the church and the normalization of abuse

kick me normalization of abuse cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“Kick Me” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

Some time ago I wrote a post that became very popular, Why I Wouldn’t Attend Pastor Steepek’s Church. But it became popular for the wrong reasons.

I was alarmed at the response. Actually, saddened. The overwhelming reaction was that it is not only legitimate but necessary and even divine to use shame to motivate church members. I used to think that spiritual abuse was happening enough to be a concern. Now I think it is prevalent.

My conclusion: the church normalizes abuse and cultivates a culture of shame. And many people starve for this sensation.

Here is the cyclical pattern that a church and its members can absolutely thrive on:

  1. guilt: realizing that you failed to live up to an expectation
  2. shame: this failure means you are a bad person
  3. inspiration: you get inspired (by yourself, a preacher, books, etc.) to try again
  4. failure: you fail to measure up to what you were inspired to do
  5. recycle: start all over again with #1

Some believe this indicates the failure of church members. But I claim that this is the perfect recipe for leaders to keep people enslaved. They milk it for all its worth because they have insight into the human condition– many people want to be milked this way. Many people believe that the only way to relieve the pressure of shame is to enroll in this cyclical program of carefully orchestrated control.

We’ve normalized abuse as a way of life not because we’re bad people but because some leaders need us to believe we are.

Want to talk about this with other people who know what I’m talking about? Join 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.

  • http://crysticaro.com/ Crysti Caro

    This is absolutely true and NEVER ok. Only you can’t see it from the inside because you think the devil in you needs guilt and shame.

  • Phil Parmelee

    You are SO “right on”, sir! Members become so entrenched in and so used to feeling shame that they cannot fathom any other MO. But, Jesus died to set us free from all that, not for spiritual “leaders” to bring more on us than ever.

  • Christine QuinnJones

    Hi David,
    I felt very moved by your cartoon and what you wrote but I have to say I have more questions than answers at the moment! I do wonder if it might be more about shame-avoidance than about shame – maybe a sort of ‘pass-the-parcel’ with the painful feelings most of us would rather not feel? I’ve learnt that the truth is in the pain and the truth sets us free and my ‘inner journey’ has been (and still is) painful, exhausting and time-consuming – but also good because God is with me, healing and strengthening and guiding me. Having said that, when I feel deep ‘pre-verbal’ pain I still grapple with it at first and it takes me a while to yield to it and to the work of the Holy Spirit in me – I’m a very ‘reluctant heroine’ at times! But maybe I’m a little less frustrated with all the blaming and shaming than I was – just a little!
    Christine

  • Gary

    Yes very cyclical and enslaving. I remember as a teenager being taught in church that masturbation was a sin. Of course the cycle of trying to please God by abstaining and then giving in to the urges and then the shame of failing and vowing to do better. Of course I was also mad at God for giving me these urges that were so impossible to resist in the first place if they were a sin. We were taught it was a test of our faith and loyalty to God. Viewing any kind of nude images was also a thing of deep shame…though the female body was a wonder to behold and so naturally appealing to me. But it represented yet again an area where the healthy God given desires were twisted into a thing of shame and guilt by my church and distorted my view of God as loving at all. Frankly, though I never would allow myself to verbalize it, I always felt like God was kind of a jerk for making me this way.

    A lot of years had to pass before I recognized that shame as a means of control is so destructive.

  • Gary

    Christine, are you sure you are not confusing a normal feeling of conscience induced guilt (a good thing normally) with the abusive process of using shame as a means of control?

  • Christine QuinnJones

    Hi Gary,
    What’s mainly on my heart is ‘Father ,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ – my rationale for this being that if they did know they would not do it! And that is my ‘default position’ with everyone, including myself!
    Christine

  • http://yaholo.net/ Yaholo

    I would agree that many congregations operate under the same psychological conditions as an “Abused Spouse Syndrome”. In other words, they feel they are dependent on the relationship (church) for value. In fact, many people who suffer from emotional disorders have to leave their churches in order to heal.

    When a church says “We are glad you are here, we are better with you” they form a healthy and supportive community. When a church says “You need us, you are worse without us” they might as well be a cult.

