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You Can’t Judge Christianity by the Product it Produces

love with actions not words

You can’t judge Christianity by the product it produces.

Or so I am told.

Even though we judge the veracity of virtually of everything by the product it produces, Christians think that Christianity should be exempt from such examination.

Raise the issue of the disconnect between the way Christians live and the truth they say they believe, and you’ll be told the only issue is the truth of the gospel.

“Christians are hypocrites”

So what. The gospel message is what matters.

“Christians live lives that are not any different from their non-Christian neighbors.”

So what. The gospel message is what matters.

Christians go around with bumper stickers that say “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” and  expect non-Christians to understand.

Non-Christians are told time and again that Jesus is the answer to what ails them.

Jesus will change their life if they will  trust him as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus fixes the broken, heals the hurting, and make every follower of him a new creation.

Jesus forgives sin, wipes the slate clean, and the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer to teach and guide them.

The Bible says Christians have the mind of Christ.

The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect, even as their Father in Heaven is perfect.

Christians are even told in the book of James their lives must be sinless and 1 John says anyone who sins is of the devil.

The Bible also says they are to be holy just like God is holy.

The same Bible that tells us the gospel message that we are told we must accept as truth also presents a Christian lifestyle radically different from how Christians live today.

A lifestyle, it seems, that despite having their sins forgiven, being made a new creature in Christ, and having God live inside them, Christians are unable to live it.

We live in a nation inundated with Christian churches, Christian books, Christian TV and radio. Christianity is the professed religion of 78% of Americans. One out of four Americans are Evangelical. The United States is the most Christian nation on earth.

Yet, for the most part, those who profess they are Christian live are no differently than their non-Christian neighbor.

They preach Jesus is the answer, but the non-Christian looks at the Christian and says “how’s that working out for you?

If Christians truly want to impress the world, if Christians want to give the world a reason to pause and consider the truth of the gospel, then live like it matters.

Stop preaching and start living.

In other word put up or shut up.

While I believe the Bible to be an errant, fallible, non-inspired work of men, if Christians truly lived their lives according to the words of Jesus, it might make me pause for a moment to consider the message of Jesus.

But, I know I am safe. Christians love money, food, power, sex, pleasure, entertainment, material goods, etc just like the rest of us. For all their talk of heaven, they seem to want to stay alive right here on earth with the rest of us.

The product produced shows that the advertising is false.

Change the product and people might start believing the advertising.

I see nothing within Christianity that says to me “come home.”

I like my new  residence.

And I can sleep in on Sunday.

Bruce, What Do You Think of Russell Earl Kelly and His Position on Tithing?

tithing

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.

Byroniac asked:

Bruce, have you ever heard of Russell Earl Kelly and his book, “Should the Church teach tithing?”. And if so, do you plan to blog about it? I promoted it as much as I could, and got ZERO attention for it, probably because I was not important enough to be noticed or because wherever I go I seem to become the proverbial black sheep. Considering that I have lost every single popularity contest I have ever been in, both inside and outside the church, I suppose this is not surprising. Anyways, even as a freethinker now, I still agree with the majority of what this guy teaches about tithing, to the best of my memory.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Russell Earl Kelly:

Russell Earl Kelly is an American Christian theologian, apologist, author, speaker and blogger. He writes nonfictional theological books. Russell is best known for evangelizing and debating why tithing 10% to one’s church is not a Christian obligation…

Russell graduated Cum Laude from Sprayberry High in 1962. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., received 22 semester hours in Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. Russell graduated Cum Laude from Southern Missionary College in Tennessee in 1976, now called Southern University Of Seventh Day Adventist, and served two churches in Georgia, four in North Dakota and one in South Carolina.

Although legally blind since 1989, Russell subsequently completed a Th. M.. and a Ph. D. at independent Baptist-oriented Covington Theological Seminary in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia in August 2000. His dissertation was on the subject of tithing. From that dissertation came his first book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. His second book is Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, published in 2005. His third book, From Gethsemane to Ascension, An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays, February 2008, is in conversational style…

You can check out Kelly’s horrible looking Front Page/Windows 95 era looking website here. According to Sitemeter, the site averages about 500 page views a day. You can read his blog here.

