CA Bill AB 2943, Are They Coming for Our Bibles Next?

Ok, first off, a disclosure. I am a liberal Christian, and as such, support the LGBTQ community. But I understand the handwringing, as this California bill, AB 2943, has a direct effect on limiting what evangelicals view as a “service” they “should’ be able to offer to the community, as a outgrowth of what they believe scripture teaches. The bill primarily expands an original California bill that prohibited reparative therapy being performed on minors, to a prohibition of that type of therapy being performed on anyone, regardless of age. The history of reparative therapy, predates modern psychological and biological findings on gay, non-binary and intersex individuals, and in the past included shock therapy, nausea inducing drugs and electro shock to the genitals.

The bill does not limit free speech, and conservatives will continue to be able to preach against homosexuality and write books to that end. The Bible never addresses reparative therapy, so it cannot be banned as the CBN has suggested. That is just fear-mongering. While I don’t agree with the evangelical stance towards the gay community, it is largely hurtful and counter productive, I support the right to have your opinions. What the bill is trying to address, is when those opinions are translated into a money making business, one that many now believe to be a sham. In other words, gay conversion therapy is malpractice. When pastors and Christian mental health workers council others they can be liable, depending on what is said and done. Often times they are not adequately trained as therapists, or have religious opinions contrary to science, and law suits can occur, and have in the past. Yes, that is one more concern for pastors and councilors, but the ability to do great psychological harm warrants being more careful.

Christian pundits have claimed these bills, such as the Massachusetts bill H1190, will stifle “talk therapy” as well. These bills do not prohibit a licensed therapist, social worker or mental health professional helping a person through the often painful and traumatic event of coming to grips with their sexuality, but it is not to be a professional platform for “converting” an individual to a particular Christian understanding of sexuality, especially when that understanding is not based on science. 

“Therapist should facilitate coping, social support and identity exploration and do so in a neutral manner. Therapists should not try to push sexual reorientation.

As a result of supportive therapy, some teens will determine that they are straight or cisgender and others will come out as a sexual minority. Such therapy is legal under this bill. Religious therapists should be perfectly fine with this arrangement. Therapy should not be a platform for spreading religious beliefs or making clients into Christian disciples.” (See Warren Throckmorton’s link below)

“What the state of MA is trying to prevent is for a therapist to use the cover of a state license to pursue sexual orientation or gender identity change. Therapists may do many things to support families who are traditional in their beliefs, but under a law like this, they may not actively use techniques or prescribe methods which have the intent to change orientation. Given that those techniques rarely, if ever, work, this would be beneficial for teens on balance.” (Throckmorton)

Looking at it in another way, when a Christian becomes a mental health professional, their practice should be based on the best, most current medical information available. Basing therapy on questionable, outdated or false science IS grounds for malpractice. How much faith would you have in a surgeon who told you, “as a Christian, I will not operate on your cancer. Instead I will pray for your healing.” No, we expect to get what we pay for, the best medicine has to offer.

The amount of disinformation, conspiracy theory and denial of expert witnesses amongst evangelicals is alarming, and yet again, another good reason the therapy should not be allowed. Anyone who still believes, for example, that being gay, transgender or intersex is a choice, is not fit to offer therapy or counseling to anyone. It is my hope, that eventually evangelicals will be faced with the biology behind human sexuality and modify their religious beliefs so that they are more loving and empathetic towards the LGBTQ community.

For further thought:

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2018/april/one-step-closer-to-law-could-a-california-bill-ultimately-lead-to-the-banning-of-bibles

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/04/24/christians-claim-wrongly-that-ca-conversion-therapy-bill-will-ban-bibles-too/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/01/27/the-torture-of-conversion-therapy-must-be-banned-across-the-country-2/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/03/22/christian-group-dont-say-we-support-gay-conversion-therapy-even-though-we-do/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/04/09/md-delegate-my-state-sen-father-sought-conversion-therapy-after-i-came-out/

Throckmorton

 

When Your “Sincerely Held Religious Belief” is Not Ok

Hardly a week goes by when I run into someone who says its “ok” if they believe being Gay is “abnormal” or “sinful.” “You have your opinion and I have mine.” “What’s wrong with having an opinion?” As one gentleman recently told me “…nothing wrong with being of the opinion that it is abnormal. What would be wrong is insisting that everybody agree with that opinion. I don’t want anyone to insist that I accept homosexuality as normal, so I don’t insist that anyone must agree with me.” The irony of his comment was that he was Black. Talk about a lack of cognitive dissonance! The context for this particular discussion was on a conservative Christian English blog site, Premier, and the title was: “Cardinal says homosexuality is ‘abnormal’ and Church shouldn’t apologize for traditional teaching.” 

