Rachel Held Evans, Liars and Babies for Brains

babies for brains believers mind cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

clicking on this image takes you to my online gallery

It seems seldom to me that someone says something so stupid so clearly that you can quote them in one sentence. Let me give you some background.

Rachel Held Evans wrote a post “If My Son or Daughter Were Gay”. I found the post moving and fair. Rachel has a strict comment policy:

“Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.”

So reading the comments was interesting and sad. Some have been deleted, suggesting that they attacked her post or attacked gay commenters… that they were rude. Sad.

The Director of Research for American Vision, Dr. Joel McDurmon wrote a response, “To Rachel Held Evans, RE: ‘If My Son or Daughter Were Gay…”. I read the disturbing article and the ensuing comments and remembered that the fundamentalist mindset is alive and well. Sad. McDurmon said he cried when he read Evans’ post:

“I am weeping over the disgrace to God, the neutered theology, the tortured application of ‘unconditional love’”

Just because you cried doesn’t make you right.

Then Elizabeth Prata wrote a post, “Rachel Held Evans asks, ‘What if my son or daughter were gay…” and gets a response from Dr. Joel McDurmon”. She attacks Evans’ post and supports McDurmon’s. The last line of Prata’s post is:

“Satan is coming on like a flood.”

She is firmly against homosexuality, quotes the bible to support herself, and warns everyone that this agenda is Satan inspired and driven and that people like Evans have “caved to the culture”.

But of all the things Prata wrote, this one is the most telling:

“To continue to ask questions about a subject once you have learned what the bible says on it is blasphemy because by then you’re not genuinely wondering about your understanding of the topic, you are directly questioning God.”

Bingo! This is the sentence that inspired my cartoon. Prata says when she was first saved she had questions about hell. But then when she studied the bible and found the answer, that was it. She stopped questioning. How old was she? Ten? I don’t know. How old is she now? Forty? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter because in any case that’s when she stopped thinking… she stopped thinking about hell for 30 years… or whatever. That can’t be good.

This is what is required to belong to many Christian groups or churches. You’re allowed to question as long as you arrive at the prescribed answer and then stop asking questions once you get there. To ask questions is “blasphemy” and “directly questioning God”. Prata goes on to compare it to lying like Satan lies with his questions. Questioners are liars. To ask questions the bible has clear answers to is Satanic.

Babies for brains.

No wonder so many believers are afraid to change their minds with these kinds of threats hanging over their heads.

The Lasting Supper

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Evidence2Hope

    Yep, this pretty much sums up the current situation unfortunately; threats and out right dismissal of your relationship with Christ. Basically you can’t be having one if you disagree with them.

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

    Exactly! Doubt/questioning is okay, but not REALLY. Anything prolonged is bad. And God forbid you come to the “wrong” answer after questioning.

    It is exhausting to see doubt so vilified.

  • http://www.roccocapra.com/ Rocco Capra

    Love this.

  • SusanRogersStLaurent

    God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. Ugh. I heard a sermon last week that was criticizing people’s idea that God was on a journey, that He changes because culture does. My response to that was, I don’t think God’s on a journey, but I am. My ideas about Him change, and frankly, I blame Him for that. If I were the biggest thing going, I think being stuffed and taped into boxes would piss me off a little bit, and I’d spend a good deal of my time blowing the boxes up.

    I’m going to go wrestle with my faith now…

  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    Hmm. Rachel has a response today as well, it’s really good.

    I’m not sure David ever stopped questioning. And yet somehow he was a man after God’s own heart.

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    I have found this to be so true… “You’re allowed to question as long as you arrive at the prescribed answer and then stop asking questions once you get there.”
    And the ironic thing is the prescribed answers change in each group. My strict menno upbringing wanted me to stop questioning at one place (about 2 centimeters from where I started) But freedom reigned (for a time) when my new fundamental evangelical friends told me stopping points were legalistic and not necessary… and instead talked about love and grace. Until I had some questions about their prescribed answers and suddenly there were stopping points after all. sigh…

  • Wendy Smith

    God gave us brains. It never ceases to amaze me that God gives us “talents” to use to his glory, but none of those talents ever extend to using the brain God gifted us all with.

