I, a Bible loving, gospel embracing, Paul-enamored lefty progressive Christian

I, a Bible loving, gospel embracing, Paul-enamored lefty progressive Christian December 9, 2013

So lately I’ve been getting a few emails from new readers asking about my personal beliefs and/or theology—or just about me generally, especially relative to Christianity. I appreciate those queries, and thought I’d take a moment to address the main thrusts of them.

I was not a Christian, at all, until I was thirty-eight years old, when I suddenly and out of nowhere had the conversion experience that—as natural and healthy as of course I’ve always understood it to be—continues to pretty wholly freak me out. You can read a bit about my conversion experience in I, a Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Convert.

One of the first things I understood about being a Christian—and I mean, one of the things I understood within moments of my Big Moment—was that it was not necessary for me to try to convert other people to Christianity: that, in fact, the whole “We must evangelize!” thing is (or certainly is today) bullshit. Making a point of converting others is a power play that has no more to do with actually being a Christian than arm-wrestling has to do with being a ballerina. I knew instantly that (as I learned to understand it later) seeking to fulfill the Great Commission (“Go and turn other people into Christians!”) almost always means violating the second part of the Great Commandment (“Love your neighbor as yourself”). So one of the first things I did as a Christian was write a book about the whole relationship between Christians and Non-Christians. That’s my book “I’m OK—You’re Not”: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop.

The other thing that upon my conversion I was much chagrined to discover was that just because one is a Christian doesn’t mean that one is a moron incapable of rational thought. That realization moved me to write “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do,” by God, as told to John Shore, wherein (as simply a literary device—and amongst a whole bunch of other stuff I do in the course of this short book), I have God himself answering the main objections to Christianity most often asked by … well, by the kind of normal, rational person I was both before and after my conversion experience.

Before I was a Christian, I had no idea that Christians were supposed to be anti-gay; that is how ignorant I was about Christianity. Then I learned about the clobber passages, and all that. My reaction to the notion that God condemned gay people just for being gay was, “[Very bad word] that noise.” About then I had begun blogging for Crosswalk.com. Looking out at the Christian blogosphere, I was appalled to discover that (as far as I could see, anyway), the number of Christian bloggers who were using their platform to advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT people into all aspects of Christianity was exactly zero. So I started writing about what I knew/know to be the proper—which is to say the Christian—relationship between gay people and Christians/Christianity. My first such piece—carefully phrased, since it was written to appear on the very conservative Crosswalk.com—was What Would Jesus Do If Invited to a Gay Wedding?, which I was pleased to see go viral.

Ultimately, my seven years of work on the gay issue culminated in my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, my post The Bible and Homosexuality: Taking God at His Word, and The Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project.

Somewhere along the line people began asking about my personal theology; they knew what I was against, but wanted to know what I was for. Because I couldn’t find anything that suitably articulated my core Christian beliefs, I wrote the 14-tenets for Unfundamentalist Christians. That document gave rise to the Unfundamentalist Facebook page, which as of this writing has 26,900 members.

People often assume that I’m super-liberal and/or “progressive.” And in many ways I certainly am; I am not at all displeased to have been ordained a pastor by The Progressive Christian Alliance. But when it comes to the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ, theologically I’m so old-school I should write with a quill. Whenever anyone essentially accuses me of being a Bible-dismissing liberal, I always want to show them … well, Tenet #1 of Unfundamentalist Christians:

Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I mean, how old school is that? You can practically hear me thumping my Bible.

And I would thump away on the bad boy, too. I am a hardcore, full-on, Gospel-loving Bible freak. I do believe that the Bible fully expresses the entirety of the relationship between God, Jesus, and mankind. And God knows I am exasperated with the great genius St. Paul being so viciously, blatantly, and purposefully misunderstood; I despise how Paul’s words are so often pulled out of context, twisted, and then used toward ends that Paul himself would have clearly found repulsive.

But. Another post for another … second half of my life.

I’m straight; I’m 55; I’ve been married to my wife Catherine for … um, as many years as it is between when we got married in 1981 and now. (And yes, that’s me at the top of this post.)

Seven years into this work, and so far I earn, from my entire life online, about $1,200 a year. So clearly I’m not doing what I do because it pays so well. (If you’d like to do anything to change that, please do.) I do what I do here online, as often as I can afford to do it, because I believe it is the right thing to do. I love what Christianity is supposed to be; I’m not thrilled with a lot of what Christianity has become; as a Christian I feel duty-bound to right what I can about that. Not a complicated thing.

I’m madly in love with my wife; I’m blessed with this bizarre thing in my brain that makes a ridiculous amount of things seem to me almost excruciatingly funny; when I write I basically just close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, go into some … weird place, and start typing.

Then I hit the “Publish” button, and hope for the best.

Thank you, friends, both old and new. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, to each and every one of you.


"How did you arrive at the conclusion that the odds for God existing are 50/50?I ..."

