When Bad Christians Happen to Christians in Love with Non-Christians

When Bad Christians Happen to Christians in Love with Non-Christians April 28, 2015

Got in the letter below. My [big word alert!] interstitial responses to it in bracketed blue.

Hello, John.

I came across your website a few weeks ago and I can say that many of your posts are thought-provoking and have proven valuable to me. [Thanks!] The reason I’m sending you this (after gathering enough strength for doing so) is that I find myself in a difficult situation regarding a relationship, and I think you could help me on this. [I hope I can! But it’s after midnight, and I’ve spent basically two days holed up here in this pretty crappy hotel room in Palm Springs, CA., where I believe the average yearly temperature is OH MY GOD I’M DYING. So . . . you know.]

Well, there is this girl from college that is a great friend of mine and a true companion. And in the second half of last year I realized that I was really fond of her and my appreciation for her only grew. [Ahh. How lovely!]

So. For four years I’ve been part of the leadership of a local Christian ministry focused on evangelizing to teenagers (prior to this I attended it regularly as a teenager). [I have a feeling I’m going to really hate where this goes next.] One of the group’s requirements is that its leaders can’t by any means be in a relationship with a non-Christian [annnnnnd there it is]; otherwise it would lead to the leader’s being kicked out of the ministry. [Ah, yes. I believe it was during his Sermon on the Mount that Jesus said to his followers, “And remember, thine singletons: If ye cannot findest thou a Christian to marry, keepest looking until you find one, or get the hell out, traitor!” I could be wrong on that exact wording, though. I’ll have to check.]

This is something that wasn’t a concern of mine years ago and I thought (as I’ve been taught ever since I joined this group and got in touch with Christianity) [just a quick note: your group is in touch with Christianity like Hitler was in touch with the Torah] that it was a standard, non-negotiable tenet of Christianity. [It’s not. It’s a standard, non-negotiable tenet amongst literally no one but Christians who wouldn’t know the Holy Spirit from a gas attack.] I was comfortable with the idea of having a relationship solely with Christians, and I wanted it to be so. [Of course you did. That’s what you were taught. We’re all victims of what we were taught.]

However, when I learned that I really liked this non-Christian friend of mine, when I understood I genuinely did want to be with her, I was afraid. I was afraid because this would mean my being kicked out of the group where I learned all about Christ and where I have great friends. So I decided to try to forget everything that I felt for my non-Christian friend.

But I found that I could not forget about her.

All of this has meant a profound shake in my belief that Christians can only be in relationships with Christians. I feel like the building I carefully built is all of the sudden falling down. [Good. That particular building needs to fall down, so that you can build a better one in its place. A nicer one—a warmer one, with a prettier view, and a lot more rooms.]

While looking for further information on this whole issue I found your website and I thought you would have good insights about it all. [I don’t know if you saw this one, but if not please read Christians in Love with Non-Christians, and their Christian “Friends” Who Object.]

My question, after all, is this: Is it safe to get myself closer to this friend, even if it means being kicked out of the ministry? [God, yes. That it would get you kicked out of your ministry would be a good enough reason to date your love. Your ministry group is deeply, profoundly, toxically flawed. Believe it now, or … have it proven to you later. I’m voting for believe it now.]

Would God approve such a move of mine? [I don’t know; for all I know the girl you’re in love with is a vampire. I know one thing for sure, though, which is that God would not disapprove of your pursuing a relationship with this girl solely on the basis of her not being a Christian. That I can guarantee. Love is love. God is love. God loves God. You’re good.]

And, finally, how can I deal with eventual derogatory commentaries about a decision of this nature? [You ignore the crap out of them. Anyone who would make a derogatory comment about you being in a relationship with someone you love is not a person to whom you should listen anyway. Pigs always find something to grunt and snuffle over.] 

Thanks so much and forgive my bad English, I’m a foreigner. [Your English is awesome! It’s so much better than my whatever-your-first-language-is that I’m pretty sure I’m the foreigner here. You rock for knowing (at least) two languages. I barely know one.]