(https://www.premier.org.uk/content/view/full/901417)

So here’s the deal. Let’s not confuse normative human sexual behavior with what some Christians believe the Bible teaches about sexual behavior. Same sex and bisexual behaviors occur in about 10% of the human population, which is by all accounts, a fairly large group of people. I would hesitate to refer to 10% of the world’s population as “abnormal.” (*)

I would also hesitate to follow the Bible too closely, or literally, as a guide to sexual behavior, as that is not its purpose, nor does it do a particularly good job as a sex manual if used that way. Polygamy, slaves used as concubines, women taken as booty in war, male ownership of women, etc., kind of throws a monkey wrench in to the whole Biblical Marriage schtick.

Often when religious people fail to convince others that they “must” except their view they fall back on “I have the ‘right’ to my own opinion.” In this day and age there is a great deal of conversation and concern about individual “rights.” In most Western societies there is some sense of it being wrong to infringe upon the rights of individuals to live their lives free of discrimination, that everyone regardless of who they are, should be treated equally. Most people expect to be treated fairly.

Unfortunately, many religious people don’t see things that way. While expecting to be treated respectfully and fairly by others, they feel that the Bible gives them a mandate to do otherwise with those they deem “sinful.” When reprimanded for being discriminatory or bigoted, they claim they are being persecuted for believing what the Bible teaches. This type of thinking adds a sort of self-righteousness to bigotry and turns the oppressor into the oppressed.

Another tactic used by zealous religious folk is to dismiss arguments for equality and diversity as being “politically correct,” as catering to public opinion, or following “this world.” This is a cop-out, as getting to choose who we treat equally and who who do not, kind of negates the whole purpose of equality. It’s like saying all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. It also flies in the face of the “Golden Rule.”

I sincerely doubt the gentleman above would agree it’s “ok” to have racist opinions. Just what is meant by “it’s ok to have our opinions?” Is this a healthy attitude? Do opinions matter? Can opinions be hurtful and unChristlike? How has the evangelical adage of “hate the sin but love the sinner” worked out? Historically, not so well. And as long as religionists view Gays as abnormal and an “abomination,” they will continue to confuse hatred for acting loving.

All right, time to role up our sleeves and do a bit of research. One of the problems with patriarchal orthodoxy and its historical stranglehold on human sexuality is its blindness to sexual diversity in nature. In the OT Jewish canon, sexuality was defined solely in terms of a man’s dominion over the woman and the ability to pass on one’s “seed” in order to keep up one’s line perpetually. In other words, a woman was largely defined in terms of her ability to raise children, especially a male heir.

Anything, or behavior not fitting into that purpose was suspect. Women who were “barren” or didn’t produce a male heir were shamed or pitied, one of the reasons for multiple wives. Jewish laws before the Talmud, had no consequence for female same sex behavior, largely because it did not threaten men and women were not seen to be especially sexual in nature since there was no emission of seed. (1) On the other hand, male same sex erotic behavior circumvented what was understood to be the purpose of sex: to hopefully produce a male heir.