  • Al Cruise

    Unfortunately these leaders also think none of these things apply to them. I challenge everyone to start to stand up against this false teaching,

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    You pretty much gave the operational definition of religion.
    The details change from faith to faith, but this seems to be a common denominator among most religions. There are some exceptions but Christianity is unfortunately not typically an exception (although some individual Christians are).

  • Cecilia Davidson

    In a Buddhist sense, it’s near impossible to break free of this very cycle, but it never hurts to try.

  • Shawn Spjut

    Fear, guilt, shame. They are the cyclic doctrines of so much of what we call ‘Christianity’ today and for the last …long long time. Yet Jesus never used any of those tactics nor did he spotlight peoples hidden issues. He simply demonstrated love, honor and respect on every stratosphere of life and if people (like Zacchaeus) had a problem, it corrected itself. I think it’s interesting that one of the first issues of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was shame (I was naked), yet the Father’s response was redemptive (Who told you that you were naked?) not condemning. Abba didn’t have a problem with nakedness…Adam did. Probably didn’t have a problem with masturbation either.

  • Sandra

    Or in christianese:
    1. man’s natural inability to perfectly righteous
    2. conviction by “the Holy Spirit” (aka, a book or preacher or more righteous peer)
    3. revelation of God’s work in your life (aka, a book or preacher or your own self-talk) so in “gratitude” you work even harder to be perfectly righteous
    4. realization that you “failed God” again (aka, you’re still human)

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    That’s perfect Sandra. Thanks! :)

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Never thought of that but it is Buddhist-ish

  • Sandra

    you’re welcome. I have found that many Christians can’t recognize themselves in these sorts of scenarios because the language we on the outside use is secular or psychological and they don’t associate such terms with themselves. But when you can reframe the concepts in the language they are used to hearing, all of a sudden, they start to go “oh, wow, hmmm…oh, my!”

  • Raymond Watchman

    Pastor (haranguing from pulpit): You’re all a bunch of depraved sinners and you’re all condemned to the eternally tormenting flames of hell where there will be a terrible wailing and gnashing of teeth!!

    Elderly voice from congregation: But pastor, I don’t hab any teef…..

    Pastor (thumping pulpit, raging): Teeth will f***ing’well be provided!!

  • JenellYB

    John Bradshaw deals with this in his books such as healing the shame that bins you, the patterns of abuse that runs through some religious traditions and gets integrated into family interactions. I’ve experienced being in severely abusive relationships, and have also participated in some abuse recovery counseling settings. So much of the abuse language and behaviors common in some religious traditions and churches is exactly the same as in relationships of domestic, partner, and child abuse situations. Within such churches and religious community, the ‘you are unworthy of god’s love but he love you anyway if you will grovel enough but you are never going to grovel enough to please him etc etc etc actually get’s casts as “God= I, we, the church. And endless cycle of you can’t possibly be worthy of God’s (my, our) approval but God (I, we) are willing to give you another chance because He (I,we) love you so much but you are still going to fail and never be good enough….. and its a cycle that just goes on and on. As I read someone observe of such an environment once, it always about “disapproval,” you’ve disappointed God/me/us and God/I/we demand you try harder and…. All about disapproval, and ever an elusive carrot on stick held out there they you’ve got to reach for (approval, acceptance of worthiness) but can never be allowed to quite reach. It often involve such a generalized atmosphere of disapproval, disappointment in you as a failure, and a corresponding expectation you keep seeking to please, meet approval, even when there is no specific thing one has done, or about oneself, that one might know it is even about.

  • sanctusivo

    The Richie Incognito model for church growth.

  • JenellYB

    I think that’s a very good observation and question to ask, Gary. I know that I have had to struggle, myself, with coming to real understanding of, and how to deal with shame, which is imposed from an external source, and remorse, which is seems to arise internally, from somewhere within my own self, my own mind, in response to recognition of hurt or harm something I’ve done has or may have caused.
    Shame is imposed from an external source, usually what we’d consider feeling blamed, accused, judged unworthy, disapproved by others, which may actually be true, or it may be we just believe it to be true (Adam and Eve trying to hide their nakedness from God). Shame seems, to me, akin to embarrassment, but maybe experienced more deeply, and with a sense it matters more than mere embarrassment, in how others see us. Shame can be felt, too, when we perceive something about ourselves we are uncomfortable about is exposed, for others to see.
    Remorse, however, seems to arise from within, as one ‘judges’ one’s own self, one’s own actions, according to real or perceived consequences of those actions. It isn’t about concern others will see it, or know about it, it is that WE see it, know about it. To me, this is where in the true spiritual sense, “repentance” begins.
    And “guilt’ it seems to me, is simply fear of the potential for negative consequences, whether for something may be shamed for, or feel remorse over.

