The Fearsome Song of the True Believer

The Fearsome Song of the True Believer August 21, 2010

I believe that my beliefs about the qualities and nature of God are absolutely, 100% correct. I just don’t think that what I think about God is correct. I know that it is. I know it with everything in my being. True knowledge of the true God is a crucible consuming all but what it creates: awe, gratitude, and unshakeable conviction.

Elemental logic dictates that being as perfectly right about God as I am means that everyone who persists in cleaving to beliefs about God different from mine is wrong. I take no pleasure in this fact; in truth, it is like an arrow ever piercing my breast. What—oh, what?—wouldn’t I give for relief from the tortuous pain I suffer from awareness of how many do not share in the glorious knowledge of God that out of his blessed mercy He himself has bestowed upon me?

How profusely I weep for the unsaved; with what agony do I contemplate the fate of their poor, wretched souls.

But in the end—after I have exhausted myself bringing the water of life to the parched, sustenance to the starved, light to those still stumbling in the dark—I can naught but collapse spent to the ground, taking what meager comfort I can in the assuredness that there are, alas, none so blind as they who will not see.

We who know God have no choice but to choose our god over men. We most certainly do love each and every member of our race, but by that love are bound to love God more. About matters concerning God there can be no negotiation, no compromise, no reconfiguring or adjusting of the divine eternal paradigm. From such seeming charities do great heresies grow.

When it comes to God—which is to say that when it comes to humans; humans nature; the purpose of humans; the fate of humans; the human soul; human history; the afterlife; the cosmos; the earth; and everything imaginable concerning the relationship between Man and all that is grand, mysterious, and eternally important—we are perfectly right. And they are wrong.

We are right. They are wrong.

We are wise. They are ignorant.

We are guided by glorious righteousness. They are misguided by inglorious delusion.

We speak the truth. They speak heresy.

God is with us. God is away from them.

We were born in the right place, at the right time. Tragically, they were not.

God takes infinite pleasure in our children. He is bound by his nature to take, at best, limited pleasure in theirs.

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  • Too painful to read, because so many who advertise under the name of Christ actually believe this.

  • Arrogant? Only if it’s not true…which it is, all of it!

    I really don’t understand why overall church membership is doing such a nose dive, or why I don’t have any friends who are outside of my denomination

    I guess some people just aren’t feeling the love…but I can’t imagine why that is either.

    I’m clueless, But at least I’m saved!

    I really enjoyed your book, I’m okay -You’re not! Especially the ouch sections at the end of the chapters.

    Thanks John

  • Do they? I hadn’t noticed.

  • Thank you, Alton. Great comment. Good to hear from you.

  • Exactly why I broke up with Jesus twenty-five years ago! I thought we loved each other and had a good relationship but he hung out with psychos… I couldn’t take it anymore.

  • Tanager

    Yes, we’ve all seen this attitude before. But the worst and most acrimonious of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” arguments are, in my experience, about politics. Nothing brings out arrogance, anger, shaming behavior, derision and hatred like politics these days.

    And, needless to say, Christianity isn’t really the only religion that has folks who pull these shenanigans. Probably every belief system has a few; some just have a lot more than others!

    Where does the line get drawn? I mean, we can’t all be intellectually questioning of our faith. Some people are just simple (but utter) believers. And maybe they don’t pull this attitude but are just adamant quietly. If we all questioned and said “we’re not really sure about X, Y or Z” then the whole faith seems kind of wishy-washy to me. Well, everyone could be a Unitarian, I guess. So when do we cross over into being obnoxious? When we say it out loud (we’re right, you’re wrong) or even if we think it? Or sort of think it? Or think it for ourselves at least but leave everyone else to God to take care of?

    I dunno. There are some things about God I believe that are unshakable. Then there are a whole pile of things I just plain don’t know, and I have no problem admitting that and sometimes wrestling with those questions (if they are the kind you can even ponder as a finite human being without going insane.)

  • Speaking of needless to say, not once in this post is Christ or Christianity mentioned or specifically alluded to. It’s not about that.

  • Tanager

    True enough, but I think it’s going to be largely assumed. All things considered. As a Christian, I think about how this applies to my own faith and the people who claim it. If your post making me think about that more deeply is the wrong thing, I’m guilty. And I also guess my third paragraph of questions doesn’t mention Christianity or Christ specifically, either. Unless you count the Unitarian comment, which is subjective. So I think the questions are still valid, no matter which group of folks of a particular belief system you put them to.

  • and in the end…G*d weeps, not for the “lost” because they never were, no one is lost.

    G*d know where we all are.

    and he or she is with us…in all us…..

    G*d weeps for the waste of time and energy we use “saving” other people souls…

    G*d weeps for the misguided anger and fear we have spent doing what we think G*d wants us to do. when in truth,

    G*d just wants us to love and trust him or her….

    to love each other….

    and treat each other as we would treat our own selfs,


    i do not think it will ever happen….not on this side of the Kingdom anyway….

  • i think i just jacked your post sorry brah, i wont be upset if you delete it.

  • Diana A.

    Tanager–have you, by any chance, read the last two posts and the accompanying comments? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this topic is on John’s heart. I could be wrong, of course.

  • Kim

    Ugh. This is exactly the type of self-righteous posturing that drove me away from religion. It’s effect on me is like nails on a chalkboard. I cannot abide by somebody being so CERTAIN that my beliefs are so faulty and ignorant as to presume it is their duty to show me the error of my ways. And to add insult to injury they feel SORRY for me? How disrespectful and condescending can they be?