The rational genius of Christianity
"Kinda going thru the same thing... I'm going to be starting pre-marriage counseling with my ..."

Christians in love with non-Christians (and ..."
"I had stumped a pastor is a IFB. Watch this and prepared to laugh your ..."

The fundamentally toxic Christianity
"https://youtu.be/6tGxzjwx1t0 Those of you who are IFBs, I had been in an African lead church ..."

The fundamentally toxic Christianity

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jamie Stanek

    That’s a great summary. I’m also pleased with the artfully displayed didgeridoo in the background. The worlds number one selling unplayed instrument!

  • Matt

    As for old-fashioned, I think you’re in good company. Apparently I’m so old-school that as a 21-year-old Newfangled Whippersnapper, I use an actual day planner, which I write in with an actual pen. I also carry books to read while I run errands. I have to resist the urge to Bible-thump, and even admitting that is weird!

  • textjunkie

    omg I think I’ve been reading you almost as long as you’ve been blogging about LGBT stuff… 🙂 Though my memory is bad–it was after you came through the BHT and got such a bizarre reception. I was lurking there and followed you off…

  • charlesmaynes

    you are an awesome man Mr. Shore…. and I love you a lot for who you are….

    best Christmas wishes to you compadre….

  • Worthless Beast

    I draw with a quill sometimes. I have this big goose feather I found that I clipped the tip off and have dipped in drawing-ink to draw strange things. Rather difficult thing to use neatly… though I could probably make it better if I can find the old Speedball pen nibs.

  • LynnC

    This makes me so happy.
    I especially love the Paul part.
    I was a ‘later’ convert to Christianity too (I was not raised Christian, but had a conversion experience when I was 17), and so doing Bible studies on Paul’s letters for the first time were frustrating. He seemed like a know-it-all. A Goodie-two-shoes. A pompous, stuck up snob. I didn’t understand what was so good about all that he said.
    Over the years I went from new-convert bible study attender to a Bible Study leader, and I lead a 7 month long bible study of Acts. I was leading it, but it was also my very first time going through it as well. And when I got to the part in Acts where Paul is meeting with people and they pray on the beach and beg him not to go on (Acts 21). I just burst into tears. This was a great man, and I never looked on any of his works the same way again.
    The stuff he said may not be ‘red letters’ but I really do love Paul and look up to him in a lot of ways.

    As someone that was just as ignorant as you about Christianity at the start, I felt a little forlorn after my conversion and just feeling like I never fit in. I found your Unfundamentalist Christian tenants though, and I found home. I thank you over and over again John Shore 🙂

  • Sadly, it’s a large way from “artfully displayed”; it’s simply behind my office door. But I do love the thing. My neighbors, I fear, love it less.

  • Nancy Younce Volmer

    Great Blog – Merry Christmas and HappyHolidays to you John. So good to hear you explain things I have felt for many years. Jesus taught love as the most important thing, so cannot understand why so many Christian organizations teach hate, not only against gays, but also against other Christian, just because they are not in the same church as they are. Wishing you many blessings!

  • Jennifer Winters

    Please organize a retreat.

  • Please help me have any idea how to pay for such a thing, and I’m all there. It’s not like I wouldn’t know what to do with the time.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    That “You Must Convert” business was always a problem for me. I grew up Baptist and it was just a given that we were supposed to “witness” (which seems to have meant go out and talk to random total strangers about Jesus). Much later I heard a slightly different interpretation/translation of the Great Commission, in which it starts with something more like, “As you go…” To me that sounds like, “Go on with your life, but do it as a Christian, and let your lived example draw people to Jesus and teach them what it means to belong to him.”

  • Dave-n-TN

    Thank you John for sharing the basics of who you are. A refresher about your stance and beliefs is so nice to have posted once again so we are all aware of ‘where you are coming from’ and why you do what you do. So glad you have this forum for the many interesting discussions that occur.

    Wishing you and Catherine a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas!

  • Diane U

    God bless you, John, and God bless us, every one.

  • Jennifer Winters

    I know a woman who plans this big women’s retreat every year. I’ll pick her brain on how to organize and fund one. I’m totally serious!

  • Ed Murnaghan

    So thankful to find groups such as this on Facebook. I went through the fundamentalist thing as a kid and but had no say in the matter whatsoever. Obviously when I left the nest I rebelled, most likely because of some of “God’s love” I had to endure under the guise of fundamentalist dogma. I researched other faiths and beliefs, and railed against what I perceived “God” to be. For a long time I might add. But I always loved Jesus and what I thought he stood for. When I rebelled, developed an anarchistic spirit, went against the grain, refused to conform, took the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path, danced to the beat of a different drum…all THAT stuff, JC was right beside me but I just didn’t realize it. I see now we have a lot in common 🙂
    Anyhoo…Just wanted to say thank you Mr. Shore, and wish you and your Family a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays as well. Thanks for being you!!
    PS. Wouldn’t be proper if I didn’t give a shout out to http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/
    Pretty sure you will understand <3

  • Barbara Heller

    When I was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Residence Life used some of the empty dormitories in the summer to house conferences/retreats. Maybe a university nearby you does the same thing, John? I think it’s a fabulous idea. If you do it in Bavaria I’m in! 😉

  • Barbara Heller

    I’d like to encourage everyone to go to the link John provided (“please do”) and show your appreciation for what he does for us all. I just did! Wishing you a very very Merry Christmas and a very happy, healthy and love-filled new year, John!

