Tag Archives: evangelicalism

My kind of church

I spent my Sunday morning, in my pajamas, watching this debate:

(part 1 of 11)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering?
Description: A panel discussion and debate on the meaning of evil and suffering from theists Dr. William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias, atheist Dr. Bernard Leikind (a plasma physicist and senior editor of Skeptic magazine), and Hindu Dr. Jitendra Mohanty (one of India’s most distinguished Hindu philosophers and professor at Emory University).

These are the kind of debates/discussions I enjoy the most — why waste time arguing over the existence of something unprovable, one way or another?  It’s far more interesting to talk about the problem of evil. These kinds of discussions confirm for me why I rejected Christianity.  In this debate, the explanations provided by Craig and Zacharias for the evils allowed (condoned?) by an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God fell FLAT.  It basically boils down to “trust God to work things out in the end,” which doesn’t answer the question (not to mention it’s unsatisfying).

One thing interesting to note when watching this debate (and it’s a trait I’ve noticed when talking with believers) is how quickly Zacharias and Craig divert themselves away from specific examples/questions of evil or morality and rush back to the generalized platitudes of their faith.  For example, in the debate above, when talking about absolute morality, at one point the naturalist asked the theists whether they thought divorce was immoral.  Faster than you could bat an eyelash, Zacharias diverted away from the question into generalizations.

And I suppose I can’t blame ‘em, because the rhetorical power in saying you have absolute objective morality lies in being able to make the statement without having to provide specific examples to back it up.

A final lesson learned from the above debate: I think Ravi Zacharias is far more of a jerk than William Lane Craig (and this is saying a lot, because I am *not* a fan of Craig’s snarky delivery).  In the debate, watch how Zacharias first responds to the naturalist (Dr. Leikind), and you’ll see why I award Zacharias the “asshole apologist” award.

“in Christian love…”

In case you didn’t grow up in the church, that’s code for: I’m going to offend you, but I get a free pass to say whatever I want to with this disclaimer.

Tonight Jerry turned on Larry King Live, and we watched an interview with Christian singer Jennifer Knapp, who this week officially “outed” herself to the world as a lesbian.  Thankfully, more and more these days this kind of announcement is becoming less “news” — but in Knapp’s evangelical context, announcing you are a content lesbian in a committed relationship is pretty high up there on the list of SIN (usually mentioned in the context of bestiality and pedophilia).

I can remember listening to Knapp, back in my believer days.  In fact, I still have her CD and find myself still digging her song “Undo Me“.  I thought of her as part Alanis, part Melissa Etheridge (little did I know how right-on I was in my generalizing!).

Anyway, this week Knapp did an interview for Christianity Today, Reuters, and The Advocate — talk about three very different audiences!  I enjoyed listening to her chat with King, and he did a good job of asking some pretty interesting questions (I’m usually not a fan of his interviews).

The show took an interesting turn when King invited “Pastor Bob” Botsford on the show, to talk about his post, Straight to the Truth: A Response to Jennifer Knapp’s Coming Out.

If you’re ever curious about one of the (many) reasons why I left the church and haven’t looked back, watch this clip:

Needless to say, Knapp had way more composure than I would have had if we were to have traded spaces.  I find the patronizing, pious righteousness of people like Pastor Bob incredibly nauseating.  It was difficult to watch him sit there and say that he “loves” Jennifer, and then spew such religiously-motivated discrimination — let’s just say I was glad that he was so confident to be speaking the words of Jesus.  Anyone with a mind (or heart) can see how wrong and bad he looked in his judgement.

Anyway, of course I had to look up good ol’ Pastor Bob, and let him know how much I appreciated his representation of his side of the issue — after all, the more people like him speak out publicly, the more others will see how bankrupt this “moral” position really is.  Here’s the comment I left on Pastor Bob’s blog — one that finally showed up, after several attempts to have it get past the moderator:

(if this comment doesn’t get published, I’ll realize it’s because the moderator is only allowing supportive comments to be shown — which states a lot about the character of this “Pastor Bob.”)

Pastor Bob, your pious faux-compassion shown on Larry King Live tonight reminded me of why I left the church, and haven’t yet looked back. It’s “compassionate Christians” like you that give your faith system a bad name. (and this is coming from an evangelical pastor’s kid who grew up in the church)

I’m just glad your righteous homophobia will now be recorded on tape, for all posterity. It’s going to be hard to explain these discriminatory statements to your flock and grandkids, when as the world continues to change and leave this religiously-driven bigotry behind.

And all the people said? Amen.

A certificate in religion’s BS

World’s best Facebook ad:

Get your Religious BS here!

…and I just love that Falwell’s “university” is behind the ad.

FYI, Facebook: I may not be your target audience for this advertisement.

Oh be careful little minds, what you think (or say aloud)

An interesting controversy has been brewing over the evangelical interwebs, or so it would seem.

