Christians stop hating and start loving. We're hurting Christ's cause, and need to stop pushing people away from God. Christians need a serious mind-change concerning how they react to and treat the gay community!!
*sigh* Change will happen in the Xian church the way it always does: secular reasoning will prevail, laws will change, and future Xians will taught the new moral code as if it was always biblically inspired.
Present Day: "Of course Christianity supports equal rights for women and people of color; I don't know where you got the idea that we are misogynistic bigots."
50 years from now: "Of course Christianity supports same-sex and polyamorous marriage between consenting adults; I don't know where you got the idea that we are homophobic prudes."
I don't know where you got the idea that it has been secular culture which has been responsible for moral advances in the area of race and not specifically the Christian worldview. Look at Martin Luther King Jr's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, look at the history of William Wilberforce's fight for multiple decades to abolish slavery in Britain, look at the history of the abolitionist movement in the Northern United States and the Underground Railroad, look at the numerous encyclicals and Papal Bulls outlawing slavery in the New World, look at the fall from universal acceptance and existence of slavery in the Roman Empire to the virtual non-existence of it in the world of Christendom which succeeded it. Finally, look at other non-Christian cultures in the world which have historically and even continue to not have any problem with various forms of slavery, including other faith systems such as Islam, and especially African Animism. Ultimately, people are selfish creatures, and as Dostoyevsky says: "Without God, all is permissible." The slave trade was a massive business, the inherent Dignity of Man which is presupposed by Christian Scriptures and the Biblical worldview is the only reason anyone would voluntarily forfeit such an economic advantage. The loss of slavery and the financial restitution to slave owners nearly crushed the British economy, representing close to 50% of GDP for years after slavery was abolished.
As far as the social liberation of women goes, again it was Christianity that abolished infanticide and abortion, both of which were commonly practiced as a means of selective birth. Christianity enforced marriage rights so that women had security in their marriage and could not be treated as disposable slaves by their husbands. Christianity enforced the morality against adultery, something which had always been considered "no big deal" for men, but unforgivable for women - Christianity made it both a big deal, and forgivable. Christianity established the first effective system of social services for orphans and widows, both of whom would typically experience a life outcast from society prior to the moral advances of Christendom.
Western civilization is enormously indebted to Christianity for its moral presuppositions. There is no logical basis for the morality which people in the western world commonly assume as decent and right. Even tolerance itself was an outcome of the intra-Protestant religious/theological wars, and is a virtue which is common to no other culture in the world in anywhere near the magnitude it is in the Western world, where it has been promoted to the God of absolute cultural/moral relativism. Without God all is permissible, Without God I should only do that which benefits me, Without God there is no reason to make a sacrifice for another. Yet these are not the moral presuppositions the average person in the western world possesses, both because God has written a moral conscious onto our hearts, and because the cultural legacy of Christianity still persists.
Real Christianity will never accept homosexuality as a licit expression of human sexual/marital love as intended by God's design for Man and revealed by Scripture, the anthro-morphological and scriptural arguments are simply too evident. Just as those who wish to twist Scripture to suit their own desires have always done, just as the pro-slavery crowd did, modern-day theologians will find ways to explain away the clear meaning of Scripture, but those words will always stand for anyone willing to listen, to ask God to show them their meaning, and to accept what has been revealed.
Most of the "moral advances" which have been brought by the feminist movement since the early 20th century, and especially the 1960s/70s are not really moral advancements. Only "freedom to sin" which has entrapped generations of women in unnecessary pain. Equal rights and dignity, yes; equal in the sight of Gog, yes; equal in roles and morphology, of course not, and at some level everyone knows that. The Christian concept of the complementarity of man and woman is a blessed obvious idea, which suits people best when they integrate it into their lives in accordance with their personalities within a marriage. The real Christian should not be ashamed of this idea, the real Christian should not acquiesce to the prevalent view of secular culture on these issues. The ideas of female liberation which you claim Christianity has accepted as their own have only been accepted by liberal Christianity. Liberal Christianity has already accepted same-sex relationships, same-sex priests and pastors, and virtually every other abomination of the sexual sphere to some degree in some denomination. There is a remnant of truth which will always continue to pledge allegiance to God's plan for male and female life, in all its avenues of expression, as revealed by Scripture and Natural Law, the various movements of Christianity which express otherwise are irrelevant.
