L.B.: Other People

Left Behind, pp. 123-126

Somewhere near where you live is a restaurant you've probably never eaten at. It's heyday was decades ago, before the original owner sold the place. The subsequent owners have preserved the decor, the menu, the name — but they all seem to be lacking whatever it was that originally made them special. The place endures, though. The location is great, and tt's still kind of an institution in the neighborhood. People still have banquets and weddings there because that's where people in the neighborhood go for that kind of thing. But unless it's for a banquet or a wedding, nobody under 60 ever seems to set foot in the place. And, like much of its graying clientele, the restaurant seems to be on its last legs.

Somewhere near where you live is a church that's just like that restaurant.

I've visited churches like that. And I've been to churches that seemed spiritually comatose, places that, as St. Paul wrote, hold to the outward form of godliness, but deny its power. But I've never seen one that was totally dead. Try as we might to deny it, those outward forms still have a power of their own. And while the hearth of these churches may have grown cold and dark, some members still carry a spark or a flame. And the place still usually carries some residual warmth from generations past, or from the Korean or Haitian congregation that rents out the fellowship hall in the afternoons.

I've certainly never seen any church in real life that fits LaHaye and Jenkins' description of the House of the Dead that Rayford Steele and his family attended before Irene switched to the End-Times-obsessed New Hope Village Church.

In thumbing through his dead/raptured wife's Bible, Rayford comes across the inscription he had written in the front:

He had given the Bible to Irene on their first wedding anniversary. How could he have forgotten, and what had he been thinking? She was no more devout than he was back then, but she had talked about wanting to get serious about church attendance before the children came along. He had been angling for something or trying to impress her. … Maybe he was hoping she would let him off the hook and go to church by herself if he proved his spiritual sensitivity with this gift.

This is an odd detail, but one that rings strangely true — just not for the reasons that Rayford/L&J describe here. Yes, the first is the "paper anniversary" — so giving Irene a book as part of his present makes sense. But a Bible? Not a terribly romantic gift for newlyweds.

It fits, though, with the Madonna/Whore Complex that Rayford shares with his creators. He couldn't sully the pure and chaste Irene with a nice edition of the Kama Sutra or even something like Sonnets from the Portuguese. Those are the sorts of dirty pretty things Rayford would give to his mistress, not to his wife. So he gives her a Bible for their anniversary, and he has dinner alone with pretty young flight attendants when he travels, and he doesn't consider it really cheating if he has a "necking session" with some other woman.

Eventually, the Steeles did being attending a church, one that seemed to be little more than a restaurant in a good location:

For years he had tolerated church. They had gone to one that demanded little and offered a lot. They made many friends and had found their doctor, dentist, insurance man and even country club entree in that church. Rayford was revered, proudly introduced as a 747 captain to newcomers and guests, and even served on the church board for several years.

No, he didn't. This just isn't possible. Attending even a culture-bound, bourgeois, country-club church would have meant attaining a familiarity with at least the "outward form" of Christianity. It's possible for Rayford to have attended such a church and to have served on its board as a hypocrite who didn't really believe any of it. But to be a hypocrite he would have had to pretend to be something he was not. Pretending to be a "revered," prominent member of the church board would have required Rayford to learn to fake the local language and customs. He would have been asked to pray in public (probably in stilted, King James language).

He couldn't have done all that for years and still be baffled by a simple benediction like, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen." L&J describe Rayford as mystified by this basic outward form of godliness. But if he had really attended such a church and served on its board, he would surely have had to utter these very words himself, in public, with an air of devotion. He cannot be both a naif and a hypocrite.

It's also curious that this church, which L&J present as spiritually dead, still manages to draw "newcomers and guests." The reason they take such pains to describe this hypocritical, dead church is to contrast it with the vibrant, genuine faith of New Hope Village. This is in keeping with one of the book's central themes: playing God by separating the wheat from the tares; declaring who is and who isn't going to be "left behind" and therefore who is and isn't a Real True Christian.

