On anti-theists and extreme overgeneralizations

I recently stumbled across a post written by a former Conservative Evangelical minister (who has turned into an anti-theist) where she exposes the alleged ways in which Religion (with a capital R) hijacks our inevitable human experience of pain.

"Of course I want religion to go away". I don't deny you your right to believe whatever you'd like, but I have the right to point out it's ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people. Anti-theism: the conscientious objection to religion.
Anti-theism: religion is not an incredibly diverse phenomenon but an UNIFIED loathsome entity which ought to be obliterated as soon as possible.

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A Sure Knowledge of Suffering.

She had just learned of the death of her one true love. Pirates, she was told. Specifically, the Dread Pirate Roberts–who, as we all know, does not ever take prisoners. Upon hearing the news, she retreated to her bedroom in shock for quite some time, and her parents gave her plenty of space in which to process her staggering grief. When she finally emerged from her room, her parents were worried–but also astonished at the changes in their daughter:

In point of fact, [Buttercup] had never looked as well. She had entered her room as just an impossibly lovely girl. The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering.

She was eighteen. She was the most beautiful woman in a hundred years. She didn’t seem to care.

Cover of "The Princess Bride (20th Annive...

Cover via Amazon

Buttercup’s journey to her #1 position as Most Beautiful Woman in the Whole World happens at the same time her budding romance with the Farm Boy, Westley, blossoms into love (this is from the book version of the story, which goes into way more detail about the protagonists–and I had better not be spoiling any of this for you). When the lovebirds declare their feelings for each other, William Goldman writes in The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, she is “barely in the top twenty” of the most beautiful women in the world. After Westley leaves the farm to make his fortune, she starts to take better care of herself and leaps to fifteenth, and when a long letter from him arrives as he’s making his way to America, that letter alone sends her straight to eighth place from sheer joy. But that’s where she lingered until learning that he’d died.

A number of stories involve grief and loss as the forces that catapult an innocent, naive character into sudden adulthood. In The Princess Bride, when Buttercup faces suffering for the first time, she leaves her innocent youth behind and enters the full flower of adulthood–as well as a vast fraternity for which there is only one name:

Humanity.

Suffering is surely of the most uniquely human conditions there is. Our capacity for reflection and anticipation, our ability to both recognize the passage of time and to gaze ahead to the future, marks us as bound for pain. Merely to extend our affection to another being–be it a pet or a person–or to extend a great hope toward some goal means turning our ships down a fork in the river that leads to only one destination: the pain of loss.

Someone who has not suffered some great and staggering loss is somehow not complete quite yet. Those of us who are already members of the vast fraternity can admire that person’s youthful naivete–especially if there’s some glorious declaration of intent involved, which seems to come up often for some reason–but we know what’s coming and somehow wish we could both shield that person and make their passage through the frathouse doors a little easier. Until they are sitting in that house with an illicit beer in hand, we really don’t know exactly what to do with that person. We just know it’s coming, is all, even if we don’t know where from.

Suffering sometimes comes from our own misguided efforts or from deliberate unkindness on the part of others–or from the sheer inevitability of time–but often it seems like it’s just bad luck.

It is no surprise to me, therefore, that it seems like every religion tries to put human suffering into some kind of cosmic context (often, as those two links demonstrate, in total opposition to the explanations offered by other religions)–to explain what suffering is and what causes it, to tell people that there’s some purpose to it all, and to tell us how to stop it from coming to our door quite so often.

Religions do this because grief and loss are so universal and so constant in humans’ lives that we want some kind of control over it all. Explaining something implies understanding of it; understanding implies control. There’s a reason why bargaining is one of the significant stages in the processing of grief, after all. What religions are doing is simply trying to do the bargaining at a remove for us, and often before the grief event has even taken place.

But what are we to do when a Buddhist tells us that suffering happens because people get too stressed out by change and that there is no real self at all, and a Christian tells us that suffering happens because oh why yes we totally have selves and those selves are sinful little beasts without the cleansing of “Jesus”? They can’t both be right; those explanations (and many more besides) are diametrically opposed. They could, however, all be wrong.

When we mistakenly believe that our suffering has some supernatural purpose and cause, we start thinking we can influence the events that lead to our suffering.

As one example, let’s look at one of the most pernicious “bargains” Christianity offers. If we don’t tithe, we will suffer hugely, Christian leaders hint to us, and if we do then we’ll have so much fortune that our storehouses won’t be able to hold it all. Years out of Christianity, this kind of promise sounds to me like that nursery rhyme, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” especially after meeting all sorts of people who do and don’t tithe and noticing that there doesn’t seem to remarkable fortune happening to those who do, or misfortune happening to those who don’t. But I’ve noticed that Christians who stop tithing often feel really frightened at the thought that now they’re inviting suffering to their doors by their disobedience. They’ve been taught for years that they can control misfortune by tithing. They might know at some level that tithing has absolutely nothing to do with avoiding or inviting misfortune, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that they’re daring a god to strike them down by disobeying all these pastors’ directives about tithing.

That’s only one deal Christians get offered, though. I was taught a great number of ways to control the whole universe. Many of those ways centered around conforming to my onetime religion’s teachings about how women should act, dress, and speak. Stepping outside those bounds would invite all sorts of disasters. I’d meet terrible men; I’d be at much greater risk for abuse and assault; I’d ruin my entire life. If I conformed, by contrast, I’d meet “godly” men who’d treat me well and I’d be protected by angels from assault. And I dared not even consider non-Christian men as husbands–dear me, no! They’d drag down my faith and who even knows what disasters would hit my life for such glaring disobedience?

Christian rituals were also sold to me as ways to control fortune. I’m betting most ex-Christians have been through this scenario:

I slide behind the wheel of my ancient Cutlass, buckle in, and start the car. I’m down the driveway when I realize I forgot to pray! I panic–and I pause the car at the first opportunity so I can recite the magic spell: Jesus, please let me get to my destination safely and unharmed. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. Soothed and feeling much safer, I continue on my way.

Even after leaving Christianity, I ended up in spiritual traditions that tried similarly to control suffering and misfortune. That was a really hard mindset to break. It was really hard to let go of the idea that our lives were orchestrated by some big planner and that everything that happened to us did so for a reason. I know that the intent of some of these religions and philosophies is to help reconcile adherents to suffering, but the implicit promise they made was that there were rules to the universe–and if I could only figure out what those rules were, I could get a free pass that other people didn’t get.

There’s another, more sinister reason why prosperity gospel is so popular in the United States–and seemingly only more popular during this period of financial crisis. It’s the same reason why Christians cling so hard to promises around tithing and “modesty.” Someone who is suffering gets seen in Christian culture as someone being spanked by “God” for some indiscretion or misdeed, while someone who is clearly healthy, wealthy, and flourishing gets seen as someone “blessed” by that same deity–with the implication that this “blessing” comes from obedience to the arcane rituals and demands of the religion. Some preachers even make that connection explicitly. It’s not hard at all for me–having come out of a religion that stresses this link between prosperity and one’s choices to obey or disobey religious demands–to see exactly why Christians nowadays tend to belong to the political party that is quickly becoming famous for hatred for and demonization of poor people. Obviously if someone isn’t “blessed” then it’s all that person’s fault. Somehow.

If someone suffers and there’s no reason at all for it–and even worse, nothing that person did or could have done to avoid it, or worst of all if that person was set up to fail by obviously non-supernatural forces–then the entire paradigm gets up-ended. Some people really need to see the world as ultimately fair and just. If one person faces suffering that couldn’t be avoided, then nothing stops anybody else from facing similar suffering.

I’d have saved myself a lot of time and trouble and energy if I’d known that some of our suffering can be understood and controlled, yes, but some of it simply cannot be. Some of it’s really random, and some isn’t stuff I can actually influence. And I think I kind of knew that to some extent. After all, in addition to praying whenever I got behind a steering wheel, I also made sure to drive responsibly and to keep my car maintenance up-to-date. But later I’d meet friends in other religions who used rituals instead of doing those things–and they wondered why they kept getting into accidents and having car breakdowns. Sometimes people didn’t have the money to maintain their vehicles and rituals were the only thing they could afford to do. Sometimes people were deluding themselves into thinking that rituals could take the place of careful driving. And in the case of misfortune that really couldn’t be controlled–or even predicted–these rituals were quite literally all that held out even the vague promise of help.

