Religion

Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World

jesus loves the little children

Snark and humor ahead

For those of us who grew up in the Evangelical church, we likely sang Jesus Loves the Little Children in Sunday school or junior church. The song goes something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red & yellow,black & white
they’re precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus came to save the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children of the world

Did you start singing along?  Can’t get it out of your head? Sorry.

According to the Share Faith website, the original lyrics were somewhat different:

Refrain:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Alternate Refrain:
Jesus died for all the children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the children of the world.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Jesus is the Shepherd true,
And He’ll always stand by you,
For He loves the little children of the world;
He’s a Savior great and strong,
And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
For He loves the little children of the world.

Refrain

I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
And Your soldier I will be,
For You love the little children of the world;
And Your cross I’ll always bear,
And for You I’ll do and dare,
For You love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Written in the late 1800’s by Christian pastor C Herbert Woolston and put to music by George F. Root, the song is one of the most popular songs in American Christianity. Conspicuously absent from the song is any mention of people with brown skin color. In the late 1800’s, the brown horde from the south had not yet invaded the United States and I suspect Woolston considered brown-skinned people a tan version of white. According to Wikipedia, Jesus Loves the Little Children is sung to Root’s 1864 Civil War tune Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Here’s the original lyrics for Root’s tune:

First Verse:

In the prison cell I sit,
Thinking Mother dear, of you,
And our bright and happy home so far away,
And the tears they fill my eyes
Spite of all that I can do,
Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.

Chorus:

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up comrades they will come,
And beneath the starry flag
We shall breathe the air again,
Of the freeland in our own beloved home

I suspect if this song was written today it would not include the last line of the verse ‘Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.’ But then again, Evangelicals might want to leave the line as is. After all, since it says “be gay” it reinforces their belief that gays choose to be homosexuals.

I’ve heard a rendition of Jesus Loves the Little Children that includes brown in the race jingle, but I found that adding brown to the song made the lyrics clunky.

Calvinists can’t sing Jesus Loves the Little Children due to its heretical Arminian theology.  Perhaps they could change the song to:

Jesus died for all the elect children,
All the elect children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All the elect are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the elect children of the world.

To make the song more inclusive, some churches and songbooks replace the ‘Red and yellow, black and white line’ with ‘Ev’ry colour, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace’. Another modern adaptation has a verse that goes like this:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Fat and skinny, short and tall,
Jesus loves them one and all,

When I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, the church and Pat Horner had actually gone through the Baptist Hymnal and corrected the words that were at odds with their Calvinistic theology.  ‘Rescue the perishing’ became “rescued when perishing’. We can’t have Calvinistic Christians rescuing sinners, that’s God’s job.

While Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World is sung regularly in thousands of American Evangelical and Independent Baptist churches, most of the people singing the song are white. Jesus might love red, yellow, black, brown, and white children, but Evangelicals prefer they go elsewhere to church. This is especially so in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Originally, this post was meant to be about the whiteness of the Family Research Council (FRC). It morphed into something completely different, but let me finish this posts with a couple of screen shots from FRC’s staff/leadership/team page. These screenshots will visually show what the average Evangelical church looks like:

frc staff

frc leadership team

frc experts

frc team

frc team 2

Walk into the average Evangelical church and this is what you will see. If Evangelicals want to point the finger at one reason for their decline, they should point to the subtle and not so subtle racism that flourishes in its churches. While they pride themselves in being past the days of racist Bob Jones University, their churches still reflect that they are a whites-only club. Missionaries are sent overseas to evangelize the red, yellow, brown, and black, while the most segregated place in America is the local Jesus loving Evangelical, IFB, and Southern Baptist church.

Notes

The funniest music related thing that happened at Community Baptist is when a song leader who was raised on the eastern seaboard decided to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some church members refused to stand up and sing the song. Ah yes, the Confederacy lives on!

Yes, I am painting with broad strokes in this post. I am aware of Evangelicals attempts, in some corners of America, to become more racially inclusive. However, most churches and pastors find this hard to do since they know history clearly shows that Jesus was a white man.

What if Right Wingers Win the Same-Sex Marriage Battle?

 

american jesus

Evangelical, Mormon, and Catholic leaders and parachurch groups are in full-blown panic mode as the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage draws near. They rightly understand that if the Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage the culture war at the federal level is over. While there might be state and local battles to be won, on the federal level, the war is over.