When Irene discovered the Christian radio station and what she called "real preaching and teaching," she grew disenchanted with their church and began searching for a new one. … She found one, and he tried it occasionally, but it was a little too literal and personal and challenging for him. He was not revered. He felt like a project. And he pretty much stayed away. …

Irene's new church was interested in the salvation of souls, something he'd never heard in the previous church.

Rayford finds last week's bulletin from this church in Irene's Bible: "He pulled the bulletin from Irene's Bible and circled the phone number. Later that day, after he checked in with Pan-Continental, he would call the church office."

This contrast of the two churches — old and new, false and true — was probably suggested by the passage from St. Paul quoted above.

This passage is a favorite of "last days" obsessed folks like L&J because it comes from a section, 2 Timothy chapter 3, that begins "You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come." They like to quote from the conclusion of this little rant, in which Paul describes the false believers of the last days as "… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power." But they tend to skip over the rest of the rant. That first verse is just Paul taking a deep breath before letting loose with this:

For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!

Gee, Paul, don't hold back so much. Tell us how you really feel.

Paul lets loose like this several times in the Bible. Guy had a temper. Apart from dismissing such breathless rants outright, there are two ways you can read them. The first is to realize that there's something here for everyone. I'm not inclined to be an unholy, abusive, treacherous brute, but there's plenty of other stuff in that list that hits me pretty close to home.

The other option is to read such tirades as wholly directed at Other People. Judgement is never for Us, only for Them. This is one of the main points of LB and indeed of the entire pseudotheological framework of premillennial dispensationalism on which it is based.

This approach — judgement for Thee but not for Me — also helps to account for the current antigay mania of American evangelicalism. In a couple of Paul's other rants, he includes "sodomites" in his bestiaries of badness. Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, the dubious assumption that Paul misunderstood the story of Sodom, and therefore used this as a synonym for "homosexuals," it doesn't follow that "homosexuals are bad" is the main lesson that heterosexuals should be gleaning from such passages. But if you read such passages looking for any excuse to exempt yourself from the apostle's condemnation, this offers an ideal escape hatch. Preaching against self-love, ingratitude, love of money or love of pleasure can be a two-edged sword. But if you're heterosexual, and you're preaching against homosexuality, then you're safe. You've found the ideal target for self-exempting, self-justifying self-righteousness.

Judgment is for Other People.

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  • illegitimi

    It’s probably relevant, when talking about what Paul may or may not have thought about “sodomites”, to note that many critical NT scholars (90%, according to one prominent Catholic scholar) think that Paul didn’t actually write 2 Timothy in the first place. Among other reasons, it wasn’t included in Marcion’s early list of canonical epistles (140 AD), is written in a different style using a different vocabulary from the epistles generally considered authentic (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans), and assumes a degree of church organization that fits a second-century date much better than Paul’s lifetime.
    It could be argued that the very nature of this “breathless rant” is not what you would expect from an author who in other letters reveals himself to be a subtle thinker capable of graceful prose.
    (Detailed arguments against Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy and the other Pastorals are here and here.)

  • cjmr

    re: introducing as a 747 pilot
    If Irene and Ray tithed, introducing him as a 747 pilot could have been a way indicating that they were big donors and therefore important without actually mentioning money.

  • bunny

    blaze said,”Revelations (which, after all, was a dream of the apostle John)”
    I thought most people agreed that it was a different John that wrote Revelations. I’m not an expert, but I’d be happy to hear from one on this subject.

  • Keith

    It may be geographical. But I grew up around the Navy and the kids all thought the fighter pilots were cool but generally, the adults treated them like they were just regular Joes. Also, I have cousins who are airline pilots and at family get togetehrs, all I hear about it is questions form their mother about when are they going to be in town next so she can come and visit her grandchildren.
    Perhaps in the jet-setting days of yore, Pilots of 747s were treated as somethign special but this is the whizbang future we’r eliving in so flying for a living is just seen as another ho hum job.

