Do lower classes vote against their own interests?

I recently stumbled across a thought-provoking picture I want to comment on.

Why poor and middle class Republicans vote against their own interest.   "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.  Hell, give him someone to look down on and he'll empty his pockets for you."  Lyndon Johnson.
Poor Republicans voting against their interests?

I have mixed feelings here.

The landscape of racism has changed

On the one hand, I think that one cannot apply this quote straightforwardly to modern America (let alone to the modern Western world as a whole).

Luckily, horrendous discriminations against black people sanctioned by the law belong to the past. The large majority of modern-day Republicans believe in racial equality and the racist demagogy Johnson rightly decried isn’t very likely to be found nowadays.

There is no denial that black people are still suffering from revolting injustices, such as the consequences of the war on drug. But politicians demeaning them for getting white votes have obviously become much rarer.

In the modern Western World (at least in France and to a much more limited extent in Germany) one can clearly see the existence of an anti-white racism I have partially documented here.

There is a dangerous imbalance here: while racism against blacks and Arabs is (rightly!) as severely combated as it must be, anti-white racism is almost always swept under the carpet. This situation is one of the reasons why the fascist party “Front National” is progressively becoming the first political power of France. This can only foster a vicious circle of hatred.

This is why I consider it absolutely necessary to take all racisms seriously and combat them in the same manner.

The fact that white slave holders have committed atrocities during the course of history gives no justification whatsoever for bullying a young white boy in a schoolyard just because he appears to have the same skin color.

Many Western liberals (I prefer to call them Slaves of Political Correctness (SPC)  ) are upholding the myth that white males can only be oppressors and never be oppressed by other groups.

This refusal to face reality promotes extremism and creates an explosive situation which has already taken a dramatic shape in France.

Even if this makes me extremely unpopular, I must urge my fellow progressives to become real impartial enemies of injustice wherever it is found.

Poverty in America and political manipulation

10 things you should know about poverty in America.   1) 15.1 percent of population 2) Increase of 20% since 1962 3) Economic growth doesn't fix poverty. 4) American in deep poverty.
Poverty in America

On the other hand, I think that Johnson is completely right that the lower classes (and actually even the middle classes) are manipulated in Western democracies, especially America.

It is obvious that  the lack of social protection and unconditional access to healthcare goes against their interest.

As I pointed out in my last post, the idea that an invisible hand automatically takes care of everything is a wicked myth.

Self-interest + competition = invisible hand
The Invisible hand at work.

At most, such a process can only ensure the survival of wild capitalism which solely blesses a small wealthy minority.

Poor people who are voting for proponents of unlimited capitalism compound their misery in one of the worst ways one could imagine.

As a Christian, it sickens me to see the Christian Right misusing religion for upholding revolting inequalities.

In that respect, they fulfill Karl Marx’s verdict that religion is the “opium of the folk”.

Fortunately, it does not need to be.

At Patheos progressive Christian, Fred Clark did a great job debunking one of their favorite verses used for arguing against a charitable and compassionate State.

If we are sincerely concerned about justice, love and the suffering of innocents, we ought to reject political and economical structures leading to inhumanity.

I think there is overwhelming evidence that a society where the fight against poverty is limited to personal private donations is a fiery hell for the needy.

We need judicial laws instead of anarchy because we cannot count on all or  even most people freely choosing to avoid evil.

Likewise, we need laws protecting the poor instead of economical anarchy because we cannot expect a sufficient number of wealthy people to make donations large enough for meeting the needs of all of those suffering from poverty.

While I myself reject the concept of inherited sinful nature taught by Western Christianity, I think that the second point should be obvious to anyone believing that every human being is wicked from his birth on.

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Gay marriage and the fall of American civilization?

I recently stumbled across a short article of prominent Evangelical philosopher, theologian and apologist William Lane Craig where he laments the inexorable progression of same-sex marriage into the heart of America.

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Something very significant happened over this past weekend that we need to be alert to. As you probably know, several weeks ago the Supreme Court refused to hear a case concerning a federal district court’s decision to strike down all of the pro-marriage laws that have been passed by various states – Idaho, Oklahoma, and others out west. These were regarded as unconstitutional because they declared marriage to be between a man and a woman, or in other words, they prohibited same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court refused to hear the decision, thereby in effect ratifying same-sex marriage in the United States by judicial fiat.

When this happened, I just felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. I struck me that the whole American culture had just shifted. Yet there was no outcry; there was no great protest. This event passed almost silently, it seemed. It is astonishing the degree to which people’s thinking about marriage has changed so rapidly. It made me wonder: where is the United States heading morally? The institution of marriage lies at the very foundations of culture. Have we passed a kind of tipping point, now that marriage is no longer between a man and a woman, and is our culture just going to continue to decline from here? It is very disturbing when you think about this sort of trend on into the rest of the century and the next century.

But then I was absolutely stunned to read in the newspaper last Saturday morning that a different federal district court has upheld the ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan and Ohio and certain other mid-Western states. This virtually guarantees that the Supreme Court is going to have to take the case now because you have got two federal district courts at least (actually there are more) that are in contradiction with each other on the question whether or not the states have the right to pass laws saying that marriage is between a man and a woman only.

So this is probably going to go to the Supreme Court. According the paper it will probably be heard around next April or so. For me, at least, this is a call for renewed and intense prayer about this Supreme Court case. I have personally decided to covenant with the Lord to pray every day about this decision until the Supreme Court renders it – to keep the Supreme Court in prayer that these justices will make the right decision, or that if God so wills he might remove one of these justices and replace him or her with a different justice who would make a right decision.

This is entirely within God’s power to do. The Lord hasn’t seen fit in the past to save us from our own folly in this way, but I don’t think that is a reason not to pray. I would encourage you to think about this in your own life, too – whether or not this might be a matter about which you would covenant to pray. For this case truly represents a huge cultural watershed for the United States.