When I saw those friends making these mistakes in other religions, I couldn’t help but remember all the similar rituals I’d done as a Christian believing that they’d afford me protection from life’s bumps and dips: the tithing meant to invite financial prosperity and stave off economic disaster; the “modesty” dress meant to attract a “godly” husband and keep me safe; the house exorcisms meant to keep demons from entering my family home to cause strife; all the weird little rote prayers I recited to prevent car accidents and the like. One might say to some of these rituals, What’s the harm? But in most cases, these rituals took the place of more constructive efforts–and often cost a great deal of money or time that I could have used elsewhere. Indeed, the only folks who really profit from those rituals are the ones receiving the money and attention from all the frightened sheep falling for those scams, even after their peddlers have been debunked six ways from Sunday.

It’s a scary thing to imagine, though, isn’t it? That there isn’t some great plan nor a great planner in control of it all. That sometimes stuff just happens and we can’t understand why or stop it, and neither can anybody else. That sometimes it’s not some flaw in someone that caused a great misfortune, and nothing that person did to merit that suffering.

Suffering is part of being human. Every single one of us, if we extend ourselves at all, is going to suffer at some point. We’re going to lose a loved one, or face a natural disaster, or get really sick or injured, or become the victim of a random crime, or get caught up in some huge financial catastrophe. Part of our journey, as human beings, is figuring out how much of that we can influence and how much we can’t, and figuring out how to lessen the impact of as much of the random, unstoppable suffering as we can.

We’re not going to do any of that by repeating canned prayers or performing magic rituals, though. Those rituals might soothe us in the short term, but ultimately will not actually help us in a material way–unless we start selling books about it to trick the unwary into buying into false promises of safety, health, wealth, and fulfillment, anyway! As long as we believe that we have some magical way of propitiating whoever we (mistakenly) think is orchestrating the universe, we won’t be just wasting our time and money; we’ll be trying to remain children. I’m not saying we should adore feeling grief or pain (that’d be kind of weird), but rather that we should recognize that that suffering is part of the cycle of humanity, and ignoring the reality of suffering cuts us off from the full range of the human experience. Children think that someone bigger than them controls everything and can fix it all; adults know that even after preparation and planning, shit happens.

That is what Buttercup discovers, alone in her room with her grief: sometimes even the best plans go hideously, totally wrong and there really isn’t any way to understand it, predict it, or control it. Sometimes all you can do is accept the misfortune and move forward–and when you do, you find yourself entering that fraternity at last, and then you find yourself surrounded by a lot of other people who are also trying to move forward from their own suffering. You start thinking it was kind of silly to think you had this magic way of avoiding the suffering everybody else has to face, and you start thinking a lot more seriously about the very real ways that people can avoid trouble and repair the damage of inevitable misfortune. And then we can make the choice to extend ourselves anyway–to take the risk, to love, to try–having done everything we can to prepare and knowing that even so, the risk is worth the taking even if it ends disastrously.

If it does, too, then we won’t blame our lack of adherence to rituals but rather honestly examine if we made or missed some material mistake, and try to do better next time. But we can’t really learn until we can look honestly at just how the misfortune happened; we’ll only blame ourselves for having done something wrong and seek ever-grander rituals and shows of compliance with which to propitiate whoever we think is in charge.

That’s why you need to beware of anyone who tries to tell you that suffering can be avoided through the purchase of snake oil. These rituals and prayers and demands for compliance are just theological snake oil that is peddled to those who don’t know any better and will reach for any straw in desperation. As Westley later tells Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Indeed.

I’m very glad to be out of a religion that tried to keep me a child endlessly trying to curry favor with a  being who didn’t even exist in order to protect myself from inevitable misfortune and suffering–protection I never got even at my most obedient and compliant. I’ve discovered the sure knowledge of suffering, and while that discovery didn’t make me more beautiful, it did at least make me an adult and a full participant in the human experience, which I’d rather have anyway.

We’re going to talk this week about some more facets of suffering and protection, control and understanding, and you’re most certainly invited to be here for it. See y’all Wednesday!

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Is right-wing Conservative Evangelicalism the whole Christendom?

I understand that the author has gravely suffered from Christian fundamentalism. I can certainly empathize.
I am dumbstruck, however, by the huge number of over-generalizations one can find in her text (quoted in italics).
“But what are we to do when a Buddhist tells us that suffering happens because people get too stressed out by change and that there is no real self at all, and a Christian tells us that suffering happens because oh why yes we totally have selves and those selves are sinful little beasts without the cleansing of “Jesus”?”
I can’t speak for Buddhists, but I know countless Christians who categorically reject this concept.
(See, for instance, my own take on the problem of pain and this post which argues that the concept of sinful nature can’t be found in the very text of Genesis).
“As one example, let’s look at one of the most pernicious “bargains” Christianity offers. If we don’t tithe, we will suffer hugely, Christian leaders hint to us, and if we do then we’ll have so much fortune that our storehouses won’t be able to hold it all.”
I personally don’t know any Christians I’ve met in the real world who teach such a thing.
“Someone who is suffering gets seen in Christian culture as someone being spanked by “God” for some indiscretion or misdeed, while someone who is clearly healthy, wealthy, and flourishing gets seen as someone “blessed” by that same deity–with the implication that this “blessing” comes from obedience to the arcane rituals and demands of the religion.”
You aren’t going to experience that among left-wing Christians. At least not in that universe, as far as I know.
“It’s not hard at all for me–having come out of a religion that stresses this link between prosperity and one’s choices to obey or disobey religious demands–to see exactly why Christians nowadays tend to belong to the political party that is quickly becoming famous for hatred for and demonization of poor people.”
Conservative Evangelical healthcare: "Please pray for my health insurance coverage too, father!"
Conservative Evangelical Healthcare.
As far as American Conservative Evangelicals are concerned, that’s certainly true.
There’s a HIDEOUS logical connection between their specific religious beliefs and the screwing of the poor.
Nevertheless, it can be easily demonstrated that many other Christian traditions (especially in Europe) are horrified by this state of affairs.
To conclude, I’d say it’s perfectly fair for atheists to criticize religions (in the same way it is fair for religious people to criticize atheism) but it is vital to realize that both Atheism and Religion (along many other ideologies and worldviews) are incredibly DIVERSE.
Care should be taken to verify that one’s criticism applies to all members of the species.
Otherwise, one can all too easily end up preaching to the choir.
As a progressive believer, I don’t feel challenged at all by such kinds of posts. This just makes me laugh.

Reform your faith

I was greatly honored to have received a wonderful text from progressive Christian Chuck Shingledecker. He encouraged me to reproduce it here which I did.

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https://i1.wp.com/freedomtodoubt.com/FTD-cover-front.jpg