    I don’t care if it’s about religion, politics, sexual orientation – it doesn’t matter. My beliefs are based solely on my personal experiences, about which another person has no knowledge whatsoever. If someone trying to sell me salvation had any idea how repulsive and insulting it is to me and how fast I will shutdown, they’ll bypass me altogether and move on to their next potential customer. This type of “religious salesmanship” is truly one of my pet peeves!

  • i had a “friend” pray that bad things would happen to me to “bring me back to the lord”


  • Certainty in belief is always a tell-tale sign of a closed mind.

  • yeah…it is clear to me that he is talking about

    smooth peanut butter vs crunchy peanut butter…DOI.

  • So if you couldn't have him all to yourself, you didn't want him at all?

  • Susan

    Amen, brother Shore!

    Ever notice how acknowledged uncertainty brings about more authentic kinship (dare I, as a human that leans towards being 'christian-ish', say, a more authentic expression of Jesus's love) than does UNYIELDING certainty?

  • Tanager

    I have not, Diana, but will get to them. I don't always have time to read everything posted here, tbh. My comment wasn't some sort of blast at John, and I'm not sure where the mild implied criticism from him is coming from. I was honestly asking myself some questions in that comment – largely rhetorical, since I don't have the answers, but I was interested in the thoughts of others. Maybe I was supposed to just say "preach it, John!" but I think the attitude he's portraying in the post can have many roots, not just closed-mindedness, although that's a very very big 'un. I don't want to be one of those obnoxious people, but am I? Even if I don't quite have that attitude and don't push that attitude? What if I believe some things other people believe about God are wrong? Is that OK or not OK?

  • I have found that whenever I agree with you, I am absolutely correct!

  • Honestly, I wasn't criticizing you one single bit. I was just taking the opportunity to be clear about something I think it's important I do be clear about, which is that I'm not here addressing any one faith system/religion. That's virtually all it was.

  • Susan

    Allow me to rephrase:

    Ever notice how acknowledged uncertainty brings about more authentic kinship than does UNYIELDING certainty?

  • Tim

    I like the Great Physician analogy.

    What if I found this awesome doctor who was absolutely THE best physician in any medical group in the world. Wouldn't it logically follow that there would be innumerable THRONGS of sick bastards and bitches clamoring for his amazing care and healing in addition to ME?

    Of course, I'm not one of those sick clamoring bastards or bitches…or am I?

    The church is a hospital. I can't think of a time when any of us aren't at our most cantankerous, miserable, irritable, bitchy, and insufferable…as when they are healing from a surgery. Some of us take years…decades to heal. If I find a great doctor, I stick with him/her until they retire or die. Thank God, Jesus does neither.

  • this made me giggle….Jesus save me from your followers!

  • you must be a UU!

  • DonP



    we slip back into the trenches

    with Pogo.

  • i know…i feel sorry for her to be honest, i am afraid for what kind of karma comes from praying bad things to happen to people.

  • Susan


    Some people act as if that is the only way to derive the number 4 and completely discount 3-1, 2×2, 5-1, etc.

    What do you think about the color violet? How much blue, red and white is needed to make that color? If we differ, does that mean one of us is wrong? Is either of us right?

    I'm not espousing relativism, rather, in the matter of "truths" there are different, valid ways to derive that truth.

    Yes, there are ways that are not valid, I suppose, but I'm simply admitting that my way, with its particular calculations, is not the only way. That places me in a position where I can learn as well as share my knowledge.

  • Kara

    I don't know if you've read the last post and its comments, which I feel give a bit of background on this, but I don't think John meant at all to say that anyone should give equal credence to every position under the sun. I think he's criticizing a specific mindset that is so rigid in its beliefs on abstract, unprovable theological matters that it becomes very patronizing and condescending to anyone who disagrees in any way for any reason.

    In other words, I don't think John's saying we have to agree with everyone's opinions or beliefs, just respect that on a lot of topics, all we have are opinions and beliefs, not incontrovertible facts.

  • Kara

    Nope! Just a regular ol' American Baptist, but my lady-pastor and all the gays on the deacon board set us pretty firmly with the UUs on the "heretical/non-heretical" scale as defined by certain folk.

    But I do love me my UU friends!

  • Kara

    I have this strong mental image in my mind of God hearing that kind of prayer, shooting the person this really skeptical look, and saying "For real?" in a very suspicious voice. ("As if I did stuff like that," God would say.)

  • Ah. there is nothing like reading the words of satire so early in the morning. Brilliantly done.

  • Belief in the religious sense (faith) about the nature and characteristics of god is not similar to your use of the word belief (knowledge) about a chemical composition for a couple of reasons.

    Certainty in the former and trust in the latter are not the same states of belief because you have the means to re-test and re-verify the latter in many reliable ways, but you have no means at your disposal to do the same for the former.

    You do not begin your inquiry into chemical compositions by first assigning specific letters and numbers to various materials FIRST and THEN set about to explain why those letters and numbers combinations are the correct ones according to some external authority; instead, you begin your inquiry by not knowing what the composition may be but set about to figure out by trial and error what constituent chemicals it must have. It is a bottom up approach. Although you can use the knowledge gained this way by others, the point is that you can test it yourself.