  • Patty

    Situations like this illustrates why I feel an especial affinity for Thomas the Apostle, i.e. “Doubting Thomas”. He had the scriptures, he literally walked, talked and broke bread with Jesus, but he didn’t truly believe until he dipped his own hand into the wounds of Christ and found his truth. Note: he didn’t do it because the scriptures told him to, no one took his hand and dipped it for him and, most importantly, Jesus didn’t turn away from him in disgust for his disbelief.

    For me, that story is all about becoming spiritually mature.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    The bible is what it is – a collection of religious writings by various authors. Some of the writings are about what other people said and those writings were not put to paper until some years later. The quotes may or may not be accurate and the original authors may or may not have been divinely inspired. There is plenty of room to doubt and question. If there is a God, perhaps that is the way He wants it. Perhaps that is the reason He didn’t see to it that a better book was written. At any rate, life (and society) is a work in progress and to stop work on it or freeze the work at the societal ethics at any one point in human history would be a frightening prospect.

  • Gary

    I find this type of abusive control to be disgustingly vile. I am totally ashamed of the fundamentalist I used to be.

  • http://www.hollicareylong.com/ Holli Carey Long

    Thankful I have found a church and pastors who embrace and encourage the questioning. Didn’t really feel welcome into the faith until I felt like I could wrestle with my questions. I struggle to wrap my brain around this idea that the Bible is “clear” and the “no questions asked” mentality.

    A quote from one of my pastors, “Wrestling with the text is often the most faithful thing we can do.”

  • Eioljg

    People with small faith need a small god to believe in. The people I’ve known with the deepest faith aren’t the least bit bothered by questioning and doubting of others, but rather, encourage that. Any person, especially a pastor, who implies that they have God, the Bible, and all creation firmly figured out, must not see god as bigger than their little human mind can grasp.

  • Ian

    I’ve just read McDurmon’s response and I’m feeling very, very disturbed, even physically, at gut level. She betrays no trace of understanding of gay persons, no hint of empathy with the suffering that many have had to endure, no awareness of the realities of the situation of gay people. In fact, if I understand her correctly, she feels that Paul was wrong and that she’s finally found something that DOES separate us from the love of God. Again, if I understand her, that’s not a problem because the love of God is only aimed at those within the church – which does not, and can not, contain any gay people. Or, apparently, anyone with a drink problem or other issues. Quoting the ESV is less than helpful here, since ‘men who practice homosexuality’ is an expansion of the Greek term, not a straight (no pun) translation. Does she mean that any Christian who was ‘washed’ from the sins in this list and slips into their problem again later is automatically out of the church? I don’t know; but this is a pastorally dangerous article, no matter what one’s opinions on same-sex relationships are. Yes, I have done theological studies and it seems to me that Ms. McDurmon’s article is badly argued with various lines of thought becoming very tangled. It can be summarised as ‘The Bible says this: any nuances are very, very bad.’ Her thinking is seriously polarised and very black/white: ‘This is completely right and blessed; any other view is totally wrong and evil.’ There is no room whatever for discussion or gaining understanding of the other – in fact, i would assume, from McDurmon’s premises, that that, to her, could only be a bad thing. A dangerous approach to take with anything so potent as Scriptural texts. Gay issues aside, this way of thinking is lethal in any sphere, not least politics, relations between ethnic groups, etc. Philosophers have fairly recently begun to emphasise that this ‘binary’ thinking really isn’t a good thing, although it’s useful (if simplistic) in some contexts. David’s image of baby as brain is very apt here: young children need things simple and clear, hence we need to be fairly black and white when we speak with them. However, reality is in fact far more complex than this way of thinking can deal with. A mark of adulthood and maturity is the ability to deal with reality as it is: complex, nuanced, difficult, full of shades of grey. Alas, not too many people reach that stage; those who rise to the top in church leadership are pretty well always those who speak in the simplest, most black/white terms, who think in extremes. This isn’t to say they necessarily make bad leaders, but they will make everyone else feel safe, even if the occasional ‘Yes, but…’ occurs to a few. It was binary thinking that made us need a Martin Luther King. David, may I trespass on your patch a little and offer a cartoon of my own? I drew this when I’d got to a certain stage of healing from a severe mental illness that has involved the idea that God hated me because I’m gay (though there are other factors). A sermon (with terrible exegesis) on Sodom and Gomorrah sparked a psychotic breakdown at age 15. I managed to resolve things, but at a price. I COULD NOT have drawn this till comparatively recently, there was so much fear around. I’d also just ‘discovered’ Westboro Baptist, which left me in shock (you can understand why McDurmon’s article disturbed me profoundly). A large part of my healing was a new perception of the grace of Christ, particularly towards gay people. It occurred to me that Jesus would want to protect gay people from Westboro-type antics rather than go along with them, hence the picture. Someone pointed out that it’s a hermeneutic (thought I’d throw in a theological term) on John 8. It’s called The First Stone. If anybody would like to use it, please feel free. Thanks for listening, everyone. God bless ya.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    The hubris of thinking that a human can read the bible and know the mind and will of the God of the universe is what I’d call blasphemy. Refusing to continue questioning questioning simply shows that one’s confidence is in th understanding of men and NOT REMOTELY in God – as if what a simple human can understand at first glance can possibly contain God’s truth. It’s ridiculous human worshipping and nothing more.