Once gays are afforded the same civil rights and constitutional protections as the rest of us, Evangelicals will likely begin telling the faithful that we now live in a post-Christian world. Evangelicals, along with their fellow culture warriors in Catholicism and Mormonism, have lost their favored seat at the cultural table. No longer will appeals to God, the Christian Bible, the Law of God, etc. work. This is lost on those who are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. From Ted Cruz to John Kasich to Rick Perry to Marco Rubio to well, whoever else is in the clown car, they seem oblivious to the fact that it is not 1950. Waving the U.S. flag and shouting I LOVE JESUS will not garner enough votes to put a Republican in the White House. The same white crackers, Tea Party lunatics, Patriots, and fundamentalist Christians will vote for the Republican nominee, but their ranks are literally dying, unable to attract young adults. Not only are they dying, but they remain a bastion of bigotry and racism. As the United States becomes browner,  the Republican party becomes less relevant. In time, there either will be a huge party split, with the rednecks and the Christian nation crowd starting there own party, or the current Republican Party will be forced to banish the wing nuts and broaden their tent.

Winning the same-sex battle at the federal level would be a big boon to the Republican Party. It will also embolden culture warriors, a reminder to them that God is still on their side. While it will certainly be a huge blow to liberals and supporters of same-sex marriage like myself if we lose, we will live on to fight another day. We know that we are in a generational battle for the future of the United States. Unlike the culture warrior with their five item menu, the liberal knows war must be waged on many fronts. Same-sex marriage is just one of those fronts. We must also work to:

  • Overturn Citizens-United
  • Reform voting and end gerrymandering
  • Turn back state abortion laws that are harmful to women
  • Neuter the military-industrial complex
  • Reign in the security-industrial complex
  • Provide a living wage for all
  • End the assault on evidence-based science
  • Shore up the wall of separation and church
  • Drastically reduce our global environmental footprint
  • Provide young adults with educational opportunities that do not saddle them with decades of debt
  • Rebuild infrastructure before the United States turns into one big pothole
  • End the war on drugs
  • Decriminalize and legalize marijuana use
  • Reestablish law enforcement as peacemakers
  • Empty the prisons of nonviolent offenders, especially those convicted of petty drug crimes
  • End capital punishment
  • Strip corporations of their power and influence over local, state, and federal government

The culture warriors, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, seem to have little interest in the things I’ve mentioned above. Guided by their literalistic interpretation of the Bible and the Constitution, they work to undo the social progress of the last 100 years. In their world, if women returned to the kitchen, gays to the closet, undocumented workers to the country they came from, all would be well. What they want is 1950. They want to return to the era of  McCarthy, a period of time when fundamentalist patriotism and Christianity ruled the roost. They want to return women to the days when they feared pregnancy and feared their husband. They want to return to the days when the hegemony of whites had no challenge. They want to return to the days when the United States had no equal and used its military and economic power to advance an imperialistic agenda.

For these reasons, and many others, I rarely can find common ground to work with Republicans. Their Party is overrun by nuts, cranks, corporate CEO’s, lobbyists and conspiracy theorists. While sane voices can be found on the left fringe of the Republican Party, their numbers are few and they seem unable to make their voice heard. When Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Jon Huntsman are your party’s voice of reason, you have a big problem on your hands. While I am willing to compromise and work towards a common good, I find it impossible to work with people who think that every social and political change is a threat to America, Christianity, and the American way of life. When the discussions starts with abortion is murder or America is nation chosen by God, it’s hard to find common ground. Truth is, I’d probably find more common ground in an insane asylum than I would some corners of the Republican Party.

The issues I have mentioned in this post provide readers with a glimpse into my politics and how I view the world. The aforementioned positions are not a complete list, but it does show readers the issues that I think are most important.

This post should not be taken as an endorsement of the Democratic Party. I am increasingly unhappy with Party and President Obama. Some days, I think both political parties are the same, especially when it comes to how corporations and money influence their decisions.

Same-Sex Marriage: Will God Answer the Prayers of the American Family Association?

protecting the sanctity of marriage

 Warning! You may feel nauseous after reading this.

The American Family Association (AFA) sent out a newsletter today reminding pastors and church members of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court deliberations on same sex marriage. Here’s an excerpt from the newsletter:

As hard as it is to believe, nine people will decide if our nation will honor God and obey Him, or turn its back on the most fundamental building block of society and on God himself.

This will be the most important decision in the history of America.

I don’t have to tell you, the consequences this decision could have on people of faith is staggering. As you know, private business owners have already come under great pressure to surrender their religious liberty and provide services to same-sex marriages. It would only be a matter of time before pastors and churches would be coerced to do the same.

As Christians, we know that prayer has changed the hearts of leaders and the course of nations. Never before has the need to pray been so critical to the future of our country.

Sign the I Will Pray pledge right now and let us know you will be praying with us.

Join me and millions of others in prayer, starting today.

I thought the Supreme Court’s job was to determine the constitutionality of our laws? Evidently, AFA sees the Court as the legal wing of the Evangelical party.

same sex marriage

The AFA newsletter includes a sermon for pastors to preach this Sunday:

TWO Becoming ONE:  What a Journey!
Genesis 2:19-25

Introduction: Adrian Rogers– “Man is far superior than woman, at being a man.  Woman is far superior than man, at being a woman.”  The differences are amazing and natural.