Really looking forward to your answer. [Thanks! Best to you, brother. Way to let your heart, instead of your fears–much less the fears of others–lead you. That’s always the best way. To follow love is to follow God.]

About the “illustration” above. I drew it. Because there comes a time in every man’s life when he says, “Hey, look! A pen!” And yes, if you insist, I’ll sell you the original. 

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  • Murf

    Dear Person-who-wants-John-to-tell-them-to-do-what-they-already-want-to-do: the problem with dating a non-follower of Christ when you are a follower of Christ is that you will either:
    a. become a non-follower of Christ because your significant other is more important to you than Jesus.
    b. Learn what true loneliness is as you try to live a life for Jesus when your significant other has no interest. One woman who married a non-believer said: “If you think you are lonely before you get married, it’s nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!”

    For some actual good advice (in contrast to John’s) read Kathy Keller who has had a lot of experience counseling people in mixed relationships where marriage has resulted:


  • Michael

    ‘God is love’ is the theological heart of John’s response. However, the same Bible that tells us this also says, ‘if [a woman’s] husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord’ (1 Cor 7.39) and ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers’ (2 Cor 6.14). In John’s other post on this issue, he invokes 1 Cor 7.14: ‘For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband’ without mentioning the very strong possibility that this refers to couples who were married prior to the conversion of the husband or the wife. Respectfully, you can’t have your Bible and edit it, too. I mean, if you accept some parts of the Bible and reject others, how can you be sure that you’ve chosen correctly?

  • Guy Norred

    I wonder how far beyond this organization this person has explored Christianity. Perhaps it is time to develop other Christian relationships as well as furthering this romantic one. He might want to hold his heart open as he is almost certain to come up against something or another he would regard as heresy if he has only really experienced Christianity through the eyes of one branch. He doesn’t need to embrace anything without due regard (nor should he) but he might still be surprised at himself in a few years. In the disputed words of Thomas Merton, “If the you of five years ago wouldn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.”

  • I am a somewhat agnostic universalist, my spouse is a old school, conservative southern baptist. The idea that the other’s faith steals from our own beliefs is ludicrous. I do not tell my husband how and what to believe, and he doesn’t me. We each practice our beliefs privately, and we share ideas, concepts, just to learn about one another, and to try to understand the whys of our individual faiths. We have too much respect for ourselves and for each other to try to conform one another to the other’s ideals. Thousands of interfaith couples not only exist, but exist peacefully and harmoneously.

    now to your points.

    a. “your spouse would become more important than Jesus”…Erm. If you make religion more important than your relationship with the person you plan on spending the rest of your life with, then you’ve already got a problem, a selfish one, and one lacking any respect for the beliefs, thoughts and mindset of your partner.

    b. Balderdash. If all a relationship is based only on the standards of your religious belief, then its going to be lonely, because you based it on nothing but you, what you want, what you need, what you believe….again selfish.

  • Rust Cohle

    I think progressives concoct way too many excuses for a set of very poor ethical positions in the New Testament. They assume Jesus was perfect, and that somehow the Bible is misinterpreted. No, Jesus wasn’t perfect; he was far from it.

    Avolos, H. (2015) The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd. amazon.com/Bad-Jesus-Ethics-New-Testament/dp/1909697796/

  • And today’s quote of the day is, “just a quick note: your group is in touch with Christianity like Hitler was in touch with the Torah.” I hope it hits home with the letter writer.

  • So Paul’s opinions are sacrosanct?
    Respectfully, the Bible has been edited numerous times, by copiers and translators over its 1600+ year history.

  • Because I’m not an idiot; because I know right from wrong.

  • Well there is that as well.

  • BarbaraR

    Damn, I missed this comment. But I am sure there will be plenty more just like it.

  • BarbaraR

    he is almost certain to come up against something or another he would regard as heresy if he has only really experienced Christianity through the eyes of one branch

    It sounds like the letter writer is young-ish and (guessing) probably has not been exposed to many different schools of thought – else, why would he be fearful of being tossing out of this organization? The organization in question almost certainly does not encourage exploration beyond its teachings and dogma (been there, done that, used the t-shirt to polish my car). Those of us who have been around that proverbial block a few times would say, “You don’t like my girlfriend because she doesn’t toe your line? Sayonara, losers!”