  • Anthony

    umm… masturbation is a sin. it is a distortion of the truth of the sexual unity between man and woman. it’s not about guilt so it can’t be seen in that light. it is a lack of truth, that women are not objects for sexual pleasure, but are full human beings, it is a lack of justice, because you take the pleasure ordained for marriage and use it for yourself. the list goes on.

    Yes the body is beautiful, but only when see in the light of truth, which is Jesus Christ. to quote the great man ‘anyone who looks at a woman lustfully, has committed adultery already in his heart’

    if the Truth of Jesus is not true, that what is?

  • Gary

    What a complete crock of shit!!! Sorry to be so blunt (not really) but your perversion of truth is something I am no longer willing to tolerate without speaking up. You have ZERO basis for your declarations from either the bible or from any of the social or physiological sciences. You are merely a shame monger with nothing but your own empty declarations to stand on.

  • Elizabeth Faith

    Brilliant!

  • Rebecca

    Completely agree with you Gary and appalled at Anthony’s post. And thank you for sharing your post! Both of them!

  • Mark

    You may be onto something here. It has taken me awhile to see your point on the “Pastor Steepeck” thing; but, I’m finally coming around. Encouraging people to take care of each other is totally different than shaming them into it.

  • PeaceLove07

    Thank you for putting into words what I have felt in church all my life. This is one major reason my family and I don’t attend church; and why most Christian music sucks!

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    A cult is a small group of people that blindly follow a leader. A religion is a large group of people that blindly follow a leader. In either case, the following can be either based on good or bad psychological principles.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    Yes! :)

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    hehehe

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    It’s inherent in the religion itself.

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    And here comes the toxic shame brigade …

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    Like I said … It’s inherent in the religion itself. It’s not a product of bad churches. It’s churches that are the product of a bad religion.

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    Or they go “ohhhhh” with that look on their faces like they’ve discovered the demon lurking under the rock …. like “oh how clever is Satan to try to get me THAT way.”

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    I personally have only witnessed it as a component of morally-obsessed, toxic monotheisms, but you’re right, it is inherent in the religion itself. Especially and most particularly the religion known as “Christianity”, and above all, the “religion called a personal relationship.”

  • Moriah Conquering Wind

    Except in cases where shame-based toxic programming has taken ahold of the mind and heart. This is what I refer to as “conscience molestation”. The conscience can be afflicted (made sick or unhealthy) just like any other part of the human being and in this case, what happens is that the external shame cycle becomes interiorized. And often it becomes interiorized at the level where the individual experiences its haranguing AS the voice of “god” or “holy spirit”. That is the end result of spiritual abuse, and as I’ve said nearly a half dozen places on this thread, it is inherent in the religion itself. Human beings outside your head don’t even need to turn up for the process to be set in motion — all they need do is continue to perpetuate the same toxic memes and dogmas where the garbage originates as “absolute truth”.

  • Gary

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more Moriah!! What you refer to is why I said “normally” when referring to the conscience being a good thing. When it has been damaged we will struggle to know the difference between proper remorse/guilt and what is merely the result of fundamental bullshit.

  • Commander_Adnama

    It takes a really long time to stop thinking it’s the devil trying to get you. Especially when your whole church family thinks that when you are finally able to walk away. :/

  • Commander_Adnama

    I was/am emotionally abused by my mother and so I was well trained for this cycle.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    It is indeed built into Christian theology that we all are broken, fallen people and need outside help to become whole and saved. Then it is enevitable that church will become the stand-in for “the outside agent that makes one whole/saved”. The cycle that David speaks of fits Christianity like a glove.

  • Oswald Carnes

    A cult is a group of people who blindly follow a leader who knows he’s peddling bullshit. In a religion, that leader is dead. Can’t remember where I saw that, but it sounds right to me.