Reform your faith
There is an important holiday celebrated on October 31st that has nothing to do with candy and carved pumpkins. It’s a commemoration of the day when a young Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It is Reformation Day.
Luther spent many years trying to follow all of the right disciplines of the church. He went to confession, prayed, fasted, served liturgy. But something inside of him was dissatisfied, tormented by what he held dear as the kingdom of God corrupted by the trappings of an oppressive secular power. Luther began to question what he’d been taught and all that he believed, first privately but then publicly by nailing a letter of 95 complaints about the church’s practices onto the doors of the Castle Church. Western Christianity has never been the same since.
Yet how many of us dare to do as Luther did? Sometimes we may talk about the need for reform in our church. But how many of us contemplate reforming our own faith? It turns out that a lot of us do.
Televangelists will tell us to look to Jesus for all our answers. To trust in God. To pray, fast, light candles, and do all of the feel-good things that give others, and ourselves, the illusion that we are changing on the inside. But that’s not real reform. At least not the sort that matters.
I’m talking about confronting our own faith in such a way that, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we dare to look at Christianity and all we hold dear and question it through the eyes of a skeptic. Let yourself be the troubled, hurting Christian who wants to believe but also to know the real truth. It’s what John Loftus calls the “outsider test for faith.”
That’s what Luther did on that late October day in 1517, at least when it came to the only faith he’d ever known. He certainly didn’t go as far as some of us in the modern world do. But it was a remarkable step, given his time, culture, and place. He questioned important aspects of the faith he loved and served.
I know how hard it must have been for him, because, though I’m certainly no Luther, I’ve done it, too. For many years I was tormented by my faith. I put on a good public display about it all, pretending to believe all of the right things and performing all of the right rituals. But my heart wasn’t always in it, must as it wanted to be. My mind wouldn’t allow it. I’d constantly ask myself, “Why am I doing this? What am I doing here? Do I believe any of it?”
The only answer I could give was that I was supposed to be there, supposed to believe the right things. My faith was dead, or at least dying. Until I did what no one good Christian is supposed to do, embrace the doubts and ideas that only “backsliding” Christians accept. Everything became subject to question: the Bible, the doctrines and authority of the church, and even whether or not I truly believed in God.
Yes, those are all forbidden things to question for many Christians. But so were Luther’s questions in his time. And just like the Reformation of the church, my own spiritual reformation hasn’t always been an easy thing for me. It has led to turmoil, both internal and interpersonal. I’ve lost some friends. And my faith is not what it once was.
It’s a faith that some would call incomplete or thin, no faith at all. And you know what? Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes I have no faith. Sometimes I, like the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who recently said, “There are moments, sure, when you think, ‘Is there a God?’‘Where is God?’” (bbc.com/news/uk-29255318), I’m unsure of whether or not God exists.
Sometimes I believe in God but not the Trinity. Sometimes I believe Jesus was simply a Jewish prophet whom Gentiles co-opted and made into a gentile savior. Other times I’m not sure what it is I believe. But that’s okay. Let me say that again. It’s okay.
I don’t say that to make myself feel better. I say that because I understand what torment it is to Charles Shingledecker – Reform Your Faith.
1 think it isn’t okay. And if you are tormented by your doubts about your faith, I want to say that you are not alone! There are tens of thousands—probably millions—in this country alone who feel just as you do. And if you’ve decided to slowly embrace those doubts, despite how scary it can be, then congratulations. You’ve nailed your own 95 theses to the door of your heart. It won’t always be an easy journey. But in the long run, it will be liberating, because you will no longer be afraid of doubt.

St. teresa of avila quote
A dear friend once told me to not fear my doubts. That was the first step on a long, continuing journey that I’m still on. Do not fear your doubts. Do not fear questioning authority, that of the church or even of God. We are not God’s slaves, but his children. And we are all in need of reform.
This is the lesson I take away from Reformation Day. Luther was far from perfect. At times,
especially later in life, he could be a bigoted and authoritarian asshat. But he did what few others in the history of the church ever would: He challenged its self-proclaimed authority, its long-standing practices, and he brought about reform. Not only of the church, but of his own faith. If he can do it, you can too.
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Chuck’s book Freedom to Doubt is available for the Amazon Kindle and in trade paperback. See FreedomToDoubt.com for excerpts and links. From October 30 to November 3, the Kindle version is being offered at a discounted price of just $0.99.

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I do hope this text will help some of my readers. Otherwise you might also appreciate my own advice for a struggling Christian.

 

 

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How fundamentalists create hell(s)

Progressive Christian blogger Fred Clarke recently called my attention to a worrisome phenomenon taking place in the deepest centre of fundamentalism in the United States.

His post was meant as a parody.

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The Harrowing of Hell House

As the Christian Nightmares blog reminds us, it’s that time of year again. October means Halloweeen — trick-or-treating, haunted hay rides, and — at places with names like “Greater Works Deliverance Ministries” — it means Hell Houses.

https://i1.wp.com/hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/images/e-misferica/4.1_images/41_lg_smalec_1.jpg
Hell Houses are an irredeemably bad idea — a combination of the very worst forms of evangelism with the very worst forms of community theatre. The only thing worse than their warped soteriology and eschatology is their stunted, politicized, culturally shaped notion of what constitutes human sin. Or maybe the writing and acting.

They’re so very awful — and, ultimately, cruel — that some might be tempted to respond by, perhaps, Creating a Scene.

Disclaimer: I do not, of course, advocate interrupting, disrupting or otherwise interfering with any actual Hell House production. That would be uncivil and even, potentially, a misdemeanour. So the following suggestions are just a joke. No one should actually do any of these. Certainly, definitely, absolutely, probably not.

Option No. 1: If not for you meddling kids.

Cast size: 4

Props required: purple dress, bulky rust-colored turtle-neck, large-framed eyeglasses, chartreuse V-neck, cravat. (Optional: Groovy van, Great Dane).

Attend Hell House event dressed as Velma Dinkley, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, Fred Jones, and Daphne Blake.

When the first demonic characters appear, Velma loses her glasses and stumbles, blindly into the performance space. After she blunders into the “demons,” Fred and Daphne step forward to unmask them, after which Shaggy says, “Zoinks! It’s the youth pastor!”

Scoobies

Option No. 2: The Hell House in the Woods.

Cast size: 3-5.

Props required: Short-sleeve white dress shirts, unfashionable ties, pocket-protectors, ID badges, clipboards, lab coat, sweater vest (for optional Roger the Intern).

Attend Hell House event dressed as Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins and Amy Acker’s characters from The Cabin in the Woods. Pretend to be orchestrating the demonic characters of the Hell House and the torment of the teenagers playing humans in the cast, but maintain a business-like, corporate attitude. Calmly explain to other attendees that the torments of Hell may seem cruel and unpleasant, but that we must placate the ancient ones and its the task of these sinners to be offered up to them.

Cabin33

Option No. 3: Who you gonna call?

Cast size: 4

Props required: Matching gray jumpsuits, proton packs, high-tech-looking goggles,  four large trenchcoats (to hide the jumpsuits and proton packs), smart phone with Jackie Wilson mp3 cued up.

Attend Hell House dressed as the Ghostbusters. At the first appearance of demonic characters, whip out the proton packs and start firing. As you are escorted off the premises, hit play on “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and sing along, enthusiastically, on the way out.

Cautionary reminders: Don’t cross the streams. And if anyone asks you if you’re a god, say yes.

GB

Option No. 4: He descended into Hell …

Cast size: 1-12

Props required: White robe, beard, sandals, shepherd’s crook, stigmata. Bathrobe/sandal/beard costumes for assorted patriarchs and prophets (see Acts 7, Hebrews 11 for casting suggestions).

Arrive dressed as Jesus of Nazareth. At the first mention of Hell, shout “Come with me if you want to live” and begin escorting the dead from the Underworld and into Paradise (outside). The gates of Hell House will not prevail against you.

Harrowing2

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I just discovered hell houses through this post. I’m truly horrified by their wretched theology.

These Conservative Evangelicals worship an evil demon they call God.

He CURSED people with a sinful nature in the first place and will eternally torture them for misdeeds they were BOUND to commit.

Never mind the fact that the concept of sinful nature can’t be found within the Bible.

Never mind that the concept of everlasting torment is at odds with or unsupported by almost all Biblical texts.

Any human acting like the Conservative Evangelical god would be seen as a psychopathic monster.

I am also appalled by their focusing on sexual immorality and drugs while ignoring sins related to social justice and lack of charity.

Let’s consider one of their favourite passage for arguing for endless torments:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he
will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered
before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a
shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are
blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for
you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me
something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I
was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you
clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you
came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord,
when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you
something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in
prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry
or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and
did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In other words, NON-believers practising charity are worthy of heaven whereas BELIEVERS failing to do it are worthy of hell, meaning irremediable destruction.

This passage does NOT teach that all people dying as non-believers will be eternally tortured. Quite the contrary. It teaches salvation by work , a doctrine Conservative Protestants passionately detest.

I am extremely confident that many loving and humble people DYING AS ATHEISTS will be in heaven where they will gladly accept to worship the good God they did not believe in after having repented for their trespasses.
It would not shock me that much if many religious self-righteous bigots won’t inherit eternal life and will end up being no more i.e. returning to dust.

Let us give the say to the leader of the Church of Rome for a while:

 

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The end is at hand: New Testament prophecies and the future of the world

Most Conservative Evangelicals I know are deeply convinced that the prophecies contained within the Book of Revelation relate to future events which have yet to come.

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In what follows, I interviewed Chris Date who is himself a Conservative Evangelical for presenting an alternative view called preterism. I often don’t agree with his theology but find he’s a great and kind man as well as a careful exegete of the Bible.

