Categories
Religion

Missing the Point

Content warning: This post contains a photograph from a Westboro Baptist protest which is used as an example of what not to do. It contains language which is offensive.

Over a decade ago, while I yet called myself a Christian, I was onto something good: a realization that homophobic protests and otherwise aggressive “evangelism” were no way to properly show forth the power, love, and, frankly, appeal of Jesus Christ to the world around me.

Borne out of honest and open readings of the Gospels, I came to understand better what Jesus wanted out of his followers, and what I saw didn’t look much like the religion which I had been taught, despite the best intentions of my church leaders and friends.

This post was originally published on 2007-12-07. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

A Tale of Two Worldviews

Christianity is fascinating. The stories of the Bible, the miracles and teachings described throughout? It’s endlessly curious, with more nuance than it is often given credit for, particularly among my fellow unbelievers.

Far too often, unbelievers pick up on caricatures of Christianity — shallow exaggerations or distortions that can be easily mocked in textbook examples of the strawman fallacy.1 Adam and Eve, for example, get replaced by “a mud man and a transgender clone rib woman.”2

If, however, our goal is to address what the Bible says and to use what it says as an argument for why people shouldn’t believe it, we’re going to need something beyond a quick joke or meme. We’re going to want to understand why Christians believe what they do, what their theology means, and how we can best interact with them in the real world.

Christians aren’t stupid, regardless of what you might’ve heard in the seedier atheist circles, and their apologists and theologians know their religion better than most of us “on the outside” do. I promise — I’ve been there, on the inside of not only casual Christianity, but of absorbing all I could in terms of apologetics, or the art of providing a defense for something, in this case what the Bible teaches.

I bookmarked dozens of websites and read through as much of them as I could handle. The CARM apologetics notebook was a prized possession of mine years ago, and I sat attentively and excitedly for a Ken Ham presentation. Apologetics was my jam, and that’s not to mention my endless obsession with theology, both in reading it and discussing it with my closest friends.

Apologetics is the jam of many churchgoers, and despite whatever faults it has, it does one thing well: It inoculates believers against baseless attacks against Christianity.

Categories
Religion

Bible Verse that Says God Will Never Give Us More Than We Can Handle

Over the past thirteen years, I have learned that some things will always remain a constant fact of life: taxes, the overwhelming loudness of toxic members of my fandoms, and the fact that the most overwhelmingly popular way for people to end up on this site via a search engine is by searching for “god never gives us more than we can handle” or “god doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

I can’t imagine that there aren’t many websites which address that phrase better than I ever could, but if you’ve reached this point, it’s because according to your search results and your choices made regarding them, there aren’t. I’m glad to have you here!

But… There is no such Bible verse! Disappointed?

I hope not.

But if you are? Look, I get it. You hear the phrase a lot, such as when things are getting rough in life. “Cheer up, sister. God isn’t going to give you more than you can handle.” It’s repeated so often by so many people that it not only rings true in the ears of Christians but seems like it could easily be a paraphrased Bible verse.

On the contrary, the phrase has become a platitude, a Christian meme which lacks in both substance and originality.

And on top of that, it doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches about Christian living.

This post was originally published on 2006-09-06. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

Christianity Needs a Preacher

I once wanted to become a preacher.

I believed so fervently in the Bible that the thought couldn’t escape me that the more I learned about it, the more I should share what I learn with others. It felt only natural. (Or supernatural, as it were.)

My church gave me a few opportunities to preach, and I cannot lie, it was fun. I knew what to say to get shouts of “amen!” and “preach!” from the pews, and when up there, my usual fear of public speaking seemed to fade completely.

Those opportunities came when I was a fairly cookie-cutter Baptist fundamentalist. I stuck to the doctrine and expressions and talking points that were oh so very familiar to the listeners.

I preached, but I didn’t challenge.

I didn’t challenge because I wasn’t challenged.

Baptist fundamentalists, not unlike so very many other sects of Christianity, have a groove into which most of their adherents can fit into without causing much friction.

Far too closely to the end of my life as a Christian, though, I learned that Christianity cannot exist in a frictionless environment, that Christianity must shatter the grooves so many people fit snugly into, upending not just worldviews but whole lives, redefining the fates of its adherents in such a way that, frankly, I had never seen before.

I never had the opportunity to preach this radical new (ancient) form of Christianity. My faith was swallowed up by knowledge, and so I cast off the vestiges of Christianity.

Part of me regrets that decision. 

Categories
The Vault

There and Back Again

Five thousand four hundred twenty-seven days ago, I visited Garrison Creek Baptist Church after having been invited by an online friend, something which was altogether new for me, considering this was 2001 and meeting folks in real life who were first met online carried with it a fairly significant stigma of danger.

The acceptance of that invitation changed my life substantially in that within the span of just a few months, I became increasingly enamored with the church experience and the religion of Christianity.