@ Ken: Wow. This is like reading a transcript of a Duane Gish debate, when he uses his famous Gish Gallop to throw out one falsehood after another, topped off with logical fallacies. You wouldn't happen to be a creationist also, would you?
You should read this: http://www.religioustolerance.org/denomchg.htm
It discusses how the views of Xians have changed over time on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. In particular, it raises this argument:
Beliefs and policies are often established at the religious, denominational, congregational and individual level on the basis of four factors:
- What do the scriptures say, as interpreted by the group or individual?
- What have the faith group's historical policies been?
- What does one's personal experience say?
- What does reason and scientific knowledge say?
Conservative wings of Christianity tend to more heavily weigh the first two factors; the liberal and progressive wings tend to give more importance to the last two factors. A similar process is seen in other world religions.
Too often, these four factors lead to conclusions that are in conflict. Unfortunately, many faith groups do not have mechanisms to handle change well without angry debate, schism, and occasionally even violence.
My argument is that the Xians that rely on the last two factors are indistinguishable in practice from non-Xians, in that the last two are secular in nature and are therefore universally accessible by all. From your own admission, REAL Xians wouldn't support homosexuality. I say that
A. REAL Xians didn't support equal rights for women and people of color in the past either. B. The reason they didn't is because they used the first two bullets primarily in their reasoning process. C. The people who lead the charge in social change are, from your admission, FAKE Xians that used the last two bullets primarily in their reasoning process. D. Overwhelming pressure from modernity over the generations makes the ideas of REAL Xians socially and culturally intolerable, until they are voluntarily dropped from the society altogether. Which was the point of my earlier post.
Sam Harris puts it this way: "The door leading away from biblical literalism doesn't open from the inside."
I don't know who those people are.
I'm a creationist in the sense that I believe God created. I'm an evolutionist in the sense that I believe creatures evolved from simpler to more complex ones. I don't generally believe that Darwin's theory or any of its variants sufficiently account for the complexity of life, but I do believe it accounts for some of it.
Science does not generally inform matters of faith and morals, attempts for it to do so indicate insufficient understanding of the limitations of science and the metaphysics of faith. I agree that scientific knowledge is universal in nature, but the way people use it is inextricably influenced by their worldview, of which their faith system is (or should be) the largest component.
Similarly with reason and personal experience, it is not possible to extract your own worldview from the data inputs of reason and personal experience, Christians and non-Christians come to different conclusions about lots of shared data inputs based on these factors.
A.) I disagree.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, etc, etc", there is a biblical basis for equality of peoples based on their shared inheritance in being created in the image of God. Secularism has no shared vision of the unity of Man, and is at least as inherently disposed to tendency to divide people across lines of race, gender, etc, etc, as religious groups have historically been (to whatever extent they have been). There were black Popes in the 4th century, but you say "REAL" Christians do not support race equality? Your assessment of real seems to me to start from the presumption that "REAL" Christians are bad. I admitted that Christians deny the equality of homosexual union with heterosexual union because it is my belief that Scripture clearly teaches this, natural law clearly teaches this, and the history of Christian faith has always believed this. I am a conservative, I disagree that I am not using my personal experience and/or reason / scientific knowledge in the way that you indicate.
B.) Yes, for the believe the interpretation of the Scriptures comes first. Scripture never contradicts reason, Scripture must be understood in the light of reason, and must be understood correctly. Every group seems to do this, including liberal groups. My belief, however, is that liberal groups seek to confirm Scripture to the will of culture, whereas conservatives seek to conform culture to the will of Scripture. I hope you will see the liberal disposition as dishonest. Disagree with my beliefs if you want, but don't steal my Scriptures and tell me they teach what they don't.
C.) I made no such admission. Largely it depends on what "charge" is being led. I gave plenty of examples of moral improvements being led by Christians based on Christian principles, not in a superficial sense, but out of a deep conviction of heart that injustice in the world needed to be corrected. You seem to group all aspects of moral change into the single category of improvement, assuming history only moves towards "better."
D.) Lots of Christians to continue to maintain these beliefs. Your original post suggested that Christians beliefs about homosexuality would disappear over the next 50 years because you believed they paralleled the moral improvements over the last 50 years in the area of race. I stated that there is no fair analogy between the two, as one is moral progress and one is not from the Christian point of view, and that it was Christians who were largely responsible for leading the charge in the areas of race. On the area of gender the situation was somewhat more complex as I was not willing to concede all of the things you deemed as moral improvements to be genuine improvements.