    And the idea that unconditional love is squishy can only come from someone who has never actually tried it. There’s nothing easier and better suited to the fallen human mind than marking out “right” and “wrong”, enforcing the law, rejecting “loved ones” and all the other things these people see as their duty. Unconditional love is the hardest thing a person can attempt. No wonder scripture says Jesus is a stumbling block. Unconditional love always is.

  • klhayes

    It’s amazing that we a Christians continue to find reasons not to love. That is what we are called to do.

  • Al Newberry

    I couldn’t read past the first two paragraphs. Too disgusting. Rachel’s article was spot on, though.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    all great comments everyone. thanks :)

  • Hazel May Lebrun

    I do believe the Bible, but believing that you are not allowed to ask God for answers, even if you think the Bible shows you everything about it, is a religious mindset and about as far from God as you can get. If nobody was allowed to ask God anything about subject after they read what the Bible said (or in the Old Testament case,the Torah), then when John the Baptist came along telling them to repent and be baptized to be saved, they should have not listened because the ‘Bible’ said the only way to Heaven was animal sacrifices and shedding the blood of lambs. I question whether people even know God when they talk like that. They know dogma. They can quote church doctrine and the letter of the law, but the letter of the law kills. It’s the spirit of the law you want.
    Is homosexuality a sin? According to God’s word, it is. But so is hating. If you hate in your heart, you have committed murder. And if you break one commandment, according to the New Testament, you have broken them all because you broke the law. Oh-oh. That puts me squarely in the same boat as everyone else… needing Jesus for my salvation.
    Does God love homosexuals? Yes He does. He loves them as much as He loves someone who sits in the front pew every week. In fact, some of the damage that has been done to these folks is not making Him happy. How are they to be saved if they are so rejected and loathed that they can’t see straight? We love Him because He first loved us. That means… we can’t even love God or receive Him or anything until we first have that security of being absolutely loved.
    When a person starts to really get that, then God can work on removing their sins and vices and attitudes and defense mechanisms and religion and addiction and and and… It starts with love.
    I had a dream about a year ago. I am a singer/songwriter. In the dream I was in a huge auditorium and on the stage was an orchestra. The arena was packed. I kept feeling this urge to run up on stage and join the orchestra. The problem was, every person playing in that orchestra seemed to have a different ‘sin issue’ in their lives. I recognized Elton John and didn’t have to stretch much to know what sin he represented. I saw others that I did not know by name, but I knew they each had something sinful… something that the church folks would flip out about and I was afraid that 1. the church would think I was sinning too and 2. God would not want me playing in that orchestra.
    As I stood on the floor, wishing to play, too scared of what they might ‘do’ to me if I did, Holy Spirit… and it was more real than I could describe. This was soooo real! Holy Spirit walks up behind me, sets a hand on each shoulder and breathes His presence into me. I filled up with Him as if I had been a deflated balloon. I mean joy, strength, faith, love, life, hope… I was exhilarated in a way I cannot explain. It doesn’t do it justice.
    Holy Spirit whispers into my ear with such love. “You catch them. Let me clean them.” I didn’t need anyone else’s opinion. That was enough for me. I launched up the steps to the orchestra and lo and behold, there was an empty seat there just for me. On that seat was a woodwind instrument that I have never seen. It was custom made for me. It was a cross between a clarinet, an oboe and a bassoon. Beautiful thing. I could play it instantly (and I am not a woodwind player).
    How do you reach hurting, needy, confused people if you have no love for them? It’s a noisy gong. It’s a clanging cymbal. It has no credibility. Jesus had credibility because He loved first and when they saw the love, they opened up to let Him change their lives.
    Sorry for the epic comment.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Thanks Hazel for commenting and for sharing such a personal story. Your dream is fascinating and very cool. My hope is that your love for “sinners”, including homosexuals, will grow into no longer seeing them as sinners but as equals deserving equality. Peace :)

