After Public Grade School Gets Blocked from Performing Religious Play, a Church Steps Right In

Last week, the fifth graders at E.J. Moss Intermediate school in Texas were supposed to put on their school play. And you know what grade school plays look like: Cute kids, happy songs, innocuous themes.

But for some reason, the play that was chosen was “In God We Trust” by Chris and Diane Machen, a play about the “Christian history” of our country written by two Christian musicians. When you read some of the lines from the school’s adaptation of the script, obtained by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it’s incredibly obvious that this production had no business being put on in a public school:

Ugh… Who made the decision to use this awful script? I’m almost more offended as a person who performed in school plays than I am as a defender of church/state separation…

Needless to say, FFRF (at the request of a parent at the school) told the Lindale Independent School District it couldn’t allow this production to go on as is (PDF):

this program is an egregious violation of the First Amendment and should be canceled immediately. It is illegal for a public school to compel students to participate in religious expression. This is compounded by the fact that the children, as fifth graders, are very young. The performance has a clearly devotional and proselytizing message and thus would be appropriate in a church setting, not in a public school.

That letter was sent to the school district last Monday. By Wednesday, the school had told parents the show would not go on in its present form:

… E.J. Moss Intermediate sent a letter to parents and students to let them know that, after consulting school attorneys, they found that the program was not in compliance with state and federal curriculum guidelines. Principal Lori Anderson went on to say that adjustments were made to the program in order for the program to meet the guidelines.

“We realize this program is a treasured part of our community and a tradition at E.J. Moss Intermediate School, however the Lindale Independents School District wants to respect the values, opinions and religious freedoms of all families and therefore we must make modifications to the program,” said Anderson in the letter.

I didn’t think it could be done but school officials found a way to water down a grade school play. It was performed last week without all the Jesus and I’m sure it was cute and memorable and happy.

That should have been the end of the story… but of course it wasn’t.

A local church was furious that the play was ruined by the damn law so they rented out facilities at a local high school and made plans to stage the original production with any students who wanted to participate:

Pastor Tom Buck, of the First Baptist Church in Lindale, was particularly disappointed to hear an out-of-state organization had impacted the school program was being altered.

“I’ve spoken with parents and with students who’s entire performance was being eliminated,” says Buck.

Buck says religious freedom should be discussed but the program should not be squashed.

Buck, obviously, is no lawyer and has no idea what religious freedom actually is. If the play honored the Koran and Islam instead of Jesus and the Bible, you know it’s guys like him who would be leading the charge to stop the performances.

Pastor Tom Buck

The church’s production of the play is taking place tonight. I suspect many of the same students will take part in tonight’s performance, some of them likely pressured into it by their peers. But that’s still technically legal as long as the school has nothing to do with it. Just to remind them to stay away, though, FFRF sent another letter to the school district late last week (PDF):

the district (and any district employees) are prohibited from coordinating, facilitating, or promoting this “non-school” religious performance.

While I understand there is disappointment in the district regarding the decision to modify this long-standing illegal program, it is incumbent on Lindale ISD to make sure that district employees understand they may not help coordinate or facilitate this alternate performance.

Interestingly enough, this is hardly an example of the church just trying to “make things right.” Check out how they pulled out all the stops for tonight:

The performance that was geared toward a few hundred parents has now captured the support of thousands. East Texans picked up T-shirts printed in support of the original version of the E.J Moss Intermediate School program called, “In God We Trust.”

Buck says they’re expecting up to 2,000 people and have made plans for the overflow of people since the performing arts center holds about 1,200.

The shirts say, “In God We Trust” on the front and “We support LISD” on the back. More than 750 were pre-ordered and printed. The shirts that aren’t picked up and paid for Tuesday night will be on sale at the performance on Wednesday.

The church paid $1,580 to rent the facilities at the local high school, but they’re going to recoup their costs in a heartbeat.

It’s brilliant or evil, depending on how you look at it: A church is capitalizing on a school’s violation of the law by staging their own version of the play (with many of the same students, who learned their parts under the direction of their public schoolteachers) and promoting their religion to all the parents and students who attend.

Still, at least the school learned its lesson and that’s where the focus has to be. You can bet they won’t stage another play like this in the future. They can leave the brainwashing to the church.

***Update***: Pastor Tom Buck responds to my posting in the comments:

Dear Mr. Mehta,
I am perfectly fine with your freedom to disagree with me in regards to our church stepping in to allow the students who wish to perform the entirety of their program. But I do take issue with your false characterizations regarding our church’s motives and insinuating that we are somehow profiting from the event that took place last night. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that your information was obtained from the false claims made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Our church had nothing to do with the printing or sales of the t-shirts. The t-shirts were printed and sold by parents (none of which attend or are connected with our church) and they were sold at cost. We paid the full rental fee and we did not solicit any monies nor did we sale anything to recoup t he cost. I respect your right to disagree, but I do not respect the dispensing of false and potentially slanderous information. I am sure you will want to make this correction clear.

I apologize, then, for my mischaracterization of the t-shirts. However, I still believe the church will recoup its costs indirectly through people who either donated to them at the performance or who will be going to the church in the coming weeks. Well-intentioned or not, the church is taking advantage of a situation that never should have occurred in the first place. Pastor Buck’s comments below also indicate that he sees nothing inappropriate with what the school did.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • MargueriteF

    It’s outrageous that a public school would even think of putting on a play like this. At least they backed down quickly when called on it. But really, it should be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that something like this has no business in public schools. Aaarrrggghhh.

  • ortcutt

    Is this a play? Don’t plays have plots and characters? It seems more like group recitation of a catechism.

  • TheG

    The really funny (not “Jon Stewart” funny, but that kind of nervous titter you have when you see a performance of “Of Mice and Men” and you see Lenny going to pick up a small animal) part is that the religious groups act like this kind of thing is a lesson in disobedience and that they are sticking it to those darn atheists by having the play privately funded and not compelling the attendance of children.

    If they had just planned it this way from the start, nobody in the atheist community would’ve given two farts on a windy day about it.

    Bravo, Pastor Buck. You did the bare minimum of decency. Poorly.

  • eric

    The school barely backed down at all. Read that letter; it screams “we want to put on this play, the district is making us do this, blame them.”

  • busterggi

    Can someone explain why believers need constant reinforcement of their beliefs? Is it to counter inner doubts? To feel part of their clique? Fear of angering the sky monster? I go days without visiting any atheist blogs or having conversations about religion but believers can’t seem to go fifteen minutes without hearing &/or seeing &/or doing something to proclaim their religious beliefs.

  • Rain

    Trust in God gave birth to our country over 200 years ago!

    Yeah, trust in God from other sects persecuting them. They trusted in God pretty good I’ll bet.

  • LesterBallard

    All of the above.

  • Houndentenor

    All of the above.

    Also, overcompensation. When someone has to go on and on about something all the time, they are trying to convince someone, usually themselves.

  • Alice

    Seriously, that made a Christmas pageant look like a blockbuster movie.

  • ortcutt

    I feel like the kid who plays #19 really expressed the emotions in the character though.

  • Godfearing

    The church did not get a penny of the money back. The shirts that were sold were sold at cost and this was sponsored by a parent not the church. Any student who does not want to participate in ANY LISD program is not required too. The parents and the FFRF should have spoke up 5 1/2 months ago instead of waiting until the last minute to complain. I live in this wonderful GOD LOVING COMMUNITY!!!!! I will not try to push my religious beliefs on you but you do not have the right to tell me I am not allowed to worship my GOD in anyway I choose. We are not the only school district to put on a play like this it is just that the other schools had the nerve to stand up to the FFRF. I wish our school district and its attorney would have had the nerve to stand up to them. When the other district refused to back down the FFRF went away. BTW almost 3000 people showed up in support for this program in a community of less than 5000. The school PAC, cafeteria, and lecture room were full to capacity as well as people sitting in lawn chairs listening to the audio of the performance. You may not believe in GOD but that does not give you the right to deny me my freedom to believe in Him.

  • WallofSleep

    “Can someone explain why believers need constant reinforcement of their beliefs?”

    An addiction to a form of social validation that allays their insecurities and inner fears.

    And I know that’s bullshit armchair psychology on my part, but look at it this way. If they where truly secure in their faith, heh, if they truly had FAITH, they would not insist that their way was the only way, and try to shove it down the rest of humanity’s throat.

  • WallofSleep

    “You may not believe in GOD but that does not give you the right to deny me my freedom to believe in Him.”

    Nice Strawman. Try again.

  • more compost

    “…you do not have the right to tell me I am not allowed to worship my GOD in anyway I choose.”

    That is absolutely correct. And that is why no one has done so.

    What we DO have the right – and the obligation – to do is to keep you from violating the Constitution of the United States by forcing your religious views on helpless school children.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    The FFRF didn’t back down from anyone. Your “Christian Neighbors” are lying to you. It doesn’t work that way.

    If the people that you want to defend who are violating the U.S. Constitution weren’t consistently underhanded about their violations, this information would have been made available sooner and groups that defend YOUR civil rights by preventing such violations would have been involved sooner.

    3000 people, eh? First, kids brought by their parents don’t count. Second, that bloated number, if true, should tell you something: that thousands of people from other towns are massively and negatively overreacting to the upholding of the Constitution. That’s a lot of people who need to take basic Civics classes.

    No one is telling you how to worship. They are telling the SCHOOL that it does not get to preach to the children for whom it is responsible, or devote its time and money to help other people preach to them. You’re very ignorant of the issue at hand.

  • Anna Lemma

    You get to believe as you want, and you get to teach your children what you want, but what you and the teachers don’t get to do is tell MY children what to believe. Why is this so hard for some Christians to understand? Non-Christians and their children also have the right to have their own beliefs.

  • Derrik Pates

    Doubt does that. They’re not secure in their beliefs, so they have to find ways to force everyone to echo them back, so they can feel more secure in their beliefs. Instead of just being… you know, grownups.

  • Rain

    You may not believe in GOD but that does not give you the right to deny me my freedom to believe in Him.

    Nice switcharoo of “believe in” with “putting on a sermon in school to a captive audience”. Technically called an “equivocation”, and is actually the main way religion survives other than con artists who just outright lie to people. So yeah, quite common.