The Levitical prohibitions against SS behavior amongst males uses the term “toevah” which has a cultic meaning, i.e., pertaining to non-Israelite cultic practice. In this context homosexual temple prostitution is regarded as a “taboo” for Israel. “Abomination” in the KJV is a rather unfortunate and misleading translation of the word. For a good discussion of the use of the term toevah see the following footnote. (2)

“Now, if by “abomination,” the King James means a cultural prohibition—something which a particular culture abhors but another culture enjoys—then the term makes sense. But in common parlance, the term has come to mean much more than that. Today, it connotes something horrible, something contrary to the order of nature itself, or God’s plan, or the institution of the family, or whatever. It is this malleability of meaning, and its close association with disgust, that makes “abomination” a particularly abominable word to use. The term implies that homosexuality has no place under the sun (despite its presence in over 300 animal species), and that it is an abomination against the Divine order itself. Again, toevah is not a good thing—but it doesn’t mean all of that.” (3)

In the NT, it is Paul who non-affirming Christians most often turn to, and in particular, the first chapter of Romans. What is ignored in their proof-texting is the use of the vocative in Romans 2:1…

“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever YOU are, when YOU judge others; for in passing judgment on another YOU condemn yourself, because YOU, the judge, are doing the very same things.” Here, then, is the vocative in the Greek, “Oh man,” a grammatical case used for direct address: ὦ ἄνθρωπε. And this takes us to the question I have posed to those who repeat 1:26-27 in condemnation. Who’s the ἄνθρωπος that Paul’s addressing here?” (4)

Rather than Paul condemning all SS activity in 1:26-27, he is quoting the ἄνθρωπος as saying such, then soundly rebuffing them in chapters 2 and following. Chapter 1 of Romans contains a typical Jewish diatribe against Roman culture, in particular its practice of orgies. What has occurred in the past is that theologians have concentrated so narrowly on the wording of Romans 1:18-32, assuming it is Paul speaking, that they totally miss the connection in chapter 2.

“Some scholarship of late, of which Porter’s article is the most thorough example, has noted that Romans 1:18-32 does not represent Paul’s view, but the prevailing view of Gentiles among many Jews at the time, which this apostle to the Gentiles feels compelled to refute. Building off of the scholarship of J.C. O’Neill (who calls it “a traditional tract which belongs essentially to the missionary literature of Hellenistic Judaism”) and E.P. Sanders (who explains that “Paul takes over to an unusual degree homiletical material from Diaspora Judaism”), Porter ultimately concludes that “in 2:1-16, as well as through Romans as a whole, Paul, as part of his Gentile mission, challenges, argues against, and refutes both the content of the discourse and the practice of using such discourses. If that is the case then the ideas in Rom. 1.18-32 are not Paul’s. They are ideas which obstruct Paul’s Gentile mission theology and practice.” (5) 

Wrapping things up, at best we can only claim that Scripture’s treatment of male homosexual activity is based on cultic prohibitions (OT), and that the practice of egalitarian, loving SS relationships are not addressed at all in the NT. Paul’s discussion in Romans hinges, not on the condemnation of SS activity, but on the hypocrisy of the Jews who do condemn it. Paul’s personal views on the matter are not really addressed. Even Preston Sprinkle, in his “A People to be Loved,” bases his anti-gay bias largely on an argument of silence on the matter. 

So, in conclusion, I think the use of the terms “abnormal” vs “normal” are unfortunate and misleading and do not reflect a medical/psychological analysis and ultimately result in marginalization and persecution of Gays and, in truth, and go far beyond what Scripture actually teaches. Opinions do matter. The church needs to do better.

* Those who identify as Gay in some fashion or another vary greatly from culture to culture, depending largely on the cultural understanding of what it means to be Gay. 10% is a ballpark figure representing Western Culture as a whole. As more individuals come out, percentages of those who identify as LGBTQ continues to rise. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientation

1 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Judaism

2 http://religiondispatches.org/does-the-bible-really-call-homosexuality-an-abomination/

3 Ibid.

4 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2013/10/romans-126-27-a-clobber-passage-that-should-lose-its-wallop/

5 Ibid.

Becoming Truly Human

The following is a Facebook post by Jacob M. Wright.

“The gospel is not about going to heaven. It’s about bringing heaven to earth. This means that getting “saved” is not about saying “the sinners prayer” or “accepting Jesus into your heart”. That might be a good step, and the Spirit works through all kinds of different language, but it means nothing if it doesn’t lead to a life that begins being shaped by the ethics of Jesus (most clearly expounded on in the Sermon on the Mount) and participating in his visionary movement of peacemaking and world-reconciliation which he called “the kingdom of heaven”.