I previously interviewed him about the topic of hell.
Lothar’s Son: So Chris thank you very much for having accepted this new interview 🙂 Today we’re about to talk about the end time and what the Bible has to say about this.
Chris Date: It’s my pleasure.
Lothar’s Son: So, could you please summarize the current Evangelical views on this important theme?
Chris Date: Most evangelicals in America today are what are called futurists: they believe that the bulk of eschatological events foretold in the Bible are yet to be fulfilled in our future, such as the beast/antichrist, the great tribulation, and the millennium of Revelation. Regarding the millennium, most evangelicals in America today are premillennialists, meaning that they think Jesus will return at the beginning of the millennium at some point in our future, and reign over an earthly kingdom for precisely a thousand years, after which will occur the final judgment, general resurrection, and eternal state.
Chris Date: Dispensationalists furthermore believe in a rapture and tribulation period at the beginning of that millennium, and they comprise a large percentage of those premillennial futurists I just described. I might say a majority of them, but I’m not confident about that.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. And are there futurists who are not premillennialist?
Chris Date: Yes, it’s possible to be an amillennialist or postmillennialist and be a futurist. Amillennialists and postmillennialists believe the thousand years talked about in the book of Revelation refer to the present Church age, and a futurist who falls into this camp would probably say that the vision recorded in Revelation is not linear in terms of time, and so although the beast, for example, features earlier in the vision, nevertheless he will appear in our future toward the end of the millennium. That’s my understanding of amillennial/postmillennial futurism, anyway. I could be wrong, as I’m not one of them 🙂


Lothar’s Son: Ok 🙂 What is your own position?
Chris Date: Well I am an amillennialist, but I’m what’s called a preterist. Whereas futurists believe the bulk of biblical, eschatological prophecy awaits fulfillment in our future, we preterists beleive the bulk of it (not all of it) was fulfilled in our past. This includes the beast, the great tribulation, and more.
Chris Date: What we preterists do believe awaits fulfillment in our future is the return of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, final judgment, consummation of all things, and eternal state.
Lothar’s Son: Could you please describe key proof texts for each side?
Chris Date: Well I can point you to some key texts for preterism. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus foretells some eschatological events in Matthew 24, ones futurists believe await fulfillment in our future, but then he says inv erse 34 that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” John says in the prologue of Revelation that the things he was shown “must soon take place” (v. 1) and that “the time is near” (v. 3). Daniel is told to seal up the mystery of his vision “until the time of the end” because, apparently, the time of its fulfillment is in the distant future (Dan. 12:4), but John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). This sampling of what we preterists call the “time texts” demonstrates that much of the things many Christians have been told awaits fulfillment in our future must, in fact, have been fulfilled in our past.
Chris Date: As for futurism, it’s more difficult to offer you key texts because, frankly, I don’t think they have any. I think all futurists can argue is that the texts I just listed cannot mean what they appear to mean because if they did, then we could not read much of the prophecies in Scripture literally. But of course, that’s part of the question being begged. We preterists don’t think the authors of Scripture ever intended for their eschatological, apocalyptic prophecy to be interpreted literally. The genre is one of highly symbolic dreams and visions, and so one shouldn’t be afraid of letting the texts I listed earlier speak for themselves and being forced to interpret prophecies as symbolic; that’s how they’re supposed to be itnerpreted.


Lothar’s Son: Many people Skeptical of Christianity would say that Jesus and the writers of the NT really awaited the end to be at hand but were wrong. They’d say that preterism is an attempt to escape the obvious meaning of these texts. What would be your response to that?
Chris Date: My response would be that in fact what I’ve argued is the obvious meaning of those texts. Take, for example, the beast of Revelation. It’s described as having seven heads and ten horns, but an angel interprets it for John saying that the heads represent hills or mountains on which a city sits. So the text itself tells us that the vision is intended to be interpreted as symbols; we preterists aren’t dodging anything at all. The angel also tells John, incidentally, that the king represented by the fifth head is alive and reigning at the time John was given his vision, some 2,000 years ago. Again, we preterists aren’t dodging the obvious meanings of texts; we’re letting the text speak for itself. I can’t help that when one correctly interprets Scripture, it defeats skepticism 🙂
Lothar’s Son: Okay 🙂 But when Jesus foretold that this generation would not pass without having seen the return of the Son of Man, what did He mean according to preterism? How do futurists interpret this statement?
Chris Date: Before I answer that question, may I ask you where Jesus said they would see “the return of the Son of Man”? I see that nowhere.
Chris Date: I think what you’re referring to is Matt 24:30, but “return” is nowhere in that text.
Lothar’s Son: “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” You’ll see the son of man on a cloud
Chris Date: Right, what Jesus says is that “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Note no “return”. We preterists recall that in the Old Testament, the Lord, YHVH, comes on clouds in judgment when he destroys cities. The language isn’t intended to be taken literally, as if the God of Israel saddles up a cloud and floats down from the sky on it, throwing handfulls of brimstone upon the cities he’s judging. No, it’s apocalyptic symbolism communicating God’s destructive judgment upon cities. And indeed, what happened within the generation of those to whom Jesus is here speaking? Jerusalem is judged, the temple destroyed.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks for the explanation. When I read things such as “9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
it’s really hard for me to believe this refers to future events because this clearly happens ALL THE TIME.
How can futurists make sense of this fact? Can they really do that? 🙂
Chris Date: Hmm, well, I suppose they might respond in one or both of two ways:
Chris Date: First, some futurists will acknowledge that some of this passage talks about events that were coming within the generation of those to whom Jesus was speaking, and that they might include the events you just referred to. But, they would say, the more cataclysmic events must be awaiting fulfillment in our future. Second, some futurists might argue that just because things have happened since Jesus delivered this prophecy that bear some resemblance to what he prophecied, it doesn’t mean they fulfilled it. If, for example, I predicted shortly before the year 1,800 that America would go to war, a dozen years later the war of 1,812 might be thought to be the fulfillment of my prediction, but if what I was prohpecying was, in fact, the much bloodier civil war that was coming a half a century later, well then the war of 1,812 would not have fulfilled my prophecy. Make sense? So futurists might argue regarding Matthew 24; many events may have tranpired, and my transpire all the time, which bear some resemblance to what he predicted, but it doesn’t mean they fulfilled it.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. What are to your mind fatal objections to futurism? Is post-millenarism in that respect superior to pre-millenarism?
Chris Date: Well I’m not a postmillennialist; I’m an amillennialist. But both views, recognizing that the thousand years of Revelation symbolizes an indefinitely long period of time that began in our past, are certainly superior to premillennialism. And I’ve already offered what I think are the fatal objections to futurism. It’s simply not possible, in my opinion, to take those texts seriously as a futurist. The answers I’ve seen them give are woefully inadequate. But I will offer one more.
Chris Date: In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that when the resurrection of believers happens–which premillennialists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists agree happens concurrent with the return of Christ–it will bring the defeat of death (vv. 50-55). But look what he says: he says death is the last enemy to be destroyed (v. 26). If premillennialists are right, then believers are resurrected a thousand years before death and others of God’s enemies (like Satan) are destroyed. In amillennialism and postmillennialism, on the other hand, the resurrection and return of Christ happen after “he has put all enmies under his feet,” and so, indeed, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” It all fits, but doesn’t in premillennialism.


