The Bible is no more yours than mine

This comment was left to yesterday’s post, “I’m basically giving up on Christianity. Why Shouldn’t I?”:

So… Whatever (version of) Christianity you believe to be true, right and good is, well, perfect for you. Of course you will have to do a little work to come up with your own personal version of Christianity. Whatever you find hard to hard to handle or too narrow minded in the “orthodox” version, you’ll need to toss out. Want to add some new concepts of your own? God’s good with that. Whose to judge? Go for it!

At the heart of this snide snippet o’ snark lies a complaint I often receive from evangelical/fundamentalist Christians, which always boils down to, “Stop making up your own Christianity!”

So I thought I’d take a moment here to say that I don’t make up my own Christianity. God knows it’s true that, through careful and thorough examination of the Bible, my heart, my mind, and my experience, I arrive at a Christianity that is different from that which is typically associated with the word “evangelical.” But not a single one of my beliefs about Christianity is not fully supported by the Bible. That’s a very long way from “making up” anything at all about Christianity.

To the evangelical who would claim that my understanding of our shared religion is somehow less Christian than his, I would answer:

What gives you the right to tell me what the Bible says? I can read. I can study. I’ve done my homework. I know how to pray. I have the Holy Spirit in me. If in the Bible you find a God who thinks unrepentant gay people are destined for hell—or that hell is an actual, super-hot place where Satan oversees the eternal torture of everyone who died not a Christian—then (as long as you don’t use your beliefs as any sort of weapon against others), that’s your business. But please don’t tell me I should hold as true your tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible.

I’ve got my Bible. I’ve got my God. I’ve got my Christianity. I’ve got my community of believers.

I’m good.

I’ll see ya’ on the other side, okay?

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessicafuller88 Jessica Harris-Fuller via Facebook

    Yes!

  • Edie Wright Matykiewicz via Facebook

    Love it!!

  • http://williamgcook.wordpress.com William

    Hah!

    You never seem to disappoint me, John. So precise and to the point.

  • Tim

    Exactly, John.

    Funnily enough, when you actually have to deal with these people on a day to day basis they eventually learn that their version of Christianity isn’t the only one. But without relationship we all are dealing with theories and paper tigers, and those are so easy to go all judgmental on.

    • Diana A.

      True.

  • Melissa Mosher via Facebook

    Definitely.

  • Eirin Hamilton via Facebook

    ok, crazy! my friend just yesterday posted a quote from someone “anonymous” (Obama) as he stated his belief in Jesus Christ, asking people to identify the source. a mutual friend of our replied “yeah, but did he say that Jesus was the only way?” we got into it with this whole idea that we obviously don’t know enough of the Bible to be able to spot the “true” Christians (like our friend here), and that that is something we should be doing! Thank you for yet another very timely post, Mr. Shore.

  • Nina E.

    As my husband likes to say: “Let’s agree that God talks to us through the Bible. But what makes you say he’s saying the same thing to me as he’s saying to you?”

    • Marcey

      That’s right. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

  • Matt Muecke via Facebook

    Once again, just awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bert-Gagnon/731901646 Bert Gagnon via Facebook

    Two thumbs up!

  • Floyd Miller

    As the song goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

  • http://shiningpearlsofsomething.blogspot.com Suz

    “Orthodoxy” was once new and radical.

  • Mary

    SPOT ON….. as usual!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Agingstoner Robert Dingus-Deville via Facebook

    What about those TV ads for a DVD that “explains” the Bible to you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Agingstoner Robert Dingus-Deville via Facebook

    Or the two Facebook aps that send you “Messages from God”? Sheesh.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

      I hate those things and flat out refuse to read them. Of course maybe it was because my ex kept sending them to me after I decided to ditch his alcoholic abusive ass.

  • Christine McQueen

    The ones that truly drive me nuts are the ones who cannot answer even the simplest questions about their faith without consulting with their pastor. My sister and I no longer talk about our beliefs, because I once sent her an essay written by a friend of mine. Her reply was that she would let her pastor read it and then get his ideas and write me back. I said, “Don’t bother. If I wanted your pastor’s ideas on the topic of this essay, I’d have sent it to him. I wanted YOUR opinion of it.” I’d send her the link for this blog, but I don’t think she’d bother to read it.

    • Jennifer Edwards

      I had a similar situation with my brothers. One was going through a very difficult time in his life attributed to PTSD and addiction problems (he was in Afghanistan), my other brother is “born again.” When told about our brother’s problems, and his need for our prayers, the “born again” brother told me he couldn’t pray for our brother without first consulting with his pastor. I love my “born again” brother, but I certainly cannot understand where he is coming from.