  • Guy Norred

    I am stealing “used the t-shirt to polish my car”. I love that! 😉

  • I got inspired by this, to write my own article on this on http://comingoutkonyv.hu I see the problem with this question from a broader perspective. Jesus, nor Paul, nor any biblical author knew what it means to “date”. This is a perfectly modern term and phenomenon. People were not dating anybody back then… They were marrying. Period. Therefore Jesus has had no word on dating….

  • Jill

    same old same old

  • Jill Barrowclough Alexander

    I am a Christian (progressive) that has been married to a Jew for 30 years. We have participated in both Christian and Jewish festivities and raised three amazing sons who are open-minded, full of compassion, ethical and moral. My life with this man has been one of the fullness of love, discovery, education, and just plain fun. And I was “condemned” to hell for not converting him by some very fundamentalist friends. I trust that G-d will judge me fairly when the time comes. In the meantime, I love my husband and children with all that I have and truly believe that they were gifts to me to be cherished.

  • Andy

    Regardless of whether or not I believe Jesus was perfect, what ethical positions does he take that you find poor?

  • Andy

    Psst…mods can see deleted posts…

  • BarbaraR

    We can? How, where?

  • SonjaFaithLund

    Where in 2 Cor 6.14 does marriage come up? What does it mean to be yoked? I just checked again and 2 Cor 6 makes no mention of marriage. So why do we use that verse as a definite condemnation of interfaith marriage?

  • Andy

    In the moderation panel, there’s a “Deleted” tab.

  • Avalos is hardly the first person I’d look to for an objective assessment of Jesus’ ethics. Regardless, simply linking to his latest book isn’t a substitute for informed and reasonable discussion.

  • Because its assumed by those who use it, that faith is the primary personality characteristic of people, which of course it isn’t

  • Lori Wells Mang

    I married a Catholic (not a real Christian according to most Baptists). Lightening didn’t strike. I’m fine.

  • SonjaFaithLund

    Amazing how Christians can interpret something one way for so long that we become incapable of seeing the text as it really is.

  • Andy

    You mean like the clobber passages?

  • Once, during the years that I didn’t know any better, I was told by a college drinking buddy [who was and still is agnostic] that one does not need religion to be a good person, all one needs is empathy. I didn’t get it back then, but it stuck. A few weeks later, it struck me! What an aha! moment! I see it as clear as night and day! Thanks for that reminder John!

  • Andy

    I also married a non-Christian. But then, sometimes I’m not sure I’m one. There are definitely some people who would say I’m not, but I don’t care. “Christian” is just a word, anyway.

    My wife and I have been together for over 13 years. I’ve known a lot of Christian couples that didn’t last nearly that long. Having a common faith, or lack thereof, is nice, but hardly a guarantee of a lasting marriage.

  • JJ

    Can you expand on this please SonjaFaith Lund (or anyone)? I am sincerely interested on different views of the passage as I have always been taught Christians must marry Christians from this. Thanks so much!

  • SonjaFaithLund

    Well, if you look at 2 Cor 6, there’s nothing in there about marriage. The verse in question is the start of a section labelled, at least in the NIV, “Warning Against Idolatry,” and much of the chapter basically says not to blend one’s Christian practice with non-Christian ones. Nowhere in the text of the verse or the context says that this verse refers to marrying non-Christians, so it amazes me that people are lobbing that verse around here like it settles the issue. They have to prove it refers definitively to interfaith marriage.

  • JJ

    Thanks for your helpful reply.

  • BarbaraR

    Ditto. My agnostic husband and I have been together 11 years and married for five. I feel very much the same way about all you said.