I appreciate that Christians differ on the question of whether or not same-sex marriage should be allowed. I think a lot of younger Christians especially have a sort of inclusivist attitude, thinking: how does it affect heterosexual marriages if you also allow marriage between same-sex partners? It doesn’t make any difference. It is just wider and broader, but it doesn’t affect anything, so it is all right. This attitude is very naïve. Since marriage is not a private institution but a civic institution – a public institution –, it carries with it certain civil rights that must be respected in the public square. What this means is that those who continue to regard marriage as exclusively heterosexual in nature are going to have their civil rights infringed or trampled upon. This is already happening. There was a court case in Massachusetts where a wedding photographer declined to film a same-sex wedding ceremony because he didn’t believe in same sex marriage. He was taken to court and had to pay $6,000 for not doing this. There is a wedding chapel in Idaho that is now under threat of being closed because the owners don’t want to perform same-sex marriages in their chapel. Their decision is regarded as civil discrimination.

So the idea that there can be a sort of peaceful co-existence of two concepts of marriage is just naïve; it is not true. When I’ve talked to homosexual activists at academic conferences, they acknowledge this themselves. They say the peaceful co-existence view is a naïve view. If same-sex marriage goes through, it is going to change things. That is exactly the activists’ intention. One of them said to me, “Really, same-sex marriage is old hat. That is not really what this is all about. We don’t think that marriage is an institution that should be recognized by the government at all. It is discriminatory for the government to give special privileges and benefits to people because they are married.”

So the same sex marriage issue is really just a thin-entering wedge to deconstruct marriage altogether. How does one do it? By denying that marriage has an essence or nature. Marriage is not essentially between a man and a woman. Rather, on such a postmodernist view, marriage is a social convention akin to driving on the right-hand or left-hand side of the road. There is no objective truth about it. So you can define it any way you want. If we go that route – if we deny that marriage has an essence and is just a social convention – then, of course, it is completely malleable and can be turned into anything. So the drive for same sex marriage is actually an attempt to deconstruct marriage under the mask of obtaining equal rights, marriage equality, and so forth. But that is not the real issue.

I feel free to speak about this issue because I think it is not merely political. It seems to me that this issue is deeply spiritual and moral and, frankly, does represent a kind of watershed moment in American culture. The institution of marriage itself is under assault. So I hope that some of you will join with me in praying for our Supreme Court as we approach this decision.

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My response follows.
______

Dear professor Craig,

I thank you so much for allowing comments on your blog. Even if I don’t expect any answer from you, given your overloaded schedule, I want to let you know my own response to what you just wrote.

It is fair to say we’ve very different starting points. You hold fast to Biblical inerrancy (as defined by the Chicago statement) whereas I’m a progressive Christian believing that the different Biblical authors might speak with conflicting voices on some topics.

Nevertheless, both of us are sincerely trying to follow the Risen Christ and we both agree that the entire Christian ethics can be traced back to Love (for God and, which is equivalent, for one’s neighbor).

And this is why I am NOT opposed to Gay marriage.
God made the Sabbath for man and not man for the Sabbath. It stands to reason that a perfectly good God would not forbid us things arbitrarily , that is to say according to his good pleasure.
Therefore, if something is wrong and forbidden, it must be harmful either for the individual or for society (I don’t limit “harm” to physical pain but also include anything hindering us from becoming better persons and growing in Love).

Therefore, if homosexuality is wrong, it must be detrimental in some ways. But all available evidence shows us that lifelong committed gay couples are not being harmed or impaired in their cultivation of love when compared to heterosexual couples.

https://i0.wp.com/paoladepaolaweddings.com/wp-content/uploads/PaolaDePaola_Alex_Audr_Eng_LR_027.jpg

Since I reject the idea that a morally perfect being could issue arbitrary laws, I reject the idea that God prohibits Gay marriage.

You wrote that you “just felt as if you had been kicked in the stomach”.

Are you feeling the same way towards poor children not receiving any decent healthcare even if they suffer from life-threatening conditions?
Are you grieving about this Christian psychotic man who is going to be put to death in Texas for murders stemming from his sick and irresponsible mind?
Are you saddened by the prison industry which (by using the war on drugs) puts countless black and other socially disadvantaged people into jails, thereby ruining their whole lives?

Should these egregious and tragic states of affairs not be “a call for renewed and intense prayer”?
It seems to me that the priorities of American Conservative Evangelicals aren’t really the same as those of the Biblical writers.

Finally, let me say that I respect Conservative Christians disagreeing with me on homosexuality.

I do NOT approve of resorting to propaganda and judicial power to silence political opponents.

I radically oppose bullying opponents to Gay marriage.

I can’t fully sympathize with the Gay lobby due to all their excesses and lovelessness.

I agree that a part of the movement wants to abolish marriage and promote any lifestyle causing no direct and immediate harm. This is something I am strongly opposed to and I think that any form of relationship not fostering the growth of selfless love, commitment, humility and kindness should be rejected.
This is why I don’t approve of One Night Stands and of polygamy, even if for many Biblical writers, God had no problem whatsoever with the latter.

I am deeply convinced that your belief that combating Gay marriage should be one of the main priorities of modern Christians is profoundly misguided and dangerous for the Church.

To my mind, the greatest wickedness of the American society consists of caring more for the rights of a small wealthy minority while failing to meet the basic needs of the poorest part of the population.

This is objectively wrong and egregious. And this is something which should lead any Perfect Being to disapprove of (or even “curse” if you prefer) a culture.

Sincerely and fraternally yours.

Culture war: On loving one’s enemy and winning an argument

If you had the choice between both options, which outcome would you favor?

Keeping a friendly and respectful tone during the whole discussion, even if this might give to outsiders the impression that your cherished ideas aren’t quite airtight?

Or demolishing your adversaries with your words so that most people would perceive your rhetorical victory as the superiority of your beliefs?

Sadly, countless folks at the left and right side of the Culture War are passionately committed to option 2) and almost never wonder if their attitude might cause serious emotional harm to their opponents.

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This happens all the time for hot topics such as abortion or homosexuality where kind and respectful persons are constantly being bashed, insulted, humiliated and bullied on the ground of certain beliefs they hold sincerely.

I was really delighted as I found this refreshing post arguing for Gay marriage but in a spirit of love.