Kelly is a 70-year-old New Covenant Independent Baptist who loves to put PhD after his name and talk about tithing. One would think that Kelly has a degree from a respected university, but he doesn’t. He earned his PhD at Covington Theological Seminary, an unaccredited Independent Baptist institution in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia. Want a doctorate? It will cost you $2,395. Work required? 40 credit hours and a 25,000 to 50,000 word thesis. You can check out Covington’s catalog here.

I have made my view of unaccredited IFB doctorates quite clear in the post IFB Doctorates: Here a Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor. That said, education aside, Byroniac’s question is about Kelly’s view on tithing. While I have not read Kelly’s book, I do think his view on tithing is generally correct. Kelly states:

New Covenant giving is: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love for God, fellow Christians and lost souls. Do not burden or curse God’s poor who struggle to feed and shelter their family. Although there is no set percentage for Christians to give, all should give sacrificially or lower your standards of living in order to further the reach of the Gospel.

Kelly, like many Independent Baptists, is a dispensationalist. There is no possible way for one to be a dispensationalist and still believe tithing is for today. There’s nothing in the New Testament that remotely teaches that Christians should give 10% of their gross income to the church (the storehouse). Preachers who believe in tithing must use Old Testament proof texts to prop up their beliefs. IFB preachers pretty much ignore the commands of the Old Testament except for the verses on tithing, women wearing men’s clothing, and sodomy. Many preachers added to the tithe requirement demands for special offerings and Faith Promise missionary offerings. It is not uncommon to see poor IFB church members giving 10-20% of their income to the church, believing that if they did so God would open the windows of heaven and pour them out a blessing. Like their faith healing counterparts, IFB preachers promise wonderful blessings from God if people will just open their wallet and give an above 10% offering to God.

While I think that Earl Kelly, based on what I have read on his blog and website, is full of himself, I do think he is essentially correct when it comes to tithing and what the New Testament teaches about giving. His teachings haven’t caught on because, for many churches, abandoning the tithe would bankrupt them and force their preacher to get a real job. Preachers have a vested interest in maintaining good cash flow and the tithe is the best way to do so.

When Polly and I were first married, we were tithers. We also gave a lot of money to missions and every time the church took a special offering we gave liberally. I would preach sermons on tithing, rebuking those who were stealing from God. I would preach from Malachi 3:8-10 sermons about those who robbed God:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

As my theology began to evolve and I was influenced by New Covenant theology and Calvinism, I came to see that tithing was an Old Testament command no longer in force. This change in belief was helpful because it allowed me to put an end to me receiving a pittance of a salary and then making it even more of a pittance by giving a tithe and offering. It made no sense for me to tithe when the church was not even paying me a living wage. Now, in the end, we often gave more than 10% of our income to the church or to parachurch ministries. Instead of seeing the church as the bank through which all funds must go, we gave some money to the church and then helped ministries and individuals as God led us to do so. Buying a homeless man a meal was just as important as giving the church $20.

Generally, I think most churches have way too much money and are poor stewards of what they do have. I had a banker in Somerset, Ohio tell me one time that I would be shocked if he told me how much money many of the local churches had on deposit. He told me this because he thought the church I pastored was different, knowing that we rarely had a $100 checking account balance.

I was of the opinion that money was meant to be spent. Yes, take care of the church building, fund ministries, and pay the preacher. Anything above that should be spent on ministering to others. The last church I pastored was sitting on a pile of money and the first thing I did was help them spend it. They had so much money in the bank that they hadn’t balanced the checkbook in years. I balanced the account for them and found that they had $5,000 more than they thought they did. In the seven months I was there, I had the church spend money on remodeling the building. Quite frankly, it was a dump. Of course, the church was fine with spending the money. Doing the actual construction work? A handful of men did all the work. Most of the members were quite happy to let others do the work. They were too busy bitching about the remodel to help, complaining about everything from wall and carpet colors to lighting. I lasted seven months and was so glad “God” led me elsewhere.

Do you have a tithing or giving story to share? I’d love to hear it. Please share your story in the comment section.