  • WatchfulBabbler

    The “747 pilot” reminds me of having to explain why the protagonist of “Catch Me If You Can” chose to impersonate a United pilot. Yes, kids, airline pilots really were held in high esteem, back in the day when the term “jet set” denoted an upper class capable of flying all over the world, rather than the jet-lagged, stressed-out, business class yobs of today. But to suggest that pilots are today considered anything more than the six-figure equivalent of a bus driver in social circles doesn’t just date L&J, it says that they haven’t paid attention to any changes in American society since the early 1970s. (Though, if I recall, LaHaye went to ground about that time, so maybe that’s your answer.)

  • Chris

    The original Bible, presumably in this context you mean either the Torah (the first five books) or the Tanakh (essentially the “Old Testament”). The Sodom story along with the rest of the Torah and most of the Tanakh, including Ezekiel, were mainly edited in Babylon during the Exile. Later books of the Tanakh (Ezra, Nehemaih, and later prophets) were written in Israel after the Exile. There really isn’t much Greek influence except for some very late books, and in general the Jews writting during the Hellenistic Era despised the Greeks.
    The sin against hospitality is a pretty common one throughout ancient and classical societies simply because it was one of the few ways to insure protection in foreign lands. It remains pretty common throughout nomadic societies even today.

  • Bryant

    First of all these articles are a weekly highlight for me.
    Secondly you are 100% about what you say at the end, about how some deal with Homosexuality, and why they prefer talking about that compared to say Heterosexual Fornication. Or, even worse, selfishness and greed.

  • dogfonam

    Talk, talk, talk, talk, maybe its time to start living as Jesus has taught us.
    Take all the bs from the bible an toss it and take what Jesus said and live it.
    You don’t need examples or stories to tell you how to live just take Jesus’s words and let your heart be your guide. If we are willing to become a living breathing deciple of Jesus then He will guide you through eternity and the world will become (little by little) a heaven on earth.
    Greed is the single most devestating trait of mankind & it must be “Left Behind” (and you thought quitting smoking was going to be hard).

  • dogfonam

    Sorry for the bad spelling in the previous post.
    Talk, talk, talk, talk, maybe its time to start living as Jesus has taught us.
    Take all the bs from the bible an toss it and take what Jesus said and live it.
    You don’t need examples or stories to tell you how to live just take Jesus’s words and let your heart be your guide. If we are willing to become a living breathing disciple of Jesus then He will guide you through eternity and the world will become (little by little) a heaven on earth.
    Greed is the single most devastating trait of mankind & it must be “Left Behind”.

  • Doctor Science

    Re: the story of Lot. No, the Bible does not directly condemn or critique Lot for offering his daughters to the mob, but I’m sure it was always meant to be shocking, at the very least an indicator of how extremely important guest-courtesy is.
    Don’t forget, too, that the story of Lot continues, and that at the end of Chap.19 these same two daughters get him drunk and have sex with him, fearing that otherwise the human race will die out. Jonathan Alter, in his new translation of The Five Books of Moses, points out that this “suggests measure-for-measure justice meted out for his rash offer”.
    I don’t know what the traditional Jewish glosses on this section state, but it reads to me as one of those Bible stories that are so old that all the identifying marks have rubbed off, as it were, so that every passage is ambiguous. Are we meant to think of Lot as righteous, or as careless of his womenfolk? Are we expected to shudder when his daughters commit incest, or laugh at them and their descendents, those no-account Moabites and Ammonites? Or are we supposed to remember that King David himself was descended from Ruth, a Moabite?
    My personal feeling is that if the Bible was truly as simple, straightforward, clear, and unambiguous as Fundamentalism asserts, it wouldn’t still be worth reading thousands of years later. What comes most clearly to me in this story across the huge gap of time and culture is Lot’s personality, striving to do the right thing even though he himself seems rather fearful and uncertain, making mistakes along the way. But I may be doing most of the work of filling in the gaps in the story, making up a person I can understand out of the few shreds that are all we have left.
    To get back to LB — notice how much more ambiguous and flawed Lot is than any of the Raptured L&J describe; and yet, he is saved. Part of the point of this chapter of Genesis, after all, is that God has really low standards for salvation — he’ll meet any city more than halfway. And that should remind us of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh and how he loses his temper with God and his gol-darn mercy, which in that case extends even to cattle.