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God Does NOT Define Marriage as a Man and a Woman

marriage2

“I am sorry if gay marriage attacks the sanctity of your fourth marriage.”

Does God define marriage as only for one man and one woman? You would think so by how often it’s claimed. But the answer is ‘no’ and I am reclaiming that truth today.

As marriage equality becomes the law of the land, pastors are seeking real answers for how to respond. As I said last week, there are people sitting in pews and pastors standing behind pulpits whose hearts are being changed by God. More than you can imagine.

Perry Noble, a pastor in South Carolina said this is one of his most frequently asked questions. He wrote about it on his blog, and I appreciated his loving tone and his focus on Christ. But I differed on his view of marriage equality and thought it worthy of a response, not just on directly to him, but for others working through this issue in their congregations. (Here is a link to his post.)

Here is my response.

Perry,

I appreciate your message about same-sex marriage, your heart of love, and not wanting to legislate morality – that you want to point people, with love, to Jesus. That is the call of a Christ-follower!

But I differed with you when you said, “And as far as we’re concerned, God clearly defined marriage as a relationship between a male and a female in Scripture.”

Biblical marriageIt’s simply not true.

We see various configurations of marriage (multiple wives, multiple wives plus concubines, marrying your dead brother’s widow, etc.) that are NOT condemned. They served a compassionate purpose in a period of time.

I’m not saying this to be a burr in your saddle, but to point out that your conclusion is not foregone. Pastors and scholars who have studied this disagree. I thank you for encouraging your people to love, not moralize. I want to encourage you that love is enough! Being the love of Christ is enough!

Jesus tells us to let the Holy Spirit lead in all truth, not to try it ourselves. We are not to be trusted with correcting. We have a poor track record at it!

Only a little legalism empowers people to take matters in their own hands, and soon you have bullies enforcing those views in the classroom and workplace, and parents kicking kids out of their homes.

I thank you for your kind heart. I implore you to make sure your people get the main message: love, love, more love, when they’re tiring of loving let Jesus love through them, and leave all the correcting and directing to Jesus.

Otherwise, they’re in danger of hurting someone Jesus loves dearly.

Marriage is not about religion. Atheists get married.
Marriage is not about reproduction. The infertile get married.
Marriage is about love. That’s it.

And that’s beautiful.

****

My response fellows.

I’m myself a progressive Christian having coined a very simple argument showing that Gay marriage is NOT against the will of God .

I believe that no law of God is arbitrary and that the whole Christian ethics can be entirely summed up by Love and its consequences, which is the central message of Jesus.

Even during my non-Christian youth, I believed (owing to prejudices) that homosexuality was a harmful and deviant lifestyle. But after having done thorough researches and read the testimonies of real people, I realized it is not a condition one chooses and that committed homosexual relationships are as harmless as heterosexual bonds.

I loudly affirm that two persons of the same sex can be married while fulfilling their God-given commission which is to grow in Love .

I’m bitterly grieved by the fact so many Conservative Evangelicals focus so much on homosexuality while ignoring real and devastating sins.

But I also know that numerous Conservative Christians opposed to gay marriage do NOT hate queer people and that they sincerely try to separate what they view as a sin from the “sinner”.

Therefore I disapprove of John Shore’s strategy (Even if John might be a wonderful person in other areas) and think we should keep harsh words for those truly deserving them, i.e. self-righteous bigots.

Thus your correspondence with Perry was really lovely and I wish all actors of the Culture War would treat their respectful “enemies” in this manner.

As for marriage, I think it is clear that the Bible speaks with conflicting voices on many topics .

It is a culturally-conditioned text which contains both an awesome beauty and a utter darkness. Like our own soul.

Thus I think that enlightened Christians ought to understand it as people reporting their experiences with the Almighty and reflecting on them, in the same way C.S. Lewis and many others did.

Trying to follow an inerrant Bible is not only logically impossible (due its inconsistency) but also  very dangerous since it leads many people to pick and choose evil verses for building up their doctrines.

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Persecuted anti-theists?

I recently came across a well-argued post calling out American Christians to stop viewing atheists as immoral fools.

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Why Christians Should Stand Up for Atheists

Freedom3I have just spent several hours talking with atheists on one of the blogs here at Patheos. This wasn’t my first time talking with atheists, but this conversation was particularly illuminating and, for the most part, respectful. Several members of this community welcomed me, despite the fact that they disagree profoundly with me. I am grateful for this. This community shared experiences and raised some very thought-provoking questions.

I came away from this conversation challenged that I need to do more to stand up for the rights of atheists (and those of other religions) here in the United States. Not because I agree with them on God and theology, but because they are human beings who deserve respect. Because when we stand up for someone else’s rights, we are appropriately loving our neighbor and treating them as we would want to be treated.

One thing that atheists (and those of other religions) rightly criticize in America is that there is a profound Christian religious privilege that is present here. If you are a Christian, this might not seem like a problem. Or you may be so steeped in religious privilege that you think the predominant mood of America toward Christians is one of persecution. You may even view attempts to level the playing field as being such persecution.

I don’t mind that there are a lot of Christians here in America. If they act like Christians, I think it’s great! In fact, I wish everybody was a Christian. But what I do object to is the wielding of power and dominance over others. I object to the confusion of the two kingdoms–the kingdoms of God’s left and right hand. I object to the idea that we can force everybody out there to conform to our beliefs.

I have argued previously that the Christian worldview as taught by the New Testament is not built on power, but on servanthood. While Christians are free to seek political power in order to serve their neighbor, they are not to seek it to benefit and serve themselves. Not only are attempts to wield power and dominance over others fundamentally unlike the Christ we serve, but they are also a terrible stumbling block to those who are not Christians. Do we want to witness to the saving power of Christ who is strong in our weakness? Then why have we bought into a model that claims earthly power a la James and John (Mark 10)? Why have we begun to believe the lie that our struggle is against flesh and blood, after all (see Ephesians 6)?

