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Monthly Archives: January 2008

Sunday Funnies #3: Edward Current’s Guide for Christian Boys

Before you say anything, Exterminator, I know that Sunday is not the only day on which humor is allowed. Shoot, we’re atheists, we don’t have any rules! It happened that I just came across this video by Edward Current and knew it would be perfect for those who gather at the chapel for prayers, devotions and other forms of inspiration and stimulation. Obligatory disclaimer: the preceding statement does not indicate that a presumption of prurient interests applies to those who attend the chapel. I respect and accept all of you just as you are. Honestly. For real. You can take it to the bank.

You can’t blame a chaplain for taking a tip from Phillychief and using sex as a hook to reel thousands of people into the chapel. On a personal note, I must shake my head and sigh: where was Edward when the Deacon and I needed him to take up our burden and teach our sons about sex?

Hat Tip to Hemant, the Friendly Atheist (as opposed to nasties like the Deacon and me) for leading me beside still waters to Edward Current’s video archive.

– the chaplain

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 13, 2008 in humor, satire, sex

 

Intervening in Love

Yesterday at De-Conversion.com, in a wonderful post entitled, How To Discover Counterfeit Christianity? some comments were cited from a blog called In Defense of the Gospel. The comments pertained to a young man who is questioning his beliefs and has been visiting De-Conversion to acquire some food for thought. Lou Martuneac, the author of In Defense of the Gospel, exemplifies a fundamentalist Baptist mindset. In his post of January 5 he draws his readers’ attention to the young man’s questioning of faith and he calls for the young man’s religious employer to intervene.

LM’s post is a prime example of spiritual abuse. Such abuses take place in various ways within fundamentalism and a good portion of evangelicalism. Rather than communicating quietly to the Rev Wilkins, LM publicly spotlights the man’s alleged sin of independent thinking and questioning and calls for his readership to pray and intercede for the young man, whom he identifies by name. Such open outing and spotlighting are tools of the spiritual abuse process. In addition to being used to humiliate the person being highlighted, they are also used to discourage others from coming anywhere close to engaging in similar behavior. Further, those who may agree somewhat with the person being highlighted are implicitly discouraged from speaking out in defense without putting their good names and reputations on the line.

Similar “interventions in Christian love” take place in fundamentalist and evangelical congregations and colleges across the country. Students and congregants who have alleged complaints frequently “intervene in love.” I am not in position to question the motives of particular practitioners, but their actions certainly create pain and heartache. Often, the complainants have shared “confidentially” their concerns with two or three others under the guise of seeking their prayer support before approaching the person. It is not uncommon for those two or three individuals to then share “confidentially” with an additional one or two people.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a person or two to ask at a prayer meeting for prayer for the individual in question. Even when few details are given, enough information is hinted at to give rumor mongers fodder for a wide range of speculation. Sometimes prayer is sought by outlining the situation of an unnamed “a friend.” Therefore, before the “intervention in Christian love” actually occurs, rumors frequently have been quietly whispered.

If the person being confronted does not immediately “repent of his or her sin,” the interventionist often takes the news of the alleged sin to a wider circle. There are pastors and church leaders who will openly do on a Sunday morning what LM has done on his blog.

The justification for the practice is Jesus’ instruction that, if a brother or sister offends you, go to the person quietly to talk about it. If the matter is not settled at that point, then one is to go to a spiritual leader, who will then meet with the complainant and the alleged offender. The third person is intended to bring balance. As it is possible that the complaint may be unjustified, the third party is in a position to listen to both side before speaking on the matter. The third person is to keep in mind that it is possible that one or both parties, or even neither party, may be in the wrong.

Those who point to Jesus’ teaching to justify their actions have themselves disregarded the process. They have become the complainant, judge and executioner all in one. These interventions have thereby become part of a control system, a means to force a person, sometimes subtly and sometimes strongly, to conform and “repent.”

A faculty member at a Christian college once noted that one of the worst phrases on campus that any student can hear are, “in the love of Christ I need to talk to you.” I would extend it further, it is a phrase that it is one of the worse phrases in the Church and more often than not signifies that the person is being abused.

–the deacon

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2008 in religion, spiritual abuse

 

Boxes

An earlier version of this post appeared at De-Conversion a couple of months ago. It grew out of a response to a post by Babs.

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“Thinking outside the box” is a current buzz phrase in North America. Common Wisdom has it that people who succeed in business are those who can think beyond their usual boundaries and imagine possibilities that their peers don’t conceive. Thinking “inside the box,” in contrast, is considered stale and uninventive, a sure recipe for fiscal disaster. In this post, I want to consider the notions of thinking inside the box, outside the box, and finally, about the box itself.

I first learned to think outside the box about ten years ago, when I taught an undergraduate course in Human Relations, which typically covered such issues as racial, ethnic and gender discrimination. I was an evangelical Christian at the time, snuggled cozily inside my spiritual and intellectual box. I was comfortable with my worldview and, until that point, had experienced little difficulty in fitting new ideas into my old box without changing much about the box itself. My mission in the Human Relations course, as a graduate assistant I had little choice but to accept it, was to teach undergraduate teacher education students to think outside their boxes. This entailed, of course, that I could learn to think that way myself. Fortunately, my faculty supervisor and fellow graduate students taught me how to think outside of my conservative, evangelical Christian box.