While Jesus did affirm himself as the Son of God, he rarely used this term for himself but rather favored the title “the son of man” which was an identification with humanity. Jesus’ constant usage of “the son of man” in referring to himself was an expression of Jesus’ embracing and revealing of full humanity. Jesus’ validates and demonstrates true humanity as the image of God.

Jesus is the way of becoming truly human. When we invite people to Jesus, we are inviting people into the way of Jesus. You cannot separate the two. The early church did not call themselves Christianity, they called themselves followers of “The Way.” Jesus called himself “The Way.” The Way/Jesus is not just about living a “holy” or moral life according to this or that cultural standard, rather Jesus hones in on what holiness is really about. It is about coming into our true humanity. First, in having a transformational initiation from darkness to light, an awakening into a new life, out of a futile life marked by pride, greed, selfishness, malice, lust, etc. by which we blindly participate in the victimizing systems of the world, and into a new self-aware way where we recognize these destructive powers and participate in the restorative power of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. This is an awakening to our authentic self in union with the Abba of creation. This transformation is what the sacrament of baptism marks. This is the “rebirth” experience.

However, a problem with much of Christianity is that it is just about “believing in Jesus” and living “moral”, but you can do both of those things and completely miss The Way. The Sermon on the Mount calls us so much higher. It is Christ’s call to participate in the new true humanity, which means practicing his kingdom ethic and being a part of a community of mercy and reconciliation in the world. This means to come to terms with Jesus teachings on peacemaking, non-violence, loving enemies, binding up the wounds of the world and being a force of healing and life to the nations through laying down our lives, emulating him who sent us.

This also happens to be the opposite of culture wars and fighting political battles for “Christian laws” and killing terrorists and declaring judgment is coming to America if such and such happens.”

“As the Father has sent me so I send you.”

“As I am, so are you in the world.”

He is currently raising money for a book: “God is Like Jesus,” and his Go Fund Me page is here:
https://www.gofundme.com/jacobwright

Jesus as the End of God

 

This is to be some reflections on an article in Medium by Josh de Keijzer. The article is found here: https://medium.com/@joshdekeyzer/after-easter-jesus-as-the-end-of-god-d0cad018f54a

The premise:
“The death of Jesus Christ has been an occasion for theologians and philosophers to speculate about the end of God. With Jesus’ death on the cross, God died and this is the end of God’s story. Jesus is the end of God. But then there is Easter. It is part of the narrative of Jesus Christ and as such cannot be ignored. Resurrection belongs to this narrative. Death of God theologians have trouble integrating this into their theologies.
However, even on the basis of the resurrection we ought to conclude that Jesus signals and acts out God’s end. Here is how this works. In this short piece, I will first side with the theologians and philosophers who have concluded that religion has ran its course and that after its demise, can only signal God’s end. Then, I will argue, that when we abandon self-constructed God-talk we open ourselves to understand the true meaning of God’s end. In Jesus, we find the true meaning of this end.” (de Keijzer)

de Keijzer makes 3 basic points.
1. “The end of God is the end of gods in our image. The God of our constructive power will have to cease. The God of the Christ has to begin.”
2. “Or perhaps we could and should rather say that only when we have come to the end of ourselves we are open to God’s end.”
3. “All that we can know or say about God we learn by looking at Jesus the Christ. The biblical narrative that preceded Jesus is one prelude to the incarnation and what has come after it, is its outworking all the way to its ultimate fulfillment. All God-talk about who, what, and where God is, becomes mute in view of Jesus….This is the end of God in the body of Jesus. The end of God in Jesus Christ is our end. He died that we might live and give our lives for the other. God’s end is our end. How can we not go that path Jesus went? Our only speaking of God can be about how this God of Jesus can be made manifest through us.”