  • Melody

    I like your thoughts on guilt and shame. My mom and I used to call it the You-have-to-sermons. You have to reach the world with God’s message, you have to live like this, you have to do that. It always made me feel so inadequate and bad and a loser etc. The amount of pressure to be some sort of super person has been a struggle and one I soon resented. Yet it seems to be a ongoing thing and as I’ve been distancing myself from all that it’s become clearer and clearer to me that so many people, myself included also in other matters than religious ones, keep on living that pattern. It is really depressing and a perfect recipe to drive yourself and others insane. As for the whole we need to reach the world, I think that God is perfectly capable of doing that without us, sure we could help, but we don’t need to. It’s not like God cannot do anything without our assistance or approval. It sometimes sounds as though God needs us more than we need God which can be a bit irksome.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    “you have to be” sermons. i like that.

  • jimfromcanada

    Falling short of one’s own and other’s expectations is a part of being human, and sometimes guilt is a part of that. How one finds one’s way past that guilt to acceptance and empowerment depends upon the culture. The Christian faith provides one approach, but it does not involve shaming.

  • Gary

    At least it shouldn’t involve shaming. But sadly, I’ve yet to encounter a church that does not rely heavily on shame tactics.

  • Sven2547

    Yes the body is beautiful, but only when see in the light of truth, which is Jesus Christ.

    Can non-Christians experience beauty, sexual truth, and bodily wholeness?

  • Noon Naaamee

    ^ I just want to point out, there’s a term for this. It’s called “loading the language,” and is a well-known thought reform (brainwashing) technique.

  • Prizm

    As “Sandra” commented below, the foundation for this cycle is inherent in Christianity anyway. You are a lost sinner, you’re bound for a devil’s hell, your righteousness is like filthy rags, nothing you do is good enough unless you keep asking Me for forgiveness, you’re not worthy, ‘be holy for I am holy’ even though your human nature forever prevents you from being holy.
    I understand that the message of grace help alleviate some of these guilt trips, but they are still an underlying factor. Even if a Christian believes they are saved, they are still constantly trying to please God: “If only I can be holier than maybe I’ll be closer to God, maybe he’ll hear more of my prayers, maybe I’m going through this trial because of my sin, if only I can stop this sin then I’ll have victory in my life….. oh no I screwed up again, oh God I repent, I’m sorry, forgive me….”

  • James

    Alternatively, the “self help book title” definition – “I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK (but that’s OK)”

  • Gary

    I find it ironic…and very revealing…that so many of those who defend the use of shame use it so heavily in their arguments. They literally seek to SHAME those who disagree by characterizing them as only seeking to serve self, or to merely avoid facing the truth, or as elevating themselves above God, etc. In their mind it is not possible to disagree with them unless there are selfish motives in play, hence we SHOULD be ashamed of ourselves and repent and be cleansed of our haughty/selfish/sinful spirit. This same prevailing attitude comes out strongly so often when discussing or debating anything with fundamentalists. Any disagreement with them often results in character attacks because they see the disagreement as a character flaw rather than an honest belief. Then of course they launch into their personal attacks designed to shame their opponent into submission. It is a game plan they have been taught their entire lives and they know no other way.

  • Dan Sealana

    You DO realize that you used abusive, shame language while trying to rebuke someone for supposedly using shame language, right?

  • mrichardson84

    Wow. What an idiot. Get your head out of your ass.

  • Gary

    Bullshit. (NOT an abusive term BTW)

    Shaming someone is to attribute their actions/beliefs to a lack of character when it is not warranted. I.E. – Telling me that I take that which is ordained for marriage and use it for myself because I apparently view women as merely objects for sexual pleasure is not only arrogantly presumptuous…it is 100% false as well. Accusing me of shaming for standing up to the one who shames is like telling the one who stands up to racial prejudice that they are racists because they confront it, as if confronting oppression is the same as the oppression which is being confronted. This is an absurd position, just as is the view that masturbation is an inherently sinful act. What he chooses to engage in or not to engage in is perfectly fine. It is when he begins to tell others they are “sinful” for disagreeing with him that the real abuse begins.