  • SonjaFaithLund

    No problem! 🙂

  • Caroline Sanderson

    John Shore….thank God literally for you. So well written & love your sense of humour. This unfundamentalist Christian woman ( who fwiw, is not straight) thinks you really do get it! Even if the fundies would say I’m not a Christian….to quote you – Love is love. God is love. God loves God. I’m good. You’re good In fact…you rock!!! Thanks for sharing the love <3

  • Michael

    Phew! A lot of responses! I don’t think I’m talking to a very sympathetic audience, but just so I don’t look stumped, a few points: (1) I don’t think yoked = marriage in 2 Cor 6, it just seems to me that marriage is one kind of yoking that you would avoid if 6.14 was part of your worldview; (2) John, I think you put too much faith in yourself. One of the fundamental concepts in the Bible is that we don’t always know right from wrong (Rom 1.21) which is why a saviour is such good news. But my real point is, if you’re subjectively deciding to accept and reject various parts of the Bible, you can’t be sure that the bits you like are true (e.g. ‘God is love’); (3) No, Paul’s opinions aren’t sacrosanct. In 1 Cor 7 he clearly distinguishes between his opinion, and things Christians ‘must’ do; (4) I’m using ‘edited’ in a different sense, allegro: modern Bibles are translated from texts over 1600 years old, and there are no serious (i.e. doctrine-changing) discrepancies between different versions of those texts; (5) I was trying to use the word ‘respectfully’ sincerely: grace absent in disagreement isn’t grace at all.

  • reconstructorofworlds

    On the one hand, there is something to be said for marrying someone who believes the same things as you – for example, I had an agnostic roommate for a few years, and she just. didn’t. get. it. at a moment when I really needed someone around who “got it” (long story, but my best friend’s mom died of cancer and that process of several years was part of a huge spurt of spiritual growth for me. I am certain she is in heaven, and it was a big realization for me at the time.) and I would hate to marry someone whose response was like my roommate’s, which was “that’s nice.”

    On the other hand, I wasn’t in love with my roommate. Hopefully, someone who loved me would have at least attempted to understand even if they didn’t agree. Which is what friends should do, as well. If this person’s friends are unwilling to make an attempt to understand how he feels about the one he loves, they are not good friends. And sometimes organizations need to be challenged for the good of all. You love who you love.

  • BarbaraR

    As posted below, ” one does not need religion to be a good person, all one needs is empathy.”

  • reconstructorofworlds

    *side note*

    “Ah, yes. I believe it was during his
    Sermon on the Mount that Jesus said to his followers, “And remember,
    thine singletons: If ye cannot findest thou a Christian to marry,
    keepest looking until you find one, or get the hell out, traitor!””

    You know, part of the reason I haven’t been to church regularly for nearly 4 years now is this. And when I got up the courage to actually tell someone I didn’t feel welcome in church because I’m single he (a friend!) actually said “so get a boyfriend, then”. Way to be part of the problem, there. 😛

  • Brandon Roberts

    honestly he should just go for the girl if he really loves her.

  • Modern bibles are not translated from 1600 year old texts, but copies of copies of texts of younger age, many of which had discrepencies of all sorts. The group of people who chose what to make it into the early versions of the bible were themselves working off of copies of imperfect copies. I highly recommend this book. http://www.amazon.com/Misquoting-Jesus-Story-Behind-Changed/dp/0060859512/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430395460&sr=8-1&keywords=misquoting+jesus

  • Bones

    Sounds like we’ve exchanged one Law for another. The New Testament was not written as divine utterances or commandments. Peter still couldn’t get his head around the fact that Gentiles didn’t have to become Jews even after being taught by the risen Jesus Himself. As for Paul, well he writes “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,” (1 Cor 11:14). No it doesn’t. He’s wrong. Paul’s opinion is no more binding than mine. And that is clearly what the authors of the epistles are giving. Their opinion.

  • ChuckQueen101

    “Love is love. God is love. God loves God.” – great line.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Imperfect does not equal “bad” – As Amy Jill Levine reminds us that even though not everything in the Gospels is historical, and one has to peel back some of the layers of the tradition to get at the historical Jesus, we have enough to paint a general portrait of Jesus and the general portrait is one of compassion, inclusion, and grace.