An example of the kind of thinking I mean is this: the most difficult Human Relations concept for me to grasp was the notion of “white privilege.” It took me months to understand how, as a white person in American society, I enjoyed many hidden privileges. For example, when I walk down the street, people don’t cross the street and walk on the other side as they sometimes do when they see a black or Hispanic man coming their way. The implicit trust extended toward me, simply because of my skin color, was something I took for granted. I assumed such trust was granted to everyone who walked down the street, but that was not true. Once I grasped this concept, and other related ones, everything I had ever learned about human social intercourse took on new meanings. I finally was able to a) think outside of my old conceptual box, and b) build a new and better box for myself.

In hindsight, I now realize that this initial experience in thinking outside the box was a significant step in my de-conversion. As I learned to consider and understand race and gender issues in new ways, I had to re-define my theology. I had to build a new theological box so that I could add the new content to it and dispose of some of the old junk that couldn’t merge with the new stuff. As time went by, the new box became comfortable and I settled into it until it became my regular box.

Over the past few years, as I viewed the world from within my box, I gradually became aware that it was getting tight and stuffy in there, with little room for new materials. When I hit the crisis period of my de-conversion, I climbed outside of my box and, instead of merely thinking outside of it, began examining the box itself. After several weeks of looking at that box and its contents, I discovered that I could no longer carry around many of its contents, primarily those related to Christianity. Upon further consideration, I’ve grown increasingly comfortable with the idea that it is time for me to set aside all religious boxes, for none of them will ever fit me well again.

–the chaplain

 
8 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2008 in deconversion, rationalism

 

The Blogroll Meme

Greta Christina has tagged me for her blogroll meme. The rules are pretty simple. First, I’ve been asked to select three members of my blogroll that I think constitute a unique combination that may not be found elsewhere. I may say as little or as much as I like about them; I promise to play nicely. Second, I must tag three people to continue the meme.

Part the First: My Unique Threesome
My trio begins with Infidel753, a blogger who writes a lot about political issues. The second member of my trio is Thoughts in a Haystack, a site devoted to discussion about evolution, creationism and Intelligent Design. The trio concludes with a nice site I’ve discovered recently, Poem of the Week.

Part the Second: My Lucky Taggees
The first lucky person I am tagging is Babs. The second person to be honored is Plonkee. My final illustrious taggee is The Exterminator.

Part the Third: An Open Invitation
If you haven’t been formally tagged and would like to play with the rest of us, considered yourself tagged. Just add a comment here to let us know you’re playing.

–the chaplain

 
8 Comments

Posted by on January 3, 2008 in meme

 

Book Review: Misquoting Jesus

Author: Bart D. Ehrman
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-085951-0

  • Which form of the Lord’s Prayer did Jesus teach – the one in the gospel of Matthew or the one in the gospel of Luke?
  • Did the original letters of 1Timothy and 1 John teach that Jesus was divine?
  • Was Jesus calm on the night of his arrest or did he suffer intense mental anguish?
  • Why are there thousands of discrepancies between biblical manuscripts?
  • How does a reader determine whether the translation he or she holds in hand is textually accurate or has been translated to favor a particular theological slant?

    These are the sorts of questions that biblical textual critics strive to answer. As Bart Ehrman, chair of the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, makes clear in this book, the answers to these questions have serious implications for the validity and reliability of numerous religious doctrines.

    Ehrman takes his readers through a fascinating tour of the history of biblical transcription, translation, distribution and canonization. With regard to the latter, Ehrman discusses the various Christian ideologies that competed for supremacy in the Church’s first few centuries and the ways in which those conflicts were resolved. With regard to the former concerns, he notes various types of textual changes that have been made throughout 20 centuries of scriptural transmission.

    Some of these changes are accidental and include such items as punctuation errors, misspellings, transposed numerals and so on. Other changes are intentional, such as those in which scribes sought to ensure that the text adhered to what they believed were faithful interpretations, or to ensure that particular doctrinal and ideological positions were emphasized. Ehrman illustrates his points by examining closely several disputed texts. He also explains, as well as demonstrates, how several methods of textual criticism, such as comparisons with external contemporaneous documents, internal consistency throughout a gospel or epistle, and consideration of the authors’ (as well as scribes and translators’) purposes enable scholars to determine which manuscripts contain fewer or more flaws than others.

    The chapter on the social world in which biblical texts originated offers insights into how the scriptures were modified to address the roles of women within the church, and the changing relationships of the church to its Jewish heritage and its pagan context. Ehrman closes the book by noting that readers transform texts through interpretative behaviors of their own every time they read. Thus, there is a real sense in which no one ever gets back to the real, original meaning of any text. This is neither bad nor undesirable, it is a simply a process that all readers should take into consideration when they examine scriptures.

    Readers who believe in the inerrancy (or the less rigid standard of infallibility) and divinely guided inspiration of scriptures may well find this book irreverent, perhaps even appalling. Readers who view the Bible as a compilation of literary texts composed by human beings likely will find Ehrman’s application of literary and textual methods of study to ancient texts insightful. I suspect that, whichever camp you fall into, once you’ve read Ehrman’s book, you will never read the Bible in quite the same way again.

    UPDATE: The Perplexed Observer has a link to a video of Ehrman discussing this book.

    –the chaplain

     
    10 Comments

    Posted by on January 2, 2008 in literature, religion

     
     
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