A couple weeks ago, there was a video by the BioLogos Foundation that had an evangelical professor saying the following about the evangelical church’s refusal to accept the scientific theory of evolution:

I think that if the data is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution, then to deny that reality will make us a cult–some kind of group that is not interacting with the real world…To deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death.

transcript via Marc

When Marc posted this video (and transcript) a couple weeks ago, here’s what I said in response to the video:

I’m outside the church, but I LOVE this part of the quote you highlighted: “To deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death.”

I wonder where else this sentiment could be applied in today’s world — for example, maybe when there’s (even more) undeniable evidence of the genetic components of homosexuality, will the church have to adjust its dogmatic views toward gays and lesbians?

It’s interesting that the more knowledge of the natural world we understand and embrace, the more theology is forced to adjust to this material knowledge.

As someone who is outside the faith, I find it interesting that the reverse has yet to happen (ie., the more theological knowledge one possesses, the more adjusting views of the natural world must occur).

I was *so happy* to find someone within the evangelical culture willing to submit to scientific data (and not just religious dogma).

Unfortunately, it looks like there were implications for such a “voice in the wilderness” speaking out in support of actual evidence — Professor Waltke ended up losing his job at the seminary as a result of speaking out in such a video (one that has since been taken offline).

While I’ve read a couple examples of evangelical outrage on professor Waltke’s forced resignation, I wonder how much of this outrage will be (rightly!) directed inwardly toward the evangelical church culture that forces such censorship and suppression of ideas?

The cynic in me is thinking that there won’t be much. Alas.

EDIT: Looks like even the Huff Post has picked up on the story. From the article:

But the fact that his seminary did dismiss him is viewed as a sign of just how difficult it may be for scholars at some institutions to raise issues involving science that are not 100% consistent with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The Reformed Theological Seminary’s Interim President, Michael Milton, told Inside Higher Ed that the situation caused the school “heartache,” but Waltke ultimately disobeyed the institution’s mandate on evolution: No Darwinian talk allowed.

More hating the “sinner”

Ever since I heard about Constance McMillen’s story a few months ago, I’ve been a little heartbroken for what she’s had to go through. In case you don’t recognize her name, she’s the 18 year-old in Mississippi whose school principal told her she couldn’t attend her senior prom with her girlfriend as a date.

The good news? A court ruled that her school district couldn’t cancel prom and deny access to Constance and her date. The bad news?

To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a “fake prom” while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn’t much to keep an eye on.


I hope these Mississippi homophobic hicks enjoyed their night out on the town.

Anyone who hears Constance’s story (and is not a dogmatic bigot) will now better understand why Mississippi has a reputation of being one of the most religious and uneducated states in the Union.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating — the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians is the civil rights movement of my generation. I’m just glad to be on the right side of this issue.

Constance, you’re a hero.

Hating the “sinner”

Have you heard about what happened to Constance?

School officials in a rural Mississippi county told a lesbian student to get “guys” to take her and her girlfriend to a high school prom and warned the girls against slow dancing with each other because that could “push people’s buttons,” according to documents filed Tuesday in federal court.

[...] Superintendent Teresa McNeece told the teen that the girls should attend the prom separately, had to wear dresses and couldn’t slow dance with each other because that could “push people’s buttons,” according to court documents.

The school district last week said it wouldn’t host the prom “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.” District officials said they hoped private citizens would sponsor a dance. The decision came on the same day the ACLU asked the district to act on McMillen’s prom requests.


High school sucks enough without being discriminated against by the school’s administration, and then being blamed for the cancellation of prom because of the someone else’s homophobia.

Yes, there’s been a case filed in federal court over what happened to Constance — but if anything, what’s happened in Mississippi should be instructive to show just how hateful some people can be out of religiously-inspired ignorance and fear.

What *I* said:

From a comment thread on another blog (of a Mennonite Brethren pastor) I’ve been reading:

One last note about your above response to my comment. At one point you said: “The truth of the gospel has often been less accessible to the intelligentsia than to ordinary people open to God” — I’m a little disappointed by this statement. I’m used to hearing anti-intellectual statements slung at me and my nonbelief by other less-thoughtful believers, but I wouldn’t have expected such a sentiment to be touted by you.

I’m always stunned when I hear believers state that possessing intelligence can serve as a detriment to embracing faith. (I’m assuming you’re thinking along the lines of 1 Corinthians 3:19?) If this is really the case, that my “worldly wisdom” is keeping me from God — then who’s to be faulted? Me, in my quest to better understand the world around me, or God, for being so divinely hidden that he’s invisible (or seemingly nonexistent)?

Does this mean I would have to dismiss certain knowledge in order to be more open to faith? Why can’t faith work alongside what I know? I’m not closed off to God or the supernatural, but I don’t think I can sacrifice my intellect in order to privilege warm and fleeting feelings in my heart. It seems like the only option the church gives nonbelievers like me is that I must first assume there’s a God before I can hear (or note evidence) from God. If this is the case, then I guess I won’t be returning to the faith anytime soon.