    I let Anthony know that his personal views have no claim of authority behind them, and that to attack the character of others based on his personal opinion is shame mongering. I have been under the thumb of shame mongers for years and spent a lot of time being one myself. On this forum just in the last month alone I have been told that I believe I am above god, that I am a follower of Satan, That I have been condemned by Jesus and the apostles, that I am only out to serve myself, that I am literally bound for Hell etc., all because I have a belief that is different from the fundies I was discussing them with. (A belief that is shared by the majority of the Christian church BTW)

    It is ugly…it is abusive…it is wrong. To put not too fine a point on it…it is a “complete crock of shit”.
    (Still not a form of shaming language)

  • Anthony

    I’m noticing that everyone is bad mouthing the other, but no ones addressed the issue that was stated. So why isn’t masturbation a sin?
    Am I wrong to say love is sacrificial and self giving rather than self gratifying? Which is why Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice, correct? If so, which category does masturbation fall into? Is it an act of love?

  • Anthony

    Another question. Why would you feel a sense of shame for something you know is right? That never happens to me, if it does there’s a reason. And that reason is usually my conscience telling me i got it wrong. I hope everyone here listens to theirs. If we don’t than thank God we have the sacraments :)

  • Gary

    I don’t. Hmm…seems like you would have realized I left the FALSE shame behind me when I realized it was based on a lie. Perhaps you have not understood the whole point of the discussion…using shames as a weapon. Just like you tried to do…shame me into accepting your personal views as God’s truth. I don’t, because they are not.

  • Gary

    There are some comments that simply are not worth the effort. You coming into a forum like this, and making some ridiculous declaration such as “masturbation is a sin”, does not then require that I expend a lot of time and energy arguing with your nonsense.

  • Anthony

    No my intention was never to shame. Seems that is orgainically from you. Again you haven’t answered my question. I hope you find the answer in God

  • Anthony

    You spend time arguing everything but the difficult question. That’s up to you. Maybe you don’t need to answer the question to me, but I do hope you answer it.

  • Gary

    Now see here’s the thing. I have answered the question. Your blind arrogance in believing that the only real answer is one which agrees with YOUR view is really cute.

  • Gary

    Of course it was. You may not like to call it that…but it most certainly was meant to shame. It is totally encompassed in your original attack of my post. And now your silly posturing of concern for my well being is classic passive aggressive bullshit. I won’t play those ridiculous games with you. I know what I believe. (Or rather more what I DON”T believe) It was hard fought for and is very much the right belief for me. And you need to beef up your reading skills if you believe I have not answered your question. My answer was I do NOT feel a sense of shame. What shame I used to feel was the result of abusive social conditioning, not the voice of God.

    Truthfully I find it hard to believe there are still your kind running around proclaiming ignorant bullshit like masturbation is a sin. And it is even more difficult to understand what would draw you to a group like this. LOL

  • Eric Martin

    I totally agree with you about the cyclicals shame pattern, and about your article on Steepek’s Church. I really thinks that the Church needs to freed itselft from that.

    But I don’t thinks that spiritual leaders in general use that as a motivation to enslave people. I’m pretty sure that the internal motive of nearly every pastor, even the more controlling ,is to do their best to serve God and try to help people. I think that it’s a human instinct, a religious instinct, when we don’t understand and really believe in grace and in the goodness of people to use fear, shame and guilt to motivate people to do good.

    I sometime see parents using these tools with their child and it’s not to enslave them. They really love them. It’s just that they don’t know better.

    I also think that it’s a good idea to quit a church if we’re spiritually abused or if the church act more like a sect. But I believe that only love can change a person attitude. If we’re full of bitterness and judgement against pastors in general, and if we use the same tool, shame, against them, this will only result in more division, bitterness and hatress.

  • Dan Sealana

    It is quite sad that one cannot engage a controversial subject in a “progressive” Christian website just being insulted, isn’t it? Unfortunately, you’ll learn that many “progressive” Christians can be just as “closed-minded” and “judgmental” as the fundamentalists they eschew.

    As another Patheos Progressive Christian writer says, “It doesn’t matter which side of the [fundamentalist] lake you’re swimming in– it’s the same damn lake. Just different sides.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Hmmm… What is worst? Telling someone to fuck-off or a theology that says that great swaths of humanity (most people actually) are damned and are going to hell – and all the political, social, and psychological ramifications of that theology in the world of dividing people into “us” and “them” – and the “them” are not worthy of being in God’s presence in the afterlife and therefore not worthy in this life either…

  • Gary

    Yes…keep preaching it. The ones being insulted and shamed are just as guilty for standing up to the abusers. Your nonsense will not “shame” anyone here no matter how many times you repeat it. Go back an review and you’ll see that Anthony was the one who came into a conversation and sought to bring shame on me by characterizing my view in a purely selfish context. (And using a badly distorted view of scripture at that) And your attacks are laced with arrogant condescension. I am so not swayed by your bullshit anymore, and I am thankful.