      • Diana A.

        “When told about our brother’s problems, and his need for our prayers, the ‘born again’ brother told me he couldn’t pray for our brother without first consulting with his pastor.”

        That’s just sad. Your “born again” brother doesn’t realize that he can talk to God without clearing the conversation with his pastor? Wow.

  • http://MaleSurvivor.org John

    Go John! Thanks for giving voice to my frustrations with the whole fundamentalist christian (caps excluded with malice aforethought), elitism. You worded perfectly what I would have said had I known how to give them utterance!

  • http://www.facebook.com/JeffBean1 Jeff Bean via Facebook

    Bring it.

  • John Carson via Facebook

    Go John :)

  • Donald Rappe

    I like this: “I’ve got my Bible. I’ve got my God. I’ve got my Christianity. I’ve got my community of believers.” Faith is the righteousness of God which God works in us through Word and Sacraments. For myself, I believe in one Church which is holy, apostolic, catholic and evangelical. It is not orthodox; it is reformed and ever reforming.

    Soli Deo Gratia! Solo Christo! Sola gratia! Sola fide! Sola scriptura!

    • Donald Rappe

      I meant to add that within the guidelines I outlined above, I pretty much make it up.

  • Shelley Flavell

    Thank you. I needed that.

    • Marcey

      Ditto!

  • http://www.facebook.com/grazyna.nnachi Graż Nnachi via Facebook

    very well said, as usual :)

  • Kimberly Moser Musci Phillips via Facebook

    It’s always 50/50 amusing and sad, when you ask somebody to show you *where* in the Bible it actually says…

  • Gary

    Spot on John. Damn spot on!!

  • Keetcha

    Love this! Thank you again John Shore for saying what needs to be said.

  • Gordon

    Your commenter is most certainly Snarky McSnark, the infamous Mayor of Snarky Town. And your response here is perfect. Thanks, John.

  • Patricia L. Money via Facebook

    LOL Love this.

  • Tina Badger via Facebook

    I think I love you (in a platonic Christian sort of way)

  • Cynthia Haug-West via Facebook

    Bravo! (again)

  • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

    It’s strange how some fundamentalist Christians persist in accusing less literalist-minded Christians of the very thing they’re guilty of themselves. The Bible makes it clear through passages like, “Judge not lest ye judge,” and that, “Vengeance is God’s”, that no one has the right to stand in judgement over any one else.

    Moreover, the Great Commandment obliges Christians, “To love your neighbour as yourself”. Are fundamentalists doing this when they shun their gay brothers and sisters, oppose the rights of women to be treated as equals, or pass judgement on the poor and oppressed among us?

    It’s hypocritical of fundamentalist types to assume that they are doing God’s work when they are really just selectively interpreting the Bible to support their own prejudices.

    • vj

      Not to mention Titus 3:3-9:

      “3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

      9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. ”

      What is so hard to understand about that?

      • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

        That’s beautiful.

        There’s great wisdom in the Bible. Too bad more Christians don’t read for themselves what is already there, instead of following what someone else has told them is there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelly-Withee/100001922106189 Kelly Withee via Facebook

    fabulous!

  • http://purelybeloved.wordpress.com Kate Rae Davis

    Not to mention that most of what’s labeled “orthodox” is made up. Remember a few year back when the Vatican finally said limbo isn’t a place and recognized that Augustine made it up? Still waiting for the Church to study their Bibles and history, and acknowledge something similar about Hell.

    • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

      No kidding. Where does it say that the point of life is to follow the rules or you’ll spend eternity enduring constant pain and torment? And what is the passing grade?

  • Leslie Marbach

    Quick and to the point. Well said, John.

  • Valerie

    John, I had exactly this argument with a friend not to long ago. She assumed that I had not prayed and studied to come to my beliefs. I have read and prayed and cannot align myself with the evangelical “Christians”. After hearing what I had to say she said she couldn’t agree with me totally but knowing me for the last 25 years she understood. I thank you for your blog and I thank God that I am not alone in my understanding of the Bible and of Jesus’ message.

    • Mary

      @Valerie – You are DEFINITELY not alone!

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    nice panda.

  • Sean Patrick Brennan

    Bravo! Thanks for putting it so well!

  • Lymis

    Note that the idea of the writer is that anything that is rejected from his particular view of Christianity can only possibly be being rejected because “it’s too hard to handle” or “too narrow-minded.”

    It never seems to occur to these people that something could be rejected because it is not loving enough, not consistent with the rest of the Good News, not applicable today in the same way it might have been to a nomadic desert tribe a couple of thousand years ago, or is not reconcilable with observed facts in the world around us.

    • Drew

      Right on!