  • dogfonam

    So much of the New Testament has been wrongly interpreted and changed to facilitate the churches power over the masses by perpetuating false myths of divinity.
    Read “Bloodline of the Holy Grail” to begin the opening of your eyes and ears. Seek truth for knowledge. Seek knowledge for truth.

  • Martin

    Ok, so my memory ain’t quite what it was regarding some of the particulars. I don’t particulary “get” the hospitality argument, but maybe I’m just being dense. It’s happened before. The point I was trying to make was that modern day usage of the term “sodomy” is derived (rightly or wrongly) from Sodom. You argue that it’s about hospitality and generic rape, but no one seems to argue that the denizens of Sodom weren’t inclined to sodomize Lot’s guests.
    As far as the bible’s OT position on homosexuality, I don’t think it’s terribly ambiguous.
    Here’s a couple of fairly straightforward verses:
    Lev 18:22
    22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. (KJV)
    Lev 20:13
    13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (KJV)
    Now, where I think lots of folk go wrong is attributing a “worseness” factor to one particular flavor of sin. Basically, sin is sin. It’s hard for us to grasp this, because we want to measure things by degrees. God doesn’t. Sin is sin. Just because we may find one sin more repellent than an another doesn’t make one more heinous than the other. In God’s eyes they’re the same. It’s pretty inconvenient to realize that the lie you told your boss this morning is pretty much on equal par with a Ted Bundy murder … in the eternal scheme of things, anyway. This does not preclude man from setting different penalties for different “sins”.

  • paperwight

    Ah, yes, the Leviticus quotes on which modern fag-bashing rests its dubious theogolical provenance. I wonder if Martin also does not trim his beard, or if he mixes fabrics, or if he forgives debts every seven years. The money quote from Martin is, however, this:
    This does not preclude man from setting different penalties for different “sins”.
    Isn’t that convenient? Of course the real question is what business does man have setting any temporal penalties for transgressions of a purely religious injunction unless said man is establishing a theocracy?

  • Martin

    It doesn’t have much to do with setting up a theocracy. It has to do with what makes a society work. A cogent set of laws is essential.
    How do you determine purely religious injunction ? Murder, theft?
    It’s nice that you’re so terribly smart that you can set up a what’s right and wrong and not need any external standard. What if our definitions differ? Someone’s got to come up with the standard. I don’t argue for institution of Talmudic law or theocracy. You have free will. Do with it what you will. Believing or not believing in something doesn’t change whether it exists.
    The point I was making was that the here and now is not quite so relevant to God as it is to us. Since our span of time here on earth is what we base our perspective on, it’s easy for us to set degrees of sin. God knows that life is eternal – ultimate destination is either Heaven or Hell.
    Shortening the amount of time here on earth is not really relevant in that perspective. Thus killing is no different than lying … in God’s eyes.
    However, if we want our societies to work, societies that are based on the temporal here and now, we need laws. Whether you choose the Code of Hammurabi (sp?) or the Ten Commandments, you need ’em. The trick for society to work is to get by with least number of laws needed. But, I digress …
    From an eternal perspective, it doesn’t matter what happens here, our ramblings don’t change the concept of the Absolute. (This is not to say that we are smart enough to accurately define it, either, but we can aknowledge it exists.)
    I gave Old Testament examples because the discussion was revolving around Old Testament theology. If anything, the New Testament is even clearer on the subject. But again, it’s just as clear on other sins too. I don’t think the Bible indicates a special place in hell for one sin over another. Hot is hot.
    BTW, I do trim my beard :-) (But maybe not a “religiously” as my wife would like.)

