Me, a Christian apologist?

On my Facebook page just now we’ve been having a little fun about how, in an Easter morning editorial run in the Durham, NC newspaper The Herald-Sun (Good from evil), I was referred to as a Christian apologist.

So I thought I might take a moment to be clear: I am, definitely and flat-out, a Christian apologist.

About two months after very suddenly and out of freakin’ nowhere becoming a Christian, I—one evening while putting away the dishes after dinner—basically snapped into some kind of trance. Three months later I had finished the first real thing I ever wrote as a Christian, which was “Penguins, Pain & the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do,” by John Shore (as told to God).

That book is most definitely a Christian apologetic. That’s how, book-business-wise, it’s categorized. (Actually, publishers and bookstore people had a seriously hard time categorizing Penguins: was it humor? Religion? Theology? Christian Living? I think it truly might be the only book ever published that actually kept raising the question: “Is it fiction, or non-fiction?” Marketing people felt very uncomfortable with it. “We love this book,” major publishers kept telling my agent, “but we have no idea how to market it. And we’re really afraid it will piss off Christians—whom, we have learned, we do not want to piss off.” You wouldn’t believe how often we heard that exact same thing. It was a trip.)

After suddenly finding myself a Christian (some of you might remember when this blog was called Suddenly Christian), I wanted to have in my possession something short and funny (read: readable) that I could give to my non-Christians friends and associates by way of proving that just because you’re a Christian doesn’t automatically mean that you’re insane (not to mention a homophobic, misogynistic, fear-based, emotionally retarded dink).

So I wrote Penguins, because there was nothing out there like it. (Except then there was, because a Christian publisher involved with the book at its initial stages flat-out stole it from me, and had a much-more-famous than I Christian author write a heavily-marketed, painfully bad imitation of it. And suddenly I became a wanna-be around a book that was, in fact, mine. But that happens. More than I can tell you.)

Before I became a Christian, I pretty wholly despised Christianity—insofar as I cared about it at all, which I didn’t. Safe to say that I had less than a lot of respect for the Christian belief system. So after my Bizzaro Conversion Experience, I became really interested in answering exactly those questions that I knew were legitimate, rational, and sane complaints against Christianity—the same complaints I knew I’d always had about it, which no Christian ever seemed capable of satisfactorily answering.

So—in that weird, not-really-at-all-pleasant state you sometimes get into where you feel like you’re really just a vehicle for some creative drive way beyond yourself—I wrote Penguins, in which God himself (and please rest assured that, trance or not, that was but a literary device) answers nine or ten of the most primary of such questions. Thus does Penguins contain such chapter headings as:

  • If you really exist, why don’t you prove it?
  • What’s the deal with evil, anyway? Why does a God who is all-powerful an all-compassionate allow evil to exist? He either wills evil to exit—which makes him despicable—or he’s powerless to stop it, which makes him uninspiringly weak, to say the least. Both bite. What’s up?
  • Why are so many Christians so obnoxious and mean-spririted? It seems like Christianity’s mostly about being judgmental, narrow-minded, and having an infuriatingly condescending attitude toward anyone who isn’t a Christian. Christians are so busy being smug about being Christian they forget to be kind.
  • What’s that whole “Atonement” thing  actually mean?
  • Isn’t it enough that I believe in God? Why do I have to narrow it down to the Christian God?
  • What’s the deal about God actually writing the Bible? Is it written by God, or people, or people filled with the Holy Spirit, which is somehow supposed to be the same as God, or what? What’s the Scoop, Jackson? (The first thing God answers to this one is, “Did you just call me ‘Jackson’?”)
  • Even if I do believe in Christ, do I really have to go to church every Sunday? Yuck.
  • So how would being a Christian actually improve my life? What would it really do for me?

and so on. (There’s actually a lot more to Penguins than just those chapters. And the book is still so short you can read it one sitting. For what it’s worth, I know I’ll never write a better book.)

Christian apologetics is pretty much what I do. In some ways the 16-point tenets of the group now called Unfundamentalist Christians is my most comprehensive apologetic statement. I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop is an apologetic, insofar as it presents and defends a version of Christianity that … I felt needed presenting and defending.

All my work on the LGBTQ/Christians issue is essentially apologetics: I’m trying to show why the version of Christianity in which I believe is every bit as intellectually, theologically, and spiritually legitimate as that Christianity which today we tend to consider “traditional.” Same with the work that went into my short e-book, Hell No! Extinguishing Christian Hellfire.

I believe in Christianity. I love Christianity. But I take great exception to the version of Christianity that today most people think of when they think of Christianity. I know a better Christianity. I know a Christianity that’s logically unassailable. I know a Christianity that understands the difference between God’s love and man’s hate. And until the day I drop dead I’m going to work to bring that Christianity into the mainstream. I feel morally obliged, frankly, to do everything I can to help resurrect the Christianity I know from the ashes of what Christianity has become.