    • Molly By Golly

      +1

  • Ashley C

    An amazing response, and one I’ll be sharing the next time I get accused of ‘cherry picking’ my beliefs or not REALLY being a Christian.

    The irony, of course, being that many of these same people (at least in my experience) have actually done very little study of the Bible. Most of them will swear on their eyeballs that Jesus condemns homosexuality directly and that the 7 deadly sins can be found directly in the Bible.

    • Melody

      Exactly, Ashley. EVERYONE cherry picks, but it’s not always a bad thing, especially when you choose what’s truly important, such as loving your neighbor, etc. It’s just that many conservative Christians don’t want to admit it because they want to wear the “Bible-believing” badge to put other Christians down, and then make excuses when we/they point out their inconsistencies.

      • Plansforth

        You call YOURSELF loving? You accused me and labeled me knowing nothing about me. I ASKED HIM IF HE UNDERSTANDS THOSE VERSES TO MEAN SPIRITUAL BIRTH AND IF SO IF HE HAD HAD THAT EXPERIENCE.

        I wanted to see the basis of ‘his version’, as he calls it, of Christianity if this was it, or if it’s something else. He could always weigh in on those verses and what he thinks they mean if he doenst think they speak to spiritual birth.

        SHEEEEEEESH.

        You have posted several put down comments in reponse to my straightforward question based on your ablitiy to read minds .You really ought to get the mote out of your eye so you can see clearly.

        • Melody

          No, you get the log out of your eye first. You have no right to judge me, John, or anyone else just because we interpret the Bible differently from you. I’d back off if I were you. You’re dangerously close to trolling because of your oversensitivity and relentlessness.

        • Melody

          Also, you’re the only one who said anything about reading minds. Wrong, not even close to what we’re doing. We’re simply responding to your words and overall tone. If you want to be understood, you need to clarify more, especially on the internet. Words alone speak volumes about the person behind them, and if they aren’t qualified, guess what? People may interpret them completely differently from what you intended! Right or wrong, that’s the way it is. Don’t take it personally that you communicated poorly, and then blame us.

        • Lymis

          The most important thing is that John, or any other believer doesn’t have to justify his beliefs to you or to any other human being, no matter how often you use your caps lock.

          He graciously provided a link to a much clearer statement of his beliefs than most of us have handy, but it appears you aren’t willing to follow a couple of mouse clicks to get a very clear answer to your question, which, from entirely too much experience of people making similar demands, leads many of us to conclude your actual desire isn’t understanding, but rather to try to play gotcha with someone else’s relationship to God.

          Good for John that he doesn’t choose to play. Wherever could he have gotten the inspiration for that? Maybe someone who drew in the dust rather than argue the morality of stoning an adultress, or who examined a coin rather than get dragged into political theory? Someone who felt actually saving a sheep or healing someone was more important than “the rules.”

          Sorry, but I know that I personally felt that your question was anything but “straightforward,” but rather was cocked and loaded and ready to be used as a weapon against someone I have come to admire greatly. Who handled it very graciously.

          And your subsequent responses have only served to prove that out. Whatever you are doing, it isn’t asking straightforward questions and seeking to understand your brother in Christ.

          No matter how you phrased it, it still comes across as sticking your thumbs in your ears, wiggling your fingers, and shouting, “Nyah, nyah, nyah! I’m a better Christian than you!”

          You might want to work on that.

        • Donald Rappe

          I’m pretty sure it’s DR who has the ability to read minds, for which one can find ample evidence in previous of these blogs. Melody usually just picks apart logical inconsistencies in shoot from the hip commenters.

  • Brian W

    John,

    I just think the person was being a bit sarcatsic I didn’t read in his post that he was telling you what the Bible says or what to believe or that you “made-up” some belief. I didn’t read anything about “a tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible” that you claim he has either.

    By your own admission “The Christianity in which I do believe, for instance is radically different from the common version of Christianity in which you were raised”. John such a statement can send up red-flags to some people because well, Christian doctrine has been developed over approx. 2,000 years, so when you write that your Christinaity is “radically different”, it can be a cause of concern to some “evangelical” Christians, hense his sarcastic post.

    John you gotta admit you’re not the “typical” Christian, so responses such as this guy is to be expected, wear it as a badge of honor buddy……

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Brian: I would hardly define Allen’s sarcasm here as a “bit”; it was thick enough, for instance, to stop you from clearly seeing through it to what Allen was actually saying.

      The quote you used must have been from the first feed of this post; I thought before I even published it I had changed from what you quoted (“The Christianity in which I do believe, for instance is radically different from the common version of Christianity in which you were raised”) to what is there now (” … I arrive at a Christianity that is different from that which is typically associated with the word “evangelical.”)