Lothar’s Son: Ok thanks! Do you think that these views can have huge consequences for the way one’s Christian life is lead? Or for Evangelism?
Chris Date: Huge consequences? I don’t know about that. Perhaps. Postmillennialists seem committed, for example, to improving the world in ways some premillennialists are not, since postmillennialists think the world will be nearly 100% Christianized by the time Christ returns, whereas premillennialists think he could return at any moment. More dangerous, I think, is the unbiblical literalism with which many premillennialists read prophetic texts. Take the mark of the beast, for example; many premillennialists, reading this literally and as awaiting fulfillment in our future, think the day is coming when we’ll be forced to accept a tattoo on our hands, or an electronic implant, and they think that Christians will refuse it. Imagine if such a technology became popular that would allow shoppers to more quickly and easily check out at the grocery store, by just swiping our hand over a scanner. We amillennialists and postmillennialists wouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of such a helpful technology, but a premillennialist very likely might, and may even judge us other Christians for what they think constitutes accepting the mark of the beast.
Chris Date: Perhaps there are other “huge” consequences but none come to my mind at the moment. I’m always leary of suggesting that when Christians disagree on the non-essentials, there are “huge” consequences. Often I don’t think there are.
Lothar’s Son: Okay, I think I mostly agree as far as moderate people in each camp are concerned 🙂 . But can some of these literal interpretations make Christianity look much more foolish that it needs to be? I’m thinking about popular movies or books from premilleniarists I can only view as utterly ridiculous, despite my best attempts to be charitable.
Chris Date: Yes I think there may be some truth to that, but being a Calvinist–the topic of another interview I suppose–I think apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit people are going to easily find excuses to reject the gospel. If presented less laughably than in Left Behind, unbelievers still hostile to God will just find some other reason to reject it.
Lothar’s Son: Okay! While you don’t know how this is going to happen, how do you imagine the return of Christ as a preterist? I’m not asking for a prophecy 🙂 just about some mental pictures you might have.
Chris Date: Well, I do share some things in common with Dispensationalists, particularly with regards to the nation of Israel. Based on my interpretation of the symbolism in Revelation 20 and Romans 9-11, I think that toward the end of this period of time, the Gentile world will become decreasingly Christian and Jews, particularly in Israel, will increasingly and corporately accept her Messiah. I think with the world increasingly hating Israel, it will one day attack her, at which point Christ will return and protect her, and that will usher in the resurrection, final judgment, etc.
Chris Date: But “how” will that happen? I don’t know.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. So are you in that particular respect “partially futurist”? Would that be a correct phrase?
Chris Date: No, it wouldn’t. All orthodox Christians believe some things await fulfillment in our future. What differentiates a futurist from a preterist is what things one thinks awaits fulfillment in one’s future, or has already been fulfilled. The beast; the great tribulation; the mark of the beast; the onset of the millennium; etc.
Lothar’s Son: Is there a connection between belief in preterism and belief in conditional immortality?
Chris Date: It depends on what you mean by that. Are most preterists conditionalists? I don’t think so. I think most preterists are traditionalists, since traditionalism is still, well, traditional 🙂 But I do think they’re being inconsistent, as I explain in this article at Rethinking Hell .
Chris Date: I’ll let your readers check that out.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks! Do you believe that we’ll usher into a brand new universe or realm? Or will simply the universe and earth in which we live be renewed?
Chris Date: I think it will be renewed or restored, not obliterated and replaced.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks for everything! To conclude, could you perhaps give relevant links towards your blog or elsewhere?
Chris Date: Your readers can find my personal blog and podcast at http://www.theopologetics.com. I’ve done a few shows on preterism that they may find interesting. I also blog and podcast at http://www.rethinkinghell.com, if your readers want to learn more about conditionalism. I’m less actively lately at both sites, however, as I’m currently going to school. I can be reached at chris@theopologetics.com or chrisdate@rethinkinghell.com if anyone would like to hear from me.
Lothar’s Son: Okay! What are you up to for the coming months?
Chris Date: Sadly I was laid off last week so #1 will be finding a new job 🙂 But aside from that, I’m also taking a class in Greek, another in Philosophy, and I’m raising 4 kids with my wife. So I’ll be up to a lot for the coming months!
Lothar’s Son: Oh yeah I truly wish you good lucks for finding a new position and all your other endeavors. Thank you very much for the time you granted me!
Chris Date: You’re very welcome. God bless, and take care.

https://i0.wp.com/grapplerschurch.tv/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ChrisDate.jpg

Evangelical talibans

Christian patriarchy, misogyny, oppression and abuses  

Christian patriarchy is a radical Calvinist movement  which teaches that the state of affairs concerning the treatment of women in the Old Testament does not only reflect the culture of the ancient near east at that time but also represents God’s holy will for females living at all times.

Christian patriarchs like John McArthur teach that it is a sin for a woman to work, to vote and to choose herself her husband.

But even more moderate Conservative Evangelicals fosters a structure where abuses against women are much more likely to happen than in the secular world or in progressive Churches.

Timothy Swanson did an excellent job at exposing this madness in a post whose content I have reproduced here.

The post is very long but it is really worth being read entirely.

Mein Foto

On Domestic Violence: How Conservative Christianity has Chosen Patriarchal Gender Roles Over the Protection of Victims

 
“A woman, an ass, and a walnut tree, the more they’re beaten, the better still they be.” ~ European Proverb c. 1400 AD
“Take up a stick and beat her, not in rage, but out of charity and concern for her soul, so that the beating will rebound to your merit and her good.” ~ Friar Cherubino in Rules of Marriage on what a medieval husband should do if his wife does not obey his verbal correction
“Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.” ~ Noel Coward, from Private Lives
The men are placed in charge of the women, since God has endowed them with the necessary qualities and made them bread earners. The righteous women will accept this arrangement obediently, and will honor their husbands in their absence, in accordance with God’s commands. As for the women who show rebellion, you shall first enlighten them, then desert them in bed, and you may beat them as a last resort.
~ The Koran, Sura 4:34
“Yes, he pushed you around and hit you in the face and left bruises all over your kids, but he is still your husband.  Just go home, pray for him, turn the other cheek, have more sex with him, and look for better ways to keep your house cleaner and make your children obey immediately. A happy husband whose wife is loving him this way would never abuse her!” ~ The typical advice given in ultraconservative and Patriarchal Christianity to abused women (see below)
Since I was first admitted to the practice of law, I have represented victims of domestic violence, first as a staff attorney for the local Legal Aid organization, and both in my private practice and a volunteer on pro bono cases through the present time. Some of the cases involved violence against an aged parent, a few involved violence against men, and a few cases were same sex or sibling disputes. However, and unsurprisingly, most were violence by men against their intimate partners.
In that time, I have noticed a common thread among the victims. In the vast majority of the cases, the victims belonged to either a church or a culture that emphasized the submission of women to men – often both. The city and county in which I live and practice is home to many immigrants from all over the world, and most of them come from “traditional” cultures. Our county also tends to be conservative, and has a high rate of church attendance. We also have a relatively high rate of poverty, which is also associated with domestic violence. All of these contribute, of course.
Without a doubt, the biggest frustration for a lawyer in these cases is that, very often, the victim goes right back to the abuser and the cycle repeats itself.
The problem is, a lawyer, a judge, and a policeman can only do so much. We have a limited time in which to encourage a victim to protect herself and to continue to protect herself (and sometimes children as well) in the future. In my experience, the barrier to this is the culture, which usually works against the victim by telling her that she needs to submit more, obey more, express her opinion less, and then she won’t be beaten. Not only that, but she is expected to reconcile despite the abuse, and without proof of a genuine and long-term change by the abuser.
I wish I could say that the church is helping to change the culture, but that would be a lie.
The conservative church, in particular, has become focused on the idea of “feminism” as the enemy, and has thus decided that marital problems are caused because the woman isn’t submissive enough. I will detail more of this later, but first, a history of the laws related to the abuse of women will help to show the connection between power and abuse.
Pretty much as far back as any record of civilization can be found, men have been considered to be the superior sex, and women were expected to obey them. I could spend a lot of time and space putting citations for this fact, but it is readily apparent to anyone who has studied history.
In Hammurabi’s Code (c. 1772 BC – before the Old Testament was written) – best known for “an eye for an eye” – put women in the same class as children, slaves, and chattel. The husband (father, master, owner) was owed obedience, and could subject his wife to criminal prosecution if she failed to obey. (It was assumed he could use physical discipline as well, as long as he didn’t maim her. Although he could use deadly force for the worst offenses.)
Aristotle, who along with Plato provided much of the philosophical backbone of the Greek and Roman world of the New Testament, believed that females started out as males in the womb, but suffered a developmental defect that made them female. Thus, women, children, and slaves were all fair game to be punished and corrected with physical force, because they were congenitally inferior and in need of correction.
 