  • paperwight

    My point, Martin, was that basing fag-bashing (because that’s all it is) on a couple of Levitical ritual prohibitions, when most “Christians” don’t follow the rest of them makes no sense; it’s not “cogent”. It’s convenient. It’s an easy pass for most “Christians” which allows them to feel superior to and legislate against the fags. I won’t even get into your insistence that one needs a belief in the supernatural to come up with a reasonable set of understandings about how a society can function — that’s just a flat-out insult to everyone who can do even the smallest deontologicial or even utilitarian moral calculus.
    If you want to believe that your God thinks all sins are equal and that homosexuality is a sin on par with mass murder (and I assume that all of the other ritual prescriptions are also just as important), that’s crazy, but it’s also your business — keep it that way, and when someone else’s sin doesn’t involve hurting another person, stay out of it.
    To the extent I think a God might exist, whether or not a man loves another man would seem the most petty and pathetic of all concerns for an omnipotent and omniscient being whose last messenger to you said “love each other”. What would a loving God care about which part goes in which part as long as there’s love there? In fact, it’s stuff like Leviticus that tends to convince me that the representation of “God” in the fundamentalist interpretations of the monotheistic faiths is a moral cripple. The insistence on using millenia-old prejudices and ritual proscriptions to punish others who have done no harm convinces me without a doubt that most fundamentalists are the same (without the parenthetical).
    Fortunately, there are enough believers who are different that I’ve not yet given up on the species.

  • Shapeshifter

    “Related to the subject of the definition of a Sodomite, the stories of Greek mythology are consistent on at least one point: Zeus would come down in a fit of unrestrained and vengeful fury on anyone who failed to show proper hospitality to travelers and strangers. It was the number one sin of ancient Greek society. The Bible was originally compiled and edited in Greece, wasn’t it? Would this belief have likely still been in place at the time of the screening process for which books to include in the Bible and which to reject?”
    Odin and the other Norse deities were also pretty pissed off by inhospitality, and that has about as much relevance to the story at hand.
    The story (and Ezekiel’s commentary, which both Jesus and Paul treated as accurate) were written in the Old Testament before Judaism (and subsequently Christianity) had any interaction with Greece. So it’s more coincidence–or perhaps everyone thought inhospitality was a big deal. Considering getting stranded often meant death in those times i can see where they were coming from.
    More to the point, as i meant to mention last time but didn’t, homosexuality is the one “sin” most of these Christians (or “so-called Christians”, if you prefer) like decrying because it’s the one sin they feel (or assume) they are completely unlikely to ever personally get in trouble with.
    Martin helpfully mentioned the ten commandments here. They’re the big ten, especially in Christianity (i’ll get into that in a moment) and so they’re the ones most likely to matter. Perhaps some commandment against homosexuality can be found there?
    1. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt…”
    2. “You shall have no other gods besides Me…Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above…”
    3. “You shalt not swear falsely by the name of the Lord…”
    4. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”
    5. “Honor your father and your mother…”
    6. “You shall not murder”
    7. “You shall not commit adultery”
    8. “You shall not steal”
    9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”
    10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…”
    See any “You shall not have wild buttsex even between consenting adults” in there? I didn’t either.
    Okay, so coming back from the thread i hinted at above: there’s a reason Christians don’t care about the “Old Law”–that is, the three hundred some laws enshrined in the Talmud which are so important in Judaism. That is: the “Old Law” was replaced by the new covenant with Jesus; Jesus’s death on the cross erased our (human) sins and freed us from the law, which could not save but only condemn. Go look it up–Paul deals with it explicitly a couple times.
    So even beyond that, there’re a couple (as i remember it) lines about how if you follow any of the law in order to be righteous or justified with God then you’re bound by the entirety of the law. I know that’s not precisely accurate, but who are you who would tie heavy burdens and put them on the shoulders of others? That one, by the way, can be found in Matthew 23. I feel it’s particularly important.
    This is all without getting into the translational difficulties of Leviticus and friends (hint: it’s “temple prostitute”).
    And please, bring on the New Testament issues. Those are even easier to flatten than Leviticus.
    And if you want a standard by which to live your life–one to fill the void that would apparently wreak death and destruction if “denouncing the homos” were taken away–i would suggest this: Love God, Love each other.
    That was Jesus’s formulation when he summed up the entirety of the Law in one sentence.