      Anyway (whoops! gotta go! Pastor Bob is here for lunch! yay!), over the past 2,000 years LOTS of ideas about is and isn’t “proper” Christianity have emerged and faded. This current “evangelical” one that’s been so dominant in America for so long is just one of them. There’s nothing particularly–and certainly nothing inherent—about it that’s special, and certainly nothing about it that’s necessarily more “true.” It’ll morph and evolve, as such things always have, and always will.

      • Diana A.

        “This current ‘evangelical’ one that’s been so dominant in America for so long is just one of them.”

        Yup. This is true. And because it has been dominant in the U.S.A. for so long, most people (Christians and nonChristians both) in the U.S.A. think this is the only way to be Christian. Which is both sad and untrue.

        This is why it is good that Christians like John are speaking up and openly expressing different kinds of Christianity. John is reaching people for Christ, people who have otherwise been completely turned off by the dominant Christianity. So this is a good thing.

        • Mary

          @ Diana – Hear – hear!! So say w all!

          • Mary

            it should say, “so say WE all!” I got so excited…. I made a typo!

      • Brian W

        I suppose we have different views and/or definitions or degrees to sarcasm. I saw what he was actually trying to say, it was clear enough, though I couldn’t see his “tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible” in his sarcasm, but I assume it was there.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          That may be a problem with how I wrote the thing (which I did extremely quickly). I didn’t mean that to read as if I were addressing him personally; I meant, by the time I got to that phrase, to have made clear that I was by then addressing a much wider … sensibility. So I may have simply failed to make that perfectly clear—which would make the piece overall fail: it’s not about that one guy, or even the one sentiment he expresses. It’s supposed to be about refuting the whole of what that guy stands for, theologically speaking, if that makes sense. (I should also probably quit writing blog comments in such a rush … !) Love to you, brother.

          • Brian W

            click!! The light just turned on…thanks bro

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Freya-Spencer/100000611047378 Freya Spencer via Facebook

    Fan-freakin’-tastic!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/SharonEJBowler Sharon Jennings Bowler via Facebook

    Willy Nilly sounds like a carnival ride. Sounds fun!

    • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

      Or a cute-but-creepy reference to emasculation…

  • Plansforth

    Mr. Shore

    Jesus says, in John chapter 3, that “you must be born again”.

    John 3:3 –Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

    John 3:5– Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

    You can’t ‘see it’ (experience while here what a subject of His Kingdom experiences) nor ‘enter it’ (heaven, in the next life) unless you are “born again”.

    It’s spiritual birth

    Do you claim this as your belief and personal experience?

    • Melody

      Props for completely missing (or ignoring?) the point. Quoting scripture because you think John hasn’t read it.

      • Plansforth

        I asked a question. Why the hostility? I posted verses to show that what I’m saying is found in the Bible and isn’t my own idea.

        • DR

          You’re not asking a question. Not really. You’re just serving up a conversation that you plan to have on your own terms, gearing up to verbalize the conclusions that you’ve already drawn based upon the answer you believe you’re going to receive.

          There’s lot of us who (in a former life), played the same kinds of manipulative games. So that probably won’t fly here, FYI.

          • Mary

            @DR – Great response! Spot on.

          • Plansforth

            Yeah, I’m asking a question. You’re not a mind reader

          • DR

            If you were really asking a question you would have been satisfied with the response. You asked what John believed – he answered and you clarified that it wasn’t a good enough answer.

        • Melody

          So it’s true. You did ignore the point. John doesn’t need evangelicals like you to tell him what he already knows. He ALREADY SAID he reads the Bible, so you don’t need to restate it. Just because you interpret it at face value doesn’t mean it’s the only interpretation.

      • Plansforth

        insult and misrepresentation # 1

        • DR

          Plansforth March 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

          I want to know what you believe.

          You were given a link to what John believes and blew right by that. You use questions to trap, then shame and condemn. Just like the Pharisees. It’s time someone told you the truth about that.

          • Diana A.

            Exactly! It’s amazing how many modern Pharisees there are among Christians today. As some would put it, SSDD.

    • Valerie

      Where does John say there is another path? Again you have ass(umed) that those that believe differently from you aren’t “Christian”. You have totally missed the whole point of this blog.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Why do you ask?

      • Plansforth

        I want to know what you believe.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
          • Plansforth

            Why wouldn’t you simply answer the question rather than refuse and instead attack me for asking a simple question? The term ‘born again’ was coined by Jesus, not by a particular denomination or a political entity although it’s associated with conservative/evangelical Christians.