And why do we make atheists and those of other religions actually afraid for their lives when they ask for the same freedoms we want for ourselves and our families? I am told that the joke in the atheist community when they challenge our bastions of Christian political power and privilege is, “Cue the death threats.” Now, I understand that most Christians would not make death threats against atheists, but do we enable those who do by failing to call them out? Do we contribute to a hostile, snide, unloving atmosphere of discourse in our country when we tell them their issues with us are merely their perception of Christians rather than acknowledging that we have some serious problems in our community? Do we value those loud, obnoxious voices who are more interested in “sticking it to” somebody they disagree with than treating them with love and respect (I’m looking at you, Matt Walsh, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter)? Are we willing to listen and learn?

I feel blessed to have met these atheists. I don’t agree with them on faith, but I agree with them on the need to treat each other with respect. I agree with them that we need to make room for people who believe differently. Those differences in belief are crucial and important. I’m not about to give up my wish (and even prayer) that everybody come to faith in Jesus. But I am totally willing to give up my “right” to force everybody to be or act like a Christian.

So, how can we stand up for our atheist friends?

We can defend the child who is serious enough about his beliefs that he won’t “fake it” and stand up for the part of the Pledge of Allegiance that says “one nation under God.” We can stand against any instance when the government tries to establish some form of state religion. We can decry death threats against those who are speaking their beliefs, loving them enough to defend them even if we disagree profoundly with them. We can do this by considering that certain governmental expressions of religious faith may not be the greatest idea.

For example, why is it necessary that children in a secular school pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God”? Why is it necessary that schoolchildren have a time of prayer led by the teacher? If we would be willing to listen to the concerns of non-theists and those of other religions about such matters, perhaps we would find that such practices are not necessary after all and that they hinder freedom of religion for everyone–ourselves included. Perhaps we would have to acknowledge that atheists are actually persecuted in this country.

And perhaps we would discover that Christian witness is not best served by a dead, forced recitation, but by allowing freedom to flourish. Perhaps we would discover that authentic Christianity thrives when its focus is not on dominance but on service to neighbor. Maybe, every once in a while, someone who believes differently than we do would actually stop to listen to our perspective because we were willing to listen to theirs.

But even if they don’t, I ask you, which model better serves our humble Lord who emptied Himself for us (Philippians 2): political dominance or service? And isn’t faithfulness to Him more important than “results” or seeing our “agenda” achieved?

American Christianity is at a crossroads these days. We can either continue with our pursuit of power at all cost, or we can release the idolatry of control, surrender ourselves into the hands of God, and humbly serve our neighbor. Doing so will certainly mean that we share our faith with our neighbor (yes, even in words!), but it will not mean that we force them into submission. Such tactics are as far from New Testament Christianity as East is from West.

EDIT on 11/8/14: Several commenters have brought up the point that it sounded like I was describing atheism as a “religion.” I addressed this a few times in the comments, but I understand not everyone has time to wade through the comments. I think a better term would be “belief system,” although I do understand that the basic belief is non-belief in the sense of “I do not believe there is evidence for the existence of God.” The intent of my statement was not to call atheism a religion, but to recognize that Christians in general sometimes have a hard time recognizing the rights of other belief or non-belief groups.

Hopefully, that is helpful.

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Here is my response.

Dear Rebecca Florence, thank you so much for this marvelous post.

As a Continental European, it’s really hard for me to imagine how it must feel for someone to live along the Christian Right.
I’m really glad that most Christians and atheists discussing with each other on the Old Continent tend to be pretty respectful and can develop a friendly relationship despite some fundamental differences in their most basic beliefs.

I do believe one always ought to be respectful towards a respectful opponent ,no matter how repugnant one might find his or her ideas.

I think that we must constantly remain wary of deeply entrenched psychological mechanisms which lead all too easily to tribalism, an “us against them”-mentality and dehumanizing our adversaries.

I think that my main problem with your article consists of the fact you unwittingly tend to present “atheists” as a homogeneous group.

Of course, it’s really not the case. There are many different types of Christians, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, pantheists, deists and atheist out there.
A SMALL subpart of atheists are anti-theists, i.e. people who believe that all religions ought to disappear.

Having spent countless hours interacting with these folks and their writings, I can truly say they’re no better than nasty religious fundamentalists. (Interestingly enough, in an American context anti-theists often tend to be former fundies ).
They see the Bible in a perfectly binary manner like fundamentalists, and for some of them the presence of atrocities in one text justifies burning the whole book , i.e. also the writings of many completely unrelated authors.

The New Atheists (I use this phrase interchangeably with anti-theists) explicitely advocate the use of emotional bullying, ridicule and mockery against religious persons.

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They sometimes even have a cult-like thinking and keep falling prey to binary thinking.

A great number of people present on their forums and blogs are driven by the same kind of hatred which motivates European far right people.

Let me be clear about this. I do believe there are great and respectful atheists out there. ( Here is a good example).

I hate hearing Conservative Christians asserting that atheists (in general) are immoral fools and I if I have the opportunity, I step in against this kind of vicious and groundless attacks .

I do affirm that many atheists are good people, and I believe that many of them dying as unbelievers will accept God’s invitation on the other side of the grave.
I am yearning for a society full of compassionate and humble persons who manage to remain courteous and polite while not denying their convictions.
I congratulate you for being an excellent rule model in that respect.

But we cannot say,in general, that Christians in America are the oppressors whereas atheist are the victims.
No, this country of yours is going through a terrible culture war where one can find assholes and individuals of good will in the different camps.

I see a vicious circle of hatred going on which is very similar to racial tensions in modern France .
It’s vital for everyone to recognize that all atheists and theists are not the same, and that our just anger should be reserved for self-righteous bigots who are the powder keeping alive the fire of the culture war.

I do speak up for the right of anyone to loudly proclaim their metaphysical convictions without having to fear any kind of discrimination.
But I will never encourage groups of people who are driven by hatred and the self-righteous desire to feel superior to all the rest of us.

Lovely greetings in Christ.

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The ordeal of progressive Christianity in America

I recently had the immense privilege to interview the fantastic progressive Christian blogger Michelle Morr Krabill, author of the blog WordOfaWoman.

