I am writing to you today to discuss with you a very difficult topic. This is going to be hard for both of us, but I really hope you’ll take the time to read this and to really think about what I’m saying before you just get mad and lash out.
So here goes:
You’ve been lied to. A lot. For many many years.
Now before you react, please just hear me out. Some of this is going to be hard to accept, but you’ll know I’m telling the truth if you just listen.
I’m not talking about the Bible., The Bible, by itself, is a wonderful thing. It tells and important story. It gives us some amazing lessons. Above all, it gives us hope. It’s an amazing amazing book. And deserves to be read and revered.
The problem comes when someone picks something out of the Bible and they build a whole “thing” out it. When they ignore the entire story of the Bible, when they force us to focus on a few verses and build an entire “mission” out of pushing that agenda they’ve created for themselves, we run into trouble.
You know who I’m talking about. He’s on the radio all the time. Sometimes he’s on TV. At first he seemed OK, but over time he’s developed an entire career around his message.
And it’s all a lie. Lie upon lie. Lies and more lies. But you, dearest Church, may not recognize them. So let me bluntly, honestly, lay them out for you. You might not believe them at first, I know I didn’t WANT to believe them when someone pointed them out to me, but trust me, you will be better for knowing.
Lie number one:
The United States of America is a Christian Nation Based on Christian Values and/or is God’s Chosen Nation
I have no idea where this came from. The basic premise is that just as the nation is Israel was God’s chosen nation during the time of Moses and after, the United States of America is now God’s chosen nation during this time in history.
That must be in some lost or forgotten Testament of the Bible because as the Bible reads now I don’t see that at all.
Now, granted, some of our Founding Fathers were religious men, or at the very least theists (meaning they believe in the existence of God but not necessarily the Christian God), but as many, if not more, were atheists or agnostic. And yes, some very general “Christian” principles are part of the writings that our country is based on, it is arguable that they are EXCLUSIVELY Christian. In many people’s eyes, these things are just common sense and common decency. And many other countries of the world have these same principles in their founding documents or common legal writings.
So why is this a thing?
Because, generally, Americans think they are better than everyone. We like to hear that we’re the best country. That everyone wants to come here because we’re best. And why are we the best? Because God must approve of what we are doing by blessing us with wealth and military might.
Ugh. I call bullshit. Pardon my language, but I really can’t think of a better word. Other places in the world have fantastic health care, lower crime rates, almost zero poverty and zero unemployment. These places are, from a common man’s perspective, much better places to live. But they have fewer millionaires, so they aren’t the best. The reason they have fewer millionaires is because they put people above business. The exact opposite of what we do in the United States. America is the best if you scratch and beat and claw your way to the top, crushing people along the way.
How very Christian.
No. America is not God’s chosen nation. Christians are God’s chosen nation. We’re a nation of faith, not a nation of money and might or geography. We’re supposed to be a nation of love and caring for each other and the world, not a nation of government and guns.
Please, stop and consider. You’ll know I’m telling the truth about this lie.
Lie number two:
There are groups of people that God hates, therefore it’s your job to hate them as well.
You’ve seen the picket signs. “That” church in Kansas is on the news all the time for going to funerals and other events. “God Hates Fags”. And while, outwardly, you the Church, reject their ways, inwardly you agree with what they say. God does hate Fags. And He also hates Muslims. And He hates alcoholics. The list goes on and on.
And because God hates these things, you’re obligated to hate them too. Hate them with a passion. God needs you to do His hating for him here on Earth.
Now there are things God hates. The Bible makes that clear:
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
– Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)
Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
– Deuteronomy 16:21-22 (ESV)
(God speaking through the prophet Isaiah):
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
– Isaiah 1:14 (ESV)
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. – Isaiah 61:8 (ESV)
And there are a few other similar verses I didn’t include for the sake of brevity, but these make my point. I don’t see anything about skin color, where people come from, who they love, how much money they have, what they do for a living….. All those things you’ve been told to hate because God hates them? Where are they in the Bible? And where does God command you to do His hating for him?