          • DR

            There we go. People like Plansforth don’t actually ask questions to seek the responder’s real answer – the questions asked are traps in used to shame and condemn.

          • Plansforth

            psychic?

          • DR

            Where did John attack you? Still waiting for that. :)

          • DR

            Where did John “attack” you? Please copy and paste.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            right? wtf?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            How did I attack you? I gave you a link that would provide you with an extremely comprehensive answer to your question–meaning that I ANSWERED your question. In what universe does that count as an “attack”? Sheesh.

          • DR

            He’ll never come back. It’s what you said about fear and hostility being the undertones of people like this.

    • DR

      Why do these people always lead with “Mr. Shore” like they’re trying to scare you or something?

      I think it’s such a fascinating glimpse into the fundamentalist need to distance relationally from those who threaten the way they are validating themselves.

      • Jill

        yikes– the fundy’s weak attempt to ‘reveal falsehoods’ in (any, all) beliefs other than their own gave me a jolting flashback. I’m SO damn glad those days are long behind me. Big sigh.

        But that’s the signature move–divebomb someone (in this case, a blog) with quotations of the holy book with personal slant tucked in where no one’s looking (so stealthy!) and DARE you to refute the bible! How can you call yourself Christian and deny scripture? (that was me speaking in a big, snarky voice).

        They warmly guide you to shut down your own mind, your inner voice, your own personal and private relationship with God so that you will greedily lap up whatever is spewed forth as the ‘written word’ because you are now starving. In that environment you replace your own spiritual connection with their unique, excessively smiley brand and label it Truth, and along with it all else are Lies. In that environment you have no clue who you are or what your point is if God is so vengeful, jealous, judgmental, etc. etc. In due course He/She/It becomes unreal, phony. Or you do. Those are the kids that lose their way and harm themselves.

        I was lucky–too freaked to kill myself, too pissed at God to give him the satisfaction of my defeat. Then I figured out that maybe, just maybe ‘their god’ isn’t the same one– a faded carbon copy. Maybe there was more coolness out in that whole spiritual realm then I was led to believe. I’ve been reassured for many years now that is the case. And finding hordes of lovely people who don’t ask me to sell myself short in the name of God makes all of what I’ve learned so worth it.

    • Lymis

      Oddly enough, though, for some reason, the writer of the Gospel of John fails to include Jesus saying that being born again can only happen in the context of a formal baptism by an ordained member of a specific franchise of a yet-to-be-established religion, nor that such a rebirth is automatically associated with any specific theological beliefs.

      In other words, even if that particular translation of something written decades after Jesus’s death is completely accurate, it doesn’t follow that someone has to be a modern American Evangelical Christian to enter the Kingdom.

      • vj

        I LOVE this reply ;-)

      • Christy

        Lymis, FTW.

    • http://MaleSurvivor.org John

      Plansforth,

      “Judge not that ye be not judged…” Are you insinuating that if someone doesn’t “measure up” to a narrow interpretation of scripture that he’s not born again? The Scribes and Pharisees were like minded and we all know what Christ thought of them…

      • Plansforth

        It was a Pharisee who rejected this very teaching, –Nicodemus– in this very passage. Jesus asked him why, after he stated it, he didnt ‘get it’.–learned man that he was.

        The blog post doesn’t insinuate, it calls ‘lazy’ and other insults those who dont beleive as Mr Shore does. I wanted to know if this is the basis of his beliefs or not . The responses here to me say much about the lack of love of you all

        • DR

          Which is now your convenient out to leave the conversation because you can’t control it and have it on exactly your terms.

          What happened here, my friend, is people told you the truth. Have the courage to consider it.

        • Lymis

          I’m guessing that Plansforth has left the building, but I do want to point out a major fallacy in this that comes up very often in this sort of discussion.

          ” insults those who dont beleive as Mr Shore does. “

          This is a common “gotcha” claim, but it falls apart with just a minimum of actual thought. There is a big difference – and a critical one – between rejecting a single specific view that you disagree with and rejecting “anyone who doesn’t believe the way you do.”

          One can firmly hold the belief that there is no single right way that applies to everyone while at the same time hold the belief that a particular way is decidedly wrong. And, viewed through the lens of Christianity, that includes anything that does not reflect loving your neighbor – and “tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating” certainly fails that test.

          • Jill

            Well it’s the modus operandi of certain prototypes of believers that use a cloak of martyrdom as both as shield from just and reasoned criticism and as a weapon to destroy all disagreement.

            Recalling a time when scripture was not to be questioned, nor any church-sanctioned interpretation arising thereof– if you reject a single view, you’re rejecting the whole by default. Any recovered fundies can likely relate.

