Students at Midwestern Baptist College were required to attend Emmanuel Baptist Church. Dr Tom Malone,chancellor of the college, was the pastor. Students were expected to sit up and pay attention. Failure to do so, if noticed, could bring the wrath of Malone down on your head or you could be reported to the college dean. As I was going through some stuff looking for a picture, I paused for a moment, as old people tend to do, to leaf through some of the mementos from the thirty-eight years Polly and I have known each other. I found two offering envelopes that Polly doodled on while sitting in church. She later gave them to me. Enjoy! (I am sure these will be taken as a sure sign that Polly never was saved OR as a sure sign she was a love struck young woman)
I was going through some stuff looking for a picture and I paused for a moment, as old people tend to do, to leaf through some of the mementos from the thirty-eight years Polly and I have known each other. Here’s a page I wrote and gave to Polly, a list of dates to remember. We were students at Midwestern Baptist College and living in the dorm when I wrote this:
Ah yes, the wonders and simplicity of youth.
Let me tell you about a preacher I once knew.
This preacher grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement. From the time he was 5 until he was in his early forties, he was a card-carrying member of the fundamentalist Christian church
He was saved as a teenager and called to preach a few days later. He went off to train at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist college. After leaving college, he immersed himself in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist culture. He was the assistant pastor of several churches and then he started a church of his own. His church, from scratch. Finally, he could do things God’s his way.
Over the course of a few years the church grew. Souls were saved and the preacher began to get “noticed” by the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist big wigs. The preacher, full of the Holy Spirit, full of himself determined that he was going to be a moral crusader. With God by his side and a bible in his hand, he set out to right all the moral wrongs in America.
The preacher was a hard-core, right-wing, God is a Republican, hell-fire and brimstone, Baptist. Politics and morality were one and the same. Compromise was never an option.
When the biddy football league began playing games on Sunday he objected. Children needed to be in church, he said. When the governor advocated giving condoms out to combat the spread of AIDS, the preacher took out a full-page ad in the local paper. In large letters the page said WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY? The rest of the page was filled with Bible verses and the preacher’s condemnation of the governor’s condom policy.
The newspaper ad made him famous overnight. Local news channels covered the ad and its message. The preacher began to write letters to the local newspapers condemning the moral laxity of the non-Christian world. (though he knew from counseling church members that Christians could be quite immoral too)
His church continued to grow. People loved having a preacher who stood up for Christian morality. The preacher thought, “I must be doing right because look at all the people who are coming to my church to hear me preach!”
By now, you may have figured out this preacher is me.
Why are some preachers moral crusaders?
First, let me say very clearly that many moral crusaders are well-intentioned. They become crusaders because they think God is pleased with them if they do. After all, if preachers don’t stand up for morality, then who will?
Second, most preachers who are moral crusaders believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. They believe that the moral laws of the Bible are applicable for everyone. They believe the only way for America to be a great nation is for every citizens to obey the teachings of the Bible. God has spoken,obey. Even if some people aren’t Christian, they still should be expected to obey the moral teachings of the Bible. After all, Bible morality is good and best for everyone, right?
Third, most preachers who are moral crusaders believe they have been called by God to stand against Satan and the moral wickedness of the world. They see themselves as having no option. Either they stand up for God and his moral teachings or they risk falling into disfavor their creator and savior. Moral crusaders often have what I call Elijah syndrome. Elijah thought he was the only prophet left that was true to God. So it is with many preachers. If they don’t stand up for morality then who will?
Fourth, some preachers who are moral crusaders were saved out of lives of licentiousness and debauchery. They know firsthand what “sin” can do to a person, so they sincerely believe they MUST spare everyone else from what they went through.
Fifth, some preachers who are moral crusaders struggle with secret sin. They call out the sin of others while committing the very sin they condemn. By preaching against this or that moral sin, they are preaching to themselves, calling themselves to repentance.
As long as there are preachers that believe the Bible is God’s divine truth, moral crusaders will be with us. After all…..THE BIBLE SAYS!
Were you a moral crusader at one time? What changed your view? Did you ignore the moral failures in your own life as you preached about the moral failures of others?
Well intentioned Evangelicals read The Way Forward and come to the conclusion that what I lack is love from loving, caring Christians. They assume that there is no love in fundamentalist Christianity. They assume that fundamentalist Christianity is all hate, law, and no grace. Their assumption is quite wrong. I met many loving people in the fundamentalist church. Their love may have been conditional, based on my fidelity to their brand of truth, but they loved me nonetheless. (and I loved them too) In fact, most of the time I spent in fundamentalist Christianity was quite enjoyable.
I tend to distrust people who tell me upfront how loving they are, similar to a car dealer who tells me how honest he is or a doctor who tells me how proficient he is. Why do they NEED to tell me this? Many people think my defection from the Christian faith was an emotional decision. Certainly there was an emotional component, but my decision was primarily and ultimately an intellectual one.
No matter how often I explain my deconversion, some Evangelical is going to come along and tell me that their heart goes out to me and they wish I would try their sect or church. According to them, their pastor is the best preacher in the universe, and they just know if I came to their church and experienced God in Action® that I would see how awesome it is to be a Christian.
Here’s some questions I have for them:
- Can I deny the Bible is the Word of God and still be a part of your church?
- Can I question if God even exists and still be a part of your church?
- Can I deny the trinity and still be a part of your church?
- Can I deny that Jesus is God and still be a part of your church?
- Can I tell everyone at church that hell is a medieval fable and still be a part of your church?
- Can I pass out books at church by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and still be a part of your church?