 
In ancient Rome, a man could strike, maim, or even kill in some circumstances, a wife who was not sufficiently submissive. Saint Augustine strongly advocated for women to be obedient in order to avoid beatings. It was just assumed to be the way of the world. (Again, I am not going to spend time finding the exact citations for these ideas, but they are not difficult to find. See the note at the end for a good starting place.)
Even as late as the late 1700s, William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England notes that “chastisement” was considered normal.
“The husband … by the old law, might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law thought it reasonable to intrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children…for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer.” (From Chapter 15.)
Note: there are multiple references in writings of this period of the “rule of thumb.” The rule was that a husband could beat his wife with a stick, so long as it was no wider than his thumb – or longer than his forearm. (For me – a fairly small man – the stick would be ⅞” in diameter, and 17 ½” long. Any volunteers?) By the time this saying became popular, the law had already changed, so it is not certain that this was a true statement of the fine points of the law, but it is not disputed that “chastisement” of a wife was not actually outlawed until at least the late 1600s.
Throughout the history of literature, the abuse of women is treated as a source of humor, or taken for granted. In my blog, I have already noted a couple of these instances. In the Miracle Plays of the Middle Ages. In modern impoverished communities such as those described in Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s in the culture.
And now, I will say something nice about the Puritans, who I am not generally very fond of, for a variety of theological and ethical reasons. However, they did get this one right. The 1641 Massachusetts Bodie of Liberties, while it did not grant freedom of religion or speech, did grant this important, and somewhat unprecedented freedom to wives:
To be “free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband.”
Unfortunately, this right was all too often a right without a remedy, as it was poorly prosecuted, and inconsistently punished. In 1976, twelve battered wives filed suit against the New York City Police Department, alleging that battered wives were treated differently than victims of assault by strangers. They won. The court held that justice was indeed being denied to beaten wives. Bruno v. Codd, 407 N.Y.S. 2nd 165 (1978)
The sad thing about this is that this wasn’t the Middle Ages. This was the late 1970s: during my lifetime. While things have improved somewhat, there is still remaining inconsistency in prosecution.
Up until now, I have been discussing primarily the criminal justice available to beaten wives. But what about divorce? Couldn’t they leave? Actually, no. Not until the late 1800s in most parts of the United States. In England this happened in 1878. A woman could not divorce for violence, nor for her husband’s adultery. (A man could divorce for these reasons.) A woman would have to be “abandoned” in order to be granted a divorce. (There is a tedious, but informative story about this very thing in Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett, which I reviewed here.) So, as long as a man financially supported a woman, she was stuck. She could try to have him prosecuted, but she couldn’t leave.
 
The point of this history is in part to dispel the current fad in conservative Christian circles to believe that the past was a more moral, “godly” time. The second point is that an acceptance of violence against women has been the norm for most of history, in all times and places. It is only in the relatively recent past that this has changed. And obviously, it has changed only to a degree, and only in the attitudes of some. Thus, it is ludicrous to say that the cause of domestic violence is feminism. General acceptance of such violence predated even first-wave feminism by 3500 years. At least. Feminism was a reaction, in part, to this violence.
Furthermore, it follows that the key to changing the mindset that tolerates and encourages violence is not to attack “feminism” as the bogeyman, but to change the attitude that says that it is okay to force a woman to obey a man.
Caveat: Before I get going on this point, I do want to make some things clear. Domestic Violence is not just male to female, but the damage primarily occurs in this direction. Also, the power differential has historically been in favor of the man, as I have shown, so male to female violence reinforces this inequality in power.
Second caveat: I do want to be clear that a general belief in male rule is not the same thing as violence. Not all who believe the woman should obey the man are abusers. If I am reading the statistics correctly (see the links below for the source), 75% of those who believe in the “traditional” hierarchy will never abuse their wives. However, the point is that we need to stop the 25% from feeling encouraged by our culture and our religion.
I also want to make a distinction between “hard” Patriarchy and “soft” Patriarchy (whose proponents often prefer “Complementarianism”). Hard Patriarchy is represented by Douglas Phillips of Vision Forum (Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy), Bill Gothard (Institute in Basic Life Principles), Michael and Debbie Pearl, and a number of others. Hard Patriarchists advocate an absolute rule by men and fathers strikingly similar to Hammurabi’s code. (I have discussed the Patriarchists’ connection to Christian Reconstructionism and White Supremacy here. I have discussed the Patriarchists’ desire to return to the culture of the ancient world – such as Hammurabi – here.) The emphasis is on hierarchy and obedience.
In contrast, “soft” Patriarchists hold to a view of male rule within the home and church, but balance it with a corresponding duty by the man to love and serve his wife. This would describe most of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation, who largely functioned in egalitarian manner, with mutual decision making, and an emphasis on love rather than hierarchy.
My concern is that over the last couple of decades, the focus in Complementarian circles has shifted away from the idea of mutual sacrifice and love toward the hard Patriarchal emphasis on womanly obedience and the supposed evils of “feminism.” (I use the quotes because the term is used as a bogeyman, and no distinction is made between the various waves of feminism or the different schools of feminist thought. Thus, Douglas Phillips can use the term to refer to everything from women’s suffrage to the present, while most probably are thinking of some sort of lesbian man-hater promoting abortion. That is a big difference. As I explained here, the Patriarchists are big fans of R. L. Dabney, the Confederate chaplain who claimed that women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery would destroy Christendom.) This is also why Doug Wilson can claim that those who disagree on “feminism” are heathens. Note the use of the code phrase “creation order of human sexuality,” which means male dominance. See below for more on this.
Why do I go to such lengths to explain this? Because the ancient lie that the cause of domestic violence is unsubmissive women and that the cure for violence is more submission is making a comeback in conservative Christian circles.
Let me start off with John Piper, who I once considered to be a reasonably mainstream preacher. (Before learning of statements like this, and others that are pretty far out there.)
I posted this link in my previous post on women in ancient cultures. Here, Piper clearly advises that a woman should stay and submit to abuse. Not leave and seek safety for her and her children. Not report a violent crime to the authorities. Stay and submit to abuse. 
Or how about this one, from a Saddleback Church pastor. (Not Rick Warren, the most famous of the bunch.) That’s right, just like it used to be legally, he says that morally, violence is not grounds for a divorce. Stay and submit to abuse. 
Or what about Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary? What does he say?
“I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.”  And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.”  And sure enough, he did.  She came to church one morning with both eyes black.  And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter.  And she said, “I hope you’re happy.”  And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.”  And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”
“And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came.  And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front.  And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.”  And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?”  And he’s a great husband today.  And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis.  And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.
And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him.  Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.”
Well, bully for him that he came to church, but I see nothing about follow up to be sure that the abuse stopped permanently. Based on my experience, it probably returned as soon as the cycle continued on to the next phase.
 
