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Songs of Sacrilege: Take Me to Church by Hozier

This is the sixty-seventh 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Take Me to Church by Hozier.

 Video Link

Lyrics

My lover’s got humor
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should have worshiped her sooner

If the heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week

‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it

My Church offers no absolutes.
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

If I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice

Drain the whole sea
Get something shiny
Something meaty for the main course
That’s a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable?
We’ve a lot of starving faithful

That looks tasty
That looks plenty
This is hungry work

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife
Offer me my deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

No Masters or Kings
When the Ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin

In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am Human
Only then I am Clean
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Hozier explains what the song is about:

‘Take Me to Church’ is essentially about sex, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would… undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God… But it’s not an attack on faith… it’s an assertion of self, reclaiming humanity back for something that is the most natural and worthwhile.

Songs of Sacrilege: God May Forgive You (But I Won’t) by Iris Dement

This is the sixty-sixth 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is God May Forgive You (But I Won’t) by Iris Dement.

 Video Link

Lyrics

You say that you’re born again
cleansed of your former sins
You want me to say “I forgive and forget”
But you’ve done too much to me
Don’t you be touching me,
go back and touch all those women you’ve made

Chorus:
’cause God may forgive you, but I won’t
Yes, Jesus loves you, but I don’t
They don’t have to live with you and neither do I
You say that you’re born again, well so am I
God may forgive you, but I won’t
and I won’t even try

Well, the kids had to cry for you
I had to try to do
things that the Dad should do
since you’ve been gone
Well, you really let us down
You may be Heaven ‘bound
but you’ve left one hell of a mess here at home

(chorus)

and I won’t even try

Songs of Sacrilege: Let the Mystery Be by Iris Dement

This is the sixty-fifth 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Let the Mystery Be by Iris Dement.

 Video Link

Lyrics

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where
They all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say once gone you’re gone forever
And some say you’re gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior
If in sinful ways you lack
Some say that they’re comin’ back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where
They all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say they’re goin’ to a place called Glory
And I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact
But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to Purgatory
And I don’t like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody is wondering what and where
They all came from
Everybody is worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

One Reason I Don’t Believe: The Silence of History

bart ehrman quote

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, (link no longer active) the 2010 population of the Jerusalem district was 924,000. In 1948, the population of the Jerusalem district was 87,000. According to Wikipedia, the 1st century population of Jerusalem was around 80,000, though this population would swell during Passover and other religious observances. When I lived in Yuma, Arizona, I observed a similar swelling of the population when the snow birds arrived to spend winter in Yuma. Whatever the population of Jerusalem was during  the three-year public ministry of Jesus, there were plenty of people who observed his works. Surely, there were thousands of eyewitnesses who could have written something about Jesus’s miracles, and his death, resurrection, ascension back to heaven. Surely, there were eyewitnesses who could have written something about the acts of the Apostles and the early church. Why then, is there little or no historical record for the life and work of Jesus or the early followers of Jesus? God striking church members dead or causing the followers of Jesus to speak in unknown tongues surely were notable events, yet there is no record of them outside of the Bible. Why is this?

According to the Bible, the events leading up to the death of Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead, took place during Passover.  After the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus, Jesus ascended back to heaven, and on the Day of Pentecost, while the followers of Jesus were gathered in an upper room, they were filled (baptized) with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)

Acts 2:1-6 states:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

This miracle of speaking with other tongues caused quite a stir and, as a result, on one day:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

In fact, according to according to Acts 2:47:

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Every day people were being saved, baptized, and added to the church, or so says the author of the book of Acts.

In Acts 3,4 we find Peter and John going to the Temple to preach the gospel. While they faced great adversity from the Sadducees over their preaching that through Jesus people could be resurrected from the dead, Acts 4:4 states:

…many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

So, in a short amount of time, the Acts narrative moves from 120 followers of Jesus being gathered in an upper room to 3,000 people being saved, baptized, and added to the church, to 5,000 men believing the preaching of gospel. Yet, outside of the New Testament, which was written decades after the events recorded in Acts 1-4, there is no historical mention of a large number of people becoming followers of Jesus. There is no mention of 3,000 people being publicly baptized on one day. There is no mention of a large gathering of Jesus followers in the outer court of the Temple.

In fact, there is no non-Biblical historical record for any of the astounding events recorded in the Gospels and Acts. Suppose a well-known man died in the community you live. You saw him die. With your own eyes you saw his dead, embalmed body. Yet, three days later, this same man came back to life and was sitting with his family and friends at the local Applebee’s. Do you think such a miraculous event would make the front page of the newspaper? Do you think it would be trending on Twitter? Do you think everyone in your community would quickly know about the dead man brought back to life? Yet, when it comes to Jesus the miracle worker, a man who purportedly raised people from the dead, cast demons out of people, gave sight to the blind, restored the hearing of the deaf, walked on water, and walked through walls, there is no non-Biblical historical record of any of his works.

According to the Bible, Jesus was well-known in Jerusalem. When he came riding into Jerusalem on a colt (or an ass, you decide) people lined the streets and cheered him. This same man, a short time later, was arrested, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross like a common thief, and buried in a borrowed grave. Three days later, however you count three days, this same well-known Jesus resurrected from the grave and appeared to over 500 people. Pretty news worthy stuff, right? Yet, outside of the Bible, there is no historical record of these events.

Even more astounding, according to Matthew 27, at the moment Jesus died:

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

At the very moment Jesus died, the veil of the Temple, a curtain that was likely 30 feet wide, 60 feet high, and four inches thick, (using 18 inches as the measurement for a cubit) was torn in half. And according to the Gospel of Mark, there was an eclipse at the moment of, or right before Jesus died. Ponder for a moment such astounding events, yet, outside of the Bible, there is no record of them ever occurring.

If that is not astounding enough, consider that the Bible says when Jesus died the graves of the saints were open and out popped resurrected followers of Jesus. These resurrected saints went into Jerusalem and appeared to many people. Yet, not only is there no non-Biblical historical report of this happening, none of the other gospel writers or Paul mention it. Surely, dead relatives and dead fellow believers resurrecting from the dead and walking about the city of Jerusalem would be important to 1st century Christians, yet outside of Matthew no one mentions it.

Yes, later Christian authors, working from the text of the Bible and stories passed down to them, speak of these events being true, but why are there no Roman or Jewish historical writings that mention these astounding events?

I am well aware of the various arguments that can be made, but I don’t buy them. It seems far more likely that these miraculous, astounding events never happened. Yes, Josephus possibly said:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

I say possibly because what Josephus actually said is a matter of great debate. (the oldest manuscript of Josephus’s writings is dated a thousand years after his death) Regardless of the authenticity of the aforementioned passage, Josephus does not mention, outside of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, any of the miraculous events that occurred at the time of the death of Jesus. Why is this?

This is one of the reasons that I do not believe the Christian narrative. While this is not proof for there being no God, it does call into question the narrative that many Christians proclaim is truth.

[signoff]

How Do You Get the Elephant Out of the Room?

elephant in the room

Those of us who have Christian family often refer to our unbelief as the elephant in the room. Polly and I last attended church in November 2008. For a time, Polly’s mom would ask her to attend church with her when they were here visiting, but after being rebuffed several times, she stopped asking. As long time readers know, when I decided that I was no longer a Christian, I sent a letter to some of my friends, family, and former parishioners. This letter caused quite a stir, resulting in a personal visit from a pastor friend and emails and letters from colleagues in the ministry and people who once called me pastor. Several churches held prayer meetings specifically to pray for me, hoping their concerted prayer would cause God to bring me back into the fold.  Several pastors took to the pulpit and preached sermons about Bruce Gerencser, the pastor turned atheist. (sermon by Ralph Wingate Jr. and sermons by Jose Maldonado)  What’s interesting in all of this is that our family didn’t say a word to either Polly or me. One man, an evangelist, did attempt talk to me, but he was told to stop doing so by one of the older preachers in the family. While we’ve certainly heard gossip about this or that behind-the-back discussion about us, and we were told that the family patriarch, a 75-year-old retired preacher, planned to straighten me out, not one family member has sat down and had an honest and open discussion with either of us. Our deconversion and my outspokenness concerning Evangelicalism and atheism is a huge pink elephant that everyone can see, but no one acknowledges. While I know that some family members regularly read this blog, no one has engaged in any sort of discussion with us about why we left the ministry, deconverted, and are now happy HBO-watching, wine-drinking  unbelievers.

Some seasoned atheists recommend that the recently deconverted  shine a bright light on the elephant and force people to see it. That’s what I did with my letter to family, friends, and former parishioners. While this approach worked for friends and former parishioners, family just went over to the wall switch and turned off the light. To some degree, I understand their reaction. I was their preacher brother, uncle, son-in-law, and father for as long as they could remember. From 1972 to 2008, I was the family preacher, and when Polly and I married in 1978, I married into a family of pastors, missionaries, and evangelists.  Every aspect of our lives was dominated by Christianity, the Bible, and the work of the ministry. And then, BOOM, all that was gone, and Rev. Bruce Gerencser and his wife Polly are now numbered with the godless. I suspect that the cognitive dissonance this causes for some family members is too much for them to handle, so they pretend that there is no elephant in the room. This is why some family members still think we are saved. We are just backslidden, out of the will of God, and they are certain we will one day return to the faith.

Some atheists take a different approach when discussing their deconversion with family and friends. Two weeks ago, I watched  Chicago PD, a procedural program about an élite force of detectives in the Chicago police department. One of the detectives, Erin Lindsay, played by actress Sophia Bush, is struggling with family and addiction problems. She seeks out the help of a counselor named Dr. Charles, played by actor Oliver Platt.  Dr. Charles asks Detective Lindsay, how do you get the elephant out of the room? Lindsay had no answer for the question. Dr. Charles replied, one piece at a time.  Instead of taking the approach I detailed in the previous paragraph, some atheists take Dr. Charles’s advice and begin dismantling the elephant one piece at a time. While this approach certainly results in less stress, it can take quite some time. The atheist has to be willing to leave some issues on the table to be discussed another day. Not everyone can do this, preferring to get every issue out in the open so it can discussed. Once this is done, there’s no need for any further discussion.

I’ve had uncounted new atheists and agnostics write me about how best to handle their Christian spouses, children, parents, extended family, or friends. I never tell them that they should do this or that. Every person must carefully examine his or her life and the connections each has with others before deciding how to proceed. While every atheist certainly wants the elephant out of the room, there are different ways to accomplish it. I wrote about this in the post titled, Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist. Acting rashly or in a fit of anger can have catastrophic consequences. Once a person decides to talk with Christian family and friends about their deconversion, there’s no going back. Once a person utters out loud, I am an atheist, what happens next is out of their control. I know of married people whose spouses divorced them over their deconversion. Some people have had their family excommunicate them, refusing to allow them in their homes until they come to their senses. Others receive email, phone calls, and Facebook comments from family and friends about their deconversion. Often these statements are barbed with anger and hurt. More than a few atheists have been forced to unfriend Christian family and friends on Facebook. Sadly, more than a few times, something I’ve written has been posted to an atheist’s Facebook wall, and it has resulted in the newly minted atheist being attacked by offended Christians.  I know a few atheists who would love to be friends with me on Facebook, but they can’t because of how their Christian family and friends would respond to our friendship.

I’d love to hear from readers about how they handled the elephant in the room. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Note

My sister is an exception when it comes to family. She takes a universalist, generic approach to religion, so she has no problem with me being an atheist. We’ve had numerous discussions over the years. What matters to both of us is love, kindness, and compassion, not some sort of defined religious belief. Having been brutally abused by Christians and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers herself, she totally gets why I want nothing to do with Christianity.

 

 

Blog News: I Need Your Help

help

Several months ago, I wrote:

Good news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Bad news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Good news, because I write to be read. Bad news, because I had to move this site to a faster server, resulting in a substantial bump in costs.

As a result of writing the aforementioned post, a number of readers made a one time donation through PayPal, sent me a check, or signed up with Patreon to make a monthly contribution. I also added a Bookstore page which, thanks to readers buying books through the bookstore, has generated a small amount of quarterly income from Amazon.

I appreciate the kindness and support of everyone who has made a one time donation or committed to monthly support. Without this support, I’d be forced to either quit blogging or move the site to a cheaper service, a move that would result in slower page loads and greater risk of being hacked.

As of today, the combination of Amazon book sales, one time PayPal donations, and monthly support through Patreon, has gone a long way in helping to meet the costs associated with hosting this blog. Some months, there’s even a bit left over, which I use to either make blog improvements or take Polly to McDonald’s.

Your continued financial support is greatly appreciated.

Facebook

My Facebook page has become an increasing source of traffic and reader engagement. There was a time when conversations were limited to the comment section, but now there are comments on Facebook and other social media that are every bit as important. I want to make sure I do my best to interact with readers wherever they read one of my posts, but I am finding that it is impossible for me to keep up. Fortunately, Michael Mock and Roy Madewell have been helping with the Facebook page. I no longer feel the need to answer every Evangelical who objects to something I’ve posted to Facebook.

Everything I write is posted to my Facebook page. This page is separate from my personal Facebook account. I also post news stories, articles, memes, and blog posts I think readers might find thought-provoking or a reminder of how much crazy there is in Evangelicalism.

I could use another person to help on the Facebook page. The ideal person would be someone who is conversant in all things Evangelical and is able to thoughtfully engage Evangelical critics without wanting to beat them to death with a copy of the King James Bible. I could also use the help of someone who has a science background. I get a lot of science questions that I do not have sufficient training to answer. If you would like to help administer my Facebook page, please send me an email.

Blog Comments

My writing tends to be a source of constant irritation to many Evangelicals. In previous years, every time they would express their hemorrhoidal pain and outrage I would respond to them. As long time readers know, doing so quickly drained me of physical and emotional strength, resulting in me taking an extended vacation or closing down my blog. Thanks to a handful of godless saints, I no longer have to engage every offended Evangelical. It’s encouraging and refreshing to have friends who are willing to enter Daniel’s metaphorical lions den and slay the lions. A great example of this is Michael Mock’s recent discussion with Susan-Anne White, a homophobic Calvinist from Northern Ireland. (An Email from a Fundamentalist Christian and Why Do Fundamentalist Men and Women Dress Differently?)  While I still intend to comment as I am able, I am grateful that some of you have been willing to engage God’s chosen ones. I find it amusing when an Evangelical gets upset over someone else responding to them besides Bruce Almighty.

Grammar Help

A few weeks ago, Carolyn, a regular reader of this blog, contacted me about helping with my spelling and grammar. Even though I proofread each post several times, I still make way too many grammar and spelling mistakes. Sometimes, these mistakes are due to brain fog and fatigue. Other times, I make mistakes because I tend to write like I talk, a common problem for those of us who spent a lifetime as public speakers. And then there are the mistakes I make because of improper usage. These mistakes are likely due to me not paying attention in English class. Carolyn, without remuneration or hope of eternal reward, is reviewing each of my posts and making the necessary corrections. Carolyn also plans to go through my previous posts and correct them. I appreciate her willingness to do this for me. (She did not correct this post. Any mistakes are 100% my fault.)

Guest Posts

I am still looking for readers who are willing to write a guest post.  The subject matter is of your own choosing. I’d love to have some first person stories and testimonies about leaving Christianity or deconverting.  Anonymous stories are welcome, as are stories that were previously published elsewhere. If you have a guest post you’d like to submit, please use the contact form to send it to me.

YouTube Videos

No, I’ve not given up on producing YouTube videos. I have the studio lighting in place, so all I need to do is sit down and record the video. No promises, but I do hope to have several videos recorded and edited in the next few weeks. Yeah, I know I sound like an Evangelical talking about the imminent return of Jesus…

As always, thank you for reading. Your love, friendship, and support mean the world to me.

Bruce

Playing Dodge Ball With a Creationist

ken ham's book dinosaurs
Page from Ken Ham’s fiction book, The Dinosaurs of Eden
repost, edited and updated

James Hoskins, one of the writers for the Pathos blog, Christ and Pop Culture, wrote a post about the upcoming debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I left several comments on the post and I thought readers would enjoy reading my interaction with a young earth creationist by the name of Riley:

Riley

Regarding dinosaurs and humans coexisting, we know that to be true already. So it seems plausible that the dragon myths point back to what we would now call dinosaurs. As far as the anatomical details, some of it was probably embellished and exaggerated over time, while other details come from witnessing different strains of dinosaurs.

Nemo

Citation needed. Before the Paluxy River tracks, I’d like to point out those were faked. Also, to add to my post about the origin of dragon myths, early European paintings showed them to be about the size of large monitor lizards (St. George, most notably). Over time, their size was exaggerated.

Riley

Ancient literature documents dinosaur siting’s. Citation: Job 40 (thought to be the oldest book in the Hebrew Bible)

15 “Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you; He eats grass like an ox.16 “Behold now, his strength in his loins And his power in the muscles of his belly. 17 “He bends his tail like a cedar; The sinews of his thighs are knit together. 18 “His bones are tubes of bronze;
His limbs are like bars of iron. 19 “He is the first of the ways of God; Let his maker bring near his sword. 20 “Surely the mountains bring him food, And all the beasts of the field play there. 21 “Under the lotus plants he lies down, In the covert of the reeds and the marsh.
22 “The lotus plants cover him with shade; The willows of the brook surround him. 23 “If a river rages, he is not alarmed; He is confident, though the Jordan rushes to his mouth. 24 “Can anyone capture him when he is on watch, With barbs can anyone pierce his nose?

Nemo

The behemoth in Hebrew mythology was the beast embodying the land, with the Leviathan representing the sea. Occasionally, the ziz, representing the sky, would be mentioned.* You must realize that the Book of Job was written well before any of the other books of the Old Testament, and contained some references to older myths.

As for the “tail like a cedar”, that was most likely a euphemism for it’s reproductive organs, a reference to the beast’s virility. Creationists have tried to insist that the Behemoth was a sauropod (to explain the size) despite the fact that sauropods had teeth unsuited to the eating of grass, and instead ate the leaves at the tops of trees. Sauropods also, contrary to early beliefs about them, were not partially amphibious creatures.

Bruce

Funny how you abandon literalism when it is convenient. Where does this text use the word dinosaur. This is a behemoth not a dinosaur. Isn’t that what the TEXT says? At best, all you can say is that you don’t know what a behemoth is. Apply the Evangelical hermeneutic that Scripture interprets Scripture. Where does the Bible say that the behemoth is a dinosaur?

You want people to literally accept the Genesis 1-3 creation account, yet you are free to read your own interpretation into Job 40. Is this not hypocritical?

Further, even if this is a dinosaur, shouldn’t Evangelicals call the dinosaur a behemoth? After all, that is what God called it.  Dare you replace the Word of God with your own word?

Riley

Someone is sure in a bad mood! I don’t think I’m reading anything into the text when I conclude based on the textual description that it is what we would call today a “dinosaur.” What else has a tail like a cedar that swings? The word Behemoth was taken straight from the Hebrew by English translators because they didn’t know how to translate the word. But I think the context points to it being a dinosaur. I have no problem if you prefer to call it a “Behemoth”, but most people won’t know what you mean.

Bruce

How could you possibly know what my mood is? Don’t confuse my directness with anger or being in a bad mood.

Why is it that no modern translation translates the word dinosaur? Even the CEV translates it hippopotamus. What in the Hebrew text warrants translating the word dinosaur? In fact, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the Hebrew word behemoth( H930 if you want to look it up) is the plural of the word behemah (H929) which is translated everywhere else in the Bible as cattle or beast. Even in your beloved Gen 1-3, it is translated cattle.

You have no textual warrant for translating the word dinosaur, other than your presupposition about dinosaurs. This isn’t about creation or science. It is about being honest with what the text says.

At best, all you can say is that you don’t know what a behemoth is. But, based on the singular use of the word, it is likely some sort of cow. The translating of the word as dinosaur is not not found until modern creationists needed “prove” their theology.

All I am asking is that you be honest with the text.

Riley

I am doing my best to be honest with the text, friend. From the immediate context I think signs point to it being a dinosaur. I never said it should be translated, “dinosaur.” I think given the uncertainty the traditional rendering, “Behemoth” is preferable to speculative renderings of hippopotamus and whatever else some modern versions have.

Riley

And so would small lizards now extinct not qualify as dinosaurs in your book?

Numerous other comments you can read here

Riley

I didn’t say I “believed” the explanation for the appearance of lizards breathing fire, at least not in the same sense that I believe what is in God’s word. But any intelligent person can discuss possibilities without making it a matter of faith.

Don’t get hung up on the word, “Behemoth”, considering it just means a large beast and is not more descriptive than that, based on the linguistic data we have. Examine carefully the rest of the description in the passage. What do you think it could be?

Tehsilentone

You’re ignoring the obvious rebuttal you must already know if you wish to argue your perspective. When it says a tail like cedar it is not saying it is large and thick. The text does not specify the trunk. It is assumed by this line to be much more reasonably than a dinosaur, a hippo, elephant, maybe giraffe? As their tails are whippy and light as a ceder switch.

If there is no reason to believe something is real why try to argue for it. Goodness. Just cause you don’t believe it to your very core doesn’t mean you aren’t horribly muddying the waters.

Then Riley goes where all Evangelicals go when backed into a corner:

To me it makes very little difference whether the “Behemoth” in Job 40 is dinosaur or not. It’s not really worth arguing over, since it’s not an important matter of faith what kind of animal it was. The point of the passage is that God must be very powerful if he can create a large powerful animal which is far beyond human control. I just tend to think that it is a dinosaur when I read the description. This question might perhaps merit a more detailed exegesis, but this is not the forum for that. I have not studied this passage in depth in the original Hebrew (though I have read it through once or twice in Hebrew.) I could be wrong, but I am taking “like a cedar” to be like the tree, i. e. the cedar beam. I already know that dinosaurs and humans coexisted from the Genesis 1 account.

end of discussion

dinosaur reading bible

Riley wants to do some “detailed” exegesis of the Hebrew. I think I gave him all he needs to know. He has no warrant for saying behemoth actually means dinosaur. The only reason he does so, and the only reason any creationist does so, is because they need to fit dinosaurs into the young earth creation timeline. They KNOW they existed because the fossil record tells them they did, so the behemoth in Job 40 and leviathan in Job 41 become dinosaurs. This is a classic example of having a presupposition and making the Bible fit that presupposition.

As I have stated many times before, I think it is wrongheaded to argue science with creationists. The better line of argument is the Bible text itself. Their faith lies not in science, but in the Bible. Cause them to doubt the Bible and they are more likely to consider that they just might be wrong about creationism. Once their god, the inspired, inerrant Bible, is crushed, then those educated in the sciences can help lead them into the light.

If you have a creationist friend or family member, I encourage you to try to get them to read several of Bart Ehrman’s books. Ehrman destroys the notion that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. It’s impossible for a creationist to honestly read Ehrman and come away still believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. This doesn’t mean that they will necessarily abandon Christianity, but it does mean, if they are honest, that they will recognize that the religious authority figures in their life have misled them. They might even conclude that their pastor, Sunday school teacher, and every other Evangelical Bible expert has lied to them. As Ehrman makes clear in several of his books, many Evangelical pastors know the truth about the nature of the Bible, but they refuse to share what they know with congregants. Telling the truth could result in conflict and loss of employment, so they stand week after week before their fellow Christians and lie about the history and reliability of the book they call the Word of God.

[signoff]

Evangelicals Say the Darnedest Things: Being a Christian Has Always Been a Risky Choice

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As a child growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, I frequently watched the daytime TV show, Art Linkletter’s House Party. One feature of House Party was a segment called Kids Say the Darnedest Things. Linkletter would interview children between the ages of five and ten, and their responses were quite funny and entertaining. According to Wikipedia, Linkletter interviewed an estimated 23,000 children.

Yesterday, Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Women Believe website, wrote a post titled, When it is Hard to be a Christian at School. According to Davis, Evangelical students who attend public schools are facing challenges to their Christian faith and practice. It’s not easy to be a Christian, Davis says, and she is quite proud of the fact that there are Christian students who are willing to stand up for their faith. Davis, and Lies Women Believe, are starting a new website feature to help students boldly stand up for Jesus and Christianity. Called Stand for Truth Thursdays, Davis and her fellow Evangelical truth-tellers hope to “each Thursday…feature a post on how you can stand firm in your faith no matter where you go to school.”

In her article, Davis made an astounding statement that got me thinking about Art Linkletter and Kids Say the Darnedest Things. As I read Davis’s statement, I thought, I should start a TV show called, Evangelicals Says the Darnedest Things. Here’s what she had to say:

Being a Christian has always been a risky choice.

Really? In what way, in America, is being a Christian a risky choice?

Let’s see. The United States has a constitution and bill of rights that expressly grant every citizen the freedom of speech and religion. The establishment clause forbids the government from meddling in the affairs of religious organizations. There’s a wall of separation between church and state that’s meant to protect religious institutions from government encroachment and any attempt to limit the free exercise of religion. Churches are tax exempt and members of the clergy have special tax breaks that allow them to pay very little income tax. Ministers are even permitted to opt out of social security if they so desire.

Any group of U.S. citizens can start their own religion or start a church, and any individual can decide he or she wants to be a minister. I could decide today to start a new church, say First Church of Bruce Almighty, and by Sunday I could have a congregation gathered up and be holding services. Donations to my new church would be, by default, tax exempt, and here in Ohio my new church would be exempt from sales and real estate tax. There’s no government oversight about what is considered a real church, and the IRS goes out of its way to be vague about the definition of a church.

Every community in America has one or more Christian churches. There are six churches within 5 miles of the town I live in and almost 200 Christian churches within a 30 mile radius. Whatever flavor of Christian that people want to be, there’s a church for them. Groups like Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes have ready access to public school students. Churches are free to start private religious schools, often with little or no government oversight. Evangelical parents are permitted to pull their children out of the public school and educate them at home. If  parents wants to teach their child the earth is 6,020 years old and evolution is a lie, they are free to do so.  Pastors routinely open or close government meetings with a prayer.  Everywhere I look, Christianity is on display. Where’s this risky Christianity Davis talks about?

Almost eight out of ten Americans profess to be Christian. Most Evangelical children have Evangelical parents who, from their earliest years forward, take them to a nearby Evangelical church. Evangelical children are encouraged to make a public profession of faith in Jesus as soon as they can understand the notion of sin and their need of forgiveness and salvation. Evangelical children make this profession of faith surrounded by other Evangelical children.  From walking the aisle and getting saved to getting baptized by immersion, the new Christian is surrounded by like-minded Evangelicals. Many Evangelicals call getting baptized a public profession of faith, yet the crowd watching the baptism are those who have already gone through the baptism ritual themselves. Getting saved and baptized in an Evangelical church is one of the safest, most non-stressful things a person can do. Risky? Not a chance.

Evangelicalism has its own subculture with Christianized music, entertainment, clothing, toys, books, and food. Evangelicals start businesses and local Christians are encouraged to support their fellow Christian’s business endeavor. The ichthys symbol is prominently displayed on business signs and advertisements, reminding Christians that a fellow club member runs the business. If Evangelicals are so inclined, they could wall themselves completely off from the wicked world of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines and Canaanites and only breathe in the pure, righteous, holy air of Evangelical Christianity.

So, when someone like Erin Davis says that being a Christian is a risky choice, I ask, how so? I can’t think of one way that being a Christian in the United States is risky. Evangelicals pay no price for their faith. They are free to live, work, and play without being molested by the government or those opposed to Christianity. Evangelicals are as free as a nudist running down a beach on a warm summer day. Unencumbered by law or opinion, Evangelicals are free to be whatever it is they want to be. If this is so, and certainly Davis should know it is, why would an Evangelical like Davis say being a Christian is risky?

Thanks to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, atheism and unbelief have been part of American life since the 1960’s. Numerous groups like American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Clergy Project, and Center for Inquiry now promote atheism, agnosticism, and humanism.  Authors like Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens write bestselling books that critique and attack Christian belief.  Numerous blogs and websites are now devoted to atheism and critiquing Christian belief. Recent polls show that young adults are abandoning religion at a record pace, and there is an increasing number of disaffected Evangelicals leaving Christianity. Some leave Evangelicalism and join up with liberal or progressive Christian sects; others seek out eastern religions or abandon Christianity altogether.

It is the rise of secularism and atheism, along with the indifference of younger adults towards religion, that leads people like Erin Davis to conclude that Christianity is under attack and that it is now risky to be a Christian. Some Evangelical talking heads even say that American Christians are now be persecuted for their faith. Why, just a few months ago poor Kim Davis was thrown in jail for her faith, right? No, actually she wasn’t. She was jailed because she refused to obey the law and fulfill her duty an elected government official. While there are certainly individual cases where one could conclude that a Christian is being persecuted, most claims of persecution are really just examples of childish Christians throwing a temper tantrum over not being allowed to violate the law or get their way.  They rightly recognize that they are losing their preferred seat tat the head of the cultural table, and this frightens and upsets them. It also causes them to see persecution and hardship where there is none.

Let me end this post with Erin Davis’s own words and the words of several commenters about what they consider the risk of being a Christian. I’ll leave it to readers to judge whether they have a point. Davis wrote:

A college freshman at Duke University made national headlines for refusing to participate in a class assignment that required him to read a sexually-explicit graphic novel.

The fictional plot for the blockbuster hit movie God’s Not Dead was ripped from actual First Amendment court cases. The makers of the movie cite forty real-life court battles in which “university students, campus ministries, and clubs [were] attacked for their biblical faith.”

Being a Christian has always been a risky choice. That’s as true today as it was way back when Eve decided to fall for Satan’s lie instead of standing on God’s truth.

A group of Christian students in Pennsylvania organized a “flannel day” to show unity against increased LGBT activity at their school. Their peaceful protest involved putting Bible verses on plain pieces of paper underneath LGBT Awareness Day posters around their school. Similarly in my own home state of Missouri, more than 150 students walked out of their high school in protest of a transgender male being allowed to use the girls’ locker room.

And here’s what several commenters had to say:

…My afternoon at school today consisted to yoga in phys ed followed by a less on eveloutuon (sic)  and why they bible is wrong in biology. It was horrible and I have just been praying for guidance because apparently I’m getting yoga and eveloution (sic) every Thursday for a month but I really truly need a way to stand firm…

…I mean this same day in my Christian school I was mocked for doing the right thing and I felt sad but this encouraged me so much…

…I’m in college and we’re working on a group project, which needs a song. With regards to choosing the song, I don’t want to do something of pop culture or past pop culture because it troubles my spirit. At the same time, there’s just about no songs out there that have to do with our topic that’s not influenced by single-person center stage stars unless we do a hymn or a Christian song, which I am not sure that they will approve of. It has to do about not being good enough…

I feel very conflicted when it comes to the topic of lgbtq. I am a Christian yet I was raised in a public school system where it’s very politically correct and relativism and all that. I am confused as to how I should stand up for God in this matter especially as I am aspiring to be a nurse. Right now I believe that I cannot judge the LGBTQ community. That I should love them as myself. That if they ask if gay people can go to heaven, I don’t know. It’s a matter of your relationship with God and that relationship with cost you to surrender your life to Him. Would you be willing to surrender all to Him? Even if you find out that He does not want men to have sexual relations with men and vice versa. So reading this post I am just confused and conflicted with the protest against the transgendered male. I am not against posting verses under the posters but yeah. I just have a lot of mixed opinions about this issue and especially as I need to give equal care to those who don’t know God. I don’t know how I can evangelize in that profession and stand up for my faith properly…

 

Creationism to Atheism or Science trumps Biblical Literalism

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Guest post by Matthew who blogs at Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist

The subject of Biblical literalism is a hot topic at the moment thanks to the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I am a former creationist, now an atheist. The creationist argument is not scientific and, despite what some creationists would claim, there is no conspiracy to promote evolution or an old universe the science behind them is solid. There is obviously no room in this post to address every creationist argument, what I will do below is address what made me a creationist and some of the reasons for my eventual rejection of it and why I became an atheist.

Get Them Young

Life for me started in the missionary world of Zambia, Central Africa. School was a boarding school deep in the bush close to the Zaire (as it was then) border. The school was founded by missionaries and populated mostly by missionary children. All the teachers were from Christian stock (they still are today) and saw their work as Christian mission. As children we never seriously questioned the existence of the Christian God. The whole ethos of the school was (still is) God centered so it wasn’t just an education I received, it was also an indoctrination. I still have in my childhood memorabilia a New Testament that I was given for memorizing and reciting a chapter from the Bible. Christianity was far more than an Religious Education lesson, it was a lifestyle and ethos from which everything else flowed.

The whole of my early life was steeped in this lifestyle that assumed God. There was very little opportunity for questioning God because everyone believed. There were times when we were warned that the world outside hated God and we would be persecuted for being Christians. We were told we should stand strong in the face of that because when our education stopped and we entered the world, the challenges would come. Now that I think about it more, as young children, we were taught to fear those who were not Christians.

I recall there were several stories we were told about missionaries who had lost their lives in the service of God. These people were held up as heroes and martyrs, people who were selfless and did not fear death and counted their lives as less important than the mission of spreading God’s word.

This view of the righteous Christian missionary, fighting for God in a world full of evil atheists who hated us, framed my outlook for a long time.

On Science and God

All Bible teaching, that I can remember, was literal, which meant creation, the flood, the tower of babel, the exodus from Egypt, the sun and moon being commanded to stand still, the testing of God with a fleece and so on; all the stories were told as historical events. Interest in science and nature was also encouraged, though the school library had copies of National Geographic and in science lessons we were always told that exploring the world through science was a good way of seeing how beautiful the world is that God made for us.

The only conflict that I remember is the day when new biology books arrived and we were instructed to open the books to a specific page and cross out a paragraph that referred to evolution.  The reference was to fish flapping between drying pools of water and eventually learning to use their fins to walk, which over generations turned into legs. We laughed at the description and took great pleasure in crossing out the words.

Becoming an Adult

At 18, I left Zambia at the insistence of my father, to start my life in England and my eventual career in IT. I found a local Methodist church and got involved. It was a major culture shock for me. I was very naive and struggled  with fitting in with the other young adults at church. English attitudes were much more liberal than the missionary culture I was used to. At work, it was even harder, Christians were not the majority and atheists were happy to be vocal about it. The words of warning from my youth came back to haunt me.

It was about this time that I had my first shock from within the Christian community. The Bishop David Jenkins made front page news by claiming that the resurrection of Jesus was not literal and that he lives only in our words and thoughts as we talk about and remember him. Worse was to come at house group the next week, the minister confirmed that this was indeed the truth and he believed it too. I was stunned and speechless; I literally didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. It was the first time I had been exposed to different people within the Christian church having different ideas of key elements of the bible.

A chance conversation at work revealed that one of my co-workers had an uncle who was a minister in the USA and had written a book on origins. I duly borrowed the book, it was a creationist book, and with the foundation of my early education, my journey into creationism became complete. I would hold and argue creationism for the next 20 years.

A couple of years later, I was living in a different part of town and going to a different church, this time Anglican, as it was closer to where I lived. It would be here that I would meet and marry my wife. The church itself was liberal, like most Anglican churches in England. There was a strong evangelical element though and it was through this section of the congregation that I would get very involved in what is known as spiritual gifts. Praying in tongues and for the healing of others and demonstrations of being filled by the Holy Spirit were regular occurrences during these services. These more evangelical elements served to strengthen my literal view of the bible, even though not everyone shared my origins view. For me, it had to be true because it didn’t make sense for it not to be.

Getting Out

One of the most common accusations that creationists make against those that accept evolution is that evolutionists start from the position of millions of years and look for the evidence to back it up and will always interpret the evidence as validation of that. This is nonsense of course, and the irony is that it is the creationist that starts from the position that their god exists and that everything we see confirms that.

Evolutionary science does not actually do that of course, it starts from a null hypothesis scenario, that is, nothing is assumed to be true and the conclusion that is drawn is guided by the results. The greatest thing that could happen in science would be for evolution to be overturned and that the existence of a god proven. To argue otherwise is to completely misunderstand how the scientific community operates.

It was when I eventually managed to understand the above that I started to lose my grip on creationism. It was a long and slow journey and there is no specific point I can indicate and say “that’s when it happened”. Instead there are markers along the way where I can see that a little grain of wider understanding crept in. Eventually, all those little grains became a pile that was too large to ignore.

I credit this journey to my appreciation of things scientific and natural. This love eventually led me to reading blogs and listening to podcasts. It was this new digital medium that enabled me to directly compare and contrast the creationist argument with the science argument. Increasingly, I found the creationist argument lacking in substance, while the science argument talked about observation followed by study and process and examination and conclusion and challenge and testing. Creationists object to scientific processes that go against the literal bible interpretation, but they do very little to offer any viable mechanism as an alternative. The requirement to have God do a miracle is relied upon too much.

Increasingly, I found the science of evolution and an old universe cohesive and logical until it was simply no longer possible for me to accept creationism. From that moment on, I was on the slippery slope out of Christianity. It would take a further 3 years, while I questioned to myself all aspects of the Bible that I knew and various experiences that I had previously attributed to God. There is just one event I can’t fully explain away, that is when I went through what is called a deliverance experience. I accept that I may never know fully understand what actually happened that evening; however, one ripple does not a foundation break.

My Life as a Missionary Kid Part Six

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What follows is part three of a series by ElectroMagneticJosh, a man whose parents were Evangelical missionaries. This series will detail his life as a Missionary Kid (MK).

Part 6: Faith Academy and the Culture Bubble

Section 1

Living in the Philippines as an MK set me apart from the national culture. I looked different to the people and talked different. I also was there for a finite time – my parents were not immigrating so I was not encouraged to assimilate.  In the early days, though, most of my friends were Filipinos in my neighborhood. There were a couple of expat families and Missionary families in each town we lived in that I had friends among but the majority were not.

That all changed when my family lived in Manila and I went to Faith Academy. Suddenly I was in a school filled with people like me. In New Zealand none of my classmates had gone overseas unless it was for a family holiday and, in those days, it was the UK, North America or Australia – countries with similar cultural backgrounds of British colonization and all speaking the same language. They could not relate to my childhood experiences. My Filipino friends always saw me as the outsider of the group so, again, it was hard to relate.

Going to FA meant I would be with people who, at least in theory, would be able to relate. After all we were all MKs, all transported from our passport countries and living in a country that was not our own. While it didn’t prove to be some MK utopia it was still refreshing to be around people like me.

Section 2

When I tell people I went to a school for missionary kids the question I tend to get asked, if I get asked question at all, is a variant of: How well did you really know the Philippines then?

I used to find this type of question a tad insulting. Obviously I knew the Philippines; I lived there for 11 years, I went to a local Filipino church, I hung out at the same malls, ate out at the same places, traveled on public transport and traveled around the country. What more could I have done?

My perspective on this has changed over time. I now understand why I would be asked that question and, more importantly, wonder about it myself. How well did I really appreciate and understand the Filipino culture while I lived there?

It should be apparent to those who have read my posts so far why that is a fair question. Not just one that applies only to me either. I would guess that most MKs attending FA had more of a cursory knowledge of the surrounding culture than a deep understanding. That is because we were part of, what was known as, the “Faith Academy Bubble”.

Section 3

The term “Faith Academy Bubble” is not a term I invented. I heard it used in the negative by Missionaries who disparaged my parent’s choice in education. I heard it used matter-of-factly by teachers and parents talking about the school to others. Even the students occasionally used it but mostly ironically.

So was it even real and, if so, what was it?

Yes it was real (although I didn’t see it at the time) and, while I think the term is quite self-explanatory, I will do my best to orientate everyone.

When immigrants come to a new country they are at a disadvantage. They don’t understand a lot of the culture they are joining and may have to learn a new language. It is quite common for them to make friends with any people from their homeland they might encounter. And it makes sense. They are likely to share the same values, have similar points of reference, and, due to a shared language, find it easy to communicate. If they are large enough number they often live nearby or even create enclaves within the wider culture they have immigrated to.

Please note that I don’t want to discuss ideas about whether they should try harder to integrate or if enclaves are harmful or anything like that. Instead I want to note that there is a strong parallel to MKs. When we get together we often experience a similar phenomenon. The shared points of reference, similar values, and, yes, ease of communication. We like hanging out together.

FA was a school for MKs. Presumably that meant we should all be comfortable with each other while holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Well not quite. There were still the groups, the cliques, the in-groups, the group, but mostly different friend groups with shared interests or similar personalities. It was still a school after all. But all these things occurred within a shared cultural perspective. We were all MKs and FA was our enclave.

Section 4

If I am truly honest (and I will try to be) I had no problem with this at the time. It was where my friends were, which meant that, in an age when mobile phones and internet usage wasn’t widespread, it was where a lot my social life was organized. It felt comfortable; we had our own slang, followed our own internal cultural cues and, it could be argued, spoke with our own accent*. With the daily bible class, weekly chapel and regular special speakers and spiritual emphasis weeks the school was also my church and my youth group.

I even had a set of rules to follow—a code of conduct I had to sign before attending (although I believe this is no longer the case). I can’t remember the exact wording but it involved a list of things we promised not to do. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs were all part of it but so was dancing (my parents found that a bit odd), watching “inappropriate” movies (a vague enough term that could exclude whatever you watched) and several other, seemingly innocuous, activities. I was well into High School before I realized that some of these stranger rules were made to appeal to the most conservative missionary families.

Now it makes sense that the school would want to enforce behavior around on-campus or school-related activity behavior. However these rules applied to off-campus socializing, home life, private time over the weekends—all of it. As a result a lot of my behavior was dictated not by the country I lived in and its cultural values but by the school I went to (and, to be fair, my parents also had a say). Kids definitely rebelled but that just reinforced the fact they were also part of this bubble—they weren’t rebelling against mainstream Filipino society but the rules and culture of the school they went to. In the end, whether it was met with compliance or disobedience, the students of FA had the school’s rules of behavior whether they were at school or not.

This FA culture bubble became a self-reinforcing system. For example: I didn’t need to speak Tagalog (the main Filipino language in Manila) at school, but by not speaking it my comprehension dwindled and, with it, my connection to the wider Philippine culture. Yet my friends were all foreigners like me so it didn’t matter that I only spoke English. Of course this ensured that making friends who weren’t at my school would be near impossible. This just further enforced our sense of being separate from the country we lived in.

This separation from our host nation combined with the separation from our various passport countries often led so a feeling of cultural superiority. We would often look down on the aspects of Filipino culture that annoyed us or we found ignorant. Embarrassingly, I remember mocking or judging any trend, activity or attitude that, in my mind, was inferior to the “proper” way of doing things. At the same time we were more than happy to judge those back in our home countries as ignorant and backwards for, once again, not doing things in the “proper” way.

Of course we learned to keep these views to ourselves—it turns out people don’t like hearing why their culture isn’t all it can be from whiny kids. My parents, like most missionaries, certainly didn’t encourage these attitudes either. Also, who were we to judge what the proper and right ways of doing things were? In most instances they were just the things that bothered or annoyed us.

In reality the only difference between us and any other kid is that we genuinely believed we had a superior perspective. After all we weren’t mono-cultured, untraveled, narrow-minded people. We were in a unique position to see further and discern better. We weren’t shackled to a single culture. We had special insight. Our hubris prevented us from realizing that, like all outsider groups, we had merely joined another mono-culture albeit a smaller one.

Section 5

Before I conclude I should stress that section 4 represents a huge generalization and is based on my perception of situation at the time. If you happen to be a former (or current) FA student and feel that you are unfairly labelled as being part of this enclave that is totally fine. Some kids were very in touch with the people and culture of the Philippines and you might have been one of them. Some kids had almost no contact with anything Filipino, where even a lot of the food they ate was sourced from their home country. My take on all of this is based on how different my MK experience became once I started attending FA.

While there were positives of being with others like us we were also prone to hold an “us vs them” mentality when it came to the other cultures we interacted with. For some kids this caused problems when they tried to fit in back in their home countries since they never felt as connected with people as they had back in school. I know some of them personally. Others were never satisfied where they lived. While they were in the Philippines they couldn’t wait to leave and once they had left they couldn’t wait to return. It is this sense of not being at ease that encouraged the FA culture and the FA culture, in turn, exacerbated the feelings of unease.

*A non-distinct American accent that could not be attributed to any region or state. Some former students might disagree with me on this point but I doubt they are reading this post, so feel free to assume my assertion is 100% correct.

A Tale of Two Saviors

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A Guest Post by Ian

A few years ago, a childhood friend died. Her name is unimportant, so I’ll refer to her as Sally. Sally was 35, so the death was quite unexpected. She had gone into the hospital for a medical procedure relating to her diabetes and died there. Just a routine medical procedure, and the result was the loss of a good person.

Sally and I lived across the street from each other and our families had attended the same church when we were little, as in 5 or 6 years old. Sally’s family moved to another part of the city when she was 8 or 9 and we had infrequent contact which each other; our mothers were the ones who kept in touch.

The church we both attended was a GARB church. When Sally moved, her family attended a sister GARB church and that is where she kept her membership until she died. From all accounts, Sally was semi-active in her church and brought people to services on many occasions.

My family left the first church after my dad realized that the people weren’t truly wanting to live separated lives. We then attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church for 5 or 6 years. After a falling out with this church over the same thing, we moved to another IFB church that had Missionary Baptist roots. Over time, this church fell into the Sovereign Grace/Calvinistic line of belief.

While attending IFB and Calvinistic churches, I learned of a God who hates sinners. I also learned that I was pretty lucky to have either a) accepted Jesus, or b) been chosen by God. Either way, I was part of a select few who were truly saved. Everyone else worshiped false gods and didn’t truly understand salvation.

Fast forward to Sally’s death. I was in the middle of my deconversion when Sally died. I knew I wasn’t a Christian anymore; I was still learning why and figuring out how to put it into words. A family friend called me one day and said that Sally had died. Even though I hadn’t seen her in years, I was heartbroken; she had been my best friend at one time. I called her mom and found out when the funeral was.

The funeral was held at Sally’s church. This was a church I had been to a few times when Sally and I were kids. Walking into the church was like being brought back in time. It was pretty unreal. When the service started, the singing was uplifting and the people were as happy as they could be. This was in stark contrast to the Calvinistic and IFB funerals I was used to attending. The people spoke about Sally and how she loved her church, lived her faith, and showed it by being a good person. Again, quite a contrast to my people who showed their faith by looking down on sinners and calling everyone else evil.

When the pastor spoke, he told the story of an unfamiliar person. He spoke of a God who actually cared about people, this being the reason he sent his son to die. He was concerned for the entire world, not just a select few. He also spoke of a Savior who actually cared about us and was understanding when we failed. Overall, it was a positive sermon. I could actually see why Sally stayed with that church and that message.

I know that you can get almost any belief out of the Bible and then use select verses to support that belief. My people found verses about anger and hatred and used them to beat me up. Sally’s people found verses about love and compassion and kept people that way. (I’m guessing they didn’t teach too much from the Old Testament.)

My point is this, that day I was exposed to a different Savior. The same Jesus, but presented so differently as to be two separate people. I wonder if I had been exposed to the kinder, gentler Savior, would I have still deconverted?

My Encounter With Jesus

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A guest post by Ashu

I was born in a liberal yet religious Hindu family. I am a ritualistic person and I believe in idol- worship, going to temples and in holy chants. Thankfully, I have always been open to embrace the goodness of other religions and since my elder sister studied in a convent, Jesus Christ made an early entry into my life.

Christians were probably the most forward people in our society when I was growing up. Ladies wore skirts, went to church during menstruation, something which is not allowed both in Hinduism as well as Islam. I chose to read Bible, only because of this reason as I could read it all 30 days of the month, without the fear and the guilt of being unholy during some days. I was impressed by New Testament but wondered why do Protestants not worship Mother Mary? The mother has to be divine to produce a divine offspring and thus with times got attracted more towards Catholicism. I was impressed by their idea of service, saw the great work missionaries were doing and marveled that why were other religions not doing so much?

Much later in my life, I was exposed to the conversions of tribal and poor in remote parts of my country. I saw the speeches of great orators who performed miracles and the crowd that gathered. This time I was not impressed as I could see through the façade. I read more literature and realized that sex is considered to be a sin and that is the main reason humans are considered to be sinners. Gosh, the religion was turning out to be regressive. I read stories on how women were burnt alive as they were considered to be having sex with the devil, an allegation they could not counter

Today if someone asks me about my faith in Christ, I would accept, more than that I believe in Mother Mary coz being a Hindu I believe in the divine power of mother and I realize that Christ has nothing to do with the services and conversions that take place in his name. He would listen to my prayer and answer even if I am a Hindu, I need not convert to attract him more.

I have a firm faith and belief that God exists whether he is Christ or Allah or Lord Ganesha, I don’t know but who so ever he is, he is above all these petty differences.