The world is full of complexity, yet in the evangelical mind, so much seems to boil down to simple, black-or-white thinking. I know this because I used to operate from an evangelical mind. Everything was straightforward. Simple. I had the right answers to most questions, and kept studying the Bible to learn the right answers to the rest.
I see my old self as one of the Pharisees, condemning women for inappropriate relationships, judging people for not meeting my unrealistic expectations, making sure I was noticeably holy.
Today I recognize what I was really up to: sorting into Us and Them, determining whom I was holier than. I was not alone in that practice, nor has the phenomenon disappeared.
Below are a few examples of binary thinking that leave no room for nuance – all taken from actual conversations I’ve had with evangelicals. I could write about evangelical binary thinking on many topics – today it’s the subject of abortion (about which I’ve written often). In some cases, I’ve combined statements or changed word order, but the essence is the same. Perhaps this discussion will make a difference to someone. (Evangelical statements are italicized and purple; my responses are in regular, black type.)
Hell in a handbasket
Your [pro-choice] statement reveals all that I need to know about where you stand with the Lord. When the Lord comes to receive his own, please do not be surprised when you are standing there wondering what happened. Essentially, you are sticking up your middle finger to God and mocking his very basic gift to humanity–the right to be born! Repent and be saved before it is too late.
There is no other way to interpret this statement: this Christian has just arrogantly judged me as unsaved and taunting God. I shouldn’t have to point this out, but humans are not qualified to judge others’ eternal fate. She claims later that she is “speaking the truth in love,” that she is one of the few bold enough to tell it like it is. But her words claim to see into my soul, and – sorry! – no human can see into another human’s soul.
Now, perhaps my pro-choice position actually is ungodly – but that’s beside the point. This kind of arrogant judgmentalism is not appropriate coming from a Christian. And consigning anyone to hellfire because of one political opinion is unscriptural.
Is it possible that one’s stance on abortion is just that – a stance on an issue – rather than an eternal deal-breaker?
If my righteous anger is from the Lord, then I’m just doing His work. If it is from Satan, it will come to nothing.
Is there anything in between anger from the Lord and anger from Satan? There is no space here for regular old human anger. Classic binary thinking.
[after a FB debate] I have completely enjoyed destroying the internet and rooting out heretics…Thank you Lord for revealing the 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal (referencing 1 Kings 19:18)…They call themselves Christians, but they are Molech worshippers (referencing Leviticus 20).
Here, obviously, a Christian is equating other Christians with heretics and the worst pagans in the Bible because we disagree with her on a political issue. It is, granted, a highly charged issue, but still her words are judgmental, ungracious, and arrogant.
A binary Bible
I think the issue is: is the Bible the true inspired Word of God? If it is the Word of God–then we should probably listen. If it is just man’s words, then it will probably fade over time, no one will ever take it seriously.
This statement is another perfect example of oversimplified, binary thinking. There is no space for nuance – no space to both cherish the Bible and question the supposed God-sanctioned genocide (for example, in Deuteronomy 20). No space to both honor the Word of God and question the historicity of Jonah in the big fish. And certainly no space to both believe in the Bible and discuss the clear contradictions it contains.
A “Christian” who supports a pro-choice agenda has absolutely no mooring in the Word of God whatsoever. I find it utterly contemptible. If you are that person, this is a wake-up call for you to get saved for real. Stop clowning around. Choose this day whom you will serve.
Even if, for the sake of argument, the pro-choice agenda was immoral (which I don’t think it is), do pro-choice Christians have “absolutely no mooring in the Word of God whatsoever”? Are we really unsaved, contemptible, clowning around, not serving God at all? Is there nothing between a perfect saint and a contemptible clown? – for example: a fellow Christian with differing beliefs about an important subject?
What is Christianity?
What is a Christian? And why do you think you are one? And what is the basis for your standard of living and making decisions? and Christian living in general, as you see it? Help me understand.
This line of questioning implies that the entire basis of my life is evil. This evangelical literally can not understand how I could be a Christian – because I am pro-choice. This is reductionist, binary.