She confessed me she also has a chaotic mind so that our mutual dialog won’t necessarily be always well structured 🙂

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Hi Michelle, thank you so much for having joined me! Could you please tell us more about your background?
Good afternoon! Thanks for inviting me. I have a long and interesting background but I will try to give you the shortened version. When I was a very young girl my family was involved in the Methodist church. However when I was about 5 my parents became involved with The Way International. After I got married, my husband and I left the Way and kind of were on our own, occasionally meeting with other people who had left that ministry. After a few years we began attending a non-denominational evangelical church. About 5 years ago we started our own community, Novitas Church.
There is really so much more to the story.
Did you start your journey with Conservative views regarding the Bible?

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Yes and no. The Way had very diverse views, on the one hand they believed in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and on the other they were non-trinitarian, believed in the gifts of the spirit, the concept of soul sleep and the law of believing. However, as an adult I became an evangelical and bought into most of the standard doctrines and practices of the evangelical church.
My views have definitely evolved over the years.
That is to say there was a time where you held fast to the Chicago statement on inerrancy, according to which everything a Biblical writer intended to convey is true, right?
Yes. I was definitely taught that the Bible in its original state was without error and was “the Word and Will of God”.
What called this conviction into question?
As with so many things it is a build up I think of many things over many years, but I think the turning point for me personally was a book called The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.
What is this book about?
Blue Parakeet is a book about how we read and relate to the Bible. It talks about how the Bible is actually more of a library of books that contain the stories of how people throughout time have related to God.
But Scot himself holds fast on inerrancy, doesn’t he?
It suggests that we should flip the book over as it were and picture Jesus as the spine and read both the Old and New Testaments through the lens of Jesus’ life.
You know, I am not 100% sure where Scot stands on inerrancy.
I just know that for me, looking at the Scriptures in a new way, does not detract from them at all but rather it allows me to reinterpret them in light of the life of Jesus.
Where people related to God as judgmental and honestly a little genocidal in the old testament, we see through the life of Jesus, that that was simply the way the people of that time understood God.
Frank Schaeffer was just here with us last weekend and he puts it in a really great way…
He likes to say that Jesus came to edit our views about who God is. In fact the way Jesus dealt with the Torah (the only Scriptures he had access to) was to question it at every turn. He would often say, it says this but I say this in direct contradiction to the law.
My own journey has led me to view Scriptures as people reporting their own experience with God in the same way many of them did outside the Protestant Canon. I, for example, don’t view the author of Hebrews as necessarily more inspired than C.S. Lewis. But I do believe that both men have had terrific experiences with the Almighty.
Is it something you might be sympathetic to?
I wholeheartedly agree. I believe God spoke through the scriptures but he is still speaking today and I can learn just as much from you as I can from Paul. Blasphemy, I know. 🙂
(I return you the blasphemous compliment 🙂 )
I think that historical critical scholarship makes it extremely hard to maintain the notion that God speaks through a limited set of ancient books.
I do as well and I think that everyday life bears this out as well.
And, as I said before, I think Jesus himself proves this to be true.
He was decidedly not a “man of the book” in the sense that he was constantly running afoul of Levitical rules.
Touching the leper
Touching dead bodies
Letting a bleeding woman touch him
Calling the women out of the kitchen to come and talk to him
Talking to the Samaritan woman
Working on the Sabbath
Not picking up a stone to kill the woman caught in adultery.

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What is your response to Conservative Evangelicals saying that Jesus DID believe these laws to be inerrant BUT also temporarily limited?
So you say. Were you there to ask him?
How do you know?
We have no evidence, written or otherwise that would indicate that.
In my opinion they find that kind of freedom unnerving.
Yeah, but they might say we have no evidence either that he did not approve of these laws.
It is much harder to control people if my way is correct.
Actually we do, his own words and actions.
To my mind, it’s clear that Christ viewed these laws as a hindrance against charity.
Jesus had but one law. The law of love.
He said EVERYTHING depended on it
Precisely! This is the very basis of my argument for Gay marriage. All things forbidden are forbidden because they run against Love and are harmful.
Agreed.
But homosexuality isn’t harmful and doesn’t go against Love therefore Gay marriage should not be forbidden
I did a whole series on the so called “clobber passages” the verses used to condemn homosexuality.
Many of these verses are far more ambiguous than many people think, even if one accepts inerrancy.
People can find the series here.
Thanks!
I think people are often surprised when they learn how few verses actually talk about the subject in the scriptures and how misinterpreted they often are. The link is for the conclusion post but has links to all the previous posts in the series.
It is also stunning that “sodomy” can be better interpreted as gluttony and lack of charity according to several Biblical writers
Indeed!
Is it fair to say that caring for the poor is in the Bible (as far as the volume is concerned) 2000 more important than same-sex relationships?
Not sure how many times exactly, but for sure far far more verses on caring for the poor and yet most of the western Christians I know are more concerned with stopping gay marriage than they are with feeding the poor, especially if the government has anything to do about it. The gospel of Jesus is all too often replaced with the gospel of Ayn Rand and the Christian Coalition.
What is the Gospel of the Christian Coalition?


The Christian Coalition, is a group started by Pat Robertson to give Christians a voice in government. Their website says: The Coalition is a political organization, made up of pro-family Americans who care deeply about ensuring that government serves to strengthen and preserve, rather than threaten, our families and our values. To that end, we work continuously to identify, educate and mobilize Christians for effective political action.
You can find their agenda here.
It includes, defunding Obamacare, Defending the second amendment, defending traditional marriage, outlawing abortion, defending gun rights, standing with Israel, posing Liberal judicial nominees etc.
yada yada yada
And what about the poorest members of American society?
To hell with them. Sorry. I know that seems a little harsh, but for the most part when it comes to government programs to aid the poor there is little to no compassion to be found.
People often state they think taking care of the poor is the church’s job not the government’s.
But comparisons with Continental Europe aren’t very flattering, right?
The problem with that is if you do a little digging, most churches spend about 3% of their budget on benevolence.
No, in my opinion, they are not very flattering.
I did a piece on this a while back as well. It can be found here.
Is it STILL the case that, in highly modern America, poor children are receiving a terrible and inhumane healthcare?