  • Mandy L

    That’s an observation I think many young males struggle with – what is healthy and what isn’t in sexual desire, and what does God approve of? I think a simple answer (not that simple is the best, but just a starting thought I’m contributing) is what is Scripture clear on as related to New Testament period believers? I think a good question is what you think about when you masturbate as a starting point. Some people disapprove of masturbation because they see it as a perversion of sex, but there are others that see having sex as bad unless someone is trying to procreate – seeing those who have sex with their spouses for fun as perverting the purpose of sex. Same thing about nude images – all bad, or is value dependent on the type of image? I agree the way people relate to all nudity and sexual topics is a revelation of the makeup of their sexuality. It’s an important dialogue taking place today, and worth the effort. I don’t think it’s a reason to not be civil, though. I think not being able to look at ANY nude images, including those made to reveal beauty (not porn) without having a knee jerk sexual response is a sign of illness in someone’s sexuality, because above all things, people are a soul and they HAVE a body. I think the body is beautiful – period. There are many cultures in the world with different ideas of how to dress, what is polite, etc., and I think in the end it comes down to the individual and the heart. I think too much concern about modesty and so on is a form of preoccupation in itself that keeps us from enjoying what God has created all around us to enjoy – His love letter to humanity and evidence of His glory.

  • Gary

    Yes Mandy I agree, it is a struggle for many young Christian males and especially for ones raised in a fundamental evangelical setting like I was where ALL sexual thought is considered sinful. It truly creates a no win situation when our bodies are flooded with hormones and sexual thought is as automatic as breathing. There is a lot to be said for sexual responsibility and teens are certainly not always emotionally mature enough to make wise choices. But I do not believe that necessitates an all or nothing approach to sexuality. (Nor do I believe the bible promotes such a view)

    However I must disagree with your “simple answer” approach to simply following what the bible is clear on. The reason I reject it is because I know (after extensive study) that the bible is NOT clear on any single sexual ethic. It is seeking to find simple “rules” in the bible that has lead to much abuse of scripture and very destructive beliefs. (I.E. – Masturbation is sinful) Even the Jesus quote Anthony posted, upon further analysis does not mean that if a man looks at a woman and has a natural sexual thought he has committed adultery. This is of course the only way fundamentalists ever interpret the scripture…but to do so represents eisegesis rather than exegesis. (Reading into scripture rather than learning from) Lust is a very specific term that does not mean sexual thought or even desire. Hence interpreting this passage the way many Christians do creates a scenario that makes us sinful by design. (God’s design) This is a view I reject both philosophically and because I know it is not supported in scripture. This of course leads to the belief that viewing any type of pornographic imagery is inherently sinful. The entire premise is based upon a false understanding of scriptural intent. Even the fundamental notion that all sexual contact is reserved exclusively for marriage is based upon eisegesis. It is simply not a biblically defensible view IMHO.

    When I was struggling with my fundamental beliefs, for a long time it was very important to me to maintain scriptural authority for my changing views. Because of this I spent many hours reading and pouring over scripture and reading books from varying viewpoints to seek to find out just what God really felt about this subject. (And many others.) And I came to understand that the typical “Christian sexual ethic” was not biblical while I still believed in absolute scriptural authority. However I have since come to realize that the bible is a product of men (perhaps at times inspired) and as such represents as much man’s struggle to understand God as it does God’s revelation to man. In other words…it is not perfect nor is everything in it simply to be blindly accepted and followed. At this point the Anthony’s of the world will write me off as an apostate heretic who is bound for hell. Their view allows no other conclusion than to believe I am lost. Personal attacks become the norm because they conclude that it must be arrogance, or pride, or selfishness in my life as these are the only reasons one has for rejecting scripture. Warnings of eternal punishment soon follow as they throw their boogeyman understanding of god around. Productive communication becomes impossible. Eventually I just tell them to fuck off and move on.