  • TnkAgn

    A few things:

    1: Even if true, forcing students opt out of an unconstitutional practice, however popular, and making them the object of scorn and retribution, is a bad way to go about claiming your religious freedom.

    2. In fact, I AM telling you that I do have the right to tell you that indeed, you are NOT allowed to worship your god in anyway you choose. That would include forcing your religious myths onto others in a public school. Or human sacrifice, which your bible tells you is just fine, or having slaves, or stoning children to death…and the rest. The Supreme Court of the United States has, for some six decades now, told you that you cannot worship your god in anyway you choose.

    3. That 3 out of 5 people showed up to help share your ignorance of reality is no argument for that ignorance. It’s called “argumentum ad populum.” To wit: The popularity of an idea or notion does not make it true or correct.

    4. I know that you will dismiss everything I’ve said. After all, didn’t God put fossils in the earth to test our faith?

  • godfearing

    You may want to re-read the first amendment. Actually all of them because there is not a single one that states the separation of church and state. The United States was founded so that I can worship God and you can choose not to worship Him. The people chose to leave England because they did not want a state religion (Catholicism). They wanted to be able to worship in any way they choose. Also by the way I did not exaggerate the numbers. If you had of taken the time to read the numerous articles on the internet regarding the performance you would have seen that the numbers are accurate. Also I guarantee you the FFRF did back off of another school when they chose to ignore them and proceed with their performance. I have my facts but maybe you should check yours. If you would like I can copy and past the first amendment for you. I have study the first amendment and understand the rules about what is and is not allowed in government. Also, if you are so concerned about the children being pressured into performing why don’t you watch the news reports showing the children talking about being happy they had the chance to perform the program as originally planned. The children do not have to worry about peer pressure of showing up for the performance tonight because they only have one more day of school. At this age, the fifth grade students will not be taking end of year test but having end of year parties. If the student or parents are concerned about peer pressure they can keep their children at home tomorrow. Before you call someone ignorant of the issue, you might want to check your FACTS. You are the one ignorant of the issue at hand. As the song says, “If God is for us, then who will stand against us.” The things is that if I am wrong and their is no God, when I die nothing will happen. BUT if I am right and there is a GOD then I will be in Heaven and you will be burning in Hell. For your sake I hope you are right but I believe that Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, mine and yours. I will pray for all of you. Another famous atheist set out to prove that their is no God but after doing everything he could instead of proving there is no God, he ended up proving to himself that there is a God. If you do not believe me then try reading, The Case for Christ by Lee Stroble. You will see that even atheist can be converted. GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!

  • TCC

    The people chose to leave England because they did not want a state religion (Catholicism). They wanted to be able to worship in any way they choose.

    Wow, uh, major history fail. The state religion of the UK is and was (and the name should give it away here) the Church of England (or the Anglican Church). And religious freedom was not a motivating factor in the exodus of Puritans and Separatists (Pilgrims), at least not in the sense we think of today – that is, they wanted the freedom to worship as they saw fit, but they had no qualms persecuting anyone who challenged the authority of their churches (c.f. Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams).

    Also I guarantee you the FFRF did back off of another school when they chose to ignore them and proceed with their performance.

    Without knowing any specifics, I find it much more likely that the FFRF only “backed off” in any case because they couldn’t find someone with standing who was willing to sue the school district.

    If you do not believe me then try reading, The Case for Christ by Lee Stroble. You will see that even atheist can be converted.

    I’m sorry to say that I’ve read three of Strobel’s awful books (Case for Christ, …Faith, …a Creator), and it’s pretty damned clear that Strobel was not in the least bit skeptical.

    GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!

    Kiss your mother with that mouth? Oh, sorry, I went ahead and translated it out of Christianese for you:


    At least now we can both be honest about what you really meant.

  • eskomo

    You state, the people chose to leave England because they did not want a state religion.

    So should the US now create a state religion? The first amendment really is preventing a state religion.

  • WallofSleep

    “The people chose to leave England because they did not want a state religion (Catholicism).”

    Dude, you are out of your depth. Quit while you’re behind.

    “GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!”

    Yeah, if your god was real, I doubt he’d appreciate you invoking him like a common curse or swear. Check yourself.

  • Tak

    LoL 8/10 troll

  • m6wg4bxw

    Fifth-grade children pawns.

  • Darrell Ross

    Blech. What a terrible book. Lee Stroble’s book and his movie are terrible. Picture circular reasoning and pages and pages of witnessing.

    Your clumsy rendition of Pascal’s Wager is also irrelevant. Try looking up available rebuttals to your arguments. So far you have offered nothing new and only painted yourself as uninformed and naive.

    Do you really think that peer pressure exists only during school hours at school? The whole town is pressuring anyone who doesn’t like what the school is doing right now.

    le sigh.

  • DavidMHart

    Just out of curiosity, since you bring up Pascal’s Wager, what exactly do you plan to say to Allah when he sentences you to an eternity of torture in Jahannam for not acknowledging the Koran as his perfect message to humankind?

    In any world where the number of religions is greater than 1, Pascal’s Wager is obviously bunk.

    Also, the 1st Amendment is exactly about establishing separation of church and state. It may not use those exact words (note that the word ‘trinity’ does not appear in the bible either), but what it does is to establish that the government (and, by extension, government employees such as public school teachers in their official capacity) can neither promote nor discourage religion. That means that, while you are free to worship your god or gods in any way that does not infringe on other people’s rights, the government is not free to promote your god or gods.

  • RobertoTheChi

    Please look up what Pascal’s Wager is so you won’t ever use such an AWFUL argument ever again. You clearly know nothing about the Constitution, so please educate yourself and quit lying. Isn’t lying a no-no in your sadistic book of fairy tales written by simple sheep herders?

  • Matt

    So lets see, in this post we have someone invoking Pascal’s Wager, identifying Lee Stroble as an atheist (lol), claiming that children in 5th grade don’t have to worry about peer pressure, or if they do can just be taken out of school by their parents (so in his mind, the peer pressure is fine, and the poor kid being pressured should just turn tail), incorrectly identifying the state religion of the UK, and then claiming to have facts on not one but two different claims of fact, without citing said facts. (please for the love of everything, if you want to post “Facts” in your arguments here, put down a fucking source)

    Congrats sir, this may be the most wrong anybody has ever been on the internet.

  • Houndentenor

    This is a typical attitude from the religious right. If they can’t force everyone else to pretend to worship as they do, they see that as persecution. Had they presented this program at a local church or community center, we wouldn’t be discussing it. But it was a school program. Forcing children to opt out and therefore be ostracized is not a reasonable option. How would you feel if your child were attending a school that was predominantly Muslim and had to opt-out of activities? (Note: I’m against that too. it sounds like you are not.) I live in Texas and have this argument with people all the time. The lack of empathy or compassion for religious minorities is appalling and un-American. The Bill of Rights is there specifically to prevent majorities from steam-rolling over the rights of minorities. As a religious person you should support the separation of church and state. You may find yourselves in the minority one day and wish that were still the practice.

  • Houndentenor

    Look at the polling trends. One day these same Christians may well be in the minority and they will scream louder than any of the people they complain about now that their rights are being violated. By then it could be too late. I don’t know why they don’t understand that but then I’ve yet to meet a single Evangelical with an ounce of empathy for people who practice another religion or none at all.

  • Houndentenor

    It shows how ignorant you are that you think the state religion of England at the time of the founding of the American colonies was Catholocism.

  • Houndentenor

    Irony is lost on such narrow-minded people.

  • sunburned

    I am so stealing the “Christianese” translation bit.

  • Tanner B James

    Law of Exclamation

    The law of exclamation is an internet law that states:

    more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more
    likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital

  • Tanner B James

    GOD LOVING COMMUNITY!!!!! count them, there is five

    Law of Exclamation

    The law of exclamation is an internet law that states:
    “”The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters. It is possible that the law is related to or descended from Terry Pratchett’s field test for insanity, in which an increasing number of exclamation marks from one to five indicates increased separation from reality, with five exclamation marks being an infallible indicator of the speaker or writer being “someone who wears his underpants on his head.”

  • Bill Santagata

    What is it with the “out-of-state” charge that is always levied against the FFRF? It’s a cheap shot that makes no sense…a Texan complained to them and they responded. The Establishment Clause applies to the whole country. You never hear this about the ACLU, which has affiliates in every state but is technically incorporated in New York.

    As usual, the people here are acting like petulant children. They’re told they can’t do something, so they *have* to do it and 1,000x bigger too. Of course, what they’re doing is completely legal and no atheist should have a problem with a church hosting a religious play in its own facilities, but they probably think they’re getting back at us anyway.

  • Space Cadet

    Also, if they bothered to look at actual history instead of this propagandist bullshit, they’d find plenty of examples of the majority exerting their control over the minority, especially in regards to religion. The very things we fight for are the very things many of their own ancestors needed.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    Omfg, you think that the Church of England is Catholic?

    The phrase “Separation of Church and State” is shorthand for the concept embodied in the First Amendment. Do you believe that you have a Constitutional right to privacy? Well guess what: there is no mention of “privacy” in the document. That, and many other rights you possess, are derived from the specifc words contained therein. So please, read ABOUT the Constitution, and stop listening to people who tell you gibberish about it.

    Did you know that the First Amendment was demanded and supported by minority Christians, especially Baptists, because they feared the persecution that they regularly received from other Christians? Oh, you didn’t? You have no idea of the context in which it was written?

    There is no case of the FFRF “backing off”. None. If they have a plaintiff and there is a violation, they proceed. I don’t have to prove a negative. That’s ridiculous. YOU have to supply the evidence. If the FFRF wrote a letter and then did not proceed, it was because they either did not find a local plaintiff, or their plaintiff had serious reason to fear local pressure and persecution from the fine, upstanding Christians around him or her and dropped matters rather than, say, see his children or his livelihood threatened. That’s what the forgiving Christians often do when their neighbor tries to defend the Constitution. That we have lots of evidence for.

    Attendance numbers are ALWAYS bloated when there is no ticket booth. Doesn’t matter what the event is. At any rate, you massively missed the point there. I didn’t make a significant disputation of the numbers. You just wanted to believe that so you could avoid the actual issue.