Children await treatment at a free clinic as part of Operation Lone Star August 4, 2008 in Laredo, Texas. The two-week medical operation, run by the Texas military forces and the Human Services Commission, aims to treat more than 10,000 people along the Texas border with Mexico. Many of the patients are either uninsured or underinsured and cannot afford medical and dental care on their own. Healthcare has become an important issue in this year's U.S. presidential campaign.
It is! Obamacare has actually done a lot to mitigate the problem but there is still a long way to go.
For example, in states like mine (I live in Texas) Governor Perry has refuse to take much of the federal money available for helathcare.
Most Conservatives I know are no moral monsters. But they say that it’s not the job of the STATE to care for poor children, this should be the concern of their family, relatives, communities, Churches and so on.
I totally agree. Most conservatives I know are kind and loving people. But there is this huge disconnect when it comes to the government helping the poor.
What are the shortcomings of their solutions?
There just isn’t enough money in the church coffers to get the job done.
Even if we spent 100% of the money in the church budget.
I outline all of it in the article I posted.
Of course. But what about FREE donations of rich people?
There are a lot of numbers. You would be surprised.
I actually have a huge problem with the whole way we have the church structured. From the pastoral/priest system to the way we do church with big buildings and big congregations, to the seminary system. It seems set up to create Pharisees.
And often cults of personality.
Like that about Mark Driscoll?
Exactly like Mark Driscoll.
Mark is just a man like any other man and the system is set up to elevate men like him to a position they should never be expected to fill. It is set up to become a Machiavellian nightmare.
Make no mistake, he is responsible for his own actions, but they system is set up to feed it.
Could you sum up what you view as his worst sins?
People will go to a church with thousands and a huge light show and a rock climbing wall and a gym over a small church that meets in a bar. Often they choose a show over a community.
I don’t know that rehashing Mark’s sins by me is profitable at this point. He is a sinner in need of grace just like me. However I do think the need for repentance is real and as of yet that seems to be non-existent.
Oh yeah I completely agree we should never see ourselves as morally superior to our enemies but I do think we must sometimes talk about bad things they did…both for their victims and the health of their own soul.
I meant his bullying concerning Gays and women.
I think this needs to be clearly exposed for avoiding history to repeat itself.
Agreed.
Even if Mark might have been disfavored by a bad psychological background, so it’s not about judging ourselves as superior to him.
Mark’s bullying and misogyny are well documented and evil for sure.
Could you perhaps give examples of him or anyone else bullying people in this manner?
I think we begin to heal from this sort of thing when we recognize that often as people we want someone like Mark to tell us what to do. Many people gravitate to a person who will control them because it makes them feel safe. If you tell me what God wants from me and then I do it I can feel like I know that I am okay with God. In my opinion we should never allow anyone the voice or opportunity to decide for us who God is or who is “in” or “out”. When we give people that kind of power we should not be surprised that they abuse that power.
Amen!
The examples of Mark’s bullying and misogyny are all over the internet.
There is a great article about this by John Shore. As he says, you can’t allow people to pee in your pool. lol
There is a growing number of people in America who leave the Church and become resentful anti-theists.
What’s your take on this?
Here is a quote from the post which sums it up quite well for me:
“The idea of letting other people tell me, or in any way decide for me, who God is, or what the nature of God is, is … repelling to me. I mean, I get why eventually any sane person would just go, “Something’s wrong here. Christianity appears to be a solid FAIL. I gave it my all. But enough is enough. I’m out.”
But, for me, screw that. If people keep peeing in my pool, I don’t abandon the pool. I refresh the water, and then build a fence to keep people the freak out. I stop letting strangers in my … pool area. (Um … to be clear: I’m not advocating keeping people away from Christianity–as if anyone in this culture could, given that, you know, it’s everywhere. What I mean is that I have no interest in … letting, well, pee-ers—by which I mean toxic people whom I don’t know or don’t respect—to … sully my waters, pee in my pool, get into my yard, define for me my Christianity–which, for the record, is unimpeachably rational and militantly non-invasive.)”
My faith is my faith no one else’s. It is my responsibility to continuously choose love over judgment, to welcome everyone in the name of Jesus, to choose freedom over bondage.
Amen!
For me the day I trade my doubts and freedom for the certainty of three songs and one man who has “all the answers” is the day I begin to lose my soul.
The irony is, since I have begun to embrace my doubts and the paradox of life, I have never felt closer to God.
I feel delighted for you 🙂 But time is beginning to fly by. Could you, to conclude, talk about the World Vision catastrophe? You know, this Evangelical welfare organization who ended up stopping discriminating Gay people among their employees. Consequently, most Conservative supporters retracted their help. Could you please put this in a nut shell?
It was tragic. I thought their initial decision was good but then when everyone jumped ship and abandoned the kids which was so upsetting. I know they backpedaled because of that. In the end the children were the ones who got hurt. It was just awful. I find it appalling that people would abandon children over the issue of loving all people.
I entirely share your feelings. But in Europe, Conservative Evangelicals are much less focused on homosexuality than in the States. What could one do for fostering the evolution of mentalities in this country of yours?
I think it is currently evolving and at a rather quick pace. The millennials in particular are much more inclusive than previous generations.
But, I think that attunes are changing across all generations. We are in the process of becoming a much more inclusive people and that makes me very happy
As always I think it is a matter of empathy.
🙂 🙂
So I thank you very much for this interview. You’ve been truly wonderful.
Of course! It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed it.

 

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How to pervert the legitimate fight against homophobia

My regular readers know that I speak out for the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones. I do think that a lifelong committed relationship between two persons of the same sex does NOT stand in conflict with Christ’s central teaching.

Gay couple

That said, I accept the fact that many Conservatives sincerely disagree even if I think they’re misguided.

Consequently, I cannot go along with the aggressive propaganda of liberal activists who all too often present ALL Conservatives rejecting Gay marriage as heartless bigots supporting the discriminations and even capital punishment of homosexuals.

A recent post of progressive Christian John Shore nicely illustrates this worrisome state of affairs.