I hesitate to even dignify Michael or Debbie Pearl with a quote. They are best known for their book, To Train Up A Child, which advocates beating children with plumbing tubes. Several children have died as a result of their teachings. (See note below.)
In what surely must come as no surprise, the Pearls advocate women submitting to violence as well. 
“Has your husband reviled you and threatened you? You are exhorted to respond as Jesus did. When he was reviled and threatened, he suffered by committing himself to a higher judge who is righteous. You must commit yourself to the one who placed you under your husband’s command. Your husband will answer to God, and you must answer to God for how you respond to your husband, even when he causes you to suffer.Just as we are to obey government in every ordinance, and servants are to obey their masters, even the ones who are abusive and surly, ‘likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands’…You can freely call your husband ‘lord’ when you know that you are addressing the one who put him in charge and asked you to suffer at your husband’s hands just as our Lord suffered at the hands of unjust authorities…When you endure evil and railing without returning it, you receive a blessing, not just as a martyr, but as one who worships God.”
That’s right. Better to be a martyr – that is dead – than to leave and protect yourself or go against the man in any way.
[Note: I do not personally know anyone who is a fan of the Pearls, but they are somewhat popular within the Christian Patriarchy movement, and the teachings are a slightly more extreme version of the beliefs regarding absolute obedience by children and women that are the hallmark of Patriarchy.]
One more example. This one is from Nancy DeMoss, in an interview (along with Mary Kassian, promoting their new series on “biblical” womanhood) on the once fairly mainstream Focus on the Family radio.
We need to be sensitive to the occasions where women have a background of abuse—but we can’t say that the solution for abuse is for women to “cling to their rights.” Christ laid down his rights . . . We are the most like Christ when we are serving, and when we’re not “the end thereof is the way of death.” Feminism is the “forbidden fruit,” and the world’s ways are attractive, but when we bit into it we get a mouthful of worms . . . When you lay down your “rights,” then you find God leads you to pleasant paths . . . We live in a broken world, no one has a perfect marriage . . . we have to wait for eternity to find happiness. 
That’s right! Once again, the “solution” to violence is for the woman to “lay down her rights.” You know, like the right to safety for her and her children.
I also can’t help but note the gratuitous reference to “feminism” as being the enemy. I’ll admit that the use of “feminism” to represent the idea of getting out of an abusive marriage makes me rather inclined to embrace that form of “feminism.” [I want to do a further post on this interview, because there are so many more poisonous things said that need to be addressed.]
I also wince at that line, “we have to wait for eternity to find happiness.” This is sometimes true – the world does not owe us happiness – but again, this is used in the context of explaining why women should endure abuse.
The great Victorian novelist, Wilkie Collins notes this attitude in No Name, when the passive Norah resigns herself to her fate. (See my more in-depth review of that book here.)
“The way to happiness is often very hard to find; harder, I almost think, for women than for men. But if we only try patiently, and try long enough, we reach it at last — in heaven, if not on earth.”
Or, as C-3PO puts it: “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.”
The basic worldview is that women’s happiness, women’s right to be free from violence, and indeed women’s right to life, are all secondary to the need to submit.
[Note: there is so much more awful stuff in that Kassian/DeMoss interview that I wish to address in a different post on the current obsession with gender roles in the conservative church. Stay tuned.]
Needless to say, I find this to be an appalling response to a serious problem. Furthermore, it demonstrates a tendency to side with the perpetrators against the victims – something totally contrary to the Christian ethic. In fact, I would say that one of the key themes of the Bible is to do justice to the oppressed. To oppose the oppressor, to defend the powerless, not those with power. (See Isaiah 58 for more.)
The problem is that for some reason, conservative Christianity has decided that the main if not sole cause of problems in marriages is that women are no longer “submissive.” That is, that “feminism” is the source of our problems, and that all we have to do to go back to whatever Utopian ideal of great “biblical” marriages is for women to reject feminism, give up their rights, and take whatever men give them.
This is a disgrace to our faith.
As a lawyer, I know there is a better way to address domestic violence. It isn’t a secret.
1. Call the police. Violence, even between spouses, is a crime in the civilized world. Treat it as such.
2. Zero tolerance. If you hit, the marriage is over. We do not risk the lives and safety of others, particularly children.
3. Since women – particularly poor women – are at financial risk in a split, be prepared to assist.
4. Before even considering putting the marriage back together, the abuser needs to demonstrate a change. Anger management, two years of a demonstrated change minimum. Preferably five years. (This is similar to drug or alcohol addiction – a long track record of sobriety is needed.)
Now, one of the things that is often raised in this case (and was raised by Patterson, above) is the idea that submission to abuse will result in the salvation of the perpetrator. I’m sure all of us who have spent time in conservative churches have heard that one. In fact, we probably heard a story similar to the one told by Patterson. Leaving aside the fact that I have deep suspicions of anecdotes told by pastors when they are a bit self serving, I have noticed that the stories circulating in churches have all the hallmarks of urban legends. It is always a friend of a friend. Somebody someone once knew. As I indicated above, I deeply doubt that Patterson’s case resulted in a complete transformation. If it did it would be rare. But all the rest are third hand stories. Urban legends.
Do you know what? Unlike those urban legends, I could easily demonstrate the more usual result when a woman goes back and submits. I dare you. Look through the archives of the newspaper of your city or town. Chances are, you will find a case involving a dead woman. Dead at the hands of a husband or partner. And, chances are, the story will mention that the police had previously been summoned to the residence due to violence. Perhaps she even filed for a restraining order. But she went back. And now she is a “martyr” as the Pearls would put it. Thirty percent of women who are are murder victims were killed by their intimate partner. (US Bureau of Justice statistics, 2000)  In fact, here is a recent case from my own hometown. I am happy to note that the wife survived her gunshot wounds. [Update 7-11-2013: She subsequently died from her wounds.] I am not happy to report that the shooter was an attorney. 
This is the usual result of returning and submitting. Not conversion of the violent man. Not some promised miracle. No. After the victim goes back and submits, the abuse continues, and probably escalates. In some cases, someone dies.
There is a solution to the cycle of violence, and it isn’t telling the victim to be nicer and more submissive. It is removing the violent person from the situation.
It is fitting that Eminem and Rihanna perform this song, as both have had their own experiences with domestic violence. Trigger warning. This song contains violence and language, and is highly disturbing. It also illustrates the cycle of violence far too well.
I have, in the course of my law practice, assisted in quite a few divorces involving Christians and also involving violence. I could write an extensive post on the problems in marriages, and may some day. I think that churches often take the wrong approach. However, it is particularly in the “women must submit” diagnosis that things go the most wrong. In the non-violent breakups, the woman generally believes she has been submissive. (I would note that in many of these cases, she has, but has been unloving – a totally different problem.) In all my cases, I have only had one in which the man complained of a lack of submission.
This particular case was also the most troubling divorce I have ever facilitated. (I represented the wife.)
The husband was (and is) a pastor. Also, one of the creepiest people I have ever met. He insisted upon having his way sexually with his wife in a way that she found degrading and painful. Things got so bad that she would lock herself in the guest room every night to avoid rape. It wasn’t until her adult children insisted she get counseling that things changed. The female counselor (provided by the denomination, actually, and a licensed professional) recognized the problem, and helped her end the marriage. It took some work by the counsellor and myself to break through the years of “submit” to get her to believe that she was not sinning by ending the marriage. (I am happy to report that she is doing well several years later. I am also happy to report that the denomination terminated him from his position – a very rare thing, in my experience. However, he quickly found another position in another state. Apparently real creeps never lack employment in ministry.)
Once again, not all or even most of those who espouse hierarchy in marriage are abusers. But the philosophy attracts abusers because it provides them with cover and justification. And, when we tell women that they must stay and take abuse, we become participants in that violence.
This is one of several areas that the American Church seems blissfully unaware of how non-Christians view it. I was told from my childhood that “unbelievers” rejected my religion because they wanted to sin. They viewed us as a bunch of prudes intent on ruining their fun. This isn’t completely untrue. We are viewed as prudes. Sometimes, we deserve it.
But what I have come to realize working in Family Court is that we are also viewed – for good reason – as immoral. Because we say things like this.
There is a great comment on John Piper’s video (linked above) by a person who goes by the handle of “butchkitties.”
“Richard Dawkins wishes he were as effective as this video at convincing people that Christianity is a morally bankrupt mess.”
When we decide that a belief in an ancient hierarchy of rule by men trumps the physical safety and lives of women, we are indeed morally bankrupt, and even an atheist can do better than that.
Note on SGM and child abuse:
Not only is this tendency to emphasise power structures over damage to people expressing itself in a failure to defend women from violence, it has also popped up in the recent lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries resulting from the cover-up of child molestation. (SGM is a church popular with The Gospel Coalition, one of the better known proponents of Complimentarianism, and also known for its authoritarian ways. John Piper is a prominent member of this group.)  (Since several of the perps have been convicted, it is safe to say that the abuse occurred. I think there is also good evidence that the church attempted to cover for the abusers.) Again, submission to the powerful (the church leaders) becomes more important than justice for the victims. Or even protection of the victims. In fact, the leadership apparently made the molested children formally “forgive” and “reconcile” with their molesters. For more on this, I recommend thewartburgwatch.com for their ongoing series on the abuse and coverup.
Again, the same prescription applies – as it should for the Catholic Church as well: Call the police. Prosecute the perpetrators. Support the victims in their recovery.
Note on the Pearls:
Here is a quote that gives an idea of the philosophy of child raising advocated by the Pearls:
Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.
Unsurprisingly, Sean Paddock, Lydia Schatz, and Hana Grace-Rose Williams died as a result of these teachings.
 