  • Rust Cohle

    not everything in the Gospels is historical

    That is an understatement.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I don’t think so. A Gospel is a combination of memory and proclamation, history and theology. Yes, there are some stories that may be mostly or even totally metaphorical, and yet they generally reflect that which is true to the nature and character of Jesus. Take for example, Jesus walking on the water. Historically, I’m fairly confident it didn’t happen. But it does indeed reflect the continued experience of the presence of Jesus with the disciples and their communities as they encountered the storms of opposition after the destruction of Jerusalem. Mark’s version of that story clearly drew from Hebrew imagery and language (“I am”; “fear not”; going to “pass by”) of theophany. You could call this a Christophany. It was a story about the living presence of Christ with the church in times of distress and hardship.

  • Alan Christensen

    For a religion founded by a single person, we sure can be unfriendly to single people.

  • Matt

    I think this young man’s potential romance with a non-Christian is honestly beside the point. The central issue is that he thinks there are so many requirements to be a Christian that are not needed at all! Off the top of my head, the only things one needs to believe to be a Christian are that Jesus Christ was divine, the Son of God, and died on a cross for humanity’s sins. And be baptized. (Even then you’re getting into some tricky territory–I just read about an early Christian belief called Adoptionism that asserted that Jesus was the adopted son of God!)

    No need to evangelize, marry a Christian, have a spouse in the first place, abstain from alcohol or drugs, go to a certain church, believe in hell, be straight, not be transgender, believe women are inferior, be completely abstinent until marriage, deny science, look a certain way, dress a certain way, talk a certain way. None of that.

    (And it took way longer than it should have for me to remember all of the rules I’ve heard over the years! I also apparently have a serious problem with parentheses. That’s probably a rule too, somewhere.)

    Think about it, Letter Writer. Don’t all of those rules pretty quickly take Jesus’ message of radical transformative love and reduce it to a mere club? If you’re looking for one of those, there are way more fun ones! Crafts or jogging, for example!

  • Andy

    Same as it ever was.

  • Jill

    Nice earworm. Thanks for that!

  • Jill

    (I meant that genuinely. It’s a great song…)

  • Andy

    You’re welcome, dear. 🙂

  • Pete Brown

    I am Pagan and I have dated Christians and ladies from other religions. We have nutuel respect and acceptance for each other so religion is not a problem.

  • I have a funny story – and by “funny” I mean “exasperating” – it took place on the Internet and didn’t affect my real life too much, but it was just kind of weird… regarding this issue. It was weird enough for me to remember it.

    I was on a message board for a favorite series of videogames. Yay, Nintendo stuff… and there was a member there who was a single-issue wonk. He hung out a lot in the free-talking forums more than in actual game discussions. People displaying the attitude of “intellectual superiority” about their every opinion is common in fandom but the guy seemed like he wasn’t there to discuss the games at all so much as to save all the gamers from the evils of theism because he was an ex-Jehova’s Witness who’d just converted to atheism. We wound up getting into a very weird thread where I mentioned having non-Christian and agnostic/atheist friends and he went into a tirade about the “unevenly yoked” hammer-verse and how I wasn’t really practicing my faith properly or really a believer (implication that I should lockstep and become his kind of atheist right the hell now) because supposedly, the “Bible says you shouldn’t have non-Christian friends.”

    I explained to him that the way I’d seen that verse used was always in context of marriage, not friendships and that I didn’t care about it overmuch, anyway, because I think it’s possible to believe in certain things without thinking the writers of ancient books were perfect or that society doesn’t march on. And then he started contradicting himself in his further argument, asking me to prove to him where in the Bible it says Christians could marry non-Christians and I said “Hey, I thought we were talking about HAVING FRIENDS.”

    He eventually got banned from the board when he tried to set himself up as the high-guru of evolution-answers because he’d read a Dawkins book or two on the subject, which annoyed, among other people, the (agnostic) biology major on the board who was seriously studying actual genetic engineering stuff in Europe. I was not at all involved in this.

    I just still, years later, find it weird that I didn’t get the worst berating over this from a nanny-nag churcher, but from an anti-theist on an online board set up to discuss something else entirely. The Internet is weird.