  • Adam didn’t find a mate suitable for him when he named all the animals.
  • Beastiality (sp) is not God’s Design
  • God made a woman for Adam, not another man.
  • Homosexuality is not God’s design.
  • God made one woman for Adam, not two women.
  • Polygamy is not God’s design.

I.  The Position of Two Ephesians 5:23 “….the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the Church…”

A.  Physically (I Peter 3:7) “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor….

  1. Men are the provider and the protector (Physically stronger)
  2. Women are the nurturers (Physically softer)

B.  Forcefulness

  1. He has more energy.  (Hare)  “Pointman” “Trailblazer”
  2. She has more durability.  (Tortoise)  “Support”  “Supply”

II.  The Disposition of the TWO Song of Solomon (3:1-4, 4:1-5)

A.  In the Relationship

  1. The man is the gardener.
  2. The woman is the nurturer.
  3. Men respond to physical sight.
  4. Women respond to romance.

B. In the Reception (of information)

  1. Men primarily use the left hemisphere of the brain, Which controls logic, reasoning, and calculation. Women use both hemispheres (right side deals with Feeling, emotion, sympathy, love, intuition.)
  2. Women are spider-web thinkers–thinking like a Radar.  Men are step-by-step thinkers–thinking like a computer.

III. The Communication of the TWO

A.  With Information

  1. Women speak in code.  (I Peter 3:7)  “understanding”
  2. Men speak in reports.

B. With Passion Eph. 5:33–“To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as Himself, and the wife is to respect her husband”

  1. The deepest need of the woman is romance. “cherished” (to be loved)
  2. The deepest need of a man is admiration. (respect)

Conclusion:

  • God made us different that He might makes us one.
  • God made both man and woman in need of a Saviour.  We are not only husband and wife, but because of the blood of Christ we can be forgiven and spiritually cleansed and because of that we can also be brother and sister in Christ.

same sex marriage 2

The newsletter also includes four prayers for churches to use. Here’s two of the prayers:

PRAYER ONE

Heavenly Father, we know that you designed marriage. You created it and you defined it as the union of one man and one woman. You are the one who said, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” As our Supreme Court deliberates over the issue of marriage, we pray that you will cause your truth about marriage to resonate in their hearts and minds. We pray that you, by your Spirit, will remind them of your truth, guide them in their thinking, and warn them of the danger of turning their backs on your eternal word.We pray that you, by your Spirit, will remind every elected official and every man, woman and child in our land of your standard for marriage. Cause us all to tremble at the thought that we might reject you and your word to our own harm. Please prompt the justices of our Supreme Court to reflect on your word and to align their ruling with your abiding truth. This we pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

PRAYER TWO

Heavenly Father, we are reminded of what your Son taught us about marriage, when he said,“He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” We pray together that as the justices of the Supreme Court consider the issue of marriage, your Spirit will be at work to cause the words of your Son to penetrate deeply into their hearts and minds, so that their deliberations will be guided  not just by the Constitution and the law but by your abiding standards of right and wrong. Grant them a deep awareness that you and you alone are God.Our Founders sought to conform our public policy as a nation to the “laws of nature and nature’s God.” We know, Father, that man-woman marriage is prescribed by the laws of nature and even more importantly is prescribed by your eternal law. Please guide the deliberations of our Supreme Court so that they will be prompted by your Spirit to conform the law of our land to your law as our God. In the name of Jesus, amen.

As you can see, the AFA sermon and prayers are laced with fundamentalist and theocratic verbiage. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue of same-sex marriage. It will even be more interesting to see how Evangelicals and Catholics respond if the Court rejects their demands for biblical law and instead affirms that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Think of all the sermons that will be preached and prayers that will be prayed. If God doesn’t come through, groups like the AFA will blame the liberals on the Court, atheists, secularists, and Satan. Surely their God is bigger than all of these, yes?  Here’s what they’ll never do; they will never look inward and consider that maybe God didn’t answer their prayers because they are bigoted, hateful people who want to deny gays the same civil rights they have.

Songs of Sacrilege: I Am Going to Hell for This One by NOFX

This is the twentieth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is I Am Going to Hell for This One by NOFX, “an American punk rock band from Berkeley, California.”