            Frankly in my view this variety of all/nothing thinking keeps the sheep well contained and quietly bleating in the fields.

    • Christy

      Re: “nor ‘enter it’ (heaven, in the next life)”

      Where does Jesus say in the next life?

    • LSS

      Anybody who reads this blog a lot knows that he got born again at work in a supply closet. God did that.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Thanks for all this, you guys.

    • Christy

      Plansforth, yes a spiritual birth. Liberal, Justice-minded, Jesus-following, kindness-doing, equality-supporting, feminist, LGBTQ, humbly with God-walking Christians have a spiritual birth.

      A spiritual birth is not the same as agreeing with a creed or holding a belief as true. Do you see how there is a difference?

  • Carol Freeland via Facebook

    LOVE IT

  • Shelley Krasean Flavell via Facebook

    I stole your panda picture. Everyone loves it…..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      That panda picture is no more mine than yours.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        (that was a play on the title, see …. )

      • LSS

        Seriously i laughed so explosively that i scared my husband.

      • Lymis

        Yes, but using it certainly counts as panda-ring to a certain segment of society…..

        • Diana A.

          Grooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

  • http://manalive7@blogspot.com Allen

    Glad to have sparked such a robust conversation. However, do I get it right that no Christian is ever right in evaluating/judging anyone else’s version of Christianity? Is there every such a thing as self-serving cherry-picking? Weren’t the pharisees guilty of that–and didn’t Jesus chide them for it? Is there an orthodox Christian belief or is such a thing a “fundamentalist” construct?

    I cherish passionate debate, and think it good–and important–that new/novel interpretations of scripture are challenged. I don’t recall putting forward any interpretation of the Bible at all, certainly not a “tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible.” I too am not interested in such interpretations. Was my comment snide and snarky? Well, it was meant as satirical, but if it came across as the former that is to my discredit. I will try to rid myself of such tones when posting comments in future. Or, if they arise, to at least keep them in check.

    Peace and love to all the people of the Way,

    Allen

    • Lymis

      Allen, of course there is self-serving cherry picking, and it’s just as common among the orthodox as those who aren’t. How often to we see someone who condemns someone else for “doing something against what is clearly in the Bible” who then eats pork or won’t sleep with his brother’s widow or force his daughter to marry her rapist?

      Each person, each Christian, is, in my view, morally and ethically bound to evaluate their own “version” of Christianity, and that includes observing how other people practice it and seeing how it might apply to themselves.

      Any compassionate person, following the commands of Christianity to love their neighbor, could easily find themselves in a situation where they can, in love and compassion, point to something that clearly isn’t working in someone else’s life and offer them a new perspective or a shoulder to cry on.

      What you don’t get to do, what nobody gets to do, is tell someone else that their path to God is the wrong one, that, by definition and independent of that person’s actual experience, it is wrong for them, that God isn’t speaking to them, and you know better than God what’s right for someone else. You don’t get to make sweeping claims for someone else how they are allowed to interact with God. At most, you can with integrity and honesty say, “What you are doing wouldn’t work for me.” Sometimes we have a duty to say, “What you are doing is hurting other people.”

      And, just from a practical standpoint, it’s absurd to pray and worship in English and read a Bible that wasn’t written during the lifetime of Jesus and declare that nothing can ever change about Christianity, and that the “fundamentals” are not open to ongoing refinement and interpretation. I’d go so far as to say that is an arrogant repudiation of the promise that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide us.

      Of course people get to view how other people interact with God and make personal judgments. But if you pay attention, some people (in my experience, more often the liberal people) are saying “You don’t speak for me” and “This is not how I see God” while other people (more often the conservative ones) are saying “I speak for God” and “This is not how God sees you.” That’s a huge difference.

      • vj

        Lymis, I am frequently amazed at both your insight (born, I am sure, from profound personal experience) and your ability to articulate it. Keep it up!

      • http://manalive7@blogspot.com Allen

        Kymis, you make a number of good and thoughtful points. Thing is, my original comment told no one what to believe nor told anyone that my outlook was the only right one or anything of the sort. I just raised the question of how free one is to build their own version of Christianity. The question remains: is one completely free to craft their own theology or is one constrained in any way to conform oneself to a set of teachings? How asking these questions makes me one who holds a “tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible” is beyond me. Go figure. Seems to me that judgmentalism does not reside only on the religious right.