None of this has to do with Biblical literalism, it has to do with truthful exegesis versus untruthful exegesis. Not everything needs to be interpreted literally. Things in Scripture which are straightforward and contradict culture will always continue to be so, no matter what sense the Scripture is being interpreted. You are not interpreting them "non-literally", you are simply not interpreting them.
Have fun, I doubt I can continue this.
Nor can I; I'll try to be brief :)
"I don't generally believe that Darwin's theory or any of its variants sufficiently account for the complexity of life, but I do believe it accounts for some of it." Which is an ID / creationist God of the Gaps argument. I would suggest reading up on the subject outside of Xian apologetics sources. The amount of information we do know on the subject is usually way beyond the ken of what your average church-going Xian is aware of, which is what makes your position seem plausible to you. I recommend "The Greatest Show On Earth" by Richard Dawkins.
The main problem with using the Bible as a source of evidence is two-fold: 1. it contradicts itself, or is so confusing that no consistent reading throughout the centuries can be agreed upon by Xians; 2. the parts that are to be taken literally vs allegorically (i.e., not true) are also not clear.
Here's an example of contradiction:
Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
1 Timothy 2:11-12: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."
So how do you reasonably resolve the issue of sufferage, if your main source of evidence is scripture? Suffice it to say, if there were a clear resolution, the debate over women's place in the church, home, relationship, etc. would have been resolved long ago to all Xians.
Regarding homosexuality, I agree with you that the most clear understanding from scripture is that God detests the practice of homosexuality. The problem is, there is no justification for it, outside of God's personal opinion. Every conceivable justification has been suggested, and every single one of them has been refuted by evidence to the contrary, or failed to be supported by evidence. The evidence states that homosexuality is a normal variation in our species, as well as about 500 other species that we have identified. On the subject of homosexuality, like on the subject of the creation of the earth, and life upon it, the Bible is simply and demonstrably wrong. Or to put it another way, God may actually be a homophobe, but he has no justification for it.
Which brings me to my final point. Morality is based upon A. our evolved intuitions to preserve both self and group, and B. our cognitive understanding of how our world operates in a manner that we can predict. As logic, reason, and science are tools to parse our experience into predictions and methodologies of success, I would argue that they have a great bearing upon our formation of morality. Morality from Authority is only as good as the evidence upon which that authority rests.
Scripture never contradicts reason? “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God” Martin Luther
I was using the word REAL because you used it to distinguish REAL Chistianity, which decries homosexuality, from what I presume is false teachings that go by the name of Christianity, or FAKE Xians. I used that to counter your argument that, since Xians have made social changes, that there primary impetus of change was Scripture and Xian traditions, when in fact, in many cases it was Scripture and Xian traditions that created or exacerbated the problems in the first place.
[Post #1 of several]
I think it was unfortunate of me to have used the term "REAL Christians" in the way that I did. I think the best definition of that term would be a person who seeks to the utmost of their ability to live according to their understanding of the will of God as especially demonstrated by the life and teachings of Jesus. Per that description, I know plenty of people with whom I disagree on various topics who are real Christians, indeed better Christians than I. I even know Christians with whom I disagree on the issue of homosexuality who I think have managed to do a better job integrating their life around the broad Christian worldview. I think, ultimately, they are mistaken on a particular theological point, but that mistakenness does not indicate to me that they are fake in their Christian belief. I do believe, however, that a large amount of liberal Christian movements are driven by the desire to apologize for traditional Christian beliefs and to accommodate the teachings of Christian Scripture and of the Christian philosophic worldview to the demands of secular culture. Other factors are also important, however, many people who argue for acceptance of homosexuality within Christianity are arguing out of a legitimate desire to hate no other person and reacting as a pendulum swing against unfortunate anti-homosexuality prejudice which has been present within Christianity and the broader secular culture of not very long ago.