Note

You can download Kelly’s book here.

Paul Cohen thinks Kelly is a false prophet.

Bruce, What Do Think of the Marjoe Gortner Story?

young marjoe gortner
Marjoe Gortner

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:

Hi Bruce .. what do you think of the Marjoe story?

For those not familiar with Marjoe Gortner:

Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.

He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…

…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.

They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings,[7] and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…

…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.

In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…

If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.

Video Link

Video Link

As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.

When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?

Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.

When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?

In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.

As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:

In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.

My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.

I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?

Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.

1972 Roger Ebert Interview with Marjoe.

Marjoe Gortner by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman

Note

If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,

Bruce, Did You Encourage Church Members to Think for Themselves?

think for yourself

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

Appalachian Agnostic asked:

When you were a pastor, did you encourage church goers to think for themselves or did you prefer that they accepted everything you preached without measuring it against their own perceptions?

If I had been asked this question when I was a pastor, I would have answered YES! I encouraged people to read and study the Bible. I recommended books that I thought would be helpful in their walk with God. Some of the fundamentalist churches I grew up in discouraged intellectual pursuit. In their mind, all a Christian needed was the Holy Spirit, a sound Bible preaching church, a God-called pastor, and a Scofield King James Version Bible. Church members were encouraged to be people of the book. Better to know THE one book well than to have read thousands of books and not thoroughly know and understand the one book that matters.

By the time I started pastoring churches, I had begun reading orthodox theological books, never straying beyond safe, theologically correct authors. So, I recommended church members read and expand their theological horizons, but I made sure they only read books that were written by Evangelicals. I was encouraging them to “think” but only within the box I provided for them. So the real answer to the question is NO!

I never would have recommended books written by liberal Christians or people like Bart Ehrman. According to the Bible,  I was to watch and care for their souls, making sure they weren’t led astray by false teachers. In doing so, I kept them safe from the wolves that roamed outside the door of the church. I wrote about this in The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box.

While I expected people to check my preaching by the Word of God, I also expected them to trust me. After all, I was the man of God, the one God had appointed to be their teacher. And quite frankly, when it came to knowing and understanding theology, I was at the head of the class in every church I pastored. As is the case in most churches, members took my word for it. Their theology was actually my theology. At one church, I became quite Calvinistic in my theology and began aggressively teaching the five points of Calvinism. Only one family had a problem with what I was preaching. Everyone else? Sure preacher, we’ll take your word for it.

Generally, I found that most church members were not interested in diligently studying the Bible or reading theology books. One reason for this is that they had a life and very little time to devote to such pursuits. I was paid to study the Bible and read books. A great gig for someone like me, but it is unfair for a pastor to expect church members to spend the same amount of time he does studying the Bible and reading theological books. When church members did read, they read light Christian romance novels or fiction. This used to drive me crazy. I was, and still am, a non-fiction reader. I very rarely read fiction. My thinking  is, why read fiction when you can read TRUE stories? I now know that church members often read fiction because it allows them to escape or to fantasize. Fiction allowed them to check out from the grueling grind of life and enter a world of suspense, intrigue, and temptation. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion were no match for Erica Jong.

Dear Evangelical, If The Christian Gospel is True

sharing the gospel

Dear Evangelical,

I have some questions for you.

  • Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?
  • Do you believe the Bible is true?
  • Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
  • Do you believe salvation is found in Jesus alone?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to be saved?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to go to heaven after they die?
  • Do you believe the unsaved/non-Christian/unbeliever will go to hell when they die?
  • Do you believe death could happen at any moment?
  • Do you believe this life is preparation for the life to come?
  • Do you believe the church has the obligation to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person?
  • Do you believe you can tell what a person believes is important by how they spend their time and how they spend their money?

Pretty straightforward questions. Not much room to wiggle, debate or excuse.

Most Evangelicals would say yes to most, if not all, of these questions.

Now, if I  really believed that hell was real, death was certain, and Jesus was the only hope for humanity, I would spend every waking hour telling this to others. I would live simply and spend my money  on making sure this message got out to the world. I would not waste one moment of my time with the frivolous things of this world, using that time to witness to others.