  • Heh! Roommates are not there to be your friend and sounding board…they’re there to pay half the rent! I have friends that I wouldn’t go to with something deeply spiritual because it is meaningless to them. Just sayin’. 🙂

  • lorasinger

    Not one gospel writer knew Jesus. Paul didn’t know Jesus nor did he study under the apostles. The NT was written by anonymous Pauline converts who were documenting legend going around in their time, stories that had been repeated countless numbers of times before reaching them and like the telephone game, the pea became a planet. And then, over the following years, there was countless editing superimposed over mistranslation and misinterpretation. There is not one text that can be called accurate.

  • Shiphrah99

    And those marriages were mostly arranged.

  • lorasinger

    How about “The bible has been edited and edited and edited” all through history. Try reading about “Forgery in the Bible” thenazareneway.com/Forgery%20in%20Christianity/index_forgery_in_christianity.htm
    Or read “The Dark side of Christian History” by Ellerbe.

  • lorasinger

    “Peter still couldn’t get his head around the fact that Gentiles didn’t have to become Jews even ”
    Not true. The issue didn’t come up until Paul brought it forth 20 years after the man, Jesus, was dead. Paul never even met Jesus. In order to increase his number of converts from whom he collected money, Paul made circumcision unnecessary but since circumcision was the outward sign of the Jews eternal covenant with God (the law of Moses/Torah), that had to go too and so Paul told his converts that they were under a new covenant and the death of Jesus and his resurrection were it. So to Paul’s Christians, this was the split from Judaism and a new covenant. Peter was an apostle of the circumcised and therefore remained a Jew.

  • Michael McKelvey

    One of the many bad ways of reading the Bible is to pull out a verse without understanding what in means in the context of the entire book. Another is to believe that you are supposed to read every verse as if it is addressed to you, in your own time and circumstance. This is especially dangerous with the epistles, because unlike the prophetic texts and gospels, they were not written for the general reader but with a very specific audience in mind, and that was definitely not anyone reading this website.

    So, on the topic of 2 Corinthians:

    2 Corinthians is actually at least the fourth letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. When he wrote it, he was in serious contention with at least one faction of Jesus-followers in that city. From the text, we can tell that the letter he wrote just before 2 Corinthians, which is lost to us, caused a lot of upset and sadness (and possibly anger). So much so that he changed his plans to visit the city. Remember that Paul’s method of travel was walking, and his last “visit” to Corinth lasted at least three months — changing travel plans was not done at the spur of the moment in the first century.

    Because we don’t have all of Paul’s letters, or any information from the Corinthian side, we don’t really know who he was talking about when he said not to partner with unbelievers. Reference to Belial in 6:15 indicates he may be talking about pagans – Greeks who worshiped the Olympian gods, which Paul likens to worshiping the devil – but some commentators believe, based on 11:22 and 12:11, that he meant some Jewish Jesus-followers who disagreed with Paul’s version of the gospel and disputed his status as apostle. Perhaps they were trying to force the Gentile Christians to be circumcised and keep the kosher laws, as happened in Galatia. Whoever it was, they were trying to undermine Paul’s authority in Corinth.

    Interpreting Paul’s comment on a crisis in 1st century church politics as an instruction on interfaith marriage is really stretching the epistle’s words beyond the breaking point. If you want to generalize anything relevant for the 21st century from that one sentence, it might be that you shouldn’t invite either a priest of Satan or an orthodox rabbi to help revise your church’s liturgy.

    I suppose you could also interpret the spirit of the letter — the entire letter, not just one verse — as a caution against becoming “yoked” to people who are in some way hostile to your core beliefs. So if the young woman described in the letter is actually a hostile anti-theist who sneers at the writer’s faith and starts watching a Bill Maher video every time the prayer group comes over, this probably does not have the makings of a healthy relationship. But you shouldn’t need God, or even an apostle, to tell you that.

  • Snooterpoot

    Or this, by Bishop John Shelby Spong (one of my faith heroes!)

    Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism


  • Snooterpoot

    By a father who sold his daughter.