    I didn’t say anything about children “being pressured”; that alone is evidence that you didn’t read what I actually, but instead assigned your rote, numbered arguments as best you could to the situation. But funny thing about that: children don’t have fully-formed decision-making abilities, legal knowledge, or the ability to withstand social pressure. That’s why adults have to do the job of protecting your rights.

    As other people have noted here, forcing children to opt out of religious programs at school is inclusionary. They have exactly as much right to the facilities as anyone else. What you are doing is trying to ostracize and divide little kids.

    Pascal’s Wager: Google it. I’m continually amazed that anyone born in the last 100+ years still repeats that stupidity.

    No has to to prove that there is no God for the same reason that no one has to prove that there are no leprechauns. The burden of proof is on the claimant.

    This word, “ignorant”, it does not mean what you think it means. You’re extremely uninformed about the arguments at hand. That is ignorance. Ignorance is not a sin. It can be fixed. But you have to WANT to fix it. You have to engage that Google button, because once you’re made aware that this information is right there for you through your computer, you have no more excuse. You have to WANT to know why your leadership won’t fix you up with functional or truthful arguments, when they are literally at their fingertips. (hint: it’s because the ones that know the real arguments know that understanding them leads to atheism, just like the Catholic Church knew that people reading the Bible for themselves would start them thinking.)

    Being a Southerner, I know full well that “I’ll pray for you” is code for “I can’t win so I’m running away, and fuck you.” I won’t return your foul thoughts; I’m in too good a mood this morning.

    Please learn what paragraph breaks are.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    Congrats sir, this may be the most wrong anybody has ever been on the internet.

    You’re such a fucking optimist. :P

  • Charles Honeycutt

    Trolls don’t put that much work into one-off comments. To get things this wrong, he/she had to have a lot of local knowledge in the first place.

  • Bill Santagata

    The words “freedom of religion” also do not appear verbatim in the Constitution…therefore it does not exist. Obviously you can’t summarize constitution provisions using recognizable and accurate phraseology!

  • Space Cadet

    This whole post is dripping with condescension and lies. But, you ended it by saying you’ll pray for us and a hearty, overly capitalized “god bless you”, so I’m sure you’re feeling good sitting way up top on Morality Mountain.

    Next time, try not using arguments that have been refuted and debunked a million times.

  • Beth

    A local church was furious that the play was ruined by the damn law so they rented out facilities at a local high school and made plans to stage the original production with any students who wanted to participate…

    And any kid who does not participate won’t be singled out right…RIGHT?!

  • Lurker111

    That 9th Commandment* was ever only a suggestion, you know.

    *In most lists.

  • Cary_W

    “The people chose to leave England because they did not want a state religion.”

    And now you Christians want to establish a state religion here in America. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m always stunned at how ignorant people can be. How can public school administrators anywhere actually have thought this program was appropriate? How can anyone charged with educating our children be so ignorant of the law? Sadly, while I’m glad the performance was stopped, those fifth graders still spent weeks rehearsing those lines over and over again. And now face being pressured to take part in the church performance. The church performance is certainly legal, but it’s petty, vindictive, and downright unethical.

  • Gus Snarp
  • wanderer

    I’m appalled that this was planned in a public school But, like other commenters have stated, what is most hilarious to me is that Pastor Buck and his posse seems to think they’ve really stuck it to “them damn atheists” by holding the play privately. Which was …. the point all along.
    Kinda like getting mad that the city will fine you for littering, so “sticking it to them” by throwing trash on the floor inside your own house.
    That’ll show em!!!!

  • ortcutt
  • Gus Snarp

    So here’s the thing, the Constitution clearly gives the Supreme Court the power to interpret what is and is not constitutional. It matters not a white what you and David Barton and your preacher think the First Amendment means, it matters what the Supreme Court has determined and set as precedent. And the case law is so blindingly clear on this that all anyone needs is a plaintiff willing to put up with the Christian bullying they would surely endure from your loving community and this is an open and shut case. There’s not a federal court in this country that would even take a second thought before ruling against any school district putting on this “play”.

  • TCC

    I’m by no means the first person to make that observation, although I think this permutation is mine, but feel free to use as is appropriate. :D

  • Benny Cemoli

    How can anyone charged with educating our children be so ignorant of the law?

    This school district and it’s administrators aren’t ignorant of the law at all. They just don’t give a rats ass.

    For instance, wanna bet that every Invocation at the LISD Board of Trustees meetings has been given either by a Christian minister or has invoked the name of Jesus in some way? Can’t find one agenda that doesn’t include an “Invocation”.

    And look here . Five of the six Board of Trustee members are so proud of their religious affiliation they have it listed in their bios.

    And here we have the LISD 2013-2014 School Calendar (PDF) where we specifically get a Christmas break and one day off for Good Friday.

    And to conclude, would you be will to hazard a guess as to what Traditional Moral Values and Ethics they are teaching the kids.

    All and all looks like a thoroughly stealth christianized Texas school district to me.


  • Gus Snarp

    Actually, you do hear this about the ACLU. It’s a standard refrain of those who are legally wrong but want to keep doing business as usual. Especially in the south, where the words “out of state” mean “damned yankees”.

  • tasteless chap

    I just don’t understand how a school board and/or administrators could have giving this the green light to begin with! SURELY they all knew that this violated the Constitution. IF NOT, then they’re all far too stupid to be leading the education of our next generation!

    If they’re not stupid, then they blatantly feel “above the law.” Which also makes me feel strongly that they should NOT be in a position to educate our next generation!

    These sorts of obvious rejections of clearly established Constitutional rulings should lead to teachers and administrators losing their teaching credentials!! And boards that turn a blind eye to this sort of thing should be slapped with fines or criminal liability. Otherwise, I’ll see you next time we have an article like this…… tomorrow!

  • Tom Buck

    Dear Mr. Mehta,

    I am perfectly fine with your freedom to disagree with me in regards to our church stepping in to allow the students who wish to perform the entirety of their program. But I do take issue with your false characterizations regarding our church’s motives and insinuating that we are somehow profiting from the event that took place last night. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that your information was obtained from the false claims made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Our church had nothing to do with the printing or sales of the t-shirts. The t-shirts were printed and sold by parents (none of which attend or are connected with our church) and they were sold at cost. We paid the full rental fee and we did not solicit any monies nor did we sale anything to recoup the cost. I respect your right to disagree, but I do not respect the dispensing of false and potentially slanderous information. I am sure you will want to make this correction clear.

  • Tom Buck

    Please read my statement above. I am not sure what I did poorly, but am more than happy to interact with you on this matter. I had nothing to do with the original play and was only alerted to the problems after the play was cancelled. Be aware that it was cancelled two days prior to the event and many of the children who had speaking or singing parts had to be eliminated. I was simply trying to give them an opportunity to perform what they had practiced to hard for.

  • TheG

    Probably trying to frame this impingement as “religious liberty” and an attack from an out of state organization (ignoring that it was local citizens, specifically parents of the children of your community) that complained about this. Also, trying to portray that you were looking out for the people of the community. You were looking out for SOME of the members of the community and giving a giant middle finger to the rest. Using the school as a peer pressure recruitment device AGAINST CHILDREN is shameful and your libelous (you might want to edit your response to Hemant to make it at least appear that you have the two brain cells to rub together to know the difference between “libel” and “slander”) implication that you speak for either the community or the students.

  • Tom Buck

    I think the most amazing thing to me is the inability to have a civil conversation without insults. I have made no belittling remarks towards you or others. I do not question your intelligence, but did offer to have a civil discussion if you would so choose. In reference to my use of “slander,” I was not invoking its use as a legal term or threat. I am quite aware of the difference in a court of law. The definition of something being “slanderous” fits perfectly with my comments above.

  • TheG

    And I think the most amazing thing is how you can sound like you are addressing points without actually saying anything that disputes those points.

    But kudos on the attempt to rewrite the dictionary. Are any other publications or documents on your list?

  • Tom Buck

    I stand corrected on your taking issue with my use of the word “slander” since I was addressing false information that was in print rather than spoken. I do wish you were equally as concerned with false accusations being levied against someone. And I also extend my offer to have a discussion of your comments above if you are willing to do so in a civilized manner. However, if you continue to persist in your belief that I am intellectually incapable of having a discussion with you, then it would be a fruitless endeavor.

  • TheG

    Considering the Fourteenth Psalm, I think we all know who cast the first insult.

    Regardless, please open the discussion with an explanation (using exact quotes) of the falsehoods that were spoken or written in order to harm your good name.

    Proceed by demonstrating where you didn’t give tacit endorsement of those hateful and juvenile T-Shirts because you remained silent against their printing or attempted to stop their sale at your event.

    Finally, please let us know how much you were charging for tickets.

  • Houndentenor

    They’d be happy to have a government that backed their religion and suppressed the others. Most people like this live in a bubble where most of the people they know either agree with them or are too intimidated by the local majority to express any dissent. (I’m always shocked how often people think I agree with them 100% even when I haven’t said a word.) Meanwhile they may actually be a minority in their county or state. They never think about that. They don’t really think much period.

  • Layne

    I want to point out – because I think that this is very important when citing the amount of people who showed up to the play – that Lindale houses several christian organizations, including Teen Mania Ministries Youth With a Mission, and Mercy Ships. These ministries house at least (and I’m low-balling) 600 interns and staff each. While I’m sure that many of the attendees were friends and family of the students, I imagine that the local christian ministries attended as well.

  • Phasespace

    Mr. Buck,

    I can respect that you wanted to provide a place for the kids’ show to go on, and I don’t have a problem with you doing so.

    But it didn’t end there, did it? You or your partners engaged in what I can only describe as soviet style agitation propaganda to help “recoup the costs in a heartbeat.” That statement alone is highly suspicious, making you look like an opportunist taking advantage of a situation by focusing the ire of your fellow believers on the implied false premise that this is religious persecution.

    The chess game comment in the original article is highly ironic in this context. Who’s really playing a chess game with your kids over content that should never have been in their school in the first place?

    What I would like to see from you is an admission that the content of the play was inappropriate for a public school and that you would be willing to stand with us against it. Just as I am willing to stand with you to allow you to host such a grade school play anywhere and anytime you like, as long as you are not doing so with any sort of government endorsement.