Also, FWIW, Wednesday wasn't frankly the best day for me and amongst everything I was trying to get done I wish I had spent more time to clarify my position in a less volatile, offensive way. This is the penultimate need in such dialogue, charity. It was obviously lacking in my response, as there are various arguments against Christian belief which I encounter very commonly which I find to be very weak, which I lack the patience to endure properly. Thus, I spout off something unlikely to change anyone's mind and only serves to reinforce the unfortunately common atheist viewpoint of the "Christian jerk", as it seems you alluded to with your "Duane Gish" comment.
[Post 2 of several]
Getting to what you last wrote...
I'm familiar with a great deal of the evidence and I understand that it is better than your average anti-evolutionist church-goer would understand, but I still believe that the interpretation of the data which exists is driven by an a priori assumption that "Intelligent Design" is not a possible conclusion. Regardless of the mathematical improbability of any given evolutionary mechanism producing that which has occurred it is presumed to have done so since evolution is not aiming any particular outcome. I think the mathematical argument against macroevolution is the best one, I also think some of Michael Bebe’s case studies have merit, although I know that they have (supposedly) been refuted in the academic literature. My personal, non-professional, non-biologist viewpoint is that it seem as though a system as chaotic as described by Darwin (and I’m not super-familiar with all the extensions since then) would have an extremely strong disposition towards collapsing towards selecting a single, simple species to overrun the world. Something very simply, like algae, which was very effective at reproducing, and very effective at choking out anything else which would attempt to develop, it seems particular unsuited to developing and sustaining the complexity of life that we see in the world. It does seem, however, well-suited to playing subtle games with the lengths of beaks, etc, that Darwin originally studied.
[Contradictions…] I don’t see any real sense of contradiction here, although it is obviously a matter of interpretation. The “one-ness” which all believers have in Christ is so important that it transcends any individual differences which are actually present in the world. I don’t think there are implications for women’s suffrage in this text, and I’m not familiar with it having been used to oppose that position historically, although I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if it had been. There was, in fact, a very great deal of uniformity among Christians of all stripes until less than 50 years ago, in the expanse of Christian history that says quite a bit about that belief and the influence of our present culture. As a Catholic, I believe that an infallible document needs an infallible interpreter, so I fall outside of the original scope of this blog, and I believe that the history of authoritative interpretation indeed does have a place of very high importance as we seek presently to understand God’s will as revealed through Scripture.
[Post 3 of several]
[Regarding homosexuality…] I’ve always preferred the “anthro-morphological” argument, namely: “The parts don’t fit”, if you believe God created, then it is straightforward that He created the two sexes to complement each other both emotionally and sexually. The idea that homosexuality exists in animal species has never been a persuasive argument to me either, as an abundance of other behaviors which would be deemed morally decadent in humankind are also present in the animal kingdom and no one uses that as a defense of human behavior for those deeds. Finally, the idea that homosexuality is natural and healthy points to an insufficient understanding of what the point of human sexuality is. While secular culture endemically views sexuality as first and foremost as a source of pleasure, the classical Christian belief is that sexuality is a gift within the context of marriage for the love of the spouses (the unitive meaning) and is intended to produce a gift of children as well (the procreative meaning). Secular culture is so confused on this point that truth is like heresy.
[Morality…] Yes, if there is no God, all is permissible, and each culture is free to define what they believe suits themselves, except for the Nazis of course, or perhaps the rest of the world was free to define for them that their view of morality was incorrect. If there is a God, He has a right to speak on what the most fulfilling way of living is, and plenty of individuals have answered with the testimony of their lives that indeed He has not misled in the laws He has given.
[Reason vs. Faith…] I won’t defend Luther, I think he did some good things to reform the Church, but I think he was almost deformed on other points. The Catholic Church, especially in the form of Thomas of Aquinas, but also renewed very much in the writings of John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI, has always very strongly emphasized the unity of faith and reason in the realm of Christian faith.
[REAL...] I’ve argued against this earlier, but I maintain that the world which western civilization has inherited is deeply indebted to the Christian worldview even in the areas where it now appears to contradict that Christian worldview. Europe was built on the back of Christendom, and the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution was only possible because of the age of Scholasticism and the belief in a God of order which was fundamental to most of the great scientists of that era. I particularly enjoyed: How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.
I forgot to finish my last thought....
I simply disagree that those Christians who were moral reforms were going against Christians beliefs in their quest for reform, or even that their reform was not fundamentally driven by their Christian beliefs. I think my examples from the first post drive that point home undeniably. I think we're at an impasse there, which is what this whole thread was about before we diverged so widely.
I also disagree for the most part that the problems which existed prior to reform were caused or exacerbated by Christian beliefs. I think for the most part they are simply the acts of sinful humankind on display, Christian belief tempered these but did not fully eradicate them. Remember especially that an age where most people were nominally Christian does not mean that those people lived especially well by the Christian virtues.
I also maintain most importantly that theistic belief provides the only philosophic basis for the moral desires obvious in the human hearts of both theists and non-theists alike. We all know we should be moral, but only some of us know why.
First off, I didn't detect any particular hostility in any of your comments; we just happen to disagree. If anything, MY original response to you was a tad hostile, and it wasn't at you, per se, but at your debating tactic of responding to one point with a barrage of information, mostly assertions that were wrong, irrelevant, or cherrypicked to lead a reader to the wrong conclusion. I hate this tactic, because the point is not that I can't refute your points, but that to an outside reader of our debate, it looks like you have an avalanche of evidence on your side (compared to my ONE observation), when in fact it's one great big smokescreen. To take one of your examples, papal bulls. When you look up one of them, Sicut Dudum, you find that the outlawing of Xian slaves in the Canary Islands was due to it interfering with the spread of Christendom; it never applied to the enslaving of non-Xians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicut_Dudum Romanus Pontifex, on the otherhand, openly encourages enslavement of "Saracens, pagans ... and other enemies of Christ" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanus_Pontifex This is quite in keeping with the Bible's mandates on the treatment of slaves. Because the use of slavery for Xians in general, and Catholics in particular, was never about morality; slavery was just another fact of life, to be used, promoted, or dropped in favor of spreading Christendom. But the argument that Xians led the abolition of slavery AS AN ACT OF MORALITY is disingenuous at best.
Furthermore, it took me all of 5 minutes to compile this info on Google and Wikipedia. Couldn't you have done the same? Didn't you realize that it doesn't support your argument, but mine?
Another red herring was your reference to Martin Luther King. First, the incident and subsequent letter were due to the use of non-violence to promote civil rights, which you allude to as a moral tenant of Christianity. Here's the cliffnotes version: MLK got the idea of nonviolent resistance from Gandhi. Gandhi got the idea from the Jains. The core tenant of Jainism is arguably nonviolence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism#Emphasis_on_non-violence_in_thought_and_practice In no universe is the core principle of Christianity non-violence. Even the most generous reading of OT & NT scripture would reasonable conclude that the core principle of Christianity is punishment and the threat of punishment, in order to promote morality and love. Or to put it another way: "Love Me or Burn."
We can argue whether running a celestial protection racket, with promises of an eternity of reward for getting with the program, and an eternity of torture for not doing so, is itself a moral act or not, but that's a different conversation. My point is, Xian teachings and history point to the use of violence as a necessary tool of spreading the Word, and you can't simply pretend that it isn't when it's not convenient for your argument.
FYI, I am a veteran, so I am quite aware of both the moral and immoral uses of war and violence, and more importantly, the consequences of using them. Spreading ideas at the point of a sword, both figuratively and literally, is demonstrably a Xian virtue; it is not mine.
I'll continue this later in response to your points about biology and homosexuality, if you are still interested in this exchange. Rest assured, I haven't forgotten them :)
@ Ken: Regarding your Argument From Nature (I couldn't find "anthromorphological" in the dictionary) in support of your negative views on homosexuality, they rest on your assertion that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. It isn't. It has 3 purposes, all of which are EQUALLY important in most social species: Recreation, social bonding, and procreation. Of the 3, the one used the least, by far, is procreation. And if you are tempted to downgrade the significance of play and attachment, note that decades of research confirms that both are mandatory for mental and emotional development and health throughout the entire life span of a human being. If you are still unconvinced, try reading a book on human growth and development.
Another argument I hear is that if homosexuality couldn't be natural because they wouldn't pass on their genes to the next generation, for obvious reasons. Or otherwise put: "If everyone was gay or lesbian, then humans would go extinct." The assumption here is that homosexuals can't or won't have sex, procreational or otherwise, with the opposite sex. This is simply not true; there are plenty of gays and lesbians that have sex occasionally with opposite sex members, for a variety of reasons and circumstances: having fun and/or variety, wanting children, being in love, and coming out later in life are common. Also, so is being on the downlow, in response to negative social pressures and ignorance about being gay: http://gaylife.about.com/od/closeted/tp/gaymarriedman.htm
And this doesn't even cover the activities of bisexual, transgendered, intersexed, queer, polysexual, and pansexual people. In short, procreation simply isn't an issue here, and never has been.
Here's an interesting source: Gay Xians arguing about how to interpret scripture; apparently, the injunction in Leviticus 18:22 was not against homosexuals, but against shrine prostitutes: http://www.gaychristian101.com/Shrine-Prostitutes.html. Maybe, maybe not. Personally, I find their arguments to be identical to other Xian apologetic arguments, in that you A. decide beforehand what you want to believe, then B. nitpick the meanings of Scripture to make it say what you want it to say.
However, I would pay close attention to their arguments. Because these are going to be the same arguments the general Xian population, raised in a same-sex-marriage world in a few generations, are going to be making in pulpits, in books, and on blogs, to defend against truthful accusations that Xianity teaches prejudice against homosexuality.
@ Ken: I just couldn't let your Evolution / ID postulations go. Giving you the benefit of the doubt that you really think you have an understanding of the issues, instead of just being a bald-faced liar (like Ken Hamm or Ray Comfort), I see your problem is a one of perspective.
Of all your erroneous statements, this is the most telling: "Something very simply, like algae, which was very effective at reproducing, and very effective at choking out anything else which would attempt to develop, it seems particular unsuited to developing and sustaining the complexity of life that we see in the world. It does seem, however, well-suited to playing subtle games with the lengths of beaks, etc, that Darwin originally studied."
This statement immediately shows that you don't understand HOW diverse life truly is, and in what directions. The example you should have used is not algae, but bacteria. They are, and always have been, the dominant life form on the planet:
"Our failure to grasp this most evident of biological facts arises in part from the blindness of our arrogance but also, in large measure, as an effect of scale. We are so accustomed to viewing phenomena of our scale—sizes measured in feet and ages in decades—as typical of nature." Stephen Jay Gould http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_bacteria.html
Without the symbiotic relationships that other species, including our own, have with bacteria, the diversity of life would not exist in it's present form.
There's even a mention of algae as a food source, if you are interested :)
Your other misunderstanding is seen in your quip about Darwin's finches and beak sizes, as if natural selection only works for small changes, but not large ones.
Basically, over enough time, small changes lead to big changes; and yes, the finches DO speciate: http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/S/Speciation.html#Darwin%27sFinches
Richard Dawkins uses the idea of Mt. Improbable as a metaphor for evolutionary change, where creationists/ID'ers like yourself look at the top of the mountain and declare it too high to reach in a single leap, while ignoring the extremely long, but easy to traverse path on the back of the mountain to the top. Addressing this issue is the focus of his book, "Climbing Mount Improbable."
Like you, I am not a professional biologist. Unlike you, however, I actually read up on the subject from people who know what they are talking about.
bad news for ken: the parts do fit. i could go into detail...
Luc/Anonymonous(July 28th, 2011),
I think you'll be happy to know that since posting these comments I've renounced Christianity and hold no moral objection to homosexuality. I apologize to any homosexual persons I offended with my prior comments/beliefs. Although I can't speak for all Christians, I will say that for myself my opposition to homosexuality came from a desire to fully live out what I believe the Bible teaches, based on a belief in the god of the Bible, not a prior bigotry against homosexuality.
To Luc's credit, and although I think some of my lines of argument have merit to them, and the arguments for theism are better than most atheists realize, ultimately I think the arguments against theism are better, and that he was essentially correct on most of the points we debate above. An ideological commitment to theism will always be stronger than an ideological commitment to secularism/agnosticism/atheism/"scientism" because of the psychological factors with faith/doubt/heaven/hell and therefore there is much more to be suspicious of in the arguments of theists than the arguments of non-theists. Theists will always be looking for evidence which supports their conclusion, and trying to disparage evidence which refutes it, whereas non-theists, although still human and subject to bias, will be open to a significantly larger extent to new data shaping their belief system.