    With religion, you start your inquiry with a complete explanation – a final product. This final product is the authority. You start with all the answers and then try to fit it to all the questions you have. It is a top down approach.

    In both cases, we ask ourselves How do we know if this is true? On the one hand, with chemical compounds we have a method of inquiry that is uncertain in the sense it is open to new information and new evidence for which it will have to account. This is not a kind of belief but, rather, a method of inquiry. On the other hand, religion has no such similar methodology of inquiry because it requires none; it is wholly dependent on the kind of belief we call faith. Uncertainty in this sense is meant comparatively within the faith framework, meaning we have no method, no way to test, which of the different faiths might be true or even which parts of one faith might be true except by revelation. One person's revelation may not match another's so we should allow some uncertainty to account for these theological differences.

    Clear as mud, right?

  • Much as I love clams in chowder, on the shell, or fried, or steamed, I think this post is about what I call Absolutism. A relationship between the known and knower which is impossible for me and of which I am skeptical in others.

  • i love my AB friends too!

  • 3-1=4?

    Talking about chemicals, you're trying to slip a mole problem in here, aren't you?

  • Kara

    Damn, John. This is amazing. I have to head off to church (mine being one filled with heretical blind folk, you know, and actually led by one as well!), but I’m going to try to come up with a better reply later today.

  • Susan

    Aah…guess that was one of the invalid ways to reach a "truth"!

    my bad.

  • Susan, you should of stuck to being a wily one!

    It reminds me of the quote by Major General O.P. Smith (of the 'Chosin' few), who was asked if the US was retreating:

    "Retreat Hell! We're just attacking in another direction."

  • No, he’s talking about New England vs. Manhattan style (two words that should never be put together, anyway … I mean, what do people on Manhattan know about style?) clam chowder.

  • I know exactly how you feel.

    I mean, it’s so difficult walking through the world knowing that everything would be so much better if people would just stop arguing and listen to me.

    At least I know that God loves me better than them, anyway … so that takes the edge off of some of the frustration.

  • excellent, ken.

    YIKES on your “friend,” blue.

  • I think the picture is a really fine and important part of this post. If I have absolute knowledge of God do I still need faith?

  • Susan


    I abhor when my efforts at damage control simply lead to more damage. Aargh.

  • You've ruined my blog, Susan. I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY!

  • Susan

    Mission accomplished and I am drunk with power! Cheers.

  • Oops … sorry, my comment was supposed to have been to the post in general, not your comment.

    But since I've responded to your comment …

    I have heard that philosophy of praying, and I don't get it. If it worked, then God would have to be winning you over to Him by pestering you like a little brother, or else by bullying you with some kind of, "Believe, or else!" riff.

    Neither of those represents the God that I love.

    Maybe your "friend" worships that god people talk about in the forwarded e-mails?

  • Freda


  • I'll take this opportunity to pitch a song that I really love.

    Everyone should listen to Andrew Peterson's "No More Faith." It's about being in heaven, and thus no longer living by faith … because of certainty. Beautiful song.

  • Thefakejohnshore

    Finally there is some truth being offered on this blog. Praise God! My presence seems to be bearing fruit. I am pleased as a big old bucket of non alcoholic punch!


  • Robert

    I understand what you're saying… but part of me also thinks you're contradicting yourself… which (no offense) makes me wonder if I should give your post any real thought. After all… what are you saying? (Again, no offense intended).

    For instance, most Christians believe that salvation comes exclusively through Jesus. So how do you tell, for instance, a Wiccan that they're wrong? (Because, I mean, that's sort of a fundamental belief in Orthodox Christianity).

    I argue that there are ways to have a stronger faith that are based in the real, observable, testable world. For instance, you can study the historicity of the gospels, you can study comparative religions, you must in fact study them for their correlative logic and non-contradiction if you're going to engage in any of these claims. And of course, part of this is experiential, but that's always limited.

    I think the word 'faith' is used to often justify 'blind faith.' I'm not sure Jesus ever advocates a blind faith in the Bible. Moreover, I don't think faith need be blind, necessarily. You can have some very good reasons for believing what you believe, if you take the time to learn them.

    But most people don't want to go down this road. It takes years of "boring" study and reading, and we live in a largely vapid culture who'd rather watch Katy Perry spray whipped cream from her bra.

  • Kara

    But the ability to use fact-based logic to choose a religion doesn't extend to determining complex questions of doctrine. Sometimes people just disagree on what something means. Some things about religion are not provable. They're fallible opinions/beliefs. And that's, in my opinion, what John wants people to understand.

  • Susan

    kidding, of course, but would love to know if there is a way to delete stupid comments (seriously)?

  • Jeanine

    Well done everyone, I am convinced. My mind is changed forever. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt – like you all do – that nobody can know anything to be True.

    But I will say this. Suppose I am an astronaut, and I am about to be launched to the moon in a rocket ship. There are two engineers disagreeing about the re-entry sequence and how to program the computers to get me back to earth. I am not going to leave this earth until I am sure that one of them has the Truth!

  • yes, in fact she does…she believes that the world is less than 5,000 years old….she is a "young earth creationist"

    she is not so much my friend anymore…

  • DR

    You've missed almost every opportunity to really discuss and connect with others here. You talk at people, not with them, and the loss is yours (truly).