Surely, if what Evangelicals say they believe is true, the message JESUS SAVES is the most important message ever given to humanity.

Easter is the Christian proclamation that Jesus, the son of God, died on the cross for our sin and on the third day rose again from the dead conquering death and hell. Truly there is VICTORY IN JESUS.

And all the people said, Amen.

So, explain something to me. Be honest.

Why is it most that  Evangelicals LIVE like what I wrote above is a complete falsehood?

Most Evangelicals never share their faith with anyone.

Many churches go years without adding one new convert to their membership.

Most Evangelicals live, behave, and die just like their non-Christian neighbors, family, and friends.

It seems that Evangelicals don’t really believe what they are preaching.

I am not pointing a finger at you.

I am just asking for you to be honest.

If Jesus is the answer to all life’s questions.

If Jesus satisfies every longing a soul has.

If Jesus will clean up and change  sinners.

If hell is real.

If heaven is real.

If death is certain.

Why do you live like none of this is true?

How many people did you share the gospel with last week? Last month? Last year? Since you have been a Christian?

How about your pastor? For all his talk about the gospel, how many people has he personally witnessed to this week? Last month? Last year? Since he entered the ministry?

How many new members have joined  your church because they were witnessed to by a member of your church? (transfers from other churches don’t count)

How many new convert baptisms took place at your church last year?

My point in this little exercise is this: talk is cheap.

You want others to become a Christian.

You want others to follow Jesus.

Why should they?

If you don’t really believe the gospel, why should you expect anyone else to?

Here is my take on that matter.

Religion is a personal matter.

Even though the Bible says it is not, you live like it is, so you must believe it is.

Since it is a personal matter, each of us should be free to worship or not worship.

One thing we all agree on..

We all are going to die.

Let’s agree to leave the afterlife to the afterlife.

I am willing to settle up with God after I die.

Life would be so much better for everyone if each of us had the liberty to live life freely without being evangelized or coerced into making a religious profession. (and let’s be honest, a lot of the evangelistic techniques used by Evangelicals is coercion.)

This does not mean we can’t talk about religion. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the Bible.

But, let’s talk as fellow citizens of earth. Let’s talk as people who have in common humanity.

If we do this, you are relieved of the burden of witnessing and I am relieved of being an evangelistic target.

Let’s just be you and me.

Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham is the CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Ham is also working on a project called The Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark theme park. Ham is a Bible literalist who believes the universe is 6,019 years old. Ham believes that Genesis 1-3 accurately and completely explains how the universe came into existence. In his mind, evolution is a lie spawned by Satan to deceive the masses. If asked if he believes in the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture, Ham would reply with a resounding YES!  But, I have conclusive proof that Ken Ham does NOT  believe in the sufficiency of the Christian Bible. I know this is shocking, but it is time for me to expose young earth creationist Ken Ham as a Bible-denying liberal.

ark plans

In a recent blog post, Ham had a picture of engineers going over the plans for the Ark Encounter project. WHAT?, I thought to myself. Why does Ham need plans for the Noah’s Ark replica? Isn’t God’s word sufficient for the building of the Ark?  God made it very clear how he wanted the Ark built, from its composition to its size:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:14-16)

Surely this is enough information for a 21st century engineer and construction company to build the Ark? Surely they don’t think their knowledge is superior to that found in the inspired, infallible, inerrant, Word of the thrice Holy God who said in the book of John the Revelator, chapter 22:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

How dare Ken Ham go against the authority and sufficiency of the Words of God!! How dare he make up his own plans and ignore the plans of God, the divine architect!  I am calling Ken Ham out on his Bible-denying Noah’s Ark plans. I am calling on  One Millions Moms,  American Family AssociationFamily Research CouncilFocus on the FamilyHSLDABob Jones UniversityLiberty UniversityOhio University and all the other colleges on the Ken Ham approved list of creationist colleges, to cut ties with Ham over his denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I am calling on Evangelical Christian schools and homeschoolers to stop buying Answers in Genesis materials and stop taking field trips to the Creation Museum. For God’s sake man, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!  What’s next? Building a replica of the New Jerusalem and ignoring God’s architectural and engineering plans? Ham must be stopped lest others follow in his pernicious ways!