Note on Rape:
This is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but a related misconception, particularly in Patriarchal culture is that rape is caused by something the woman did or didn’t do.
I previously noted Douglas Wilson’s claim that rape is caused by women not submitting enough, and I reproduce it here:
A blogger and friend of Douglas Wilson re-posted the following excerpt from Wilson’s book, Fidelity: How to be a One Woman Man as a response to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel about kinky, violent sex. All excerpts can be viewed on Amazon.com using the search within the book feature.
Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours. (Page 88.)
It is beyond the scope of this post to explain why this is offensive, and I assume most of my readers will find that point to be completely obvious. It also fits neatly with the Christian Patriarchy view that women are in fact lesser beings, and therefore must always be under the protection (and control) of a man. In fact, Wilson makes this reasonably clear in the opening of the first chapter of the book:
This book was written for men and their sons. I suggest that wives read this only when their husbands give it to them, and not the other way around. The introduction mentioned the issue of “straight talk” – and this means, in part, a rejection of euphemism. Some of what is said here may be offensive to Christian women, but the point is certainly not to give offense. The point is to provide biblically specific and pointed help to Christian males. (On page 13.)
Although, again, this discussion is beyond the scope of this one post, I may have to explore the degree to which misogyny and the control of women are a core belief of the Christian Patriarchy movement.
Suffice it to say that, like many of Wilson’s ideas, this one is not only factually false, but obviously factually false. Those places in the world where women are most likely to be raped also happen to be those places which most adhere to the Patriarchal view of male-female relations. Even worse, many of those in these areas of the world that advocate patriarchy mutilate the genitals of their females, which ensures that the sex act is not an “egalitarian pleasure fest.” That, in fact, is the point.
If Wilson were really concerned about ending rape, he might note that women are the safest in those countries that have strong rape laws, a view of women as equals, and influential feminist movements.
[Subsequent note: in the same book, Wilson denies that the HIV virus causes AIDS, and advocates that women have unprotected sex with their HIV positive husbands. No, seriously. Search inside the book at Amazon.com. Page 169]
I would add as well that in the aftermath of the recent Steubenville rape case, there has been a renewed assertion of the lie that rape is about sexual desire. (This ties in nicely with the claim that “she was raped because she was wearing that.” Again, just like with domestic violence, the response is to blame the victim. Not submissive enough. Wearing the wrong thing. I really wish that more people would make an open-minded study of rape culture and the actual facts regarding rape before making such offensive and obviously factually false claims.
Here are a few good rebuttals: Gang Rape is about violence, not sex. 
Note on the duty of the woman to obey:
It is beyond the scope of this post to argue over the particular theological interpretation given to certain passages of the Bible by patriarchists. I may eventually compile some links by those who have a better knowledge of Greek language and history than I have in a future post.
For now, I want to focus on the implications of the supposed duty of a woman to obey her husband. (Patriarchists interpret the Bible to require absolute, unquestioning obedience.) As lawyers, we refer to such things as rights. The husband (in this hypothetical) has a right to his wife’s obedience. The question then would be, what is the remedy? How can the husband enforce the right to absolute obedience? If he can’t, then it isn’t worth much as a right.
As I have demonstrated, the historical patriarchal answer has been that a husband may take physical action to compel obedience. In Hammurabi’s time, that might extend to capital punishment. Later, this would be limited to reasonable beatings, however one might define that.
So, what to do if one cannot outright advocate committing a crime, eliminating beatings as a method of enforcement?
The ever-resourceful Douglas Wilson has a solution for you. (I swear, finding crazy stuff written by DW is almost too easy.)
Yes, that’s right! You can subject her to church discipline (the Protestant equivalent of excommunication) if she doesn’t do what you want. After all, to fail to obey one’s husband is sin. To do it after being warned is persistent sin – and thus warrants discipline until she decides to stop sinning by obeying her husband absolutely. So I guess threatening one’s wife with damnation is sort of better than beating her. I still find it abusive.
[I note that, after this post made a big stir on the internet, Wilson retracted it. However, it is very much in harmony with his views of the absolute duty of obedience, so I’ll admit to doubting that the retraction represents a true change in Wilson’s actual opinion.]
For a good rebuttal and discussion, see this post. 
One of my favorite exercises is to reverse the roles in a situation to expose how sexist (or racist) the “solution” is. In this case, note that the woman is told to go pray about it, but the man is allowed to seek a remedy. Try it backwards. Tell the man to go home and pray. “God, please make my wife do the dishes.” Or, “God, please make my wife have more sex with me.” I would be embarrassed to make that request. But instead, it’s, “God, please keep my husband from beating me.” Yeah, that makes sense.
Or how about this. “A man shouldn’t cling to his rights to have sex and a clean house. Christ’s example proves we should lay down our rights.” Why don’t we hear this? It actually makes more sense than “don’t cling to your right not to be abused.” Didn’t Saint Paul actually use Christ’s sacrifice to describe the way a husband should act. But instead, the woman is told to submit to abuse, while the man is advised on how to get his way. The man is never told that he will need to wait for the afterlife to have clean dishes.
The conclusion is inescapable. A man’s “right” to be obeyed trumps the woman’s right to personal safety.
But, it does fit with the worldview that men are active. Women are passive. They “receive, surrender, accept.” A man takes action to get what he wants. A woman must passively hope that God rescues her.
I will also admit that if I were the pastor and a parishioner came to me asking me to discipline his wife for not doing the dishes, I would be sorely tempted to tell him to get off his lazy ass and go wash them himself.  
Note on the Martyr Complex:
During my childhood years, our family attended John MacArthur’s megachurch in Los Angeles. While he is not nearly as extreme as the partriarchists I quoted above, he is not only a complementarian, but also does not believe abuse is grounds for divorce. At least he grants that a woman has a right to protect herself from physical harm. However, I note that he does not consider verbal and emotional abuse to be grounds for a split.
I believe that this has some serious moral and practical problems. Let me explain.
First, there are plenty of abusive spouses who stop just short of a hit. However, they create an environment of fear and intimidation that is far from healthy. Also, it is damaging to the children, who are typically emotionally abused as well. I can speak from the experience of my practice, my observation of friends and acquaintances, and an abusive situation within my extended family.
Here is the problem: the spouse (nearly always the woman) is able to feel self righteous because she stays and submits. She becomes a martyr. She can tell her friends at church (and her relatives) about how hard her life is, and she gets lots of sympathy. She is able to be the “good person,” the “godly person,” even as she allows her children to be verbally and emotionally abused. And the Church backs her up.
This is yet another reason why domestic violence – and its little sibling verbal and emotional abuse – should be treated seriously. By insisting that there is nothing noble about staying in a bad situation, the following could be accomplished. First, bullies would lose their enabling. If victims leave, they would be left with their own unpleasant selves. Second, all this complaining and the martyr complex would be met with a demand for action. Protect the children, and stop enabling bad behavior. 
 

Evangelicalism, intellectual honesty and academic freedom

 Evangelikalismus, intellektuelle Ehrlichkeit und akademische Freiheit

First of all it is vital to realize there are two types of Evangelicals.

1) Conservative Evangelicals believing that everything the Biblical writers intended is true and the Bible is the unique revelation of God to man.

2) Progressive Evangelicals holding the counter-intuitive view that the Biblical writers did mistakes but that everything that God intended through the text is without errors and that the Bible is the unique revelation of God to man.

It turns out that a considerable number of ID-creationists (proponents of Intelligent Design) are conservative Evangelicals.

ExpelledNoIntelligenceAllowed_883476004990_500

They complained very loudly about the alleged lack of academic freedom of defending their form of creationism within the Academia through their film Expelled.

This raises the obvious question: how well does academic freedom fare in Evangelical universities, seminaries and colleges?
The answer is: it is very far from being perfect (which is probably the understatement of the year).

Thom Stark relates the case of Dr. Rollston who got fired because he accurately reported that in most parts of the Bible, women get described as humans of second class (like in all other cultures of the Ancient Near East).

Even more baffling is the fact that Mike Licona got fired, tough he is himself a conservative Evangelical. He wrote in one of his books about the resurrection of Jesus that he believed that Matthew at end of his Gospel did not mean that an army of zombies invaded Jerusalem but intended this as an allegory.

Atheist anti-apologist John Loftus reports similar cases on his blog.

All this non-sense led progressive Evangelical Peter Enns to write a post about the intellectual suicide many honest academics have to go trough within Evangelical institutions because they have no other choice than holding fast to narrow views.

However one might disagree with progressive Evangelicalism, it cannot be denied that this does not lead to the intellectual disasters one sees in fundamentalist circles.

Before whining because they are not allow to teach ID-creationism in public schools, conservative Evangelicals would do much better to keep themselves in check.

Let Jesus have the final word.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

(Mattew 7.3)

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