    I don't think anyone has any issue at all with you having a desire to be confident in what you believe, but what I don't think you see is the rather desperate "I'm right and you are wrong" tone and manner to your comments. It says a lot more about your own uncertainty if you're constantly in "correct the Christian unwashed" mode which has been your consistent mode here from day 1. People have been extremely gracious and patient with you. If you choose to take it differently, that's your issue.

  • DR

    PS Jeanine – you mentioned below that "truth" cast out all fear, and you got that Scripture wrong. It's "love" that cast out all fear. And I just read your rather fervent prayer for the young boy – perhaps you might want to reread the scriptures regarding the Religious in Jesus' day praying publicly on public corners.

  • DR

    That is so sick. Seriously. That's sick that someone would pray that way. What a stupid, thoughtless idiot.

  • Don, I can trust and relate to someone who is seeking the truth…but as you say, I'm skeptical of people who claim to have it…and as a matter of course, I am also a clam fan, I prefer them fried, but have no preference as to where I eat them

  • i ate at the Claim Jumper once…

  • i bet she has 16 kids and wears prairie dresses and has big bangs now…

  • DR

    I think you're raising some good questions. It's so easy to through the Bible baby out with the bath water, and I actually agree with you regarding the polarizing stuff regarding Christianity.

    For me, this comes down to "confidence" in what I belief vs. "certainty". Logically (for me), I just cannot get to the place where Jesus being the Son of God is a certainty to me, but I don't need to anymore. But I am actually in agreement with you that having some absolutes in what we believe sets some margins to our faith and our experiences with one another as a result that can be really productive.

    This post was challenging for me only in that I'm so quick to rule out the "Fundamentalist" as having absolutely no redemptive offering at all which says a lot more about my own beliefs than it does theirs. I'll be the first to admit how angry I am at the damage I feel the Fundamentalist movement has done to so many in our country that has strung up so many vulnerable people and for me, represents an almost spiritual abuse (not to mention emotional). I have little tolerance for it, but as a result of that can bristle when faced with it.

    Am I open to God speaking to me through a Fundamentalist? At this point if I were honest, the question would be no – as a matter of fact, I find more common ground with atheists typically. But I need to be open to both much more than I am now. This blog is good for me in that respect.

  • DR

    Oops, I meant to say polarizing stuff regarding politics.

  • Confidence (probability, likelihood, trust) versus certainty. A very important difference. Nicely expressed, DR.

  • Robert

    I’m not sure I understand the intention of this post… I mean, aren’t there some things that you have to believe are correct (with no room for alternative or competing viewpoints)?

    I mean… I’m pretty comfortable asserting a correct position as long as it’s well-reasoned and fleshed out… If an alternative viewpoint comes about, it becomes a sort of battle for me. The competing position better be able to reason why I’m incorrect in my thinking.

    For instance, I can reasonably assert that water is H2O. Now if someone comes along and says, “No! there’s a hidden X molecule in there that no one can see or measure but believe me it’s there.” Am I now morally wrong for asserting that they’re wrong? I mean… in my mind, some things are just right, regardless of how they’re communicated.

    I’m never comfortable with these kinds of posts, and I see them popping up more and more online. It almost feels like a form of literary self-flagellation. Acknowledging my limitations as a human is different from saying that I should give equal credence to every position under the sun. I hope I’m not twisting John’s words here – that’s not my intention.

  • Gina Powers

    DR, excellent posts, thank you!

  • DR

    Ironically, in the analogy Jeanine offered? The first astronauts had absolutely no clue about the certainty of re-entry. They were confident it was going to work, but had no idea of the certainty of hurtling through space through a massive wall of fire and surviving. If you read any of the interviews, they were actually terrified and had all updated their wills accordingly.

    I know this because I am a nerd.

  • where would we be without geeks or nerds?

  • Susan

    Not on the Internet, that's for sure.

  • Jennie

    Thank you, Tim. That says it.

  • Susan

    @ Don Rappe

    To my thinking, knowledge will not provide you with His fullest experience. Knowledge is cerebral-based, but faith dwells in the heart or soul. I often find I comprehend something logically – I know it in my head, but my untrusting heart doesn't so easily accept it. I've heard the phrase, "the longest distance is from the mind to the heart," and I think that is true. Having the knowledge of God is different than having the faith to accept his promises. But, that's just me.

    A great question! I hope you get an answer!

  • DR

    I keep giggling as I write "re-entry". Which makes me a 12-year old nerd.

  • Tanager

    Thanks DR, that's the kind of thing I'm fishing around for. I like the distinction you make between confidence and certainty. There are very few things I know for a certainty, but I do have confidence in Christ. In the dark of the night do I sometimes wonder if it's all a crock made up to make us feel better? You betcha. I fall back upon the confidence I have based on my very personal experiences of God and Christ, and I suppose that's the essence of faith.

    I do believe the God can speak to me through just about anyone, though, and often God seems to choose the people I find most troublesome, odious, or irritating. They may have nothing whatsoever meaningful to say, but my reaction to them often reminds me of a lot of things about myself I feel God would like to, shall we say, "improve" upon 🙂 So that's God speaking, just not through the words, actions or attitudes of those people.

    But there are absolutes, and not just the obvious "don't take a hacksaw to someone because you feel like it." Some of the absolutes are, seemingly, not felt by those who are the stereotypical fundamentalist: such as respecting others, not demeaning, not belittling, not taking a superior better-than-thee attitude in our own minds. I am pretty sure those are absolutes, and they are the hard ones. I can't even drive my car one mile in my state without breaking all of those I just mentioned, right in my own fallen head 😉

  • OH! PTL..i thought i was the only one.