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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. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Luthor Parks via Facebook

    Already read and shared! Great post John!

  • http://nopartyline.blogspot.com Brian Meadows

    John, you’re not alone. Visit my website sometime and read what’s there. I hope from my posts it’s clear to you we’re on the same side. Thank you for having this website.

  • Valerie

    John, I have been a Christian since I was 9 years old and I want you to know in some ways you are a better Christian than I am or than I have been in the past. I followed the crowd when I was younger, I prayed at the pole, I vowed to stay pure for marriage (lol how does a 13 year old know?), I was appalled by abortion and thought gays were breaking God’s laws. As I got older and went to college, miles from home, I discovered a lot about myself and my faith. I found I was wrong about a lot of things and I made friends that opened my eyes to just how wrong I was. I still had wrong ideas and the older I got and the more I learned about myself and others the more my ideas changed and the more accepting I became. I think everyone should learn and grow and have experiences before they give their lives to God. I feel blessed to read your essays and to hear your thoughts. Love and blessings.

    • Gary

      Wow Valerie…as I read your comment I have a hard time deciphering your life experiences from my own…LOL Except for me it took a few years longer to realize some of these errors I am ashamed to say.

      • Gary

        Oh yeah and John…Fucking Awesome man!!!

  • Mary Wisner Miller via Facebook

    I trust in what you say so much, that I will always share even before I have a chance to read it.

  • Cathy Elings-Sysel via Facebook

    Go boy!!

  • Keetcha

    “I feel morally obliged, frankly, to do everything I can to help resurrect the Christianity I know from the ashes of what Christianity has become.”

    I for one, thank God for you John Shore. For your Christian Apologetic, your huge heart, your quick wit, and your drive to continue to dig deep and show folks what love really looks like. And if more Christians are like you then we’ll finally be on the right track and maybe actually DO some of the work that Jesus told us to do and take care of one anther’s needs and stop judging. You are one of the first things this Canadian, ex-Catholic, chronically-ill, Christ-loving, confused soul reads and re-reads here and on Facebook. You are a balm for broken people who just need to see/feel some love.

  • Terry Caswell Faulkner via Facebook

    Loved this! Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.maynes Charles Maynes via Facebook

    its called Christianity 2.0. God Bless you John, you are doing things that I think Jesus would wholly approve of….I cant think of a better epitaph, and its one I hope I might be able to have on my headstone as well….

  • Vanda Law via Facebook

    Shared!!

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Just struck by the whole “being swept away in a creative drive” thing.

    I was thinking of making a post to my own blog about my experience with Art, but since it barely gets read… Writing fiction worlds (and painting) has left me with the impression that a writer, in a way, becomes “God” as long as they are creating a world, but what one finds out when one is “God” is that “God” is not all-powerful, because one’s characters start exhibiting a form of free will… a sort of flow just starts in which, I, at least, start discovering a world I’m creating and the characters I’ve invented as much as I’m actually… creating…them.

    I haven’t actually hallucinating any of my characters or anyting like that – I’m just talking about the mental flow stories (even paintings oftentimes) take on. Yeah, I’m crazy, but not crazy enough pull off “success” yet, it would seem.

    In any case, this kind of thing is why I’ve once said that if I were given an ultimatim between choosing Faith and Science, I’d choose Art. It’s kind of like both combined for me.

  • Marian Fisher

    Definitely sharing this. Just hoping my right wing Christian friends will read this. Doubtful.

  • Robert

    Shared on facebook….

    I guess I am still awaiting a “very suddenly and out of freakin’ nowhere” experience… till then I will just think Jesus was an inspirational guy with a good message that got very messed up over the course of the ages by popes, priests and preachers.

    But it is nice to know people like you all exist.

    Robert

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

      It would have been easy for me to later dismiss my conversion experience as something conditionally phenomenal, but not intrinsically true. I like the Christian system because it WORKS. It’s like love: ultimately, you have to choose it.

  • Jean Ehrman via Facebook

    Shared!

  • Andrew Raymond

    Awesome, John.

  • Donald Rappe

    You do seem always ready to give a reason for the faith that’s in you!

  • Lisa Metzler via Facebook

    Gladly shared, John!

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    Nothing to add except to echo everyone else’s praise

  • http://ingridspeak.com Ingrid

    John you know I am a HUGE fan of Penguins… I buy it for people frequently.  Its such a good book that I did my first animated short based on it. I got a A btw… I have learned so much from you and the rest of the unfundamentalist Christians here. I have become an apologetic Christian myself and I believe with my whole heart that the fundamental right missed a wwjd lesson.  Thank you for being so verbal and given a voice and tools to the rest of us to let the world know that all Christians aren’t “…homophobic, misogynistic, fear-based, emotionally retarded dickweeds” as you so eloquently put it.