  • Martin

    I don’t have time for a complete answer at the moment. But I did want to address one thing Mr. Shapeshifter stated. (We are more in agreement than you might think, BTW).
    Christ did not come to release us from the law, but from the penalty of failing to live up to it. (For this discussion, let’s define law as the big 10, because we can’t even live up to them)
    The chasm between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness was not “crossable” until Christ’s sacrifice.
    Just because we are forgiven and don’t need to worry about eternal damnation (if we accept the gift) doesn’t give us a free pass to do whatever we want. If we love God, we’ll follow the two greatest commandments as you’ve astutely pointed out.
    If we do that, it’s pretty safe to assume we’ll be keeping to the other 10 as well.
    A final thought: If you get to pick and choose what you want from the Bible, does this not set you above the Bible as the arbiter of what is right and wrong? I guess what I’m asking is, if you and I each choose to accept some of the Bible as truth, and my “some” is different than your “some”, then isn’t it pretty much worthless?
    If we ignore all the incovenient bits in favor of only those pieces we’re comfortable with, it doesn’t seem to me as though it means much.

  • cjmr

    Of course Jesus meant love ‘agape’, not love ‘eros’ when he said that.

  • Ray

    Let me get this straight. Martin is saying that we can’t pick and choose what you want from the bible, because that would mean setting yourself up as the arbiter of right and wrong. Okay. He’s also saying that homosexuality is wrong, because Leviticus 18 and 20 say so. Fine.
    So what about “You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.”
    “You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you”
    “If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death.”
    “If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people.”
    “You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean”
    “You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat.”
    “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
    5 ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days. ”
    “And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land”
    First off, if you ignore any of those laws, you have no right to complain if other people ignore the proscription of homosexuality.
    Secondly, if you want to live by those laws, fine. But I don’t believe in any of that crap, and I’m not going to start obeying those laws just because you think the tooth fairy said so. Yeah, I am setting myself up above a collection of myths from some wandering desert tribe. Somehow it doesn’t bother me.

  • Shapeshifter

    Let’s try Colossians 2:20-23 from the NIV:
    “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
    Or if that’s not your thing, try Galatians. Galatians 2:15-16:
    “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
    Paul continues. Galatians 3:1-5
    “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
    Let’s see… Galatians 5:4
    “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
    Too much Paul for you? Acts 15:5-11
    “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’
    “The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.'”
    Here’s the big one, though. Colossians 2:13-15
    “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
    That doesn’t sound like “only taking away a little bit of the law”. That seems pretty final. Where, precisely, can verses that state the law is anything other than dead be found?
    Furthermore, i don’t think i have to argue that the law is either dead or alive in its entirety. For Christians, of course, it is dead. Jews, on the other hand, do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah and therefore do not believe the law was ended with the crucifiction. This should be obvious: it is why Christians do not follow, for instance, the Law’s dietary regulations while Jews (in theory–they aren’t quite so obsessive about it these days) do. But we do not, as it was put, “pick and choose” some parts while claiming others don’t apply–it’s either binding or it is not.
    So with that in mind, and with the variety of laws i’m pretty sure those who decry homosexuality as a violation of the law almost surely ignore in mind, i would present the following:
    Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus speaking:
    “‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
    “‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'”