  • Kara

    DR said it better, but I feel compelled to reply as well.

    It's not so much about not believing anything is true. It's about how you treat people who think you're dead wrong to believe that whatever thing is true. Being patronizing and condescending, acting like you've got the unassailable, unquestionable, proven truth and anyone who disagrees is deluded/ignorant/sinning? Not cool.

    It's not your theological opinions that have been the sore spot in all this, IMO. The vast majority of Christians I know agree with you about hell and the nature of atonement and all that stuff. It's the comments about how I can't possibly be reading the same Bible that you are that rub wrong. It's like the very existence of alternative viewpoints is bewildering and deeply upsetting to you. And that seems to have made you kind of talk past us, or at us, or down to us, but not really with us. Which I believe is frustrating for many commenters here, because we like to talk with people.

    You like Jesus. I like Jesus. I respect you and your viewpoints, even though I think they're incorrect. I would love it if you respected me and mine.

  • jb

    My 15 year old daughter would refuse to eat at ClaimJumpers…because she thought is said ClamJumpers.

    *train is totally off the track*

  • vj

    Yeah, really weird approach, especially when Romans 2:4 tells us that God's KINDNESS leads us to repentance!

  • I really can't stand fried clams.

    I only eat them in chowder. This is, of course, the way that God intended mankind to eat clams. All other forms of clam consumption represent blasphemy.

  • DonP

    Robert, look at the picture John used words to paint. For me, while questioning dogma and "certainties" are important. we should not assume that everyone is at the same point on the path that we are on. I know some fundamental Christians would argue that we are not all on the same road. But I think most of us are all on the road named "just trying to get through it and figure"it" out". Further and more importantly to me, the picture is a mirror. I am not sure I should be happy with how that man in the mirror is looking to the rest of the world. I need to be on guard against condemnation (pulling out in front of oncoming traffic) . The person I would condemn, may be just around the the corner from me and approaching fast. My prayer, if I prayed in public (DR), would be: "Lord don't take me out of the traffic. but don't let me be a hazard either."

    If we are honest with ourselves and as someone else here said, if I may paraphrase; "Faith is different than knowing". Sometimes holding back what we know keeps us from placing a stumbling block on the path of another. Faith keeps us holding on to the steering wheel with one foot on the gas and the other on the brakes. It is not necessarily the thing we use to win position. Only a tool, a helper, a gift from God to help get us down the road in one piece.

    Many these days despise the use of Scriptures to win position and would argue using just a few lines is useless without the whole. I disagree, so here a couple of lines that fit well here:

    1 Corinthians 10:31-33

    31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

    32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;

    33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

    That last line is a real humdinger and is the whole point, if I read it right, of Jonh's picture.

  • Is this satire John? I can't tell.

  • Oh! You're being ironic. Forgive me for not realizing this until I read the comments. I actually thought you were trying to mend fences.

    When I read "We are right. They are wrong." it prompted a new little ditty:

    Jesus loves me, this I know

    For Rush Limbaugh tells me so.

    Make our children learn this song.

    "We are right and they are wrong."

    Yes, Jesus loves me,

    Yes, Jesus loves me,

    Yes, Jesus loves me,

    Rush Limbaugh tells me so.

  • By the way, DR, when you have your own blog (and you might already), I'll read yours, too.

  • And in fairness, you can substitute a number of religious icons and television personalities to cover all the world's religions, including atheism.

    No one loves me, this I know

    for Dick Dawkins tells me so.

    No one's there for us to trust

    ash to ash and dust to dust.

    Yes, no one loves me,

    Yes, no one loves me,

    Yes, no one loves me,

    Chris Hitchens tells me so.

  • Jeanine: Trust me, this wasn't about you. I'm an equal opportunity offender. And defender. For the quickest examples:

    I've been writing on the theme of religious absolutism for years.

  • Jeanine

    When you believe something, it stands to reason that you think others are wrong; otherwise, you don't really beieve it do you?

    I was raised a Presbyterian and I knew that I was not perfect but figured that in spite of my sin, I was cool with God because he loved me. God is Love, right? I thought I was doing good when I made a donation to world disasters and put money in the offering plate at my church, and donating to orphans and starving in Africa. I thought being nice to people and helping them open the door and bringing them meals when they were sick made me good. I thought serving in my church and teaching the preschoolers and trying to do what was right made me good. I thought being diligent on my job and working hard and showing up on time made me good. I thought, being tolerant of the beliefs and lifestyles of others and not judging them made me good.

    But all of that changed. A day came in my life, when I was in a deep pit emotionally and spiritually, and the Lord reached down and picked me up, dusted me off and loved me with a love I had never known.

    It was a terribly painful time because he showed me that in fact I am a terrible sinner; I have lied, been angry, been selfish, been cruel, taken things that don't belong to me, committed adultry, wanted what others have, praised people to the neglect of God, trusted in my own understanding instead of what God has said, searched after my own comfort rather than the comfort of others, and the list goes on…..

    He opened my eyes to the truth of his word, I believe what it says about Him, about me and about the world. I am a sinner and He is righteous. He is also Love and it is that love that has led me to repent of my sins. He did not let me continue on in life under the delusion that I am good (a delusion that would have kept me from Heaven). I am thankful, and I believe passionately in what the Bible teaches. And as much as John thinks it is laughable and worthy of mocking; I am passionate over the 15-year old boy's soul and I do long for Him to meet the Lord as I have.