A Christian is one who follows Christ. Christ had compassion on the poor and marginalized. If a poor woman turned up pregnant on his watch, of course he wouldn’t say “go get an abortion.” He also would not say, “shut up and have the baby.” He would call upon the community to love on her and support her – for real, not just with words, and not just until the baby was born. Nuance.
Abortion is taking a human life. Contraception, control of women’s bodies, the life of the mother in a high-risk pregnancy – all of that is peripheral.
To millions of women, those are not peripheral issues.
A woman is more (to God, I daresay, and to herself) than an incubator. Women deserve to be treated like full, autonomous human beings. Evangelical binary thinking says that if there is a “bun in the oven,” she has no rights whatsoever.
In evangelical thinking, women have also become the scapegoat for men’s sins (we all know it takes two to make a pregnancy). When a woman is stripped of her choices, she is paying – with her life and her child’s life – for a man’s irresponsibility. If evangelicals want those babies carried to term, they need to do something about this disproportionate burden. Forced childbirth doesn’t “fix” the problem. It only perpetuates it.
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Which lives matter?
Killing a baby in the uterus goes against everything God intended and stands for. It goes against the absolute sanctity of life. The womb is a place of care, security, and protection and not murder.
(This statement, by the way, was made by an evangelical male.)
Binary thinking says, “you are either pro-life or pro-death.” And by “life,” we’re referring to the unborn. Period.
How about a little nuance? How about thinking more broadly about life?
If absolute sanctity of life is important to you, you can fight for lives that are already born, instead of dictating what women you’ve never met should do with their uteruses.
If you care about life, support universal healthcare. Call for an end to war and colonialism. Call for the end of the occupation of Palestine. Work for racial equity. Demand gun control. Have compassion on people trying to enter the US for a better, safe life. Call for equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Do you not think God grieves every child born into poverty – because his people haven’t eradicated poverty? Do you not think God grieves over every child whose poverty escorts him through the school-to-prison pipeline, every child whose poverty leads him to kill or sell drugs in order to eat, every child who reaches adulthood and sees it all happen again to the next generation? There’s more to this issue than being born or not being born.
Is not poverty + drugs + bad schools + millions of guns just a slow-motion form of murder for many – a form of murder that we can do something about? Until we make the world a better place, we‘re taking women in nearly impossible situations, and making it even worse for them.
The world doesn’t matter
Jesus never asked us to fix the world, just proclaim the truth– of who He is, of His death and resurrection on the cross, of the salvation people can have through Him.
This is a perfect example of evangelical binary thinking: “we have one job: proclaim the gospel.”
But Jesus made people’s lives on earth better – he fed people who had no money to pay for food, he brought wine to a wedding, raised the dead, healed the sick, befriended the outcast, touched the untouchable.
In fact, Jesus said that people who help the needy like this will be welcomed into the kingdom. Yes, we should try to make the world a better place – especially for pregnant women, if we want them to stay pregnant.
While I completely have enjoyed destroying the internet and rooting out heretics, it takes its toll. I am going silent. Elijah needed nourishment and rest. And so do I. Zeal for thine house hath consumed me (Psalm 69:9).
Let the word of God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4). I am nothing. Jesus is everything.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved ((Matthew 10:22-23).
What’s going on here? This evangelical is 1) identifying with a great prophet, 2) deciding who is a heretic and who isn’t (see above), 3) claiming that she is a simple, humble vessel, just bringing glory to Jesus, 4) rationalizing any animosity toward her as persecution because of her faith – not, perhaps, frustration with her arrogance and judgmentalism.
After making her statement, she took her needed rest – and never, ever answered any of the hard questions that I and other pro-choice Christians had asked.
Inquiring minds still want to know
Why is my uterus your business?
Who are you to regulate the bodies of 167,000,000 American women?
You are free to act on your beliefs, but what gives you the right to force others to act on your beliefs?
Is there a single evangelical out there willing to take on these questions? If you are evangelical and want to walk away right now, then admit it: you don’t know why you believe what you believe. That means you are not thinking for yourself – and that should concern you.
It isn’t rocket science: you don’t care about the life of a woman, a wife, a mother; you don’t care when someone is living in abject poverty or their life is in danger every minute; you don’t care about the earthly lives of suffering people.
When only “salvation” for the hereafter matters, maybe you haven’t caught God’s heart yet.
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