You’ve been lied to, church. God is God. He doesn’t need you to do His hating. He needs you to be aware of what He hates so you don’t do it. What he need you to do is LOVE. The word hate shows up in the (English) Bible 127 times. Most of those verses are about a person hating another person or the actions of another person. Only a few are about God hating something. The word LOVE shows up 686 times.* And many of them are commands to one person, or to us, to love another or to love all men. God commands us to love, he doesn’t command us to hate.
And to make matters worse, you don’t differentiate between things and people. Oh sure, you say “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but you don’t see the sinner as a PERSON, you only see sinner and therefore only see the sin. All you do is use labels. Gay. Muslim. Unwed mother. Divorced. But people are PEOPLE. People are not the labels we put on them. They’re not (only) sinners. They have jobs and lives and feelings and families and are more than just a label.
Please, Church, think this through for yourself. Again you’ll see that you’ve been lied to. Your purpose is not to hate, never to hate, always to love. And to love selflessly, completely, and insanely. Love PEOPLE. All people. Leave the hate behind.
*Results are from the English Standard version. Different versions may have slightly different counts of the words ‘hate’ and love, but the verses, the lessons, are identical in meaning.
Lie number three:
It’s important to use any political influence you have to enact laws that will force others to live as you believe God intended, even if they reject your God.
By all means, vote, run for school board or mayor or city council or anything you like if you are able. I think it’s very important for everyone to be as politically active as they can be.
But I also believe that being politically active means you have a responsibility to everyone and not your own interests.
Dear Church, you have been told a huge lie in this area. You have been told that the only thing you should be doing, politically if you should be politically active at all, is forcing everyone to live as God intended. Or rather, as someone has told you God intended. Abortion. Marriage rights. Climate change (or rather the non-existence thereof). You’ve been told these are religious issues and they are the most important things to the religious voter and therefore it’s your responsibility to vote for the candidate that has God’s interests at heart in these things. And to hell with anyone that disagrees or will be harmed by the actions of that candidate.
There are important things that need your political attention. Your local school board. The city council. Whether a bond measure that will fix that dangerous bridge at the edge of town should be passed. Those are important things. Very important things to your everyday life. And there are important things at the state and national level too, things you’re probably ignoring because you’re too busy listening to that guy on the radio saying that abortion is the most important issue of our time and that same-sex marriage is a sign of the Apocalypse.
Dearest Church, you were never, ever called to force people, through legislation, to do things or not do things. You can argue that Jesus was not aware of the democratic process and therefore never spoke of it, but that doesn’t excuse you from trying to force your neighbor to live in a way that is detestable to him or her. You were never intended to take over the government to do God’s will here on earth. God is GOD. God’s will won’t be thwarted by the actions or inactions of man. God doesn’t need your vote. Your neighbors do. Your kids do. The stop sign that needs to be put up at the corner of Main Street needs your vote.
You can’t legislate morality. You can’t legislate love or choices. Oh sure, you can make them illegal, but the legality of something doesn’t mean it can or will end. In fact doing so could have disastrous effects. Something that is safe and legal can become dangerous.
Vote. Run for office. Support your candidates, but do so intelligently. Do so in a way that loves your neighbor, not fans the flames of division.
Lie number four:
There’s only one kind of Christian and anyone that is not the same kind of Christian as you is doomed to eternal Hellfire.
Why are there so many denominations within Christianity? Especially in the United States? According to the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, there are 217 Christian denominations. Two. Hundred. And Seventeen. That seems insane to me.
But you have been told, Church, that yours is the only one that is “right”. Yours is the only true denomination and everyone that doesn’t attend with you on Sunday morning is doomed. They’re all going to Hell. It doesn’t matter if they sing the same songs as you, it doesn’t matter if they use the same Bible as you (translations are huge problem too, aren’t they? But that’s for another discussion), it doesn’t matter if their building is exactly the same as your’s, if they aren’t part of your denomination then they are lost. They’re cursed to endure eternal Hellfire.
It must be true, right? Because (insert name here) founded your denomination because they learned/discovered/were told by God Himself/told by an angel that all other churches were wrong/corrupt/used the wrong translation/allowed women to do stuff/didn’t allow women to do stuff/followed the wrong Jesus.