  • On it like a sonnet when I get paid tomorrow. Merry Christmas, Barbara!

  • Barbara Heller

    Thank you Elizabeth! Same to you!!

  • Muller Oosthuizen

    Hi John ….your view of Evangelism then in a nutshell, please? 🙂

  • lrfcowper

    I think the trick with the Great Commission is that it needs to be seen in the context of the Great Commandments. We’re to go into the world and make disciples. What are disciples supposed to do? Love God and love people. And not in a namby-pamby way, but in an active, sacrificial way. Seek justice for the oppressed, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, be a comfort to the sick and the imprisoned, pay no heed to the artificial cultural barriers we erect based on race, class, gender, nationality, wealth, or religion, but treat all with respect. In the course of doing these things, bring people alongside you who are also seeking justice for the oppressed, feeding the hungry, etc. Spread this radically loving lifestyle far and wide. Be a part of the answer to the problems of evil and injustice.

    The problem with evangelism isn’t evangelism, but assuming that the purpose of evangelism is more evangelism. The purpose of evangelism is more love, more justice, more lifting up and less tearing down, more people doing good in the world. Go into the world, do good, bring other alongside you, and teach them these principles of doing good, then when they are ready, let them go an do likewise. The problem is that Christianity has become a social club, a “Get Out of Hell Free” card, and not an engine of change in the world. And when it ceases doing what it was supposed to be doing, then evangelism becomes a membership drive, instead of a radical, world-changing movement.

  • Jill

    I want a love button for this comment, so I can click it a dozen times. This brought tears. Thank you for saying this. Absolutely beautiful.

  • Jill

    Yes, I attend wacky New Agey, past lives and meditation retreats every summer. A scaled-down, simplified type of retreat held at a University of Wisconsin campus, staying in the vacated RA dorms, eating in the cafeteria, and lectures in their theater. Very affordable–and awesome!– for all.

  • Jill

    You’re so awesome that you’re almost more old school than me.

  • Jill

    This would be SO cool to do in Chicago! Maybe Infinity Foundation would have affordable space to rent. I could check it out if it seems remotely feasible.

  • Raymond Watchman

    Thank you John for your constructive thoughts. I think the model Alcoholics Anonymous uses absolutely nails it: “Attraction rather than promotion”. In fact I am convinced if churches used the 12 Steps as the basis for living the Christian life they would transform themselves into the communities they yearn to be and that people intuitively, if not consciously, yearn to be part of. As Richard Rohr et al note, the 12 Steps are profoundly the Gospel. To me, they are designed to liberate us from the most destructive of all addictions – the addiction to our own ego. (In fact I am convinced that ego-addiction and what we call original sin are synonymous). Yet sadly, much of what is passed off as Christianity today seems ego-based and ego-serving, and thus becomes a superficial mask people wear, rather than an expression of profound life-enhancing change and liberation. I guess for me, I broke into the Kingdom of God through my own brokenness and that of others, and the Kingdom of God breaks into us through the brokenness of Emmanuel upon his cross. A joyful Christmas and creative New Year John.

  • Randy Wanat

    You’d think a universe-creating wizard could manage to communicate his message more effectively. The various holy books all conflict with each other, and many, if not all, contain internal contradictions. No better method than revelation to nomadic Iron Age goat herders and an alleged miracle worker whose existence is wholly ignored by every contemporary historian and communique that has ever been discovered, and pen never hit paper about his stuff until decades later. And, given the prevalence of exaggeration and embellishment of popular figures in cultures in the Middle East in the time of the alleged life of Jesus, the turning of a potentially real person’s life into a legend based on widely-held cultural beliefs and common myths of the time and place becomes more and more likely, and its factual accuracy becomes absurdly unlikely. And that’s ignoring the glaring factual errors and logical fallacies used to justify belief in the stories found in the Bible (or any other holy book). If you had an experience, you may be personally justified in your belief (though it is hardly a coincidence that it resulted in a conversion to the religion that happens to be overwhelmingly dominant in the time and land in which you find yourself), but without such an experience, and with the issues surrounding the Bible, I find it impossible to be skeptical, rational, honest, AND buy what the Bible is selling. I’d have to either rationalize the bad things the Bible teaches (dishonest), disregard the problems and accept the good (gullible), or create my own version of the Bible and claim to still believe the Bible is true (irrational).