    One of the former posters said that she believed that evil people murdered Jesus; it was not what God wanted. On that day in my life, God showed me that it was my sin that caused His suffering. Mine personally. Not just the sins of the world, but MY OWN SIN. My heart was broken over what I have done. That is why Jesus is so very precious to me; because of that great love. The love that forgives me and promises to recreate me one day – without sin.

    Sorry that I have offended, chalk that up to one more of my sins that has required the blood of Jesus to atone for.

    Satire or not, I am fully convinced of what the Lord has already revealed to me. I know I do not know the 'fullness' of His glory now, but I know that because of His death and resurrection, the propitiation for my sins, a day will come when I will know Him completely, and no longer sin.

  • That's the way it is with you so-called Christians. Always wither with your head in that Bible of yours, or sticking your nose in other people's business. Wake up, brother John. There are people suffering out here, suffering from your insufferable … ness (if that's the word I want).

    As always: a post way too on-point, and a reply way too snarky. That's the John Shore we keep coming back for.

  • Beautiful post, DR. I know that it's just me loving the sound of my own questions in the echo chamber, but you said it all there. I'm struggling to find my way back into a relationship with Jesus after, like you, finding far more in common with atheists — especially what I call atheologians, who know more about God and have thought more about Him than many "God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It" Christians — than with my so-called brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Problem is, out here in the land-of-questions-rather-than-answers, I'm not finding a lot of heart. I taught a class, "Living The Questions", which billed itself as an unashamedly liberal answer to the "Alpha Course" that was so popular at the time, and was saddened by how it was so "head" and so "not heart". I read Bishop John Shelby "Jack" Spong and while I admire his intellect and his disciplined approach, but I find that his claims to love the Bible ring empty after so many pages explaining how it cannot possible be what people have claimed for it all these years. I don't have as much problem with Marcus Borg, who seems to be more about building up a theology that lets God be alive rather than tearing down the dead theology that is killing Protestant Christianity, but again, it's a lot of head an not a lot of heart.

    I'm struggling because I want to experience the love of God in Christ, but it's so often expressed in language that is totally off-putting to me (see John's post about Christian Music for a hint of what I'm up against) that I just can't hear it.

  • Dave, try nursing a wiggly toddler and typing!

  • DR


    I don't know much, but I suspect on the Internet a lot of us are approaching one another with our own built. In biases, concerns, frustrations, and unforgiveness. You might have your own branded zeal, but so do many of us.

    I don't believe for a second you intended any ill will and I'd also bet that those of us who have been wounded by Fundamentalists have drawn our own conclusions about your that don't measure up to who you really are. If Ive done that, I'm sorry. I will admit to bristling to your first few comments here where you actually said people were in error. Im still holding on to that, but for the sake of potential better discussions with you, I will try to let it go.

  • DR

    When you believe something, it stands to reason that you think others are wrong; otherwise, you don’t really beieve it do you?>>>

    Sure, perhaps. But I don't say "You're in error" without fully trying to understand their point of view with a truly open mind, and it became pretty clear that you weren't open to that. You jumped in immediately pointing out everyone else who was in error and expressed a frustration with people who didn't – and I'm using your words here, Jeanine – "Love the Word of God". Which is offensive, because some might disagree with your interpretation of what the Word says, it doesn't mean we love it any less.

    Here is what a lot of us face when dealing with Evangelists and their typical lack of willingness to listen to just understand prior to responding with the right teaching. You can truly take this or leave it. I'll give you an example.

    As a Catholic, I have certain beliefs about Mary that some Protestants may not. And many (if not most) Fundamentalist Evangelicals will approach me in a discussion about Mary and the following conversation ensues. This is almost verbatim after literally, dozens of conversations.


    "Where in the BIble does it say it's OK to worship Mary?"


    "I don't worship Mary."


    "Well, yes you do. In the Hail Mary prayer you call her "blessed' which is worship. And you pray to her which is worship. Which is totally against Scripture and is why most Catholics are headed for hell because of all your false teachings."


    "A lot of people are blessed. It doesn't mean they hold any kind of Deity status. Mary is 100% human. As for "prayer", it's just talking to someone we believe is unseen. We don't worship Mary. You are assigning a verb to me that I'm actually not doing, and then asking me to defend it and also stating that I'm in actual disobedience with is a pretty serious deal. So I have to defend something that I'm not even doing while at the same time, deal with your accusation that I'm in spiritual danger."


    "I'm not accusing you of anything, according to the Word of God there is only one Mediator to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ."


    "Right – which is why Mary prays to her *Son* Jesus. Who is the one Mediator. But will you please address my first point instead of jumping to another? Could you say what I said back to you so I can make sure you understand what I said?"


    "I already did. You worship Mary. Stop attacking me, all I'm doing is offering you what the Word of God says. If you're uncomfortable with what I'm offering, it's because you're being convicted by the Holy Spirit."


    "Are you at all open to the idea that you – as an observer of Catholics – have actually no idea what our actual *practice* is regarding Mary? Or were you just asking me a question so you could correct me?"


    "Of course I'm open – we're talking, aren't we? So far you've not told me anything that's proven you don't worship Mary."