  • DC Rambler

    Jesus wasn’t a Christian so what’s all the fuss about…

  • reconstructorofworlds

    This was a high school friend who became my dorm roommate in college, though. I wouldn’t normally have gone to her with that sort of spiritual thing, but she was the only one around that day when I really needed a friend to talk to.

  • reconstructorofworlds

    I visited a friend in seminary for the weekend once, and a lot of her seminary friends were convinced we must be a closeted lesbian couple. It was easier for them to imagine than two single women, I guess?

  • Bones

    Just as well Peter was wrong then. And James and Barnabas.

  • ChuckQueen101

    We simply don’t know who the Gospel writers were and how much they did or did not know historically. The claim that there is not one text that is accurate is an extreme view. Because these early followers of Jesus were committed to Jesus as Lord they would have taken great care and interest in preserving the stories of Jesus and about Jesus. But because these stories functioned as proclamations to the church it is difficult to know what is actually historical and what is metaphorical. Yet all the stories offer a generally reliable portrait of Jesus as the disciples remembered him and proclaimed him. For example, consider Jesus’ synagogue sermon in Luke 4 which is unique to Luke’s Gospel. How much is historical and how much is theological is hard to say? But regardless, the portrait fits Jesus as he was remembered and taught in the early communities. In that passage his ministry is defined in terms of Isa. 61 as healer, liberator of the poor and the oppressed, and radical reformer. In the narrative that follows Jesus takes on religious exceptionalism, elitism, and nationalism. Now, how much of that account actually happened that way? There is no way to know. And yet, I am convinced it is true. It is true and accurate and reliable in giving us a glimpse into the ministry and mission of Jesus. in other words, the account can be trusted.

    Legend is not the appropriate word. The better word is “myth.” For the stories of Jesus were told with particular intent and designed to elicit response. No doubt, some stories are purely metaphorical (probably the birth stories and the appearance stories for example) and yet they are true to the disciples experience of the historical Jesus and his living presence (the post-Easter Christ). I think it is remarkable how Paul’s ethical teaching in the authentic letters (1 Thess., 1 and 2 Cor., Gal., Philippians, Phil., Romans) corresponds to Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, though Paul never quotes Jesus directly except a couple of times. There was a reliable and fairly accurate body of material about Jesus that was being passed on.

  • lorasinger

    I’m with a newly converted to fundamentalism guy and already he’s calling me an atheist (we were both United Church). I think it’s going to end up as one of those “God has a plan” things with a 27% fundamentalist divorce rate (above the average of 23%)

  • lorasinger

    In a comparison of today’s bible, “there are about 14,500 changes from the Codex Sinaiticus (one of the earliest existing copies of the bible) alone. All that can be said for certain is that we do not possess a single reliable version of any book of the New Testament” ), McDonald, James (2009-11-01). Beyond Belief: Two Thousand Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church
    Because of the syncretism in combining two different, opposing bodies of belief into one religion in the bible, we also have Jesus appearing as either a Jewish messianic candidate (bring my enemies before me) or being the gentile man-god (love they neighbor as thyself) and sometimes it can be confusing.
    Until you realize that Paul’s Christianity didn’t exist in Jesus’ lifetime and he was born and died a Jew in a Jewish world this certainly IS confusing.. In his world, there were no man gods, no virgin births, no original sin, human sacrifice was forbidden and everyone atoned for their own sins. In Paul’s world 20 or more years later, there wasthe addition of all of the above, common with Greco-Roman pagan man god stories.
    When you are able to identify what is Jewish (their beliefs haven’t changed), you are left with what has been added by Paul and his followers.

  • lorasinger

    I think Peter was just caught in the middle. Working as part of James’ circumcised/ under the law group, he was also trying to get along with Paul’s uncircumcised/new covenant group. After Jesus death, it was James – not Peter – who led the apostles. Read Acts and Galatians where you’ll see that it is James who is in authority. It is James who calls Paul in to explain his new doctrine of teaching his converts to turn their back on Moses Law (Torah), something that Jesus said was to stand to the end of time.