  • Tom Buck

    I honestly thank you for your questions. And I truly want to understand your positions. Neither of us will probably convince the other of anything, but we can seek to better understand one another’s position.

    1) Did I quote any Scripture to you at all? I understand your reference to Ps. 14, but I didn’t come at you with any Scripture. I am approaching the conversation solely on the basis of speaking truthfully about one another’s actions and being respectful to one another even where they have made a mistake. I am completely confident that you have probably had those who call themselves Christians be very ugly to you and misrepresent what you really believe. So I know that caricature carries over in conversations.

    2) The exact problem I had in regards to something being untruthful was the comments that I was doing this in order to “capitalize” and comments that I and/or the church was going to benefit financially from this event (particularly in reference to us selling shirts). I can tell you with all sincerity that I did not do this with that motive. I actually don’t like many of the things that Christians do and the way they do them in the public arena. I simply wanted the children who wanted to participate to do so. We can debate whether that create unhealthy peer pressure, but the issue is ascribing motives. And, I know, I am not immune to doing this to people myself. Easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye and miss the log in my own.

    3) I don’t mean this as rude. I sincerely want to understand how you process this. How is a t-shirt that says “In God We Trust” hateful? If I had thought it was hateful, I would be against that. I do stand up against things I think are wrong. For example, there are those in our community who wanted to take up an offering at the event. I refused that because I intentionally did not want to profit from the event in any way. I also spoke against there being any profit from the sale of the t-shirts. But I didn’t see that they were “hateful.” Please help me understand that.

    4) There was absolutely no charge to get into the event. It was completely free of charge. Other than those who ordered shirts and paid for them (and no one from our church was involved in that), we did not collect money for anything. There was no food sold, tickets sold, or anything else. I honestly wanted to do nothing but give the kids who wanted to perform the opportunity at no charge.

  • Tom Buck

    Thanks for your reply.

    1) I am totally at a loss of what you mean by the “chess game comment.” It’s been a long day, so I might be missing that. Can you point me to what you are talking about in that so I can address it?

    2) I also don’t understand the quote in regards to recouping the costs in a heartbeat. We have not tried to recoup the cost. I didn’t have any “partners” in any of this. I simply rented out the facility. What other people chose to do of their own free will was their choice. I had nothing to do with the printing of shirts or the sale of them. Everything we did was a church was at no charge. I did not use this event to rally people for financial purposes. We can debate the issue of what I did or did not consider persecution, but it makes it hard to have a good conversation if either of us are misrepresenting the other.

    3) I did not take the stand I did because I was necessarily defending the content of the play. I was giving a venue for the kids who wished to participate the opportunity to do so and for it to be performed in its entirety.

    4) I would like to have a discussion about the content of the play. I believe that the vast majority of the content in the play is appropriate. We could discuss the parts piece by piece. But let’s begin with the most basic. Is it wrong to talk about the founding of our country being upon Judeo/Christian religious values and that the Bible played a vital role in the thinking of our founders? And what evidence do you have (please don’t read a sarcastic tone for I don’t mean it) that our founders did not want God or religion to play a part in our nations DNA, so to speak. Why are there so many religious inscriptions on the very walls of our government buildings?

    I really do want to interact and better understand your thinking.

  • TheG

    Thank you for your civil tone.

    1) You may not have said anything, but the figureheads of your religion sure have made it clear their feelings towards even “friendly atheists”. If you are going to denounce those pieces of scripture, I’m sure there are many here that would love to see that. Even the most reasonable of Christians seem to fall back on that one when all other reasoning has been demolished (or when they think non-Christians aren’t listening).

    2) “Capitalize” doesn’t necessarily usually associate with “capitalism” or any kind of profitable endeavor. In the dictionaries I checked, that definition comes in third or fourth, behind “to take advantage of”. Just because you think Hemant was using it libelously, a thorough reading by any court would dismiss your claim. Your motives as represented on this site seem sincere, but your issue may be with the primary sources Hemant based the article on instead of him. They seem to be the ones connecting the T-shirts, tickets, and you.

    3) I appreciate that you are trying to understand why the T-shirt and phrase “In God We Trust” is offensive. That most Christians seem incapable of understanding on this is a source of great consternation among those of us that don’t agree with the very loaded sentiment. First, it makes the presumption that the speaker (who obviously believes in God) can speak for everyone. Second, it tries to make others believe that everyone in the United States (the “we”) believes in one god, any god, or the Christian god. Hint: “we” don’t. “Some of us” do. Finally, the statement tries to get the recipient of the message to take away the message that if they meet someone who doesn’t feel that put their “Trust” in “God”, they are an outsider and not a part of America. Many of us find it demeaning, exclusionary, and untruthful.

    4) It is very helpful to get the issue of profit out of the way. But profiting financially off the event is really the least of the concern of many. It is like the police discovering that a CEO had been cheating on his taxes AND only tips 5% at restaurants. Don’t forget that there was a back of the T-shirt as well. If the people are in support OF something, there must be somebody against them. Well, it is civility, their fellow students, and the law.

    Your reasons for hosting the play seem noble, but there is also the underlying concern about spitefulness and the furthering of the Christian persecution complex. You might have wanted to give the Christian kids a chance to perform, but it seems that there are the other motives that many of us believe were the primary drivers. How many dozens were going to show up to the elementary presentation? Now, how many thousands showed up for your performance? Do you see how the perception, correct or not, is that it was to spite the people that wanted the law enforced? This, combined with the T-shirts furthering the misplaced persecution complex, makes the whole exercise a way of saying that the community won’t be bullied. This vilifies to children those in support of equality and the law.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Buck,
    I am aware of your endeavours to support a group of students in our community to present a program. With all due respect sir, as a student of this school district, I believe it was wrong for the school to ask the students to present this program, no matter how much they wanted to. As a student, I have the right to a non-religious education environment and I prefer that right to be exercised. I would like to address one issue above. I am not offended by the “In God We Trust” T-shirts. I am offended by the fact that this was allowed by the school. However, I do respect the fact that you allowed them to present the program when it turned into a Church function. I am not against the religion. I am not against the program —- when it was you who sponsored it. I feel the FFRF was correct by making the district take it out. I would like to offer an alternative. Perhaps you could partner with a teacher and sponsor the program and truly make it a church program to be practised outside of school. I am truly sorry that you are under pressure about it. I do disagree with the community saying it should be allowed in school, but I am perfectly fine if it is done through the church, and presented by the church, with students doing it voluntarily. I do respect your efforts in preserving the hard work of the students. I just wished it could have been handled better. Good luck Mr Buck.
    An incoming sophomore at Lindale High School

  • Tom Buck

    It is late for me and I need to retire for the evening. I think you have some excellent points that I would like to interact with you further on. I want to process your third point, particularly, before I just respond. Thanks for being willing to interact. And maybe through all this a friendly atheist and a crotchety Baptist could be cordial friends :)

    I promise that I will do my best to interact without causing offense. Have a good evening and I look forward to further interaction if you are willing. I will pick up with your points tomorrow.

  • Tom Buck

    Thanks so much for interacting with me. I think this is a good discussion and one we should have in the public arena. It saddens me that you have to hide your identity (I am sure you feel you would be persecuted if you did not). In my thinking, the debate is not as cut and dried as either side might like to make it. I understand your argument in regards to the school system promoting any particular religion. And I would love to talk about this in our community. The thing that I find very difficult is to deny that our country was founded upon Judeo/Christian values and that the Bible played a vital role in the thinking of our founding fathers. Does a “non-religious education” to you mean that you don’t have a particular religion forced upon you, or that all of the Christian influences of our country be completely whitewashed from our history books? I think this is a good debate and important discussion. I am convinced that the answer is not necessarily one extreme or the other.



  • Feminerd

    I find it rather easy to deny that the US was founded on Judeo/Christian values. Thomas Jefferson was a deist- that is, he thought there was a deity of some sort, but that this deity didn’t intervene or do miracles. He explicitly rejected the whole Jesus-as-Son-of-God sent to sacrifice himself for our sins thing. Thomas Paine was an atheist and would probably proudly claim the label anti-theist, were he alive today. Benjamin Franklin was a deist, as were George Washington and James Madison. Those five people were some of the most influential in founding our nation. So while they were surrounded by Christians, grew up Christian, and clearly read and studied the Bible, they also rejected many of its teachings. This country was founded on secular Enlightenment ideals far more than as a religious nation. See also Jefferson’s letter to the Baptists explaining the separation of church and state and the Treaty of Tripoli, in which the US explicitly confirmed it was not a Christian nation.

    One cannot deny the impact Christians and Christianity have had on this nation. Unfortunately, it’s been a very mixed bag. It’s as important to not to whitewash the really horrible things Christians did while citing the Bible as to why they could do them as it is to explain the positive social reform movements that also cited the Bible. The leading proponents of slavery waved the Bible around like madmen. So did the leading proponents of racism (the speeches coming out of Southern churches in the 1950s are horrifying), and the leading proponents of sexism (witch trials, women denied the right to vote, the entire “separate spheres” ideology, today Christian patriarchy and Quiverfull), and the leading proponents of homophobia. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian. So was Bull Connor. It’s important to learn about and understand both men and how their very different interpretations of the same book inspired their actions.

  • Michael Harrison

    Welcome to the Internet.

  • Space Cadet

    The thing that I find very difficult is to deny that our country was founded upon Judeo/Christian values and that the Bible played a vital role in the thinking of our founding fathers.

    Change the phrase “founded upon” to “influenced by” and I wouldn’t have much of an issue with that. The problem with the way you phrased it is the implication that Judeo/Christian values were the only influence, which is demonstrably false.

    When our country was being founded there was a robust debate concerning the role of religion in our society, and the role of government when it comes to religion. These people were not only looking at European history, but at the recent history of the land in which they lived. Many of the 13 colonies had state-sponsored religion and had denominational requirements for holding public office. This was a time when actual persecution did exist. In some colonies, people were free to worship the state-religion, but if someone wanted to worship a different way they faced the possibility of expulsion from the community and in some cases faced execution. (

    Ultimately, they drafted a document that was completely secular in nature. Why is that? Why did the people who played the most significant roles in the founding of our country, most of whom were religious (the degree of how religious they were is debatable), not include affirmations to god or jesus in the Constitution? Because of the examples, older and more recent both, of what happens when the state shows preference to one religion over another, one denomination over another, or simply religion to non-religion.