    And so on, and so on. And then Jeanine, you know what happens? We just leave. We just leave the conversation and we dismiss you because you're so convinced you're right, you're not open to being wrong. It keeps you from listening carefully. And part of that is your responsibility (I'm using "your" in a general way, referring to you Evangelical/Fundamentalist brethren).

    There is absolutely no harm that will come to you or to anyone if we are offering the wrong teaching about hell. Or Mary. There isn't. God in his justice and his mercy will reveal himself and his truth to those who genuinely seek it.

  • May I say …BRILLIANT!!!

  • Simply sad for you, and all others who but serve 'time' in the prison that is this world ;-(

    “Love Not The World”

    ”For the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one”…….(I John 5:19)

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.”(IJohn2:15-17)

    “If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John15:19-20)

    “Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

    “The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

    The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

    John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) And once again, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James4:4)

    The “earth and it's life forms” are The Creation of The ONE and Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”, he who is “the father of lies”, he who “has blinded the minds of those who believe not The Messiah”! All the nations of this world are under the dominion of, and serve, the “god of this world” for he provides the fuel that feeds mankind’s “imag”ination.

    And sadly, mankind’s “imag”ination is destroying Creation(air, water, land vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Truth, Light, Life, Faith, Love, Peace,, All that is Truly Good) ;-(

    "Come out from among them and be separate"!

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE world(not just a portion) is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth……

    Truth IS, a lie is not…….

    Abide in The Truth……. francis

  • Matthew Tweedell

    There are two important aspects to the Holy Spirit: It is a Spirit of Truth, and It is a Spirit of Love.

    Truth is manifest in the form of the True Word. And in Him there is no blemish of inconsistency and no fault as the final Judge of all things. To make a long story short, as these traits allow us to identify His form in the material world, we find Perfect Logic and Creative Reason. Meditation upon these things results in what's "a lot of head and not a lot of heart".

    Yet at the same time the Spirit of Holiness is that of Love. Indeed, Love ultimately *is* the Creative Reason. Love is manifest in the form of the Savior, the Good Shepherd—together with Truth appearing as the Good Teacher. And though Love is the Word incarnate, it is such as can only poorly be described through words but is known through its Living Truth, the Reality of Life. It is the work of Grace that is our meditation on Love; do not expect to find it in the pages of a book but go out there and be a part of it.

    And these two meditations on the Spirit ought to find their union in the act of prayer.

  • Jeanine

    I apologize if I have conveyed a superiority in my postings – that was not my intent – it is hard with a computer when you can’t see into somebody’s eyes to convey a passion without sounding mean. Although people being patient and gracious? I have been called everything from immature spiritually to Osama Bin Laden and outwardly mocked in the satire of John’s post. Not so gracious…..

  • Jeanine

    My prayer was offered up in absolute earnestness. Those of us dialoguing all say we believe in God and his leading Spirit; so if we are in disagreement, why not plead for his leading? When we disagree on issues in our church body, this is exactly what we do to resolve the issues…. pray.

  • Can you say 'irony'?

  • Susan

    I, too, understand the wisdom of praying, but if you review many of your posts, maybe you can understand why some of us are skeptical about the authenticity of motive.

    While I can only speak for myself, I tend to believe that most of us that participate in this blog think we can learn from what other's share. Do you feel like you can gain any insight by participating? I don't mean this in a condescending manner, as I'm truly interested.

  • Diana A.

    Thank you, Dennis. Both ditties are priceless!

  • Diana A.

    I can see your point on this, but I also see the point of those who found it somewhat offensive. Sometimes when people pray in a public context, it’s less a prayer than a sermon in the guise of a prayer.

  • bah. “Always EITHER with your…” Stupid fingers. NEVER, EVER buy your typing fingers on-line. They never work the way the ad says they will.

  • Susan

    Ditto Sylvie's comment.

  • DR

    I do! It's in the link. I rarely write there though, too busy with work.

  • DR

    It's incredibly difficult for me to not deal with the versions of other people who are standing in front of me, virtual or otherwise. It's a strong possibility that Jeanine probably has a thousand examples of Christians like myself calling her a "hateful", completely unwilling to listen for who SHE is and what she might have to offer.

    So this all goes both ways. Splinter, eye, etc. My revised goal for myself is to not be an asshole and/or have someone send me an anonymous link to an anger management class. I think that might be the best I can do.

  • Susan

    I confess I figured it was rhetorical, but it helps me to try and put something into words, and who knows, maybe it would provide food for thought to someone else.

    Unfortunately I received an air-headed gene or two, but I find if I let go of ego and let the air-head out, sometimes something good will come out of it!

  • DR

    I believe you!

  • Susan

    Everyone acts like an asshole at one time or another. Many behaviors of which I'm critical, I'm also guilty of at times. And although I'm not proud of those actions and it doesn't feel good to discover those things about myself, I'm extremely grateful for the awareness. If I ever think I'm beyond asshole status, then I've become a card-carrying member.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    “[W]e live in a largely vapid culture who’d rather watch Katy Perry spray whipped cream from her bra.”

    I instantly recognize a deeper significance to that there metaphor. It looks to be a response to part of Lady Gaga’s latest video prior to this one of Katy’s, in which Lady Gaga’s breasts are cloaked by devices not for shooting whipped cream, but bullets—namely, the front ends of assault rifles.