    I am still a follower of Jesus, if not the typical Jesus most of religion promotes. I do believe there are core truths in His teaching that are eternal and the chief truth I seek to use as my guiding principle in life is summed up in the law of love. If my actions are not harmful to others (or perhaps even myself) then I believe this is my standard. Not some book (which I still love BTW) which has a lot of man’s opinion in it.

  • Mandy L

    I think you misunderstood about my “simple answer.” It wasn’t my whole point. Instead, I was clear that I was aware that simple isn’t the best, and that it was just a starting point for what I was saying which is why I continued on by trying to elaborate more. You might note my comment about NT believers while asking the rhetorical question about what is Scripture clear about for NT believers (some definite doctrinal differences for a fulfilled system in which prior to Jesus strict observation of Halakah was required, not a matter of the heart alone). I think my full answer explains what I was trying to say. Taken as a whole, I think it makes more sense.
    I agree with reading commentaries with a grain of salt. Today, Christians treat commentaries the way regular people in Jesus time treated the commentaries in their time – with about the same regard as they gave to the Scriptures themselves. One difference is that today’s commentaries hold very little knowledge of Torah culture and even the Jewish dialogue going on in the New Testament and although they have a lot of knowledge, it is diluted by a full cultural engagement which leaves a lot out with a very gentile understanding of Scripture.
    If you haven’t already, I encourage you to also take a look at the David Stern “Complete Jewish Bible.” No version is perfect, but I think study with multiple versions helps with a better understanding. It keeps people from getting lazy and picking pet ideas out and leaving the rest behind, especially when thy rarely bother to fully study and understand the foundations and intricacies of Jewish life which greatly affect anyone’s understanding of Scripture.
    I also agree that people can’t be selective with what sins God does and doesn’t notice. Everyone has their own failings. It bugs me too, seeing one believer jump on another believer for something while their own problems are obvious – such as one believer rudely affronting a gay person while balancing their huge girth over two very burdened feet. Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins, so apparently something God wanted us to pay attention to so that we could live healthier lives and enjoy the earth He created for us.

  • Gary

    Yes thanks for the clarification to your “simple answer” comments. It helps to understand where you’re coming from better.

    As for my reaction to it, my background and my struggle with and emergence from fundamental evangelicalism definitely influences my views on seeking to find truth in scripture. I was raised to believe in biblical inerrancy and taught and preached it myself. Out of the 20+ years I spent teaching the bible to adults, probably at least 18+ of them were with the mindset that absolute truth is there and we can find it if we search “correctly”. Of course my attempts to correctly search for truth over the years lead to more and more unanswered questions. that is to say unanswered in my mind…because it was easy to find “answers” to all of them in fundamental circles among various scholars who often deeply disagreed with each other. I even have to take exception (not angrily mind you) to your points concerning what “sins” God does and doesn’t notice. I am convinced that no action is inherently sinful in and of itself. I personally do not believe homosexual sex is any more or less sinful than heterosexual sex. It all depends on the individual circumstance.

    I still believe there is much wisdom in the bible, and even much content which is there by inspiration. But I have totally come to reject the view that the bible is inerrant or infallible. As such I am slow to seek a whole new method of studying it in the hopes of finding the “truth”. I do believe that there is one truth that is self evident and has found its way into every religion and philosophy in some fashion, and that is the law of love. Jesus apparently recognized this when He stated that if we keep this one law we have kept it all. I do not believe any “truth” I may uncover in the scripture through any method would change this or serve me better in my life’s choices.

    I still read and study the bible, though admittedly it is now more for the purpose of throwing chaos into the rigid conclusions so often promoted by what I refer to as fundagelicals.

  • http://www.joshflynn.com jbflynn

    Didn’t confuse me one bit. Nice try though.

  • Gary

    What…are you going to become a stalker now too?

    Seriously dude…don’t make this creepy as well. You need to get over yourself, my FUCK OFF to you also applies to when you stalk me and attack me (for no apparent purpose other than to simply attack) in a conversation with another individual. It is arrogant pricks like you that helped me to know I needed to leave the church. You make a total mockery of the faith.

  • http://www.joshflynn.com jbflynn

    Sorry for the intrusion into your world. Let me know if you really want to have a conversation about truth in the future. I would suggest re-reading “Confessions” by Saint Augustine and maybe we can have a civil conversation about that work.

  • Gary

    No seriously…just FUCK OFF. I have no interest in having any kind of conversation with you.


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