  • Gary

    I appreciate your comment Hazel and the spirit in which you offered it. I love the focus on love as the solution. I would like to submit something though for your consideration. After studying the scripture very extensively on the subject of homosexuality, I have come to the conclusion that the bible does not really even address what we understand as homosexuality and certainly does not declare it as sinful. I know this makes many who have not researched this important subject really scoff and sneer. But the truth is our present translations are not faithful to the intent of the original scripture in any of the 6 or so clobber passages. For some, what the bible says is not really important because they trust their heart and the Spirit’s leading more than the accuracy of our modern translations. But I understand your declaration that you “believe the bible”. For a long time it was very important to me to reconcile my faith in scripture with my clear convictions and therefor I spent much time studying issues like this. When I discovered that what I had always been taught was a clear cut slam dunk biblical case against homosexuality was in truth nothing more than man made bigotry being introduced into the scriptural record I was shocked to say the least.

    I have learned to trust my heart more than the interpretations of men.

  • Mary E. Oney

    Once I heard that we were created in God’s image I couldn’t STOP questioning. If we are indeed made in God’s image than I believe we should honor that and use our gifts to the fullest extent. We should question and learn and change our minds as new intelligence is revealed to us. If we are made in God’s image I am sure He or She or They or Whatever does not want us groveling on our knees blindly following what other people tell us but actively seeking the truth, irregardless of tradition or culture or power structures. If we are created in God’s image we should NEVER stop seeking truth and should never be intimidated by those who are so arrogant and unlearned as to believe that only they know the real truth. If we are to honor God than we need to live up to the potential we were granted.

  • Andy Blake

    In the 1980s a Pentecostal pastor actually told me I must on no account come to church unless I announced myself, so that somebody could come and sit with me in case I disturbed the faithful with my ideas.

    The funny thing is, I would have described my stance as conservative, in the sense of continually interrogating the Word in faith and striving not to run beyond the writ by introducing human interpretations. But when I applied that principle, I discovered the Bible I was reading wasn’t the Bible they were reading. I had this curious knack of finding weirdness in scripture that wasn’t supposed to be there…like universal salvation, or multiplicities of gods, or a feminine Holy Spirit/Wisdom figure, or preAdamites. Even worse in their eyes was the stuff I ‘should’ have found in the Bible and DIDN’T, like Zionism and original sin.

    I was isolated in the midst of a lively congregation, as there was nobody I could thrash these issues out with. Try to open a debate and you’re marked and ostracised as divisive. You might say it’s the entail of Tertullian’s anti-Gnostic polemic: away with those who seek where thay will never find! With our belief, we need no further belief! (Some pastors really should be asked, why are your congregations still ‘babes in Christ’ after all these years of pastoring?)

    So I sat through sermons I only half agreed with, sang along with hymns whose presuppositions I couldn’t accept, and prayed along in prayer groups for things I was convinced I shouldn’t be praying for. And finished up feeling the complete hypocrite. Realising I was doing myself more spiritual damage inside the church than not, I opted for the temple of nature instead.

    Occasionally I’m tempted back, but I never stay for long. There’s nothing to gain from fellowship at the expense of honesty. Nor have I ever given up on Jesus — just the superstructure of orthodoxy from the 2nd-century Fathers onward. The way I look at it now, I’m a radical in the primitivist sense of back to the roots. Roots which far pre-date even the biblical text. The Bible is certainly a useful book to stand on while you’re reaching for a more enlightened volume from a higher shelf. But once you’ve read the Eden story without preconception and realised that Yahweh deceived Adam and Eve whilst the serpent spoke the truth, then the book will never tell you quite the same story ever again. And that’s no bad thing.