Video Link

Lyrics

Jesus Christ will resurrect
He’s got his BMI royalty to collect
He’s not the white
Fragile hippie
He looks and acts more like
an indignant Ice-T

Jesus Christ is coming back
He wants to kick Mel Gibsons ass
Superstar, The Passion of
He wants his money not your love

He’s been kickin 2000 years
He’s fixed a lot sports
And drank a million beers

Some x-tasy, A thin white line
He says designer drugs
Beat the hell out of wine

Jesus Christ on vacation
Spreading massive religion
“Sex and drugs, we abstain”

He thinks Christians are insane
They don’t know love,
they know fear and moral hauteur
Scare tactics I never taught
“If you’re gonna look to me,
better get rose coloured shades,
Cuz what you see is what you get”

Songs of Sacrilege: First Baptist Bar and Grill by Tim Wilson

This is the nineteenth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is First Baptist Bar and Grill  by the late Tim Wilson, “an American stand-up comedian and country music artist, whose act combined stand-up comedy and original songs.

Video Link

Lyrics

what Pentecost Baptist was gonna do
the Sunday brimstone got so dadgum hot
it burned up a church bus in the parkin’ lot

In a panic the reverend Dr. White
called up an ex-member that hadn’t lived right
he owned Joe’s beer joint right across the fence
it’s the same Joe’s he’d preached against…

He said, “I don’t really want to be a hypocrite,
but I got a Sunday school class about to have fits.
We’re all excited about revival week,
and moved by the spirit, so to speak.

With all the souls we saved and money we spent,
we thought God told us to sell that tent…
I got a famous evangelist supposed to come
and done run out of chairs, will you loan us some?”

Joe says, “Well you can just use the whole dang place…
A-9 on the jukebox is “Amazing Grace”
I ain’t supposed to open because of them ‘blue laws’
but I’ll open tonight if it’s alright with y’all.”

Preacher said, “Well, I reckon it’d be OK,
the good Lord works in mysterious ways.
I was gonna talk about Joshua, Judges and Ruth
and I reckon I could do it from the DJ booth.”

At the First Baptist Bar and Grill
it’s the only church in the bible belt
that smells like a whiskey still…
when the sinners finish one more round,
we’ll have dinner on the ground,
then go inside and pray we don’t get killed.

The evangelist came with a well-dressed choir,
they showed up around happy hour,
looked around the joint and didn’t take it real well…
said, “The White ministry has gone to hell”

Ms. Mills that taught youth Sunday school
and two deacons in the back room shootin’ pool
were sharin’ the Lord with a Jim Beam rep
who was teachin’ Ms. Mills some line dance steps…

Reverend White was readin’ from the book of Luke
to a tall, drunk trucker about to puke
he had John 3:16 memorized
tryin’ to dry him out to get him baptized…

The evangelist yelled about the lights and the beer
said, “White, you can’t save any souls in here…
this place ain’t nothin’ but a den of sin…
ain’t the kind of place Baptists ought to be in!”

Preacher said, “Well we don’t really need y’all here
You didn’t do a very good job last year,
you only saved one sinner, that’s Todd McGuire,
the little SOB that set my church on fire!”

“Joe’s beer joint has done been revived,
only been here an hour, and I done saved five.
Sure, it’s got mirrors and a big dance floor,
but I finally found the flock God called me for.”

They’re at the First Baptist Bar and Grill
it’s the only church in the bible belt that smells like a whisky still not a stained glass window anywhere in site,
just a blood-stained floor and neon lights,
and the communion wine in here is always chilled.

We’re here every Sunday; we’re livin’ large;
We’re the only church with a cover charge.
And if you don’t like our doctrine and think we ain’t devout,
we’ll have our bouncer throw your butt out …
of the First Baptist Bar and Grill

(amen sister!)

Songs of Sacrilege: Church League Softball Fist Fight by Tim Wilson

This is the eighteenth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Church League Softball Fist Fight  by the late Tim Wilson, “an American stand-up comedian and country music artist, whose act combined stand-up comedy and original songs.”

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus 1:
Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
Gettin washed in the blood on a Tuesday night
What would Jesus do, lord he wouldn’t do that
Knock hell outta the preacher with a softball bat

Well the swinging Sheppard’s from the Sheep of the Savoir
were tied with the sourwood church of Christ
An example of some highly unholy behavior
in a game that had already been protested twice
Something unbiblical must have been said
for them to be aimin’ heat at the minister’s head
Clockin the clergy ain’t the thing to do
But neither’s the high hard one on the 0-2

Chorus 2:
Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
A body layin’ on the hands ‘neath the left field lights
Knockin out four teeth, gettin a busted lip
Aint exactly my idea of Christian Fellership

Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
Rollin round the pitchers mound it just don’t look right
where the nice people from the church and the Sunday school class
To trade a cup of brotherhood for a can of whoop-ass

Question: Was My Deconversion Gradual or Instantaneous?

atheist dan piraro

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Suzanne asked:

What was the thing or moment where it all started to unravel horribly, the pulling the first thread away moment, when you said ‘screw all of this’ and walked away? Was it one thing or a gradual buildup of stuff?