        Grace and peace,

        Allen

        • Donald Rappe

          You are correct Allen, judgmentalism does not lie on just one side of any political line. But your notion that their are “orthodox” teachings is based on what? If you mean the teachings of the Orthodox Catholic Church, I don’t understand why? Few of the commenters on this blog seem to come from any positions specific to the Eastern church. When I read it I supposed you just felt that whatever you learned when young was “orthodox”, I suspect John did too, and that position is both so common and so markedly ignorant of the variety of Christian viewpoints throughout history that perhaps he extrapolated. For myself, I am protestant. I find the concept of the majesterium of the hierarchy of the church to be lacking, as evidenced by its history of corruption. With the reformers, I prefer to judge teachings by whether or not they give all glory to God alone, find salvation to be by Christ alone, they teach that we receive this salvation through God’s grace alone, they teach that God declares us just and we receive this justification by faith alone, and, that scripture alone carries to us all we need of the tradition of the church.

          Now, if you were to tell me more clearly what you mean by “orthodox” teachings, I could better know what to think of and how to answer your seemingly sarcastic question. As could anyone else. I hope I have not overly spelled this out, but, I am a small time mathematician and have sensed a certain lack of understanding in your reiteration of your inquiry.

        • Lymis

          ” The question remains: is one completely free to craft their own theology or is one constrained in any way to conform oneself to a set of teachings?”

          Is this a serious question?

          How could someone not be free to craft their own theology? Constrained by whom? Conform how?

          Nobody owns Christianity, and while each specific organized denomination has the right both to decide what exact beliefs define their orthodoxy and who within their tradition gets to make that definition, that only applies to that specific subset of Christianity.

          If someone goes far enough afield, it’s possible to say they don’t conform to Catholicism, or to Methodism, or to the beliefs of Christian Science or the United Church of Christ.

          But nobody but Jesus gets to say who isn’t a follower of Jesus. And ever since before he died and rose, he’s been pretty consistent in not excluding too many people.

          It appears that you are asking “How far can someone else go away from what I personally believe to be Christian beliefs before I get to condemn them?” And the answer is, you don’t. That’s between them and God, unless they specifically ask you to get involved. How could it be any other way?

          • susan

            Oh my goodness what a wonderful post! “Nobody owns Christianity…and nobody but Jesus gets to say who isn’t a follower of Jesus.” That says it all.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Right, Allen. Because NOW you’re all about peace and grace and love. You’re sarcastically snarky behind the thinnest veil of civility—and then, when called on it, dare to claim well-intended innocence. That’s so … weak. (And I answered your question. That’s what the whole post is. Did you miss the part where I said that everything I believe is fully supported by the Bible? Is that not constraint enough for you?)

  • Kathy Fularczyk via Facebook

    Hearing people bicker back and forth declaring “I’M Christian, he/she’s NOT” makes me think:

    God must surely be proud knowing that He gave His only Son to be nothing more than a toy, played with in an endless game of tug-of-war!

  • http://www.speechwriting.com/lauralee/angelpage.html Laura Lee

    I agree that The Bible is open to various interpretations and conclusion and questions. I agree with the sentiment that “the Bible is no more yours than mine.” I would go even farther and say that Christian faith does not have to depend on the Bible, and certainly not a literalist reading, for its foundation.

    On the other hand, I think the argument is weakened by this line: “But please don’t tell me I should hold as true your tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible.” If the Bible is no more theirs than yours then it is also no more yours than theirs. You ask Fundamentalist Evangelicals to respect your right to interpret the text while ridiculing their interpretation. I don’t believe this advances the discussion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m sorry, but you seem to have confused the meaning of “no more yours than mine,” with “no more mine than yours.”

      :-)

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

      Respecting someone’s right to have an opinion is not the same as respecting someone’s opinion. A large problem in our society is that we have confused those two things and think that someone disrespecting our opinion is somehow impinging on our rights to hold an opinion. Some opinions are just plain stupid, ill-informed, hateful, or harmful. I don’t choose to respect those opinions. I don’t expect those with whose opinions I disagree to respect my opinions. I will, however, defend other’s rights to hold and express those opinions within the public sphere and expect to be rendered the same honor.

      I will also note (Not directed at you, but at those who accuse John of censorship and the like related to this confusion of right to hold an opinion vs. right to have opinion given equal weight and respect) that within my own personal space and within the safe spaces that those of like mind have created for themselves, there is no right to be free of censorship. You’re not allowed to come into my home and swear at or threaten my family. You are also not allowed to come onto my blog or my Facebook page and disrespect me and mine. These spaces are not the public sphere. John has every right to delete and ban anyone who has failed Civilised Discourse 101. He has every right to criticise opinions that fail the sniff test. And he has the responsibility to call his fellow Christians on behaviour that is hateful, harmful, unloving, deceptive, disingenuous, or in any other way unchristlike. Too much bigotry in this nation has been couched in a “Christian” label and it’s time we Christians started calling these candy-coated turds what they are.