  • KellyLynne

    Ian, I love your comic. May I share it (with credit)?

  • Gary

    Fascinating story. So many similarities to my own beliefs. And your final comments on the Eden story will have me chewing on what you said for a while.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Ya Andy many people can identify with what you wrote. I know I do.

  • Ian

    Thanks Kelly. Delighted: please use it an any way you want. Anybody else who wishes to can do the same. God bless.

  • ccws

    If God doesn’t change, that surely purely blows a huge hole in Dispensationalism, doesn’t it? Checkmate Fundamentalists.

  • ccws

    ” If I were the biggest thing going, I think being stuffed and taped into
    boxes would piss me off a little bit, and I’d spend a good deal of my
    time blowing the boxes up.” AWSUMOSITY – Can I quote you on that? :-)

  • SusanRogersStLaurent

    Sure.

  • aar9n

    This is spot on! ” You’reallowed to question as long as you arrive at the prescribed answer and then stop asking questions once you get there. ”
    Exactly. Thats how they get away with saying they welcome questions… cuz they do… technically.

  • Dianna Miller

    God wants us to question Him, but I believe He wants us to be open to His answers. It seems when His answers don’t comply with what we want to hear, then the bible becomes mundane, out of date, not to our liking, more questionable, written by someone else and so on. If people who are believers in God and call themselves “Christians” and considered to be God called followers, then we should be in His word, praying, and asking Him to guide us in understanding His word. When we do that, we need to get out of the way and understand that we might not like what God is going to say to us. We must be willing to accept and apply it to our lives in order to “weed” sin out and make changes to our lives. Making changes to our lives is not often easy, but God can and will help us to make it happen. We are just the clay on His potter’s wheel. Sometimes we fall off and He starts over again. Eventually, if we let Him, he will make us to perfection, ready to be with Him in heaven. Now, if you want to delete my post because you view me as a hater, go right ahead. It will prove to me that sites like this are just as one sided and hateful those they accuse of being haters. It’s my opinion and mine alone, if you are going to profess Christianity, you don’t go around making excuses for sin. Any kind of sin! Period. God loves the sinner, but he hates the sin, any sin. Go read His word! Read it with an open, not closed mind. Read it prayerfully. God can change the drunkard, the hater, the thief, the immoral, the homosexual, the adulterer, and so on and so on. We are all sinners, Period! It boils down to how we take care of the sin and if we want to even admit there is sin in our lives. Trust me, there’s sin in our lives. A daily walk and talk with God is how we continually weed it out. God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We might want to change His view on sin, but that’s not gonna happen. My prayer for everyone, including myself and the Rachel Held Evans of this world, is that we call sin for what it is according to God’s word and we Love the sinner to redemption through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, forever and ever AMEN!

  • Dianna Miller

    When referring to the “church” we are not speaking of a building or denomination. We are speaking as the bible does regarding the body of Christ. As born again Christians, we are members of the “church” the body of Christ. As for stone throwing, no one is without sin, so we shouldn’t even pick up the stone, let alone throw it. I read the article and I took it differently. I think the point was, we can’t just ignore what God calls sin. In this case, I believe you are talking mostly about homosexuality, but I’m often wrong LOL. In any event, just remember, God loves us all. We are all sinners. Some just choose to call the sin out and when it’s in our life we work daily to remove it. Some might work their whole life to remove it or struggle with it. Remember the thorn in Paul’s side? He struggled daily with that thorn. Was it a real pain in his side, or was it sin in his life? The bible doesn’t tell us for sure, but many believe it was Paul’s struggle with sin, just like we all have. Churches should welcome homosexuals, drunkards, adulterers, thieves, and the list goes on of sins we could name, but I’d be here all day every day :( The whole point is to reach the lost for Christ. How can we reach them if we don’t let them in. Letting them in, doesn’t mean we should over ride God and just accept the sin. We are going to council, witness, share and love them to redemption. That’s what God tells us to do. What we should never do is excuse the sin. God bless you and may He open your heart and my heart to understand His word and each other better :)

  • Dianna Miller

    I can’t imagine my life without Jesus in it. Loved your post