Note

For the Bible literalists who read this post and are outraged, please look up the word satire in the 1828 edition of Webster Dictionary.

 

Who Comes Before What

who what

What are you?

What am I?

How can you know what I am until you know who I am?

Who I am explains what I am.

But we have little time for knowing who anyone is.

Labels please.

Declare yourself.

Christian.

Atheist.

Agnostic.

Spiritual.

Buddhist.

Muslim.

Republican.

Democrat.

Libertarian.

Liberal.

Conservative.

Shall I go on?

Busy. Busy. Busy.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Blog.

Texting.

Quick, immediate.

In a 140 characters or less what are you?

But I told you that you can not understand what I am until you understand who I am.

Who I am requires far more than 140 characters.

More than a Facebook comment.

Far more than a blog post.

Who I am requires time.

And effort.

And patience.

Too much work you say?

Then I feel no compulsion to tell you what I am.

The who comes before the what.

What is all people seem to want to know about me.

Pigeonhole.

Classify.

Categorize.

Label.

Dismiss.

I am far more complicated than your attempts to what me before you who me.

So  pigeonhole, classify, categorize and label me

but by no means know me.

Catholic Man Offended by Hindu Neighbor’s Statute of Shiva

shiva

Here’s a story from New Zealand that perfectly reveals how clueless many Christians are about how their beliefs are perceived by others. I guess if you have always been the playground bully, you have no concern for the little guy. In this story, a Catholic man, who has no problem with Christian crosses, gets upset when his Hindu neighbors erects a statute of Shiva: (link no longer active)

A religious spat has broken out between two neighbours in rural Auckland after one erected a 6.4m statue of the Hindu god Shiva.

Ravin Chand told the Herald on Sunday that he installed the 30-tonne religious effigy so that he and his family could pray to it.

But neighbour Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was “bizarre” and “offensive”.

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree

“I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

It took Chand more than a week to assemble the statue and he defended it saying it was part of Hindu culture. “It’s just that the size is a bit bigger,” he said.

Asked why he had mounted the giant deity, Chand said: “Do you need a reason to pray? I don’t think so.”…

…Chand said the correct council consent and geo-technical inspections were completed beforehand. But Watts said he was not informed about the proposed statue, and said it was “bizarre” it could be erected without any consultation with neighbouring properties.

“They’ve let it go ahead to be built without consulting us, and we’re probably the most affected here because everywhere we go on our property it’s kind of there.”

Watts said he had complained to Chand but there was little else he could do because the Auckland Council had already consented to it being built.

“I’ve been to the council and asked about it and evidently it was within their rights to do it and it doesn’t need a permit, even though it’s a 6.4m-high concrete statue.

“It’s 10m from our boundary which is within the rules where you can build a building. It’s like, ‘bad luck, if you don’t like it, it’s your problem’. I find it really hard to believe in this day and age that this can happen.”

Chand said Watts had phoned his wife – but was the only person to complain. “Everybody else who has gone past has stopped and admired it,” he said.

“[Watts] compared it with ‘me putting up a [Nazi] swastika next door to you’. I said, ‘Well if you want to put it up, feel free to put it up. Nobody can stop you from doing that, it’s your property.’

“I’m not bothered. I haven’t got time for people like that.”

Chand added there were many churches in the area, but no one complained about them…

Here’s the money quote:

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree. I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

Funny, I’ve had that same feeling about Evangelical Christianity.

My wife and I worship nature. We bought our home and land eight years ago. When we bought it, it had two spacious old trees, a large peony patch, a flaming azalea, and a few flower bulbs. Each spring and fall we have planted trees, bushes, flowers, and bulbs. We plan to turn our yard into an Atheist Garden of Eden. Now, our neighbors may not like what we have planted. Perhaps our newly planted trees and bushes blocks their view of our house. Should we give one moment’s thought to their like or dislike? Of course not. As long as we respect property lines and conform to zoning and constructions standards, what we do is no ones business but ours. If one our neighbors wants to put up a gawdy statue of the virgin Mary that’s none of our concern, and they shouldn’t care one bit about what we do with our yard. Live and let live, right?