    The sentiment that our country was founded on Christian values is one that is brought forth often. What does it mean to you? Please be specific. (<—not trying to be condescending, but rather trying to avoid the common use of "bumpersticker" type phrases)

  • Tom Buck

    I am out of pocket most of today. I have several people on this thread that I am interacting with and each of you have some great points I want to interact with. So please be patient with the timing of my reply. I truly want to interact and for us to understand each other. I am not busy doing research for my answers… LOL. Just out of pocket with a bunch of stuff. Thanks for everyone’s civility in this as I believe this is what public discourse should be in putting forth our ideas. Let me clarify one thing so you will know where I will be coming from. I do NOT believe that our country is or ever was a “Christian” nation. I do NOT believe that we should attempt to make our country a “Christian nation.” But I do think it is good to discuss the level of influence the Christian Bible had and how we should think about these things today. I am against extremists… but, of course, one man’s normality is another man’s extremities. Either way, I will be directly addressing your questions ASAP! Thanks again.


  • Tom Buck

    I am actually pretty tech savvy. And I have been engaged in this type of insult hurling before. I just still can’t understand it. Oh, well.

  • Tom Buck

    I am out of pocket most of today. I have several people on this thread that I am interacting with and each of you have some great points I want to interact with. So please be patient with the timing of my reply. I truly want to interact and for us to understand each other. I am not busy doing research for my answers… LOL. Just out of pocket with a bunch of stuff. Thanks for everyone’s civility in this as I believe this is what public discourse should be in putting forth our ideas. Let me clarify one thing so you will know where I will be coming from. I do NOT believe that our country is or ever was a “Christian” nation. I do NOT believe that we should attempt to make our country a “Christian nation.” But I do think it is good to discuss the level of influence the Christian Bible had and how we should think about these things today. I am against extremists… but, of course, one man’s normality is another man’s extremities. Either way, I will be directly addressing your questions ASAP! Thanks again.


  • Anonymous

    Mr Buck,
    I don’t mind the fact that Christianity itself was one of the influences of creating our great nation. I don’t think it should be wiped from the books. But for me to say that, I have to dig deeper. Here in Lindale, I would say we have a pretty good school district. But, what goes on in the classrooms? I’ve had teachers before that have read out of the Bible and claimed it was for “historical instruction”. For example, one year, we read “The Magician’s Nephew” by C. S. Lewis. The teacher picked up a Bible she had sitting on the table, and read out of it for “comparison”. There was a Muslim in our class. How do you think he felt? Uncomfortable? Now, why don’t we have lessons in which teachers pick up the Qur’an, or the Torah, or Tao Te Ching? Why doesn’t our curriculum reflect that all religions are being considered? I have one simple answer for you. Christianity is the majority here, and people think majority rules. Well, I personally think it’s unfair. The one and only time I ever remember seeing something from another religious text was a verse from the Qur’an and a kid threw a fit about it. That was the only class in Lindale (World Geography) that I felt the teacher was making us study religion, and not teaching it. The minority religions should not be pushed out of the way. In our very own Lindale High School, you walk around the school and see papers taped to lockers with Bible verses on them. Someone once posted something of their own beliefs, and my debate teacher told us another student tore it down, and that the school was looking for whoever did it. Because the student complained. The school does not take the initiative to protect minorities from discrimination regarding religion. I personally think that this is the school’s fault and they should have seen it coming. It is said over 2,000 and even close to 3,000 people attended in support. The Christians. I am a Christian, but I was not at the church-funded performance to show support for the school. I am sorry, because I am sure it was a wonderful church function. However, I feel very strongly about the school instilling religious values. Our school is less of a “public” school in the normal sense of the word, rather than a Free Private Religious Institution. Again, I am deeply sorry you have come under some fire over this issue, and I hope that there will be a resolution that can make both the FFRF and the FBC and its supporters happy.
    An incoming sophomore at Lindale High School

  • Space Cadet

    I would like to have a discussion about the content of the play.

    Good, because I think many of us would, as well. I know you’ve seen the play, obviously, but for those who have only read about the content, here’s a short clip:

    (Tom, is there a full video of the play available anywhere online, or are there plans to put it online? I’d very much like to see the whole thing)

    Re-read lines 18-24 of the play, and try to look at it objectively. How is this not proselytizing? That’s preaching the gospels and nothing more. It’s not even Judeo/Christian, it’s only Christian, and even then not inclusive of all Christianity. It’s not based on fact, but on a specific faith, and as such has no place in a public school, but rather in a church. Above, TheG stated (paraphrasing) that if this had been in a church to begin with, while we may have noticed, we wouldn’t be objecting the way we are now. That’s because we (most of us, at least) do hold freedom of religion in the highest regard and would defend your right to produce that play…in the appropriate setting, which a public school is not. We would criticize the content, for sure, but support your right to put it on.

  • Phasespace

    1) I am totally at a loss of what you mean by the “chess game comment.” It’s been a long day, so I might be missing that. Can you point me to what you are talking about in that so I can address it?

    That was a rather bizarre quote from the ktre article. I recognize that you did not make it, and I have to admit that the entire context of it is just kind of weird, and worthy of suspicion.

    Item 2: Fair enough, I see that the T-shirt sales didn’t have anything to do with you. More troubling though, is that apparently the article has been updated and changed without notice. The quote about recouping costs has disappeared from the article. I’ll just let that go as an error on the part of the reporter, or a corrected misattribution.

    Item 3: Yes, I understand that, and I have absolutely no problem with your actions in that regard. However, it would seem that the reactions of many of the people in your community are as much about the content of the play being modified. While I don’t hold you responsible for those actions, it is something that I think you are in a position to say something about, at a minimum.

    But let’s begin with the most basic. Is it wrong to talk about the founding of our country being upon Judeo/Christian religious values and that the Bible played a vital role in the thinking of our founders?

    Where you go wrong, is with the phrase “vital role.” As another commenter pointed out, some of the most influential founders held rather dubious opinions of Christianity and were frequently contemptuous of it. That fact alone, is enough to raise serious questions about the rather exclusionary position that you are taking. I don’t think it is wrong to recognize the religious values and traditions that were in play at the time our nation came to be, but you overreach when you say that the Judeo/Christian values were the vital and absolutely necessary piece or that they were even the only ones in play. It’s like saying that the meringue is the most vital part of a lemon meringue pie, but in fact, without the crust and the filling, you still wouldn’t have a pie.

    To put it another way, if the Judeo/Christian worldview were really the vital underlying piece of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our republican form of government, why did it take over a millennium after Christ for the Magna Carta to be written? And nearly two millennia for the first modern democracies to come about, while in the intervening years the Christian church formed authoritarian alliances with feudal kings and empires that had no interest in, and were outright hostile, to the much more egalitarian principles of our republic? And why is it that modern Christian conservatives are the ones that are fighting the hardest for a more authoritarian government and against the expansion of the very egalitarianism that allowed them to thrive in the first place?

    Note: The paragraph above is not an attempt to denigrate or be dismissive of the Christian influences of our founding, it is only meant to point out that the Judeo/Christian worldview is not, nor was it ever the only game in town. There are, in fact, other intellectual traditions that were just as important, if not more so, to the founding of our country.

    And what evidence do you have (please don’t read a sarcastic tone for I don’t mean it) that our founders did not want God or religion to play a part in our nations DNA, so to speak.

    I don’t mean to be uncivil, but the fact that you even raise this issue is really disappointing to me. Our founders, particularly Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Washington were a pretty shrewd bunch. They recognized that religion was very important to many of our citizens, but they were also keenly aware of the strife that existed between different religions and even within the same religion. They knew that our new government was (and in many respects continues to be) a fragile thing and to embroil our government in religion, a government of many people with very diverse and conflicting religious views was a recipe for disaster. That’s what Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists was all about. The founders understood and tried to codify that there was a difference between seeing ourselves as a religious nation vs. seeing ourselves as a nation of religious people.

    Why are there so many religious inscriptions on the very walls of our government buildings?

    There are a great many inscriptions on our government buildings. Some of them are religious, some of them are not. And of the religious ones, some of them aren’t even of Judeo/Christian origin. Did you know that? The point is that there are many statements that different people hold to be important for one reason or another. Personally, I’m not necessarily adverse to holding up some pieces of scripture or philosophy as being important enough to be worth inscribing on our buildings. But I also hold that there can and should be some very strong lines that should be drawn, especially in our increasingly diverse culture. Many of those inscriptions are exclusionary, and are not signs of the role that religion plays in our nation’s “DNA” so much as it is a sign of the privilege that the Christian religion has enjoyed by virtue of being the overwhelming majority.

  • Robyman4

    In the quotes from the play provided above, death, human sacrifice, sin, suffering, blood and tears are collectively mentioned a dozen times. Who in their right mind thinks those are key talking points for 10-year-olds in any segment of society? Switching gears, let’s examine the notion that Judeo/Christian values influenced or built this country. I do see both traditions reflected in American history, but numerous contradictions therein are downright appalling – and thus unforgettable. Take the Christian idea of “love thy neighbor as thyself” from Mark 12:31, for example. That verse doesn’t say “… if he/she is just like you,” or “…if he/she believes exactly as you do.” It doesn’t specify any conditions of similar belief or any other homogeneity that would merit acts of genuine love toward the men, women and children standing or living next to you. It simply says “love thy neighbor as thyself.” But how did generations of people from Europe who came to America – almost all of them very much in tune with the Christian religion – behave in the 17th and 18th centuries? Did they love their neighbors? Yes, they certainly did – if they were also white, and Christian. Manifest Destiny and the institution of slavery made things different for countless other human beings in this part of the world for hundreds of years. If their neighbors had skin that was red or black, there wasn’t much love shown. Instead, the actual result was 2-3 centuries of persecution, slaughter, hunger, illness, torture and degrading work and, finally, a painful end to a life of misery – with the added bonus that the heathen’s suffering on Earth was really just the begining of their torment since the fires of hell awaited – or so they were told. All of that nastiness surely would have made the ancient Jews (and their great and mighty God) proud, if any of them (like Methuselah) could have lived for a couple thousand more years. The Old Testament is replete with divine exhortations to limitless, insane violence toward tribes that stood their ground when the Hebrews took their land – and even toward those who were not at war with the Jews. Jump forward to the 1600s and that whole scenario was repeated on these shores. In sum, our country has indeed been affected by notions born from Judaism and Christianity. But is there much there that we can or should be proud of? Because even now we see one of the best of them – “love thy neighbor” – still being denied and ignored by untold numbers of Bible-thumping, God-fearing “Christians” all across this country. How long will it take for so many of those who proclaim this faith to get a clue and do the right thing?