This is a great question, one that is not easy to answer.

My story drives Evangelicals crazy, especially those who are hardcore, never change their beliefs, fundamentalists. What they see in my story is a lifetime of theological change, and this is a sure sign to them that I never had a surefooted theological foundation. After all, the Bible does say that the double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  In their mind, it’s no wonder I deconverted. Look at my ever-evolving theology.

However, I view my change of beliefs in a different light. For those of us raised in the Evangelical church, we grew up with a borrowed theology. Our theology was that of our parents, pastor, and church. When I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College, I had a borrowed theology and when I left three years later I still had a borrowed theology. I believed what I had been taught.

Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I diligently studied the Bible. I read over a thousand theological books and prided myself in working hard to give parishioners with exactly what the Bible taught. Over time, I encountered teachings and beliefs that were new to me, and after thoroughly studying the matter my beliefs either stayed the same or changed. Over  the years, my soteriology and eschatology changed, as did my view on inerrancy the law of God, faith vs works, and Bible translations. These new beliefs led to changes in practice. I like to think that my changing beliefs were simply an intellectual response to new information.

Over this same 25 year period my politics evolved and changed. I entered the ministry as a right-wing Republican culture warrior. I left the ministry as a progressive/liberal Democrat.  It is likely that my changing political beliefs affected how I read and interpreted the Bible.

I left the ministry in 2005 and left Christianity in 2008.  In the three years between these two events, I went back to the Bible and restudied what I believed about God, Jesus, creation, salvation, and the Bible. I read numerous books written by authors like Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, Robert Wright, Jerry Coyne, John Loftus, Rob Bell, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Brian McLaren, John Shelby Spong, Henri Nouwen, Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, Hector Avalos, Soren Kierkegaard, John Dominic Crossan, N.T. Wright, Paul Tillich, and a number of other authors. I was doing everything I could to hang on to some sort of faith.

I went through what I call the stages of deconversion: Evangelical Christianity to Liberal/Progressive Christianity to Universalism to Agnosticism to Atheism. This path was painful, arduous, contradictory, and tiring. I spent many a day and night not only reading and studying, but having long discussions with Polly about what I had read. In November of 2008, I concluded, based on my beliefs, that I could no longer honestly call myself a Christian. Since I no longer believed the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, nor did I believe that Jesus was God, rose again from the dead or worked miracles, there was no possible way for me to remain a Christian.  At that moment, I went from believer to unbeliever. I call this my born again atheist experience.

Evangelicals will read this post and point out what they see as a fatal flaw in my deconversion; I didn’t read any Evangelical theologians. I didn’t read any of the shallow apologetic works that are bandied about as surefire faith fixers. The reason I didn’t is because I had already read them. I can recite Christian theology, in all its forms, frontwards and backwards. Since there hasn’t been an original thought in Christianity since Moses got off the ark, I had no need of rereading Christian theological books. The few Christian authors I did read, were new authors that I hoped would tell me something I had not heard before.  I read their books in hopes of getting a new perspective on Christianity, hoping that they would knot a rope and throw it to me so I could hang on. In the end, the rope had no knot, and down the slippery slope I slid until I hit bottom.

So, my deconversion took a long time, but there was also a moment in time when I went from believer to nonbeliever.

If I had to point to one thing that most affected my deconversion,  it would be learning that the Bible was not an inspired, infallible, inerrant text. I suspect this is the case for many Evangelicals turned atheist. Bart Ehrman is a good example of this.  The belief that the Bible was a perfect text written by God and absolute truth from the hand of God himself, was the foundation of my system of belief. Remove this foundation and the whole house comes tumbling down.

One unanswered question remains; if I had started out as a progressive/liberal Christian would I have still deconverted? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Since I have a pastor’s heart and I love help people, I might have found a home in progressive/liberal Christianity. This is one of those would of/could of/should of questions. That’s not the path I took, so here I am. Unless a deity of some sort reveals itself to us, I remain a convinced atheist.

Question: What is the Difference Between Superstition and Religion?

superstition

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

What’s the difference between superstition and religion?

The short answer is nothing, Practically, an Evangelical would view the beliefs of non-Christians as superstition. The Evangelical looks at Catholics and their prayers to Mary and the saints and sees superstition. What the Evangelical can’t see is their own superstition. The Christian narrative is every bit as wacky as any of stories and beliefs that are labelled superstition. One man’s superstition is another man’s religion.

The dictionary definition of superstition is:

An irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear.

The question I have is whether ALL religious belief arises from ignorance or fear? Most of it does, to be sure, but if someone tells me that they have some sort of deistic belief then I am inclined to say that their belief does NOT arise out of ignorance or fear. I have stated many times that I think one can look at the universe and conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe. This deity, after creating the universe, said, there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will. Some readers of this blog  hold to this view. While I can not embrace this view, I do understand it.

As far as Christianity is concerned, no matter what form one embraces, it arises from ignorance or fear. Some Evangelicals try to assert that their beliefs are rational, but I find their explanations laughable. Their explanations are little more than a class in probabilities. Let me explain.  Billions of people have lived and died. Every human dies. Even the Bible admits the  obvious: it is appointed unto men once to die.  There are no exceptions except for Jesus and Elijah, for which we have no proof that they are still alive. The Evangelical hangs on to the notion that it is “possible” for a person to resurrect from the dead or never die because the Bible says it is possible. (circular reasoning) Since all the evidence points to when you are dead you stay dead, I consider any other belief to be one born out of ignorance, faith, or hope.

Liberal Christians are hard to nail down, belief wise. I tend to refrain from labeling their beliefs superstition because I appreciate what they are trying to accomplish. Most liberal Christians I know are de facto universalists. Atheists like me end up in heaven anyway, so there no fear factor involved. Do I think liberal Christianity is rational? No, but I do know the world would be a lot better place if every religious believer had progressive, liberal beliefs.

I am sure hard-core atheists will not appreciate my conciliatory, accommodationist approach to deism, liberal Christianity, and universalism, but I recognize that most people are going to have some sort of religious belief, and if this is so, what would I prefer for them to believe? Fundamentalism, in all of its forms, remain the enemy.

Question: Please Explain the Eschatology of the IFB Church

clarence larkin judgments

Chart from Clarence Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth. This is chart showing the various judgments and resurrections.

To see full size (3970×1811) please click here.

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Charles asked:

Bruce, you said “you said: “Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.” How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?”

Can you explain where this “Dual Judgement” theology comes from, who originated it, and why not all fundies espouse it—like you did not espouse it in your quote above.

First, for those who may not know my entire story, I was not a fundamentalist towards the latter part of my time in the ministry. I left the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the late 1980’s. I then became an Evangelical Calvinist before becoming more liberal politically and theologically. When I left the ministry in 2005, I was aligned with the emergent church, red letter Christians, and Sojourners. My move left cost me almost all of my IFB friends and colleagues. When I became an agnostic/atheist/humanist, I lost all but two of my remaining Christian friends.

Second, when I wrote Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment,” this was a reflection of my post IFB theology. I held to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. One resurrection, one judgment.

Third, almost all IFB churches and pastors are dispensational, pre-tribulational, and premillennial. As such, they believe in multiple judgments. Lazarus and the rich man would have been judged before the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then there is a judgment after the rapture. This judgment is often called the Judgment (BEMA) Seat of Christ. At the end of the tribulation, there will be another judgment, and after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will be one more judgment, the final judgment of all who have not yet been judged.

Make sense? Of course not. But, it is in the B-i-b-l-e. Much of dispensational teaching is implied and inferred.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more eschatological diversity in the IFB church movement. I suspect this is due the fact that all the prophecy preaching over past 70 years has failed to materialize. After being theologically embarrassed and made out to be a fear-mongering false prophet, many IFB preachers have turned to simpler eschatological systems. I’ve even met IFB preachers who are Calvinistic and hold to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. Their eschatology and soteriology have evolved, but their social fundamentalism has not. (please read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? to understand the terms social and theological fundamentalism)

Question: Will Christians Praying for Your Demise Have Their Prayers Answered?

imprecatory prayer

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Steve asked:

Yes sir, I have a question!

Do you think the many Christian prayers for your demise will succeed?

Many Christians believe that God should get all the praise for the good things that happen and Satan and sinners should get blamed for the bad things that happen. This fact poses a conundrum for those praying for my demise. If God kills me, this means it was a good thing, right?  But, if God is the giver of life, the fact that I am still alive is also a good thing.  Perhaps God wants me to live so the Holy Spirit can regenerate me, effectually call me, and impart to me his wonderful irresistible grace. Or perhaps I am not one of the elect, not in the Lamb’s Book of Life; then I am an unregenerate, apostate reprobate. If I were God, I would kill someone like me, seeing that I do so much damage to the faith of others.

Some day, I will die. The way I am feeling as I write this post, it could be today. Or tomorrow. Or twenty years from now. Regardless of the date of my demise, there will a Christian somewhere who will see it as proof that their imprecatory prayer worked,;that God whacked me because they asked him to.

Rick Warren Says Only God Can Kill Us

calvin and hobbes death

Southern Baptist Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has come out…man I just had a hilarious thought…has come out of the closet…back to reality…has come out in opposition to California Senate Bill 128. If passed, the bill would give terminally ill Californians the right to terminate their own life. Warren, whose son committed suicide in 2013, thinks that none of us should have the right to determine when we die. According to the Purpose Driven pastor:

“I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years.”

“The prospect of dying can be frightening,but we belong to God, and death and life are in God’s hands…We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives.”

According to the Death with Dignity National Center:

SB 128 would allow patients who are mentally competent and have fewer than six months to live, as determined by two physicians, to obtain prescriptions for medication to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner, while protecting the vulnerable with strict guidelines and procedures.

Warren’s comments illustrate, once again, why there must be a strict separation of church and state. While Warren might find some vicarious purpose and meaning in suffering, many Americans do not. In Warren’s world, the Christian God is sovereign over all, including life and death. Warren tries to frame his objection as “wanting to be there for those who are dying,” but I suspect there are many Californians who have no need of Pastor Warren or any other pastor or priest “being there”  for them during the last days of their life.

While the government certainly has an interest in protecting those who are vulnerable, mentally ill, or unable to make a rational decision, I see no compelling reason for government to forbid the terminally ill to end their life through drugs provided by their physician. Warren is free to suffer until the bitter end. He is free to let cancer eat away at his organs or allow ALS to turn him into a vegetable. If that’s what his God demands of him, far be it from me to deny him the right. However, millions of Californians do not worship Warren’s God, nor do the have such a noble view of suffering, death, and pain.

right to die

Chronic illness and pain are my “dark passengers”, to quote Dexter, the serial killer. I fully expect that I will continue, health-wise, to decline. I see no cure on the horizon and I highly doubt God is going to send Benny Hinn to fake heal me. There could come a day when I no longer desire to live in what Christians call this “house of clay.”  I am sound of mind, OK, mostly sound of mind. Since God is not my co-pilot and I have no desire to be the poster child for suffering, shouldn’t I be allowed to determine, on my own terms, how and when I end my life?

Perhaps I will never reach the place where the reasons for living are no longer enough to keep me alive. There are days when the pain is unbearable and I ponder what death will be like. THE END. Lights out. I have the means of death at my disposal. I take medications that would surely do the trick, but maybe not. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite send me and Toto to the other side. Then Polly would be left with a brain-dead vegetable of a husband. Wouldn’t it better for a doctor to prescribe drugs that were sure to do the trick? If we can execute murderers surely we can help the terminally ill die when they want to call it a night. Wouldn’t this be the compassionate thing to do?

Many people are opposed to assisted suicide for religious or philosophical reasons. By all means, suffer to your heart’s content. But, you have no right to demand that others play by the rules of your religion or philosophy. I hope the California legislature will not allow Evangelicals and Catholics to pressure them into not giving the terminally ill a death with dignity option. The dying, if  possible, should have the right to determine when and where the show ends. (please Dying with Dignity.)

Anne Reed thinks Craving a Milky Way is the Same as a Gay Man Craving Sexual Intimacy

homosexuality an abomination

Snark Ahead. You’ve Been Warned!

Anne Reed is a staff writer for the American Family Association (AFA). AFA is a fundamentalist Christian ministry started in 1977 by Methodist minister Don Wildmon. Wildmon’s son Tim now runs the operation. In order to write accurate, timely articles, I must monitor the ruminations of the religious-right. I don’t like doing so, but it is a necessary part of my job. Every day, I must wade through hundreds of articles that I consider racist, bigoted, conspiratorial, or bat-shit crazy. Thus, I subscribe to AFA’s newsletter, The Stand.

Anne Reed  thinks the government should regulate homosexuality because Michelle Obama is concerned about childhood obesity and has used the power of  government to change how children eat at a school. In her mind, gay sex should be regulated just like school lunches. I can see your face now. Huh, there is no connection between these two things?  Remember Reed is a fundamentalist. Reason and logic are not her strong suit.

Here’s what she had to say:

…CDCP has also reported a wealth of reliable and disturbing facts about the effects of homosexual behaviors, particularly among males. Gay and bisexual men represent only about two percent of the U.S. population but accounted for three-fourths of all estimated new HIV infections annually from 2008 to 2010. Wow! That is an extreme and unmistakable health risk associated with homosexual behavior.

In 2010, the same year the Let’s Move campaign kicked off, African American men accounted for more than double the number of estimated new infections in other ethnic groups. And young African American gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24 are especially affected by HIV.  But where’s the compassion for these young men? Where’s the determination to bring about necessary lifestyle changes?

And somehow President Obama expresses no concern for those who wish to change that extremely risky behavior. Rather, he wants to model decisions made in California, New Jersey, and DC banning licensed professionals from offering and providing conversion therapy for minors who seek to change their same-sex attractions and behavior.

While gluttony, laziness, and ignorance can certainly lead to a life of disease and early death, so can misguided sexual desires. This is clear. If the Obamas really understand and care about the importance of teaching a child correct behaviors at an early age when it comes to nutrition and exercise, why is the concept inapplicable when it concerns damaging sexual cravings and behaviors?