Now, we don’t really worship nature, but you get my point. Christianity may deeply influence the culture we live in, but once we cross our property line, we have entered the Kingdom of Hitch and our God demands we help clean the air by planting trees, bushes, and flowers. We gladly comply because our God richly blesses us with wondrous colors and beauty. While the Catholic might find beauty in a tortured man nailed to an old rugged cross, Polly and I find beauty in the ebb and flow of the natural world. Like the Christian, we can sing, Our God is an Awesome God.

Note

Memo to Christians. Invoking Hitler or the Nazi’s is always a bad idea.

I should also note that we did take our neighbors into account when we determined what type of trees to plant. Since we spend days each fall raking up leaves from trees on properties not our own, we wanted to make sure we did not add to our neighbors workload by planting trees that would deposit leaves on their property.

Sacrilegious Humor: God is Drunk at a Party by Jim Jefferies

This is the first installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit 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 email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is God is Drunk at a Party  by Jim Jefferies, an Australian stand-up comedian, actor and writer.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Joseph Smith American Moses by The Book of Mormon Cast

This is the twenty-fourth 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 Joseph Smith American Moses, sung  by the cast of the Broadway play, The Book of Mormon.

Warning! Song contains curse words.

Video Link

Lyrics

And now we wish to honor you with
The story of Joseph Smith, the American Moses

Well, this is very good, praise Christ

Mormon

I’m going to take you back in time
(Mormon)
To the United States, 1823
(Mormon)

A small and odd village called Upstate New York
(Upstate)
There was disease and famine
(So sick)

But also in this village lived a simple farmer
Who would change everything
His name was Joseph Smith

Hiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiya Joseph Smith, American Moses
Praise be to Joseph, American prophet man

Aye, my name is Joseph Smith
And I am going to fuck this baby
What?

No no Joseph, don’t fuck the baby
Joseph Smith, don’t fuck the baby

Suddenly the clouds parted
And Joseph Smith was visited by God
Joseph Smith, do not fuck a baby
I will get rid of your AIDS, if you fuck this frog

Hiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiya

Joseph Smith fucked the frog God gave him
And his AIDS went away
Then a great wizard named Moroni came down
From the Starship Enterprise

Joseph Smith, your village is shit
You shall lead the villagers to a new village
Take these fucking golden plates

Away

And on the plates were written the directions to a new land
Sal Tlay Ka Siti
(Sal Tlay Ka Siti)
Joseph tried to convince all the villagers
To follow him and his golden plates

Liberation, equality
No more slavery for Upstate Mormon people

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m gonna lead the people
(We head West)

We gotta stick together
(Mormons)
We gotta help each other
(We’re Mormons)

And so we climb the mountain
(We head West)
And we cross the river
(We head West)

And we fight the oppression
(Mormons)
By being nice to everyone
(We are Mormons)

Not so fast Mormons, you shall not pass my mountain

Down from the mountain look who comes
The American warlord Brigham Young

Yes, I am Brigham Young
I cut off my daughter’s clitoris
That made God angry so he turned my nose
Into a clit for punishment

Brigham Young, his nose was a clitoris
What will you do Joseph, will you fight the clitoris man

Not fight him, help him

Oh

Joseph Smith took his magical fuck frog
And rubbed it upon Brigham Young’s clit face
And behold Brigham was cured

Joseph Smith magical AIDS frog
Brigham Young, frog on his clit face

Brigham Young was so grateful
He decided to join the Mormons on their journey

Compassion, cutesy
Let’s be really fucking polite to everyone

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m gonna lead the people
(We head West)
We gotta stick together
(Mormons)

Now comes the part of our story that gets a little bit sad
(Oh)
After traveling for so long, the Mormons ran out of fresh water
And become sick with dysentery

Water go to the water, water go to the cup
Cup go to the stomach, shit come out the butt
Shit go in the water, water go in the cup
Shit go down the stomach, shit come out the butt