My error, as Luc pointed out regarding evolution, was trusting Christian apologetics texts to be essentially honest about scientific and historic data, which they, to their enormous shame, are all too frequently not:
"I would suggest reading up on the subject outside of Xian apologetics sources. The amount of information we do know on the subject is usually way beyond the ken of what your average church-going Xian is aware of, which is what makes your position seem plausible to you. I recommend "The Greatest Show On Earth" by Richard Dawkins."
After this conversation I did read this book, based on this recommendation, and I did find it enormously persuasive, and I went on to read several of Dawkins' other books. This book was one of four which played a large role in my deconversion (the others were more apologetic/theological in nature). Although many Christians have found ways to incorporate "theistic evolution" into their Christianity (see Biologos), I find such explanations enormously, though not impossible, enormously unlikely. As Luc said, the evidence for, and our understanding of, evolution and natural selection is simply orders of magnitude better than presented in Christian apologetic texts, which are incredibly dishonest in a large number of ways on this issue in particular, and lose a large amount of their credibility in my mind because of it.
@Ken - Really? I'm hoping that the above post is not ironic. It doesn't sound like it is. I'm also hoping that the previous posts weren't Nontheist Ken trying to act like an evangelical Christian, just so that he could publicly deconvert.
Clearly, I'm cynical about these things. Sadly, the Internet often calls for it.
Ken, if the incredible story of the last year of your life played out in these comments is genuine, you have my utmost respect and sympathy. Respect because the journey you describe is, in many ways, similar to my own and that of other former theists I know. (And, let's admit it, we do tend to respect those who have gone through what we've gone through.) Sympathy because deconversion really, really sucks in some ways. It causes truly awesome levels of tension in many of our closest relationships. It causes psychological upheaval as everything we stood on is suddenly gone and we have to rebuild our worldview. It's just hard. You have my sympathy for that.
But oh, the freedom that comes when we divorce ourselves from dogma and we realize we can seek things out for ourselves without a fear of eternal consequences... it is an incredible thing. Congrats.
(That is, if the whole story was real. I very much hope it was.)
Oh, and in your tour of Dawkins, I hope you read The Ancestor's Tale. :)
Oh, and Ken ... I just realized that "last year of your life" in my previous comment sounds really morbid. I meant "the previous year on the calendar, as you lived it." Not wishing any tragedy upon you!
It's all very true. I'm both Kens :)
Thanks for all your kind words. De-converting wasn't really all that hard for me, most of my Christian friends are cool and don't care that I'm not anymore, one of my closest friends was/is a dick to for years, but he's always been a dick and it's mostly just his personality :)
You're right about the freedom though. I was an atheist since adolescence, and I was taken advantage of during a time of weakness by well-meaning people who believe in false concepts (God). I had a long, weird road into and back out of religion, and I know a lot of weird shit now, but being on the outside is so much better. I read science blogs all day instead of theology now.
Oh, FYI – I read many of Dawkins, and do own Ancestor's Tale, but have not read it yet, it looks _very_ thorough :)
Talk-origins also really is truly awesome.
Thanks for your reply. I'm glad you're the Real Deal.
I taught science until recently, and love TalkOrigins. So happy that you found them. What an interesting journey you've had.
(I'll stop hijacking Stephy's Miss California post now!)
@Ken: The fact that you were able to question your beliefs, value finding out what is true over what you wish were true, research competing explanations, and change your opinions accordingly, speaks volumes about your intelligence and integrity. I wish you happiness and joy!
I never wished Christianity were true, I hated it much of the time. It was a whole lot of shit I didn't want to do, but which an ever-hidden sky being had commanded me to do, and there were a lot of promises, and a lot of double-speak about why nothing actually worked, why I still felt like shit and felt like religion was driving me crazy. I have a whole inter-faith team of prayer superstars who've long considered me demonically influenced because of my stubbornness (inability) to see/feel/appreciate the beauty of the gospel. I just kept asking stupid questions like "what is the gospel?". No one could answer, and those that tried weren't self-coherent. Much of religion always seemed like ill-defined terms with supposedly great meaning. Reading scripture was almost/often torturous for me, because my rational mind flailed against the meaningless of so much of its texts, the ridiculous predictions, lies, moral abominations, and historical-critical aberrations, but that too was chalked up to that old demonic infiltration — the fundamentalist's excuse for everyone who doesn't feel God's love or presence.
Anyway, thanks though. And thanks for the book recommendation.
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