    The culture’s in a bit of a crisis right now regarding its view of the nature of female sexuality, which seems at the very least to be feeding some seriously inconsistent input to our young women and girls in America. So there is legitimate debate, finding expression in the very videos of music so instrumental to the cultural cacophony in the first place. (Yes, that’s a punning musical metaphor, in case you didn’t notice.)

    Lady Gaga, while having been accused of being somewhat misandrous, in fact expresses in a highly exaggerative style very real realities (such as how masculine men readily open themselves up to the exploitation of their own sexuality while denying the reality that this demonstrates of the true strength and raw power inherent in what is feminine). This image points to the idea that titties are intimidating, and there are important consequences of society’s outlook on female sexuality for men as well. Over-emphasis on sexuality and resulting promiscuity have dangerous and dehumanizing consequences for men as well. It’s not just knights in jousting tournaments of old have died out of love—no, not really love—lust—of women.

    Much of Katy Perry’s music, on the other hand, appears at first glance to support the idea that the increased sexualization of women is really just fun for everyone: titties are awesomely sweet, and it’s all ultimately innocent. Although I would not accredit to her the same sort of artistic vision as Lady Gaga, on closer inspection, her overall style would often appear to exaggerate and poke fun at silly popular views within liberal young-adult American culture. (Take, for example, the sexist inconsistency expressed in her first two hits (“Ur So Gay” & “I Kissed a Girl”), or the theme of “Waking Up in Vegas”.)

    From the song “California Gurls” (which harks back to an older hit song, in reflection of a culture that has since undergone a steady stream of changes in many way, while certain things remain the same)—the whole video for which is a gross exaggeration of California awesomeness (just as the song’s other star, Snoop Dogg, himself is to gangsta’ life) sprinkled with more than a few glimpses of what ultimately isn’t really so great about these things—the instance you refer to appears intended to recall the recent video by Lady Gaga, perhaps to spark further thought about the matter, and likely causing more than a few to recognize the significance of that in the other video (concurrent in the charts) where they might have been overlooking that (in true Lady-Gaga style: fashion) statement. I’d bet Katy Perry’s fiancé, Russel Brand, would affirm from personal life experience the truth to the depiction of female sexuality as a potentially dangerous thing… for men.

  • Susan


    Thank you for sharing your personal experience.

    We all come with baggage; a bit bruised and banged up in some form or another. Certain issues remind us of what damaged us. We’re all human.

    Glad that you didn’t disappear into the virtual vortex and are still participating in the post.

    My hope is that we can all learn from each other, and even from John.


  • I confess my question was a little bit rhetorical. And those with my deep belief in the ambiguity of all communication understood immediately that you probably meant that three twos less one two was four.

  • Kara

    Ah, phooey. I guess you can't embed pictures.

    In the immortal words of Sergeant Hulka…

  • Don Whitt

    I always kiss True Believers on the mouth to taste their assured-ness. It tastes like napalm.

  • Don Whitt

    And please don't ask me how I know what napalm tastes like…

  • Susan……

    I get your logic and like it.

    John….I think that each and every one of us….no matter what we say….ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have areas in our life where we take that firm stand on what we believe…..just like you did…..and since that is one of the many ways we just do things….whether we want to or not…..we can not judge you for doing what we are probably doing at that very moment….and just not recognizing it. Even taking a strong and assertive stance to NOT AGREE with any other person is doing the very same thing. Being truly open means exactly that. But we just never quite get to the point of being experts in that field.

    I love the back and forth….But what I respect most of all… every person that displays this… a kindness and softness in their ability to hear and respect others even when they hold a different view. When I see a post that aggressively attacks another comment…..and then faults them for being close-minded in their stance…..I see insecurity.

    And we ALL ARE ON THIS PATH T.O.G.E.T.H.E.R. Right??? None of us have the ultimate, total, complete picture. And John….I appreciate that you never act like you do. But at the same time…its good for us to take our stands on the things we believe are true….and then walk it out… it out….see if it turns out to be true.

    And one thing I have discovered………each person and each religion and each belief system has SOMETHING in it that is TRUTH and that I am able to support and agree with…..and EVERY SINGLE ONE also has things I cannot put my belief behind…..though some are 90-10…..some are 50-50….etc. But TRUTH…in the most healthy form…will always prove itself. And I agree……..kindness…..honor…..treating others the way I would want to be treated……those are the foundations that I believe ANY truth should and must be grounded upon.

    Once again…….I blathered longer than I was going to. I'm with Susan…..discard……delete…..whatever. This is just my personal thoughts so far….up to this point in my life……

    The end. By Chellee 😉

  • Seriously…is this satire?

  • Diana A.

    I love this! I don't know how I missed your comment the first time I went though the comments, but I'm seeing it now and loving it. I just thought I'd share.

  • Diana A.

    Boy, I really should read things more than once. It does help with the insight thing. The first time around, I missed the "Pogo" reference entirely (he's the dude that said "We have met the enemy and he is us," correct?) But yes, you're absolutely right.

  • Diana A.

    I dunno, Mike. What do you think?

  • erika

    thanks diana! **curtses**

  • DonP

    You got it. The original, ""We have met the enemy, and they are ours." was first spoken via a message sent in 1813 from U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry to Army General William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie. Pogo was a newspaper (hmm, remember those?) comics character who's paraphrase lives on. here is a link to the history and use of the phrase:

  • I'm gonna go with satire. If it weren't, John would be too damaged to be worth reading.

    I sure with there was a winking smiley-face emoticon to clue me in. Another example of Poe's law.