Ugh, oh fuck
Oh no, the prophet Joseph Smith is now getting sick

Shit go in the water, water go in the cup
Cup go to the thirsty, shit go to the stomach
Blood come out the butt, blood go in the water
Water go in the cup, cup go to the tongue
Shit blood in the stomach, shit blood in the mouth
Shit blood on the insides, water come out the butt

Brigham Young you must take the golden plates
And lead the Mormons to the Promised Land
Plghh
Desperation, mortality, loss of faith

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m got to lead the people
(We head West)
We gotta stick together

Even though their prophet had died
The Mormons stuck together
And helped each other and were really nice
To everyone they came across

And then one day the Mormons finally found
Sal Tlay Ka Siti
(Sal Tlay Ka Siti)
And there, the Mormons danced with Ewoks
And were greeted by Jesus

Welcome Mormons
Now, let’s all have as many babies as we can
And make big Mormon families

Fuck your woman, fuck your man
This is all part of God’s plan
Mormons fuck all that they can
We’re in Salt Lake City land

Thank you, thank you but now we are fucking
Thank you, thank you, but God wants us fucking
Thank you, thank you, but get back to fucking
Thank you, thank you, God

Joseph Smith fuck frog
Brigham Young clit face
Shit come out the butt
Jesus says fuck, fuck
Mormons

 

Selflessness: Are Atheists Only Concerned with Themselves?

Here’s a graphic one of my son’s sent me from their Facebook news feed:

selflessness

As they read this, thousands of atheists hit head on table and mutter, really, this old canard? Let me kill this thinking in one, swift easy statement.  If selflessness is consistent with Evangelical Christianity, why are so many Christians selfish? Bam! Shut the door!

People who post things like this have the IQ of a walnut. Rather than THINK they post. No thinking Christian would EVER claim that selflessness is the domain of Christianity. All the Christian has to do is think about all the selfless non-Christians who have helped them over the years and all the selfish Christians who haven’t.

If the question is, can the morality taught in the Bible lead to a life if selflessness, then the answer is yes. But, the same could be said for humanism and other ethical and religious systems of belief. Christianity has no corner on the selflessness market. If anything, American Evangelical behavior often reveals a crass indifference to the plight and suffering of others. The Republican clown bus is rapidly filling up with men and women who want to be President in 2016. All of them profess to be a Christian, yet their policies are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. Only one candidate for President, Bernie Williams, has dared to challenge the American capitalistic system, which is, by design, a heartless, selfish system of economics. Again, I am having a hard time seeing the Christianity selflessness connection.

Many Evangelicals wrongly think that atheism is a moral and ethical system of thought. It’s not. Atheism is, and will always remain the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. Me telling someone I am an atheist tells them nothing about my morals or ethics. The fact that I think evolution best explains the natural world says nothing about my morality or ethics. Evolution is a statement of fact. There are Christians who are evolutionists. A conundrum…Christian=selfless Evolutionist=selfishness. Just another two-cent reason why the whole Christians are selfless argument is groundless.

As a humanist, I live my life according to the principles of humanism. These principles are succinctly stated in the Humanist Manifesto III:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

  • Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.
  • Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.
  • Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.
  • Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.
  • Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.
  • Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

As I try to live by the humanist ideal, I am ever aware of how far from the ideal I am. I would never say to anyone that unless they become a humanist they have no capacity for selflessness. Humans are social creatures who thrive in interdependent relationships. Rare is the person who wants solitude and loneliness. Thousands of people read this blog because they want the sense of community and connections that comes from doing do. Facebook is a hit because we desire to connect with like-minded people. We want to belong. As part of a tribe or group, we help those we have a connection with. If I had a serious medical need and required $10,000 to save my life, I know that a mere mention of this by my fellow bloggers and Facebook friends would result in the need being met. Why would people who have never met me face to face selflessly help me? It is our humanness and the bond we have with one another that drives us to selflessly help others. Are we always selfless? Of course not. All of us, Christian or not, can be a selfish asshole, thinking only of what’s best for ourselves. But, more often than not, atheist, humanist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindi, pagan, or Buddhist, when called upon, will selflessly help others.