  • jimvj

    The big lie in Christianity, and in Judaism, is that there is such a thing as THE Bible. Nowhere in any “bible” is there a definition of what books THE bible should contain. Nowhere is there even a suggestion that “god” wanted to create THE bible – either Old Testament, or NT.
    There is much disagreement on when and why the legends of one semitic tribe were created and/or assembled together. Many historians are concluding from arhaeological evidence – and often from the lack of such evidence – that the OT was made up by a tribe leader/priest named Josiah in the 8th or 9th century BCE to shore up the legitimacy of his rule.
    There was no Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, etc. David, if he existed, was a minor chieftain, and not the grandiose ruler depicted in the OT. Curiously, since it was considered more legitimate to be conquerors from elsewhere rather than of a domestic lineage, the whole legend of Abram/Abraham from Ur was created. There was no conquest of Canaan by the fictitious Joshua or by any other Hebrew leader.
    The Septuagint – a Greek translation and the first single “book” version of Jewish scripture – was accepted by the first century christians as the OT. But soon after that Jewish Rabbis created their own canonical “OT” that excluded parts of the Septuagint.
    The NT is even worse. For 300 years there was no “official” bible. There were many other “gospels” than the 4 canonical ones; and other religious writings (called Apocrypha). Which ones were to be included in the canonical Roman Catholic bible were decided at the Council of Nicea – BY VOTE!! (Yet scorn is heaped on the Jesus Seminar for attempting to use a similar tactic.) The orthodoxy then did their utmost to expunge all other religious documents.
    Martin Luther assembled the first Protestant bible some 1200 years later. He excluded the book of Revelation and some others.
    A really curious aspect of the NT is the role of “apostles”. The main architects of the NT are Paul (not an original apostle) and the gospel writers (only one an apostle). The central dogma of christianity – that Jesus’ sacrifice was for Jew and Gentile – was apparently not grasped by any of the apostles who, we are told, spent three years with Jesus. How absurd is that!!
    Given its pathetic history, and given all the absurdities and obscenities in it, why does any rational person give even lip service to any “bible”?

  • Honey

    the Steeles did being attending a church

  • Nenya

    The line that jumped out at me was (emphasis mine):
    [Irene’s new church] was a little too literal and personal and challenging for him. He was not revered. He felt like a project.
    Are we supposed to think that his feeling “like a project” is not a worthwhile objection, because if he were Truly Spiritually Sensitive, he would see that they only have his best interests at heart? It rings true that the Rayford we have seen so far would care that he was not being revered (and it could be a good thing for him to be treated like an average Joe). But it is so, so easy to think that the reason people don’t like your church/friends/group is because you are so incisive and your words inescapably prick their consciences, when actually it is because you are being jerks. “We cared so much, but they couldn’t accept our personal involvement in their lives, so they wimped out and left.” I’ve knowing loving people who’ve helped me in my spiritual life from both conservative evangelical backgrounds and mainline churches (not to mention the non-Christians), but it is amazing how often we humans drive people off by pontificating and blame it on the other guy’s unrighteousness. People do not open up to people who treat them as projects, so in this one case I have to say I agree with Rayford! :P

  • Nenya

    PS (Yeah, I know this is a year after the commenter before me–sorry!) I really liked your description of the restaurant –> church in your opening paragraph. If I ever have to describe a “dead” church to anyone, I think I’ll borrow the description. You are also very right that there is a spark of life there somewhere, always–I guess Jesus did say that if a couple of people were gathered in his name he’d show up, huh? I’ve written off whole swaths of the church before, for not being “good enough” Christians–not loving enough, or holy enough, or something. Every time something comes along to prove me wrong. I’d even go so far as to say there are probably people in L&J’s church(es) whom I’d recognize as ‘of the tribe of Joseph’ (as Anne of Green Gables put it) although my Episcopalians are really amazing for me right now…

  • Kendo

    So Rayford wants to call a church whose members were “Godly” enough to be raptured. Will anyone answer? If someone does, will they have any answers? I mean, they’re still there.

    Note also that Rayford learned something from Buck: make a call when face-to-face would be better.