  • Bones

    I think John’s Gospel isn’t even metaphorical. I think there are massive problems with the way that Gospel has been interpreted. The whole dynamics of the Gospel is not Christians v World but Jewish Christians v Jews. The exceptionalist (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; No one can come to the Father but through Me) and elitist verses in John are born out of a rejection of Judaism ie the Synagogue.

  • Bones

    Yes it’s interesting how Jews (ie Jesus) interpret events like the Fall. They interpret them nothing like the traditional Christian understanding. I tend to agree about Paul. He had a lot of Greek influences which coloured his theology and have been excess baggage for 2000 years.

  • BarbaraR

    That is NOT a promising start to any relationship.

  • Bones

    Yes James was certainly the leader.

  • Andy

    There are idiots of all types. Every bunch has its bad apples.

  • More like a YOUNG apple, at least how he came across to me. He struck me personally as “I’m using the Internet to finally be myself and rebel against my horrible parents and everyone remotely like them!” I talked with the Admin. of the board and that’s what he suspected. I also think a lot of people who were raised with black and white thinking and actually absorb it tend toward abandoning everything they were raised with EXCEPT the idea that “those slightly-others are so wrong they might as well be unbelievers” and think “Hey, if I tell them that they’re doing things wrong, anyway, they’ll become like me!” The forumer struck me as “very intelligent, but probably teen-aged.”

    I have my suspicions that he came back onto the board under a different name and mellowed out and became someone most others including myself could generally get along with. The Admin took off all the bans after a while. There was someone who seemed to have a similar general speaking/typing style who became a member in good standing.

    Eventually left the board, in part, because the people who were deliberately trollish came back too and started taking the place over.

  • Guy Norred

    Yes every time I here someone say that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, I kind of want to reply that it has mostly between two men, and if he was lucky, one of them might have been the groom.

  • Andy

    That’s quite the zinger there. I’ll have to remember to use it when the time comes.

  • Andy

    To the people that believe that, I guess a lot of us aren’t “real” Christians, then.

  • Gotcha. 🙂

  • Al Cruise

    After forty years of street ministry/outreach ministry, what ” theology” one chooses to believe has no bearing on what happens to you after death. I do believe what John Shore says ” To follow love is to follow God” does play a roll. I now this for a fact from witness and experience. After speaking with others from cultures all over the world who have been in similar servant work , their observations correspond identically with mine, and affirm John’s statement.

  • charlesburchfield

    geez iI had asimilar exp w a troll reciently. There is an addiction to adrenalin in many of the troll’s one encounters I think. I tracked the convos by checking his disqus profile and sure nuff the chap had been going on a jag trashing christians for days. I told him so and he made his profile ‘private’ after that. I flagged him for profanity after he biched me out.

  • pl1224

    John, I have a question about the young man in question’s definition of the term “non-Christian”. Does he mean that his young lady friend is Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or some faith other than Christianity, of does he simply mean that she is not a Christian of the fundiegelical persuasion?

    It seems to me, that, almost invariably, the term “Christian” is used in the media to refer exclusively to the fundie types. Those of us who are members of mainline Protestant denominations (I’m an Episcopalian) or who are Catholics, are damn sick of national media perpetuating the agenda of self-referential fundamentalist evangelicals by using the term “Christian” as a synonym for the Biblical-literalism bunch.

    Hence my question about your correspondent’s frame of reference. Would his current faith community reject the young woman because she does not profess the Christian faith or is she unacceptable merely because she’s something awful like an Episcopalian, Lutheran, UCC, etc.?

  • There are several Christian groups that do not recognize others as Christian, of course, being of another faith or just not religious at all, lumped in there as well. He’s been told she doesn’t fit the pre-set mold for compatible romantic partner. Yeah she could be catholic, Methodist, jewish, buddhist or just not-religous. I don’t think it matters to the group this young man is connected to.

  • BarbaraR

    Agree with this. It doesn’t matter to the group what her particular outlook is – she is The Other.

  • Archon

    And once again I see someone apologizing for their terrible English when they speak it better than 75% of the native speakers.