Wise as serpents and innocent as doves

"He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan."

A nice university professor has studied “Why some religious Americans see same-sex marriage as a threat.” And I’m sure his findings accurately describe SOME religious Americans. But I think his study misses at least two of the major reasons that many white American Christians oppose same-sex marriage. For many, I think, such opposition is mostly an abstract proxy for a separate debate about the meaning of the Bible. And for others it’s just a scary story that makes for a lucrative fundraising pitch. [Read more...]

You ought to quit this scene too


When I was a gung-ho member of my church youth group, I was all prepared for someone to walk up and ask me “What is the gospel?” I’d have answered with something like the Navigators’ “Bridge to Life” illustration explaining the Good News that you were damned to Hell because God hates your sin, but that you could still be saved because God poured out all of God’s infinite hate onto Jesus instead of you, making possible the impossibility of divine mercy and allowing you to go to Heaven instead of Hell. That’s not how I’d answer that question now. [Read more...]

How to understand ‘biblical inerrantists’


The modern assertion of “biblical inerrancy” is best explained in a 1978 document called the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” That statement includes 19 denials that tell you everything you need to know about inerrancy and inerrantists. Just read through those denials and, in each case, replace “We Deny that …” with “We Are Very Much Afraid that …” [Read more...]

The lazy imagination of the witch-hunter

Actually, I DO expect the Spanish Inquisition. Nothing is more predictable.

If we can find someone worse to compare ourselves to, then we can feel better about ourselves without having to change anything we’re doing or anything we’re becoming. Alas, however, this technique only works briefly before it begins producing diminishing returns. So we will need to identify some person or group who are even worse, and then worse still. This is a process of slothful imagination and it always ends up in the same way, with the same lazy stock character of the Very Worst People we can imagine. Yes, that’s right, say it with me: Satanic baby-killers. [Read more...]

Protecting ‘our Christian values’


“You’re doing a lot to help the refugees,” one woman asked. “What are you doing to protect our Christian values?” That is an amazing question — almost eloquent in its obtuse blasphemy. Over here, in one distinct category, is this matter of helping refugees. And then, way over here, is a wholly separate and distinct category of “our Christian values.” [Read more...]

Choosing to panic: Moral ‘panics’ require volunteers


Academic studies of moral panics emphasize the function of demagogues, “moral entrepreneurs,” and credulous media accounts. Those all play a role, but they all play largely the same role — that of recruiting volunteers. Without a critical mass of such volunteers volunteering — choosing, deciding — to play along, then would-be demagogues and moral entrepreneurs can never be anything more than cranks. [Read more...]

Baptism is always a political act


Believer’s Baptism requires the separation of church and state. More than that: Believer’s Baptism defiantly asserts the separation of church and state. It declares and demands and demonstrates the separation of church and state. [Read more...]

‘Can the Evangelical Left Rise Again?’ No. But thanks for asking.


I appreciate the recent wave of attention being paid to my former tribe, but there’s a reason that articles like this all sound like the presenter giving out a Lifetime Achievement Award to some emeritus trustee at some local nonprofit’s annual dinner, or like someone dedicating the historical marker to honor some worthy, but largely forgotten, event from the past. That tone — fond, but past-tense, a bit like an obituary — is entirely appropriate. [Read more...]