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Challenging the evil empire of anti-gay Christians, and the resurfacing of old fundie fears

dearjohn [This is the latest in a series in which each Wednesday I answer a question or two asked to me by members of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a private Facebook group for Christian mothers of LGBT kids. (The first such post was Combatting the Downward Pull of Christian Negativity; the second Pastor tells mom her lesbian teen can’t be a Christian.) If you are interested in joining Serendipitydodah for Moms, email lizdyer55@gmail.com. If you’d like me to answer any questions/concerns you might have, email me at john@johnshore.com]

Dear John,

How do you think affirming Christians should deal with Christians who still think same-sex relationships are sinful? Should we treat their belief with tolerance and respect or respectfully confront them? I’m specifically thinking about those who feel compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful and that the only marriage blessed by God is between a man and a woman. Signed, Stay silent or speak up?

It’s been my experience that Christians who feel, as you well put it, “compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful” come in two varieties: Crazy, and Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity. It’s also been my experience that reasoning with either is a waste of time. As a rule the lay Christian who is “compelled to speak out” against homosexuality is too angry (and, frankly, too fearful of the power of his or her own sexuality) to listen to reason; the pastor, radio host, “ministry” leader or author whose bank account is tied to his perpetuation of the toxic nonsense that being gay is a sin–the professional gay-basher, in other words–has already sold his conscience for cash—and in the bargain of course also traded away his moral compass.

Treat a person from either group with tolerance and respect; vigorously refute them; insist you’ll sleep on their front lawn until they change their minds …  in the end, I have found, nothing will have changed beyond that you will have lost time that you could have spent doing something a lot more productive (such as … well, writing public letters like this to people like me, joining your local PFLAG chapter, organizing a markedly Christian presence at pro-LGBT events, helping your church to become LGBT-affirming, making sure your local schools are implementing and executing anti-bullying programs, voting for pro-LGBT initiatives, being active online—buy, frankly, my book UNFAIR and give it to anyone on the fence—etc., etc.).  But you see what I mean: you don’t take down an evil empire by arguing with one of its foot soldiers.

Dear John,

Coming from a conservative Christian background can be very difficult when you find out one or more of your kids is LGBT! As a mom who completely accepts and affirms my gay son I still have times when I worry that I might be wrong—that somehow my love for my son has misled me. What advise do you have for a parent like me? Signed, Dealing with doubts

The next time you find yourself doubting the truth that God finds homosexuality no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality, stop to examine what’s happening in your life at that moment. I guarantee you that something in the outside world will have triggered that doubt in you. When threatened we all tend to revert. Stress, tension, being worried, being fearful, being challenged … such feelings often trigger the old toxic tapes to start playing in our heads–the tapes that were recorded for us, not by us. The tapes that tell us to be afraid, that the worst is true, that God is judging us, that absolute damnation is one errant step away . . . that being gay really is a sin. The next time you find yourself reverting to the fears and paradigms instilled in you as a child, trust that’s simply an instinctive reaction to something real in your life that is genuinely concerning you.

Finding whatever it is that has triggered in you the playing of your old toxic tapes won’t be particularly difficult; once you understand that those old thoughts really are a stress response to something real and present happening in your life, you’ll pretty quickly be able to identify what that something is. And once you’ve identified what caused you to doubt the veracity of what you know to be true, those doubts will vanish, because you’ll see that in and of themselves they were not real, but only a secondary reaction to something that is real. Then you can address that real thing that’s really happening, instead of having to swat away the old demons that came flying back at you from a time when you were taught terrible things about God and Christianity that simply aren’t true.

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My response and interaction with other bloggers follow.

My comments are black whereas those of other persons are colored.

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Dear John,

first of all, let me say I really liked what you wrote about self-doubt’s dependency on one’s emotional state. We should only change our mind when new evidence comes in and not just because of one’s feelings.

As far as the alleged sinfulness of homosexuality is concerned, I’m entirely on your side . I’m also disgusted by the fact that so many Conservative Evangelicals focus so much on this issue while neglecting problems of social justice .

Gay partnerships are loving, faithful and committed, but can it lead to marriage?

Still, I find you wrote some pretty worrisome and almost outrageous sentences.

First of all, it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”. If someone views taking drug as a sin, it just doesn’t follow that he is “anti-junkies”. As I was an atheist in my teenage years, I viewed homosexuality as a deviant behavior out of ignorance but I was not anti-homosexual.

Likewise, it’s just false to state that Christians speaking out against homosexuality are EITHER “Crazy” OR “Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity”. Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people. Indeed, I know quite a few such Christians in Continental Europe.

So I think that the use of such an aggressive rhetoric is putting off many of your Conservative readers you could have touched through a more loving and moderate tone.

And I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

So I think that your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified.

Progressively and fraternally yours.

Is it? Or is the topics John covers finally giving people a chance to think about this, to discuss what is happening and to shed light at how bad homophobia actually is? Trust me, its worse than many realize. In the US, there are several states, including the one I live in, where it is quite legal to deny housing or employment to people, just because of sexual orientation. There are hundreds of churches in my county. Two are LGBT affirming. Many counties have none. We had our state legislature remove funding from two state colleges because of a couple of gay friendly books.

Yet my adopted home town hosts an annual Pride rally. The state capital also has one. Its getting better here, but in a place where bi-racial couples are still looked down on, and a black man reaching into his car to get out his registration for a basic traffic stop, gets shot by a white state trooper, we have a long way to go.

it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”

If someone believes being gay is morally wrong, then it follows that they believe being gay is a choice. Who could be considered morally wrong for being born with green eyes or left-handed? Taking drugs is a choice; being gay is not. Taking drugs is illegal; being gay is not (unless you happen to live in one of the many states where you can be discriminated against for being gay).

Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people

Please. Not the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” tune again. That record’s broken.

putting off many of your Conservative readers

I’d have to ask John: how many of your readers are conservative?

I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

Why aren’t they gay-affirming due to gay people being fired for being gay?

your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified

Oh yes, let’s play nice. Let’s play nice with the people who believe gays should be put to death, who are going to hell, who are child molesters, who are the worst kinds of perverts. Yeah, that’ll work.

Children take part in anti-gay protests in Uganda in 2011

Hello Barbara, thanks for your answer!