  • tlc

    I don’t think anyone here even thought about stereotyping atheists, your comment is the first I have even considered that, it was not about that at all, I actually have atheist and agnostic friends, and as a Christian, I do business with them in many capacities, fine people are fine people, no matter their beliefs religiously, politically, etc., it is actually quite sad there is not more peaceful dialogue from all types of people who have differing opinions on all these issues, tlc

  • tlc

    I agree, it is unfortunate that by saying you don’t believe in something and done’ want to be exposed to something, that it robs you and your family of being able to expose yourself to what you want, great comments, tlc

  • tlc

    Just to set the record 100% straight, I printed the tshirts in Lindale, Texas. They were billed out at a cost of $8 per shirt, $11 for 3xl shirts, and a parent group was invoiced and paid the bill to me and my company.
    Pastor Buck, and no one at all in Lindale ISD were involved in the printing or passing out of them. I organized, on my own, a location of a friend who has a local franchise business to pass them out in an empty office space next door. This decision was made by me and the franchise owner solely and offered to the VOLUNTEERS, who took on this project out of their own pocket.
    I instigated the invitation to our local elected officials to be present, so they could monitor what the constituents they serve were doing. Several of them came out and were in attendance.
    Pastor Buck took every opportunity to back away, interviews on and off the camera, and was very integral at every turn to explain, that and all could attend or stay away. Parents/Teachers and any school official who did not want to attend could simply stay away. Any notion that anyone was forced to be there, or didn’t want to be there, is totally false.
    Just as Pastor Buck has communicated, healthy dialogue is good for us all, but those who choose to curse, belittle, put down, or act in a fractious manner, or out of line, no matter what their belief. Honestly, I would like to invite everybody down, cook some ribs, and get to know each other, and find the places we agree on, as much as have a dialogue about those issues where we may have differing opinions.
    Pastor Buck is a kind man, and his intentions and actions were incredibly pure and genuine. I haven’t even heard him invite anyone to come to his church, and there was certainly no offering, not tickets sold, nothing for anyone to make money on at all.
    I do not wish to be attacked either, but I invite a healthy conversation, and a polite one, just like Pastor Buck, who despite numerous reports of us being in “business together” I met only a few days ago, and I got to tell you. I LIKE HIM,
    Any other group, can do the hard work, and grassroots work, and take the faith of having shirts printed and ordered, so not matter what side of an issue you are on, you can do that on your own at any time. Trust me, I see plenty of shirts with a variety of opinions and slogans. This was just a group of volunteers/friends who asked if we could print shirts, and any other information out there is totally untrue.
    It is also actually interesting, to some of you, the individual who did the art for me, is an atheist, and was absolutely horrified, that a group would be involved in putting down the church for renting a public building on a school campus, and actually did the art for me for free. And, the individual who actually printed the shirts for me, a 3rd party vendor to me, is not a Christian and doesn’t go to church at all.
    keep the dialogue going, keep it clean, and if someone wants to come down for some food and drink, we would be glad to have you, tlc

  • Tom Buck

    1) I think that it is not fair to judge any single person on “figureheads.” Particularly in my faith, I don’t appoint any of those people. But, that being said, I do not denounce any Scripture. I don’t even denounce Psalm 14. But let me put it to you this way: would you agree that one of us is acting as a “fool?” If you deny that there is a God and then find out you denied the very existence of your creator, then wouldn’t that be a life lived foolishly? On the other hand, if I have devoted my whole life to living as if there is a God only to find out in the end that there is no God, then that too would be a life lived foolishly? I would say that many atheists would say I am a fool for believing in someone who doesn’t exist (one of the people on here I think called God my “imaginary friend.”) And if they are right that there is no God, then I am a fool for having adjusted my entire life for someone who is nonexistent.

    2) I’m aware that “capitalize” is a broad term and there may be those who believe that I used the event to gain certain favor in the community or to “stick it to the atheists.” I’m not sure that I am always aware of every motive that might be filling my heart. But the things that they directly attacked to illustrate me doing that were issues of supposed financial gain. I also wasn’t trying to make a case that would stand up in court… although, you seem to be hung up on my courtroom language LOL. I simply think we should try to do our best to accurately represent others (again, I often fail at this personally). It only serves to weaken our arguments whenever we use false information to criticize our opponent. And, if you go back and read what I wrote, I did say that he might have got his false information from somewhere else.

    3) This one is a little more difficult to respond. But I am trying to understand your feelings. I am not trying to be flippant or dismissive with my argument here, please bear with me.

    First, I consider you a fellow American and wouldn’t want you to feel ostracized. I have never thought of the words “In God We Trust” causing that reaction. But would you be offended if you saw a person wearing a shirt that said, “We love McDonald’s?” I’m not sure you would think the person was trying to force McDonald’s on you. Perhaps it is your strong feelings against there being a God that affects you to the degree it does because it evokes such strong feelings? Again, I’m honestly trying to put myself in your shoes. “God” is a pretty broad term and can refer to a god of any religion. But in regards to atheists, could I put it this way: in believing in God, we think there is someone outside of ourselves who establishes morality in this world and we do not look to ourselves as the standard that governs our lives. As an atheist, would it be fair to say that you see those moral standards coming from within and that you govern your life by your own understandings? So, in a sense, you believe that you are your own God? (I don’t mean that as demeaning) I have even heard atheists speak this way. Rather than being angered when you see that statement, could you not just see it almost like In Ourselves We Trust? For example, people from different religions would substitute, in their minds, whatever the name of the God of their religion is. The Jew thinks of YHWH in OT, Christian thinks of Jesus, Muslim thinks of Allah and you think of yourself, as you govern your own life without an outside deity.

    4) I think your fourth point is spot on in many ways. And I am sure there are a variety of reasons and motivations that your fellow atheists respond to things that they don’t like. Most are probably truly concerned that within the public schools there should be no forcing of religion upon people. Others, though, would like to move to a completely secular society where religion is completely removed from the public square. It is impossible to police all those feelings. However, I can examine what I say publicly and make sure that I am not creating straw men and then burning them down. However, I assure you that I made many public statements trying to keep people from going to extremes. But let me say, I think the name Freedom From Religion incites some Christians the way “In God We Trust” seems to have done to you. But I believe your point here is a strong one and why we need to have this public discourse. I need to allow it to penetrate my thinking more deeply

    Let me say one final thing and then I am sure you will respond. Our community is transitioning. For many years the community has been basically made up of only Christians and over time others have moved in. This makes it difficult to understand how to make those adjustments. But Christianity cannot be advanced biblically by force or coercion.

    Thanks again.


  • Tom Buck

    1) KTRE is obviously not a station from here and was writing based on other news reports. They got it grossly wrong. That is why misinformation is so destructive. But I understand why people have been saying these things.

    2) They probably changed it because they saw they were wrong. But they should have issued a correction rather than scrubbing it.

    3) I did say public things about supporting the schools changing of the program. I issued a press release that supported the decision of the school to change the program. FFRF, though, was against us offering it to be done when we rented the school. Called it an “unholy” gathering. That is absurd. So, I agreed with the school altering the program and made that public.

    In regards to me using “vital,” my intention was not to overreach. I agree COMPLETELY that our nation was not founded as a Christian nation. I agree that Locke and Kant, among others, had a great influence upon the thinking of our founders. My personal feeling is that many Christians overplay what many of the founders believed and others underplay what they believed. I believe that the vast majority of those who founded our country believed in God. And it seems from the writings of the vase majority of them that they had respect for the Bible to some degree. But I believe they intentionally wrote the Constitution so that no one religion could ever become a state religion and be able to bring persecution upon someone else for what they believe… or don’t believe. But, just because I believe it was the majority opinion, I don’t believe that means there weren’t other influences or that the Bible should rule over everyone in our nation. I simply am reacting to those who want to scrub the history books and the Bible as influential in our nation’s founding just like the news station scrubbed their website that we discussed earlier.

    In regards to Jefferson’s communications to the Danbury Baptists, I too am a Baptist and aware that they were coming under persecution. They were concerned that Jefferson was going to allow their persecution to continue. It is my belief that Jefferson’s statement regarding separation of church and state had more to do with the state not establishing any religion rather than saying that religion should stay out of the public arena. I hear many people use this to say that Jefferson wanted a completely secularist society. I am not convinced of that.

    When I spoke of God and religion being in our DNA I was not trying to say that they were wanting us to be a religious nation, but I do believe when we read their writings that they had various levels of belief in God. Jefferson may have constructed his own Bible, but he still kept much of the core of religious values. I would actually agree with your statement that we are a nation of religious people. But most Presidents have at one time or another talked about seeking direction from God.

    That being said, I don’t believe we ever were or that we should ever attempt to make this a Christian nation. But I don’t think we will keep this society together in unity if either extreme wins the public arena. I do NOT want a more authoritarian government. I am for freedom of ideas and no one persecuting another for what they believe.

    I know I have rambled but maybe this can help the conversation to continue.

    Thanks for your input.


  • Tom Buck

    I do not have access at this time to the full play. I think it might be put online soon. I am not in charge of any of that. Just provided the venue. But if and when it does, I will let you know.

    Secondly, I publicly supported the school changing the program. I was concerned about the timing of the objection, the way it was handled, and the fact that the kids had worked hard and lost their opportunity to do it. The kids and their parents had already been given the opportunity to opt out of the program.