In his conclusion de Keijzer quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Embodiment is the end of God’s path.” Although the article is a short one, there is some profound truths to unpack and mull over. So much of traditional, orthodox thinking of God and his “Omni” character presents us with a coercive, “in control” God. American evangelicalism, in its stiff literalism, gives us a God like us: one who is relatable to because he is violent, vengeful and manipulative. Like us, he selectively loves and withdraws his love from whom he hates. This being the case, it is easy to see why so many white evangelicals are quick to disparage the “social gospel” and cling to xenophobic narratives about gays, undocumented immigrants, the #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movements.

de Keijzer’s conclusion that “Jesus is the end of God. And so are we!” will not play well in conservative Christian quarters precisely because it puts the responsibility for God’s kingdom in our court. It circumvents, to a large degree, the apocalyptic world view of evangelicalism that is other-worldly instead of this-worldly, that disparages hope of reclaiming this life now in the hope of a dramatic, climactic, violent intervention by a blood-soaked Christ, returning to inflict God’s wrath on his enemies.

When evangelicals speak of the “justice of God,” they see it in terms of the penalty of sin…death, and for those not on the “inside,” an eternal punishment. de Keijzer, instead sees justice as redemption, reconciliation, healing and renewal. It is not about God’s vengeance at all, but points to the incarnation as the end of our creation of God, and the enabling of God in us to work towards the Kingdom.

“The only theology that we may speak of, therefore, is one that speaks ethically. Only where God’s ends and our end meet is speech about God justified. This end is in this world. For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son.”

 

 

Thinking Out Loud: Religious Certitude

”You know, it’s not just Calvinist who insist upon absolute certitude. The concept that God’s providence controls everything, therefore we need not doubt His “plans,” goes quite a way back. While I think this certitude in divine providence is especially true of Calvinists, it is part and parcel of evangelicalism as a whole. It not only applies to the insistence on an inerrant original text, and therefore dogmatic certitude in knowing what the Bible means, but often laps over onto discernment of God’s working in natural events, political events and history.
Case in point. While European theologians and political pundits of the day could scratch their heads about our civil war over slavery, none claimed to “know” God’s will or direction in the conflict. Yet, almost to a man, American evangelicals, on both sides of the struggle, knew pretty much exactly what God was doing. They were certain of it. God was on their side.
Flash forward to our present American culture wars, and a similar theme presents itself. Most White evangelicals “know” with complete confidence that Trump is God’s man for the hour, while “crooked Hillary” and President Obama before were not. It is interesting that so many evangelicals can claim certainty, without a doubt about the outcome of an election, about God’s providential design for America, yet fall back on mystery when questions are raised about things like slavery, ownership of women, violence in the Bible, etc.. “We’ll just have to ask Jesus when we get to heaven.” “His ways are not our ways, yada, yada.”
And then we have natural disasters. Obviously caused by the Gay Rights movement, or the removal of prayer in schools, or bakers having to cater Gay weddings…how about it’s simply a natural disaster? You see, for many evangelicals the thought that God is somehow “in control” is comforting. How that can be twisted into divine providence, for example, in something like the holocaust is beyond me. Personally, I’d rather think God had nothing to do with the holocaust and man had everything to do with it.“

See “Dear Calvinists: Try Having Mercy On Those of Us Who Doubt”
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/newsflash-calvinists-were-not-doubting-because-this-is-fun-for-us/#CkRu3tMgwAqLKR6d.99

Was Jesus Inerrant?

A few months back I was embroiled in a rather lengthy discussion on the inerrancy of scripture vs. the progressive view of scripture on my blog. It basically ended up being a platform for one individual’s “orthodox” view that scripture HAD to be inerrant in order to be of value. As I tried to peel back the problems inherent to this thinking, he finally asked me if I believed Jesus had to have been inerrant? It’s a good question and reflects the struggle the early church had with understanding who Jesus was. There was not a unanimous consensus for half a millennia. Was Jesus infallible? Does Jesus claim to be? Honestly, I don’t know. Nothing really leads me to believe he was or by necessity needed to be. His argument on inerrancy of scripture, and now, Jesus himself, hinged on the belief that one cannot have certainty of faith without an inerrant text, or at least an inerrant leader…at least that is my understanding of the way the discussion began. The implication of his reasoning is that one cannot have “absolute truth” without an inerrant source. I find that not to be the case at all and I would question the definition of “faith” implied here. Is inerrancy necessary for conveying truth? I don’t think so. As I have already explained, we learns truths all the time from errant sources. It is part and parcel of the human condition.