Have you ever watched a movie scene where one actor withheld a helping hand from another whose grip was slipping from the edge of a tower or building? It goes against everything we know to be right and good. We don’t just let somebody fall into a pit of destruction when it’s within our power to help.


First
, let me say that Anne Reed is being disingenuous. As a Christian fundamentalist and a political right-winger, Reed doesn’t want the government regulating anything. Well, execpt the “sins” listed in the Bible, then she wants the government to be a terror to evil and an executor of wrath on those who do evil.

Second, being gay is not a choice. Evidently, Reed thinks a person chooses to be gay just like she chooses a bag of potato chips at the local store.

Third, the students eating lunch are CHILDREN and parents, school boards, and government has a vested interest in making sure children eat a nutritious lunch. How a gay has sex is determined by attraction, preference, and desire. Surely Reed knows that heterosexuals have anal and oral sex too?  Those engaging in gay sex are consenting teenagers and adults. They are mature enough to make rational sexual choices. Children, with immature minds, would choose to have a lunch of candy bars, Captain Crunch, and ice cream. For a beverage Pepsi wins over milk every time. Since we know many children aren’t ready to make responsible eating choices, adults make the choice for them. Gays do not need help choosing who to have sex with.

Fourth, yes HIV does affect the gay population far more than it does the heterosexual population, But, it DOES affect the heterosexual population, so using Reed’s illogical logic, should heterosexual sex be regulated or forbidden? After all, it would keep heterosexuals from getting HIV.

According to the CDC, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections each year. One out of every 300 Americans is infected with HIV. Compare this to one out of ten Americans having diabetes. It seems to me that Reed should be writing about the diabetes epidemic that is ravaging the Christian church. Perhaps the government should step in and ban church potlucks and ban churches with bus ministries from giving out candy to riders. Think of the children, Anne!!

Fifth, the overwhelming majority of sexually transmitted diseases are contracted by white, Christian heterosexuals.  Again, using Reed’s illogical logic, shouldn’t Christianity and heterosexual sex be strictly regulated or forbidden? We know that Evangelical and conservative Christian churches often given the sexually active horrible advice about sex and birth control. Perhaps Baptist youth groups should be banned because of their promotion of “just say no.”  Doesn’t “just say no” encourage sexual irresponsibility, resulting in a loss of virginity, STD’s, and unplanned pregnancies?

It took me all of a few hundred words to strip Anne Reed naked and expose the bigotry and hate that lies behind her beliefs. It’s not about public policy or what is best for children. Reed’s God, in an inspired, inerrant, infallible work of fiction, has decreed that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is an abomination. This same God, in the same book, said that homosexuals should be executed. Of course, he also thought adulterers and fornicators should be executed too. Man, that sure would drastically reduce church attendance numbers, wouldn’t it? Imagine God killing every adulterous, fornicating Baptist. Why, I know some IFB churches that would have to close their doors. Their pulpits would certainly be empty if God got all righteous and killed adulterers and fornicators.

Let me end this post with three comments left on Reed’s article by loving, concerned Christians:

“Thanks Anne Reed for a brave attempt at juxtaposing M. Obama’s “Let’s Move” program with the proliferating spread of HIV among, of all things, gay and bisexual men. Hmm…this data from the CDC obviously cannot be examined critically by anyone in the Obama administration because that would be tantamount to exposing the skeletons in homosexuals’ closets. This administration makes the rules, changes the rules as necessary to reap the greatest amount of political gain, and then shushes anyone who challenges the rules.” (Bruce has one comment: So HIV infections started when the Kenyan-born Muslim atheist socialist Obama took office)

“There is also alarming stats that have recently been released on the “transgendered” community with articles such as this: “High HIV burden identified in transgender women,” Baral S. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;13:214-222; Correlates of HIV Infection Among Transfemales, San Francisco, 2010: Results From a Respondent-Driven Sampling Study, American Journal of Public Health, August 2013. There are also mental health issues that can be associated with this lifestyle: Anxiety and Depression in Transgender Individuals: The Roles of Transition Status, Loss, Social Support, and Coping, Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, June 2013.” (Bruce has one comment: Transgender individuals have anxiety and depression? Shock. I wonder why? Looking at you AFA)

“God says that He gives the Homosexual who in the heart and mind reject what is good for what is evil over time giving them over to a reprobate mind to not know the difference since they do not care ! And God gives them a just recompense in the flesh ! Perhaps a memo to their flesh to not mind what is bad nor differentiate that which is bad from what is good as they desired mentally they receive physically as well – Auto – Immune Dificiency Syndrome?” (Bruce has one comment: Sounds to me like HIV and homosexuality is God’s fault. After all, isn’t he the one giving them over to a reprobate mind?)