And obviously your guy is right and all those other guys that claim the same thing are wrong.
Denominationalism is both the best and worst thing to happen to you, Church. On the one hand, it’s made you bigger, it’s made you stronger, it’s made you look and learn and study and debate and discuss things. But on the other it’s made you smug, it’s made you feel superior, it’s made you argue, and in some cases it’s even made you kill.
Worse, it’s made you tell people they are going to Hell. That they are going to be eternally punished because they are just not right with God. That they are doomed to eternal Hellfire because they are Catholic or Anglican or Lutheran or whatever – because they don’t go to the same building as you, they are just not perfectly right with God they are doomed to burn forever.
We even tell it to children. Little children that aren’t really able to make a decision on something as important God. We tell them they are not right and they better get right or they’re going to die forever. That’s practically child abuse.
Are there ‘bad’ denominations? ‘Bad’ congregations? Well, sure, probably. But is it YOUR job to to judge them? Everyone you see, every face, is beloved by God. Consider how much God wants to punish anyone He loves.
You can’t be sure that everyone that doesn’t attend your church, that isn’t part of your local congregation is ‘wrong’. You should instead, assume, that they are all loved, because they are.
Lie number five:
Eternal Hell Fire.
I had started to write a whole big discussion on the debate as to whether Hell is real or not. Instead I am going to put my personal opinion and the entire theological debate aside to get to the real point I want to make:
The point of Heaven, of Jesus’ death on the cross, of fogiveness and redemption is NOT simply to avoid Hell.
I say again: there is more to being a Christian than just avoiding Hell.
There’s a Christian (or rather he calls himself a ‘Conservative’) comedian that I’ve seen a couple of times. Both times he does a ‘rant’ at the end of his show that ends with this: “So, you say, mr funny guy, that I should only believe in God so I don’t go to ‘Hell’? Pretty much.”
NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO!! A buzgillion times, no.
If you are just looking for ‘fire insurance’ I think you are missing the point. If God is real and you believe He’s real and you believe that Jesus did what He did, then you need to do more than be content that you aren’t going to Hell. If you aren’t moved to respond to God with love and compassion and giving to your fellow man, then do you really actually believe?
Hell is not the point. Heaven is not the point. Love is the point.
Lie number six:
You have to like things that are “Christian” like movies and music and books while ignoring or even destroying movies, music, and books that are not “Christian”
Not all that long ago we heard a lot about Harry Potter book burnings. We sometimes hear about this leader or that holding a Quran burning. When I was in high school the big thing was to burn ‘bad’ music. Kids would bring their Kiss and AC/DC tapes to church and throw them in a fire. The kids would then be presented with a pamphlet that gave them Christian alternatives to popular artists. (“If you like Boston, you’ll like Petra”, that kind of thing.)
I mentioned a Christian comedian in the last section. He is actually kind of funny. Not brilliantly funny, but kind of funny. Mediocrilly funny.
And that kind of describes most things in Christian culture, mediocre. Christian music, Christian books, Christian comedy, Christian kids shows… all of it is really, honestly, pretty mediocre. I would even go so far as to say that mediocre is the high mark and most of it is really terrible.
“Oh, but I like Third Day! And I like that movie with Nicholas Cage in it!” That’s OK, you’re allowed to like what you like. Even if it is pretty mediocre in my opinion.
But the problem isn’t the quality of Christian music or films. The problem comes when church leaders insist that you have to ONLY like stuff you find at a Christian store and must forsake things in “secular” culture. Worse, you have to actually despise secular things so much you have to destroy them. And also push the Christian stuff on your kids and family.
If you want to be sure to push your kids to listen to AC/DC, tell them they aren’t allowed to listen to AC/DC.
Now, granted, the Bible does say “Do not be conformed to this world…” (Romans 12:2) and “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever isjust, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). But what do those MEAN? Do they mean that everything that is labeled “Christian” is ‘good’ and everything “Not Christian” is ‘bad’? Are we to avoid great works of are in the museums of Paris because we don’t know for certain that their artists were Christians? Should we only look at things Thomas Kincade paints because we know he’s a Christian (or at least claims to be?) Are we to avoid great works of classical music because we don’t know if the composers are now in Heaven? Should we only listen to Micheal W. Smith and Amy Grant because we know they are Christians (or at least claim to be?)