Years ago, I was at Sam’s Club checking out and in the line next to me was an Asian young man trying to buy some stuff for his Mom’s restaurant. The cashier wouldn’t let the man make a purchase because he was using his Mom’s membership card. The man spoke with broken English and was thoroughly embarrassed by how the cashier was treating him. I left my line and went over the cashier and gave her a piece of my mind. And then I told her to put his stuff on my card and he could pay me for it. Now she was the one thoroughly embarrassed, having been called out for her ill-treatment of the Asian man. She quickly corrected course and took care of the man’s order. As he left, he looked to me and said thanks. I said, no problem. Did I do what I did because I was a Christian? Of course not. I have no tolerance for those who berate and belittle others. In other words, I don’t like assholes and that’s why I came to the man’s defense.

When I come in contact with others, I do my best to be kind and considerate. A year or so ago, I had a meltdown at the local Meijer customer service desk. The young woman running the desk didn’t help me as I thought she should in the time I had allotted for her to do so. I told her, forget it, and walked away.  Everything was fine until I swiftly turned around and went back to the desk and shouted, and you don’t give a SHIT do you! Polly helplessly stood by while I made a public spectacle of myself. She didn’t say a word, but by the time we were half way home I realized that I had acted like a first class asshole. As soon as I got home I called the customer service desk and talked to the young woman who had been the subject of my anger. I apologized for my behavior. Several times she told me, that’s OK. I told her, no it’s not. No one should treat someone like I treated you. The next time I was at the store she let me know that she appreciated me apologizing.  She told me that she had never had a customer apologize for treating her like shit.

You see, I am a saint and a sinner. I can act selflessly and I can act selfishly. No one has the selfless market cornered. Take the drowning story in the graphic above.  Does any Christian REALLY believe that an atheist would idly sit by and so nothing while someone drowns? I am a cripple. Anyone who sees me knows I have problems getting around. I have had uncounted people extend kindness and courtesy to me as I try to navigate a store, stadium, or restaurant. Yes, I have met a few selfish people who wouldn’t offer me help if my life depended on it, but they are the exception to the rule. Even when I complain about how people often ignore someone in a wheelchair, I don’t think they are being selfish as much as lacking in instruction about people with disabilities.

The underlying issue is that many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, believe that morality comes from God and that without God a person cannot act morally and ethically. When challenged with examples of godless people who act morally and ethically, Christians often attack the motive for the godless person’s good behavior. The atheist is acting selflessly because they have an ulterior motive, they say. How can they know this? Can we really know the motives of others? Besides, isn’t the moral and ethical behavior of the Christian predicated on gaining a divine payoff, a mansion in heaven and eternal life? Whose the selfish person now?

As a humanist, I am deeply interested in seeing my progeny thrive. Because I love them and desire their company, I try to protect them from injury and harm. Because I desire to live in peace and harmony, I do my best to be a selfless member of the human race and the community I live in.  I don’t need the threat of hell and judgment or the promise of heaven and eternal life to motivate me to act according to the humanist ideal. My country, community, tribe, and family are important to me and because they are I act accordingly. Why is that so many Evangelicals fail to understand this? Why do they arrogantly think that morality, ethics, and selflessness are the domain of their religion alone? Why are they deliberately blind to overwhelming evidence that suggests that every person has within themselves the power to act morally, ethically, and selflessly?

Perhaps it is selfishness that drives their blindness? Imagine what would happen if people realized that living a moral,ethical, and selfless life does not require Christianity. Once the threat of hell and the promise of heaven is removed from the equation, people are less likely to join up with fundamentalist religious sects. Instead of looking for the one road that leads to heaven, they could choose one of the many road that lead to a virtuous, well-lived life. Imagine people doing good and acting selflessly because it is the right thing to do, not because they fear God or covetously desire a divine payoff after death.

Come Get Your Miracle at The Church on Fire

Several weeks ago, Polly and I were in Fort Wayne to attend a baseball game. Polly made a wrong turn and we ended up driving by The Church on Fire, a United Pentecostal church. United Pentecostal churches are also called oneness churches because of their denial of Trinitarian theology. Here’s a few photographs of the church’s sign and its unique roadside prayer box.

church on fire fort wayne 2015-3

church on fire fort wayne 2015-1

church on fire fort wayne 2015-2