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

      So lemme see that short, Ingrid D!

  • Eva

    Seriously? It’s not about penguins? Righto, I’m buying it immediately then.

    Eva

  • Mary Withers via Facebook

    It’s like you’ve been hitchhiking inside my brain. Thanks for saying these things.

  • Delane Cunningham via Facebook

    Thank you, John…

  • Louie Lázaro via Facebook

    Preach it, honey boo boo child!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.n.weigand Lisa Noelle Weigand via Facebook

    Sorry, but yes….

  • http://www.facebook.com/kentspeedway Kent Grimes via Facebook

    My mission also! You have such a wonderful ability to share what I believe with a wide audience. You are truly God’s messenger. Thank you John!

  • Crystal S. Lewis via Facebook

    Amen to this, John. You just articulated the reasons why I stick with Christianity… Love it.

  • Susan Churchill via Facebook

    shared

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rebecca-Johnson-Lucas/1681387880 Rebecca Johnson Lucas via Facebook

    had a friend who has been posting about hurts by her “Christian” family and you are so perfect, as usual, for answering that hurt! Thanks John :)

  • Shelley

    Thanks, again. Your writing helps me feel less alone in the universe.

  • Robert Hartline via Facebook

    I pray that others will realize the love Christ tried to share with us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Susan.J.Hale Susan J. Hale via Facebook

    I’m with you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.macdougall1 Kevin MacDougall via Facebook

    Like Jude said, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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

      Kevin: Um. Surely you’re intelligent enough to actually use your own words when you’re trying to make a point. Try that, and let’s see how it goes.

      • DR

        I didn’t sense he was speaking about the lovely young lady holding up the apology – I read that to be about the guys holding up the signs. Maybe wishful thinking? Perhaps.

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

          Wrong post: he’s not on the one with the picture. (And neither are we!)

          • DR

            well that’s awkward.

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

            balls.

          • DR

            I meant, awkward for you.

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

            Shows how much you know. My whole life is awkward for me.

            But seriously: We need a few more admin people for Unfundamentalist Christians. You always have THE coolest stuff on your FB wall. So: A: Will you come join us so you can blast out to all the UFC members all the ultra-cool stuff you always put on your FB wall?, or B: Do you know anyone with your ultra-honed sense of Super Greatness who would come be an admin for us and share their Internetty wonderments with the rest of us?

          • DR

            I post pictures of baby animals and people falling down (mostly me). You cray-cray.

          • DR

            Let me ponder.

          • Gary

            If he had em…he would at least explain what he meant. Post and runs are such a lazy ass thing to do.

      • Allie

        I thought he was posting in support of you. But I guess there’s a group of people who would take his words the exact opposite way. You probably know his posting history and I don’t.

        Regardless, I think he makes a point which is stronger for having been made in someone else’s words: people have been arguing about some Christians being assholes since before Christians were called Christians.

        • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

          Because I don’t always read the comments, I don’t know his posting history, either. I also took it to be a positive post. Ah, well.

      • http://yhhis.blogspot.com Kevin MacDougall

        I don’t think many of you understood my point. I was quoting Jude to say that people like US agree with him as do people like THEM… The difference is what we believe we’re defending, how we unwrap “faith,” etc. But anything so important is something we would say is worth contending for the integrity of. We seek to live it out and to preserve it so others can see it as well.

        It’s just strange when you consider that the “Gun Toting Nascar Driving Jesus” crowd would quote the same verse I did in order to empower their followers to fight against people like John, or me, or a lot of other writers/thinkers/believers who champion a Jesus they have no place for.

  • Christi Pinkerton- Vanegas via Facebook

    Amen brother John! I wish I could show all of my old southern Baptist Church friends the light. They are so filled with hate and judgment i cant stand to be near them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-Jones/100001438912549 Natalie Jones via Facebook

    @Kevin MacDougall huh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrtmahan Judy Raye T. Mahan via Facebook

    Perfect timing for me to see this tonight John. Thank You for your encouragement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Kinney/1584673840 Anne Kinney via Facebook

    Love, love, love this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Rutledge/1199548950 John Rutledge via Facebook

    I am with you John. So many throw out God when they really just need to throw out the current version of church, so they can truly know Him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Reggie-Touchton/100001626817935 Reggie Touchton via Facebook

    You have a mavelous gift of speaking ou collective unspoken. Thank you for making yourself a new wineskin for the movement, if I may use that term to describe the process of sharing your revelations from our Gracious God.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    All this really means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ms.kimcamacho Kim Camacho via Facebook

    I’ve never met you, John. But I speak of you often. So many things you’ve shared have affirmed many things in my heart, even when the church tells me different. You’re the bomb.com! :)

  • Lauri

    Just reading about organic theology in a seminary class. The book was interesting. The only reason I understood the definition of organic theology was thinking about what you have been writing.