- Can I promote universalism and still be a part of your church?
- Can I openly affirm pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-drug, pro-prostitution views and still be a part of your church?
I suspect the answer is no.
To be an Evangelical Christian means that you believe certain things. First and foremost, embracing Christianity is an intellectual act. A Christianity without objective truth is no Christianity at all.
A particular church may have a different name, a different style, a different__________, but once all the peripheral stuff is peeled away, there remains a church that believes the Bible is the Word of God. The foundation of the Evangelical church is the sixty-six books of the Bible. It is the lifeblood of the church. Without it, Christianity ceases to exist.
And therein lies THE problem for me. I don’t think the Bible is what Evangelicals claim it is. I reject its teachings. While I think the Bible certainly has some value, it is not a pattern for living, a blueprint for life, or any of the other things Evangelicals say it is. While I think Jesus lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago, I do not think he was virgin born, worked miracles, or resurrected from the dead. He was a human who lived and died, end of story. All the love in the world won’t change the fact that I don’t believe. Believing requires faith, a faith I do not have.
Here are a few pictures I took today of some of the flowers that are currently in bloom in our yard. The flowers and beds are showing the early signs that fall is quietly sneaking up on us. In less than four weeks, the school bus will be stopping in front of our house, high school football will begin, and I will wonder, where did summer go? Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas?
Rose of Sharon and a Yellow Bumble Bee
Rose of Sharon and a Yellow Bumble Bee
Sunflower (volunteer, probably from a seed dropped the previous year)
Marigolds, grown from seeds harvested from previous year’s Marigolds.
Hibiscus. Was planted as an annual, but it keeps coming back. A pleasant surprise.
Dear Evangelical. Sit down. Better yet, go get a glass of Welch’s grape juice, drink it quickly, and then sit down. What I am about to tell you will shatter your world. Ready?
I agree with you. When you say that TV programming and movies are more violent and have more nudity in them than ever before, I agree. 100% agree. I think, according to your moral code, you have every right to be mad as heaven about all the blood, boobs, and butts (boy that will preach) that are common to many TV programs and movies. Things have changed a lot in recent years. The language, why the F word, the S word, and GD are common words used in almost every TV program and movie. We are a long, long way from Little House on the Prairie.
I think you have every right to object, boycott, and express your outrage. But, here’s the thing. You don’t matter. First, many Evangelicals seem to have no problem blood, boobs, and butts or F, S, or GD. I know compromising. backslidden liberals, right? They probably aren’t even real Christians. True blue, morally outraged, Evangelicals are a small segment of the total population. Your threats of boycott and picketing and letter writing, outside of getting the Duck Dynasty boys back on TV, has little effect. You need to face reality. I know it is hard. After all you do think that dead people get out of the grave, virgins have babies, and people can walk through walls and walk on water. Reality is this…the Evangelical demographic doesn’t matter much to Hollywood. They are content to throw Evangelicals a few bones now and again, but, for the most part, WWET, what would Evangelicals think, rarely enters the discussion.
Most Americans now watch pay-TV. With our money we vote for what channels we want and with our remote we choose which programs to watch. Here in good, old democratic America, everyone has a right to turn on or turn off the TV. If a person doesn’t like blood, boobs, and butts or F, S, or GD, they are free to not watch it. There are plenty of programs for you to watch on TV Land, the numerous Christian channels, and a handful of other channels; programming that is relatively free of blood, boobs, and butts or F, S, or GD.
HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, or any of the other major networks are not going to cater to Evangelical morality and sensibility. As a demographic, you have little power. Why not start a 24/7 Evangelical entertainment channel? Instead of bitching, moaning, and complaining about Hollywood, invest your money in Christian entertainment. By all means, continue to expand the Christian ghetto. We live in America where anything is possible, right?
Here’s what I think. Most Evangelicals feign offense over blood, boobs, and butts or F, S, or GD. If their offense was real they would shut their TV’s off and stop supporting wicked Hollywood. Truth is, Evangelicals like blood, boobs, and butts like many of the rest of us. As
But what about the kids, Bruce? V-chip, parental controls, and an on/off button are all at the disposal of outraged Evangelicals. Yet, for the most part, they don’t use them. My children, none of whom are Evangelical, are quite capable of controlling what my grandchildren watch on TV. I do the same when they come to visit my house. It’s really is this simple. Parents, you are in charge. It is you, and you alone, that controls what your children watch on TV. Stop blaming Hollywood for your inability to supervise your children.
Since I am a pay-TV customer, I support the networks I like through paying a monthly satellite bill. Very few people only get their TV programming over the air. Some day, all TV viewing will be pay-TV. We are rapidly reaching that point. Viewers no longer like watching commercials and pay-TV allows them the freedom to avoid paid commercials every 8-10 minutes. Thank Zeus for the DVR. I support networks like HBO, Showtime, AMC, TNT, USA, and FX, because I like the programming they provide. Blood, boobs, and butts or F, S, or GD don’t offend me, and if it does, I do what every Evangelical has the power to do, I change the channel.
A recent episode of True Blood features a violent scene that takes place at a fundraiser for Republican Ted Cruz. Polly and I found it hilarious. Of course, we are card-carrying liberal heathens, so True Blood’s consistent jabbing at the religious and political right has been fun to watch. In fact, one could argue that True Blood has been a seven season long jab at everything Evangelicals hold dear. Here’s the clip:
One man’s funny is another man’s outrage. Again, we vote with our money and we have the power to change the channel if we don’t like what is on. It really is that simple.
Here’s a video by neurologist Krish Sathian of Emory University about the claim that we only use 10% of our brains: