“Against you alone have I sinned” (the solipsism of evangelical morality)


"Against you alone have I sinned." These words from Psalm 51:4 are attributed to the Israelite king David speaking to God after he knocked up another man's wife and had that man betrayed and murdered on the battlefield. Many evangelical pastors have praised this verse for how it names sin, but I consider it to be one of the most morally problematic verses in the Bible. It does do a very good job of encapsulating the solipsistic morality that I grew up with as an evangelical, in which sin had … [Read more...]

Cock-blocking and rape culture

the boot

It's one of those phrases you know not to use in mixed company. But there's a code of honor among heterosexual young adult men at bars and parties. To use nineties parlance, when another man is "busting a move" or "getting his mack on" with a woman, you don't interfere. Because that's "cock-blocking." And I have no idea why it wasn't completely obvious to me before that this unspoken law of young adult male sexual "ethics" is a cornerstone of rape culture. … [Read more...]

Three arguments for Biblical inerrancy that need to be retired

bible beater

One of the most important books I read in seminary was evangelical Old Testament scholar Peter Enns' Incarnation and Inspiration, which offers a way of understanding the Bible in which its authority can be respected even if some of the stories it tells are not historical events. Peter Enns just released another book called The Bible Tells Me So that has the Biblical inerrantists in a tizzy. For a long time, I've been wanting to name and repudiate three of the more frustrating arguments that … [Read more...]

Do you deserve to be crucified for your sin?

vader cross cropped flat

This past week, Brian Zahnd and Michael Brown held a debate on the penal substitution atonement theory. While I tend to be on Brian's side of the debate, I'm not willing to throw penal substitution completely out of the window. The concept of penal substitution has a whole lot of slippage within it. There's a stark difference between saying that the cross was in one aspect a punishment that Jesus suffered for the sake of humanity's salvation and saying that Jesus suffered the punishment that e … [Read more...]

Ben Corey’s Undiluted: An Accessible Escape-Hatch for Disaffected Fundamentalists


A book title about Jesus called Undiluted can make you roll your eyes at first if you come from the evangelical world. Because it trots out a long-standing trope that's endemic to evangelical identity: "Those nominal mainline Christians have a 'watered-down' gospel, but we've got the undiluted, fully potent, Jesus plus nothing version that's been stripped of all those religious traditions and worldly values that get in the way, etc." Every evangelical has been told from day one that we're the … [Read more...]

Could ISIS become the Westboro Baptist of jihadism?


Yes, I know, it's a woefully contrived analogy. Hateful Christians with "God hates fags" signs are a completely different phenomenon than terrorists who massacre a whole countryside of people. But it's a wishful thought that I want to have. Because I think Westboro Baptist has played an important role in turning the tide against the religious right in our country. Could it be that the absolute awfulness of ISIS will turn the tide against the religious right in the Islamic world? … [Read more...]

Does Janay Rice’s voice matter?


In my first job out of college, I was the program coordinator of the Nicaragua Network, a solidarity organization founded in the 1980's to support Nicaraguans when our country was trying to overthrow their government. I learned that being in solidarity with people means that they dictate the terms of your support for them. When you engage in activism on behalf of other people without submitting to their leadership, you are not in solidarity with them. So what does it mean to be in solidarity … [Read more...]

How Andrew W.K. messed with my prayer life


The Village Voice in New York City has a weekly advice column by a guy named Andrew W.K. He gives unexpected answers to advice questions that typically come from a secular progressive angle. For example, he went off on the guy who said, "My dad's a right-wing asshole" for the way that he was disrespecting and dehumanizing his father. In this week's column, "Prayer is stupid, right?" Andrew responds to a reader whose brother has cancer and takes offense as an agnostic when his grandmother says … [Read more...]

How I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently


In a video clip that has been making the rounds on social media, prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen's wife Victoria goes on a rant about worship that has gotten many Christians up in arms. She said that worship is about making us happy more than it's about pleasing God. While I would say what Victoria Osteen said differently, I absolutely affirm the basic insight that worshiping God is not supposed to be moralistic drudgery but actually a genuine source of deep joy. … [Read more...]

Grace vs. niceness in interracial dialogue


I wanted to ponder the difference between grace and niceness in difficult online conversations, particularly the discussions of race that have sprung up in response to the crisis in Ferguson, MO. Please do not read this as an analysis of any particular conversation that has occurred. It is meant to be a completely generic, hypothetical consideration. The problem is that many of us conflate grace with niceness, and while they have some overlap, they are very different phenomena. … [Read more...]