How insane is that?
I don’t think that’s what the Bible is saying. I think the point is where you put your love. What do you love more? The music of Led Zepplin or your kids? What should you love more? The books of JK Rowling or your neighbor? Should we set fire to everything that we see as ‘bad’? Becasue after a while, if we follow everyone’s opinions of what we think God wouldn’t like, that fire would get pretty huge.
The bottom line, though, is what is the intent of people telling you to only shop for music at Family Christian Stores (or similar places)?
They’re trying to get you to buy stuff. They’re trying to get you to spend money and make a profit. Yes, even Christian stores are there to make money. And that, honestly, is a worse sin than listening to the Beatles, simply aquiring things, filling our lives with things.
And that, just getting more an more things, is more conforming to the world than the things themselves.
Lie number seven:
You need to be afraid. Very very afraid of a whole long list of things. And if you’re not afraid you’re not faithful enough.
Isis. Big government. Iran. Syria. Terrorists. Fluoridated water. These are all things that I’ve heard political candidates, who refer to themselves as Christians (and are running because “God told them to”), say we need to fear. And that’s only a few of the things we should fear. And it’s not just politics, too many church leaders are preaching fear. Fear of everything from immigration to what’s in our food.
Why do they want us to be afraid?
One answer. Control. If you are afraid, then you will cling to the thing or person that you think has the way to keep you safe. In the case of the church, most often it will be the leader telling you what to be afraid of. Obviously they have ‘the answer’ because they’re talking about it. In some churches, it’s guns. God gave us guns to keep us safe.
No, I’m not kidding. I know one right here locally.
But you know what the Bible says?
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield”
“Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is”
“Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring”
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord”
“Fear not; do not be dismayed.”
“fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God”
“fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
“fear not, for I am with you”
“Fear not, I am the one who helps you”
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”
“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?”
” fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings”
“fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage”
“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
“Fear not, I am the first and the last”
All of these are either God speaking or Jesus.
Now the Bible does say we should fear God. For example, Acts 9:31 – “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
But did that mean they walked around, cowering in fear of what God would do? And how do we reconcile that with the “comfort” of the Holy Spirit?
The word in Greek (the earliest manuscripts we have of most of the new testament are in Greek) here is “phobos”, the root of the word we use in English as “phobia”. But in Greek, as in English, context is everything. Phobos also means “astonishment” or “amazement”. They weren’t afraid of God while being comforted by the Holy Spirit, they were AMAZED by what god was doing. They were ASTONISHED. Not cowering.
If we follow God. If we call ourselves Christian, then we have nothing to fear. And Isis and Iran and fluoride are nothing.
If we put our trust in God, then why are we talking about this stuff?
Granted, we shouldn’t be stupid about it. But we can talk about common sense ways to deal with terrorists and war without giving in to fear.
Lie number eight:
The Bible is perfectly clear on how we’re supposed to feel about just about everything, especially concerning the actions of other people.
There is only one thing to say about this. The Bible is not an instruction manual. It contains instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and what to do if Israelites found mold on their walls, but as for things like sex, marriage, medicine, education, and so on, the instructions are either obsolete or not existent.
Certainly the principles that the Bible teaches can be applied to you life. But if you think the Bible is meant to be a step by step instruction manual for every little part of your life, then you haven’t read it.
A huge part of the Bible is history, history of the Israelites. And instructions for how they were to live in the desert and the promised land. Other parts are songs and stories. And there are letters.
Certainly there are things to be learned. But it’s not a sex manual. It’s not a marriage manual. It’s not a medical journal.
And above all it’s not a political manual on how to govern people that don’t believe in the Bible. It’s not something that is meant to be used to clobber people that don’t believe it. It’s not meant to be a book of laws to dictate the lives of people everywhere.