  • Phasespace

    tlc -

    Thanks for setting the record straight. It would seem that there was some misinformation or misinterpretation of what was actually going on. I think this has been cleared up to a large extent.

    Having said that, there is still some stuff that just sounds a little off to me. For example, who was critical of the church for renting a public building? As for as I can tell, there’s no reason for that, or at least, I can’t see what the problem would be there.

    My only beef (after seeing the clarifications on all the other issues), just comes down to the content of the play itself and its inappropriateness for being held in a public school. If you folks want to present the play on your own dime and on your own time, I have no problem with it. I still disagree strongly with some of the content, but I’m not going to stand in your way to present it outside the context of a public school.

  • Tom Buck

    I am aware of Jefferson’s beliefs. He did take the Bible, however, and take out what he didn’t like and left in what he did. He rejected the supernatural, but did respect many of the values the Bible taught. Benjamin Franklin, while a deist, did quote Scripture even when speaking of the forming of our union. He said that we needed to look to God for help in our endeavor for if he doesn’t give aid everything would fall. He quoted from the Bible that unless the Lord builds a house it will fall.

    I also agree that the Bible was not the only source of influence and that Locke and Kant, among others, were highly influential. I am not trying to say these things to claim that we have been or ever should be considered a Christian nation or a nation that was intended to “obey” the Bible. I simply reject that the notion that the Bible didn’t play a vital role in the thinking of our founders.

    Finally, I agree that many people have abused the Bible or twisted and distorted it to serve their evil purposes. But the Bible does NOT support slavery and never did. I would love to have that further discussion as it has been grossly misrepresented.

    But thanks for your continued discussion on this. I honestly appreciate it and thank you for forcing me to clarify what I mean.

  • Phasespace

    Thanks for your response, Tom. I’m very happy to say that I think our points of disagreement have narrowed considerably. Thank you for your well thought and well reasoned response.

    I’ll close with just a couple of “for the record” comments…

    I don’t think it was Jefferson’s intent to say that we should have a completely secularist society either. I do think, and you seem to agree, that Jefferson’s intent was to say that our government should be effectively secular in its dealings with its citizens; by that I mean that our government representatives may be religious people, but their religion should not be a part of how they execute their office.

    And finally, if this were 25 years ago, you’d be having this conversation with a fellow baptist. ;)

  • Feminerd

    Totally fair! It’s a discussion thread, so things will be timed oddly. It’s just an oddly elongated conversation, that’s all.

  • Feminerd

    I agree that the Bible was an influence on a lot of the founders of our nation, but I wouldn’t call the US based on Judeo/Christian values, that’s all. I think that’s disrespectful to the Enlightenment influences and the clear understanding of the founders themselves that we were not in any way a “Christian nation”. A deist nation, perhaps; clearly not entirely secular. But not Christian.

    As for the Bible never supporting slavery: I present to you Much of it is Old Testament, but the passage you might be most interested in was supposedly spoken by Jesus himself.

    The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

    Other NT passages that clearly support slavery:

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

    Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

  • Golfie98

    “but I do not respect the dispensing of false and potentially slanderous information”

    He’s a Pastor – I thought that was his stock in trade. Some people have so little self awareness.

  • Space Cadet

    Thanks for the info regarding the video.

    I’m glad that you supported the changing of the content. Some of your earlier comments (“I believe that the vast majority of the content in the play is appropriate”) made it seem like you were in support of the school putting on the play.

    I agree that the timing is unfortunate.I sympathize with everyone, not just the students, who invested time or resources to put on the play, only to have it cancelled at the last minute. This wasn’t the fault of the FFRF, though. Before you object to me putting words into your mouth,

    The kids and their parents had already been given the opportunity to opt out of the program.

    …implies that the you think the school covered their asses by giving students/parents an opt-out clause. Those students/parents should never have been put in a position that would cause them to be viewed as outsiders to the community, which often happens in situations like these. This play was a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. 1st Amendment battles are nothing new and schools should know the law by now. This entire situation was caused by the school, either by being ignorant of the law, which is no excuse given how often these situations come up, or by willfully ignoring the law and hoping they don’t get caught.

  • Tom Buck

    I don’t know if you read my other comments… I think I made the same to you… but I agree that we were never founded as a Christian nation. There were MANY Christians who influenced its founding, but not a nation where all were to be Christians. But, as you said, a belief in God was foundational and hard to escape from.

    Now, that being said, I think the discussion of slavery is important in regards to Christianity. Those who have lived as genuine Christians and rightly understood the Bible have been some of those who worked the hardest to overturn slavery in our nation and the slavery that existed in the British empire. William Wilberforce, a true committed Christian, fought for years until slavery was overturned. And the way Christians have gone about it is exactly the way the Bible teaches us as Christians to influence our society. Let me break it down by several points.

    1) It is wrong to make the quick assumption that because the Bible teaches certain things about slavery that it is condoning slavery. I will discuss the passage later, if you like, where Jesus spoke of a servant being beaten. But that is a passage where Jesus is speaking of how the wicked will be judged for their evil acts in eternity and uses an example from modern times to illustrate how the wicked should be treated in eternal judgment. But I would prefer to start with passages that seem to be condoning slavery in the time it was written.

    2) It is wrong to assume that the slavery that existed in ancient times is exactly like the evil slavery that existed in America and Britain where people were sold like cattle.

    The world was much different in that time. In fact, the form of slavery was actually a way to save people from dying and starvation. In some cases, it worked more like an indentured servant in our own history. Slaves would live in the home with the family, be taken care of all their needs, etc. The society of their day did not have a way to take care of those who had tragedies that left them destitute. So, I could choose to put myself into the ancient form of slavery in order to take care of myself and family instead of starving. Of course, some took advantage of this and treated those people poorly. Others we find in history used this as a way to help take care of the poor. This was how their society handled these things. So there would have been both evil people who took advantage of people and good people who treated people justly.

    3) But then comes the question: why does the Bible not just condemn slavery and command that no one has slaves? The misinterpretation of what the Bible is doing has certainly been used by those who claim to be Christian to justify their slavery. But those who understand the true nature of Christianity would not use the Bible as such.

    First, Christianity and the Bible teaches that the only way to bring about change in our culture is through the changing of hearts. The church exists within the society and culture in which it lives. And the Bible instructs us how to live within that culture. It does not call upon us to be revolutionaries through force, but by living in different ways and persuading others to make that change as well.

    So why did Paul write the Ephesians and tell slaves to obey their masters and instruct masters how to handle their slaves? Well, we have to understand it in the culture and context of that day, just as we try to understand what the framers of our Constitution meant in founding this nation. You and I both use that same method to interpret what we should be doing today as citizens of our nation. Many, even professing Christians, want to rewrite history in order for it to fit their modern desire for shaping our society. But true Christianity is actually more aligned with what I believe you and I think should be happening. Christians are not to force their Christianity upon our culture. Preaching and persuasion is not forcing, by the way.

    When Paul wrote the Ephesians, they were living in a culture as described above. To just give their slaves freedom would have possibly been giving them a death sentence because they had no ways to provide for themselves and did not have a government that would protect or provide for them. Or they might have had to put themselves into slavery to someone else who might be an evil tyrant in how they treated their slaves. Remember that the church was just forming and was transitioning themselves into how they should live in the world when the NT was written. The teaching of the early church began to teach how Christians should be responding to its culture and helping meet the needs of the poor was one of those basic teachings. If you read those teachings, it did not instruct them to put the poor into slavery, but to provide for their needs out of your own. And they sold their property and did so to give to the poor.

    Paul’s concern was not with reforming and restructuring the human system that was in place, but bringing the people into submission to God’s plan of how we live as Christians in whatever culture we find ourselves. Paul wanted the masters to change their way of thinking in regard to their slaves. They needed to quit thinking the way the world thought. Rather than seeing their slaves as pieces of property, they were to view them as equal to them even though they obviously served in different roles and at different levels in their societal structure. True Christianity has never taught that we change society without changing the heart. If the Christian master began viewing his slave as equal with him in his standing before God (Paul teaches that in Galatians) then the ultimate conclusion that he would eventually be led to is to become equal here on earth as well (This is exactly how Paul handles in a letter he wrote, Philemon, to a man who was a slave owner and Paul returning his runaway slave to him… commands him to treat him as a brother and not a slave).

    The Bible handles it this way. It ultimately doesn’t matter what role we find ourselves here on earth. When we get saved, our culture might even have us in a position that is not the ideal of how it should be. But if we will submit to the plan of God, we can begin to not only live by God’s Kingdom priorities, but begin to be a catalyst to those changes in the culture around us. Those who claim to be Christian but haven’t had true heart change have used the Bible to support their sinful practices, like slavery. Those who have lived as genuine Christians and interpreted the Bible in light of its historical context, have been used to be catalysts to change things like the evils of slavery. We believe our greatest problems in the world today are not the
    consequences of sin that you and I are experiencing in this world. The abuse of
    children, starvation, poverty, suppression of women, evil governments, slavery
    and many other evils are all symptoms of the greater problem: Lack of
    Submission to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Change that and you will
    change the world. And Christians are not supposed to bring these changes about by becoming the majority and forcing everyone else to live a certain way, but by preaching the good news of the Gospel and seeking the change of people’s hearts. This is what will eliminate all those other evils in a more permanent fashion rather than the current majority that happens to be ruling at the time.

    We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t say we don’t want Christians forcing their morality upon the culture, yet at the same time criticize them for not forcing their morality upon that culture in issues like slavery. The reality is, they did have that influence and it not by force but persuasion.

    Well, this is a lot of stuff and I am sure the debate will continue.



  • Tom Buck

    My goal in sharing any information is to give you the facts and not to necessarily drawn and conclusions. If I am drawing conclusions, I will state them. If I don’t, I’m leaving it up to you to draw your own conclusions and not interested in giving mine. I just wanted it known that the school gave children the opportunity to opt out. Then you can criticize with full facts. It only weakens our arguments when we do so with misinformation.

    In regards to the majority of the material being appropriate. I do not believe the things about “trusting God” are even inappropriate for a public school that talks about our history as a country who has claimed to trust in God. If you want to talk more about this, let me know.