We haven’t delved into the historical-critical method of scripture study, nor have I wanted to because I think the discussion was getting over long, and getting nowhere, but we must realize when theologians like Wayne Grudem talk about inerrancy of scripture they mean “that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” In other words, we do not have in our possession any “original” manuscripts, yet the claim of inerrancy only applies to the original documents. I wonder what an inerrant version of our Bibles would look like. What would have to be rewritten, what would be dropped off? What passages are missing, etc.? So, in lieu of actually possessing an inerrant text, we are in reality forced to make due with something that, contains not a few problems. Does the fact that we do not have an inerrant Bible prohibit us from having faith in God or Jesus? People have been getting by for centuries without one just fine.

Now things do get problematic when Grudem and others claim that the original mss were inerrant, yet tell us the compiled Greek and Hebrew texts we now have are a 99% accurate reflection of the original inerrant texts. I say problematic, because scholarship over the last 3 centuries has uncovered many problems and contradictions within the mss’s. These are commonly known and most seminarians will encounter them in their first year of school. This is where I find Grudem, Piper, Hodges and others to be dishonest. They were and are aware of the difficulties found within scripture, yet refuse to honestly acknowledge them, instead going to great lengths to excuse, minimize or attempt to harmonize them. In the process they are giving us something different from the Bible we do have. And all in an effort to bolster a hypothetical principal rather than the truth. Believing the Bible “has to be inerrant” does not make it so. I would also wonder why, if an inerrant text was so important to having faith, why God did not preserve an inerrant text for us. You need to realize that God breathing himself into something does not make it inerrant. He breathed into Adam, and he was anything but perfect.

As to Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross, my friend has provided only two basic alternatives, again falling back on the “all true or nothing is true” argument. Either Jesus had infallible, absolute knowledge of heaven, or he knew nothing: just making a wild guess, hoping for the best. In his scenario, Jesus had to have “special, absolute knowledge of truth, something beyond how mere humans learn truth, i.e., parents, schooling, life experiences observations and spiritual encounters. No, without an inerrant, absolute knowledge of eternal truths, for him, basically Jesus has nothing to offer. He’s no better than any other peddler of religion.

Which brings up an interesting aspect of his Biblical ontology: Either the Bible is all true, or it is basically worthless as a reliable guide to right relationship with God.

“As a human product, the Bible is not “absolute truth” or “God’s revealed truth,” but relative and culturally conditioned. To many, “relative” and “culturally conditioned” mean something inferior, even negative. But “relative” means “related”: the Bible is related to their time and place. So also “culturally conditioned” means that the Bible uses the language and concepts of the cultures in which it took shape. To use a nonbiblical example, the Nicene Creed uses the language of fourth-century Hellenistic philosophy to express the convictions that mattered most to the Christians who framed it. It is not a set of absolute truths, but tells us how they saw things. So also the Bible tells us how our spiritual ancestors saw things—not how God sees things.”

— Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity

What modern evangelical theology does is straightjacket God with an inerrant Bible. In a sense, the Bible is above God, he is beholding to it and bound by it. But I believe God to be bigger than the Bible. I believe Jesus’ reinterpretation of scripture and Paul’s selective quoting (leaving out some very negative stuff in his quest to include the Gentiles) aligns with this belief. The quest for an inerrant Jesus or an inerrant text, mirrors the old heresy of Docetism, that Jesus only appeared to be human, that humanity is of a lower plane of existence and that Jesus as spirit existed above mere flesh.

Just how human Jesus was is best left for a future discussion. Peace.

Link to previous discussion on inerrancy:
https://weseeinamirrordarkly.com/2017/11/04/the-bible-tells-me-so-so-whats-with-pete-enns-and-progressive-christians-anyway/

I’m Back, and Retired! Just Checking In

So, it’s been a few months since my last post. Who would’ve known preparing for April retirement would be so labor intensive! So many forms to fill out, so many phone calls, so many emails to confirm this and that. But it’s finally here and I it’s beginning to sink in that this is my new reality. A lot has happened so far this year. Yet again another school shooting leaving 17 dead. In desperation, the trolls for the NRA have vilified the young survivors that have called for sane gun legislation. The corruption of the current Republican administration continues to make the news as the Mueller probe digs deeper. “Draining the swamp” seems to entail mainly the Trump cabinet. Misogynists have no where to hide as the “Me Too” movement gains momentum. Conservatives have moved from Gay-bashing to Trans-bashing. The administration fights an ongoing war with the states over illegal aliens, or as progressives prefer, “undocumented immigrants.” The saber rattling continues between two ego maniacs: Trump and Kim Jong-un prompting Trump to request a huge military parade. Trump has continued his “bull in the china shop” foreign trade policies prompting a tariff war and has sent military to guard our borders against a country he seems to think we are at war with. The president with numerous sexual assault allegations and hush money payed to a porn star declares National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Oh, the irony!