Conservative Christians don’t believe that having sexual desires towards persons of the same sex is wrong in and of itself but that it is wicked to act on this desire by e.g. kissing such an individual.
In other words they say: “Yeah he’s attracted towards men as I’m attracted towards females and that’s not wrong. BUT he must never act accordingly.”
Do I believe this principle is sound?
Absolutely not. I think that a life-long marriage is one of the most beautiful things one can experience during this life time.
What’s more I also believe that God does not forbid us things arbitrarily.
Consequently, I wholeheartedly affirm the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones.

YET it is also completely false to say that Conservative Christians (in general) believe that Gays are wicked human beings for being born that way.

What is more, how many percent of Conservative Christians think that homosexuals are child molesters and the worst kinds of perverts who should be put to death?

In French-speaking and German-speaking Europe they represent perhaps 0.001% of all Conservative believers.
How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people. But if they read such kinds of texts they feel they’re being UNFAIRly treated. They inevitably consider all of this as ignoble propaganda.

And this naturally diminishes their willingness to step in when Gay folks are being maltreated.

Friendly greetings.

BarbaraR

If you believe this, you must not read this blog often and see what I see. The vitriolic and hate-filled comments I and the other mods delete completely belie this notion.

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people.

This poll just came out.

http://www.pewforum.org/2014/0…

From this poll:
White evangelical Protestants express the strongest support for allowing businesses to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings (71%).

How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are to the best of my knowledge no statistics on this. However, they pop up with appalling regularity. Here are a few examples of pastors calling for the death of gay people. As pastors go, so goes the flock.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.christianpost.com/n…

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/p…

While it would be all sparkly unicorns and fluffy bunnies to think conservative evangelicals oppose discrimination against gays, I am not seeing evidence for it.

Lotharson

Hi! I agree there are horrible fag-bashing bigots in the States:

But everything in America seems to be far more extreme than in Europe.

Still, there are lots of Conservatives disapproving of homosexuality who do oppose the misdeeds you evoked.

You and I probably agree it is wrong to bully Muslims having a peaceful interpretation of Islam due to the existence of many terrorists.

So why should it be any different when Conservative Christians are concerned?

Cheers.

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I think that John Shore has probably good motives. But I fear he might currently be driven by hatred to some extent.

Other progressive Christians share my concern.

Popular blogger Tim Chastain (Jesus Without Baggages) recently told me what follows:

“I think I know what you mean, but I see Jesus’ instruction to love others as a more valid way of relating to the Father and to other people than following religious rules. In my opinion, properly grasping the principle of loving others does NOT lead to self justification of sinful behavior but to humility and true repentance.

The love of self I often speak of is not selfish love but an absence of self-hate that many of us feel when we think the Father is an angry, vindictive God. When we realize how the Father loves us, we are free to love ourselves in a healthy way and are released to love others in the same way.”

My goal is not to bash Shore and to present him as an evil human being. No, I aim at showing that progressive Christians can also fall prey to hate and that “Christianity with humanity” (the name of Shore’s ministry) also involves loving our enemies as ourselves.

Consequently we ought to be fair, just and act lovingly towards Conservative believers opposing Gay marriage, even if it strongly irritates us.

But on the other hand I also expect Conservative Christians to refrain from overgeneralizations concerning “Progressives”.

Could we learn to interact lovingly with those we disagree?

On the virtue of being pro-death

Progressive Evangelical theologian Roger Olson wrote a very interesting post on death penalty in America and its barbaric nature.

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“We Americans like to think of ourselves as among the most developed and civilized countries in the world (if not at the top of the list!). But much of the rest of the world thinks otherwise. We don’t help our case when we continue to engage in acts that can only be called barbaric.
According to published news reports, during the last year various states have carried out what can only be called botched executions described as “preventable horrors.” Most recently, Arizona executed a man named Joseph Rudolph Wood by torture. It took his executioners one hour and fifty-seven minutes to kill him—from insertion of the needle to his death. During that time, according to witnesses, he gasped and snorted. If that isn’t cruel and unusual punishment, I don’t know what would be.
Defenders of the death penalty are blaming drug manufacturers and resellers and opponents of the death penalty for these botched executions. That’s a red herring if ever there was one. It’s like blaming America and Great Britain for the Holocaust because they didn’t accept all of Germany’s Jews when Hitler offered them before WW2. If states (and the federal government) are going to kill people, it’s up to them to obtain the best means. It’s certainly not businesspersons’ fault or the fault of opponents of capital punishment if they fail.
My guess is that the very people who will point the finger at companies and critics of capital punishment are the ones who argue that businesses should be exempt for reasons of conscience from providing health insurance that pays for certain methods of birth control. But they are then being inconsistent. If Hobby Lobby and other Christian-owned companies have that right, so should chemical companies have the right to refuse to supply poisons to government entities that plan to use it to kill people.
Clearly it is governments that have failed. They are experimenting on human subjects. And it won’t do to say these subjects, the convicts, deserve death by torture. That’s blatant barbarism and anyone who says it is either not in their right mind or is simply a barbarian not worthy to participate in civilized discussion of these matters.
In my opinion, the only way this barbarism will stop is if the Supreme Court intervenes to declare all capital punishment cruel and unusual and at least place a moratorium on it until there is no doubt or question that it can be carried out humanely. (But I doubt that can ever be done.) But a faster way would be for state and federal governments to prosecute persons who carry out such barbaric botched executions. Does the law permit execution by torture? I certainly hope not.”

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Personally, I could understand why the most heinous criminals of our kind might deserve death and I can’t said I feel too sad about the Nazi officers having been executed after the process of Nuremberg. But I certainly don’t think they should undergo torture before passing away.

My main concern about death personality is that it inevitably involves that completely innocent people will be murdered, whereas imprisonment would at least give them a chance (however remote) to see the situation rectified.

What’s more, it goes without saying many folks executed stem from ethnic minorities and it is blatantly obvious that their free will was greatly limited through social and psychological factors.

I’m glad that death penalty disappeared from Western Europe and think Conservative Christians in America would be well advised to revise their priorities.

 

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