  • Feminerd

    Thanks for your eloquent replay, but it is in the end entirely wrong. I’ve actually heard all those arguments before- we all have. And we’ve pretty much decided they’re all a load of bunk, if you’ll excuse my bluntness.

    Slavery is wrong, period. You’re owning people (or being own). You’re dehumanizing them (or being dehumanized) into something no more or less important than a cow or a chair. If God can’t figure that out, God is not a a very good or moral being and certainly not a good role model.

    And yes, lots of Christians worked against slavery. They were compassionate individuals who decided to ignore these Bible passages or point to other Bible passages and claim they overrode the offensive ones. They took inspiration from other parts of the Bible. I don’t see how you could claim they got it “right” and slavery-supporters got it “wrong”, though; the words are there. Christianity both today and in the 1860s is a mishmash of different beliefs and moralities, each pointing to contradictory verses to support their positions. All those verses are there. All the awful, horrible justifications for awful, horrible acts are still there. If you interpret things one way, who is to say you are right if someone else interprets it another way? I know which versions I think are the most and least moral forms of Christianity, but I can’t say the worst forms are “doing Christianity wrong”. If the Bible makes people like William Wilbeforce moral, it also makes brutal slaveholders immoral. They used the same book and all prayed to Jesus, after all.

    1) If the Bible talks about how to do slavery right, it’s clearly condoning the institution of slavery. There’s just no way around that. Even if Jesus is just using this parable to explain something else, he’s still condoning and appreciating the institution he references. He says a servant (slave) should be severely punished if they do something they know is wrong. The surface of the text and the general lesson are the same.

    2) Ancient slavery was devoid of a lot of the racial undertones of US slavery, but it was still brutal. It was not an institution to avoid slavery and destitution for slaves unless you were Hebrew, and even then there are rules that are OK for men but pretty shitty for women (forced marriage or concubinage, otherwise known as rape). For non-Hebrews, lifelong hereditary slavery was how it worked. The children of slaves were still slaves. You could beat a slave, and as long as they didn’t die of their wounds right away but lingered for a few days, it was totally legal. Tell me again how ancient slavery was benign and beneficial? Additionally, your arguments about how slavery prevented starvation for those unable to care for themselves sound awfully familiar. If you’re using the exact same arguments as slavery apologists in the US, you might want to get better arguments.

    3) Here, again, you’re saying that other Christians were doing it wrong. Reading your book from the outside, I can’t say that. They were doing evil things, but they were doing evil things specifically condoned and encouraged by their Holy Book. How is that doing it wrong?

    Why is the Bible universal morality, if it’s written to a bunch of poor Jews and Greeks 2,000 years ago. It either is universal or it isn’t. If a lot of the advice is specific to conditions at one time in one part of the world, it’s not universal. If it is universal, slavery is acceptable (as is genocide and rape). And if only parts of it are universal, how do you tell which ones? Personal interpretation? What do you do when people’s personal interpretations are different- how do you tell which person is right? Answer: you don’t, and you wind up with the 30,000 different sects of Christianity extant today, all of them quite sure they’re doing it right. From someone on the outside, you all look rather foolish when everyone makes that claim. And if Jesus didn’t preach revolution by force, what about the story of upending the money lenders’ tables in the Temple? That’s been used to justify violent revolution quite a lot.

    And yeah, you’ve got the letter telling Philemon to treat his slave as a brother. A property-brother who can’t be free, can’t live his own life, and must return to servitude. That doesn’t make for brotherhood. It’s despicable. A lot of slave-owners in the US insisted that the slaves were their “brothers in Christ” too. They were all Christians, just some were more equal than others … You’re reading egalitarian thought into the letter that, frankly, doesn’t exist. I grew up Jewish- I know what desperate interpretation to interpret away the bad stuff looks like. This is it.

    So here’s what it comes down to: the Bible interpreted in light of human history is not universally applicable across all time and space and culture. It’s got some decent philosophical sayings, but the surrounding material is so horrific we’d be better off going with just about any other book for a philosophy of life. The evils in our world today and ever are because humans can be selfish, uncaring, elitist jerks. Humans can also be compassionate humanists. It’s humans who create many of our problems and humans who can solve them. God has nothing to do with it; submission to God changes things how? The Black Plague swept through Europe even though the place was almost universally Christian (there were pockets of Jews) because people didn’t know about hygiene and, when the plague started, thought that cats carried the plague and killed off the rat-killers. Jews, who washed their hands much more often and just generally were more hygienic at the time (not that they understood why, they were just following a different set of God’s laws), were hit less hard. So the good Christians blamed them for contaminating the water and starting the plague and burned them out of house and home until people learned that it was rats who carried the plague (I don’t know if they figured out it was fleas or not). It was people who brought the plague, people who died from it, and people who figured out at least some of how to stem it. God did nothing.

    It was God who created smallpox, if you believe in that whole creation thing. It was people who eradicated it. God created polio, measles, mumps, rubella, cholera, ebola, HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, gangrene, and more. It was people who learned how to vaccinate for, kill or control these diseases. God makes earthquakes; people build reinforced concrete buildings. God makes tornadoes; people build basements. People are our own worst enemy and our best hope; God’s either a total jerk (see partial list above) and doesn’t deserve submission or he doesn’t exist and thus isn’t part of the picture at all.

  • Tom Buck

    Sorry it took me so long to reply. As you might know, my weekends are usually pretty busy. I don’t know who is more long winded, you or me :)

    By the way, I appreciate your bluntness and for even then putting it in a civil way.

    I did not intend to say that Bible taught how to do slavery “right.” I was directly addressing your quotation of Ephesians and was saying that Paul is writing Christians who live within a culture that already had slavery and was a completely different form of slavery that existed in America. I also was saying that what Paul was addressing people who had recently become Christians and giving them instruction about how to live godly lives in whatever cultural circumstance they found themselves in. It isn’t about doing slavery “right,” but how to rightly respond to the circumstance that you are in. For example, if you were to persecute me, the Bible would call upon me to respond to you in a certain way in spite of the persecution. That isn’t condoning the persecution. I would only ask that if you want to criticize something, that you first try to fully study and understand it. Perhaps some of your conclusions that you have drawn are not based on facts.

    But, may I ask you this: why do you see God as responsible for all the disease and sickness in this world? Some, of which, we know is brought on by human behavior? And, why do you credit him with all the bad things, but are unwilling to credit him with any of the good things of this life?

    As I am sure you know, the Bible teaches that God created man with the ability to make choices. If those created beings make evil choices, do you hold him responsible for those choices? If so, why?

    I don’t mean to be testy or a smart butt. I truly want to understand what drives your thoughts. Again, I appreciate the interaction.


  • Feminerd

    I’m going to take your points backwards. I realize why the confusion, and I apologize for confusing rhetoric. I don’t see God as responsible for anything. I don’t think God exists. Whenever I talk about God doing something, I’m referring to people’s belief that God did something. I certainly don’t think that happened, but it’s a rhetorical device whereby I try to imagine if God did what people say he did, what does that mean for God’s personality? It’d be like me doing an analysis of Harry Potter- clearly I don’t think Harry Potter is anything but a fictional character, but I still talk about the things he does and says and feels and what they mean for his moral fiber as a character.

    So, on people making evil choices. I think people are a mishmash of genetic, epigenetic, environmental, and cultural influences overlaying conscious decision-making. We have consciousness and we make choices, and then others judge those choices based on fairly universal ethical codes and very culturally determined moral codes. However, if you believe God created people, knowing that some of them would go to Hell (another immoral and horrifying concept), then God is evil. Eternal torture is never moral and never proportional to finite crimes. The very existence of Hell in the belief system (remember, I think Hell doesn’t exist) precludes the existence of an omnibenevolent God.

    On to disease and sickness. Disease exists as part of the natural world because bacteria and viruses are some of the oldest forms of life and well-suited to evolving to different conditions, including the existence of humanity. Viruses and bacteria just want to eat and reproduce, and so do humans, so we’ve been in competitive evolution with each other and occasionally cooperative for millenia (our personal microbiomes are made up of mostly helpful and/or neutral viruses and bacteria that live inside us. We couldn’t digest a lot of our foods without our gut microbiomes, for example, and our skin microbiomes help crowd out or even eat a lot of germs that could make us sick). This all evolved naturally and continues to change over time even to this day.

    However, if you do think God created the world, then God created all the germs too. And if God did create all the germs, then he’s a total jerk. I don’t credit God with anything, good or bad. I’m just saying if you do credit God with anything, you have to credit him the bad stuff too, and that to my mind makes him not worth worshiping or submitting to. People don’t choose to get sick nor to spread disease; it’s not a choice that spreads evil. If ignorance spreads disease (see Black Plague example above), why didn’t God say something about it? Why not, oh, mention handwashing with soap in the Bible, which would have saved hundreds of millions of lives over the course of history, instead of saying that sickness was caused by demons (a demonstrable falsehood)? Also, people don’t choose to cause earthquakes or floods or tornadoes. If you believe in God, you believe he either a) makes them happen or b) could stop them. I understand them as perfectly natural and normal phenomena of the planet we live on, but how do you reconcile them with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God? How do you deal with people dying to preventable (if there is a God) events?

    As for the Pauline letter and the stuff about slavery: American slavery was very brutal, but it was not unique in any way except its underlying racism. Lifelong, hereditary slavery was a thing in Roman times. If you’re writing a book for eternity that is supposed to teach morality across time and culture, you don’t condone one of the evilest institutions people have ever created. You don’t try to reform it a little. You say this is wrong and people shouldn’t do it. Period. The response to injustice should never be “well, it’s cultural, and we should just nibble around the edges of it”. What kind of revolutionary idea is that? It’s not revolutionary at all. It’s downright staid, conservative, and non-threatening to authority and the privileged of society. When Jesus talks about punishing slaves, he’s saying there’s nothing inherently wrong with slavery. I simply can’t follow someone who believes that; not as a spiritual or moral leader, and certainly not as some sort of perfect divine being (who lacks evidence for being divine at all, but we’ll set that aside for now).

    EDIT: Ugh, another novel. I meant this one to be shorter, I really did!

  • Michael Harrison

    That was snarkier than I intened; apologies. But [Edit: Penny Arcade] put it best (language warning):