      • Diana A.

        “Too much bigotry in this nation has been couched in a ‘Christian’ label and it’s time we Christians started calling these candy-coated turds what they are.”

        Wow. “Candy-coated turds.” Gee Lyn, tell us how you really feel!

        Not that I disagree with you. In fact, I think your terminology is quite accurate.

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          Well, ya know, “whited sepulchres” or “candy-coated turds” — same thought of something stinky prettied up on the outside to hide the unpleasantness inside.

          • cat rennolds

            yeah, but yours is way more accurate because nobody ever tried to get me to eat a tomb.

          • Diana A.

            Yeah, I was thinking of the whited sepulchers too.

      • Lymis

        Lyn,

        I wonder if you aren’t making the mistake of assuming that John is saying that being Evangelical or being Fundamentalist in one’s beliefs is exactly equal to having a “tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, gay-hating interpretation of the Bible.”

        John can speak for himself, but I know that I didn’t interpret it that way. I have known far too many wonderful Christians who are parts of those traditions to make that claim – but they also tend to be the sort of person who says, “If you were to actually ask me for my opinion, I would have to say that I disapprove of your choices in life, but I happen to see that you are sick, naked, hungry, or hurting, so let’s put all that aside for now and get you taken care of first.”

        That is so deeply different from “I refuse to love you until you agree with every tiny theological point that I raise first” that it’s nearly criminal to use the same label for them.

        The truth is that there really are people out there vocally condemning others – and often extending that condemnation into social and civil activism to deliberately harm others, with the express intention of deliberately harming them – who refuse to take the time to actually read the sentences around the Bible quotes that they use as the “basis” of their condemnation. Who are willing to hurt people and stand by while children kill themselves, but are not even willing to listen to other views on the Scripture they are basing it on.

        That IS lazy. And since every single one of the arguments has been refuted repeatedly, it IS tired. “Your life is inconvenient to me, so I will condemn you without even listening to your side” IS egocentric. These people ARE small-minded and mean-spirited. And the gay-hating part is pretty apparent when that’s part of their deal, too.

        If an Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian follows that path and finds themselves in a place of loving their neighbor, working for justice, seeking peace, and judging not, then more power to them, and that’s how God speaks to them. But they don’t get to slap “Christian” on bigotry and then claim “God said it, I read it, that settles it” and expect people not to call that tired and lazy.

        If any group of Christians (or anyone else) hears the accusation that “your view of things is tired, lazy, egocentric, mean-spirited, small-minded, and gay-hating” and leaps to to the assumption that “they are talking about me!” then perhaps they should take a long and close look at exactly why they had reason to make that assumption.

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          I didn’t say anything about Evangelicals at all and don’t limit my belief that lazy, hateful, hurtful, etc. is either exclusive to them or common among them. My church is made up of vast numbers of people who, if they were looking for a label apart from Christian, would probably pick Evangelical. I have some issues with the church and I do think there is a tendency there to accept what’s taught without carefully examining it, but I’d hardly label the majority of people there lazy, hateful, hurtful, etc.

          They do good work. We have a dynamic drug and alcohol abuse recovery group; a homeless ministry that actually drew complaints from the city because they were trying to get homeless people to leave and we were keeping them too well fed, clothed, and supplied so they weren’t leaving (the horror!); and a lot of contact with the community such that our facilities are very rarely unused at any given day or time. We’ve built houses, sent groups to help clean up New Orleans, sent hundreds of Operation Christmas Child boxes out, and provided oil changes and hair cuts and legal assistance to homeless families in our community. It’s one of the things with the church that compels me to stay, even though there’s much there that I disagree with. But, no, I’ve encountered very few hateful people there, even when we disagree.

  • mike moore

    well said. well said.

  • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

    The “I’m a Christian, you’re not” argument reminds me of arguments my two youngest siblings had as children. My brother is five years younger than me and my sister is four years my junior. However, she was adopted when she was three and my brother was two, meaning that while he was the “baby” of the family, he had to deal with the jealousy of having a “new arrival” much like an older sibling would have. One complication of this unusual dynamic was that they both went through a period where they were very possessive of our dad. So, they’d get into these preschooler arguments that consisted of one going, “He’s my daddy!” and the other answering, “No, he’s MY daddy!” ad nauseum.

    Somehow, it seems like there are Christians that, for whatever reason, feel insecure in their place in the Christian family who also get into these, “He’s my savior!” / “No, he’s MY saviour!” arguments. I keep wondering if there’s some way to reassure these people of God’s love and grace, so they don’t feel so insecure.

  • susan

    Just found this and totally love it!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X