I think the midterm elections will be very interesting. We just finished watching the lengthy series, “The Roosevelts,” on PBS. So proud of Teddy, FDR and Eleanor and the legacy of Progressivism that has followed. The fight goes on. But, politics aside, as you know from my bio, I grew up evangelical, attended evangelical churches for years and graduated from Fuller Seminary, an evangelical school. I grew up in the evangelical bubble, largely insulated from conflicting world views and protected from “liberal” views like historical criticism. But, all that has changed over the past half-dozen years for me as I stepped outside the bubble and critically assessed evangelical orthodoxy and the legacy I had inherited. The evangelical insistence that “Christian” businesses could legally refuse services to gays set off red flags for me, even though, at the time, I was not gay-affirming. The parallels to Christian businesses in the South during segregation and the Southern Baptist resistance to desegregation was just too obvious.

So, where am I today, 6 years later? Oddly enough, still attending an evangelical church. It is not a good fit, as I am no longer evangelical, but it’s my 94 year old mother’s church, and we take her there. It is also the church my wife grew up in. We have a new pastor, who has been influenced to some degree by the Emerging Church Movement: “You can belong before you believe,” so I have been guardedly optimistic. Becoming a church member is out of the question for me as I am at odds with much of the Assemblies of God denominational affirmations, such as the infallibility of scripture and the “biblical” definition of marriage. In many ways, my growing rejection of evangelicalism has created an “outside looking in” situation for me and the church I attend…not ideal.

I do enjoy singing and worship there, but… For the most part our pastor is non-controversial, no political statements and light on theology, which, if you knew me, is a bit disappointing. No discussion of gun violence, no discussion on Police treatment of Blacks, no discussion of misogyny in society, no attempts to reach out to Gays, in short, no social gospel. It’s as if the Sermon on the Mount never happened. He is a nice guy and sincere, but follows the usual White, evangelical road map. Although the church practices “outreach” to the community in a number of different ways, English classes for immigrants, help with applying for citizenship and an Easter egg hunt that included special needs children, the church programs center around personal discipleship. In other words, like most evangelical churches the goal is getting people “saved” then keeping them happy they made the right decision by constantly affirming them.

A personal relationship with Jesus is the tantamount theme, which, if it resulted in a realization of responsibility to society would be ok with me. But instead the goal is to try and get as many people “saved” as possible in as short amount of time. Evangelism always seems to end up being an exclusive club, where once in, we congratulate ourselves on our good fortune. Nothing is done for purely altruistic reasons. The reason behind everything from missions to Easter egg hunts is, basically a sales pitch for Jesus, or at least the evangelical version. No wonder Amway has done so well in evangelical circles. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying following Jesus or learning to be Christlike is a bad thing, but it seems like evangelical churches are immature in their faith, inward, self serving and overly concerned with a personal “walk with Christ” that ignores too much of society and its problems.

As I have grappled with my own doubts and questions, and engaged in (sometimes very lively) conversations with evangelicals online, I have come to the conclusion that evangelicalism in its dominant form is probably not redeemable. It is too closely aligned with dominionism and White Christian Nationalism. As we saw in Nazi Germany in the 20s and 30s when religion and state marry, the ends justify the means and Christians are willing to look away when the state tramples individual rights. That so many evangelical leaders see The Donald as God’s chosen, anointed leader to lead us back to a Christian America is further proof of how far white evangelicalism has strayed from Christ’s example. It is a worldview, that quite frankly, scares me. I don’t think evangelicalism will have the last word, however, despite an uptick in fundamentalism within it’s ranks. Time will tell.