  • Deb Schofield via Facebook

    John! thank you so much–keep the energy coming! God Bless!

  • Suzanne Davignon via Facebook

    Wow that is awesome.

  • Josie

    “I feel morally obliged, frankly, to do everything I can to help resurrect the Christianity I know from the ashes of what Christianity has become.”

    That. Exactly. I want to be able to say, “I’m a Christian” without having to add, “but not one of THOSE Christians.”

    Thanks, John, for all you do to bring that into reality. I never, ever come away from what you’ve written without having at least a couple of moments of feeling totally understood and deeply blessed.

  • Jesse Tee via Facebook

    God bless you, Pastor Shore!

  • Robert Hull via Facebook

    Thank You Thank You and Thank You.

  • Sandy Rose Gergits Kazenko via Facebook

    I am glad to read this but I myself, could not wait it out. We could not find a Christian church that was liberal enough. Just when I thought we fit in somewhere they started spewing heavy duty “conversion theology” and exposing my kids to it too. When I spoke up, no one would listen because they have a belief based in fear. We are Unitarian Universalists now and all is good. I LOVE your blog.

    • Molly By Golly

      Unitarian Universalists aren’t Christian? Have the anti-trinitarian, universal salvation arguments within the name become historical artifact rather than statements of faith? I always liked that Unitarians staked out a ground of radical, Jesus -like love, pluralism and honest dissent withing the Christian tradition. If you’ve left, I guess some of us had better take over your camp site and keep the fire going.

      • Diana A.

        Yes. This is how I feel as well.

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    prob an interesting twist on an apology, but a great quote above.

  • ——-

    christian undeminer

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

      It’s like a comment. But different.

      • Diana A.

        Ya’ know?

      • Lymis

        I am confused. Just what is an “undeminer?” Someone who digs for underwear?

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

          GOOD ONE!

        • otter

          some who mines IN their underwear???

          • Jill H

            Coming here after reading some I’m OK and UNFAIR, I was drawn to this post– a first read.

            I was thinking I’d have something serious to share, but all I am doing is laughing at all this. If only we could all be in the same place @ the same time, I’d be weeping from laughter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson via Facebook

    An “apology”, in this context is (from the “New Oxford American Dictionary” app on my computer):

    3 a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine : a specious apology for capitalism.

    ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (denoting a formal defense against an accusation): from French apologie, or via late Latin from Greek apologia ‘a speech in one’s own defense,’ from apo ‘away’ + -logia (see -logy ).

    So John Shore is indeed an excellent apologetic!

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    Yay! We can be both normies and Christians! ;-)

  • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

    I’ve been on vacation, so I only just read this. I love it! I will promptly go share with the world.

    I think I’d have fallen apart a long time ago if it weren’t for blogs like this one (and a couple others). It IS good to know I’m not alone. Right here, this is the “great cloud of witnesses” from Hebrews 12. Not only are there others who echo what I believe in my heart, but there’s always something to think about. I’ve lost track of the number of great conversations my husband and I have had over what’s posted here.

  • detractor

    if your an apologist answer your detractors when they comment instead of deleting their comments or making lame jokes as a response.

    • Diana A.

      Boy, you sure do know how to take the fun out of life, don’t you?

    • Melody

      Well, if their questions are ridiculous, they merit ridiculous responses. Or none at all, judging by your tone.

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

      What questions/comments are you talking about? (Oh, it’s you. People: our friend “detractor” here has also posted comments on my blog under the names, “jess,” PDCH,” and “cannby,” thereby maintaining that bizzaro fundy tradition of always hiding behind various aliases when … posting on my blog, anyway. What IS that weird cowardice?)

    • DR

      You have some kind of odd obsession with this little corner of the internet. Your proven history of being hostile and abusive on this blog – and your track record of deception in lying about who you are to come back to dish more of it out – is unsettling and really disturbing. It was right to protect people from your inability to manage your hostility. It’s too bad that your narcissism prevents you from seeing how you created your own problems.

    • Gary

      Detractors who shroud their actions in deception and lace them with contempt really don’t deserve much consideration.

      LOL

  • otter

    In my mind the question is how can anyone not apologize for the effed-up mess the church has made of the teachings of the Master. They turned the path brought to us by an enlightened one into tool for oppression, suffering, power, ego and profit, As an whole institution, churches are misguided at best and actively hateful, at worst.

    Now the Catholics are lobbying for the right to limit the civil rights of non-believers in the name of their own religious freedom. Maybe they’d like to start paying some taxes, instead of lobbing political bombs from behind the pulpit.

    • Diana A.

      Tell me about it!


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