We don’t get to say “The Bible says this is wrong, so you shouldn’t do it”. I’m not talking about things that are obviously wrong, like murder. There are law codes that pre-date the Biblical record that show that there are things, like murder, that are pretty commonly agreed upon as wrong. But there are other things, like eating pork, like having tattoos, that we can’t insist on making law because “The Bible is against it”.
And yes, I am tap-dancing around Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion. These are two things , among many, that the Bible is not clear on – I don’t care what anyone says, there is nowhere in the Bible that definitively says “do not get an abortion” or “do not let two men enter into the contract of marriage”. And nowhere does it say “enforce these laws I have given to you upon all people everywhere even if they don’t agree with you”.
It just doesn’t. I challenge you to show me where the Bible says any of those things. Not your “interpretation”, where it definitively says it.
You can certainly use the Bible to guide your life, but you have to agree that it’s not a step by step instruction manual for anything other than things that applied to the ancient Israelites. Now if you want to follow those instructions, more power to you, but I think you’ll find their treatment for things like leprocy to be far less effective than modern medicine.
Lie number nine:
Pretty much everything taught in churches about women and their place in the church and society is a lie, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one lie. Even in my own church there is a ‘tradition’ that women aren’t allowed to speak during the service. Oh, they can talk to greet people, they can sing, but they can’t read a verse from the Bible, nor can they lead prayer or do the Lord’s Supper meditation. (Our current preacher is trying to change it, but is’s been engrained into our congregation for so long that it’s really hard to shake it.)
One preacher even offered that women are meant to be Baby Makers. And that’s it. That’s their only job. And if a woman doesn’t want a child, she’s condemned to eternal Hellfire (see previous sections for my opinion on that).
(He didn’t last long at our church and I honestly don’t know where he is now.)
But dang it everyone, why do we do this? Why do we insist that women don’t have a real place in any part of the church?
I don’t… I can’t…. I don’t even know what else to say on this topic other than EVERYONE THAT TRIES TO SUBJUGATE WOMEN IS WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG! God made men and women in his image (Genesis). If women are in the image of God just like men, then they deserve an equal place in the church, in the workplace, and in the world.
Period. The end.
Lie number ten:
You must always be happy. Even though you need to be afraid (see number eight), you must always be happy. Happy happy happy. Because you’re “saved” and you are “loved” so be happy! And if you’re not happy, you’re obviously not faithful enough.
There is even a “churchy” word for this. Pollyanna. Someone is a ‘Pollyanna” if they are always happy. You can recognize these folks because they say things like “God is blessing my socks off!” and “God couldn’t bless me more if He tried!”
But there is a worse side to this than someone who is just so fake happy all the time.
I’m going to get a little personal here.
I struggle with clinical depression. I take medication for it and it’s pretty well controlled, but some days are a real struggle. Doctors and psychiatrists say it’s a disease. I don’t like that because in my mind a disease is something really medical like cancer or diabetese. Something you can look at in your blood and see that something is objectively not right. Depression isn’t like that. it’s not like there is something that is in your blood that you can look at and say “yep, that’s not right. (I have seen medical journal articles that there some promising tests being done that could lead to a test that could definitively diagnose the chemical imbalance that causes clinical depression, but it could be years and years before it’s a reality.)
One thing I hear all the time, all the freaking time, is “You’re depressed? Pray harder!” and “If you have enough faith, you wouldn’t be depressed” and “God loves you! If you knew that you’d be happy”.
God never promised you’d be happy all the time. God never promised you’d never be sick. God never promised you wouldn’t have or get a disease. But Peter wrote, “Cast your anxieties on him because he cares for you”. No where does it say you will never have those anxieties. Or any other problems.
Faith is not magic. Faith is not a miracle cure. Faith, in faith itself, is nothing. It’s in where your faith is placed. Can God heal me of depression? sure. Will He just because I have faith in him? Maybe, maybe not.
But the fact that He hasn’t (yet) is no indication of my faith. At all.
Anyone that tells you they are always forever happy because of their faith is a liar. It’s not possible to be always forever happy. And not being happy, or not happy, is not an indicator of faith or love. Depression, or any other psychological or medical condition is not an indicator of being sent to hell.
Drop it with the freaking hell stuff already.